Archive for the ‘iraq’ Category

Mutant Seeds for Mesopotamia

October 22, 2008

Mutant Seeds for Mesopotamia
by Andrew Bosworth, Ph.D.

October 15, 2008

One would think that Iraqi farmers, now prospering under “freedom” and “democracy,” would be able to plant the seeds of their choosing, but that choice, under little-known Order 81, would be illegal.

But first, it is important to set the context. Most people have never heard of the infamous “100 Orders,” but they help explain why the majority of Iraqis remain opposed to foreign occupation. The 100 Orders allow multinational corporations to basically privatize an entire nation, and this degree of foreign and private control has not been witnessed since the days of the British East India Company and its extraterritoriality treaties.

A few examples of the 100 Orders are illuminating:

* Order 39 allows for the tax-free remittance of all corporate profits.
Order 17 grants foreign contractors, including private security firms, immunity from Iraq’s laws.
Orders 57 and 77 ensure the implementation of the orders by placing U.S.-appointed auditors and inspector general in every government ministry, with five-year terms and with sweeping authority over contracts, programs, employees and regulations. (1)

Back to one of the most blatant orders of all: Order 81. Under this mandate, Iraq’s commercial farmers must now buy “registered seeds.” These are normally imported by Monsanto, Cargill and the World Wide Wheat Company. Unfortunately, these registered seeds are “terminator” seeds, meaning “sterile.” Imagine if all human men were infertile, and in order to reproduce women needed to buy sperm cells at a sperm bank. In agricultural terms, terminator seeds represent the same kind of sterility.

Terminator seeds have no agricultural value other than creating corporate monopolies. The Sierra Club, more of a mainstream “conservation” organization than a radical “environmentalist” one, makes the exact same case:

“This technology would protect the intellectual property interests of the seed company by making the seeds from a genetically engineered crop plant sterile, unable to germinate. Terminator would make it impossible for farmers to save seed from a crop for planting the next year, and would force them to buy seed from the supplier. In the third world, this inability to save seed could be a major, perhaps fatal, burden on poor farmers.” (2)

What makes this Order 81 even more outrageous is that Iraqi farmers have been saving wheat and barley seeds since at least 4000 BC, when irrigated agriculture first emerged, and probably even to about 8000 BC, when wheat was first domesticated. Mesopotamia’s farmers have now been trumped by white-smocked, corporate bio-engineers from Florida who strive to replace hundreds of natural varieties with a handful of genetically scrambled hybrids.

Where does such hubris come from? It comes from the entire mission surrounding the invasion of Iraq, which, upon closer inspection, had been planned years in advance by a faction of “neo-cons” who adopted Leon Trotsky’s glorification of the state, his theory “permanent revolution,” and his goal of exporting revolution worldwide. The neo-con revolution aims to alter the economic, political and cultural foundations of nations on the other side of the planet (rejecting old-fashioned notions of self-determination, popular sovereignty and even the nation-state system). This mission includes the transformation of agriculture and the establishment of “food control” over local populations.

Order 81 fits into this revolutionary program, and it is quite diabolical upon closer inspection. First, it forces Iraq’s commercial farmers to use registered terminator seeds (the “protected variety”). Then it defines natural seeds as illegal (the “infringing variety”), in a classic Orwellian turn of language.

This is so incredible that it must be re-stated: the exotic genetically scrambled seeds are the “protected variety” and the indigenous seeds are the “infringing variety.”

As Jeffrey Smith explains, author of Order 81: Re-Engineering Iraqi Agriculture:

“To qualify for PVP [Plant Variety Protection], seeds have to meet the following criteria: they must be ‘new, distinct, uniform and stable’… it is impossible for the seeds developed by the people of Iraq to meet these criteria. Their seeds are not ‘new’ as they are the product of millennia of development. Nor are they ‘distinct’. The free exchange of seeds practiced for centuries ensures that characteristics are spread and shared across local varieties. And they are the opposite of ‘uniform’ and ‘stable’ by the very nature of their biodiversity.” (3)

Order 81 comes with the Orwellian title of “Plant Variety Protection.” Any self-respecting scientist knows, however, that imposing biological standardization accomplishes the exact opposite: It reduces biodiversity and threatens species. So Order 81 comes with an Orwellian title and consists of Orwellian provisions.

Jeffrey Smith peels away the layers of mischief behind Order 81, finding it nonsensical that six varieties of wheat have been developed for Iraq:

“Three will be used for farmers to grow wheat that is made into pasta; three seed strains will be for ‘breadmaking.’

Pasta? According to the 2001 World Food Programme report on Iraq, ‘Dietary habits and preferences included consumption of large quantities and varieties of meat, as well as chicken, pulses, grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy products.’ No mention of lasagna. Likewise, a quick check of the Middle Eastern cookbook on my kitchen shelves, while not exclusively Iraqi, reveals a grand total of no pasta dishes listed within it.

There can be only two reasons why 50 per cent of the grains being developed are for pasta. One, the US intends to have so many American soldiers and businessmen in Iraq that it is orienting the country’s agriculture around feeding not ‘Starving Iraqis’ but ‘Overfed Americans’. Or, and more likely, because the food was never meant to be eaten inside Iraq at all…” (4)

Just in case Iraqi farmer can’t read, Order 81 enforces the new monopoly on seeds with the jackboot. Order 81 makes this clear in its own text, buried at the bottom of the document, as is most screw-you fine print:

“The court may order the confiscation of the infringing variety as well as the materials and tools substantially used in the infringement of the protected variety. The court may also decide to destroy the infringing variety as well as the materials and tools or to dispose of them in any noncommercial purpose.” (5)

Order 81 is about power and profit, but it disguises itself as humanitarian legislation.

Topping it all off, the entire document puts on rather magisterial airs. It was signed by L. Paul Bremer himself, with his own hand, and presumably with his own pen:

“Pursuant to my authority as Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority…”

Like the Roman Proconsuls, Paul Bremer also spent a year in the provinces, governing the so-called barbarians…

-The above is an excerpt from Andrew Bosworth’s new book: Biotech Empire: The Untold Future of Food, Pills, and Sex, available at Amazon.

-Andrew Bosworth, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Government at the University of Texas at Brownsville.


1. Uruknet Report, “Have You Ever Heard of Bremer’s 100 Orders?” 11 April 2008.

2. Institutional Report, Genetic Engineering at a Historic Crossroads,” The Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Committee Report, March 2001.

3. Jeffrey Smith. “ORDER 81: Re-Engineering Iraqi Agriculture – The Ultimate War Crime: Breaking the Agricultural Cycle.” Global Research and The Ecologist, 27 August 2005, Vol 35, No. 1.

4. Jeffrey Smith. “ORDER 81: Re-Engineering Iraqi Agriculture – The Ultimate War Crime: Breaking the Agricultural Cycle.” Global Research and The Ecologist, 27 August 2005, Vol 35, No. 1.

5 CPA/ORD/26 April 2004/81, p. 27.


The US-Iran sound bite showdown

May 20, 2008

By Pepe Escobar

They just can’t keep from going at each other’s throats.

Just in time for President George W Bush’s special guest appearance at the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel, his ultimate nemesis, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, unleashed another rhetorical shot across the bow as his own way of “celebrating” the anniversary.

And once again the substance of what Ahmadinejad actually said risks being lost in (mis)translation.

According to Agence France Presse (AFP), quoting the Fars news agency, Ahmadinejad, speaking in the Iranian northern province of Golestan in one of his popular provincial tours, said, “They [Israel] must know that the nations of the region hate this

counterfeit regime. And if there is the slightest chance, they will uproot this counterfeit regime.”

Reuters had a much more bellicose take. According to its translation, “They [Israel] should know that regional nations hate this fake and criminal regime and if the smallest and briefest chance is given to regional nations they will destroy it.”

It is hardly a secret that for a substantial majority of Arab populations in the Middle East – but not for their unrepresentative regimes – an Israel driven by Zionism should not have a place in the region. Thus Israel would qualify as a “counterfeit” regime that should be “uprooted”. But this does not mean that Arabs – or Persians – are in favor of the actual physical destruction of Israel.

The Associated Press’s (AP) version of the quote is even more apocalyptic. It reads: “The criminals assume that by holding celebrations … they can save the sinister Zionist regime from death and destruction.” The AP copy notes, “Ahmadinejad used an Arabic word, ismihlal, than can also be translated as destruction, death and collapse.” An Arabic expert contacted by Asia Times Online said ismihlal means basically “to break down in smaller parts”. That’s not exactly nuclear annihilation.

We are back to the situation of Ahmadinejad’s 2005 alleged threat to “wipe Israel off the map”. What he actually said then, quoting his personal icon, the leader of the Islamic revolution in 1979, ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was that the “regime occupying Jerusalem should vanish from the pages of time”. Yes, this means regime change – as much as the Bush administration always wanted regime change in Tehran. It does not mean a call for a nuclear holocaust.

Now, the fact remains that the Reuters translation – distributed to countless newspapers all over the world – will inevitably be seized by the Bush administration and assorted armchair neo-conservative warriors as yet more evidence that Iran wants to “destroy” Israel – muscling up the case in Washington for a preemptive US attack on Iran.

This week, Philip Giraldi published a groundbreaking story on the American Conservative, according to which the US National Security Council (NSC) has agreed – in principle – on a cruise missile strike against an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force training camp near Tehran. This would be a sort of “warning” to the Iranian leadership. The only NSC member to urge for a delay was allegedly Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Giraldi carefully noted that Bush “will still have to give the order to launch after all preparations are made”. But the decision to attack seems to have been made.

Annihilation a-go-go
Juicy extras are inevitable when it comes to Ahmadinejad’s runaway tongue at ease in cozy provincial settings. What AFP translates as “the Zionist regime is on the verge of dying … throwing a birthday party for this regime is like having a birthday party for a dead person”, Reuters prefers to package as “the Zionist regime is dying. The criminals imagine that by holding celebrations … they can save the Zionist regime from death”.

But in this case it was up to APTN, the video arm of AP, to provide the meatier translation: “The criminals wrongly suppose that by holding celebrations, coming to the occupied lands of Palestine and supporting these criminals, they can save the resented Zionist regime from death, annihilation and from the claws of Palestinian fighters.”

This is as contextual as what Ahmadinejad had said a day before, in a press conference in Tehran. According to the Deutsche Presse Agentur, the German news agency, he said, “This terrorist and criminal state is backed by foreign powers, but this regime would soon be swept away by the Palestinians.” And he added, “As far as the regional countries are concerned, this regime does not exist.” This is better in terms of framing the anger expressed by Ahmadinejad – as well as the theocratic leadership in Tehran, and most of the Arab world for that matter – towards Israel as a direct consequence of Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians.

It is interesting to note that for the Iranian press, the references to Israel were not even on the map. Press TV, for instance, went with the headline “Ahmadinejad: Tyranny falling from grace”, stressing other parts of the president’s speech, for instance when he said that “tyrannical powers have fallen from grace and the sound of their cracking bones can be heard”.

Whatever Ahmadinejad said, Bush, for his part, totally stuck to script. Even before his arrival in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Bush commented that “the message to Iran is that your desire to have a nuclear weapon, coupled with your statements about the destruction of our close ally, have made it abundantly clear to everybody that we have got to work together to stop you from having a nuclear weapon. To me the single-biggest threat to peace in the Middle East is the Iranian regime.” Once again, a call for regime change.

To add fuel to the fire, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal – in synch with Washington – started accusing Iran of backing a Hezbollah coup in Lebanon. That is predictable, considering that the Hariri clan in Beirut is a Saudi client. But nothing could be further from the truth. Last week, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah was blunt: “Had we wanted a coup, they [government leaders] would have woken up to find themselves in jail, or [thrown) in the sea.”

Nasrallah was cunning enough to see it would be politically impossible for Hezbollah to control Beirut – even though they proved they could do it, on the ground with weapons, in less than 24 hours. Nasrallah also said last week, “If they told us to come and take over, we would say ‘no thank you’.”

There is no evidence the celebrity sound bite showdown will abate any time soon. Bush appears to want war – to bolster his “legacy”. Ahmadinejad, too, might want war to bolster his faltering administration. American and world public opinion can only hope the clock does not run out before a possibly upcoming changing of the guard in the White House.

Just as the rhetoric between Tehran and Washington was once again at red alert levels, former Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Edwards stepped into the ring to announce his endorsement of Democratic Senator Barack Obama in the US presidential race – sucking out the hate waves. “Walls” inside and outside the US may soon come tumbling down, as Edwards hinted in his speech. But the fact remains that the hardline faction in the Bush administration centered around Vice President Dick Cheney still has over five months to fulfill its agenda of regime change in Iran. And the danger is Ahmadinejad will do absolutely nothing to dissuade them.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. He may be reached at

They knew, but did nothing

March 8, 2008

In this exclusive extract from his new book, Philip Shenon uncovers how the White House tried to hide the truth of its ineptitude leading up to the September 11 terrorist attacks. .

In the American summer of 2001, the nation’s news organisations, especially the television networks, were riveted by the story of one man. It wasn’t George Bush. And it certainly wasn’t Osama bin Laden.

It was the sordid tale of an otherwise obscure Democratic congressman from California, Gary Condit, who was implicated – falsely, it later appeared – in the disappearance of a 24-year-old government intern later found murdered. That summer, the names of the blow-dried congressman and the doe-eyed intern, Chandra Levy, were much better known to the American public than bin Laden’s.

Even reporters in Washington who covered intelligence issues acknowledged they were largely ignorant that summer that the CIA and other parts of the Government were warning of an almost certain terrorist attack. Probably, but not necessarily, overseas.

The warnings were going straight to President Bush each morning in his briefings by the CIA director, George Tenet, and in the presidential daily briefings. It would later be revealed by the 9/11 commission into the September 11 attacks that more than 40 presidential briefings presented to Bush from January 2001 through to September 10, 2001, included references to bin Laden.

And nearly identical intelligence landed each morning on the desks of about 300 other senior national security officials and members of Congress in the form of the senior executive intelligence brief, a newsletter on intelligence issues also prepared by the CIA.

The senior executive briefings contained much of the same information that was in the presidential briefings but were edited to remove material considered too sensitive for all but the President and his top aides to see. Often the differences between the two documents were minor, with only a sentence or two changed between them. Apart from the commission’s chief director, Philip Zelikow, the commission’s staff was never granted access to Bush’s briefings, except for the notorious August 2001 briefing that warned of the possibility of domestic al-Qaeda strikes involving hijackings. But they could read through the next best thing: the senior executive briefings.

During his 2003 investigations it was startling to Mike Hurley, the commission member in charge of investigating intelligence, and the other investigators on his team, just what had gone on in the spring and summer of 2001 – just how often and how aggressively the White House had been warned that something terrible was about to happen. Since nobody outside the Oval Office could know exactly what Tenet had told Bush during his morning intelligence briefings, the presidential and senior briefings were Tenet’s best defence to any claim that the CIA had not kept Bush and the rest of the Government well-informed about the threats. They offered a strong defence.

