War on Terror - Propaganda and Reality


What the war on terror is really about. It's neither a crusade against Islam (as Bin Laden would have us believe) nor a war in defence of freedom and democracy and against torture, terrorism and dictatorship (as Bush and McCain tell us). It's a fight for power and profit - particularly through control of oil and gas reserves and pipelines - and the actual similarities with World War Two are not the ones usually pointed to.(last edited August 2008)


Chapter 1: 1939 All Over Again? : The ways the war on terror is and isn’t like World War Two


The Bush administration and its political allies around the world have compared the "war on terror" against Al Qaeda to the Second World War in which democracies fought fascist regimes. They've urged us to remember the lessons of history. So what are those lessons? What are the similarities and differences between the past and the present?

No Rivals : Similarity One : The drive for global hegemony through control of oil and gas reserves progressing from the Caspian to the Middle East and Africa then and now

“In the early autumn of 1942 I was among the troops of General Paulus's 6th Army at the approach to Stalingrad. Our political officer..told us that once we had destroyed the Red Army ..we would be moved south through the Caucasian oil fields for about 700 miles to arrive at the Iraqi ones. A friend sitting next to me whispered under his breath "So that's what we are to die for - oil in Iraq". And, in fact, he did. I would have thought that the world might have learned from that disaster, but obviously it has not” Henry Mettelman , former German soldier, October 2001 (1)

Photo: German soldiers at Stalingrad. If they hadn't been defeated there they would have gone on to capture the oil of the Caucasus and Iraq

“America is not only pursuing its wider geostrategic goals but is also representing its growing economic interest...It is this consideration that has made the pipeline issue so central...if another pipeline crosses the Caspian sea to Azerbaijan and...the Mediterranean through Turkey and if one more goes through the Arabian sea to Afghanistan no single power will have monopoly over access [ to the oil and gas of the former Soviet republics]” Zbigniew Brzezinksi, , former National Security Secretary to President Carter, in his book "The Grand Chessboard", 1997 , (2)

“I can't think of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian.” Dick Cheney, CEO of Halliburton and Past and future US Vice President, to US Oil Industry Executives, Washington, 1998 (3)

Photo: Dick Cheney - Past and present US Vice President and past and probably future oil firm executive

“In time pipelines through Iran to the Persian Gulf could also be matched by parallel pipelines from Central Asia through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean..” Zbigniew Brzezinski "The Choice" 2004 (4)

The situation today is very different from World War Two or the inter-war period of the 1920s and 30s, but similarities remain. One of Germany's main war aims in 1939 was to capture the Caspian and Middle Eastern oilfields. The US-led 'war on terrorism' , in wars stretching from Afghanistan to Africa, may have more to do with a drive to maintain and expand US global hegemony, partly through control of those same oil and gas supplies for the developed world (and with profits for oil and arms companies) than with preventing further terrorist attacks. Armed conflicts Afghanistan to Somalia are linked to struggles for control of drilling rights and export routes as a means to the end of private profits and maintaining US global dominance or "hegemony" (dominance of all states by one state). The main aim of US military strategy since the end of the Cold War has been to prevent any potential rivals gaining the power to challenge American pre-eminence. That the US government has been or is striving for global hegemony is frequently denied as a "conspiracy theory" However a draft of the Pentagon Defense Planning Guide written by Paul Wolfowitz (a future member of the PNAC and the Bush administration) stated that "our first priority is to prevent the emergence of a new rival" and that "our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region [the Middle East] and preserve U.S and Western access to the region's oil" (5)

The PNAC's 2000 report 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' states "At present the United States faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible….Preserving the desirable strategic situation in which the United States now finds itself requires a globally pre-eminent military capability both today and in the future" [page i] and that "America’s global leadership.. relies upon...the preservation of a favorable balance of power in Europe, the Middle East and surrounding energy producing region, and East Asia" [page 5 , my underlining] (6). The PNAC of course was not the U.S government - but many of its members from Wolfowitz to Rumsfeld went on to become members of the Bush administration or, like James Woolsey (a former head of the CIA) to push for war on Iraq during Bush's presidency (7), (8). He's now an adviser to John McCain's Presidential campaign. (8a) (A lot more about Woolsey later in 'From Iraq to Somalia'. )

Those who admit the drive for hegemony is taking place justify it as benevolent and raise the the threat that undemocratic rivals such as China might otherwise make themselves future hegemons - or claim that the hegemony of one powerful state over others is necessary to the maintenance of world order and the prevention of another world war. One problem is that the methods and some of the aims of the "war on terror" are far from democracy or a concern for human rights - and the wars being fought , far from bringing more "order" or peace are themselves destabilising and constantly creating new conflicts - civil wars and cross-border conflicts.

British military historian Robert Lyman has written that one of Hitler's main aims in invading Russia in World War Two was control of the Caspian oil fields (then part of the Communist Soviet Union) - and that this was followed by an invasion of Iraq with the same motive - control of oil (8b). Former German soldiers like Henry Mettelman (quoted above) confirm this. The evidence suggests that the "war on terror" has followed the same general plan with the some of the same motives, moving from Afghanistan to Iraq and now threatening to expand into Iran.

In fact the same pipeline route from Iraq to Haifa (in what was then British Palestine) fought over by the German and British armies in Iraq in World War Two was among the first targets secured by Coalition forces in the March 2003 invasion - and by June of that year the Israeli government announced the pipeline was to be re-opened ( see Iraq to Somalia for more details and sources )

Much of the media and many analysts have argued that the invasion of Afghanistan was an understandable attempt to close down Al Qaeda's operations from that country; they say that the invasion of Iraq was a strategic blunder or an intelligence failure by the Bush administration though. The evidence suggests it was neither and that democracy, human rights and fighting terrorism are merely pretexts for the actual aims of the "war on terror".

In fact CIA, Pentagon and British MoD intelligence analysts told their governments that Iraq had no significant active WMD or nuclear programmes and no 'mobile biological weapons trailers' - and that what Saddam did have (chemical weapons and possibly biological) would be almost certainly not be used by him against the US or allied countries - except if he came under attack. Dr. Brian Jones, who was an intelligence analyst and WMD expert at the Ministry of Defence in 2002 said later that "In my view, the expert intelligence analysts of the DIS were overruled in the preparation of the dossier in September 2002, resulting in a presentation that was misleading about Iraq's capabilities." Further evidence came from Saddam's actions in the 1991 gulf war, when he had several chemical warheads available for his scud missiles but used only scuds with conventional warheads in attacks on Israel, having been warned that any chemical or biological attacks would meet with a nuclear response. (8c), (8d), (8e), (8e1), (8e2), (8e3)

The actual aims are to maintain the US as the world's dominant power by taking control of the world's energy reserves and export pipeline routes by military force. If possible the US government hopes to control Iraq's oil and ensure any profits from the sale of them go primarily to US firms. In the 1990s former CIA director James Woolsey (a close associate of the Bush administration and now adviser to John McCain) expressed concern over future US oil supplies, citing US Defence Department estimates that when India's and China's growing use of oil reaches a per capita level equal to that of South Korea those two countries alone will need twice as much oil per day as the entire world currently produces (8d1). US planners hope at the least to deny cheap oil to China and Russia in order to delay or prevent China or any other potential rival from developing their economy and so their technology and military to a level where they could challenge US global dominance. (Whether this fear is justified and whether the methods used to try to avert it are either effective or justified will be discussed in other chapters)

There are also reasons to believe that the invasion of Afghanistan had other motives apart from eliminating a safe haven for Al Qa'ida. In 1997 an executive of the California based UNOCAL oil told congress that oil companies saw an opportunity to sell the oil and gas of the former Soviet republics to the growing economies of China, Japan and the rest of East Asia. Discussing possible export pipeline routes he said that "the route through Afghanistan is the one that would bring Central Asian oil closest to Asian markets and thus would be the cheapest in terms of transporting the oil." (8f). By 2008 the Bush administration was pushing NATO to define any threat to energy supplies of any member state as a threat to be met by military force by all NATO members - and to include securing gas and oil pipeline routes as one of NATO's key missions (8g). So Afghanistan was invaded partly to secure an export pipeline route from former Soviet republics like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. (to read more on this, including the Clinton administration's backing for the Taliban in the early 90s and Pakistan military intelligence's continuing backing for them seeThe New Great Game Part I - Macedonia to Afghanistan.

Saudi Arabia’s torturing dictators are supported by the US and UK governments because Saudi has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, allow British and American firms to take part in joint oil ventures there and spends much of their country's oil wealth on British and American arms. Iraq was invaded because it had the second largest proven oil reserves in the world at the time (the third largest now) (8h). Iran faces invasion because it now has the second largest (largely due to the continuing Iraq war preventing oil exploration there) . The PNAC's report on 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' in 2000 openly admitted that the need to station US troops to control the energy resources of the Middle East "transcends the issue of Saddam Hussein's regime" (8i). The Washington post in 2002 reported that a "U.S.-led ouster of... Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Baghdad and Russia, France and other countries, and reshuffling world petroleum markets, according to industry officials and leaders of the Iraqi opposition." (8j) In these terms the decision to invade Iraq is entirely explicable on exactly the same basis as Germany's invasion of Russia then Iraq in the Second World War. Anyone who believes the Bush administration went into Iraq to get rid of a dictatorship will have difficulty explaining why previous US administrations including many of the same people (including Reagan's and Bush senior's) contained the same people who in the 1980s were arming and funding Saddam (see The Persian Problem footnotes 12 to 17 for more details and sources).

The Reagan administration in 1984 lambasted the Iranian government for its "intransigent refusal to deviate from its avowed objective of eliminating the legitimate government of neighboring Iraq to be inconsistent with the accepted norms of behavior among nations and the moral and religious basis which it claims." (8k). Of course in 1984 as in 2003 the Iraqi government was run by Saddam Hussein - and he was already using chemical weapons on the Iranians and Iraqi Kurds. So were the people who served under Reagan and Bush Senior in the 80s and early 90s been born again as defenders of democracy and human rights when serving under George W.? ; Men like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Negroponte and Bremer who'd been involved in backing both Saddam and Somoza? Given their continued backing for torturing dictators like the Saudi monarchy and President Mubarak in Egypt it seems unlikely. The consistent aim has been profits for US firms and power for the US government (the two going hand in hand). In the 80s Saddam was seen as bolstering both against the Iranian theocrats - after 1991 he was a barrier to both - and after September 11th enough Americans be duped into supporting a war of aggression against a weakend Iraq by merely mentioning Al Qaeda, Saddam, Iraq and nuclear or 'mushroom cloud' in the same sentences enough times. (see 'Iraq to Somalia'

Of course the control of oil and gas is not the only or ultimate aim of the US government or its rivals, including the Russian and Chinese governments, who are at least as brutal and ruthless in trying to secure this control. The aims are power and profit, with profits and money of course being a form of power in themselves. Some argue that power and dominance over others is the only means to security, but others (myself included) argue that absolute security through absolute power is both a pointless search for something that can never be achieved ; results in much unncecessary death and suffering ; and actually makes the people of any government seeking it less secure by creating fear and oppostion from other governments and peoples - and even counter-attacks by them.

We also have to realise that if this drive for perpetual and ever greater world domination continues it is likely sooner or later, as US power wanes and Chinese power rises, to lead to World War Three (with the US and its allies on one side and Russia and China and theirs on the other). It's also highly questionable whether it will bring democracy to Afghanistan or the Middle East given the history of past US interventions.

Click here to read more on this 'New Great Game' for control of the world's oil and gas reserves and pipeline routes from Macedonia to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Colombia and Nigeria.

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Hyperbole - Difference One : Our enemies now are not nearly as powerful as our own governments and militaries - and Similarity Two - Paranoia - there is no alliance of our enemies then or now

Most of the rhetoric about parallells between the war on terror and World War Two is ridiculous. By 1939 Germany had the largest and most advanced economy and military in the world, outmatched only by the US. Neither Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iraq under Saddam nor Iran under the Ayatollahs could begin to compare. Not one is or ever has been a global power with the potential for world empire. None of them have ever even managed to make themselves dominant over their own region. The US and British governments, as an aggressive, expansionist world military power and its much weaker ally, are far more similar to 1930s Germany and Italy than any of their targets in the war on terror are. That might be why Tony Blair recently revised his litany of doom to compare the current situation to the 1920s rather than the 1930s (possibly also making this claim on the basis that, never having bothered to read any history, the only parallell he can make is with his confused and vague impressions of the rise of Nazism and fascism and World War Two) (9).

The massive difference in military power between our militaries and those of our enemies and targets is so great that rhetoric from Bush and Blair about threats to our entire way of life are also ridiculous. It's also why the idea that we must fight a World War Two style 'total war' in which the price of defeat is being occupied or annhilated ourselves is false. (Even the idea that atrocities like the fire bombing of Dresden or the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki were necessary or helped the war effort significantly are extremely dubious - but that's another story).

Scare stories about Muslim immigrants supposedly being on the way to 'out-breeding' non-Muslim Europeans and imposing Sharia law on them are equally unbelievable. Many Muslim asylum seekers come to the UK to escape extreme forms of Islam like those imposed by the Taliban. Even if every Muslim in Europe was an extremist (and most arent) they'd remain a minority. In reality they're a minority of a minority and over the generations as they become wealthier their birth rates will fall, as always happens over time.

The other dubious theory of the neo-conservatives and pseudo-'liberal interventionists' is that all Islamic fundamentalists from Hamas in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories to the Sunni extremist Al Qa'ida to the Shia rulers of Iran and their Shia Hezbollah allies in Lebanon are part of a common front aiming to destroy 'our way of life' or wipe us out in nuclear war. (To read more about the flaws in the Iraqi WMD and Iranian nuclear 'threats' line click here) Former CIA director James R. Woolsey, who is very close to the Bush administration, claimed in a speech in January 2007 that "Wahabbi Islam and Al Qa'ida [Sunni extremist movements] and Vilayat e-Faqih [the Iranian Supreme Leaders' and Hizbollah's controversial version of Shia Islam] cannot be treated individually. Those who say they will not co-operate with one another are as wrong as those who claimed that the Nazis and Communists would not co-operate" [explanations in square brackets are my words not Woolsey's] (9a)

Co-operation between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in World War Two will certainly be news to historians and to the surviving relatives of the millions of Communist citizens of the Soviet Union who died fighting German forces in World War Two. It will also be news to the Communists, Socialists and trade unionists murdered or sent to the concentration camps (though not to the gas chambers) by the Nazis in Germany during that war. Presidents Eisenhower and Truman, were they alive today, would also be surprised to learn that while they believed they were allied with Stalin against Hitler instead James Woolsey can reveal that the Eastern Front and the destruction of Stalingrad by Hitler's armies and East Berlin by Stalin's merely showed that Nazis and Communists got on really well - like two major cities on fire maybe.

Soviet Communism certainly involved many atrocities. It was never allied to Hitler against the democracies though, with the short-lived Hitler-Stalin Pact just a temporary non-aggression pact.

Woolsey's claims will also be news to the Shia Iranian government and the Sunni Taliban who are bitter enemies - and to the US forces aided by Iran's government with intelligence and access to Iranian airspace during the US invasion of Afghanistan (9b). Hamas in the Palestinian territories are not a pan-Islamic movement like or linked to Al Qa'ida either. They are Palestinian nationalists first, Islamic fundamentalists second as shown by their decision for instance to establish diplomatic relations with Russia despite the objections of Chechnyan Islamic groups (9c).

In a study of suicide bombings by the American Professor Robert Pape he found that the vast majority of suicide bombers came from countries either occupied by the forces of the target country or else lived in a dictatorship supported by the government of the target country. Not one Al Qa’ida suicide bomber has come from Iran, an Islamic fundamentalist regime. Not one has come from Syria.They’ve come from Iraq (since the invasion), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco. So its neither ideological or religious hatred of the US that is the key factor. Pape identifies military occupations by forces of a different religion as the key factor - but misses out the other obvious one - that Al Qaeda have also targeted governments that back dictatorships in their own country - the US, which backs Mubarak's dictatorship in Egypt, the House of Saud's in Saudi and military rule in Morocco (and until recently Pakistan) all qualify.

The only real question about Woolsey and his kind trying to use false claims about World War Two to justify false claims about the present is whether some of the most influential people in the world are ignorant of the facts or else just plain dishonest and manipulative. (I'm tempted to suspect the latter as an imagined alliance of all targets provides a pretext for each new war)

The fact that in the 1980s Woolsey had warm relations with Pakistan's Islamic fundamentalist military dictator General Zia and talked of the need for a common Christian-Muslim front against 'Godless Communism' also suggests that he finds it far too easy to do u-turns that allow him to believe that whatever increases US power and promotes his own career is also a matter of moral principle one day - but can equally be discarded for a belief in the opposite the next (9d).

Bush administration rhetoric about parallells with the Second World War sn't entirely inaccurate though. There are parallells - sanctions, military occupations and totally deregulated free trade as a cause of mass unemployment and a rise in support for extreme ideologies ; military invasions aiming at establishing the dominance of one country over the entire world partly through control of oil and gas reserves and export routes; and atrocities committed by both sides (though nothing comparable to the Holocaust committed by either side)

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'Freedom' for some - Similarity Three : Mass unemployment and poverty (caused by sanctions, military occupation and excessive deregulation of markets) as a cause of violent and extreme ideologies - plus Difference Two - Real Vs Phony Reconstruction - reconstruction did take place after World War Two - it isn't in Iraq

“As all of us know, the occupation has destroyed everything in Iraqi society, unleashed the sectarian and nationalist gangs to slaughter and jeopardize peoples’ safety.” : Speech by Abdullah Muhsin of the Iraqi GFIW trade union federation to the AFL-CIO December 2006 - Muhsin was later assassinated by unknown murderers (9e).

Much of the limited support Al Qa'ida does have (which in no way compares to the number of supporters fascism or Nazism had in the 20s or 30s) is due to the same factors which led to the rise of fascism - poverty, unemployment and humiliation caused by war and occupation - much like that imposed on Germans after World War One by the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the French occupation of the Rhineland and freemarket policies imposed on Germany's government by its creditors which led to mass unemployment and poverty. This created a source of support for Hitler as a demagogue to grow on, much as the brutality of military occupation, mass unemployment and humiliation in occupied Iraq, Palestine, Chechnya and Afghanistan has created negative support for any movement opposing the occupiers - including militias some of which do have mass support - like the Madhi army in Iraq. (9f) , (10), (11), (12), (13). Some modern economists have tried to re-write history to claim that it was protectionist economic policies which caused the Great Depression, but the protectionist economic policies didnt come before the 1929 crash or the Great Depression, they came after it, as a reaction to it - and, as American economist J.K Galbraith has shown, government intervention was the only thing that rebuilt economies destroyed by the theory that markets would regulate themselves, (13a).

A wiser foreign policy would end reliance on dictators, occupations and wars which radicalises moderate muslims and can turn fundamentalists into violent jihadists and isolate Al Qaida rather than giving it new supporters.

In Iraq the damage caused by the bombing of military and civilian targets in the 1991 Gulf War was compounded by over a decade of sanctions which led to millions of deaths, including hundreds of thousands of children, with two co-ordinators of the UN sanctions programme on Iraq resigning due to their opposition to the effects of sanctions which one of them described as "genocide". Sanctions also increased poverty and unemployment in Iraq and reduced literacy rates , (14), (15). This combined with constant bombing by the RAF and USAF in the No Fly Zones and Saddam's largely secular dictatorship produced a rise in support for violent Islamic fundamentalist groups in Iraq - many of whose members are also involved in organised crime. Much as with sanctions on the former Yugoslavia the effect they had of destroying the legal economy also led to a growth in the illegal economy, which was the only way left to make a good living. In Yugoslavia extreme nationalist parties had links to paramilitary criminals like the Serbian nationalist Arkan's Tigers. In Iraq many criminals wanting to kill, extort money by kidnapping and steal from those they've killed or frightened into fleeing similarly try to legitimise this by attaching themselves to Islamic fundamentalist and nationalist groups like the Medhi army (16), (17), (18).

The systematic torture, widespread killing of civilians and total economic deregulation and privatisation which Iraq has suffered at the hands of both the occupation and Iraqi government forces and the insurgency against them have made these problems worse, not better. So the war on terror and the confusion of democracy with an unregulated free market by its advocates (as shown by Naomi Klein) is actually increasing the very threat its claimed to be guarding against. When the Bush administration talk about freedom they're talking about freedom for US based multinationals - not for the people of Iraq , (19), (20). When they talk about "reconstruction" they mean handing Federal contracts to the same US based multinationals, who also fund their election campaigns. Real reconstruction of any public services from water to housing to electricity to health care and education has not taken place because the money supposedly provided for "reconstruction" has not been spent on it.

By February 2006, 3 years after the invasion, a US congressional committee found all public services were still worse than those before the overthrow of Saddam's regime (20a).

One billion dollars of money provided by congress to provide drinking water for Iraqis was instead spent on the new US embassy in Baghdad. Cholera epidemics caused by lack of clean water have since killed thousands of Iraqis (20b) , (20c), (20d).

Anyone convinced that the insurgents are to blame for the failure of reconstruction in Iraq can take a look at what the Bush administration has done in terms of reconstruction for the poorer residents of New Orleans in Louisiana, where there is no insurgency : nothing, in fact less than nothing - they've decided to demolish public housing for people who'd lived there for decades in order to sell the land off to private developers for houses for the wealthy. As in Iraq disaster followed by lack of reconstruction has produced ever higher poverty and unemployment - and as in Iraq this has produced a violent crime wave. (21), (22), (23).