The team’s investigators began to match up the information in the senior briefings and they pulled together a timeline of the headlines just from the senior briefings in the northern spring and summer:

“Bin Ladin Planning Multiple Operations” (April 20)and “Bin Ladin Threats Are Real” (June 30)It was especially troubling for Hurley’s team to realise how many of the warnings were directed to the desk of one person: Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Adviser. Emails from the National Security Council’s counter-terrorism director, Richard Clarke, showed that he had bombarded Rice with messages about terrorist threats. He was trying to get her to focus on the intelligence she should have been reading each morning in the presidential and senior briefings

“Bin Ladin Public Profile May Presage Attack” (May 3)

“Terrorist Groups Said Co-operating on US Hostage Plot” (May 23)

“Bin Ladin’s Networks’ Plans Advancing” (May 26)

“Bin Ladin Attacks May Be Imminent”

(June 23)

“Bin Ladin and Associates Making Near-Term Threats” (June 25)

“Bin Ladin Planning High-Profile

Attacks” (June 30),

“Planning for Bin Ladin Attacks Continues, Despite Delays” (July 2)

Other parts of the Government did respond aggressively and appropriately to the threats, including the Pentagon and the State Department. On June 21, the US Central Command, which controls American military forces in the Persian Gulf, went to “delta” alert – its highest level – for American troops in six countries in the region. The American embassy in Yemen was closed for part of the summer; other embassies in the Middle East closed for shorter periods.

But what had Rice done at the NSC? If the NSC files were complete, the commission’s historian Warren Bass and the others could see, she had asked Clarke to conduct inter- agency meetings at the White House with domestic agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the FBI, to keep them alert to the possibility of a domestic terrorist strike.

She had not attended the meetings herself. She had asked that the then attorney-general, John Ashcroft, receive a special briefing at the Justice Department about al-Qaeda threats. But she did not talk with Ashcroft herself in any sort of detail about the intelligence. Nor did she have any conversations of significance on the issue with the FBI director, Louis Freeh, nor with his temporary successor that summer, the acting director Tom Pickard.

There is no record to show that Rice made any special effort to discuss terrorist threats with Bush. The record suggested, instead, that it was not a matter of special interest to either of them that summer.

Bush seemed to acknowledge as much in an interview with Bob Woodward of The Washington Post that Bush almost certainly regretted later. In the interview in December 2001, only three months after the attacks, Bush said that “there was a significant difference in my attitude after September 11” about al-Qaeda and the threat it posed to the United States.

Before the attacks, he said: “I was not on point, but I knew he was a menace, and I knew he was a problem. I knew he was responsible, or we felt he was responsible, for the previous bombings that killed Americans. I was prepared to look at a plan that would be a thoughtful plan that would bring him to justice, and would have given the order to do that. I have no hesitancy about going after him. But I didn’t feel that sense of urgency, and my blood was not nearly as boiling.”

If anyone on the White House staff had responsibility for making Bush’s blood “boil” that summer about Osama bin Laden, it was Rice.

The members of Mike Hurley’s team were also alarmed by the revelations, week by week, month by month, of how close the commission’s chief director, Philip Zelikow, was to Rice and others at the White House. They learned early on about Zelikow’s work on the Bush transition team in 2000 and early 2001 and about how much antipathy there was between him and Richard Clarke. They They heard the stories about Zelikow’s role in developing the “pre-emptive war” strategy at the White House in 2002.

Zelikow’s friendships with Rice and others were a particular problem for Warren Bass, since Rice and Clarke were at the heart of his part of the investigation. It was clear to some members of team that they could not have an open discussion in front of Zelikow about Rice and her performance as National Security Adviser. They could not say openly, certainly not to Zelikow’s face, what many on the staff came to believe: that Rice’s performance in the spring and summer of 2001 amounted to incompetence, or something not far from it.

David Kay, the veteran American weapons inspector sent to Iraq by the Bush Administration in 2003 to search for weapons of mass destruction, passed word to the commission that he believed Rice was the “worst national security adviser” in the history of the job.

For Hurley’s team, there was a reverse problem with Clarke. It was easy to talk about Clarke in Zelikow’s presence, as long as the conversation centred on Clarke’s failings at the NSC and his purported dishonesty.

Long before Bass had seen Clarke’s files, Zelikow made it clear to the team’s investigators that Clarke should not be believed, that his testimony would be suspect.

He argued that Clarke was a braggart who would try to rewrite history to justify his errors and slander his enemies, Rice in particular. The commission had decided that in its private interviews with current and former government officials, witnesses would be placed under oath when there was a substantial reason to doubt their truthfulness. Zelikow argued that Clarke easily fell into that category; Clarke, he decreed, would need to be sworn in.

When he finally got his security clearance and was allowed into the reading room, Bass discovered he could make quick work of Rice’s emails and internal memos on the al-Qaeda threat in the spring and summer of 2001. That was because there was almost nothing to read, at least nothing that Rice had written herself.

Either she committed nothing to paper or email on the subject, which was possible since so much of her work was conducted face-to-face with Bush, or terrorist threats were simply not an issue that had interested her before September 11. Her speeches and public appearances in the months before the attacks suggested the latter.

Tipped off by an article in The Washington Post, the commission discovered the text of a speech that she had been scheduled to make on September 11, 2001 – the speech was canceled in the chaos following the attacks – in which Rice planned to address “the threats of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday”. The speech, which was intended to outline her broad vision on national security and to promote the Bush Administration’s plans for a missile defence system, included only a passing reference to terrorism and the threat of radical Islam. On the day that Osama bin Laden launched the most devastating attack on the United States since Pearl Harbour, bin Laden’s terrorist network was seen by Rice as only a secondary threat, barely worth mentioning.

But if Rice had left almost no paper trail on terrorism in 2001, Clarke’s files were everything that Bass could have hoped for. Clarke wrote down much of what he saw and heard at the White House, almost to the point of obsession when it came to al-Qaeda. Bass and his colleagues could see that Clarke had left a rich narrative of what had gone so wrong at the NSC in the months before September 11, albeit filtered through the writings of the very opinionated Clarke.

Repeatedly in 2001, Clarke had gone to Rice and others in the White House and pressed them to move, urgently, to respond to a flood of warnings about an upcoming and catastrophic terrorist attack by Osama bin Laden. The threat, Clarke was arguing, was as dire as anything that he or the CIA had ever seen.

He pushed for an early meeting in 2001 with Bush to brief him about bin Laden’s network and the “nearly existential” threat it represented to the United States. But Rice rebuffed Clarke. She allowed him to give a briefing to Bush on the issue of cyber terrorism, but not on bin Laden; she told Clarke the al-Qaeda briefing could wait until after the White House had put the finishing touches that summer on a broader campaign against bin Laden. She moved Clarke and his issues off centre stage – in part at the urging of Zelikow and the transition team.

Bass told colleagues that he gasped when he found a memo written by Clarke to Rice on September 4, 2001, exactly a week before the attacks, in which Clarke seemed to predict what was just about to happen. It was a memo that seemed to spill out all of Clarke’s frustration about how slowly the Bush White House had responded to the cascade of terrorist threats that summer. The note was terrifying in its prescience.

“Are we serious about dealing with the al-Qaeda threat?” he asked Rice. “Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] has not succeeded in stopping al-Qaeda attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the US.

Bass’s colleagues said he knew instantly that the September 4 email was so sensitive – and potentially damaging, especially to Rice – that the White House would never voluntarily release a copy to the commission or allow him to take notes from the room if they came close to reproducing its language. Under a written agreement between the commission and the White House, notes could not “significantly reproduce” the wording of a classified document.

Bass decided he would have to try to memorise it in pieces, several sentences at a time, and then rush back to the commission to bat them out on a computer keyboard.

The day he discovered the document, Bass all but burst into the commission’s offices and rushed over to Hurley.

“Holy shit, chief,” Bass said excitedly. “You won’t believe what I found.”

He told Hurley that Clarke’s September 4 memo was a “document that grabs you by the throat, a document that you write when you’re at the end of your tether – or well past it”, as Clarke clearly was in the weeks before September 11. Hurley instantly understood the significance of what he was being told by Bass. The question for both men was whether Zelikow would allow them to share any of it with the public.

Months later, Bass could not take it any longer. He was going to quit, or least threaten to quit, and he was going to make it clear that Zelikow’s attempts at interference – his efforts to defend Rice and demean Clarke – were part of the reason why. He marched into the office of Dan Marcus, the general counsel, to announce his threat to leave the investigation.

“I cannot do this,” he declared to Marcus, who was already well aware of Bass’s unhappiness. “Zelikow is making me crazy.”

He was outraged by Zelikow and the White House; Bass felt the White House was trying to sabotage his work by its efforts to limit his ability to see certain documents from the NSC files and take useful notes from them. Marcus urged him to calm down: “Let’s talk this through.” But Bass made it clear to colleagues that he believed Zelikow was interfering in his work for reasons that were overtly political – intended to shield the White House, and Rice in particular, from the commission’s criticism. For every bit of evidence gathered by Bass and Hurley’s team to bolster Clarke’s allegation that the White House had ignored terrorist threats in 2001, Zelikow would find some reason to disparage it.

Marcus and Hurley managed to talk Bass out of resigning, although the threat lingered until the final weeks of the investigation.

On May 15, 2002, CBS network reported that a daily briefing presented to Bush a few weeks before the September 11 attacks warned him specifically about the threats of a domestic hijacking by al-Qaeda.

Instead of releasing the briefing or at least offering a detailed explanation of what was in the document, the White House chose to have Rice hold a news conference at the White House in which she raised as many questions about the briefing as she answered.

It would later become clear to many of the commission’s members and its staff that she had tried to mislead the White House press corps about the contents of the briefing.

She acknowledged that Bush had received a briefing about possible al-Qaeda hijackings, but she claimed that the brief offered “historical information” and “was not a warning – there was no specific time, place, or method”.

She failed to mention, as would later be clear, that the briefing focused entirely on the possibility that al-Qaeda intended to strike within the United States; it cited relatively recent FBI reports of possible terrorist surveillance of government buildings in New York.

Tom Kean, the commission’s chairman, could not deny the thrill of this. A former governor of New Jersey who had left politics to become president of Drew University in his home state, Kean took a seat in the reading room in the New Executive Office building where the commission was reviewing the White House’s most secret files.

Kean was handed a sheaf of presidential briefings from the Clinton and Bush administrations. Here in his hands were the documents that the White House had been so determined for so long to keep from him. Lee Hamilton liked to refer to the briefings as the “holy of holies” – the ultimate secret documents in the government – and Kean assumed that must be the case.

“I thought this would be the definitive secrets about al-Qaeda, about terrorist networks and all the other things that the President should act on,” he said. “I was going to find out the most important things that a president had learned.” He assumed they would contain “incredibly secretive, precise, and accurate information about anything under the sun.”

Each brief was only several pages long, so Kean could read through months of them in a stretch of a few hours.

And he found himself terrified by what he was reading, really terrified. Here were the digests of the most important secrets that were gathered by the CIA and the nation’s other spy agencies at a cost of tens of billions of dollars a year.

And there was almost nothing in them.

“They were garbage,” Kean said. “There really was nothing there – nothing, nothing.”

If students back at Drew turned in term papers this badly researched, “I would have given them an F,” he said.

Kean pointed that out to one of his White House minders who accompanied him to the reading room. “I’ve read all this,” he told the minder in astonishment. A lot of the information in the briefings and other supposedly top secret intelligence reports had already been revealed by the nation’s big news organisations. “I already knew this.”

“Oh, but you’re missing the point,” the minder replied. “Now you know it’s true.” It occurred to Kean that this might be the commission’s most frightening discovery of all: The emperors of espionage had no clothes. Perhaps the reason the White House had fought so hard to block the commission’s access to the briefings was that they revealed how ignorant the Government was of the threats it faced before September 11. Kean could understand their fear. Imagine the consequences if al-Qaeda and its terrorist allies knew how little the US really knew about them.

Commission member Jamie Gorelick, who, along with Zelikow, was given access to the larger universe of briefings, was more impressed by the documents than Kean had been. Or at least she was less unimpressed. She knew the Bush Administration was right to complain that much of the intelligence in the briefs in the months before September 11 was maddeningly non-specific about a possible date or place of an attack. Some of the intelligence in the briefs was “paltry”; sometimes the information contradicted itself from one day to the next, Gorelick said.

But she was astonished by the sheer volume of the warnings. Flood, cascade, tsunami, take your pick of metaphors. She could see that in the spring and summer of 2001, there was a consistent drum beat of warnings, day after day, that al-Qaeda was about to attack the United States or its allies. It was clear to Gorelick that the CIA had gone to Bush virtually every morning for months in 2001 to give him the message that the United States needed to be ready for a catastrophic terrorist strike, and from what she was reading, no one ruled out the possibility of a domestic attack.

“Something is being planned, something spectacular,” she said, summarising what the President had been told by George Tenet and what Bush should have read in the briefings. “We don’t know what it is, we don’t know where it is, but something is happening.”

She said CIA analysts were trying to tell Bush, as bluntly as they could, that the threat in those months was “the worst thing they’ve ever seen – an unprecedented threat,” worse than the threats before the millennium.

It seemed to Gorelick that Rice had “assumed away the hardest part of her job” as national security adviser – gathering the best intelligence available to the White House and helping the President decide how to respond to it. Whatever her job title, Rice seemed uninterested in actually advising him. Instead, she wanted to be his closest confidant – specifically on foreign policy – and to simply translate his words into action. Rice had wanted to be “the consigliere to the President”, Gorelick thought.

Domestic issues seemed to bore her. Her deputy, Stephen Hadley, had told the commission something remarkable in his private interview the month before: He and Rice had not seen themselves as responsible for co-ordinating the FBI and other domestic agencies about terrorism. But if they weren’t responsible, who was? There was no separate domestic security adviser in the White House. They had just demoted Clarke.

At the time of her May 2002 news conference, no reporter had a copy of the presidential briefing. CBS had broken the story of its existence but had few details of what was actually in the document. So the White House press corps would have to trust Rice’s description of what was in it.

She described it as a “warning briefing but an analytic report” about al-Qaeda threats and said that it contained “the most generalised kind of information – there was no time, there was no place, there was no method of attack” mentioned apart from a “very vague” concern about hijacking. “I want to reiterate,” she said. “It was not a warning.”

Asked if September 11 didn’t represent an intelligence failure by the Administration, she replied almost testily: “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Centre, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon – that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.”

Rice’s news conference came eight months after the attacks. Yet she was suggesting that in all that time, no one had bothered to tell her that there were indeed several reports prepared within the CIA, the aviation administration, and elsewhere in the Government about the threat of planes as missiles.

Had no one told her in all those months that the Department of Defence had conducted drills for the possibility of a plane-as-missile attack on the Pentagon? Had she forgotten that when she and Bush attended the G8 summit in Italy in July 2001, the airspace was closed because of the threat of an aerial suicide attack by al-Qaeda?

Commission member Tim Roemer made it his goal to get the August 6 briefing made public and to prove once and for all that Rice and her White House colleagues had a concept of the truth about September 11 that was, at best, “flexible”. To Roemer, Rice had long ago passed the “threshold” between spin and dishonesty.

“She’d lost credibility with me,” he said. The question among the Democratic commissioners was whether anybody would be brave enough to go public to question Rice’s competence and her honesty.

Much as the staff felt beaten down by Zelikow, so did the other Democratic commissioners. By the end, they had given up the fight to document the more serious failures of Bush, Rice, and others in the Administration in the months before September. Zelikow would never have permitted it. Nor, they realised, would Kean and Hamilton. The Democrats hoped the public would read through the report and understand that September 11 did not have to happen – that if the Bush Administration had been more aggressive in dealing with the threats flooding into the White House from January 2001 through to September 10, 2001, the plot could have been foiled. The Clinton administration could not duck blame for having failed to stop bin Laden before 2001.

But what had happened in the White House in the first eight months of George Bush’s presidency had all but guaranteed that 19 young Arab men with little more than pocket knives, a few cans of mace, and a misunderstanding of the tenets of Islam could bring the US to its knees.

The Commission – The Uncensored History Of The 9/11 Investigation by Philip Shenon (Little, Brown, $35) is published on Monday.

This war on terrorism is bogus

March 6, 2008


The 9/11 attacks gave the US an ideal pretext to use force to secure its global domination

This article appeared in the Guardian on Saturday September 06 2003 . It was last updated at 12:15 on December 04 2003.

Massive attention has now been given – and rightly so – to the reasons why Britain went to war against Iraq. But far too little attention has focused on why the US went to war, and that throws light on British motives too. The conventional explanation is that after the Twin Towers were hit, retaliation against al-Qaida bases in Afghanistan was a natural first step in launching a global war against terrorism. Then, because Saddam Hussein was alleged by the US and UK governments to retain weapons of mass destruction, the war could be extended to Iraq as well. However this theory does not fit all the facts. The truth may be a great deal murkier.

We now know that a blueprint for the creation of a global Pax Americana was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice-president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy), Jeb Bush (George Bush’s younger brother) and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America’s Defences, was written in September 2000 by the neoconservative think tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

The plan shows Bush’s cabinet intended to take military control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power. It says “while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

The PNAC blueprint supports an earlier document attributed to Wolfowitz and Libby which said the US must “discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role”. It refers to key allies such as the UK as “the most effective and efficient means of exercising American global leadership”. It describes peacekeeping missions as “demanding American political leadership rather than that of the UN”. It says “even should Saddam pass from the scene”, US bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will remain permanently… as “Iran may well prove as large a threat to US interests as Iraq has”. It spotlights China for “regime change”, saying “it is time to increase the presence of American forces in SE Asia”.

The document also calls for the creation of “US space forces” to dominate space, and the total control of cyberspace to prevent “enemies” using the internet against the US. It also hints that the US may consider developing biological weapons “that can target specific genotypes [and] may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool”.

Finally – written a year before 9/11 – it pinpoints North Korea, Syria and Iran as dangerous regimes, and says their existence justifies the creation of a “worldwide command and control system”. This is a blueprint for US world domination. But before it is dismissed as an agenda for rightwing fantasists, it is clear it provides a much better explanation of what actually happened before, during and after 9/11 than the global war on terrorism thesis. This can be seen in several ways.

First, it is clear the US authorities did little or nothing to pre-empt the events of 9/11. It is known that at least 11 countries provided advance warning to the US of the 9/11 attacks. Two senior Mossad experts were sent to Washington in August 2001 to alert the CIA and FBI to a cell of 200 terrorists said to be preparing a big operation (Daily Telegraph, September 16 2001). The list they provided included the names of four of the 9/11 hijackers, none of whom was arrested.

It had been known as early as 1996 that there were plans to hit Washington targets with aeroplanes. Then in 1999 a US national intelligence council report noted that “al-Qaida suicide bombers could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House”.

Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers obtained their visas in Saudi Arabia. Michael Springman, the former head of the American visa bureau in Jeddah, has stated that since 1987 the CIA had been illicitly issuing visas to unqualified applicants from the Middle East and bringing them to the US for training in terrorism for the Afghan war in collaboration with Bin Laden (BBC, November 6 2001). It seems this operation continued after the Afghan war for other purposes. It is also reported that five of the hijackers received training at secure US military installations in the 1990s (Newsweek, September 15 2001).

Instructive leads prior to 9/11 were not followed up. French Moroccan flight student Zacarias Moussaoui (now thought to be the 20th hijacker) was arrested in August 2001 after an instructor reported he showed a suspicious interest in learning how to steer large airliners. When US agents learned from French intelligence he had radical Islamist ties, they sought a warrant to search his computer, which contained clues to the September 11 mission (Times, November 3 2001). But they were turned down by the FBI. One agent wrote, a month before 9/11, that Moussaoui might be planning to crash into the Twin Towers (Newsweek, May 20 2002).

All of this makes it all the more astonishing – on the war on terrorism perspective – that there was such slow reaction on September 11 itself. The first hijacking was suspected at not later than 8.20am, and the last hijacked aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania at 10.06am. Not a single fighter plane was scrambled to investigate from the US Andrews airforce base, just 10 miles from Washington DC, until after the third plane had hit the Pentagon at 9.38 am. Why not? There were standard FAA intercept procedures for hijacked aircraft before 9/11. Between September 2000 and June 2001 the US military launched fighter aircraft on 67 occasions to chase suspicious aircraft (AP, August 13 2002). It is a US legal requirement that once an aircraft has moved significantly off its flight plan, fighter planes are sent up to investigate.

Was this inaction simply the result of key people disregarding, or being ignorant of, the evidence? Or could US air security operations have been deliberately stood down on September 11? If so, why, and on whose authority? The former US federal crimes prosecutor, John Loftus, has said: “The information provided by European intelligence services prior to 9/11 was so extensive that it is no longer possible for either the CIA or FBI to assert a defence of incompetence.”

Nor is the US response after 9/11 any better. No serious attempt has ever been made to catch Bin Laden. In late September and early October 2001, leaders of Pakistan’s two Islamist parties negotiated Bin Laden’s extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for 9/11. However, a US official said, significantly, that “casting our objectives too narrowly” risked “a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr Bin Laden was captured”. The US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Myers, went so far as to say that “the goal has never been to get Bin Laden” (AP, April 5 2002). The whistleblowing FBI agent Robert Wright told ABC News (December 19 2002) that FBI headquarters wanted no arrests. And in November 2001 the US airforce complained it had had al-Qaida and Taliban leaders in its sights as many as 10 times over the previous six weeks, but had been unable to attack because they did not receive permission quickly enough (Time Magazine, May 13 2002). None of this assembled evidence, all of which comes from sources already in the public domain, is compatible with the idea of a real, determined war on terrorism.

The catalogue of evidence does, however, fall into place when set against the PNAC blueprint. From this it seems that the so-called “war on terrorism” is being used largely as bogus cover for achieving wider US strategic geopolitical objectives. Indeed Tony Blair himself hinted at this when he said to the Commons liaison committee: “To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11” (Times, July 17 2002). Similarly Rumsfeld was so determined to obtain a rationale for an attack on Iraq that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence linking Iraq to 9/11; the CIA repeatedly came back empty-handed (Time Magazine, May 13 2002).

In fact, 9/11 offered an extremely convenient pretext to put the PNAC plan into action. The evidence again is quite clear that plans for military action against Afghanistan and Iraq were in hand well before 9/11. A report prepared for the US government from the Baker Institute of Public Policy stated in April 2001 that “the US remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma. Iraq remains a destabilising influence to… the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East”. Submitted to Vice-President Cheney’s energy task group, the report recommended that because this was an unacceptable risk to the US, “military intervention” was necessary (Sunday Herald, October 6 2002).

Similar evidence exists in regard to Afghanistan. The BBC reported (September 18 2001) that Niaz Niak, a former Pakistan foreign secretary, was told by senior American officials at a meeting in Berlin in mid-July 2001 that “military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October”. Until July 2001 the US government saw the Taliban regime as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of hydrocarbon pipelines from the oil and gas fields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. But, confronted with the Taliban’s refusal to accept US conditions, the US representatives told them “either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs” (Inter Press Service, November 15 2001).

Given this background, it is not surprising that some have seen the US failure to avert the 9/11 attacks as creating an invaluable pretext for attacking Afghanistan in a war that had clearly already been well planned in advance. There is a possible precedent for this. The US national archives reveal that President Roosevelt used exactly this approach in relation to Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941. Some advance warning of the attacks was received, but the information never reached the US fleet. The ensuing national outrage persuaded a reluctant US public to join the second world war. Similarly the PNAC blueprint of September 2000 states that the process of transforming the US into “tomorrow’s dominant force” is likely to be a long one in the absence of “some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor”. The 9/11 attacks allowed the US to press the “go” button for a strategy in accordance with the PNAC agenda which it would otherwise have been politically impossible to implement.

The overriding motivation for this political smokescreen is that the US and the UK are beginning to run out of secure hydrocarbon energy supplies. By 2010 the Muslim world will control as much as 60% of the world’s oil production and, even more importantly, 95% of remaining global oil export capacity. As demand is increasing, so supply is decreasing, continually since the 1960s.

This is leading to increasing dependence on foreign oil supplies for both the US and the UK. The US, which in 1990 produced domestically 57% of its total energy demand, is predicted to produce only 39% of its needs by 2010. A DTI minister has admitted that the UK could be facing “severe” gas shortages by 2005. The UK government has confirmed that 70% of our electricity will come from gas by 2020, and 90% of that will be imported. In that context it should be noted that Iraq has 110 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in addition to its oil.

A report from the commission on America’s national interests in July 2000 noted that the most promising new source of world supplies was the Caspian region, and this would relieve US dependence on Saudi Arabia. To diversify supply routes from the Caspian, one pipeline would run westward via Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Another would extend eastwards through Afghanistan and Pakistan and terminate near the Indian border. This would rescue Enron’s beleaguered power plant at Dabhol on India’s west coast, in which Enron had sunk $3bn investment and whose economic survival was dependent on access to cheap gas.

Nor has the UK been disinterested in this scramble for the remaining world supplies of hydrocarbons, and this may partly explain British participation in US military actions. Lord Browne, chief executive of BP, warned Washington not to carve up Iraq for its own oil companies in the aftermath of war (Guardian, October 30 2002). And when a British foreign minister met Gadaffi in his desert tent in August 2002, it was said that “the UK does not want to lose out to other European nations already jostling for advantage when it comes to potentially lucrative oil contracts” with Libya (BBC Online, August 10 2002).

The conclusion of all this analysis must surely be that the “global war on terrorism” has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda – the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project. Is collusion in this myth and junior participation in this project really a proper aspiration for British foreign policy? If there was ever need to justify a more objective British stance, driven by our own independent goals, this whole depressing saga surely provides all the evidence needed for a radical change of course.

· Michael Meacher MP was environment minister from May 1997 to June 2003

Analyze This

December 8, 2007


Inside the one spy agency that got pre-war intelligence on Iraq–and much else–right. By Justin Rood

In August 1998, North Korea’s military caught Western intelligence off-guard when it announced it had successfully tested a ballistic missile called the Taepo-Dong 1, considered a precursor to the kind of intercontinental weaponry that could threaten America’s Pacific coast. Conservatives in Congress condemned the CIA for being caught with its pants down. Brandishing a report by a committee headed by the once and future Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, which called rogue states with missiles the biggest threat to American security, these same conservatives pressed the Clinton administration to set aside money for a missile shield. In an effort to play catch-up, the CIA put a team of its best analysts on the case, sorting through satellite photos, tips from defectors, and electronic intercepts to determine how close North Korea was to possessing intercontinental missiles. Six months later, Director George Tenet delivered the CIA’s conclusion in testimony before the Senate: Contrary to its own earlier analysis, the CIA now believed that North Korea would test an intercontinental missile in the “near future.” In response to this new threat, the Clinton administration earmarked $6.6 billion over five years to develop a missile-defense system.CIA analysts weren’t the only ones poring over the data, however. Throughout the government, other intelligence agencies were looking at the same material, and one of these shops came to a markedly different conclusion. Over at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), analysts argued that the North Koreans were much farther off than the CIA believed. North Korea could potentially threaten the United States within a decade “only if it abandons its current moratorium on long-range missile flight testing,” Tom Fingar, then-acting principal deputy assistant secretary of INR, testified before Congress in February 2001. Although the White House and Congress accepted the CIA’s analysis, INR ultimately proved to be correct. In the five years since Tenet’s testimony, North Korea has yet to test an intercontinental ballistic missile.This wasn’t just a case of dumb luck for INR. Over the last decade, INR has frequently arrived at more prescient conclusions than the CIA and other intelligence agencies about the nature of threats to the United States. In 2001, when U.S. intelligence agents intercepted a shipment of aluminum tubes bound for Iraq, CIA analysts concluded they were for uranium enrichment, proof that Saddam Hussein was building a secret nuclear-weapons program. The INR, working from the same body of intelligence, concluded (rightly, it turned out) that the tubes were more likely intended for conventional, not nuclear, weaponry.

Indeed, on the whole question of Iraq’s nuclear capabilities, INR came consistently closer to the truth than did other agencies. The intelligence community’s collective analysis on this issue was assembled by CIA Director Tenet in a 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a document that contains the consensus of all the government’s intelligence agencies: the CIA, FBI, NSA, and intelligence groups at State, Energy, and Defense, among others. The 2002 estimate included the crux of the case that the Bush administration would present to the American public and the world in arguing for war. And the document’s conclusion–that Iraq was three to five years away from being capable of building nuclear weapons–convinced many Democrats and other skeptics that a war in Iraq might be justified. But when INR received a draft of the estimate, it balked, believing that other intelligence agencies had vastly overestimated the status and capability of Iraq’s nuclear program. INR thought the whole report was flawed; rather than including minor objections to specific statements, it took its name off of the estimate and detailed its objections in one long endnote. Of course, when American soldiers and U.N. inspectors combed through Iraq in the wake of the U.S. military conquest, what they found–and didn’t find–confirmed INR’s suspicions. The rest of the intelligence community had gotten it wrong again.

INR hasn’t always called it right. The agency joined the rest of the intelligence community in greatly overestimating Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons capability. And there have been some matters which the CIA has gotten right and INR wrong. INR dissented when the CIA concluded that China was selling M-11 missiles to Pakistan in the 1990s, though it turned out that the sales actually were taking place. Still, INR’s overall record has been impressive. Richard Clarke, a former counterterrorism advisor to three presidents and a former senior INR official, called INR “the intelligence-analysis organization with the best track record for accuracy.”

In the wake of Congress’ restructuring of the U.S. intelligence establishment, the new national intelligence czar faces a mountainous task: compelling the CIA’s cowed and moribund intelligence collectors to get out into the field, coordinating disparate and warring bureaucracies, and coping with an ever more shadowy and cunning terrorist threat. Perhaps the new czar’s most critical job will be improving the performance of analysts at the nation’s intelligence agencies–the people who look at the material, connect the dots, and decide what it means. Thankfully, INR provides a terrific model for how the analytic shops at different agencies should operate. The new czar need only learn its secrets: that its performance derives from its analysts’ high quality and depth of experience, from their facility with foreign languages, from their human contacts within the regions they study, and, most importantly, from an institutional culture that does not just tolerate dissent–but actually encourages it.

No plans to grow

It may be one of the smallest and least-noticed intelligence agencies, but INR developed a track record early on in its history of getting the big questions right. The office was cleaved off from the World War II Office of Special Services (OSS): OSS’ operations department became the CIA. But its analysts were moved into a new agency under the auspices of the State Department: INR. From the beginning, its mission was to provide the secretary of state with independent analysis of the intelligence gathered by Foreign Service officers and other agencies on the primary threats of the day. And though the CIA, NSA, and other agencies grew into mammoth structures during the Cold War, some adding analytic divisions to their operations forces while vastly expanding their collection capacities (spies, satellites), INR stuck to analysis. Interpreting data other people collect isn’t terribly glamorous, but INR developed a reputation in spy circles for its accuracy and judgment.