Of $20 billion of Iraqi money spent by Paul Bremer as US ‘Governor’ of Iraq $8 billion went missing according to American federal government accountants who reviewed Coalition Provisional Authority accounts(23a).Since children in Iraq are still dying because doctors aren’t provided with clean needles, medicines or oxygen masks which could be bought for less than £1 each most people would think where the money went was a serious question . However when questioned about the missing money by Congress Bremer’s response was that it didn’t matter as it wasn' American money (23a), (23b), (23c).

Photo: Paul Bremer recieved a 'Presidential Medal of Freedom' after $20 billion of Iraqi money went missing under his 'governorship' of Iraq.


Out of the well over $300 billion spent on the Iraq war so far $1 billion has been assigned to provide jobs for Iraqis and those jobs were as street sweepers and painters. Its not yet known whether the money was spent on providing these jobs or whether its gone the way of the money assigned to providing water but spent on the US embassy (23d), (23e). As for all the foreign (mostly American and British) firms operating 'reconstruction' contracts in Iraq they almost entirely employ foreigners, not Iraqis.

By September 2007 many families in Baghdad were reduced to foraging in bins for food. Then the new Iraqi government, due to 'shortages of funds' cut the government food rations by half for the second time - reducing them to a quarter of the level supplied under Saddam Hussein and sanctions - and many Iraqis made refugees by fighting between the Coalition and insurgents or by sectarian violence among Iraqis can't get even those rations as they are no longer at a listed address. When government and coalition offensives and raids take place (frequently) food becomes even more expensive and harder to get. (24), (25), (26), (27), (28), (29), (30), (31), (32), (33) .

US aid for reconstruction in Europe and Japan after World War Two was very real and large scale, most famously in the Marshall Plan (even if it was partly self-interested and based on the plan of 'triangular trading' in which, basically, US firms would exploit Europe while Europe exploited its colonies and former colonies). Reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan is mostly theft and corruption dressed up as aid.

The militias are often discussed as if they are the root cause of violent crime in Iraq. The cause of rising violent crime and sectarian politics can be found, just as in Yugoslavia in the 1990s and Germany during the Great Depression, in mass unemployment caused in all cases by extreme versions of the free market which caused massive insecurity, inequality and instability. In both Yugoslavia and Iraq sanctions or the threat of them and war also played a big part in weakening the legal economy. Sectarian militias and political parties provide a cover story to make theft, kidnapping and extortion into defence of 'our' people against 'them' and by defining the group's race or culture or religion as superior to others provide a new status to make up for that lost by loss of income and employment. This may be why rhetoric about ending the 'humiliation' of 'the nation' or 'our people' by other countries, immigrants , religions or cultures gets new supporters wherever there's a rapid rise in unemployment whether for the British National Party in the former textile factory towns of Bradford and Burnley after jobs were moved abroad or for the Madhi army in Iraq.The Madhi army are a lot closer to the truth than the BNP though in claiming foreigners have come to their country and taken their jobs and their money.

(Of course many of Al Qa'ida's members (not least Bin Laden himself) are very wealthy highly educated professionals. The reasons for their violent opposition to the status quo can't then be down to unemployment or poverty - but may be due to feelings of low political status caused by their exclusion from political decision making in dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, along with these dictatorships' attempts to channel opposition into foreign religious wars (like the 'jihad' in Afghanistan in the 80s) coming home to haunt them. Despite his lack of any religious standing within Saudi within Al Qaida Bin Laden has the status of Sheikh and his followers have the status of 'warriors'.)

Most of the Islamic fundamentalist groups given new supporters by military occupations, sanctions and unemployment are not Al Qa'ida or allies of Al Qaida. The Medhi army are a Shia Muslim Iraqi nationalist movement who want independence and an Islamic state in Iraq. Al Qa'ida are a pan-Islamic Sunni Muslim ideological group who want non-Muslim troops to end occupations of Muslim countries and support for corrupt dictatorships in the Muslim world first - and a global Islamic 'caliphate' in the Muslim countries (pure fantasy) or (even less achievable and even less desirable) a global caliphate under Sharia law. Al Qa'ida and the Medhi army are enemies though, just as , despite much Bush administration propaganda, Al Sadr and the Medhi army are not pro-Iranian but Iraqi nationalists who at most might accept Iranian aid. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) who are the main part of the US-backed Iraqi government and their Badr Brigade militia are far closer to the Iranian government. The claims of a huge alliance among all opponents and enemies of the US is nonsense.

Neither is the Madhi army even close to the most militarily powerful militia in Iraq . It's considerably weaker than the Badr Brigade and is probably being targeted because its both strongly Iraqi nationalist, a rival to the Badr Brigade for Shia support and derives its support mostly from the poor and unemployed who are some of the most vocal opponents of privatisation plans.

How to trick the people you've already impoverished into taking all the risks when robbing others

Its also true that to a lesser extent Bush and his associates on the right of the Republican party rely for their electoral base and their supply of military recruits on maintaining and increasing levels of poverty and unemployment in the US which provide them with Christian fundamentalist and American nationalist voters and young soldiers from poor families desperate for an education and a career that will otherwise be denied to them. Many volunteers join because the army will let them afford further education, or pay off debts run up while getting it. This is because further education is not state funded in the US, nor is health care, nor is training in a trade - affording or getting all three are motives for recruits to join (34). For instance Jessica Lynch, who joined up at age 18, said her main reason for joining the army was that her family couldnt afford to put her through college otherwise (35). Joshua Key, who also joined at 18 and ended up in Iraq wrote "I had no money, I had dreams of getting formal training as a welder, I needed to get my teeth fixed, and I wanted to have my kidney stone removed," and recruiting office posters gave him the impression that if he joined the military "I would be on easy street. The armed forces were offering money for college tuition, health insurance, and even a cash bonus for signing up."(36). So maintaining inequality and poverty at home helps the very wealthiest and most powerful Americans to get recruits to kill and die for them in wars to strip the wealth from the majority of other countries' populations too.

Photo: Joshua Key joined the US military at age 18 to get treatment for his illnesses and a college education. After witnessing Iraqi civilians being attacked and killed by other soldiers he deserted and sought asylum in Canada. His book 'The Deserter's Tale' tells the full story. A Canadian court ruled in July 2008 that he had witnessed enough human rights abuses in Iraq to apply for refugee status. Many others have been deported back to the US and jailed. (37), (38)


A similar system operates in the UK on the other side of the Atlantic. Gordon Gentle, from Pollok in Glasgow is one example among many, a 19 year old casualty of an un-necessary war who was left with the options of unemployment, poverty wages or joining the military. There was no other way he could see to get an apprenticeship as a mechanic. His mother Rose has been justified in not letting the British government forget him , (39), (40).

Photo: Rose Gentle holds a photo of her son Gordon, killed serving in Iraq. He was 19 years old.


copyright©Duncan McFarlane2008


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Sources and notes


(1) = Tribune Voice of the Left magazine 19th October 2001, Letters “In the early autumn of 1942 I was among the troops of General Paulus's 6th Army at the approach to Stalingrad. Our political officer..told us that once we had destroyed the Red Army ..we would be moved south through the Caucasian oil fields for about 700 miles to arrive at the Iraqi ones. A friend sitting next to me whispered under his breath "So that's what we are to die for - oil in Iraq". And, in fact, he did. I would have thought that the world might have learned from that disaster, but obviously it has not” Henry Mettelman , former German soldier Back

(2) = Brzezinski, Zbigniew (1997) 'The Grand Chessboard : American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives', Basic Books, New York, 1997, Chapter 5, pages 139-140 ; Back

(3) = Christian Science Monitor 25 Oct 2001, ‘The Great Gas Game - Who will run Caspian natural gas through Afghanistan?’ , http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/1025/p8s1-comv.html ; Back

(4) = Brzezinski, Zbigniew (2004) 'The Choice : Global Domination or Global Leadership’ , Basic Books, Paperback Edition, New York , 2005 , Chapter2 , page 75 ; Back

(5) = Packer, George (1992), ‘The Assassin's Gate' , Farrar, Strauss & Girou , New York , 2005 , - pages 21-22 ; Back

(6) = Project for a New American Century September 2000 , ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’, especially pages i-iv and 5 - the PNAC's website is now down but you can still read the document at http://www.scribd.com/doc/9651/Rebuilding-Americas-Defenses-PNAC ( The original links (now down) were http://www.newamericancentury.org/publicationsreports.htm and http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf) ; Back

(7) =PNAC letter to President Clinton 26 Jan 1998 on PNAC website, If the PNAC website is down you can read the letter that was on their site at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5527.htm (see list of signatories at end of letter) ; (original link - now back up - is http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqclintonletter.htm ; Back

(8) = Independent 23 Oct 2001 , 'Former CIA chief: 'Iraq was involved in terror attacks'', http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article163364.ece ; Back Back

(8a) = The Hill 23 Apr 2007, 'Woolsey joins McCain camp as security adviser', Woolsey joins McCain camp as security adviser ; Back

(8b) = Lyman, Robert (2006) 'Iraq 1941 : The Battles for Basra, Habbaniya, Fallujah and Baghdad', Osprey Publishing , Oxford(UK), 2006, page 6-8 http://books.google.com/books?id=3XFOu9NG9pwC&pg=PA7&lpg=PA7&dq=pumping+stations+h2+h3+iraq&source=web&ots=_zReQZaeLL&sig=GtQzVjETljYD2BKF4xtJ5KJPSVU#PPA7,M1 ; Back

(8c) = Independent 04 Feb 2004 , ‘Intelligence chief's bombshell: 'We were overruled on dossier’, http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article67489.ece ; Back

(8d) = Washington Post 13 Apr 2006 , ‘White House Decries Report on Iraqi Trailers’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/12/AR2006041201789.html ; Back

(8d1) = Margolis , Eric S.(2000) War at the top of the world Routledge , London , 2000 , p240 Back

(8e) = New York Times 18 Jun 2003, 'AFTER THE WAR: FOOTNOTES; Word That U.S. Doubted Iraq Would Use Deadly Gas', http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9900E1DD1038F93BA25755C0A9659C8B63 ; Back

(8e1) = The Independent 17 August 2003, 'New evidence shows crucial dossier changes', ; Back

(8e2) = Guardian 25 Aug 2003, 'Scientist dismissive of 45-minute WMD claim', ; Back

(8e3) = On Saddam having chemical warheads for his scuds during the 1991 war but not using them see - Joseph S. Nye & Robert K. Smith (1992) , ‘After the Storm’, Madison Books , London , 1992 , pages 211-216 ; On US government financial aid to Saddam continuing even after the gassing of Halabja see sources 12 to 17 of The Persian Problem ; Back


(8g) = Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives 19 Jun 2008, Volume 3, No. 1 , 'A PIPELINE THROUGH A TROUBLED LAND: AFGHANISTAN, CANADA, AND THE NEW GREAT ENERGY GAME', http://www.policyalternatives.ca/documents/National_Office_Pubs/2008/A_Pipeline_Through_a_Troubled_Land.pdf ; Back

(8h) = BP statistical review of world Energy 2007 : Oil : Reserves : pages 6 – 8 (especially page 6) , http://www.bp.com/subsection.do?categoryId=9017899&contentId=7033498 And http://www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/globalbp/globalbp_uk_english/reports_and_publications/statistical_energy_review_2007/STAGING/local_assets/downloads/pdf/statistical_review_of_world_energy_full_report_2007.pdf ; Back

(8i) = Project for a New American Century September 2000 , ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’, pages 14 and 17, http://www.newamericancentury.org/publicationsreports.htm and http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf ; Back

(8j) = Washington Post 15 Sep 2002, 'In Iraqi War Scenario, Oil Is Key Issue : U.S. Drillers Eye Huge Petroleum Pool', http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A18841-2002Sep14 ; Back

(8k) = US National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 82, February 25, 2003, 'Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984 , (Edited by Joyce Battle), http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/ (also see document 43 http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/iraq43.pdf ) ; Back

(9) = Guardian Unlimited 18 March 2003 'Full Text : Tony Blair's Speech‘ , http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,,916790,00.html ; Back

(9a) = London Review of Books 22 Feb 2007, 'Diary : Yonatan Mendel', http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n04/mend01_.html cited by Cook Jonathan (2008) , 'Israel and the clash of civilisations', Pluto Press, London, 2008, pages 40 and 160 (note 12) , http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,,916790,00.html ; Back

(9b) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition , pages 346-347 ; Back

(9c) = Hroub, Khaled (2006), 'Hamas : A Beginners Guide', Pluto Press, London, 2006 (especially pages 100-101) ; Back

(9d) = Coll, Steve (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London, 2004 pages ; Back

(9e) = General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW) 15 Dec 2006 , 'Desperate for Jobs, Iraqi Workers Too Often Become Victims of Terror', speech by Abdullah Muhsin of the GFIW to the AFL-CIO, http://www.iraqitradeunions.org/archives/000683.html ; Back

(9f) = On condemnation of Al Qa'ida and its methods by Muslims worldwide - even by many jihadists - see Gerges, Fawaz A. (2005) ‘The Far Enemy: Why Jihad went Global’, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York 2005 ; Back

(10) = Bevan, Aneurin (1952) , 'In Place of Fear', Quartet Books, 1978, p23 & 31 (Bevan shows how the Nazi's vote rose as the numbers of unemployed in inter-war Germany rose), Back

(11) = Hardach, Karl (1976) , 'The Political Economy of Germany in the Twentieth Century', University of California Press, Berkeley, L.A & London 1980, Chapter 3, Back

(12) = UN News Service 29 May 2007, 'Two-thirds unemployment in occupied Arab territories – UN labour study', http://www.un.org/apps/news/storyAr.asp?NewsID=22713&Cr=labour&Cr1=&Kw1=unemployment&Kw2=Palestinian&Kw3= (The UN reported in May 2007 that two-thirds of Palestinians were unemployed and 70% of Palestinian households were in poverty by December 2006 - largely as a result of occupation and sanctions) ; Back

(13) = IRIN News service (UNOCHA) 15 Oct 2006 , 'IRAQ: Unemployment and violence increase poverty', http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=61892 ; Back

(13a) = Galbraith, John Kenneth (1987) 'A History of Economics : the past as present', Penguin Books, London, 1991 ; Back

(14) = BBC News 30 Sep 1999, 'UN official blasts Iraq sanctions', http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/183499.stm ; Back

(15) = Guardian 29 Nov 2001, 'The hostage nation : Former UN relief chiefs Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday speak out against an attack on Iraq', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/nov/29/iraq.comment ; Back

(16) = Kaldor, Mary (2001), ‘New and Old Wars – Organised Violence in a Global Era’, Polity Press , Cambridge , UK , 2001 , paperback edition , especially pages 49-53 and 93 ; Back

(17) = Guardian 27 Jan 2007, ''If they pay we kill them anyway' - the kidnapper's story', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jan/27/iraq.topstories3 ; Back

(18) = Independent 15 Jan 2004, 'Gangsters operate own prisons as kidnapping soars in Iraq', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/gangsters-operate-own-prisons-as-kidnapping-soars-in-iraq-573207.html ; Back

(19) = Harpers Magazine September 2004 'Baghdad Year Zero' by Naomi Klein , http://www.harpers.org/archive/2004/09/0080197 ; Back

(20) = Klein, Naomi (2007), 'The Shock Doctrine' , Penguin , London, 2007, especially pages 185-6 and chapters 16-18 ; Back

(20a) = Washington Post 30 Apr 2004, 'Rebuilding Aid Unspent, Tapped to Pay Expenses ', http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A54692-2004Apr29?language=printer ; Back

(20b) = Guardian 26 June 2004, 'The multibillion robbery the US calls reconstruction', Naomi Klein, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/jun/26/iraq.comment ; Back

(20c) = Independent 31 Aug 2007, 'Cholera spreads in Iraq as health services collapse', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/cholera-spreads-in-iraq-as-health-services-collapse-463701.html ; Back

(21) = Mail & Guardian (South Africa) 21 Dec 2007, 'Housing protests grip New Orleans', http://www.mg.co.za/articlepage.aspx?area=/breaking_news/breaking_news__international_news/&articleid=328354&referrer=RSS ; Back

(22) = Greg Palast 29 Nov 2007, '“They wanted them poor niggers out of there.”', http://www.gregpalast.com/%E2%80%9Cthey-wanted-them-poor-niggers-out-of-there%E2%80%9D/ ; Back

(23) = Klein, Naomi (2007), 'The Shock Doctrine' , Penguin , London, 2007, Chapter 20 ; Back

(23a) = Guardian 7 July 2005, 'So, Mr Bremer, where did all the money go?', http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1522983,00.html ; Back

(23b) = Independent 19 Jan 2007, 'The battle to save Iraq's children', http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2165470.ece ; Back

(23c) = ABC News 6 Feb 2007, 'Waste in War: Where Did All the Iraq Reconstruction Money Go?', http://www.abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=2852426&page=1 ; Back

(23d) = Guardian 8 Jan 2007, 'Bush $1bn jobs plan to draw Iraqis into fold', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jan/08/iraq.edpilkington ; Back

(23e) = Congressional Research Service 23 Feb 2008, 'The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11', (updated Jun 2008) , http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf ; Back

(24) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 02 Apr 2006, ‘IRAQ: Food prices rise after reduction of monthly rations’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=26250 ; Back

(25) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 9 Sep 2007, ‘IRAQ: Food rationing system failing as Ramadan approaches’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=74196 ; Back

(26) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 17 Oct 2007, ‘IRAQ: Hundreds forced to scavenge for food in garbage bins’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportId=74829 ; Back

(27) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 4 Dec 2007, ‘IRAQ: Government to cut items from its free food handouts’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=75677 ; Back

(28) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) p 375-376, 430-431 ; Back

(29) = IPS/ Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail 03 May 2008, ‘Corruption Eats Into Food Rations’, http://dahrjamailiraq.com/hard_news/archives/iraq/000795.php#more ; Back

(30) = IMF 01 Jan 2007, ‘Lebanon -- Letter of Intent, Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies, and Technical Memorandum of Understanding’, http://www.imf.org/external/np/loi/2007/lbn/033007.pdf ; Back

(31) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) Ch20 , p348-369 & 427 ; Back

(32) = Refugees International 04 Oct 2007, ‘Iraq: Fix the Public Distribution System to meet needs of the displaced http://refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/9971/ ; Back

(33) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 10 April 2008, ‘IRAQ: “Acute shortages” in clash-hit Baghdad suburbs’, http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=77701 ; Back

(34) = New York Review of Books 3 April 2008, 'The Volunteer Army: Who Fights and Why?', http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21201 ; (also see (38) below on US deserters in Canada on why they joined the military ) Back

(35) = Time Magazine 17 Nov 2003; http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1006147,00.html ; Back

(36) = Key, Joshua (2007), 'The Deserter's Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq' Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007; Back

(37) = Canadian Press 04 Jul 2008, 'U.S. deserter wins appeal', http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/454497; Back

(38) = CBS News 13 July 2008, 'Canada’s War Resisters' http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/07/11/opinion/main4253397.shtml; Back

(39) = Independent on Sunday 16 March 2008 , 'Rose Gentle: Some mother's son', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/rose-gentle-some-mothers-son-796622.html ; Back

(40) = New Statesman 05 Feb 2007 , 'Britain's child army - Stricken by Iraq and low morale, the British army is on a desperate recruitment drive. Its new targets? Poorly educated teenagers and young school children', http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2007/02/british-army-recruitment-iraq; ; Back

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2008

Chapter 2: The New Great Game : how the US, China and Russia are competing for hegemony through control of energy reserves and export routes

Part I : From Macedonia to Afghanistan and Chechnya

Brzezinski map of pipeline routes
Map of proposed pipeline routes from Chapter 5 (page 146) of Zbigniew Brzezinski's 1997 book "The Grand Chessboard". To view it on a larger scale click here



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The Oil Rush in the Caspian and former Soviet Union

In 1998 Dick Cheney expressed the common thought of most governments and oil companies - "I can't think of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian"(25). Competition among companies for Caspian and central Eurasian oil has been intense since the break up of the the Soviet Union in 1991 - as has competition among governments to install their own clients or allies as rulers to ensure contracts go to companies based in their countries. By 1997 President Carter's former National Security Adviser wrote in his book "The Grand Chessboard" of the need for the U.S to control Eurasian energy reserves in order to maintain it's global predominance. The nineteenth century "Great Game" for control of central Asia played by the Russian and British Empires had been revived, but now with many more players, the most influential being the Russian, American and Chinese governments and their allies.

Since oil companies donate generously to politicians' election campaign funds and benefit from their governments' political influence the profit and power motives are not in conflict. In the case of the Bush administration many of its members are former Chief Executives or directors of those oil companies.

One of the first major post-Cold war Caspian oil deals came in 1993 when the American firm Chevron negotiated drilling rights in the Tengiz oilfield in the Caspian sea with the government of Kazakhstan Chevron donated $200,000 to Bush's 2000 Presidential campaign. Chevron's operations in Kazakhstan have since expanded in partnership with Exxon-Mobil, who also continue to make large donations to Republican party candidates, with a smaller side-bet on the Democrats (26), (27), (28) , (29). Condoleeza Rice was on Chevron's Board of Directors from 1993 until she was appointed Bush's National Security Adviser in January 2001 (and is now US Secretary of State) (30). (Texaco , which also had contracts in Kazakhstan merged with Chevron just before the October 2001 war on Afghanistan began, giving Chevron-Texaco a 45% share of the Tengiz oilfield)

By 1996 B.P, Mobil, Shell and Total were carrying out seismic surveyrs in Kazakhstan, which was thought to potentially have oil reserves as large as Saudi Arabia (31).

Oil services firm Halliburton has had contracts woking with oil companies in Kazakhstan since at least 1992 (32). Halliburton's chief executive from 1995 to January 2001 was Dick Cheney - now Bush's Vice President. He still owns tens of millions of dollars worth of Halliburton stock and recieves annual "deferred" payments from the company, which has been granted non-tendered contracts in Iraq by the administration (33), (34). Halliburton donated generously to Republican election campaigns (35).(In 2002 30,000 seals washed up dead on the shores of the Caspian. By 2004 around a hundred Kazakh dead former employees of the oil firms in Kazakhstan were found by autopsies to have died of hydrogen sulphide poisoning (likely from natural gas released by drilling). Many more were fired after developing illnesses probably due to the same cause (36).)

Turkmenistan, which borders both Afghanistan and Kazakhstan, was estimated to have the fifth largest natural gas reserves in the world in 1996 (37). In 1995 an oil and gas deal had been negotiated between the government of Turkmenistan and the Centgas consortium - which included Unocal oil of California , Delta of Saudi Arabia and Pakistani companies. These companies came from the same three countries - the US, Saudi and Pakistan - who had backed first the Mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 80s and then the Taliban from the mid-90s (38) (also see next page). (Halliburton has also been operating in Turkmenistan from at least 1997 (39).)

To get really big profits though would require getting all this oil and gas to where there was the biggest deamnd for it - Europe and North America, as well as the rapidly growing market in the Far East. To do that would require at least two export pipelines. At the same time Russia's , China's and Iran's governments wanted the oil revenues, economic growth and the political influence that would come from controlling pipeline routes and profits for their companies just as much as American and European governments did. They're still competing over who controls the routes.

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The Baku-Ceyan and Chechnya/Dagestan pipelines

The first major pipeline route backed the US-EU alliance went West from Baku in Azerbaijan on the Caspian through Georgia and Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey - a NATO member.

Getting control of Caspian oil from Russia was also a key strategic aim for Germany in World War Two as one means to the end of global domination . Hitler told one of his Field Marshalls "Unless we get the Baku oil the war is lost" (40). The current situation is not of course identical. The Georgian and Azerbaijani governments and the majority of their populations welcome any links to the US that will prevent them being dominated by Russia - just as separatists in those countries welcome Russian troops guaranteeing their independence from Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The Baku-Ceyan pipeline route planned in the 90s would avoid Iran and the Russian Federation, fulfilling US strategic aims 'to break Russia's monopoly control over the transportation of oil from that region and ... promote western energy security through diversification of supply' as US National Security Council adviser Shiela Heslin put it in 1997(41). In 1994 the Azerbaijan International Oil Consortium (AIOC) - a consortium led by British Petroleum and including UNOCAL of California and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia - signed an $8bn oil deal with President Aliyev of Azerbaijan , who had come to power in a military coup the previous year. Russia's government has responded by by arming Armenian and Georgian separatists, including stoking the old conflict between Azerbaijan and nieghbouring Armenia over the Ngorno-Karabak region. They also stationed large numbers of troops in military bases inside these countries, some only miles from American ones established with similar motives (42), (43), (44), (45). So Aliyev and the AIOC then agreed to a 'dual pipeline' solution ; Half the output would go via the Russian Federation , with the rest exported on the Baku-Ceyhan route(46). AIOC also proposed a Baku-Vlore route - a 'Bosphorous bypass ' which ' traverses the route between Burgas, Bulgaria and Vlore, Albania' (47). So it would cross Macedonia - where , as Professor Michael Chossuduvsky has shown , the US state department has employed private companies as fronts to finance , train and arm both sides in the conflict between the Macedonian government and the National Liberation Army. One such company is Military Personnel and Resources Incorporated - which has links to the Pentagon and Colin Powell. Another is Brown and Root Services - a subsidiary of Halliburton Oil - of which Dick Cheney is former CEO. The NLA are aided by the Kosovo Liberation Army - who have been trained and armed by the CIA(48), (49). By dividing Macedonia and establishing a NATO peacekeeping force there the US government has secured the AIOC's Bosphorus Bypass route. As U.S forces attacked Afghanistan in late 2001 Russia's government stepped up support to separatists in Abkhazia, a province of Georgia. Despite this the Baku-Ceyan pipeline was opened in May 2005 (50). This suggests more similarity between Clinton's and Bush's foreign policies than is usually supposed.

The 'bypass route' pipeline to Vlore has still not been built, with two other pipeline routes through the Balkans also under consideration.<

The US responded to Russia's actions by aiding rebels in Chechnya, a republic of the Russian federation which was also the route for an oil pipeline from the Caspian to Moscow. Chechnya was prevented by Russian forces from becoming an independent state because of the major oil and gas pipeline passing through Chechnya - and the potential for big profits if the AIOC consortium or the consortium of companies operating on the Tengiz oilfield in Kazakhstan could be persuaded to route their pipeline through Russia - something the US government was determined to prevent(51). (By 2000 the Russian government had built a pipeline through neighbouring Dagestan, another republic of the Russian Federation, to avoid the Chechen civil war and rebel attacks on the Chechnya pipeline. This wasn't a solution as the war spilled over into Dagestan. (52))

According to journalist Lutz Kleveman the US ambassador to Azerbaijan, Ross Wilson, told him that Russia's government had destabilised Georgia and the rest of the Southern Caucasus on the route of the AIOC pipeline to try to prevent it going ahead. He then said "Then Moscow got a little problem called Chechnya, now the Russians have become a bit more cautious" (53). This seems to imply that after Russian forces armed and aided separatists in countries seeking oil pipeline deals with the US (especially Georgia and Azerbaijan) the US aided separatists in Chechnya who want independence from the Russian federation. One group operating from the Pankisi gorge in Georgia in the past. In 2002 the Russian government threatened to vote against UN resolution 1441 on Iraq if the raids didn't end. The rebels left the area - suggesting they were indeed controlled or influenced by the U.S government. Russia's UN representative then voted for the resolution (54). So torture and massacres of civilians in Chechnya by Russian forces were condemned before September 11th, but like the equally brutal war in Afghanistan, the war in Chechnya was rebranded as part of the "war on terrorism" after September 11th.

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The Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline plans

The second planned pipeline export route, which was from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to the port of Karachi in Pakistan - or possibly also to India, made control of Afghanistan a strategic prize. Afghanistan has only small oil reserves but Northern Afghanistan has large natural gas reserves and also provides a potential route to export gas from Turkmenistan to the ports of Pakistan or to the growing market in India (55), (56).

The route through Afghanistan to the ports of Pakistan is particularly important to US firms wanting to be able to sell oil at a profit to the rapidly expanding markets in China, Japan and South Korea. As John J Maresca, an executive of UNOCAL oil explained in testimony to congress in 1998 "The route through Afghanistan is the one that would bring Central Asian oil closest to Asian markets and thus would be the cheapest in terms of transporting the oil."(57).

There were two problems - first the Afghan civil war. UNOCAL sought to end this problem by lobbying the Clinton administration (which also wanted the pipeline for strategic reasons to avoid Russia and Iran - as with Baku-Ceyan) (58). The Clinton administration obliged by tacitly approving Saudi financial aid to the Taliban - along with Pakistan's ISI military intelligence's provision of arms, training and ISI-trained Pakistani jihadist volunteers to fight alongside the Taliban (59), (60), (61), (62). The administration also called for the international community not to isolate the Taliban and even lifted a ban on arms sales to Pakistan and approved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of arms sales, despite knowing some of these arms would be used by the Taliban and their Pakistani allies in Afghanistan (63), (64). The US ambassador to Pakistan welcomed the Taliban's capture of Kabul, saying the plan was that the Taliban would develop "like the Saudis" and "we could live with that". Zalmay Khalilzad, a member of UNOCAL's advisory board and later to be US ambassador to Afghanistan and then Iraq, similarly described the Taliban's brand of Islamic fundamentalism as "not anti-American" like Iran's but more like the Saudi brand (65), (66).

According to intelligence expert Selig Harrison of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, speaking to a conference in Spring 2001, the CIA co-operated with Pakistan's ISI military intelligence to arm, train and fund the Taliban just as they had aided the Mujahedin in the 1980s (67). Osama Bin Laden has been quoted as saying (about his operations in Afghanistan in the 1980s during the Soviet occupation) "I settled in Pakistan in the Afghan border region. There I recieved volunteers [from Arab and Muslim countries]...these volunteers were trained by Pakistani and American officers. The weapons were supplied by the Americans, the money by the Saudis" (68). Both Bin Laden and the CIA have since been keen to deny any association, both claiming Bin Laden's funds came solely from the Saudi government or donations by Saudis to religious charities. There is no dispute though that the US, Saudi and Pakistan governments and intelligence agencies backed the Mujahedin in the 1980s and the Taliban in through much of the 1990s - and it seems likely that in both cases the use of the Saudis and Pakistan's ISI military intelligence as proxies gave the CIA plausible deniability for its own involvement.

There were still problems for UNOCAL and the US-Pakistan-Saudi alliance though. The Taliban couldn't win a decisive victory in the North and even moderates among the southern Pashtuns began to oppose them. Yet the Taliban refused to form a coalition government so there was no prospect of a stable government recognised by the US government. This meant that the World Bank couldnt legally provide loans for economic projects in Afghanistan. Private investors wouldnt invest in such a risky project so without US government recognition of a new Afghan government the pipeline project wouldn't be financially viable (69) , (70). An offer made by UNOCAL in 1996 of separate pipeline deals with every Afghan faction was rejected by the Taliban as they wanted to be recognised as the government of Afghanistan (71). In October 1997 an offer made to the Taliban by the governments of Pakistan and Turkmenistan along with UNOCAL of a transfer payment rate of 15 cents per 1,000 cubit feet of gas passing through their territory was also rejected as too low (72). The second problem arrived with the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by Al Qa'ida - which killed hundreds of civilians including dozens of Americans - and the Taliban's continued refusal to hand over Bin Laden to the US.

The Centgas consortium including UNOCAL gave up on the pipeline project in October 1998, a UNOCAL spokesman explaining that "construction of the pipeline cannot begin until a recognised government is in place in Kabul that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company." (73). These problems all combined to move the Clinton administration from supporting the Taliban to imposing sanctions on them. US , Pakistan and Saudi government support for the Taliban had been almost as important in getting the Taliban into power as it was in aiding their mujahedin fore-runners to defeat the Soviet backed Communist government and Soviet occupation in the 80s. The motive in the 80s was to weaken the Soviets and head off fears that they might push on south, getting greater access to Middle Eastern oil and ports. The motive in the 90s was to weaken Shia Iran's influence by backing the Sunni Taliban and to ensure US firms got access to oil and gas from the former Soviet republics despite Russian opposition.

After the 2001 invasion it might have been hoped that a government that could get the "confidence" of governments and investors would exist. The US ambassador to Afghanistan from 2002 to 2007 was Zalmay Khalilzad, a PNAC signatory who had done survey work on contract for UNOCAL and had discussed the pipeline project with the Taliban in the 1990s (74). President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan signed a deal with the governments of Pakistan and Turkmenistan on building a pipeline through the three countries (75). However so far any pipeline continues to be unviable due to the continuing war in Afghanistan discouraging companies and investors from taking the risk. (In August 2007 there were media reports of Pakistan's government giving the TAP pipeline contract to US firm but these may not be accurate - see (76) ) This does not mean that the US government and US firms no longer have any interest in creating such a pipeline route. Opinions may differ over whether getting rid of the Taliban's provision of a base for Al Qa'ida or building a pipeline is the more important motive in the minds of US government officials. The fact that no similar action has been taken against Pakistan, whose military and military intelligence, including President (and former General) Musharraf, have a long history of arming and training Islamic jihadist terrorists in both Afghanistan and Kashmir (including many responsible for suicide bombings against civilians in India) should give pause for thought to those who believe the war is about opposing terrorism or promoting democracy though (77), (78). Musharraf's decade old military dictatorship has been consistently rewarded with increasing US military aid. In October 2001 Musharraf was warning the United Front (or Northern Alliance) enemies of the Taliban in Afghanistan not to try to take too much advantage of the US campaign against the Taliban - and asking the US to end its airstrikes against the Taliban quickly (79).

It has been suggested that a pipeline through Afghanistan could provide an export route not only for oil and gas from Turkmenistan but also from Kazakhstan which has much larger established reserves in the Caspian and where several US and European firms including Exxon-Mobil and Halliburton have been operating for many years (80). An alternative pipeline route following more or less the AIOC route is under construction but European governments have shown less interest in it than the US government has and it may face similar problems to one through Afghanistan if the territorial dispoures between Georgia and Armenia begin again or are fomented by rivalry between Russia and the US again (81).

Much as with Russian forces in Chechnya torture by US forces and their allies in Afghanistan has been systematic, sometimes involving beating people to death. In 2007 NATO forces bombing killed more civilians than the Taliban. Both torture and heavy civilian casualties from bombing echo the tactics used by the Soviets in their occupation of the country (82), (83), (84), (85), (86), (87). Of course the Taliban and some Islamic separatists in Chechnya also brutally torture people and target civilians in suicide bombings but the "patriotic" portrayals of these wars as for democracy and human rights and against terrorism by the British and American media (on Afghanistan) and the Russian media (on Chechnya) are far from the truth.

Since the plan to build the Afghanistan pipeline began long before September 11th in the 1990s that atrocity can't be used as an excuse either, even for those confused enough to believe one atrocity against uninvolved civilians could justify another. The pipeline is unlikely to be the only motive for U.S and NATO intervention. Other motives certainly include preventing a government in Afghanistan that would allow Al Qaeda camps in its territory (though the continuing civil war hardly prevents that) and the wish to maintain military bases across the Caspian region to control oil and gas supplies. The mountainous terrain of the country and the limits on the ability of any government to control its border areas make control of the Afghan government itself of limited importance unless it can secure the loyalty of the majority of Afghans. At the moment the situation has some similarities to the Soviet occupation - the major cities are pro-government, the rest of the country is not.

Much of the above (and the separate section going into more depth on tacit US support for the Taliban to try to secure an Afghan pipeline) also shows US foreign policy motives and methods have remained remarkably consistent whether the President was a Democrat (Bill Clinton) or a Republican (Presidents George W. H and George W. Bush). That should give pause for thought to those who think another Clinton in the Whitehouse would make a big difference.

copyright © Duncan Malcolm McFarlane 2008

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To read more about the plans for the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline in the mid-90s and how they involved initial US and Pakistani government support for the Taliban click here (not finished or uploaded yet)

To read about the common motives for the invasion of Afghanistan and expanding the "war on terror" to Iraq, Iran and Somalia click here

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(24) = Lyman, Robert (2006) 'Iraq 1941 : The Battles for Basra, Habbaniya, Fallujah and Baghdad', Osprey Publishing , Oxford(UK), 2006, page 7-8 http://books.google.com/books?id=3XFOu9NG9pwC&pg=PA7&lpg=PA7&dq=pumping+stations+h2+h3+iraq&source=web&ots=_zReQZaeLL&sig=GtQzVjETljYD2BKF4xtJ5KJPSVU#PPA7,M1

(25) = See (3) above

(26) = Washington Post 7 Apr 1993 , 'Chevron Sets Deal to Develop Big Oil Field in Kazakhstan', http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost/access/72136502.html?dids=72136502:72136502&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&fmac=&date=Apr+7%2C+1993&author=Nick+Moore&desc=Chevron+Sets+Deal+to+Develop+Big+Oil+Field+in+Kazakhstan

(27) = FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH OFFICE RESEARCH & ANALYTICAL PAPERS MAY 2000, 'Kazakhstan's Regions', page 17-18 , http://www.fco.gov.uk/Files/KFile/kazakhstan,0.pdf

(28) = International Herald Tribune 21 Sep 2007, 'Kazakh president backs Chevron oil venture', http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/09/21/business/kazakoil.php

(29) = Center for Responsive Politics, Oil & Gas: Top Contributors to Federal Candidates and Parties, http://opensecrets.org/industries/contrib.asp?Ind=E01&cycle=2000

(30) = New York Times 8 May 2007 , 'Chevron Seen Settling Case on Iraq Oil', http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/08/business/08chevron.html?fta=y&pagewanted=all (see 17th paragraph)

(31) = Telegraph 11 October 1996, 'Warring nation holds key to oil riches of Central Asia' http://www.telegraph.co.uk/htmlContent.jhtml?html=/archive/1996/10/11/wtal111.html

(32) = Halliburton press release 17 Jun 2002, 'HALLIBURTON AWARDED INTEGRATED DRILLING SERVICES CONTRACT VALUED AT $120 MILLION - Agip KCO extends Halliburton contract by two years', http://www.halliburton.com/news/archive/2002/hesnws_061702.jsp (see third paragraph)

(33) = CBS News 26 Sep 2003, 'Cheney's Halliburton Ties Remain Contrary To Veep's Claims, Researchers Say Financial Links Remain' http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/09/26/politics/main575356.shtml

(34) = BBC News 8 Sep 2004, 'Halliburton may ditch Iraq deal', http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3636590.stm

(35) = Center for Responsive Politics, Oil & Gas: Top Contributors to Federal Candidates and Parties, http://opensecrets.org/industries/contrib.asp?Ind=E01&cycle=2000

(36) = Alexander's Oil and Gas Connections (citing Moscow Times) 21 July 2004 'The losing side of the Kazakhstan oil boom', http://www.gasandoil.com/goc/news/ntc42922.htm

(37) =

(38) = Rashid , Ahmed (2001) Taliban Tauris,London ,2001 - chapter 12

(39) = Halliburton press release 27 Oct 1997 'Halliburton Alliance Awarded Integrated Service Contract Offshore Caspian Sea In Turkmenistan', http://www.halliburton.com/news/archive/1997/hesnws_102797.jsp

(40) = Yergin, Daniel (1992) , 'The Prize : The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power', Simon & Schuster 1992 p337 (cited in Klevemen, Lutz (2004) 'The New Great Game : Blood and Oil in Central Asia' , Atlantic Books 2004 paperback edition, p18)

(41) = Rashid , Ahmed(2001) Taliban Tauris,London ,2001 - p174

(42) = Guardian 24 Oct 2001, ‘Route to riches’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/waronterror/story/0,1361,579401,00.html (Afghanistan has huge strategic importance for the west as a corridor to the untapped fuel reserves in central Asia, reports Andy Rowell)

(43) = BBC News 23 July 1998, 'UK firms strike Azerbaijan oil deal', http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/138426.stm

(44) = Telegraph 21 July 1998 'Oil Deal Key to security in Azerbaijan'

(45) = Klevemen, Lutz (2004) 'The New Great Game : Blood and Oil in Central Asia' , Atlantic Books 2004 paperback edition, pages 11-31

(46) = Caspian Crossroads Magazine Volume 1, Issue No. 3 Summer - Fall 1995, 'Which Way Will Azerbaijan's Oil Flow? The Pipeline Debate Continues', by Laurent Ruseckas , http://ourworld.compuserve.com/HOMEPAGES/USAZERB/136.htm

(47) = Caspian Crossroads Magazine Volume 2, Issue No.3, Winter 1997, 'Interview with Greg Rich of Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC)' ,by Jayhun Mollazade , , http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/usazerb/237.htm and , http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/usazerb/casp.htm

(48) = Professor Michel Chossudovsky of the University of Ottowa, 'America at War in Macedonia', http://www.spectrezine.org/war/Macedonia.htm

(49) = ???

(50) = BBC News 25 May 2005, 'Giant Caspian oil pipeline opens', http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4577497.stm

(51) = Saivetz, Carol R (2000) 'Caspian Geopolitics: The View from Moscow' in The Brown Journal of World Affairs Summer/Fall 2000 – Volume VII, Issue 2

(52) = 'The Crisis In Chechnya' Professor Edward W. Walker of Berkeley University (1995) , http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~bsp/caucasus/articles/walker_1995-crisis.pdf

(53) = Klevemen, Lutz (2004) 'The New Great Game : Blood and Oil in Central Asia' , Atlantic Books 2004 paperback edition, page 26

(54) = Guardian 24 Sep 2002, 'Russia lifts objections after Chechen 'deal'', http://www.guardian.co.uk/chechnya/Story/0,,797846,00.html

(55) = US Dept. of Energy, Energy Information Agency, Country Analysis Briefs , Afghanistan, http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Afghanistan/EnergyOverview.html and http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Afghanistan/EnergyTransit.html

(56) = Guardian 24 Oct 2001, ‘Route to riches’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/waronterror/story/0,1361,579401,00.html (Afghanistan has huge strategic importance for the west as a corridor to the untapped fuel reserves in central Asia, reports Andy Rowell)


(58) = Coll, Steve (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London, 2004 pages 300-313, 364-367

(59) = Rashid , Ahmed(2001) Taliban Tauris,London ,2001 Chapters 10 to 14 - and especially page 180 , 263 [note 23] - Rashid quotes a US official in Islamabad in 1998 as telling him that "the US acquiesced in supporting the Taliban because of our links to the Pakistan and Saudi governments who backed them, but we no longer do so"

(60) = Time Magazine - November 4, 1996 Vol. 148 No. 21, 'Friends Of The Taliban' By Edward Barnes, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,985414,00.html

(61) = Pakistani Battalions Enter Afghanistan As received by AAR Afghan Azadi Radio , Office of the Islamic State of Afghanistan in Washington D.C. , Thursday, 18 January - http://www.afghanradio.com/news/2001/january/jan19m2001.html

(62) = Coll, Steve (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London, 2004 pages ????