In the 1950s, the bureau’s assessments of Soviet military capability were more accurate than the often-inflated opinions coming from the CIA and the Pentagon, says John Prados, an intelligence expert and historian at the National Security Archives. “State Department intelligence,” he writes, “helped to hold projections made by the military services within some sort of bounds.” And during the 1960s, INR held fast to its belief–later proven true–that the Russians were not testing missiles with multiple, independently-targetable nuclear warheads, despite the Pentagon’s insistence to the contrary, and the CIA’s willingness to bow to that hawkish view. During the Vietnam War, INR analysts looked at the military’s own data on the number of enemy prisoners captured, enemy attacks, and weapons confiscated, and concluded that the war was not going as well as defense officials were claiming. It was a heady moment for the civilian analysts at INR, taking on the military establishment on a military topic using the military’s own data. The Pentagon was outraged, says Prados, but again INR turned out to be right.

Today, while the CIA operates out of a gleaming campus on the Potomac, and the NSA inhabits a similarly futuristic enclave in Fort Meade, Md., INR has a set of grad-student-like digs in Foggy Bottom. The nondescript offices in the State Department’s headquarters sport repainted ceiling tiles that buckle at the seams, linoleum floors, and narrow hallways.

I went there recently to interview the agency’s head, Tom Fingar, a tall man with hair more salt than pepper, round glasses, and a pensive demeanor. The office, spacious and wood-paneled as a dean’s redoubt, matches the personality of its occupant, a former academic and China scholar. Today, INR is still small and obscure. At $50 million, its budget is “decimal dust,” Fingar said, when compared to the estimated $40 billion spent by the rest of the intelligence community. Experts estimate the CIA has between 4,000 and 7,500 analysts, and are under presidential orders to increase that number by 50 percent; INR has approximately 160 analysts with no plans to grow.

Knowing the mad scramble for billions now underway as government agencies compete for funds that Congress can’t seem to give away fast enough, I pressed Fingar about whether his agency could use more money. The director considered the question before answering. “Does it matter for our people to ride coach instead of first class? I don’t think so. Would I like more? Yeah, a little more. I don’t know what I’d do with more than a 10 percent increase,” he concluded. “I could use more flexible money to let someone travel to get their language skills back. But we’re in good shape.” “It’s weird,” former CIA officer Robert Baer told me a couple of days later, after praising INR’s work. “But not having money in Washington seems to help.”

My buddy Vladimir Putin

Funding might or might not have anything to do with INR’s success. But when I asked dozens of intelligence operators worldwide why the office has been so successful, I got several consistent answers.

The first reason seems to be that INR analysts simply have more years on the job, focused on the same country or region, than do their counterparts elsewhere. The average tenure of an INR analyst is 15 years, whereas at the CIA, where analysts typically change beats as a way of advancing their careers, the average tenure is more like five years, according to sources. “The difference,” former INR director Carl W. Ford, who previously spent years at the CIA, explained to me, “is having one experienced person looking at material versus 25 inexperienced people.”

Second, INR gets a different kind of analyst. The CIA, under the gun to staff up mightily after its ranks were thinned by budget cuts in the 1970s and 1990s, tends to recruit kids right out of college and train them in their new “specialties.” (All new CIA hires must be under 35 years of age, although that requirement is occasionally waived.) And while the CIA’s young analysts occasionally travel to their countries of responsibility and bone up by reading at their desk, they have little first-hand experience of their regions. INR couldn’t be more different. Among the civil servants who make up two-thirds of its staff are many scholars lured out of the academy who come with years of knowledge. Fingar is one of them: He spent a decade-and-a-half as a scholar at Stanford’s U.S.-China relations program, speaks fluent Mandarin, and has traveled widely in China. The other third of INR’s staff are Foreign Service officers rotating through who usually have spent several diplomatic tours in the country or region they are focusing on at INR, and who thus have both a reservoir of knowledge about its personalities and history, and a deep well of personal contacts.

Typical is John Evans, who was a senior analyst at INR’s Russia desk before taking his current post as ambassador to Armenia. During the early 1990s, Evans worked at the U.S. consulate in Leningrad, where he spoke on occasion with the city’s mayor, Anatoly Sobchak. His usual contact, however, was Sobchak’s deputy, Vladimir Putin. “Imagine the CIA,” says Greg Thielmann, a former strategic director of INR, “with a whole stable of bright young college grads in their twenties looking at all the evidence about Putin–and, over at State, you’ve got a guy who’s worked regularly with him.”

The third reason INR tends to get it right is that because many of its analysts have been in the field as Foreign Service officers, they have a better sense of how intelligence is collected. Consequently, they know when it should be looked at critically in a way that CIA analysts–few of whom come over from CIA field jobs–don’t. In most embassies, Foreign Service officers work down the hall from CIA case officers and in many cases do similar kinds of work: collecting information, sometimes from the same sources. “The difference between the State Department and the CIA is that the CIA pays for information, and State doesn’t,” explained former CIA officer Baer, and the reliability of paid-for information is often questionable. Moreover, to protect the identity of sources, CIA field reports are typically written with little explanation of where or from whom information came. INR analysts, who from experience have learned to be suspicious of some sources–for example, exiles–tend to give the CIA’s more selectively sourced intelligence less credence. As a result, Thielmann said, he was more skeptical of human intelligence that came from the CIA, and he thought that was true of other Foreign Service officers he worked with at INR. Although, Thielmann noted, everyone at INR was pretty skeptical. “I was surrounded by civil service analysts with the same skepticism, which came from watching bad reports out of Iraq and elsewhere. We took a jaundiced eye towards this stuff.”

The fourth and most important reason for INR’s success is that the agency has a culture that tolerates dissent. The lasting criticism of the CIA that the 9/11 Commission produced was of the Agency’s tendency to shoehorn evidence to fit the results that the higher-ups desired. The commission criticized the CIA for having a culture of compliance, not disagreement. If anything, INR displays the opposite impulse: One INR official told me that the office is a “small band of curmudgeons.”

There’s no better example than the case of the aluminum tubes. When American intelligence operatives seized a shipment of these tubes headed for Iraq in late 2002, one CIA analyst with some professional experience of working with centrifuges concluded that the tubes were destined for use in uranium enriching facilities. Most of the rest of the intelligence community, working in an environment in which the president and his top appointees were demanding evidence of Iraq’s continuing WMD programs, signed on with this view. But analysts at the Department of Energy’s intelligence shop, whose expertise on these technical matters dwarfed that of the CIA, were skeptical, arguing that the tubes were far more likely intended for use in building conventional rockets since the Iraqis had used the same kinds of tubes to that purpose in the past. Though this wasn’t the politically popular answer, INR agreed to DOE’s analysis, the only other agency to dispute the CIA’s line.

It is hard to overstate the importance of the aluminum tube issue. It was supposedly the smoking gun, the piece of the administration’s case for war against Iraq that made all the other pieces fall together. “Remember,” David Kay, the chief American arms inspector after the war, told The New York Times, “the tubes were the only piece of physical evidence about the Iraqi weapons programs that they had.” In his speech to the United Nations making the case for war with Iraq, Secretary of State Powell split the difference, acknowledging that there was a debate over the tubes, but arguing strongly that they had been intended for uranium enrichment, a view his own analytic shop thought wrong. Other senior administration officials were even less circumspect.

A culture of dissent must be nurtured and protected if it is to thrive–and State has usually given INR the requisite political insulation. After Powell mentioned the CIA’s conclusions about the aluminum tubes in his speech at the United Nations, retired INR analyst Greg Thielmann criticized Powell publicly, telling “60 Minutes II” that the speech was “probably one of the low points in [Powell’s] long, distinguished service to the nation.” But far from shunning Thielmann, the State Department kept him in its good graces: Last September, when Fingar followed Powell into State’s grand, eighth-floor Benjamin Franklin Room to be sworn in as assistant secretary of State, one of the people invited to watch was Thielmann. For analysts, the symbolic embrace of Thielmann affirmed something they’d always been told INR believed: Productive dissent was encouraged. That’s unique in intelligence circles. Every ex-Langley hand I interviewed agreed with former CIA operations officer Melissa Boyle Mayle, who said her agency would never be as forgiving towards one of its internal critics. “If you’re out [at the CIA], you’re out,” she told me. “You’re one of ‘them.'”

Part of the reason that INR enjoys this level of protection is institutional. The State Department’s staffers, by virtue of their responsibilities, simply must be open to the points of view of the countries with which they conduct daily diplomacy. There is an inherent tension within the State Department between cooperating with the White House and coordinating with the rest of the world. That tension creates a market within the department for objective analysis, a need for an honest broker. “This building understands we’re useless if we’re not objective,” Fingar told me. “If you want an echo, close your door. Or sing in the shower.”

Another part of the reason for INR’s insulation has to do with the kind of people who have led it. INR analysts give former INR director Ford, for instance, tremendous credit for shielding the bureau from political pressure. “Carl earned the respect of people in the bureau for standing up for the work of the bureau,” Thielmann told me. “He even stood up to the CIA.”

Even secretaries of state have understood how valuable INR can be when it is protected. When the Bush administration asked Powell to deliver its case for war to the United Nations in January 2003, it turns out it already had prepared the speech for Powell to give. The CIA had been working on it since December 2002. Before he did, Powell secretly passed the text to INR analysts for a thorough going-over, cutting the more egregious claims in the speech. Keeping the transaction private protected INR.

In the company of wolves

Not everyone in Washington is a fan of INR. Many neoconservatives especially see the agency as a threat to the more vigorous military project they advocate. In The Washington Times in August 2003, former Reagan White House official Frank Gaffney Jr. lamented the purported bias of INR’s career civil servant experts. “This bureau’s intelligence products have tended to reflect the policy predilections of State’s permanent bureaucracy, rather than the facts.” But there’s a simple bottom-line test for intelligence: Who called it right most often? And on the big questions, INR has consistently gotten right what other agencies have gotten wrong.

That’s certainly the conclusion the 9/11 Commission came to. While the commission recommended that the CIA, DIA, and most other intelligence agencies be gathered together under the office of a new intelligence czar, it also urged that INR be kept away from the czar’s jurisdiction because its independent analysis had worked so well. Congress agreed. When it passed legislation in December creating the Office of National Intelligence, INR was one of the few intelligence agencies left out of the reorganization.

Congress also concurred on another commission recommendation: that the new czar should try to foster in all intel agencies the same culture of dissent that thrives at INR. The new law specifies a checklist of procedures the czar must implement to encourage openness and criticism, from mandatory reviews to see if analytic judgements match the underlying intelligence data, to a government-wide ombudsman to handle any complaints by analysts of political pressure from higher-ups.

But in the end, the intelligence czar answers to the president, and will promote a culture of questioning only to the extent he is ordered to, and thus far, President Bush has not been known for his encouragement of dissenting views. Similarly, INR can continue to thrive as Washington’s most prescient intel shop only if its independence is promoted and defended by the secretary of state. Already, rumors are rampant at Foggy Bottom that Condoleezza Rice, the president’s choice to replace Powell, has orders to enforce more policy and message discipline at State, and plans to oust dissidents, including top officials at INR. On the eve of Bush’s second term, then, the big question is this: Will the rest of the intelligence community end up looking like INR, or will INR end up looking like the rest of the intelligence community?

Justin Rood is a staff writer at Congressional Quarterly.

The slaughter of Iraq’s intellectuals

November 30, 2007

Andrew Rubin

Since the occupation began, some 200 leading Iraqi academics, most of them in the humanities and social sciences, have been killed. Is the CIA responsible?

Control, intimidation, and even murder of Iraqi intellectuals, professors, lecturers and teachers has become more or less systematic since the US-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Under the subsequent occupation, initially governed by a body called the Coalition Provisional Authority, US military officials dismissed many Iraqi intellectuals from university positions, often on spurious grounds; and a surprisingly large number fell victim to assassination. The Union of Iraqi Lecturers believes that roughly 200 have been killed, and estimates by various professors in Iraq back up this figure.

Intellectuals, professors, lecturers and teachers are being assassinated on what seems to be almost a regular basis.

To date, the CPA has neither investigated the deaths nor made a single arrest, despite its penchant for rounding up young Iraqis and treating them in barbaric ways in Saddam Hussein’s for- mer prison of choice, Abu Ghraib. A US defence department spokesman, when asked recently about assassinations among the Iraqi intelligentsia, dismissed the matter as simply “obscure”. The Iraqi interim government, installed and hand-picked by the United States, has done nothing and said nothing about it. With the exception of a few courageous individuals such as Saad Jawad, a senior professor of political science at the University of Baghdad, people are unwilling to speak out publicly. When a former doctoral student of Jawad’s was killed at the University of Mosul, Jawad’s colleagues refused to sign a petition supporting a strike. The political forces active in Iraqi society are becoming more fractured, more factional, more sectarian, and more ethnically absolutist.

One university president and several deans have been murdered. What is most striking is that many of those killed since the occupation began were trained not in the physical sciences, but in fields such as the soft sciences and the humanities. In other words, they were not being murdered by loyalists to Saddam Hussein for knowing something about any possible weapons of mass destruction programme. Instead they were, and are, professors of subjects such as French literature, history and the law, where the discussion about conflict can be converted into the conditions for reconciliation.

There is much speculation about who is responsible for these killings. Some allege it is Mossad, the Israeli secret service, which obviously has an interest in a weak and possibly theocratic Iraq – the better to declare Arabs undemocratically minded terrorists. (“It’s not personal; it’s business,” one professor in Baghdad says of Mossad’s possible motives.)

Denis Halliday, a former assistant secretary-general of the UN, has wondered aloud whether this is the work of anti-secular fundamentalists hoping to recruit students to the madrasas and to the tenets of Islamist fundamentalism. Others have pointed to militias such as those commanded by Ahmad Chalabi, once favoured by the Pentagon. At the same time, some allege these are acts of revenge and fury over grades from disgruntled students, now armed, along with the entire civil society, with weapons that the US sold to Iraq without reservation less than two decades ago.

Part of the process of dismis- sing Iraqi intellectuals, professors and lecturers was known as de-Ba’athification: with the exception of a few returned exiles, former Ba’ath Party members make up the vast majority of professors in postwar Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, all professors who wished to keep their job were required to join the Ba’ath Party. Yet the US repression of academics was less about protecting academic freedom than a kind of American McCarthyism abroad.

One must ask whether there is a concerted effort to undermine a secular democratic foundation in Iraq’s universities; after all, the prime minister, Iyad Allawi, is himself a former Ba’athist and murderer. According to Robert Dreyfuss, writing in the American Prospect, $3bn of the $87bn going to Iraq has been allotted to fund covert CIA paramilitary operations there, which, if the CIA’s historical record is to be consulted, are likely to include extrajudicial killings and assassinations.

Not that the curriculum under Saddam Hussein was ever a source of a radical renewal that could have actually provided the conditions for the emergence of a secular, moral and democratic leadership. Known as “Arab culture and socialism”, the four-year undergraduate humanities course was a brain-numbing, chauvinistic and hyper-nationalist occasion for unrestrained celebration of Ba’athism, elevating the writings of party theoreticians to canonical heights. Like many other universities in countries of the Arab and developing world, Iraq’s academic institutions, after years of rule by the Ottomans, followed by British and French colonisation, were fundamental to the modern reinvention of national identity. In Egypt, for example, the curriculum underwent a process of Arabisation after the revolution of 1952. Similarly, modern standard Arabic became the official language of Algeria, a former French colony, only in 1962, and for the first time could be uttered outside the mosques.

Yet despite the tyranny exercised over Iraqi society by Saddam Hussein, the university classroom was (some professors often claim) a relatively autonomous space for learning and instruction, where professors, lecturers and students could be openly critical. They could even criticise the government, so long as they never mentioned Saddam personally, or his two sons. Even today, the textbooks retain the same content, altered only by the elimination of images of Saddam and his sons.

Whoever is directly responsible for the dangers facing Iraq’s institutions of learning and its educators, the situation seriously threatens the emergence of a secular, moral and democratic leadership from within Iraq. If such a society is to emerge from beneath the scars caused by years of sanctions, from the rubble left by a remorseless and mendaciously justified war, intellectuals are the best and, in my opinion, the only chance of enabling Iraq to realise its human capabilities.

Without the intelligentsia, the US and its allies will continue arrogating to themselves the right to determine the form that Iraq’s universities and knowledge should assume. It is vital for the future of the country that Iraq maintain the separation between the university and political society.

Andrew N Rubin, assistant professor of English literature at Georgetown University, US, is the director of the International Coalition of Academics Against Occupation ( and the author of a forthcoming book, Archives of Authority

Victims of unknown assassins

Among the scores of senior academics who have been killed since the start of the western occupation are:

Muhammad al-Rawi, president of the University of Baghdad; Dr Abdul-Latif al-Mayah, professor of political science at Baghdad’s Mustansiriyah University; Dr Nafa Aboud, a professor of Arabic literature at the University of Baghdad; Dr Sabri al-Bayati, a geographer at the University of Baghdad; Dr Falah al-Dulaimi, assistant dean of college at Mustansiriyah University; Dr Hissam Sharif, from the history department of the University of Baghdad; Professor Wajih Mahjoub of the College of Physical Education; Professor Sabah Mahmoud, ex-dean of the Education College, Mustansiriyah University; Professor Abdul Jabbar Mustafa, head of the politics department at Mosul University, Dr Layla Abdul Jabbar, dean of the Faculty of Law in Mosul (and her husband); Dr Ali Abdul Husain Jabok, of the College of Political Science at the University of Baghdad.

It’s the Oil

November 25, 2007


by Jim Holt

Iraq is ‘unwinnable’, a ‘quagmire’, a ‘fiasco’: so goes the received opinion. But there is good reason to think that, from the Bush-Cheney perspective, it is none of these things. Indeed, the US may be ‘stuck’ precisely where Bush et al want it to be, which is why there is no ‘exit strategy’.

Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves. That is more than five times the total in the United States. And, because of its long isolation, it is the least explored of the world’s oil-rich nations. A mere two thousand wells have been drilled across the entire country; in Texas alone there are a million. It has been estimated, by the Council on Foreign Relations, that Iraq may have a further 220 billion barrels of undiscovered oil; another study puts the figure at 300 billion. If these estimates are anywhere close to the mark, US forces are now sitting on one quarter of the world’s oil resources. The value of Iraqi oil, largely light crude with low production costs, would be of the order of $30 trillion at today’s prices. For purposes of comparison, the projected total cost of the US invasion/occupation is around $1 trillion.

Who will get Iraq’s oil? One of the Bush administration’s ‘benchmarks’ for the Iraqi government is the passage of a law to distribute oil revenues. The draft law that the US has written for the Iraqi congress would cede nearly all the oil to Western companies. The Iraq National Oil Company would retain control of 17 of Iraq’s 80 existing oilfields, leaving the rest – including all yet to be discovered oil – under foreign corporate control for 30 years. ‘The foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy,’ the analyst Antonia Juhasz wrote in the New York Times in March, after the draft law was leaked. ‘They could even ride out Iraq’s current “instability” by signing contracts now, while the Iraqi government is at its weakest, and then wait at least two years before even setting foot in the country.’ As negotiations over the oil law stalled in September, the provincial government in Kurdistan simply signed a separate deal with the Dallas-based Hunt Oil Company, headed by a close political ally of President Bush.

How will the US maintain hegemony over Iraqi oil? By establishing permanent military bases in Iraq. Five self-sufficient ‘super-bases’ are in various stages of completion. All are well away from the urban areas where most casualties have occurred. There has been precious little reporting on these bases in the American press, whose dwindling corps of correspondents in Iraq cannot move around freely because of the dangerous conditions. (It takes a brave reporter to leave the Green Zone without a military escort.) In February last year, the Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks described one such facility, the Balad Air Base, forty miles north of Baghdad. A piece of (well-fortified) American suburbia in the middle of the Iraqi desert, Balad has fast-food joints, a miniature golf course, a football field, a cinema and distinct neighbourhoods – among them, ‘KBR-land’, named after the Halliburton subsidiary that has done most of the construction work at the base. Although few of the 20,000 American troops stationed there have ever had any contact with an Iraqi, the runway at the base is one of the world’s busiest. ‘We are behind only Heathrow right now,’ an air force commander told Ricks.

The Defense Department was initially coy about these bases. In 2003, Donald Rumsfeld said: ‘I have never, that I can recall, heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq discussed in any meeting.’ But this summer the Bush administration began to talk openly about stationing American troops in Iraq for years, even decades, to come. Several visitors to the White House have told the New York Times that the president himself has become fond of referring to the ‘Korea model’. When the House of Representatives voted to bar funding for ‘permanent bases’ in Iraq, the new term of choice became ‘enduring bases’, as if three or four decades wasn’t effectively an eternity.

But will the US be able to maintain an indefinite military presence in Iraq? It will plausibly claim a rationale to stay there for as long as civil conflict simmers, or until every groupuscule that conveniently brands itself as ‘al-Qaida’ is exterminated. The civil war may gradually lose intensity as Shias, Sunnis and Kurds withdraw into separate enclaves, reducing the surface area for sectarian friction, and as warlords consolidate local authority. De facto partition will be the result. But this partition can never become de jure. (An independent Kurdistan in the north might upset Turkey, an independent Shia region in the east might become a satellite of Iran, and an independent Sunni region in the west might harbour al-Qaida.) Presiding over this Balkanised Iraq will be a weak federal government in Baghdad, propped up and overseen by the Pentagon-scale US embassy that has just been constructed – a green zone within the Green Zone. As for the number of US troops permanently stationed in Iraq, the defence secretary, Robert Gates, told Congress at the end of September that ‘in his head’ he saw the long-term force as consisting of five combat brigades, a quarter of the current number, which, with support personnel, would mean 35,000 troops at the very minimum, probably accompanied by an equal number of mercenary contractors. (He may have been erring on the side of modesty, since the five super-bases can accommodate between ten and twenty thousand troops each.) These forces will occasionally leave their bases to tamp down civil skirmishes, at a declining cost in casualties. As a senior Bush administration official told the New York Times in June, the long-term bases ‘are all places we could fly in and out of without putting Americans on every street corner’. But their main day-to-day function will be to protect the oil infrastructure.

This is the ‘mess’ that Bush-Cheney is going to hand on to the next administration. What if that administration is a Democratic one? Will it dismantle the bases and withdraw US forces entirely? That seems unlikely, considering the many beneficiaries of the continued occupation of Iraq and the exploitation of its oil resources. The three principal Democratic candidates – Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards – have already hedged their bets, refusing to promise that, if elected, they would remove American forces from Iraq before 2013, the end of their first term.

Among the winners: oil-services companies like Halliburton; the oil companies themselves (the profits will be unimaginable, and even Democrats can be bought); US voters, who will be guaranteed price stability at the gas pump (which sometimes seems to be all they care about); Europe and Japan, which will both benefit from Western control of such a large part of the world’s oil reserves, and whose leaders will therefore wink at the permanent occupation; and, oddly enough, Osama bin Laden, who will never again have to worry about US troops profaning the holy places of Mecca and Medina, since the stability of the House of Saud will no longer be paramount among American concerns. Among the losers is Russia, which will no longer be able to lord its own energy resources over Europe. Another big loser is Opec, and especially Saudi Arabia, whose power to keep oil prices high by enforcing production quotas will be seriously compromised.

Then there is the case of Iran, which is more complicated. In the short term, Iran has done quite well out of the Iraq war. Iraq’s ruling Shia coalition is now dominated by a faction friendly to Tehran, and the US has willy-nilly armed and trained the most pro-Iranian elements in the Iraqi military. As for Iran’s nuclear programme, neither air strikes nor negotiations seem likely to derail it at the moment. But the Iranian regime is precarious. Unpopular mullahs hold onto power by financing internal security services and buying off elites with oil money, which accounts for 70 per cent of government revenues. If the price of oil were suddenly to drop to, say, $40 a barrel (from a current price just north of $80), the repressive regime in Tehran would lose its steady income. And that is an outcome the US could easily achieve by opening the Iraqi oil spigot for as long as necessary (perhaps taking down Venezuela’s oil-cocky Hugo Chávez into the bargain).

And think of the United States vis-à-vis China. As a consequence of our trade deficit, around a trillion dollars’ worth of US denominated debt (including $400 billion in US Treasury bonds) is held by China. This gives Beijing enormous leverage over Washington: by offloading big chunks of US debt, China could bring the American economy to its knees. China’s own economy is, according to official figures, expanding at something like 10 per cent a year. Even if the actual figure is closer to 4 or 5 per cent, as some believe, China’s increasing heft poses a threat to US interests. (One fact: China is acquiring new submarines five times faster than the US.) And the main constraint on China’s growth is its access to energy – which, with the US in control of the biggest share of world oil, would largely be at Washington’s sufferance. Thus is the Chinese threat neutralised.

Many people are still perplexed by exactly what moved Bush-Cheney to invade and occupy Iraq. In the 27 September issue of the New York Review of Books, Thomas Powers, one of the most astute watchers of the intelligence world, admitted to a degree of bafflement. ‘What’s particularly odd,’ he wrote, ‘is that there seems to be no sophisticated, professional, insiders’ version of the thinking that drove events.’ Alan Greenspan, in his just published memoir, is clearer on the matter. ‘I am saddened,’ he writes, ‘that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.’

Was the strategy of invading Iraq to take control of its oil resources actually hammered out by Cheney’s 2001 energy task force? One can’t know for sure, since the deliberations of that task force, made up largely of oil and energy company executives, have been kept secret by the administration on the grounds of ‘executive privilege’. One can’t say for certain that oil supplied the prime motive. But the hypothesis is quite powerful when it comes to explaining what has actually happened in Iraq. The occupation may seem horribly botched on the face of it, but the Bush administration’s cavalier attitude towards ‘nation-building’ has all but ensured that Iraq will end up as an American protectorate for the next few decades – a necessary condition for the extraction of its oil wealth. If the US had managed to create a strong, democratic government in an Iraq effectively secured by its own army and police force, and had then departed, what would have stopped that government from taking control of its own oil, like every other regime in the Middle East? On the assumption that the Bush-Cheney strategy is oil-centred, the tactics – dissolving the army, de-Baathification, a final ‘surge’ that has hastened internal migration – could scarcely have been more effective. The costs – a few billion dollars a month plus a few dozen American fatalities (a figure which will probably diminish, and which is in any case comparable to the number of US motorcyclists killed because of repealed helmet laws) – are negligible compared to $30 trillion in oil wealth, assured American geopolitical supremacy and cheap gas for voters. In terms of realpolitik, the invasion of Iraq is not a fiasco; it is a resounding success.

Still, there is reason to be sceptical of the picture I have drawn: it implies that a secret and highly ambitious plan turned out just the way its devisers foresaw, and that almost never happens.

Why Iraq Will End as Vietnam Did

November 11, 2007


by Martin Van Creveld

As Shakespeare once wrote, they have their exits and their entries. Between about 1975 and 1990, following the US defeat in Vietnam, military history was extremely popular among the US Armed Forces. After 1991, largely as a result of what many people considered the “stellar” performance of those Forces against Saddam Hussein, it went out of fashion; after all, if we were able to do that well there was not much point in studying the mistakes our predecessors made. Now that comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq have suddenly become very fashionable indeed, history is rushing right back at us. Here, I wish to address the differences and the similarities between the two wars by describing Vietnam as it was experienced by one man, Moshe Dayan.


As of 2004, Dayan is remembered, if he is remembered at all, mainly as the symbol of Israeli military power on the one hand and as one of the architects of the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Agreement on the other. In 1966 he was fifty-one years old. Having resigned his position as chief of staff in January 1958, he spent the next two years studying Orientalism and political science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 1959 he was elected to Parliament and spent five years as minister of agriculture; serving first under his old mentor, David Ben Gurion, and then under Levi Eshkol. In November 1964 he resigned and found himself a member of the opposition.

Long interested in literature, a superb speaker when he wanted to, in 1965 he published his first book, Sinai Diary, which proved that he could write as well as fight. He was, however, developing an attitude of having seen it all, done it all; a feeling that his twin hobbies, archaeology and an endless string of mistresses, could only relieve up to a point. Hence, when the most important Israeli newspaper of the time, Maariv, proposed that he go to Vietnam as a war correspondent he jumped on the idea. The articles he wrote were published in Maariv as well as the British and French press. In 1977, by which time he was serving as foreign minister under Menahem Begin and engaged in peace-talks with Egypt, the Hebrew-language articles were collected in book form and published. In the preface Dayan explains they were too long to be included in the memoirs he had published a year before; perhaps his real aim was to warn Israelis of the consequences that might ultimately follow if they did not get rid of what he called “the blemish of conquest.” If so, unfortunately he did not succeed.

Dayan knew nothing about Vietnam, and prepared himself thoroughly. His first visit was to France where he had many acquaintances from the time of the Israeli-French alliance of the mid-nineteen fifties; some of these people had served in, and helped lose, the First Indo-China War. His very first contact was a retired Air Force General by the name of Loission. In Loission’s view American public opinion was to blame for not putting its full support behind the War – to which should be added, in parentheses, that at the beginning of the War that support had been overwhelming. He thought the War could easily be won if only American public opinion agreed to bomb North Vietnam back into the Stone Age. As it was, a combination of Viet Cong terrorism and propaganda prevented the world, as well as the South Vietnamese themselves, from seeing how righteous the American cause was; he even believed that, had free elections been held, the Vietnamese might have wanted the French back. He ended the conversation by asking for his ideas to be kept secret. Dayan, who did not think those ideas constituted “a ray of light to an embarrassed world,” readily agreed.

His other French contact, a General Niceault, was more enlightening. For his role in the 1961 attempt to overthrow the Fifth Republic, Niceault had just spent five years in jail; as so often happens, jail proved an opportunity to think and to learn. Unlike Loission he had devoted a lot of thought to the matter and his mind was fresh and agile. To Dayan he explained that the Americans were using the wrong forces against the wrong targets. Their intelligence simply was not good enough, and most of their bombs hit nothing but empty stretches of jungle. He suggested that the solution to the problem was to use small groups of five to seven men; their task would be to shadow the Viet Cong and act as guides, calling in air power or artillery when contact was formed. The American attempts to prevent the North Vietnamese from infiltrating into South Vietnam by way of the demilitarized zone were not working either, given that each time a path was blocked another one could be found to bypass it. Perhaps the War could be won by sending in a million-man army and killing all male Vietnamese, but the days in which such things were possible had gone. He ended by telling Dayan that there was no point in going to Vietnam, since he would see nothing anyhow. Typically of him, Dayan answered that, if he would be unable to see the enemy or the war, at any rate he would see that he could not see; and that, too, would be enlightening.