(63) = Coll, Steve (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London, 2004, page 338 (US assistant secretary of state for South Asia, Robin Raphel, asked the UN Security Council not to isolate the Taliban in 1996)

(64) = Foreign Military Sales and Direct Commercial Sales by Country For Year 1996 - Congressional Record, 6 February 1997, pp. E189-90 , In - The Arms Sales Monitor of the Federation of American Scientists

(65) = Rashid , Ahmed(2001) Taliban Tauris,London ,2001 pages 166, 179

(66) = Coll, Steve (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London, 2004, page 338-339

(67) = The Times of India 7 March 2001'CIA worked in tandem with Pak to create Taliban', http://www.multiline.com.au/~johnm/taliban.htm(the original article is no longer available in the Times of India's archive but is reproduced at the above address and several others)

(68) = Rashid , Ahmed(2001) Taliban Tauris,London ,2001 - p132

(69) = Rashid , Ahmed(2001) Taliban Tauris,London ,2001 p167

(70) = Coll, Steve (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London, 2004, page 308

(71) = Coll, Steve (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London, 2004, page 313

(72) = Rashid , Ahmed(2001) Taliban Tauris,London ,2001 - p173

(73) = Guardian 24 Oct 2001, 'Route to riches', http://www.guardian.co.uk/waronterror/story/0,,579401,00.html

(74) = Independent 10 Jan 2002, 'New US envoy to Kabul lobbied for Taliban oil rights, http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article205788.ece

(75) = BBC News 27 Dec 2002 , ‘Central Asia pipeline deal signed’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/2608713.stm

(76) = In August 2007 Geo News TV of Pakistan reported that Pakistan's government had given a $10 billion contract to International Oil Company (IOC) of the United States to build the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline. Geo were quoted by the Daily News newspaper of Pakistan (Daily Times 20 Aug 2007, ‘Govt awards TAP pipeline contract to US company’, http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C08%5C20%5Cstory_20-8-2007_pg1_3) who were quoted by Alexander's Oil and Gas Connections (Alexander’s Gas and Oil Connections 11 Sep 2007, ‘Pakistan awards TAP pipeline contract to US companyhttp://www.gasandoil.com/goc/company/cns73711.htm). Geo's transmissions (based in Dubai) were closed down by Dubai's government after the TV station showed film of anti-Musharraf demonstrations in November 2007 (CNN 16 Nov 2007 , ‘Dubai agrees to pull plug on Pakistani TV networks’, http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/11/16/pakistan.tv/index.html . Since i can find no company of the name "International Oil Company" based in the U.S its hard to know what its based on. The report may be true with the identity of the company not known by the Geo reporter, or it may be a false rumour, or it may be a confusion with the Indian Oil Corporation which also has the acronym IOC.

(77) = Coll, Steve (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London, 2004, pages 441, 485, 511

(78) = Haqqani, Husain (2005) , 'Pakistan Between Mosque and Military' , Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, 2005

(79) = New York Times 09 Oct 2001 , 'Pakistani Is Already Calling on U.S. to End Airstrikes Quickly', http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D01E3D9113CF93AA35753C1A9679C8B63

(80) = Klevemen, Lutz (2004) 'The New Great Game : Blood and Oil in Central Asia' , Atlantic Books 2004 paperback edition, pages 75-83

(81) = Guardian 23 Feb 2008, 'US tells Europe to stop dithering over pipeline', http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/feb/23/oil.euro

(82) = USA Today 24 Jun 2007, ‘Afghan civilians reportedly killed more by U.S., NATO than insurgents’, http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-06-24-karzai_N.htm

(83) = Human Rights Watch March 2004, ‘“Enduring Freedom:” - Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan’, http://hrw.org/reports/2004/afghanistan0304

(84) = Captain Ian Fishback of the US 82nd Airborne wrote a letter to Senator John McCain on torture and killings of prisoners by US forces which he witnessed in Afghanistan and Iraq including "including death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment" - Washington Post Wednesday, September 28, 2005; A21,‘ A Matter of Honor’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/27/AR2005092701527_pf.html

(85) = Amnesty International's annual report 2007 (covering 2006) said "Extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and abductions, torture including in unofficial detention centres, and arbitrary detentions continued in the North Caucasus region, in particular in Chechnya. In Chechnya, impunity remained the norm for those who committed human rights abuses, and people seeking justice faced intimidation and death threatstorture and killings in Chechnya by Russian forces." , http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/europe-and-central-asia/eastern-europe/russia

(86) = Human Rights Watch 21 Mar 2005 , 'Chechnya: 'Disappearances' a Crime Against Humanity ', http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/03/21/russia10342.htm

(87) = Human Rights Watch 31 Nov 2006, 'Chechnya: Research Shows Widespread and Systematic Use of Torture', http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/11/13/russia14557.htm

(88) = Rashid , Ahmed(2001) Taliban Tauris,London ,2001 - p179 ( also see Coll, Steve (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London, 2004 pages 338-339)

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2008

Chapter 3: Sweeping it all Up : From Iraq to Somalia and Iran


Sweeping it all Up : Expanding the "war on terror" to control Iraq's economy and oil reserves

Members of the Bush administration and their political allies soon expanded the 'war on terrorism' to Iraq - making claims that Saddam had allowed Al Qa'ida to use Iraq as a base and was involved in the September 11th attacks despite the lack of evidence for these claims and the wealth of evidence that they were false. The CIA's former director James Woolsey was among those keenest to make the Iraq link (1), (2), (3). Woolsey previously voiced concern over future US oil supplies citing US Defence Department estimates that when India's and China's growing use of oil reaches a per capita level equal to that of South Korea those two countries alone will need twice as much oil per day as the entire world currently produces (4). The FBI has since said its investigations suggest a member of US intelligence or of the Pentagon's biological warfare research division USAMRID is the most likely culprit behind the anthrax attacks (5). By predicting further attacks Woolsey also probably boosted profits for Paladin Capital, of which he's a Director and which invests in homeland security firms - including some involved in producing anthrax vaccines (6), (7). Interestingly he was also head of the CIA when it was co-operating with Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency to arm and fund armed Islamic fundamentalist groups in Afghanistan in the 1980s (8). Woolsey was also on the board of USF&G when it bought stock in Titan Security - whose employees were involved in "interrogations" at Abu Ghraib (9), (10), (11). He's now an adviser to John McCain's Presidential campaign and would probably be in any administration formed by McCain if he won the 2008 Presidential election (11a)

The Iraq war, like the war on Afghanistan, had been planned long before 9-11. The Project for a New American Century's September 2000 report "Rebuilding America's Defenses" stated that as the Persian Gulf is a "vital region...While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification,the need for a strong American presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of Saddam Hussein's regime" and that the US interest in maintaining military bases in the Middle East would remain even if Iran and Iraq both had governments friendly to the US (12). In other words Saddam's regime and the ayatollahs in Iran are just the pretext needed to do what the US government would have done whether those countries were run by brutal dictators, a democratically elected Gandhi type figure or had the Second Coming of Jesus as their head of government. The Pentagon and the US Department of Energy had seen ensuring U.S access to global oil and gas reserves as vital under Clinton as much as under Bush. The US Chief of Staff's 'Joint Vision 2020' document still saw middle eastern oil remaining as the key energy resource for the 21st century (13). The decision to go to war on Iraq was made by prospective members of the Bush administration in the PNAC before Bush was even elected and only awaited a pretext - a new Pearl Harbour as "Rebuilding America's Defenses" put it - found in September 11th and shifting excuses varying unconvincingly from WMD "threats" to democracy and human rights.

So on September 11th, five hours after the attacks ended, Donald Rumsfeld as Defence Secretary told Pentagon planners "Go massive. Sweep it all up - related and unrelated." (14) The Bush administration now had both a pretext for military action in Afghanistan to secure a pipeline route (and more military bases near Caspian and Iranian oil and gas) and a shock to Americans big enough that it could be used to drum up support for wars on Iraq and Iran, which then had the second and third largest proven oil reserves in the world according to British Petroleum's estimates (further exploration for oil in Iran - but less in Iraq due to the war - has increased Iran's proven reserves so that they now exceed Iraq's) (15).

The major issue for the Bush administration and the companies linked to it was which countries' firms got contracts to explore, drill for and export oil from Iraq. Under Saddam those countries were Russia, France and China. Under US-led occupation they were to be the US and UK.

As the Washington Post reported on the 15th of September 2002 "A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Baghdad and Russia, France and other countries, and reshuffling world petroleum markets, according to industry officials and leaders of the Iraqi opposition...."It's pretty straightforward," said former CIA director R. James Woolsey, who has been one of the leading advocates of forcing Hussein from power. "France and Russia have oil companies and interests in Iraq. They should be told that if they are of assistance in moving Iraq toward decent government, we'll do the best we can to ensure that the new government and American companies work closely with them." But he added: "If they throw in their lot with Saddam, it will be difficult to the point of impossible to persuade the new Iraqi government to work with them."   (16). Since the new Iraqi government would exist only on the sufferance of over 100,000 American and British troops and 'mercenaries' or 'civilian security firm employees' Woolsey turned out to be right - British and American firms got contracts in Iraq after the invasion; after the French and Russian governments opposed the US invasion French and Russian firms didn't.

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The Old British Imperial Pipelines and the War on Terror : Israel - Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and oil and gas exports


Map of the old British Empire pipelines from Kirkuk via Haditha in 1941. At Haditha they became two pipelines -one went via Rutba through Palestine (now mostly Israel) to the port of Haifa (now Israeli) ; the other went through Palmyra (now called Tadmur) in Syria to the port of Tripoli in Lebanon (source Lyman 2006 = (24)

Map of the old British Empire pipelines from Kirkuk via Haditha in 1941. At Haditha they became two pipelines -one went via Rutba through Palestine (now mostly Israel) to the port of Haifa (now Israeli) ; the other went through Palmyra (now called Tadmur) in Syria to the port of Tripoli in Lebanon (source Lyman 2006 = (24)

During the British Empire's occupation of the Middle East between the two world wars two oil export pipelines were built from Iraq to the Mediterranean. One passed through Syria and Lebanon to the port of Tripoli. The other went through Jordan and what was then part of the British mandate of Palestine but is now Israel (24). In The U.S and Israeli governments were considering giving a contract to the U.S based firm Bechtel to reconstruct the Haifa pipeline (25).

In 1941 the British fought the Germans in Iraq over control of Basra, Habbaniya, Fallujah and Baghdad. Other key targets included H1, H2 and H3 - pumping stations on the oil pipeline to the Mediterranean port of Haifa, then in the British Mandate of Palestine and now in Israel (26), (26a). In 2003 the H2 and H3 pumping stations, were captured during the 2003 invasion as targets identified for British and American special forces. This, like the decision to send troops to prevent the Oil Ministry in Baghdad being looted while letting looters wreck Baghdad museum, was probably not co-incidence. H2 and H3 were described in the media during the 1990 and 2003 wars as "airfields" and "chemical weapons sites", no doubt because thats what government and military spokespeople had told them. They may be both these things but they are also key points to hold if the oil pipeline from Iraq to Haifa was to be re-opened. In June 2003 Israel's Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced it would be. Bechtel, a US based firm which donated to Bush's election campaign, was offered a contract to re-construct it - though the insurgency or resistance may make this difficult (27), (28), (29).

As Lyman ( who taught history in the British army for 20 years) notes one of the British campaigns' aims in the 1941 campaign was to deny Iraqi oil to Germany, much as today the anglo-American alliance has ended Saddam's provision of oil contracts to Russian, French and Chinese firms and granted them to British and American ones (30).

Syria, bordering the pipeline route, could potentially shut it down by damaging it repeatedly if it wanted to. If a second old British pipeline route, from Kirkuk to Tripoli via pumping stations T1, T2 etc, is also under consideration then the seemingly eccentric decision to treat Syria, like Iraq, as a member of the 'axis of evil', despite their lack of links to Al Qa'ida or 9-11, becomes even more intelligible ; as does US direct involvement in Lebanon in the 1980s and covert supplies of arms to Sunni extremists in Lebanon in the present. (This is covered in more detail in later chapters) (31), (32), (33).


Map of Iraq in 1941 from Somerset De Chair's book 'The Golden Carpet' (Faber and Faber 1944) - the H3, H4 and T2 pumping stations are all marked on the route of the campaign force. (to see larger version

Map of Iraq in 1941 from Somerset De Chair's book 'The Golden Carpet' (Faber and Faber 1944) - the H3, H4 and T2 pumping stations are all marked on the route of the campaign force. (to see larger version click here)


Photo of US CentralCommand briefing to journalists in 2003 in which H2, H3 and H4 are visible on the map - once again they were key targets. After the invasion the Haifa pipeline was re-opened.

Photo of US CentralCommand briefing to journalists in 2003 in which H2, H3 and H4 are visible on the map - once again they were key targets. After the invasion the Haifa pipeline was re-opened.

Most Americans and Europeans may not remember that their government was overthrown by the US and British governments in 1953 in favour of a dictatorship to secure Anglo-American control of Iran's oil wealth. Many of us may not remember the last time foreign troops occupied Iraq for its oil, told its people it was a "liberation" and killed any who dissented. Most Iranians and Iraqis certainly do.

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De Ja Vu for Iraqis and Iranians : Colonial Oil Wars and Client Governments Dressed up as "Liberation" All Over Again

What has been presented as something entirely new - a war "for democracy" and "against terrorism" is in fact something very old - colonial wars for control of Middle Eastern oil much like those fought by Britain in the 19th and first half of the twentieth centuries (The Palestinian born historian Rashid Khalidi has shown this in his book "Resurrecting Empire") (17). The British Empire dominated the Middle East through invasions followed by support for client dictatorships and the brutal crushing of nationalist, democratic and religious popular uprisings in the early twentieth century and after World War One. You can still get second hand copies of books by the British Lieutenant General Aylmer Haldane who commanded the occupying forces in Iraq in the 1920 against 'The Insurrection in Mesopotamia' (the title of Haldane's book) (18). The towns in which rebellions were crushed using artillery, tanks and bombing included many familiar in the recent past - notably Fallujah. Like the Bush administration and its allies there was much "noble purpose" rhetoric with another British General - Maude - announcing on the invasion of Iraq in 1917 that "We come not as occupiers but as liberators".

The only major difference was that until after the Second World War there werent as many oil companies who were major players involved. The dominant firm was the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, a majority of whose shares were owned by the British government. It operated across the Middle East. After World War Two Iran was formally granted independence from the British Empire. Its first post-independence elected Prime Minister was Mohammed Mossadeq who, with massive public support, proposed nationalising Iran's oil industry to get decent pay and conditions for its Iranian employees and a fair share of oil revenues for Iranians. At this point Iranians workers employed by Anglo-Iranian Oil were paid a tiny fraction of what British employees got and lived in wooden shacks without electricity or water. The British and American governments , the CIA and MI6 then funded Islamic fundamentalist parties to oppose Mossadeq (a moderate Muslim) as 'a Communist' and backed a military coup which overthrew Mossadeq's elected government. They replaced him with the Shah's (King's) dictatorship - and U.S firms got a share of what had formerly been the British Anglo-Iranian oil's monopoly. The Shah's government tortured and jailed his political opponents using the SAVAK secret police and squandered Iran's oil wealth on the Shah, his rich cronies and on buying western arms for his military (19), (20).

The Shah's dictatorship discredited secular government in Iran as corrupt, tyrannical and acting in the interests of foreigners instead of Iranians. (This led to growing support for Islamic fundamentalism which, when the Shah had hundreds of unarmed demonstrators killed by the army in 1979, led to an Islamic revolution which brought Khomeini's brutal and intolerant version of Shia Islam to power. Even Khomeini and Khameini though have been marginally less undemocratic, corrupt and brutal than the Shah was. (The 1953 coup (along with US and British funding and arms supplied to Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war) also created a distrust of the British and American governments which remains to this day.) (21), (22)

Anglo-Iranian Oil went on to become British Petroleum (B.P). In 200? B.P's Chief Executive Lord Browne demanded the British government and the Bush administration make sure B.P got its share of the new oil contracts in Iraq (23). No doubt their new CEO will be lobbying for a share of any new oil contracts following the planned war on Iran too.

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Worse than Darfur : From Afghanistan to Africa : Somalia, Yemen and the Gulf of Aden

Bush has repeatedly made it clear that Afghanistan and Iraq are just 'battles' in the 'war on terror' and that other 'battles' are planned elsewhere. Much like the supposedly omnipresent Communist threat in the Cold War the 'Al Qa'ida' or 'terrorist' threat gives a pre-text for interventions worldwide for a variety of motives. Somalia has already become another battle in the war and Iran and Yemen may be next.

The "war on terror" in Somalia gets less coverage than Iraq but has been just as brutal. In a scenario with echoes of Afghanistan decades of civil war in Somalia were ended in summer 2006 when the Islamic Courts Union defeated rival warlords' brutal militias and brought about peace. As in Afghanistan the initial welcome for an end to the killings and rapes carried out by the warlords were rapidly followed by shock at the brutal enforcement of a backwards and "literal" interpretation of the Quran by the new government.

Unlike the Taliban in Afghanistan though the Courts never had US backing.

The US government had armed and funded the defeated warlords. Now it supports the invasion of Ethiopian forces, who have killed thousands in shelling and bombing of cities, towns and villages and indirectly through creating food shortages among millions of refugees - much like the US campaign in Afghanistan from October 2001 to the present (34), (35), (36), (37), (38), (39), (40), (41), , (42). The UN has said the number of civilians dying as a result of the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia is on a greater scale even than in Darfur in Sudan - and that Ethiopian forces indiscriminate fire and the new US and Ethiopian backed governments' denial of food to civilians in areas held by rebels is causing deaths by starvation (43), (44), (45).

As in Afghanistan there is also probably an ulterior motive for US and European governments' support for the Ethiopian invasion. Significant oil and gas reserves have been discovered between Somalia and Yemen in the Gulf of Aden - which is also the export route for a third of American oil imports. Several oil companies - Agip of Italy , BP Amoco , and US company Conoco - all have exploration and drilling rights for oil and gas which they negotiated with the murderous US-backed dictator Siad Barre before his overthrow in 1991 by his chief of police Mohammed Aidid. Those contracts remain on hold due to civil war. The bloody US-led Operation 'Restore Hope' in 1993 saw the killing of many UN peacekeepers and hundreds of Somali civilians - but failed to resolve the civil war in favour of America's protege - Barre's former interior minister Abdikassim Hassan (46), (47), (48). In Yemen on the other side of the Gulf of Aden companies including Occidental , Shell, Exxon-Mobil , Agip, Stat-Oil and British Gas are already developing oil and gas resources on and off shore - and again control of Yemen ensures control of the Gulf of Aden for oil exports. There are violent disputes with Yemenis demanding a fair share of oil revenues from their government and the corporations (49), (50), (51), (52).

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The Method in the Circle of Madness

Back in the 1980s the US, Saudi and Pakistani governments were funding, arming and training mostly Sunni Islamic jihadists in Afghanistan to fight the Communist government and occupying Soviet forces there. They were also arming and funding the secular (but mostly Sunni Muslim) regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq against Iran's Shia regime and in conflict with Iran's Ahia allies Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the 1990s the Clinton administration were doing much the same - backing the Sunni Taliban against Iranian and Russian backed Shia and Uzbek groups in Afghanistan. In the late 1990s this strategy started to backfire badly as Bin Laden carried out attacks on Americans with the protection of the Taliban. After 9-11 the US went to war on the Taliban and Al Qa'ida and the war in Iraq was supposedly part of the same struggle (despite the absence of Al Qa'ida there until after the US invasion - with the one group supposedly linked to Al Qa'ida in Iraq , Ansar Al Islam in the Kurdish controlled North, actually having no links to Al Qa'ida though similar in ideology and actions). As the largest minority of Iraq's population are Shia the overthrow of Saddam's regime in Iraq, like the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, increased Shia Muslim influence in these countries and so Iranian influence in them. So in what Seymour Hersh has called "the re-direction" the US government went full circle back to arming and funding Sunni extremist armed groups across the Middle East to fight Shia armed groups like the Medhi army in Iraq and Hizbollah in Lebanon. Despite claims that the Moqtadr Al Sadr's Medhi army are 'pro-Iranian' they are in fact Iraqi nationalists with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and their Badr Brigade militia the main allies of Iran in Iraq. The US government and military seem to get on much better with SCIRI than the Medhi army - suggesting that perhaps they are still following the advice of Samuel L. Huntington. Huntington suggested that in order to intervene to "sell" US interventions to American and world opinion the US government might have to "create the misimpression its the Soviet Union you are fighting". The current equivalent seems to be to claim its "terrorism" or "terrorists" you're fighting and pretend also that Shia armed groups and Sunni armed groups are allies, not enemies, much like Woolsey's claim that Nazis and Communists were allies. Jundullah , an Al Qa'ida like Sunni terrorist group based in Pakistan, has also been aided by the CIA in its roadside bombings and assassinations in Iran.