From France he went to Britain in order to see Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery of Alamein. Montgomery at that time was in the midst of writing his History of Warfare; Dayan, who had met him once before when he was studying at Camberley Staff College in 1951, noted how “relaxed and alert” the old man looked. Montgomery’s ideas concerning Vietnam were very clear-cut. The Americans’ most important problem in running the War was that they did not have an unambiguous objective. He himself had tried to get an answer on that subject from no less a person than former vice president Richard Nixon. In response he had been treated to a twenty-minute lecture; at the end of which he remained as much in the dark as he had been at the beginning.

To Montgomery, an exceptionally systematic commander who always planned his moves very carefully, that was the essence of the problem. Not having a clear overall policy, the Americans were permitting the field commanders to call the shots. They did what they knew best, screaming for more and more troops, locking up entire populations in what where euphemistically called “strategic hamlets,” and bombing and shelling without giving a thought to what, if anything, they were achieving. At the end of their talk Montgomery told Dayan to tell the Americans, in his name, that they were “insane.” Again Dayan did not disagree, though perhaps this time for different reasons.

From Britain he flew to the United States. Eighteen years had passed since his first visit to that country. Like many visitors, the dominant impression he received was that of towering power the like of which history had never seen. Here was a society racing into the twenty-first century, with the rest of the world only barely keeping pace.

His first meeting was at the Pentagon where no fewer than three colonels had been appointed to brief him. They pretended to be humble and called him “the glorious General Dayan”; at the same time, as he noted, they appeared ready to provide him not only with the answers but also with the questions he was supposed to ask. He left with the feeling that they, and those whom they represented, did not really have a handle on the War. In particular, he wondered why, given the four to one superiority that the Americans and their South Vietnamese Allies enjoyed over the Viet Cong, General Westmoreland would not give the latter a chance to concentrate and attack so that he himself could smash them to pieces. The answer he received, namely that Westmoreland thought doing so was too risky, he considered unconvincing.

During the next few days his feeling that the Americans did not really know where they were going was reinforced. Everywhere he went he was received courteously enough. Everywhere he went the people he encountered were committed and extremely hard working. Intensely patriotic, they seemed proud of what they were doing and would not admit any errors. At one point he asked whether they had changed their methods since they first went to Vietnam and was told that they did not have to do so since everything worked much better than expected. Thereupon he noted that the US Military never made any mistakes; however, that comment he kept to himself. He was subjected to a flood of statistics – so and so many enemies killed, so and so many captured – meant to prove that the situation was well under control and that large parts of the territory of South Vietnam, as well as its population, were now safe against terrorist attack. As he noted, however, even a few elementary questions revealed that things were far from simple. Later he was to discover how right he had been in this; in the whole of South Vietnam there was not a single road that was really safe against the Viet Cong. Nor was there anything to prevent the enemy from returning even to those places that had been most thoroughly “cleansed” and “pacified.”

The three most important figures he met were the deputy head of the National Security Council, Walt Rostow, General Maxwell Taylor who was then acting as special adviser to President Johnson, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Rostow, a Harvard-based economist, had published a famous book in which he explained how the developing world would catch up with the developed one in four clear, well-defined, stages. Now he told Dayan that the desire for economic growth would drive the peoples of Asia closer to the US. Dayan, who had observed how determined Israel Arab’s neighbors had been to get rid of their Western overlords even at heavy economic cost, doubted it; had he been alive today, no doubt he would have expressed the same idea about the situation in Iraq. Rostow also believed, or pretended to believe, that the forthcoming elections in South Vietnam would be free and democratic and thus strengthen the Government in waging the War. Still he was the first American to whom Dayan spoke who was prepared to admit that the US objective was not just to help South Vietnam but to set up a permanent military political presence in South East Asia so as to counterbalance the growing power of China. To that extent, the conversation with him was the most useful of those he had had so far.

Taylor, whom he met next, was the first American to present him with a comprehensive plan for winning the War. It consisted of four elements, namely a. improving US Army operations on the ground; b. making full use of the Air Force to bomb the North; c. strengthening the economy of South Vietnam; and d. reaching an “honorable” peace with Ho Chi Minh. Asked whether he thought the US was making progress in those directions, however, he could not produce convincing indications that this was indeed the case. As the Americans themselves admitted, in spite of the heavy casualties being inflicted on the VC – Taylor estimated them at 1,000 a week – the latter’s operations kept growing more extensive and more dangerous. Nor could Taylor point to any clear progress as a result of the air campaign. He did, however, believe that the bombing formed “a heavy burden” on the North; sooner or later, the enemy would break.

Dayan’s last important contact, Robert McNamara, had a reputation of being hard to approach. This turned out to be untrue and Dayan was pleasantly surprised; at a small dinner party with Margot (McNamara’s wife), Walt Rostow and several journalists, the Secretary Defense did what he could to answer all the questions that were directed at him. He admitted that many of the figures being floated by the Pentagon – particularly those pertaining to the percentage of the country and population “secured” – were meaningless at best and bogus at worst. No more than anybody else could he explain to Dayan how the Americans intended to end the War. What set him apart was the fact that he was prepared to admit it, albeit only in a half- hearted way; as we now know, he already had his own doubts which led to his resignation in the next year. He consoled himself by saying that the War was not hurting the US economy. In other words, it could go on and on until one side or the other gave way.

Flying to Vietnam by way of Honolulu and Tokyo, Dayan summed up his impressions so far. Almost all of the Americans he had met were pleasant enough. None, however, could tell him how they were going to win the War. Most could not even give a convincing reason why the US had to be in Vietnam in the first place; at least one had said that, had President Johnson been presented with a way to get out, he would have jumped on it and withdrawn his troops. What really infuriated them was any attempt to question their motives. As far as they were concerned their cause was noble and just. The fact that the Communist States did what they could to support the Viet Cong and North Vietnam was bad but understandable. They were, however, puzzled by the attitude of their European allies. Those Europeans supposedly shared America’s liberal-democratic values. Still many of them were strongly critical. At a loss to explain the problem, the Americans attributed it to cowardice, envy, and the resentment that arose from Europe’s own recent failure in waging “Imperialist” war. He thought that, in ignoring the Europeans, the Americans were making a big mistake.

To make things stranger still, the determination of American decision-makers to ignore world public opinion was counterbalanced by their extreme sensitivity to the views of their own electorate. At that moment, he noted, fully seventy five percent of those polled were in favor of bombing North Vietnam – just as, in April 2004, a small majority of Americans still believed that the war in Iraq was worth-while. Still permitting public opinion to decide on such issues seemed to him a strange way to run a war, and one he thought was likely to have grave consequences for the future.

He arrived in Vietnam on 25 July. His first stop was Saigon where he spent two days being “processed.” He was issued with an American uniform, rucksack, water bottles, and helmet; as he wrote, had it depended on the soldiers in charge they would also have given him a weapon and hand-grenades. He used his spare time to meet a Vietnamese professor of nuclear physics to whom he had been referred by an Israeli friend. The professor told him – in strict confidence, since saying anything contrary to the official line was dangerous – that the Viet Cong were much stronger than the Americans knew or wanted to know. Later during his visit he also had occasion to meet with the South Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and minister of defense, General Nguyen Van Thieu, as well the chief of the general staff of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Both owed their positions to the Americans who had connived in Diem’s assassination and both, he thought, were highly intelligent men. Both, interestingly enough, reserved their greatest admiration not for some American commander but for the North-Vietnamese General Giap. Giap had been the hero of the struggle against the French. Now, they fondly hoped, he might force Hanoi to make peace.

On 27 July he joined a river patrol. The patrol consisted of three fast boats, each one manned by four “nice kids” and commanded by an officer. They were armed with heavy machine guns and light automatic cannon; as he noted, it was the first time since the Civil War when the US Navy had embarked on river operations. They raced along at 25 knots an hour, using visual navigation to find their way by day and infrared at night. From time to time they would stop to search one of the thousands of South Vietnamese boats carrying provisions from the Delta to Saigon. The searches woke up old memories. They reminded him of the ones that the British used to conduct when trying to fight Jewish terrorists in Palestine; offensive, but largely useless. The US sailors checked papers, took a perfunctory look at the load of the boats they stopped, and proceeded on their mission. While he did not think the boats they examined actually carried weapons, had they wanted to do so it would have been easy enough. As to thoroughly checking each and every boat, it was clearly impossible.

On 28 July he went aboard the largest aircraft carrier then cruising off the Vietnamese coast, USS Constellation. He was a professional military man and had often read and heard about such ships; yet what he now saw made a “breath-taking impression” on him. The vessel constituted five acres of sovereign American territory that could go anywhere without having to worry about troublesome allies. Isolated at sea, the crew did not constitute a security problem and the lack of anything else to do made them work all the harder at their jobs. The ship was protected “from the air, the sea, the ground, outer space, and under water”; if Dayan was being ironic – after all, the enemy consisted of little men wearing straw hats – he did not say so. The product of this floating factory was firepower. Every ninety minutes, amidst a numbing outburst of fire and noise, flights of combat aircraft took off to strike at targets in Vietnam; but when it came to specifying the precise nature of those targets his hosts refused to answer his questions. As always, Dayan was impressed by the Americans’ pride in themselves, their nation, and their mission. He ended the day by noting that they were “not fighting against infiltration to South [Vietnam], or against guerrillas, or against North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, but against the entire world. Their real aim was to show everybody – including Britain, France, and the USSR – their power and determination so as to pass this message: wherever Americans go, they are irresistible.”

The next month – he stayed until 27 August – was spent visiting various units throughout South Vietnam. First he went to see the Marines, joining a company that was patrolling only about a mile south of the Demilitarized Zone in order to prevent infiltration from the North. The company commander was a first lieutenant by the name of Charles Krulak. For two nights and three days they humped up and down amidst the vegetation that covered the hills. They waded through streams and sometimes almost drowned in them; at one point Dayan himself lost his foothold and had to be pulled out. Yet throughout all that time the only target at which they opened fire was some kind of unidentified animal. Apparently it had been wounded, and the noise it made kept the entire unit awake for an entire night. Thirty-five year later General (ret.) Krulak, ex-commandant of the Marine Corps, told me that, as they set up camp one evening, Dayan had asked them what they were doing there. He gave it as his opinion that the American strategy was wrong. They should be “where the people are,” not vainly trying to chase the Viet Cong in the mountains where they were not.

A few days later his wish to see the War “where the people are” was granted. Near Da Nang, he visited another Marine unit that was engaged in pacification. The Marines were responsible for security – he noted their excellent discipline – whereas most of the actual work was done by civilians. Once again, he found the Americans on the spot committed and immensely proud of what they were doing to bring a ray of light into a troubled world. Once again, he left the district clear in his own mind that much remained to be done; so much so that it was doubtful whether the Americans were making any progress at all. Nor was he impressed with the attempts to help the South Vietnamese peasants improve their standard of living by introducing new agricultural methods, better livestock, and so on. One is reminded of the figures coming out of Iraq concerning schools and clinics reopened, doctors’ pay raised, and the like.

Back in Paris Niceault had told him the “battle for hearts and minds” would not work, given that that the Vietnamese had their own cultural traditions – as well as “immensely beautiful women” – and that “Californization” was the last thing they wanted. This, moreover, was a field where he had some experience. With US financial backing, during his term as minister of agriculture (1959–63) he had sent Israeli experts to carry out agrarian reforms in various Asian and African countries. Some of those countries he had visited in person, only to find out how hard it was to make a long-established culture change its ways. Clearly doing so in the midst of a war, when every achievement was under constant threat from Viet Cong terrorists, was much harder still.

Another extremely interesting visit was the one he paid to 1st Air Cavalry Division. Organized only a few years previously, it was the most up-to-date fighting force in the entire world. Not to mention the incredible economic, industrial, and logistic power that made such a unit possible in the first place; and, having done so, supported it in battle thousands of miles away from home. Operating under conditions of absolute air superiority – as was also to be the case in Iraq, in all South Vietnam there was not a single enemy aircraft – the division did exactly as it pleased. It required no more than four hours’ warning to land an entire battalion at any location within its helicopters’ range. As it turned out, though, often four hours were four hours too many. Arriving at the selected spot, the troops would find that the enemy had gone.

It must have been during his stay with 1st Cavalry that the following incident took place. As was his custom Dayan wanted to visit the front, which in the case of Vietnam meant going on patrol. His hosts reluctantly agreed, but fearing lest something might happen to the celebrity for whom they were responsible selected a route that was supposedly free of the Viet Cong. As often happened, their information proved wrong. They came under fire and were “pinned down,” as the phrase went. Looking around from where he was lying, the American captain in charge discovered that Dayan had disappeared. In the end he located him; the middle-aged visitor from Israel was sitting comfortably on top of a grassy knoll. With great effort, the captain crawled to him and asked what he was doing. “What are you doing?” was the answer he got: “get your – up here, and see what this battle is all about.”

The way he saw it, the problem was intelligence. “According to Norton’s (commanding officer, 1st Air Cavalry) information, there was a Viet Cong division in this highland area. It was not concentrated in a single base but split into several battalions, each about 350 men strong. It was Norton’s plan to land a battalion… in the Vietcong divisional area and then, in accordance with the developments of the battle, to rush in additional ‘reaction troops’ to reinforce, seal off, and carry out flank attacks. All this was fine, except for one small item missing in the plan: the exact location of the Viet Cong battalions was not known. Air photos and air reconnaissance had failed to pick out their encampments, entrenched, bunkered and camouflaged with the jungle vegetation. The US intelligence sources were largely technical – air photos and decoded radio intercepts, for Viet Cong units from battalion strength and up used transmitters. Only scanty information could be gleaned from POWs. Many of the latter spat in the Americans’ face and swore to die rather than talk.”

Contrary to what had been written about the enormous logistical requirements of the US troops – from iced beer to go-go girls – he was impressed by the Spartan nature of the arrangements. The Americans were prepared to improvise at a moment’s notice; throw a flack jacket into the helicopter, hop in, and off you go hunting VC. The entire Division was “a huge force, fast and efficient. It used its weapons – including artillery support and tactical and strategic air support – very effectively indeed”; in Dayan’s view, it was as superior to other forces as the German tanks had been to their enemies at the beginning of World War II. “[Its] battle procedures operated like an assembly belt. First came the shelling of the landing zones by ground artillery. Then came aerial bombardment. And the landings themselves were covered by ‘gunships,’ the accompanying, close-support, heli-borne, units firing their rockets and machine guns almost at our feet.” It was an amazing operation, “but where was the war? It was like watching military maneuvers – with only one side.” “Where were the Viet Cong? And where was the battle? The Viet Cong were there, a few hundred yards away. And the battle came half an hour later when the company which had landed 300 yards to our south ran into an ambush after it had started moving off.” Within minutes the company was shot to pieces, suffering 25 dead and some 50 wounded including its commander. Calling in their firepower, 1st Cavalry gave pursuit. Meeting resistance they would radio for the B-52s bombers; to what effect, was not clear.

To recount each and every detail of Dayan’s visit would be tedious. Everywhere he was met with the greatest courtesy and was given a fairly free hand to see and ask what he wanted. As he noted, American officers were committed, very hard working, and as frank as circumstances permitted; many of them enjoyed the War which, at this time, was still in its “forward” phase. General Westmoreland he found pleasant and informal. It was true he seemed to lack the “astute expression” that Dayan had discerned with some other senior generals. Still there could be no question of American officers being incompetent oafs who delighted in setting alight Vietnamese huts and were fragged by their own men; that image only rose after the War and as a direct result of it.

One of their problems was the need to get their names mentioned by the media so as to advance their careers. This, Dayan thought, did not turn them into better persons or, what was more important, better commanders. He admired the American rank and file, particularly the Marines and the Green Berets. They were physically fit, very well trained, and, this being 1966, still did their job willingly. They were, to use his own Hebrew phrase, “golden guys”; the fact that they were being rotated in an out of the country too fast to learn its ways and become really effective in doing their work was scarcely their fault. He was even more impressed by the tremendous military-industrial muscle that enabled 1,700 helicopters to be deployed in a single theater of war. It also enabled a single operation by a single South Korean infantry company to be supported by no fewer than 21,000 artillery rounds. As he noted, this was more than had been expended by all Israeli forces in the wars of 1948 and 1956 combined.

Still, nothing could make up for the lack of accurate and timely tactical intelligence. Partly its absence was due to cultural obstacles; wherever he went, translators were very much in demand and, of course, said exactly what they pleased. Partly it was due to the physical conditions of the country, and partly to the nature of the War itself. In Dayan’s own words, the information available to the Americans was limited to: “1. What they could photograph; 2. What they could intercept (SIGINT); and 3. What they could glean from low-ranking prisoners.” As a result, most of the time they were using sledgehammers to knock holes in empty air. So far they had not succeeded in inflicting unacceptable losses on the enemy who kept reinforcing. Even if they did succeed, militarily, it was hard to see how the South Vietnamese would be able to set up a viable government in the shadow of the gigantic machine that “protected” them; whether that machine would ever be withdrawn was anybody’s guess.

As to what he was told of the war’s objectives, such as defending democracy and helping the South Vietnamese people, he considered it “childish” propaganda; if many of the Americans he met believed in them, clearly nobody else did. Over a year before the Tet Offensive proved that something was very, very wrong, he left Vietnam with the definite impression that things were not going at all well. In his own words, “the Americans are winning everything – except the war.” Perhaps this was one reason why, instead of flying home by way of the United States as both Taylor and McNamara had asked him to do, he chose the other route. When he wanted to he could be very tactful and rubbing salt into the Americans’ wounds was the last thing he wanted. The trip did, however, provide a welcome opportunity to keep his military knowledge up to date.

Some people claim that the US won the War in Vietnam, to which I can only say that I strongly disagree. Others argue that Vietnam differed from Iraq, saying that it was essentially a conventional war that was lost because the American civilian leadership failed to provide its Armed Forces with proper strategic direction. It is of course true that there are considerable differences between the two. Still, recalling Dayan’s observations, I think there are three main reasons why the similarities are more important.

First, according to Dayan, the most important operational problem the US Forces were facing was intelligence, in other words the inability to distinguish the enemy from either the physical surroundings or the civilian population. Had intelligence been available then their enormous superiority in every kind of military hardware would have enabled them to win the War easily enough. In its absence, most of the blows they delivered – including no fewer than six million tons of bombs dropped – hit empty air. All they did was make the enemy disperse and merge into the civilian population, thus making it even harder to find him. Worst of all, lack of accurate intelligence meant that the Americans kept hitting noncombatants by mistake. They thus drove huge segments of the population straight into the arms of the Viet Cong; nothing is more conducive to hatred than the sight of relatives and friends being killed.

Second, as Dayan saw clearly enough, the campaign for hearts and minds did not work. Many of the figures being published about the progress it was making turned out to be bogus, designed to set the minds of the folks at home at rest. In other cases any progress laboriously made over a period of months was undone in a matter of minutes as the Viet Cong attacked, destroying property and killing “collaborators.” Above all, the idea that the Vietnamese people wanted to become Americanized was an illusion. All the vast majority really wanted was to be left alone and get on with their lives.

The third and most important reason why I think Vietnam is relevant to the situation in Iraq is because the Americans found themselves in the unfortunate position where they were beating down on the weak. To quote Dayan: “any comparison between the two armies… was astonishing. On the one hand there was the American Army, complete with helicopters, an air force, armor, electronic communications, artillery, and mind-boggling riches; to say nothing of ammunition, fuel, spare parts, and equipment of all kinds. On the other there were the [North Vietnamese troops] who had been walking on foot for four months, carrying some artillery rounds on their backs and using a tin spoon to eat a little ground rice from a tin plate.”

That, of course, was precisely the problem. In private life, an adult who keeps beating down on a five year old – even such a one as originally attacked him with a knife – will be perceived as committing a crime; therefore he will lose the support of bystanders and end up by being arrested, tried and convicted. In international life, an armed force that keeps beating down on a weaker opponent will be seen as committing a series of crimes; therefore it will end up by losing the support of its allies, its own people, and its own troops. Depending on the quality of the forces – whether they are draftees or professionals, the effectiveness of the propaganda machine, the nature of the political process, and so on – things may happen quickly or take a long time to mature. However, the outcome is always the same. He (or she) who does not understand this does not understand anything about war; or, indeed, human nature.

In other words, he who fights against the weak – and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed – and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force however rich, however powerful, however, advanced, and however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat; if U.S troops in Iraq have not yet started fragging their officers, the suicide rate among them is already exceptionally high. That is why the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one did. Namely, with the last US troops fleeing the country while hanging on to their helicopters’ skids.

November 18, 2004

Martin Van Creveld is professor of history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written a number of books that have influenced modern military theory, including Fighting Power, Command in War, and most significantly, The Transformation of War. He is also the author of The Rise and Decline of the State.

Copyright © 2004 Martin Van Creveld

To Pick the Winning Team, You Have to Know Who The Players Are

November 10, 2007

by George Washington
You have to know who the players are before you can pick the winning team, right?

So take a look at what the top military leaders, intelligence professionals, scientists, structural engineers, architects, members of Congress, 9/11 Commissioners, legal scholars, heroic first responders, family members of 9/11 victims and psychiatrists say before you make up your mind about who’s on the winning side of the 9/11 debate:


Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan (Col. Ronald D. Ray) said that the official story of 9/11 is “the dog that doesn’t hunt” (bio)

Director of the U.S. “Star Wars” space defense program in both Republican and Democratic administrations, who was a senior air force colonel who flew 101 combat missions (Col. Robert Bowman) stated that 9/11 was an inside job. He also said:

If our government had merely [done] nothing, and I say that as an old interceptor pilot—I know the drill, I know what it takes, I know how long it takes, I know what the procedures are, I know what they were, and I know what they’ve changed them to—if our government had merely done nothing, and allowed normal procedures to happen on that morning of 9/11, the Twin Towers would still be standing and thousands of dead Americans would still be alive. [T]hat is treason!

U.S. Army Air Defense Officer and NORAD Tac Director, decorated with the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Soldiers Medal (Capt. Daniel Davis) stated:

“there is no way that an aircraft . . . would not be intercepted when they deviate from their flight plan, turn off their transponders, or stop communication with Air Traffic Control … Attempts to obscure facts by calling them a ‘conspiracy Theory’ does not change the truth. It seems, ‘Something is rotten in the State.’ “

President of the U.S. Air Force Accident Investigation Board, who also served as Pentagon Weapons Requirement Officer and as a member of the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, and who was awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses for Heroism, four Air Medals, four Meritorious Service Medals, and nine Aerial Achievement Medals (Lt. Col. Jeff Latas) is a member of a group which doubts the government’s version of 9/11

U.S. General, Commanding General of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, decorated with the Bronze Star, Silver Star, and Purple Heart (General Wesley Clark) said “We’ve never finished the investigation of 9/11 and whether the administration actually misused the intelligence information it had. The evidence seems pretty clear to me. I’ve seen that for a long time.”

Air Force Colonel and key Pentagon official (Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski) finds various aspects of 9/11 suspicious

Lieutenant colonel, 24-year Air Force career, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the Defense Language Institute (Lt. Colonel Steve Butler) said “Of course Bush knew about the impending attacks on America. He did nothing to warn the American people because he needed this war on terrorism.”

Two-Star general (Major General Albert Stubbelbine) questions the attack on the Pentagon

U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, former instructor at the USAF Fighter Weapons School and NATO’s Tactical Leadership Program, with a 20-year Air Force career (Lt. Colonel Guy S. Razer) said the following:

“I am 100% convinced that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were planned, organized, and committed by treasonous perpetrators that have infiltrated the highest levels of our government ….

Those of us in the military took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”. Just because we have retired does not make that oath invalid, so it is not just our responsibility, it is our duty to expose the real perpetrators of 9/11 and bring them to justice, no matter how hard it is, how long it takes, or how much we have to suffer to do it.

We owe it to those who have gone before us who executed that same oath, and who are doing the same thing in Iraq and Afghanistan right now. Those of us who joined the military and faithfully executed orders that were given us had to trust our leaders. The violation and abuse of that trust is not only heinous, but ultimately the most accurate definition of treason!”

U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, a fighter pilot with over 300 combat missions flown and a 21-year Marine Corps career (Lt. Colonel Shelton F. Lankford) believes that 9/11 was an inside job, and said:

“This isn’t about party, it isn’t about Bush Bashing. It’s about our country, our constitution, and our future. …

Your countrymen have been murdered and the more you delve into it the more it looks as though they were murdered by our government, who used it as an excuse to murder other people thousands of miles away.

If you ridicule others who have sincere doubts and who know factual information that directly contradicts the official report and who want explanations from those who hold the keys to our government, and have motive, means, and opportunity to pull off a 9/11, but you are too lazy or fearful, or … to check into the facts yourself, what does that make you? ….

Are you afraid that you will learn the truth and you can’t handle it? …”

U.S. Navy ‘Top Gun’ pilot (Commander Ralph Kolstad) who questions the official account of 9/11 and is calling for a new investigation, says “When one starts using his own mind, and not what one was told, there is very little to believe in the official story”.

The Group Director on matters of national security in the U.S. Government Accountability Office said that President Bush did not respond to unprecedented warnings of the 9/11 disaster and conducted a massive cover-up instead of accepting responsibility

Additionally, numerous military leaders from allied governments have questioned 9/11, such as:

Canadian Minister of Defense, the top military leader of Canada (Paul Hellyer)

Assistant German Defense Minister (Andreas Von Bulow)

Commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy (Anatoli Kornukov)

Chief of staff of the Russian armed forces (General Leonid Ivashov)


A 27-year CIA veteran, who chaired National Intelligence Estimates and personally delivered intelligence briefings to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, their Vice Presidents, Secretaries of State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many other senior government officials (Raymond McGovern) said “I think at simplest terms, there’s a cover-up. The 9/11 Report is a joke”, and is open to the possibility that 9/11 was an inside job.

A 29-year CIA veteran, former National Intelligence Officer (NIO) and former Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis (William Bill Christison) said “I now think there is persuasive evidence that the events of September did not unfold as the Bush administration and the 9/11 Commission would have us believe. … All three [buildings that were destroyed in the World Trade Center] were most probably destroyed by controlled demolition charges placed in the buildings before 9/11.” (and see this).

20-year Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer, the second-ranking civilian in U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence, and former CIA clandestine services case officer (David Steele) stated that “9/11 was at a minimum allowed to happen as a pretext for war”, and it was probably an inside job (see Customer Review dated October 7, 2006).

A decorated 20-year CIA veteran, whose Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh called “perhaps the best on-the-ground field officer in the Middle East”, and astounding career formed the script for the Academy Award winning motion picture Syriana (Robert Baer) said that“the evidence points at” 9/11 having had aspects of being an inside job .

The Division Chief of the CIA’s Office of Soviet Affairs, who served as Senior Analyst from 1966 – 1990. He also served as Professor of International Security at the National War College from 1986 – 2004 (Melvin Goodman) said “The final [9/11 Commission] report is ultimately a coverup.”

Professor of History and International Relations, University of Maryland. Former Executive Assistant to the Director of the National Security Agency. Former military attaché in China. 21-year career in U.S. Army Intelligence (Major John M. Newman, PhD, U.S. Army)
questions the government’s version of the events of 9/11.

The head of all U.S. intelligence, the Director of National Intelligence (Mike McConnel) said “9/11 should have and could have been prevented”


The 9/11 Commissioners knew that military officials lied to the Commission, and considered recommending criminal charges for such false statements, yet didn’t bother to tell the American people (free subscription required).

Indeed, the co-chairs of the Commission (Thomas Keane and Lee Hamilton) now admit that the Commission largely operated based upon political considerations.

9/11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton says “I don’t believe for a minute we got everything right”, that the Commission was set up to fail, that people should keep asking questions about 9/11, that the 9/11 debate should continue, and that the 9/11 Commission report was only “the first draft” of history.

9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey said that “There are ample reasons to suspect that there may be some alternative to what we outlined in our version . . . We didn’t have access . . . .”

9/11 Commissioner Timothy Roemer said “We were extremely frustrated with the false statements we were getting”

Former 9/11 Commissioner Max Cleland resigned from the Commission, stating: “It is a national scandal”; “This investigation is now compromised”; and “One of these days we will have to get the full story because the 9-11 issue is so important to America. But this White House wants to cover it up”.

The Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission (John Farmer) who led the 9/11 staff’s inquiry, said “I was shocked at how different the truth was from the way it was described …. The tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public for two years…. This is not spin. This is not true.”


A prominent physicist with 33 years of service for the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC (Dr. David L. Griscom) said that the official theory for why the Twin Towers and world trade center building 7 collapsed “does not match the available facts” and supports the theory that the buildings were brought down by controlled demolition
A world-renowned scientist, recipient of the National Medal of Science, America’s highest honor for scientific achievement (Dr. Lynn Margulis) said:

I suggest that those of us aware and concerned demand that the glaringly erroneous official account of 9/11 be dismissed as a fraud and a new, thorough, and impartial investigation be undertaken.

The former head of the Fire Science Division of the government agency which claims that the World Trade Centers collapsed due to fire (the National Institute of Standards and Technology), who is a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, with more than 25 years experience in fire research and its applications, and is a professor in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering at the University of Maryland (Dr. James Quintiere), called for an independent review of the World Trade Center Twin Tower collapse investigation. “I wish that there would be a peer review of this,” he said, referring to the NIST investigation. “I think all the records that NIST has assembled should be archived. I would really like to see someone else take a look at what they’ve done; both structurally and from a fire point of view. … I think the official conclusion that NIST arrived at is questionable.”
Former Director for Research, Director for Aeronautical Projects, and Flight Research Program Manager for NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, who holds masters degrees in both physics and engineering (Dwain A. Deets) says:

The many visual images (massive structural members being hurled horizontally, huge pyroclastic clouds, etc.) leave no doubt in my mind explosives were involved [in the destruction of the World Trade Centers on 9/11].”