This may seem like mere stupidity or short-sightedness on the part of US governments acting on the maxim 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' while constantly changing their minds about who the main enemy is. In fact its a fairly consistent and cynical application of the maxim 'divide and conquer'. In the 1980s the US armed and funded Saddam's Iraqi regime while simultaneously arming Iran via Israel. In this way it kept the two most powerful states in the Middle East (not including Israel - a US ally) at each others throats so both were weakened. Now the strategy seems to be to foment civil war between Sunnis and Shias across the Middle East so that they will be too busy fighting each other to resist occupations aimed at taking their oil wealth. The strategy may not be working very well but its fairly clear that 'divide and conquer' and not 'democracy' or 'human rights' is the aim of at least some elements of the US government's game (possibly including Dick Cheney). There are others in the administration who seem to be genuinely attempting to prevent sectarian violence and civil war through for instance mixed Iraqi militias recruiting from all religions and ethnic groups (see Get Sadr ? The War for the Oil Law )

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2008

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(2) = ABC News 10 Oct 2001,Transcript: Ex-CIA Director James Woolsey, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/01/20030130-16.html and http://abcnews.go.com/US/Story?id=92346&page=1

(3) = James Woolsey ,Former Director of the CIA, Speech on Terrrorism at the American Institute for German Studies, John Hopkins University 29 Nov 2001, http://www.aicgs.org/documents/woolsey.pdf

(4) =Margolis , Eric S.(2000) War at the top of the world Routledge , London , 2000 , p240

(5) = BBC News 18 Aug 2002, 'Anthrax killer 'is US defence insider'', http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2196008.stm

(6) = Observer 11 May 2003, 'Bush ally set to profit from the war on terror', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/may/11/usa.iraq

(7) = Center for Public Integrity 28 March 2003, 'Advisors of Influence: Nine Members of the Defense Policy Board Have Ties to Defense Contractors', http://www.publicintegrity.org/report.aspx?aid=91&sid=200

(8) = Coll, Steve (2004) , 'Ghost Wars : The secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden' , Penguin , London, 2004

(9) = EB Benador Associates - R. James Woolsey, http://www.benadorassociates.com/woolsey.php

(10) = SEC Info - USF&G Corp · SC 13D · Titan Holdings Inc · On 8/15/97, http://www.secinfo.com/dUmJx.83e.htm

(11) = New Yorker Magazine 10 May 2004, ' Annals of National Security : Torture at Abu Ghraib', http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/05/10/040510fa_fact

(11a) = The Hill 23 Apr 2007, 'Woolsey joins McCain camp as security adviser', Woolsey joins McCain camp as security adviser

(12) = Project for a New American Century September 2000 , ‘Rebuilding America’s Defenses’, pages 14 and 17, http://www.newamericancentury.org/publicationsreports.htm and http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf

(13) = Guardian 1 November 2001, 'The west must kick its oil habit', Dan Plesch , http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/nov/01/afghanistan.terrorism11

(14) = CBS News 4 Sep 2002, 'Plans For Iraq Attack Began On 9/11', http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/09/04/september11/main520830.shtml

(15) = BP statistical review of world Energy 2007 : Oil : Reserves : pages 6 – 8 (especially page 6) , http://www.bp.com/subsection.do?categoryId=9017899&contentId=7033498 And http://www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/globalbp/globalbp_uk_english/reports_and_publications/statistical_energy_review_2007/STAGING/local_assets/downloads/pdf/statistical_review_of_world_energy_full_report_2007.pdf

(16) = Washington Post 15 Sep 2002, 'In Iraqi War Scenario, Oil Is Key Issue : U.S. Drillers Eye Huge Petroleum Pool', http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A18841-2002Sep14

(17) = Khalidi, Rashid (2004) , 'Resurrecting Empire : Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East', Beacon Press, Boston

(18) = Haldane, Aymer L. (1922) , 'The Insurrection', Battery Press, Nashville, Tenesee, 2005

(19) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition

(20) = Curtis, Mark (1995), 'The Ambiguities of Power : British Foreign Policy since 1945', Zed Books, London and New Jersey, 1995, p87-95

(21) = See (19) above

(22) = See (20) above

(23) = Guardian 30 Oct 2002, 'BP chief fears US will carve up Iraqi oil riches', http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/oct/30/oil.iraq

(24) = Khalidi, Rashid (2004) , 'Resurrecting Empire : Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East', Beacon Press, Boston, Chapter 3, page 101

(25) = Observer 20 April 2003, 'Israel seeks pipeline for Iraqi oil', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/apr/20/israelandthepalestinians.oil

(26) = McCartney, Laton (1989) 'Friends In High Places: The Bechtel Story : The Most Secret Corporation and How It Engineered the World', Ballantine Books, 1989

(27) = Khalidi, Rashid (2004) , 'Resurrecting Empire : Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East', Beacon Press, Boston, Chapter 3, page 101

(28) = Lyman, Robert (2006) 'Iraq 1941 : The Battles for Basra, Habbaniya, Fallujah and Baghdad', Osprey Publishing , Oxford(UK), 2006, page 7-8 http://books.google.com/books?id=3XFOu9NG9pwC&pg=PA7&lpg=PA7&dq=pumping+stations+h2+h3+iraq&source=web&ots=_zReQZaeLL&sig=GtQzVjETljYD2BKF4xtJ5KJPSVU#PPA7,M1

(29) = CNN 21 Mar 2003, 'CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN : Strike on Iraq: 30 Oil Wells on Fire in Southern Iraq', http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0303/21/ltm.15.html (refers to special forces securing H2 and H3 'airfields')

(30) = Jane's Defence 03 Apr 2007, 'Iraq's western desert a 'special forces playground' http://www.janes.com/defence/news/jdw/jdw030403_1_n.shtml (again refers to special forces securing H2 and H3 'airfields')

(31) = Telegraph 21 Jun 2003, 'Iraq-Israel oil pipeline 'to reopen'', http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=GKB3H01JI03UNQFIQMFCFFOAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2003/06/21/woil21.xml

(32) = Lyman, Robert (2006) 'Iraq 1941 : The Battles for Basra, Habbaniya, Fallujah and Baghdad', Osprey Publishing , Oxford(UK), 2006, page 7-8 http://books.google.com/books?id=3XFOu9NG9pwC&pg=PA7&lpg=PA7&dq=pumping+stations+h2+h3+iraq&source=web&ots=_zReQZaeLL&sig=GtQzVjETljYD2BKF4xtJ5KJPSVU#PPA7,M1

(33) = New Yorker Magazine 5 Mar 2007 ,'Annals of National Security : The Redirection' by Seymour Hersh , http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/05/070305fa_fact_hersh

(34) = Professor Marc Herold : A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States' Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting , http://www.cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm

(35) = Independent 19 Oct 2001, 'Blair in row with aid group over claim that Taliban are looting food convoys' http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/blair-in-row-with-aid-group-over-claim-that-taliban-are-looting-food-convoys-631897.html

(36) = Independent 27 Nov 2001 Legacy of civilian casualties in ruins of shattered town , http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/legacy-of-civilian--casualties-in-ruins--of-shattered-town-618256.html

(37) = Guardian 3 Jan 2002 Refugees left in the cold at 'slaughterhouse' camp http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/jan/03/immigration.afghanistan

(38) = Guardian 12 Feb 2002, 'Storm over Afghan civilian victims', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/feb/12/afghanistan.iantraynor2

(39) = Guardian 12 Feb 2002, 'Afghans are still dying as air strikes go on. But no one is counting', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/feb/12/afghanistan.iantraynor

(40) = Guardian 20 May 2002, 'Forgotten victims', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/may/20/afghanistan.comment

(41) = Independent 10 Aug 2002, 'Return to Afghanistan: Explosives that US knew would kill innocents continue to take their toll', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/return-to-afghanistan-explosives-that-us-knew-would-kill-innocents-continue-to-take-their-toll-639403.html

(42) = USA Today 24 Jun 2007, ‘Afghan civilians reportedly killed more by U.S., NATO than insurgents’, http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-06-24-karzai_N.htm

(43) = Independent 22 Nov 2007, 'Somalia war-refugee crisis surpasses Darfur in its horror', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/somalia-warrefugee-crisis-surpasses-darfur-in-its-horror-759034.html

(44) = Independent 03 Dec 2007 'Humanitarian crisis' facing Ethiopia, says UN', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/humanitarian-crisis-facing-ethiopia-says-un-761354.html

(45) = Independent 09 Feb 2008, 'Somalia: The World's forgotten catastrophe', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/somalia-the-worlds-forgotten-catastrophe-778225.html

(46) = Inter Press Service English News Wire, 27 May 1998, 'YEMEN/UNITED STATES: WASHINGTON SWEET TALKS SANA'A.' , by Dilip Hiro , http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-6991241.html

(47) = US Energy Information Administration Country Briefs/Background - Yemen , http://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/Yemen/Background.html

(48) = Los Angeles Times 18 Jan 1993 'The oil factor in Somalia' , LATimes archive link

(49) = Reuters 03 Aug 1999 , 'ANALYSIS-Yemen oil investment bid faces challenges', Michael Georgy

(50) = Reuters 13 Jan 1999, 'Western oilmen lie low in Yemen after killings'

(51) = Reuters 8 Jan 2008, UPDATE 1-Yemen accepts 25 bids for offshore oil blocks, http://www.reuters.com/article/companyNews/idUSL08203220080108

(52) = Reuters 22 Feb 2008, 'Yemen seen sliding towards breakdown', http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20080222-0248-yemen-crisis-.html

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2008

Chapter 4: Sources of Stability

Why the war on terror (or terrorism) is not about ending brutal dictatorships or promoting democracy or human rights


“Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world” President Jimmy Carter, 1977, to the Shah, the western backed dictator of Iran, whose rule led to the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran and his overthrow in the 1979 revolution(0)

'Secretary Gates, who arrived to discuss mutual security issues with the Saudi leadership, said the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia “has been one of the mainstays of stability in the Middle East for more than 60 years.” Report on Obama's Defence Secretary Robert Gates' visit to Saudi Arabia, governed by the US backed dictatorship of the House of Saud, June 2008 (15)


The ‘war on terror’ and western governments’ foreign policies in general are supposedly about replacing dictatorships with democracies. In fact the general assumption is that the US and other democratically elected governments by their very nature aim to promote democracy abroad in all their actions and if they don’t it’s only due to “errors” or “mistakes”. The facts suggest otherwise.

For instance the British and American governments churned out claims that the invasion of Iraq was about “overthrowing tyranny” and a “corrupt torturing dictator” and replacing them with “democracy”. The chapter on their support for Saddam and their replacements for him showed why those claims are lies.

There are many other examples though. The US and British governments remain allies of corrupt torturing dictatorships worldwide. Three examples are the Saudi monarchy (just one of many western backed sheikhdoms in the Middle East) , President Mubarak of Egypt and Qadaffi’s dictatorship in Libya, which, having provided oil contracts to US and British firms, has now had all sanctions on it lifted.

When a democratically elected government came to power in the Palestinian Authority after the January 2006 legislative elections the US government and its allies in the “developed world” were quick to punish the entire Palestinian population for not voting the way they were told to, just as the Reagan administration backed campaigns of torture and murder in South and Central America in the 1980s against populations who voted the "wrong" way.

When brutal torturing dictators provide “stability” - Saudi Arabia’s monarchy

The Saudi monarchy are absolute dictators, basing their right to rule on a medieval concept of kingship. They also have a religious police force similar to that of Iran, but composed of Wahabbi Sunnis rather than Shia. From their rise to power to the present they have been supported by their allies the British, American and French governments (among many others), no matter which political party has been in government in those democracies at the time.

In 2009 the International Coalition of Jurists reported that in Saudi Arabia “The Saudi Basic Law of Government infringes the basic principles of the rule of law and separation of powers, as it maintains control of the ruling family over the judicial and administrative institutions, and appropriates the legislative authority to the King and the Council of Ministers. It also limits the Consultative Council’s competences to propose, discuss and interpret laws.

Widespread human rights violations persist in Saudi Arabia. Individuals are often arbitrarily arrested, detained or punished when subjected to the criminal and often secret justice procedures that contravene the fundamental principles of the right to a fair trial. Women face systematic discrimination and are increasingly exposed to executions and amputations. Torture and other ill-treatment are still widespread.” (1) .

In the same year Amnesty International reported that the Saudi government still practised “systematic torture” including “beatings with sticks, punching, suspension from the ceiling, electric shocks, sleep deprivation”. The death penalty by beheading is also used. Since, as Amnesty reports, the main form of “evidence” used in Saudi trials is “confession” and torture is used to extract confessions, many innocent people are being executed (2) .

When King Abdullah replaced King Fadh on the throne his allies in the US and Britain praised him as a great reformer and progressive – even though his ‘reforms’ in reality amounted to some sham local elections, freeing some political prisoners (before arresting more) and sharing power with some other members of the royal family (3) . That wouldn’t even count as progressive in the 19th century never mind the 21st.

In the token Saudi local elections of 2005 all political parties and trade unions remained illegal, with many members union members only released from jail on condition they stay out of politics. Women could not vote and only half the seats were up for election, the rest being appointed by the Saudi monarchy (4) . The half elected municipal authority were meant to be limited in power to controlling local services such as rubbish collection. In reality they weren’t even allowed to do that. By 2008 ‘Several elected members of the Riyadh Municipal Council ...voiced their frustration and willingness to resign...“The council virtually possesses no real powers to execute any decisions” they complained.’ (5).

Tony Blair claimed that the Saudi’s “are moving in the right direction” on the grounds that they had agreed to hold these local elections. Yet the Iranian government hold elections not only for Mayors and local governors but also for MPs , Prime Minister’s and Presidents. Admittedly, as in the Saudi local elections, they’re often rigged, the government bans many candidates from standing and the ‘Leader’ retains much of the real power. However the Saudi monarchy retain all real power in Saudi. This didn’t stop Blair going on to denounce the Iranian government as 1930s style fascists while praising supposed Saudi progress towards democracy – nor has it stopped American politicians of both main parties doing the same (6) - (8).

Abdullah’s other claim to be a progressive – releasing some political prisoners on ascending the throne, was also rapidly revealed to be just more public relations. Soon he was having Saudi reformers and terrorist suspects jailed, tortured and beheaded again without fair trial (9), (10).

The British and American governments (along with many European governments and Russia and China) don’t seem to care about overthrowing the corrupt, torturing, murdering tyrants of Saudi the way they claimed they did in Iraq or Afghanistan or maybe even Iran. In fact they seem keen to help them stay in power.

Bush, Blair, Brown and Obama all kept the US and UK allied to the Saudi monarchy and increased arms sales to it. Blair and Brown maintained the ‘al Yamamah’ arms for oil deal negotiated with the Saudis by Thatcher – and then signed it’s successor ‘al Salam’ (these Orwellian names translate as ‘The Dove’ and ‘Peace’). Obama’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a May 2009 visit to Saudi said that the relationship between the US and Saudi “has been one of the mainstays of stability in the Middle East for more than 60 years” and that he shared the Saudi monarchy’s frustrations about “bureaucratic” restrictions on US arms sales to them, had plans to end those restrictions and would continue to have US troops train Saudi forces (11) - (15). So no problems with arming and training the forces of brutal dictatorships that torture and murder their own people then for Bush, Obama, Blair or Brown ; Republicans or Democrats; the Labour party or the Conservatives.

Even when British citizens were jailed on false charges and tortured into confessing to crimes they hadn’t committed the British government refused to demand their torturers be brought to justice. Al Yamamah and Al Salam were so lucrative for British Aerospace that their own citizens being tortured didn’t seem to worry the government much. It was left to backbench MPs like John Lyons to speak up on behalf of the torture victims. Even when the bombing campaign they had been accused of continued after they were jailed, demonstrating their innocence, the Saudis refused to even aplogise and the British government refused to ask them to (16) - (20).

Gates in his speech also touched on another source of income for US firms – this time ones linked to the Carlyle Group – which has close links to the Bush family and many former members of US administrations. For instance in 1997 the Carlyle Group owned 28% of the shares in BDM International, a firm which Vinnell Corp was a subsidiary of. Frank Carlucci, who was Defense Secretary under Reagan in the 1980s, was simultaneously chairman of both the Carlyle Group and BDM. Vinnell Corp and other US firms like Military Personnel and Resources Incorporated (MPRI) have trained Saudi forces on contracts from the Pentagon for decades. Vinnell are still there along with DynCorp and others (21) - (24). Investors in the Carlyle Group before 9-11 included the Bushes and the Bin Laden family (see chapter on Profits of War).

No doubt the Saudi monarchy will keep on creating more “stability” by denying their people any peaceful way to get democracy, promoting religious jihad as an alternative to democracy and handing themselves huge bribes on every arms for oil deal at their peoples’ expense (like BAE’s (British Aero-Space's) bribes to Prince Bandar) (25) - (27) . Saudi national Osama Bin Laden is an example of the kind of “stability” we can look forward to if the Saudi monarchy continues to rule this way.

President Mubarak of Egypt and Son – A family dictatorship

When rigging elections and jailing, torturing and beating the opposition is “bold and wise” and American Presidents don’t mean what they say about aid being conditional on democracy and human rights

President Mubarak of Egypt was in power for 24 years, backed by every US Presidency throughout that period with military aid and arms sales, before he held a Presidential election in which any other candidate was actually allowed to stand for the Presidency, in 2005. In all his previous Presidential elections candidates only candidates from his National Democratic Party were not allowed to stand – and since he controls the NDP he was always the only candidate. In May 2005 though a constitutional “reform” was made – now people who weren’t members of his party could stand against him, as long as they were approved by – you guessed it – Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. Technically parliament approved the candidates, but since Egypt’s parliamentary elections are also heavily rigged by a mixture of bribery, threats, jail without fair trial and violence against opposition campaigners and journalists the National Democratic Party always have a large majority in the Egyptian Peoples’ Assembly. This meant that in practice Mubarak could veto anyone who had a chance of beating him in an election from standing. Even the referendum on a proposed constitutional “reform” of the constitution to allow token opposition candidates ( i.e those Mubarak hadn’t banned from standing through the NDP) was rigged, resulting in an 83% ‘yes’ vote, with a credibility similar to Saddam’s re-elections as Iraqi President with 99% of the vote. During the referendum campaign riot police also encouraged plain clothes Egyptian security agents and NDP supporters as they beat and sexually assaulted women protesting for a boycott of the vote. When the 2005 Presidential elections came no candidate with any chance of beating Mubarak was allowed to stand. Just to make sure he won the usual vote rigging and violent attacks on opposition supporters took place, including both police attacks on opposition campaigners and thugs hired by Mubarak beating women supporters of the ‘Kifiya’ (Enough) party while police looked on. To make absolutely certain Mubarak also had one of his most popular rivals, Ayman Nour, jailed on trumped up fraud charges. (28) - (34).

President Bush claimed in March 2005 that Egypt had taken a “small but significant step towards democracy” (35). US first lady Laura Bush visited Egypt in May 2005 at the time of the constitutional referendum, saying of Mubarak “I think he's been very bold and wise to take the first step," She also said that sometimes reforms "have to be slow...You know that each step is a small step, that you can't be quick. It's not always wise to be.”. The leaders of the opposition parties in Egypt disagreed. Mustafa Mazen of the liberal Ghad party said “She is not aware of the government's low manoeuvres”, while Mohammed Habib, Deputy Leader of the banned Muslim Brotherhood said “There are no reform steps at all. The regime is still following the dictatorial and repressive method towards the Egyptian people and opposition” (36). I'll never vote for any fundamentalist religious party, but in this case Mohammed Habib was right and the Bushes were wrong (as usual).

The rigged elections are only a part of Mubarak’s repression. Human Rights Watch’s World Report in 2009 reported that over 5,000 people remained jailed after unfair trials – including journalists and human rights activists who had dared to criticise the government. Trade unions and political and human rights NGOs remained banned and the police still systematically torture the people they jail (37).

Yet US military and civilian aid to Egypt kept on being approved by both the Bush and Obama administrations along with political support for the Mubarak dynasty.

Bush publicly criticised Mubarak in 2008 for having the main opposition candidate jailed on trumped up fraud charges in the 2005 Egyptian Presidential election. Congress also made the pitiful gesture of making $100 million out of $400 million per year economic aid and $1.3 billion military aid to Egypt conditional on democratisation and human rights progress. The Bush administration then went on to make even that small fraction of US aid unconditional (38) - (40).

In May 2009 the Washington Post reported that “Obama's budget for fiscal 2010 includes $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt and $250 million in economic assistance, a 25 percent increase from the Bush administration's proposed economic aid package. Human rights advocates have complained, however, that the Obama administration has agreed to the Egyptian government's demand that the economic aid cannot go to civil society groups unless they are sanctioned by the government.” (41) - (42) .

Predictably the brutal repression of non-violent political opposition to the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt has resulted in the growth of violent jihadist terrorist groups, including Al Qa’ida. Al Zawahiri, the deputy leader of Al Qa’ida has said his main motive in organising attacks for Egyptian Islamic Jihad and then Al Qa’ida was to get revenge for the Egyptian government for torturing him (43). So far Obama has done nothing to try to change that any more than Bush did.

The US and Qadaffi in Libya - from ‘mad dog’ to helpful murderer

In 1999 Qadhafi decided to hand over alleged members of Libyan intelligence claimed by the CIA to have carried out the bombing of Pam Am Flight 103 on the 23rd of December1988. The bomb detonated over Lockerbie in Scotland killing all 270 people on board. They were tried by a Scottish court in the Netherlands.

Decades after having one of them, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, jailed for the Lockerbie bombing, the British and American governments did a rapid u-turn. Despite numerous inconsistencies in the evidence provided at Megrahi’s original trial by CIA agents and their paid informers Megrahi had been convicted. Appeal hearings for Megrahi were criticised by Dr. Hans Kochler, the UN observer at them as “a spectacular miscarriage of justice”, “totalitarian” and more like an intelligence operation than a fair trial.

Many of the relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, such as Dr. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the bombing, were convinced Megrahi and Libya were not behind the bombing. Swire and many others believe a Palestinian group – the PFLP – were paid by the Iranian government, via the Syrian government, to bomb the flight in revenge for the USS navy ship Vinciennes shooting down an Iranian civilian passenger plane, Iran Air Bus 655, killing all 290 on board, over the Strait of Hormuz in July 1988, mistaking it for a military aircraft. In the run up to the 1990 Gulf war (see chapter on ‘The Brutal Dictator’s Best Friends’) the Bush administration were looking to use Syrian and Iranian airspace and have their backing during a patriotic, hopefully election-winning, war on Iraq.

So after having provided exactly the explanation that Swire and others would provide later (based on good evidence) the US and British governments then changed the story and claimed Qadaffi’s government in Libya was to blame. (Gadaffi would have certainly had a motive for revenge after Reagan ordered the bombing of Tripoli in 1986 in an attempted assassination of Gadaffi based on the assumption that he was behind a bombing in West Germany that killed US soldiers. The US air-strikes killed 93 people including many children, one of them being Gadaffi's infant adopted daughter. - see note (66)). Swire and many others were ignored by the British and American governments for almost 20 years. (44) - (46) (sources also include those for previous two paragraphs)

Yet as soon as oil deals were involved the British government became keen to send Megrahi home – but without any new trial that might clear his name and reveal CIA and British government deceptions and their framing of an innocent man, not to mention the possibility of finding out who really put that bomb on the plane and how it got through airport security. This was a particularly stark example of political manipulation of the courts in a democracy by governments and intelligence agencies (47) - (54) .

Each stage of the US and British government u-turn on Libya, Qadhafi and Megrahi came as Libya offered preferential treatment to British and American oil companies on existing and new oil field finds if the US and Britain would lift sanctions on Libya.

In 2002 John Bolton, then US Under Secretary of State, made a speech accusing Libya of developing weapons of mass destruction. Qadhafi, being as quick on the uptake as he is dictatorial, quickly realised the sub-text – give us your oil and we’ll prop up your dictatorship, don’t and we’ll bomb or invade and take it. In 2003 the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported that “Libya will welcome back US oil companies should Washington lift sanctions against it, Mohamed Abderrhmane Chalgam, the Libyan Foreign Minister, said today. Libya hopes its pledge on Friday to abandon weapons of mass destruction may lead to the return of the US oil majors that were once responsible for producing around one million barrels per day of its crude. “The US has oil advantages in Libya,” Chalgam said. “We will try to convince US oil companies to return.” (55) - (56) .

That was what the British and American oil companies and their governments wanted to hear. By March 2004 they were back in Libya (57) - (58).

In 2008 the Financial Times newspaper reported that Megrahi was to be freed by the British government just after the Libyan dictatorship of Qadaffi had ratified a £450 million contract allowing BP to explore for oil in Libya and its waters (59).

On the one hand an innocent man had finally been given a chance of freedom by the same governments and intelligence services who had had him jailed on false charges. On the other the US and British governments had shown how little they actually care about Qadaffi’s real victims – - who include many Libyans.

In November 2008 Bush said “Libya has taken important steps on the road to normalizing its relations with the international community beginning with its renunciation in 2003 of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction...The United States will continue to work on the bilateral relationship with Libya, with the aim of establishing a dialogue that encompasses all subjects, including human rights reform and the fight against terrorism.” (60) =.

Human Rights Watch meanwhile reported that “Libya's international reintegration accelerated in 2008 despite the government's ongoing human rights violations...The Libyan government continues to imprison individuals for criticizing the country's political system or its leader, Mu`ammar al-Qadhafi, and maintains harsh restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly....Libya continues to detain scores of individuals for engaging in peaceful political activity. Hundreds more have been "disappeared," some for decades. Many were imprisoned for violating Law 71, which bans any group activity opposed to the principles of the 1969 revolution that brought al-Qadhafi to power. Violators of Law 71 can be executed.” (61).

This would suggest that human rights and democracy were not uppermost in the minds of US government decision makers in their rapprochement with Qaddafi.

The “terrorist suspect” who was previously the Bush administration’s “source” on Iraq’s supposed WMDs, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, code-named “curveball” was found dead in his cell in Libya in May 2009 shortly after being visited by Human Rights Watch. He had been transferred there by US agents in 2006. Before his death Human Rights Watch found out from him that to get him to provide the required story on Iraq his torturers in Egypt shut him in a box less than 18 inches high for 17 hours, before dragging him out and beating him savagely for 15 minutes. He had been taken by the CIA “extra-ordinary rendition” (i.e kidnapping for torture” to Egypt to get him to “confess” that Iraq had WMDs so Colin Powell could tell the UN he had a source confirming Saddam’s possession of the weapons (62) - (63).

Once again US and British government support for a dictatorship had paid off for members of government, if not for dead Iraqis, Libyans, coalition troops or the victims of the July 7th or Madrid bombings or their surviving friends and families.

The happy tale of governments re-united may not have a happy ending for Qadhaffi’s dictatorship or for Libyans though. Qadaffi has been trying to haggle for better deals with US oil firms operating in Libya that give his government a bigger share of the profits and has even dropped hints containing the dreaded ‘n’ word (nationalisation) (64) - (65)

This may yet mean the US government going back to labelling him a ‘mad dog’ as they did in the 1980s, while trying to assassinate him by airstrike again, or even Qadaffi going the way of Saddam at huge cost in Libyan lives, not to ensure democracy, but cheap supplies of oil for US firms.(66) .

What ‘developed world’ democratic governments do to some real democracies – from Nicaragua to Gaza and the West Bank

It’s also instructive to see how the US , the EU, Israel and other democratically elected governments respond to actual democracies developing in the Middle East. In the case of the Palestinian Authority the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections resulted in a victory for Hamas – the wrong result as far as Israel and its allies were concerned. While Palestinians had had to accept the election of multiple war criminals such as Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert as Prime Ministers of Israel, it was the view of some ‘democratic’ governments’ that it was unacceptable for Palestinians to elect the party and Prime Minister the majority of them supported. A long campaign of sanctions to starve Palestinians into submission, arming Fatah to fight Hamas to provoke civil war (in co-operation with Mubarak and Egypt) and all out military assaults on Palestinians ensued, eventually resulting in Hamas also ending its ceasefire with Israel. The people responsible once again included former members of the Reagan and Bush senior administrations who had not only armed and funded Saddam but also helped overthrow the Sandinista government, which in 1984 held elections judged free and fair by international observers in 1984 and won them, but had committed the crime of overthrowing the US backed dictatorship of Somoza in Nicaragua and actually attempting to run its economy for the benefit of its own people. Hamas and Palestinians would be made to suffer the way Nicaraguans had. This campaign continues without any end to sanctions by the US or reduction in US military aid to Israel at the time of writing (67) - (69).

The false claim that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East” was repeated many times even as Israeli forces attacked the other two democracies in the Middle East, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, killing their civilians with arms supplied and funded by the US.

(For more details and sources see ‘ The Coup against Hamas’ and these posts on my blog and this this one)

Conclusion – It’s still not about Promoting Democracy

In reality backing Saddam was not a ‘mistake’ or ‘error’. It was part of a policy of helping dictators into power and propping them up that began long before September 11th and has continued since 9/11. Promoting democracies abroad has never been an aim of any of the major world powers’ governments. The foreign policy aims of democratically elected governments are generally the same as those of undemocratic countries like China and Russia - to install governments who are their clients and will run their countries for the benefit of foreign companies rather than the benefit of their own people. In return the client governments get a cut of the proceeds of exploiting their own people.

The supposed “small steps toward democracy” in Saudi and Egypt which President Bush praised in a speech in . Neither country is even as democratic as Iran, whose government which is far closer to being a dictatorship than being fully democratic. Free and fair elections in the Palestinian Authority did not stop the ‘established democracies’ trying to overthrow it any more than it did when the Sandinista’s won Nicaragua's elections in 1984.

In the war against Al Qa’ida propping up dictatorships and punishing democratically elected governments has resulted in an increase in terrorism, as those tortured and oppressed and killed by dictatorships turn on both those dictatorships and the countries backing them ( more on this in the chapter on ‘Understanding the causes of terrorism’.)

There was nothing much new in the Bush administration's foreign policy. Every modern US Presidency and most other ‘developed world’ governments have done much the same. It was just that under 'Dubya' the contradiction between rhetoric and reality was even more glaring than usual. Under Obama far more has stayed the same in the reality of US foreign policy than has changed, at least in respect to supporting dictatorships.

During a televised debate with John McCain on 7th October 2008 Obama said “And the reason Pakistan -- the popular opinion of America had diminished in Pakistan was because we were supporting a dictator, Musharraf, had given him $10 billion over seven years, and he had suspended civil liberties. We were not promoting democracy. This is the kind of policies that ultimately end up undermining our ability to fight the war on terrorism, and it will change when I'm president.” (70).

So far there’s no sign of that change under the Obama administration in its support for Mubarak in Egypt, the Saudi monarchy or Qadhafi in Libya.

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2009

Email me at calgacus86@hotmail.com

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(0) = Freedman, Lawrence (2008) 'A Choice of Enemies', Weidenfield & Nicolson, London, 2008, Chapter 4, page 66

(1) = =International Commission of Jurists Sep 08 ‘United Nations Human Rights Council, 4th Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review , (2 - 13 February 2009) ICJ Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Saudi Arabia’, http://www.upr-info.org/IMG/pdf/ICJ_SAU_UPR_S4_2009_TheInternationalCommissionofJurists.pdf

(2) = Saudi Arabia: Amnesty International Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review: Fourth session of the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council, February 2009, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE23/029/2008/en/8ec50fb6-9077-11dd-b16f-6118895def38/mde230292008en.html

(3) = Telegraph 10 Feb 2007 ‘Saudi king loses power to choose successor’, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1542268/Saudi-king-loses-power-to-choose-successor.html

(4) = City Mayors Feb 2005 ‘First local election underway in Saudi Arabia but women voters will have to wait until 2009’, http://www.citymayors.com/report/saudi_elections.html

(5) = Gulf News (UAE) 31 Mar 2008 ‘Frustrated council members prepared to quit’, http://archive.gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi_arabia/10201694.html

(6) = = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006

(7) = = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005

(8) = = Hiro, Dilip (2005), ‘The Iranian Labyrinth’, Nation Books, New York, 2005

(9) = Reuters 10 Jan 2008 ‘Saudi detains activist ahead of Bush visit’, http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L10222703.htm

(10) = Human Rights Watch world report 2009, Saudi Arabia, http://www.hrw.org/en/node/79258

(11) = Guardian 01 Aug 2007 ‘Tehran the target of huge arms deal, says Rice’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/aug/01/usa.iran

(12) = Jerusalem Post 14 Jan 2008 ‘Bush delivers major arms sale on visit to Saudi Arabia’, http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1200308085636&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

(13) = Guardian 07 Jun 2007 ‘The al-Yamamah deal’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jun/07/bae15

(14) = Guardian 16 Sep 2007 ‘BAE lands Saudi plane deal’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/sep/16/money1

(15) = Air Force Link (US Air force) 06 May 2009 ‘Gates lauds U.S. efforts to boost Saudi military capacity’, http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123147927

(16) = Guardian 01 Feb 2002 ‘FO faces anger at Britons' ordeal in Saudi jail’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/feb/01/politics.saudiarabia

(17) = Observer 28 Apr 2002 ‘Outrage as Saudis jail bomb Britons’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/apr/28/terrorism.saudiarabia

(18) = Guardian 03 Feb 2003 ‘Briton's hell at hands of Saudi jailers’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2003/nov/03/saudiarabia.world

(19) = Hansard 21 Jan 2004 ‘Human Rights (Saudi Arabia)’, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/vo040121/halltext/40121h03.htm#40121h03_spnew0

(20) = Guardian 16 Sep 2002 ‘Saudi jail families break the silence’, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/vo040121/halltext/40121h03.htm http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/sep/16/saudiarabia.world

(21) = AP 22 Mar 1997 ‘Saudi Arabia: Royal Family Gets Quiet Help From U.S. Firm With Connections’, http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=11176

(22) = Los Angeles Times 14 Apr 2002 ‘US Companies Hired to Train Foreign Armies’, http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/peacekpg/training/pmc.htm

(23) = Boston Globe 15 May 2003 ‘US company has long history with Saudis’, http://www.globalsecurity.org/org/news/2003/030515-saudi-ties01.htm

(24) = On links between the Bushes, Bin Ladens and the Carlyle group see ‘Prophets of War’ and the sources for it.

(25) = Guardian 14 Jun 2007 ‘BAE faces criminal inquiry in US over £1bn payments’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jun/14/bae

(26) = Guardian 13 Jun 2007 ‘Minister stonewalls on Bandar's £1bn’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jun/13/bae

(27) = Financial Times 07 June 2007 , 'BAE Systems faces allegations of secretly paying Saudi prince' , "http://www.ft.com/cms/s/e37553d2-147f-11dc-88cb-000b5df10621.html

(28) = Federation of American Scientists ‘The Arms Sales Monitoring Project’ , Country Profile – Egypt , http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/asmp/index.html

(29) = Guardian 22 Sep 2004 ‘Cairo reformers say free election is not on agenda’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/22/brianwhitaker

(30) = Guardian 27 May 2005 ‘Egypt claims 83% yes vote for change’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/may/27/brianwhitaker

(31) = Guardian 26 May 2005 ‘Dissent quashed as Egypt votes on reform’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/may/26/brianwhitaker

(32) = Human Rights Watch Sep 2005 ‘From Plebiscite to Contest? Egypt’s Presidential Election’, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/backgrounder/mena/egypt0905/egypt0905.pdf

(33) = Amnesty International World Report 2008 ‘Arab Republic of Egypt’, http://report2008.amnesty.org/eng/regions/middle-east-and-north-africa/egypt

(34) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2009, Egypt, http://www.hrw.org/en/node/79233

(35) = = CNN 08 Mar 2005 ‘Bush reinforces push for democracy’, http://edition.cnn.com/2005/ALLPOLITICS/03/08/bush.mideast/index.html

(36) = BBC News 24 May 2005 ‘Mrs Bush on Arab children's show’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4574163.stm

(37) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2009, Egypt, http://www.hrw.org/en/node/79233

(38) = Reuters 04 Mar 2008 ‘U.S. waived congressional restriction on Egypt aid’, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSL0482173620080304

(39) = New York Times 19 May 2008 ‘Bush’s Speech Prods Middle East Leaders’, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/19/world/middleeast/19prexy.html

(40) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2009, Egypt, http://www.hrw.org/en/node/79233

(41) = Washington Post 09 May 2009 ‘Obama Picks Egypt as Speech Venue’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/08/AR2009050803843.html

(42) = Christian Science Monitor ‘$50 billion later, taking stock of US aid to Egypt’, http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0412/p07s01-wome.html

(43) = Gerges, Fawaz A. (2005) ‘The Far Enemy: Why Jihad went Global’, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York 2005

(44) = Lockerbie - The official website of Dr Jim Swire and Lockerbie researcher Peter Biddulph, http://www.lockerbietruth.com/

(45) =Paul Foot (1989-2001) ‘The Great Lockerbie Whitewash’ in Pilger, John (ed.) (2005) ‘Tell Me No Lies’, Vintage/Random House, London, 2005, pages 214-254

(46) =John Ashton & Ian Ferguson (2001) ‘Cover-Up of Convenience: The Hidden Scandal of Lockerbie’, Mainstream Publishing, 2001

(47) = Independent 11 Jul 1992 ‘Lockerbie relatives welcome US court decision’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/lockerbie-relatives-welcome-us-court-decision-1532622.html

(48) = BBC News 14 Mar 2002 ‘UN monitor decries Lockerbie judgement’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/1872996.stm

(49) = Report on the appeal proceedings at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands (Lockerbie Court) in the case of Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi v. H. M. Advocate by Professor Hans Köchler, international observer of the International Progress Organization nominated by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the basis of Security Council resolution 1192 (1998), http://i-p-o.org/koechler-lockerbie-appeal_report.htm

(50) = Lockerbie Observer Mission of Dr. Hans Koechler 26 Mar 2002, http://i-p-o.org/koechler-lockerbie-appeal_report.htm

(51) = The Firm (Scottish lawyers’ magazine) 10 Jun 2008 ‘UN Observer to the Lockerbie Trial says ‘totalitarian’ appeal process bears the hallmarks of an “intelligence operation”’, http://www.firmmagazine.com/news/901/UN_Observer_to_the_Lockerbie_Trial_says_%E2%80%98totalitarian%E2%80%99_appeal_process_bears_the_hallmarks_of_an_%E2%80%9Cintelligence_operation%E2%80%9D_.html

(52) = Guardian 18 Jun 2007 ‘New doubt over conviction for Lockerbie bombing’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/jun/18/libya.lockerbie

(53) = Herald 15 Jan 2009 ‘Secret talks on deal to return Megrahi to Libya’, http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/news/display.var.2481827.0.Secret_talks_on_deal_to_return_Megrahi_to_Libya.php

(54) = < >insert source on US Vinciennes shooting down Iranian airbus>< >>

(55) = Financial Times 16 Sep 2002 ‘Libya denies US allegations over weapons’

(56) = SABC News 22 Dec 2003 ‘Libya wants US oil companies back’

(57) = National Public Radio (US) 08 Mar 2004 ‘U.S. Lifts Terror Sanctions on Libya’, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=3927645

(58) = Fortune Magazine 28 Jun 2004 ‘Libya's Black Gold Rush With sanctions lifted, Big Oil is lining up to do business with Qaddafi’, http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2004/06/28/374397/index.htm

(59) = BBC News 02 Feb 2008 ‘Assurance call on bomber transfer’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7224194.stm

(60) = America.gov 30th Nov 2008 ‘Bush Calls Qadhafi to Praise Settlement Agreement’, http://www.america.gov/st/peacesec-english/2008/November/20081119091216dmslahrellek0.2517664.html

(61) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2009 , Libya, http://www.hrw.org/en/node/79302

(62) = HRW 11 May 2009 ‘Libya/US: Investigate Death of Former CIA Prisoner’, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/05/11/libyaus-investigate-death-former-cia-prisoner

(63) =Washington Post 12 May 2009 ‘Detainee Who Gave False Iraq Data Dies In Prison in Libya’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/11/AR2009051103412.html

(64) = AP 03 Mar 2009 ‘Libya Wants Greater Share of Its Oil Revenue’, http://www.cnbc.com/id/29494495

(65) = Forbes Magazine 22 Jan 2009 ‘Is Libya Going To Boot U.S. Oil Companies?’, http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/22/libya-gaddafi-oil-biz-energy-cx_ch_0122libya.html

(66) = Bovard, James (2003) ‘Terrorism and Tyranny’, Palgrave-MacMillan, NY,2003, Chapter 2, pages 24-26

(67) = Latin American Studies Association (1984) ‘The Electoral Process in Nicaragua: Domestic and International Influences’ , LASA, Pittsburgh, Pensylvania, 1984 (excerpts from this and other election obsever delegations’ reports are quoted on http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/3396/"> this link and by Chomsky and Herman in ‘Manufacturing Consent’ – see footnote (70) below

(68) =Revista Envio No.46 April 1985 ‘Nicaragua: The Elections Reagan Would Like to Forget: An Analysis of the November 4 Election Results’, http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/3396 ; quotes EU, Irish, LASA and other delegations of election observers on the 1984 elections

(69) = November 19, 1984, page 31Chomsky, Noam & Herman, Edward. S (1994) ‘Manufacturing Consent’, Vintage/Random House, London, 1994 , Chapter 3, especially pages 116-131

(70) = CNN 07 Oct 2008 ‘Transcript of second McCain, Obama debate’, http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/07/presidential.debate.transcript/

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2009

Chapter 5 Neither 9-11, Halabja nor Heroin : Why it’s not about ending terrorism, massacres, or the drugs trade


Sorry, this chapter is still being written.

Chapter 6: Gone Forever, back again : Why it’s not about preventing the killing, torture, kidnapping or rape of civilians.

Just as in World War Two both sides are committing atrocities against civilians, though so far none as terrible as Hiroshima, Nagasaki or the Holocaust.


Sorry, this chapter is still being written.

Chapter 7 - The Profit Motive

The profit motive - for the Bushes, Bin Ladens and oil, arms, mercenary and security firms - many linked to members ofgovernments and their associates


Sorry, this chapter has not been written yet.

Chapter 8: The Risks of Action

The Risks of Action : Missing the point on WMDs and nuclear weapons programmes :

Its not whether they exist but whether "rogue states" or terrorists would really use them first if they had them ; and whether more wars or 'tactical nuclear' air strikes on Iran or Pakistan could create a self-fulfilling prophecy from a threat that currently doesn't exist

"These regimes [rogue states] are living on borrowed time, so there need be no sense of panic about them. Rather, the first line of defense should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence -- if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration"Condoleeza Rice, writing in Foreign Affairs magazine , September 2000 (1)

"The real problem is that, underneath, people dispute that Iraq is a threat; dispute the link between terrorism and WMD; dispute the whole basis of our assertion that the two together constitute a fundamental assault on our way of life."Tony Blair, parliamentary debate on Iraq, March 2003 (2)

Most of the debate on whether to go to war on Iraq and now on Iran has focused on whether these countries had or are developing nuclear weapons when the real issue is whether they actually pose any potential threat to us if they do ( or why these governments want them). The reality is that Iran, without any nuclear deterrent, is being threatened with war and even attack with nuclear weapons by the US and Israel but has made no such threats towards Israel itself when wilful mis-translations of the words of Ahmadinejad and of his political powers in Iran are seen for what they are. The truth is most hostile governments want nuclear weapons for the same reasons most countries want them - as deterrents against attack. If we ignore this reality though we could just maybe create a threat that currently doesn't exist.