A prominent physicist, former U.S. professor of physics from a top university, and a former principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Energy, Division of Advanced Energy Projects (Dr. Steven E. Jones) stated that the world trade centers were brought down by controlled demolition

A U.S. physics professor who teaches at several universities (Dr. Crockett Grabbe) believes that the World Trade Centers were brought down by controlled demolition

An expert on demolition (Bent Lund) said that the trade centers were brought down with explosives (in Danish)

A Dutch demolition expert (Danny Jowenko) stated that WTC 7 was imploded

A safety engineer and accident analyst for the Finnish National Safety Technology Authority (Dr. Heikki Kurttila) stated regarding WTC 7 that “The great speed of the collapse and the low value of the resistance factor strongly suggest controlled demolition.”A 13-year professor of metallurgical engineering at a U.S. university, with a PhD in materials engineering, a former Congressional Office of Technology Assessment Senior Staff Member (Dr. Joel S. Hirschhorn), is calling for a new investigation of 9/11

A Danish professor of chemistry (Dr. Niels Harrit) said, in a mainstream Danish newspaper, “WTC7 collapsed exactly like a house of cards. If the fires or damage in one corner had played a decisive role, the building would have fallen in that direction. You don’t have to be a woodcutter to grasp this” (translated)

A former guidance systems engineer for Polaris and Trident missiles and professor emeritus, mathematics and computer science at a university concluded (Dr. Bruce R. Henry) that the Twin Towers “were brought down by planted explosives.”
A professor of mathematics (Gary Welz) said “The official explanation that I’ve heard doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t explain why I heard and felt an explosion before the South Tower fell and why the concrete was pulverized”

A prominent engineer with 55 years experience, in charge of the design of hundreds of major building projects including high rise offices, former member of the California Seismic Safety Commission and former member of the National Institute of Sciences Building Safety Council (Marx Ayres) believes that the World Trade Centers were brought down by controlled demolition (see also this)

Two professors of structural engineering at a prestigious Swiss university (Dr. Joerg Schneider and Dr. Hugo Bachmann) said that, on 9/11, World Trade Center 7 was brought down by controlled demolition (translation here)

Charles Pegelow, structural engineer, of Houston, Texas (and see this)

Dennis Kollar, structural engineer, of West Bend, Wisconsin

Doyle Winterton, structural engineer (retired)

Haluk Akol, Structural Engineer and architect (ret.)

William Rice, P.E., structural engineer, former professor of Vermont Technical College

An architect, member of the American Institute of Architects, who has been a practicing architect for 20 years and has been responsible for the production of construction documents for numerous steel-framed and fire-protected buildings for uses in many different areas, including education, civic, rapid transit and industrial use (Richard Gage) disputes the claim that fire and airplane damage brought down the World Trade Centers and believes there is strong evidence of controlled demolition (many other architects who question 9/11 are listed here)


Former Federal Prosecutor, Office of Special Investigations, U.S. Department of Justice under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; former U.S. Army Intelligence officer, and currently a widely-sought media commentator on terrorism and intelligence services (John Loftus) questions the government’s version of 9/11.

Former Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation; former Professor of Aviation, Dept. of Aerospace Engineering and Aviation and Professor of Public Policy, Ohio State University (Mary Schiavo) questions the government’s version of 9/11.

Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, Champaign; a leading practitioner and advocate of international law; responsible for drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, the American implementing legislation for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention; served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International (1988-1992), and represented Bosnia- Herzegovina at the World Court, with a Doctor of Law Magna Cum Laude as well as a Ph.D. in Political Science, both from Harvard University (Dr.
Francis Boyle) questions the government’s version of 9/11.

Former prosecutor in the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the U.S. Justice Department and a key member of Attorney General Bobby Kennedy’s anti-corruption task force; former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (J. Terrence “Terry” Brunner) questions the government’s version of 9/11.

Professor Emeritus, International Law, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University; in 2001 served on the three-person UN Commission on Human Rights for the Palestine Territories, and previously, on the Independent International Commission on Kosovo (Richard Falk) questions the government’s version of 9/11.

Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and Director, Center for Human Rights, University of Iowa; Fellow, World Academy of Art and Science. Honorary Editor, Board of Editors, American Journal of International Law (Burns H. Weston) questions the government’s version of 9/11.

Former president of the National Lawyers Guild (C. Peter Erlinder), who signed a petition calling for a real investigation into 9/11. And see petition.

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Troy University; associate General Counsel, National Association of Federal Agents; Retired Agent in Charge, Internal Affairs, U.S. Customs, responsible for the internal integrity and security for areas encompassing nine states and two foreign locations; former Federal Sky Marshall; 27-year U.S. Customs career (Mark Conrad) questions the government’s version of 9/11.

Professor of Law, University of Freiburg; former Minister of Justice of West Germany (Horst Ehmke) questions the government’s version of 9/11.

Director of Academic Programs, Institute for Policy and Economic Development, University of Texas, El Paso, specializing in executive branch secrecy policy, governmental abuse, and law and bureaucracy; former U.S. Army Signals Intelligence officer; author of several books on law and political theory (Dr. William G. Weaver) questions the government’s version of 9/11.

Famed trial attorney (Gerry Spence) questions the government’s version of 9/11.

Former Instructor of Criminal Trial Practice, Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley 11-year teaching career. Retired Chief Assistant Public Defender, Contra Costa County, California 31-year career (William Veale) said:

“When you grow up in the United States, there are some bedrock principles that require concerted effort to discard. One is the simplest: that our leaders are good and decent people whose efforts may occasionally warrant criticism but never because of malice or venality… But one grows up. … And with the lawyer’s training comes the reliance on evidence and the facts that persuade… After a lot of reading, thought, study, and commiseration, I have come to the conclusion that the attacks of 9/11 were, in their essence, an inside job perpetrated at the highest levels of the U S government.”


Current U.S. Senator (Patrick Leahy) states “The two questions that the congress will not ask . . . is why did 9/11 happen on George Bush’s watch when he had clear warnings that it was going to happen? Why did they allow it to happen?”

Current Republican Congressman (Ron Paul) states that “we see the [9/11] investigations that have been done so far as more or less cover-up and no real explanation of what went on”

Current Democratic Congressman (Dennis Kucinich) hints that we aren’t being told the truth about 9/11

Former Democratic Senator (Mike Gravel) states that he supports a new 9/11 investigation and that we don’t know the truth about 9/11

Former U.S. Republican Congressman and senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, and who served six years as the Chairman of the Military Research and Development Subcommittee (Curt Weldon) has shown that the U.S. tracked hijackers before 9/11, is open to hearing information about explosives in the Twin Towers, and is open to the possibility that 9/11 was an inside job


A common criticism of those who question 9/11 is that they are being “disrespectful to the victims and their families”.

However, half of the victim’s families believe that 9/11 was an inside job (according to the head of the largest 9/11 family group, Bill Doyle) (and listen to this interview). Many family and friends of victims not only support the search for 9/11 truth, but they demand it (please ignore the partisan tone). See also this interview.

Indeed, it has now become so clear that the 9/11 Commission was a whitewash that the same 9/11 widows who called for the creation of the 9/11 Commission are now demanding a NEW investigation (see also this video).

And dying heroes, soon-to-be victims themselves, the first responders who worked tirelessly to save lives on and after 9/11, say that controlled demolition brought down the Twin Towers and that a real investigation is necessary.


Finally, those who attack people who question the government’s version of 9/11 as “crazy” may wish to review the list of mental health professionals who have concluded that the official version of 9/11 is false:

Psychiatrist Carol S. Wolman, MD

Psychiatrist E. Martin Schotz

Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, as well as Radiology, at Duke University Medical Center D. Lawrence Burk, Jr., MD

Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean of the Graduate School at Ruters University Barry R. Komisaruk

Professor of Psychology at University of New Hampshire William Woodward

Professor of Psychology at University of Essex Philip Cozzolino

Professor of Psychology at Goddard College Catherine Lowther

Professor Emeritus of Psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies Ralph Metzner

Professor of Psychology at Rhodes University Mike Earl-Taylor

Retired Professor of Psychology at Oxford University Graham Harris

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Nebraska and licensed Psychologist Ronald Feintech

Ph.D. Clinical Neuropsychologist Richard Welser


The roster above is only a sample. There are too many Ph.D. scientists and engineers, architects, military and intelligence officials, politicians, legal scholars and other highly-credible people who question 9/11 — literally thousands — to list in one place. Here are a few additional people to consider:

The former director of the FBI (Louis Freeh) says there was a cover up by the 9/11 Commission

Former air traffic controller, who knows the flight corridor which the two planes which hit the Twin Towers flew “like the back of my hand” and who handled two actual hijackings (Robin Hordon) says that 9/11 could not have occurred as the government says, and that planes can be tracked on radar even when their transponders are turned off (also, listen to this interview)

Former Deputy Secretary for Intelligence and Warning under Nixon, Ford, and Carter (Morton Goulder), former former Deputy Director to the White House Task Force on Terrorism (Edward L. Peck), and former US Department of State Foreign Service Officer (J. Michael Springmann), as well as a who’s who of liberals and independents) jointly call for a new investigation into 9/11

Former FBI agent (Robert Wright) says “The FBI, rather than trying to prevent a terrorist attack, was merely gathering intelligence so they would know who to arrest when a terrorist attack occurred.”

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said that some of the claims concerning government involvement in 9/11 are credible, that “very serious questions have been raised about what they [U.S. government officials] knew beforehand and how much involvement there might have been”, that engineering 9/11 would not be humanly or psychologically beyond the scope of the current administration, and that there’s enough evidence to justify a new, “hard-hitting” investigation into 9/11 with subpoenas and testimony taken under oath

Former FBI translator, who the Department of Justice’s Inspector General and several senators have called extremely credible (free subscription required) (Sibel Edmonds), said “If they were to do real investigations we would see several significant high level criminal prosecutions in this country. And that is something that they are not going to let out. And, believe me; they will do everything to cover this up”. She also is leaning towards the conclusion that 9/11 was an inside job

Given the unbelievable strength and depth of the roster of people who question 9/11, now who do you think the winning team is?

If you are a reporter, news editor or publisher, and you do not cover the strength of the team questioning 9/11, then you are part of the cover-up and no longer a part of a free, democratic press.

His Name Was Wellstone, we need Al Gore to replace him

November 2, 2007

by William Rivers Pitt 

“If we don’t fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don’t really stand for them.”
— Paul Wellstone

Five years ago, Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) died when his plane went down in the woods of northern Minnesota. The crash also took the lives of his wife Sheila, his daughter Marcia, campaign staffers Will McLaughlin, Tom Lapic and Mary McEvoy, along with pilots Michael Guess and Richard Conry.

This grim remembrance is a marker for the Democratic majority in Congress, a moment for unblinking self-assessment, a chance to compare and contrast the vast gulf between who Wellstone was in life and what his party has become since his death.

Wellstone’s political life was dominated by his efforts to improve economic and social conditions for millions of Americans. He began as a community organizer during the 1970’s, advocating on behalf of working families and the poor for better health care, affordable housing, better public education, day care and other essential programs and policies. Through these activities, he created a powerful network of activists, union members, farmers and other newly involved citizens.

The effectiveness of this network made the difference in his long-shot 1990 campaign for US Senate against Rudy Boschwitz, an entrenched incumbent with far greater financial resources. Over the next twelve years, Senator Wellstone served as a tireless advocate for environmental protections, labor rights, victims of domestic violence, veterans, campaign finance reform and sensible US foreign policy.

Wellstone’s Senate career began, and tragically ended, in remarkably similar fashion. His first months in office were defined by his opposition to President George H. W. Bush’s 1991 “Gulf War” against Iraq, and some twelve years later, his last weeks in office were defined by his vote against another Bush administration, and against another push for war in Iraq. On October 11, 2002, Wellstone was one of only twenty-three senators to cast a vote against the fateful Iraq War Resolution.

The week before, on October 3, Wellstone addressed the proposed attack upon and occupation of Iraq in a speech given from the floor of the Senate. “The United States could send tens of thousands of US troops to fight in Iraq,” he said, “and in so doing, we could risk countless lives of US soldiers and innocent Iraqis.”

“The United States could face soaring oil prices,” he said, “and could spend billions, both on a war and on a years-long effort to stabilize Iraq after an invasion.”

“Authorizing the pre-emptive, go-it-alone use of force now,” he said, “right in the midst of continuing efforts to enlist the world community to back a tough new disarmament resolution on Iraq, could be a costly mistake for our country.”

A week and a day later, the IWR passed in the Senate. Five days after that vote, it was signed into law by George W. Bush. Nine days after that signature, five years ago, Paul Wellstone was gone. His words from October 3, 2002, however, still remain. No other floor statement given by any senator before the IWR vote echoes with such prescience. Wellstone was right, and voted accordingly. He was a beacon in the darkness that has spread and spread until, five years later, this nation and the world entire have become almost completely cloaked in shadow.

After Wellstone’s death, his staff released a transcript of his last 2002 midterm election campaign commercial, which had been slated for airing just before the November vote. “I don’t represent the big oil companies,” said Wellstone in the ad; “I don’t represent the big pharmaceutical companies, I don’t represent the Enrons of this world. But you know what, they already have great representation in Washington. It’s the rest of the people that need it. I represent the people of Minnesota.” Little else needs to be said; his own words are more than enough.

What can be said, on the other hand, about the Senate he served so well? What about the Democrats who now enjoy majority control but flee the very thought of representing the will of the American people? They called Wellstone “The conscience of the Senate,” and that honorable title seems more true today than ever. Since that conscience died, the Democrats – time after time after time again – have performed unconscionable acts of cowardice, ambivalence and betrayal.

“Every now and then, we are tempted to double-check that the Democrats actually won control of Congress last year,” read a recent editorial from The New York Times. “It was bad enough having a one-party government when Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. But the Democrats took over, and still the one-party system continues.”


As reported by The New York Times on October 14, 2007: “The phone company Qwest Communications refused a proposal from the National Security Agency that the company’s lawyers considered illegal in February 2001, nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 … documents unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Denver, first reported in The Rocky Mountain News on Thursday, claim for the first time that pressure on the company to participate in activities it saw as improper came as early as February (2001), nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks.”


The Bush administration was trying to spy on Americans back when 9-1-1 was only the telephone number for the police. Since the September 11 attacks, the administration has folded, spindled and mutilated the Constitution and Bill of Rights in a rampage of unchecked anti-American activities, ranging from illegal domestic surveillance, to legislative “signing statements” that gut the meaning from duly passed laws, to brazen defiance of legally served subpoenas, to wild-eyed arguments against gossamer FISA-court oversight of their cloak-and-dagger actions.

The tempo of this behavior appears poised to increase. A Washington Post article titled “To Implement Policy, Bush to Turn to Administrative Orders,” appropriately published on Halloween, reported that “White House aides say the only way Bush seems to be able to influence the process is by vetoing legislation or by issuing administrative orders, as he has in recent weeks on veterans’ health care, air-traffic congestion, protecting endangered fish and immigration. They say they expect Bush to issue more of such orders in the next several months, even as he speaks out on the need to limit spending and resist any tax increases.”

And yet this Democratic Senate majority, with a slim few notable exceptions, fully intends to immunize the telecom companies who aided in the illegal and warrantless surveillance of Americans by Bush’s big ears at NSA, thus derailing the last and best way to determine, via lawsuits and investigations, exactly how dirty the Bush administration is regarding this illegal spying program. The Democratic senators pushing hardest for telecom immunity also enjoy the financial largess of that very same industry.

And the Democrats may not stop there.

And that was just last week, the very week Paul Wellstone died five years before.

Some days after Wellstone’s death, his friend Tom Schraw penned an essay for The Oregonian titled “When Your Conscience Dies.” In it, he wrote, “When Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota died in a plane crash last week, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle described him as “the soul of the Senate.” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan described him as “a profoundly decent man, a man of principle, a man of conscience.” Which leads to the question: What do you do when your soul dies, and your conscience goes away?”

What do you do?

According to the Democratic majority in Congress, what you do is nothing. You talk a good game and then wither away. You fold. You retreat. You whistle past the graveyard and cross your fingers. You betray the Constitution you swore to uphold. You betray the American people. You do not, under any circumstances, defy The President.

The conscience of the Senate died five years ago. His name was Paul Wellstone. His colleagues cannot have forgotten him so soon. Let them remember.

Let them act.