George W. Bush and his allies in the British government have compared the supposed "threats" posed by Saddam's WMDs in the past and by Al Qa'ida and the Iranian government's nuclear programme in the present to those posed by fascism or Nazism in the 1920s, 1930s and World War Two. Bush has also claimed there is the threat of a Second Holocaust, this time nuclear and against Israel. (3), (4)

The debate over whether to go to war on Iraq and how to deal with Iran still focuses on whether these countries had "weapons of mass destruction" or are trying to develop them , on the assumption that if they did have them or acquire them these governments are so uniquely insane or unpredictable they'd be likely to attack us or our allies with them, or hand them over to Al Qa'ida or Hezbollah who would then attack us or Israel with them.

Although most of the evidence suggests Saddam had no WMDs or long ranged missiles by 2002 and Iran's nuclear programme is indeed for civilian power this debate continues to mostly miss the point - which is that there has never been a government suicidal enough to risk nuclear war (5), (6), (7), (8), (9). The past behaviour of Saddam showed he was no exception and the same holds for the Iranian government, semi-theocratic or not. In short deterrence works and governments which want nuclear weapons all want them as deterrents, not as tools for a suicidal armageddon.

Why the WMD and nuclear "threats" aren't real

There was never any threat from Saddam's WMDs for the simple reason that he was deterred from using them by the nuclear weapons possessed by Israel, the US, the UK and France; and for the same reasons from using WMDs on any allies of these countries. For instance in the 1991 Gulf War when he had chemical warheads for his scud missiles he used only conventional warheads in scud attacks on Israel to avoid nuclear retaliation (10). So whether Saddam still had or was developing WMDs then was irrelevant - a non-issue. For the same reason whether Iran's nuclear programme is developing only civilian nuclear power or nuclear weapons is irrelevant. The idea that Iran's government, as a religious government, might be willing to commit national suicide is as ludicrous and as disproven by thier own past actions as the idea that Saddam might nuke us our hand WMDs to Al Qa'ida. At the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 the currently most powerful members of government in Iran (and the entire leadership of the Revolutionary Guards) pushed Khomeini to negotiate a humiliating peace rather than go down to glorious martyrdom. So if they do in the future develop nuclear weapons they'll want them as a deterrent against attack by the US and Israel, not to attack Israel in a war of national or global suicide (11), (12).

That's why, during the 2000 US Presidential election campaign, Condoleeza Rice wrote:"if they ["rogue states"]do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration" (13)

Of course supposedly September 11th "changed everything" but in fact the risks of nuclear or any other kind of WMD attack by "rogue states" against nuclear armes states or their allies- or of "rogue states" providing WMDs to terrorist groups they have no control over, were precisely zero on September 10th 2001, on September 11th 2001 and remain zero today.

Who's threatening who with nuclear attack?

The greatest risk of any state using nuclear weapons on another is that the US or Israel might carry out their repeated threats to attack Iran, possibly with "tactical" or "mini" nukes dropped by aircraft (14), (15). (Funding for the development of these weapons was approved by the US congress in 2003 (16).) This would be possible, just like Saddam's gassing of Iraqi Kurds and Iranians when the US was arming him as their ally in the 1980s, because the potential victims have no nuclear deterrent of their own. Prospective Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has suggested US forces could use nuclear weapons in Pakistan against Al Qa'ida ; while in a debate among potential Republican candidates all but one favoured a "pre-emptive" nuclear strike on Iran to prevent it acquiring nuclear weapons (17),(18). So it seems any risk of any other country acquiring nuclear weapons must be eliminated before they can use them against our innocent civilians - by ...using ours on them, even though none of their politicians has ever suggested using nuclear weapons on us or our allies.

The Ahamadinejad "wipe Israel off the map" quote was a wilful mistranslation in which he actually said he hoped "the regime that rules over Jerusalem will be eliminated from the pages of history" and clarified that he meant "Israel will be wiped out soon the way the Soviet Union was" (i.e by its own population overthrowing its government). This can hardly be interpreted as a threat of nuclear war, especially since a similar possibility was raised more recently by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he said that if a two state peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians could not be negotiated an Apartheid style struggle ending in a binational state with Jews a minority would probably result (19), (20), (21. That's apart from the fact that Iranian Presidents, unlike American Presidents, are not the Commander in Chief of their country's military in theory or in practice and would never have a finger on the nuclear trigger even if Iran did develop nuclear weapons and even if he did want to use them on Israel (22), (23).

The development of "mini-nukes" by the US and the UK's upgrading to a new Trident system are in fact also breaches of Article Six of the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty which these governments accuse Iran of breaking, because that treaty bans the development of new nuclear weapons by states which already have nuclear arsenals since under its terms they are meant to be securing "a cessation of the nuclear arms race", not building new nuclear weapons. Iran's nuclear programme however, as long as it remains civilian, is explicitly permitted by Article Four of the Treaty). (24), (25)

Might "rogue states" hand WMDs to terrorists who'd then use them?

As for the idea that Saddam might have supplied WMDs to Al Qa'ida this was always ridiculous as Saddam had killed any Islamic jihadist he caught and they were equally keen to overthrow and kill him. Then there's the theory that Iran might supply nuclear warheads to Hezbollah or Al Qa'ida or Hamas to attack Israel. This would merely be risking suicide by proxy for Iran's government, which as a result would never do so - apart from the fact that Al Qa'ida include Sunni extremists who consider any Shia who oppress any Sunnis (such as the Iranian government) to be apostates who should be killed, so Iran's government are enemies of Al Qa'ida and other Sunni extremists like the Taliban (26). Hezbollah itself, which unlike Al Qa'ida is not just a terrorist group but also a political party and in practice the government of much of Lebanon is not likely to decide to risk bringing nuclear annhilation down on its own leadership and people either (it previously had ministers in the national government and runs the only working public services in much of the country) (27). The same goes for Hamas (28).

The real link between WMDs and terrorism : the invade anywhere pretexts

So there is a link between WMDs and terrorism, but its not the mythical link of "rogue states" who might supposedly supply terrorists with WMDs; the link is that both are useful pretexts for war anytime, anywhere. Any country in the world could potentially develop nuclear weapons ; the technology exists and inevitably is spreading. Similarly any country in the world could concievably have Al Qa'ida operatives in it - even the US did before 9-11. So these are both cards the Bush administration plays to justify un-necessary wars for profit and power.

'Acting' could create a self-fulfilling prophecy that 'inaction' would avoid

"The world understands that whilst, of course, there are dangers in acting the dangers of inaction are far, far greater."Tony Blair, statement on military action in Afghanistan, 7th October 2001 (29)

"Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network, or a murderous dictator, or the two working together, constitutes as grave a threat as can be imagined. The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action.US Vice President Dick Cheney 26th August 2002" (30)

"The threat is chaos. And there are two begetters of chaos. Tyrannical regimes with WMD and extreme terrorist groups who profess a perverted and false view of Islam.Tony Blair parliamentary debate on Iraq 18th March 2003 (31)

There is though one way that Iran's government could become so extreme that those willing to use nuclear weapons come to power ; or that terrorists could get hold of nuclear weapons or other WMDs and consider using them. That way though is if our governments create a self-fulfilling prophecy, whether deliberately or by accident, by going to war on or using nuclear weapons against countries like Iran or Pakistan. By believing in a threat that doesn't exist and acting accordingly we could make the threat real.

We've been told over and over again on Iran, as on Iraq, that "the risks of inaction are far greater than those of acting".

However the fine theoretical distinction between being nuked with tactical and strategic nuclear weapons may be missed by the survivors if "mini-nukes" were used and would at the least make America's enemies likely to retaliate in kind. As the physicist Freeman J. Dyson of Princeton University, who chaired a study on whether to use 'tactical nukes' during the Vietnam war, put it "It's very simple...If we get into the business of using tactical nukes the other side will use them too."(32).

That warning should apply to the idea of tactical nuclear strikes on Al Qa'ida as much as on suspected Iranian nuclear weapons development facilities. Low grade nuclear materials for a "dirty bomb" are not in short supply on the black market, particularly in the former Soviet Union. If Al Qa'ida had wanted to they could have used them in the 9-11 attacks or the Madrid or London bombings. If the US was to use nuclear weapons on Al Qa'ida they would almost certainly respond in kind - and the political fallout from the number of Muslim civilians killed by any nuclear attack in Pakistan might well lead to civil war or an Islamic revolution there.

War on another Muslim country would risk shifting the politics of all Muslim countries towards violent fundamentalists - and would at the least be likely to make existing governments, militias and terrorist groups respond in kind or, if thats impossible, in other ways.

This may in fact be part of US Vice-President Dick Cheney's plan. According to Seymour Hersh, a reporter with sources in the Pentagon and the Bush administration who has proven reliable over the decades, Vice President Cheney plans to incite Iran into an attack on US troops in Iraq which could then be used as a justification for war with Iran presented as the aggressor. One method is the deployment of special forces in Iran since 2004. Another is the funding and training in co-operation with the Saudis of Sunni extremist terrorist groups like Jundullah who carry out bombings, kidnappings and beheadings inside Iran. "Limited air strikes" in supposed "self-defence" to prevent the "threat" posed by Iran's nuclear programme is probably just another plan to incite an Iranian reaction which could justify all out war, invasion and regime change - which US public opinion will never back without the appearance of Iranian aggression against US troops. Cheney undoubtedly knows any air strikes on Iran would be met with either direct Iranian counter-attacks on US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf or else with large scale Iranian support for militias hostile to the occupying US forces in both countries. Given the heavy casualties taken by Israeli forces against Hezbollah in 2006 there is no guarantee the US could win such a war. Most likely heavy casualties would lead public opinion to oppose it and Iraq and Afghanistan are hardly safe bases or supply routes for war on Iran given domestic military opposition. We know also though that the Bush administration tends to plan on the basis of wildly optimistic assumptions.(33), (34), (35)

The greatest risk of terrorist groups acquiring WMDs comes not from more governments building nuclear weapons but from the kind of chaos and civil war created by the "war on terror" in Iraq spreading to Iran and even to countries which do have nuclear weapons already - like Pakistan - due to the poverty and chaos created by supporting dictatorships like Musharrafs and funding wars like that taking place in Afghanistan and planned on Iran instead of education and healthcare that might let more people afford to learn to read, buy books, get an education and healthcare other than through religious madrassas.

Tony Blair was right that chaos is a threat - but wrong to think that war and sanctions that brutalise and starve entire countries would bring order instead of chaos. No kind of democratic or stable order can be imposed purely by the chaos of war and military occupation.

The degree of extremism in most Muslim countries is routinely exaggerated by western politicians. For instance Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, reported to be an ally of President Ahmadinejad, has issued fatwas which contradict Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini's fatwas against nuclear weapons saying <i> "When the entire world is armed with nuclear weapons, it is permissible to use these weapons as a counter-measure. According to Sharia too, only the goal is important."</i> Yet other than the "ends justify means" part even this sounds more moderate than the many American politicians and Pentagon briefers to be most willing to use tactical nuclear weapons "pre-emptively" against Iran and in Pakistan - because Yazdi seems to be only suggesting that a nuclear attack could be met with a nuclear counter attack, not suggesting first use (36).

More Double Standards

This is another example of a policy really motivated by lust for power and profits operating a double standard in which "we" and our allies need nuclear weapons as a deterrent against WMD attack by others, but our enemies (or targets for conquest) can't be trusted to want them for the same reasons. Our governments supposedly are always admirably sane, rational and moral while their enemies are just so damn crazy they'd committ mass suicide to destroy us as soon as look at us. Question this and you are met with the ridiculous claim that since some Muslim extremists have carried out suicide bombings governments run by "extremist" Muslims are likely to committ national suicide. The most comprehensive study of suicide bombings found that the motive for suicide bombings was not religion but ending military occupations (Bin Laden considering US troops' presence in Saudi an occupation). It also found that half of all suicide bombings between 1980 and 2003 were carried out by Communists or Socialists (many of them atheists) with 75% of those in Lebanon carried out by Communists or Socialists (37). Yet no Communist government with nuclear weapons ever considered starting an all out nuclear war of national or global suicide. Nor will any entire government, Muslim, semi-theocratic or otherwise. "They" are not completely crazy; they want nuclear weapons for the same reason "we" want them - as a deterrent against others using those weapons on them.

The idea that we can trust the word of the British, American or Israeli governments but Iran's government is not to be trusted is equally ludicrous. Tony Blair as Prime Minister claimed to have hard evidence that Saddam possessed an active WMD programme which has still not materialised five years later while Bush and Cheney lied repeatedly about "links" between Saddam and Al Qaeda. It's no secret either that Israel has had a nuclear arsenal of dozens of warheads for decades, but this didn't stop Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claiming that "Israel has said repeatedly that it will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East, and this policy has not changed." (38) Now Iran's government may or may not be telling the truth when President Ahmadinejad says it has no wish to develop nuclear weapons ; and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini's fatwa banning the production, stockpiling or use of nuclear weapons as un-Islamic may be a smoke-screen for all we know, but there is little evidence that our own governments are more honest than their enemies or that Iran's government is more suicidal than they are (39), (40).

( The "moderate" Sunni regimes include the Saudi government, a torturing dictatorship who have victims of rape flogged for suspected adultery , as well as allowing and even sometimes funding the radical Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam. Its fairly clear that , as Noam Chomsky has said, "moderate" merely means our allies or those who do what they're told - and "extremist" means anyone who doesn't obey orders) (41), (42), (43).

copyright©Duncan McFarlane 2007

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Sources and Footnotes

(1) = Rice, Condoleeza (2000) in Foreign Affairs January/February 2000‘ - 'Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest' http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20000101faessay5-p50/condoleezza-rice/campaign-2000-promoting-the-national-interest.html - cited in Chomsky, Noam (2003) 'Hegemony or Survival' , Penguin Books , London & NY 2004, pages 34 & 260 citing Mearsheimer, John & Walt, Stephen (2003) in Foreign Policy Jan/Feb 2003

(2) = Guardian Unlimited 18 March 2003 'Full Text : Tony Blair's Speech‘ , http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,,916790,00.html

(3) = Guardian Unlimited 19 Oct 2007, 11.30 am update, ‘Blair accuses Iran of fuelling 'deadly ideology' of militant Islam’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,,2195043,00.html

(4) = White House Press Release 28 Aug 2007, 'President Bush Addresses the 89th Annual National Convention of the American Legion', http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/08/20070828-2.html (final sentence of 19th paragraph reads "Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust"

(5) = International Institute for Strategic Studies Press Statement 9 Sep 2002, 'IISS Strategic Dossier - Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction', http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-dossiers/iraqs-wmd-dossier (see "related documents" at bottom of page which state that Iraq had no missiles with a range longer than 650 kilometres and would have required "several years and significant foreign assistance" to develop nuclear weapons)

(6) = British Government 24 Sep 2002, 'Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction - The assessment of the British Government', http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page275.asp Chapter 3, paragraphs 23 to 25 state that in 2002 Iraq would have required at least 5 years to develop long ranged ballistic missiles or nuclear warheads for them

(7) =IAEA News Center 19 Feb 2007 ; ‘Transcript of the Director General´s Interview on Iran and DPRK Financial Times with Daniel Dombey’, http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Transcripts/2007/ft190207.html ; (see 3rd paragraph below the 5th sub-heading ‘Iran´s Mastering of Nuclear Technology and the Next Steps’ in which El Baradei says : “Yes, they might acquire a little bit more, perfecting the knowledge, but to aim at denying a country knowledge is almost impossible, to say the least. And there´s a big difference between acquiring the knowledge for enrichment and developing a bomb. It is almost impossible for a country to, particularly because this right is quoted under the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], and the difference between acquiring knowledge and having a bomb is at least five to ten years away. And that´s why I said the intelligence, the British, intelligence, the American intelligence, is saying that Iran is still years, five to ten years away from developing a weapon”)

(8) =IAEA News Center 19 Feb 2007 ; ‘Transcript of the Director General´s Interview on Iran and DPRK Financial Times with Daniel Dombey’, http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Transcripts/2007/ft190207.html

(9) = US National Intelligence Council Nov 2007, ‘Iran : Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities', http://www.dni.gov/press_releases/20071203_release.pdf

(10) = Nye , Joseph S. & Smith , Robert K. (1992), ‘After the Storm' , Madison Books , London , 1992 , - pages 211-216 (Nye is a former CIA officer)

(11) = Hauser Global Law School Program (New York University School of Law) Mar 2006, 'A Guide to the Legal System of the Islamic Republic of Iran' by Omar Sial' , http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/iran.htm

(12) = Time magazine 20 Apr 2006‘Iran President's Bark May Be Worse than His Bite', http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1185293,00.html

(13) = See (1) above

(14) = CNN 10 April 2006 ‘Hersh: U.S. mulls nuclear option for Iran ', http://edition.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/04/10/hersh.access/index.html

(15) = Washington Post 09 April 2006, ‘U.S. Is Studying Military Strike Options on Iran', http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/08/AR2006040801082.html (see 3rd paragraph of 3rd page - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/08/AR2006040801082_3.html)

(16) = Washington Post 25 May 2003 ‘We Keep Building Nukes For All the Wrong Reasons', http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost/access/340009891.html?dids=340009891:340009891&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=May+25%2C+2003&author=Bruce+G.+Blair&pub=The+Washington+Post&edition=&startpage=B.01&desc=We+Keep+Building+Nukes+For+All+the+Wrong+Reasons

(17) = Washington Post 03 Aug 2007 ‘Clinton Demurs On Obama's Nuclear Stance : She Says It Is Unwise to Rule Out Using the Arms Against Terrorists', http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/02/AR2007080202288.html

(18) = CNN 15 June 2007 ‘Republican Presidential Debate Transcript', http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0706/05/se.01.html

(19) = Guardian Unlimited, Comment is Free, 14 June 2006, 'Lost in translation' by Jonathan Steele, http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/jonathan_steele/2006/06/post_155.html

(20) = Jerusalem Post 14 Dec 2006 ‘Ahmadinejad: Israel will be 'wiped out'', http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1164881878838&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

(21) = Guardian 30 Nov 2007, 'Israel risks apartheid-like struggle if two-state solution fails, says Olmert', http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,2219485,00.html

(22) = Hauser Global Law School Program (New York University School of Law) Mar 2006, 'A Guide to the Legal System of the Islamic Republic of Iran' by Omar Sial' , http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/iran.htm

(23) = Time magazine 20 Apr 2006‘Iran President's Bark May Be Worse than His Bite', http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1185293,00.html

(24) = THE TREATY ON THE NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS ( NPT ) - text of the treaty, , http://www.un.org/events/npt2005/npttreaty.html

(25) =Guardian 19 Feb 2003 'US plan for new nuclear arsenal', http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,898550,00.html

(26) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle, Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - Chapter 12, pages 345-353 (Pollack, a former CIA analyst, says the Iranian government co-operated with logistics and intelligence sharing in the US war against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and were hostile to them and Al Qa'ida, only releasing some Afghan enemies of the US after Bush added Iran to the "Axis of Evil")

(27) = Harik, Judith Palmer (2005), ‘Hezbollah : The Changing Face of Terrorism, I.B. Tauris, London & New York, 2005 paperback edition

(28) = Hroub, Khaled (2006), ‘Hamas : A Beginner's Guide, Pluto Press, London, 2006 paperback edition

(29) = Prime Minister's statement on military action in Afghanistan 7th October 2001, http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page1615.asp

(30) = White House Press Release 26 Aug 2002, 'Vice President Speaks at VFW 103rd National Convention', , http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page1615.asp

(31) = Guardian Unlimited 18 March 2003 'Full Text : Tony Blair's Speech‘ , http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,,916790,00.html

(32) = Oakland Tribune 9 Mar 2003 ‘Secret study repudiates mini-nukes Pentagon wants such weapons', http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20030309/ai_n14544116

(33) = New Yorker Magazine 5 Mar 2007 , ‘Annals of National Security : The Redirection’, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/05/070305fa_fact_hersh

(34) = ABC News 03 Apr 2007 , ‘ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran’, http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/04/abc_news_exclus.html

(35) = Telegraph 17 Jan 2006 , ‘'We will cut them until Iran asks for mercy' ’, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/01/15/wiran15.xml

(36) = The Telegraph 19 Feb 2006, 'Iranian fatwa approves use of nuclear weapons', http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/02/19/wiran19.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/02/19/ixnewstop.html

(37) =Business Week 6 Jul 2005 ‘What Makes Suicide Bombers Tick? ', http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/jul2005/nf2005076_7420_db056.htm (discusses Professor Robert Pape's study of suicide bombings published in his book 'Dying to Win'

(38) = Jerusalem Post 14 Dec 2006 ‘Ahmadinejad: Israel will be 'wiped out'', http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1164881878838&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

(39) = Washington Post 24 Sep 2007 ‘Iranian Leader: Tehran Has No Need for Nuclear Bomb', http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/23/AR2007092301283.html

(40) = CNN 10 Aug 2005 ‘Iran breaks seals at nuclear plant', http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/08/10/iran.iaea.1350/index.html ; fourth paragraph reads 'Meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa declaring the "production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons" against the beliefs of Islam.'

(41) = Amnesty International Annual Report 2007 - Saudi Arabia, http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/Regions/Middle-East-and-North-Africa/Saudi-Arabia

(42) = Independent 11 Dec 2007 ‘In the name of God: the Saudi rape victim's tale', http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article3204058.ece

(43) = Stephen Schwartz, director, Islam and Democracy Program , Foundation for Defense of Democracies ; testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security on Thursday, June 26, 2003 on ‘Wahhabism & Islam in the U.S’ , reproduced in ‘The Nation’ magazine 30 Jun 2003 , http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-schwartz063003.asp ; See especially 7th from last and 6th from last paragraphs which read “A radical critic of Wahhabism stated some years ago that $25m had been spent on Islamic Centers in the U.S. by the Saudi authorities. This now seems a low figure. Another anti-extremist Islamic figure has estimated Saudi expenses in the U.S., over 30 years, and including schools and free books as well as mosques, near a billion dollars.…..It should also be noted that Wahhabi mosques in the U.S. work in close coordination with the Muslim World League (MWL) and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), Saudi state entities identified as participants in the funding of al Qaeda.”

copyright©Duncan McFarlane 2007

Get Sadr ? – The War for the Oil Law

Iraqi women mourn a baby killed in a US bombing raid, Sadr City, Baghdad, 21st November 2006


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Al Sadr and his Medhi army militia have been called a greater threat to US aims in Iraq than Al Qa’ida. They’ve been
presented as Iranian puppets and Sadr himself as both a potential dictator and a vicious sectarian who orders the killing of Iraqi sunnis
and women and anyone else accused of ‘UnIslamic behaviour’.

While many Madhi army members are definitely guilty of such actions they are not the only militia involved in them (even some of the 'awakening' militias paid by the US military are ). So these crimes are certainly not the main reasons for the Bush administration’s hostility to Sadr and his followers. The main reasons are a struggle over the distribution of Iraq’s oil revenues and an
attempt to permanently occupy Iraq. It’s a struggle in which Al Sadr represents far more Iraqis than the US government does.

Sadr certainly does not have control of the entire Madhi army militia, which is huge and unpaid. It’s uncertain whether he is genuinely trying to restrain his militia from carrying out revenge attacks and murders of women and purge it of sectarian
killers and criminals (as his public statements suggest) or whether he tacitly approves the crimes committed by many of his followers against women and Sunnis and is behind the assassinations he has been accused of. The evidence suggests he is at least trying to prevent sectarian attacks on Sunnis and purge the militia of criminals.

What is certain is that dictatorship and sanctions followed by the occupation and the unemployment, poverty, deaths and massive corruption that go along with it are strengthening support for extremists in Iraq. Like Hezbollah in Lebanon before them
the Madhi army and the Sadrists are a mass movement with a long established constituency among poor Shia. They are gaining support due
to the occupation – so cannot be defeated by it. Nor would jailing or killing Sadr end the Sadrists or the Madhi army. Saddam executed dozens of Al Sadr's predecessors. This only strengthened the movement. Nor are all their demands wrong – for instance they want welfare, jobs and public services for the unemployed and poor of Iraq.

The main results of Coalition and Iraqi government offensives against the Madhi army, like other offensives in Iraq, have been hundreds of deaths in each assault - with half or more of the dead civilians and more Iraqis becoming extremists as a result. Iraqis are also dying of hunger and diseases spread by lack of clean water supplies, both at rates unprecedented even under Saddam and sanctions. This is due to corruption in both the US and Iraqi governments along with constant military offensives and IMF conditions
on debt relief. Massive foreign aid and war reparations to provide jobs, education, welfare and public services would be far more
effective in reducing the linked problems of unemployment, poverty, crime and sectarian violence. The foreign debts which Saddam's regime
ran up should be forgiven - not used as leverage to force the new government into signing deals with oil companies and the US military.

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Background : Sadr, the Madhi army and US forces in Iraq

The US government and military have frequently said they’ll negotiate with any Iraqi party or militia in Iraq – with the
exception of Al Sadr and the Medhi army, who have been targeted by the occupying forces and the Iraqi governments they have installed from 2004 on (1), (2), (3).

Sadr has similarly refused to negotiate with the US government or military as he sees coalition forces as occupiers. The Pentagon and the
Iraqi government have both described Sadr’s Madhi army as a greater threat than Al Qaeda, and coalition forces in Iraq have repeatedly
threatened and attempted to arrest or assassinate him – including during planned negotiations between Sadr and the Iraqi government. In
April 2004 President Bush told General Ricardo Sanchez “He [Sadr] must be wiped out.”.
He later withdrew the order due to upcoming Presidential elections and opposition to coalition offensives in Fallujah and Najaf by all Iraqi parties. (4), (5).

Photo: Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, former US commander in Iraq

By 2006 though coalition operations against the Madhi army had resumed and Pentagon spokesmen told journalists Sadr was scared he was going to get a JDAM (guided missile) fired into his house and had fled to Iran (6). Coalition offensives against the Madhi army continued throughout 2007.

By late 2007 though General Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, was thanking Sadr for ordering his militia to maintain a ceasefire and claimed to have met some of Sadr’s deputies to discuss how to deal with “their common enemy” – splinter groups of the Madhi army out of sadr’s control (Sadr denied the men Petraeus met were his people )(7), (8).

However during late March and early April 2008 the Iraqi army and coalition forces were launching offensives in Basra, Najaf and sadr City against the Madhi army – and Prime Minister Maliki was calling the militia “worse than Al Qaeda” (9).
Petraeus and the Bush administration claimed this offensive took them by surprise, though other sources disputed this. Sadr has since called a new ceasefire.

So its uncertain whether the Pentagon and the White House have stopped trying to “wipe out” Sadr and are indirectly negotiating with him (or even co-operating with him to eliminate his rivals and out of control groups in the Madhi army) or whether they’ve only changed their public statements. (To read more about whether the US administration and military knew about Maliki's offensive in advanceclick here)

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Iranian backed criminals, sectarians and murderers?

Madhi army militiamen wave a placard showing Muqtada Al Sadr, Sadr City, Baghdad, 2004

The reasons given for targeting the Medhi army and Al Sadr are their links to Iran and involvement in criminal and sectarian kidnappings and murders, including those of Sunnis, women accused by fanatics of ‘un-Islamic behaviour’ and of Sadr’s rivals among Iraqi Shia religious leaders.

A September 2006 report by the US military claimed “The group that is currently having the greatest negative affect on the security situation in Iraq is Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM), which has replaced al-Qaeda in Iraq as the most dangerous accelerant of potentially self-sustaining sectarian violence in Iraq.” (10)

Certainly members of the Madhi army have been involved in these crimes but so have most militias – including the Badr brigade, the militia of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC – previously SCIRI or the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) which is the main party in the US-backed Iraqi government, along with the current Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s Dawa party (11), (12).

If the coalition and Iraqi government offensives against ‘the militias’ fighting in Iraq were really a war against militias to establish the rule of law they would also be targeting militias like the Badr brigade – they didn’t (13), (14), (15) (though one other militia – a small pro-Iranian one and pro-SCIRI/SIIC, was targeted) (16).
The government’s army units, police and especially the elite, coalition trained, ‘police commandoes’ are notoriously infiltrated by the Badr brigade and likely to include some of the death squads which have been dumping the bodies of tortured Sunnis since the invasion. The sincerity of Iraqi government claims to wish to end militia murders of women can be judged by their order to policewomen to hand in their guns last November despite a wave of such murders (17), (18), (19), (20). Even the Pentagon acknowledges that 'Badr’s members attack Sunni targets’ and that the militia ‘receives financial and materiel support from abroad’ (21). It’s no secret that ‘abroad’ means Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah. (There is no mention of US funded and armed militias or Coalition forces and mercenaries. Are Iraq and the US perhaps the same country?)

Badr brigade militiamen - the militia of the SIIC/SCIRI party which has the support of middle class and wealthy Iraqi Shia, they are often at war with Sadr's Madhi army and its members have committed the same crimes as some Medhi army members have - yet Coalition and Iraqi government forces haven't attacked it the way they attack the Medhi army.

Some Madhi army members may have been provided with training by Iran as the US military claims but SIIC and its Badr Brigades have far closer links and support from the Iranian government (22), (23).
The Madhi army has not got much of the kind of equipment Hezbollah was provided with by Iran either – very few long ranged rockets for
instance. Much of the Madhi army’s equipment probably comes from arms provided to the Iraqi army by the coalition – many of which have gone missing (24).
Some have even suggested that Iranian agents’ main aims may be to divide and weaken the Sadrists and the Madhi army (who have a history
of anti-Iranian Iraqi nationalism) by bribing factions to defy the leadership (25).
The last major offensive against the Madhi army ended with a ceasefire brokered in Iran. So the US may actually be increasing Iranian influence in Iraq by targeting the Sadrists. (alternatively Sadr may actually be pleased for coalition and Iraqi government forces to be
targeting criminal elements of his militia and those in the pay of the Iranian government).

Photos : Iranian influence before and after the last offensive ; Above - A past visit to Iran's 'Supreme Leader' by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki - note he wears a tie and a buttoned up suit in the western fashion ; Below - Al-Maliki's last visit to Iran in April - note he wears a white shirt with no tie now and has unbuttoned his jacket, following the post-1979 revolution Iranian dress codes

The Medhi army is unusual in being unpaid and having a very large membership. This makes it especially vulnerable to infiltration by criminals, sectarians and Iranian, Iraqi and American intelligence infiltration by bribery. Criminal groups also use the organization as a political cover for kidnapping, extortion and murder (26), (27).
This overlaps with sectarian violence, much as in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, as sectarian conflict provides a political cover story for murder, kidnapping for money, extortion and theft (28), (29).
This crime, in turn, is caused largely by the destruction of the legal economy and legal sources of income – largely by ‘developed world’ governments’ sanctions, trade demands and conditions on loans, not to mention the increase in poverty, hunger and unemployment since the
occupation began (30), (31).

So it's fairly obvious that neither criminal activity, sectarian violence nor links to Iran are the real reasons for US government and military hostility to Al Sadr and the Medhi army.

Many Sunni militiamen paid by US military murdering and threatening Shia - they include former Al Qa'ida fighters

Whats more many of the Sunni Sheikhs and their fighters paid and armed by the US to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq include those still involved in sectarian killings, death threats against Shia and other criminal acts. The Awakening militiamen even include even Iraqis who used to fight for Al Qaida for pay (most Iraqis who join militias do so because they can't get any money to survive except by crime or joining a militia). These include some designated 'Awakening councils' or 'concerned citizens', though others are a mixture of Sunni
and Shia and may actually be preventing sectarian killings. Leaders of the Sunni groups funded by the US, such as Sheikh Abu Abed in Ameriya have made it clear that "After we finish with al-Qaida here, we will turn toward our main enemy, the Shia militias. I will liberate Jihad [a Sunni area next to Ameriya taken over by the Mahdi army] then Saidiya and the whole of west Baghdad." This may well mean ethnically cleansing the Shia in mixed areas by murders, kidnappings and threats - just as elements of the Madhi army have done to Sunnis. Some officers in these Sunni militias, such as the Ameriya Knights and the Baghdad Brigade, have even threatened to fight the forces of the mostly Shia Iraqi government (31a) , (31b) , (31c) , (31d).

Sunni 'concerned citizens' or 'Awakening council' militia-men. Paid by the US military to fight Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI), some include people who fought for AQI in the past and are as involved in sectarian killings of Shia as the Madhi army and Badr Brigade are in murdering Sunnis. Some 'Concerned Citizens' groups are a mixture of Sunni and Shia though and may be reducing sectarian violence.

This may be part of the current US Presidency's strategy of trying to "curb Iranian influence" by arming and funding Sunni governments (openly) and armed groups (covertly) against Shia ones across the Middle East. In 2007 the Bush administration announced $73 bn of arms sales to Israel, Saudi, the Gulf states and Egypt. The effort to get peace between Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians is also about creating a Sunni-US-Israeli alliance to counter the 'Shia crescent' with all Shia seen almost as Iranian agents. This may well be aiding some Sunni groups who will be enemies of the US again in the near future, much as with CIA funding of jihadists in Afghanistan in the 80s. Some of the groups recieving US aid are very similar to Al Qaida in ideology and methods. However as some of the Awakening or
'Concerned Citizens' groups are a mixture of Sunni and Shia there may be divisions within the US administration, with the State Department or some people in the Pentagon genuinely having ending sectarian violence as their priority , (31e), (31f), (31g), (31h).

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Sadr the Sectarian?

Picture : Muqtada Al Sadr

Al Sadr has also repeatedly ordered his followers not to attack ordinary Sunnis, saying that the real enemies are “the
takfirs” or “terrorists” (i.e Al Qa’ida) and the occupying forces. For instance after the bodies of Shia pilgrims were found in May 2005 Sadr:

‘urged his followers not to retaliate against Sunnis."All Sunnis cannot be held responsible for the terrorist deeds of the nawaseb,"
al-Sadr told reporters, referring to Sunni militants inspired by the
Wahhabi brand of Islam dominant in neighboring Saudi Arabia.'(32)

After the bombing of a Shia shrine in Samarra in April 2006 he again said there should be no revenge attacks on Sunnis saying “We are not enemies but brothers…Anyone who attacks a Muslim is not a Muslim.” (33)

Al Sadr’s record may be less than perfect here. He’s accused by some of using words with vague meanings which could be interpreted (or mis-interpreted) to apply to all Sunnis. He also blamed deaths in a stampede of Shia pilgrims (caused by a rumour about sunni suicide bombers) on Sunni extremists or former Ba’athists – and after the market bombings which killed 215 people (mostly Shia) in one day in November 2006 he failed to call for restraint and instead demanded that Iraq’s Sunni religious leaders should issue a fatwa against the killing of Shia (34), (35).

However to retain any influence over their followers Iraqi politicians like Sadr cannot afford to be seen as “soft on terrorism” any more than any British or American politician can, particularly when terrorist attacks killing dozens or even hundreds of people at a time in Iraq are daily or weekly events, unlike those in the US and Europe.

Photo : A boy wounded by a bomb placed in a market in Sadr city January 2007 - most victims of suicide and car bombings are Shia, most bombers are Sunni extremists or unknown, with 'revenge' attacks on Sunnis by Shia mostly using guns, knives and torture

The testimony of members of Shia death squads in the Medhi army interviewed by British journalist Patrick Cockburn was that they were not operating on Al Sadr’s orders and that Al Sadr’s public calls on his followers not to carry out revenge attacks on ordinary Sunnis for killings of Shia are probably genuine . Members of the International Crisis Group who stayed with Madhi army members in Iraq also reported that different groups of the militia sometimes took opposite positions and actions without any central control seeming to exist. We know many Medhi army members were involved in such killings at times – we don’t know if Sadr was publicly condemning but privately
approving them, but the evidence suggests he has genuinely tried to stop them. By late 2007 Sadr seemed to have established more control over his militia and prevented revenge attacks on Sunnis by his milita, suggesting he genuinely has tried to prevent them.(36) , (37).

What's more every April since the invasion Al Sadr has organised joint Sunni-Shia marches against the occupation - and massive numbers have marched in each.(37b), (37c)

Photo : Shia and Sunni Iraqis march together to Najaf to protest against the occupation, April 2007

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Is Sadr behind the assassination of his rivals?

Photo : Ayatollah Abdul Majid al Khoei, who was murdered by a mob in Najaf during the US invasion in 2003 - his family and the coalition accuse Al Sadr of being responsible

Al Sadr is also accused of having ordered the assassination of potential rivals. The truth here is hard to know in an Iraq filled with many different factions killing and fighting propaganda wars against one another (including employees of the Pentagon who include former agents of Saddam), but it seems doubtful that Al Sadr’s many enemies in the Bush administration and the Iraqi government wouldn’t have acted against him and made their evidence public if they had hard evidence of his guilt.

What is clear is that the exiled Shia cleric Ayatollah al Khoei, who had the support of the British and American governments, was killed by a mob of Iraqis on his return to Najaf in April 2003, during the US invasion. Mobs then surrounded the residence of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani (another rival of Al Sadr’s) and shouted for him to leave the country, before being dispersed by Sistani’s own supporters. Despite allegations against Al Sadr what’s not clear is who killed al Khoei and why or whether Sadr ordered his followers to target Sistani or not. There are several versions of events which put the blame on either Al Sadr or former Ba’athists or supporters of Sadr acting against his wishes. Sadr denies responsibility. Khoei’s son – Haider Al Khoei – reports that Sadr ordered his father’s murder, but that much of the evidence was suppressed by the Iraqi government when Sadr’s followers on his own and the Shia UIA electoral lists agreed to join the government and provide it with a majority. If the story that eye witnesses saw and heard Al Sadr order his followers to kill Al Khoie is true then it’s amazing Al Sadr survived under Saddam for so many years, then made such a careless mistake as to let witnesses to a murder he had ordered live to tell others (38), (39), (40), (41) , (42), (43), (44), (45).

Since the assassins, who apparently admitted being sent by Sadr, were questioned by a former officer in Saddam’s Mukhabarat (secret police) employed by the coalition their ‘admissions’ are probably worthless as evidence since Saddam’s government, the new Iraqi government and coalition forces have all employed systematic torture according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – and
under torture people will admit to anything, true or not (there have been no reports of torture by beatings by coalition forces after 2005 but sleep deprivation, stress positions and waterboarding all definitely continue). Another (unpublished) document claimed to prove
Sadr’s guilt was provided by his political rivals to coalition forces – so it’s provenance is hardly neutral or unbiased either. There are also Ba’athists and Sunnis carrying out assassinations there are few clean hands in Iraq. As has already been noted Sadr does not have a great deal of control (if any) over many of the Madhi army’s members either. (46), (47), (48), (49)).

Sadr’s relatives were also (wrongly) accused of being behind the murder of allies of his rival Sistani (spiritual guide to SCIRI) by Saddam’s agents in the 1990s. The accused Sadrs were subsequently murdered by Saddam’s men too (50).

Sadr himself has faced assassination or capture attempts by coalition forces (as noted in the first section) – and one of his closest aides was assassinated in April 2008 during the government and coalition offensive.(51).

Photo : Mourners at the funeral of Al Sadr's brother in law and aide Riyadh-al-nuri, killed by unknown gunmen

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Misogynists oppressing and murdering women?

Photo : Women protest for their rights to be protected by the new constitution, 20th July 2005. Many women in Iraq
have been murdered for what extremists call'unIslamic' dress or behaviour.

The Madhi army is one of several militias involved in murdering women for ‘unIslamic behaviour’. It’s uncertain whether those responsible are out of Sadr’s control or not. Publicly his spokesmen denounce these murders (52). Women in Saudi Arabia face similar repression though without any US pressure let alone military offensives to save them – so this seems unlikely as a motive for targeting Sadr and his militia.

The repressive and brutal religious fundamentalists among the Madhi army and its Sunni equivalents target men as much as women for such ‘crimes’ though. Male barbers have been threatened and attacked for cutting men’s hair in ‘unIslamic’ ways and shaving off their beards (53).

Senior Sadrists have denied the Madhi army imposes a dress code on Iraqi women and said that killing women for the way they dress is ‘contrary to the Islamic approach’ and a crime (54). However there are many reports of Medhi army members being involved in such murders and of them issuing orders in the name of Al Sadr on how men and women should dress with threats for non-compliance– the only question being, as with sectarian murders, whether the senior leadership including Al Sadr privately support such killings or whether their names are being invoked without their approval.

The senior ranks of the Sadrist leadership also include at least one woman cleric among their revered martyrs – Amina Al Sadr or ‘Bint Al Huda’, a sister of one of Sadr’s relatives and predecessors who achieved the second highest rank among Iraqi Shia religious leaders – that of Marja‘ Taqlid (most learned). She and her brother promoted womens’ rights and helped set up the first Islamic schools for girls in Iraq. Both siblings were killed by Saddam’s regime in 1980 (55).
So, while his views on it are unknown, it would not be unprecedented if Muqtada Al Sadr also backed education and a role in politics and
religion for women – as even Hamas and Hezbollah have.


Photo : Amina Al Sadr or 'Bint Al Huda', a relative of Muqtada's murdered by Saddam's regime, she was greatly respected by religious Iraqi Shia and promoted Shia womens' rights - she is now revered as a martyr

Madhi army members have also ordered girls to wear veils to school, suggesting that even the extremists in the militia don’t want to ban education for girls entirely (56).

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Sadr’s unique sins and the war for the oil law ; A struggle over resources –
the multinationals Vs the growing ranks of the unemployed, hungry and dead

Photo : Iraqi trade union leader Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein meets congressman Dennis Kucinich in Washington in June 2007 to
protest against the new US-backed Iraqi oil law

The Madhi army’s core supporters are the poorer and unemployed Shia majority of Sadr city in Baghdad (61), (62).
The capital has no oil wells at present and its possible oil reserves are of uncertain size. So Al Sadr as an Iraqi nationalist and representative of the Iraqi Shia poor is against splitting up Iraq and against a new oil law (backed by the US government and international oil companies) which would allow regional governments to negotiate separate oil deals with foreign oil firms. Most Sunnis also oppose federalism and the oil law. The leadership of SCIRI – Sadr’s Iranian backed Shia rivals – proposed a federal state with a Shia region which would have 70% of Iraq’s proven oil reserves and not include Baghdad (63).

The American and British governments (and of course the Kurdish regional government in the North) favour devolving power from the Iraqi national government to regional governments as this way their oil firms will be able to negotiate a better deal with smaller governments and regional governments will get a bigger share of revenues. Of course the other side of the coin will be a worse deal for the majority of Iraqis (64), (65).

The contracts offered to oil companies under the oil law would be ‘production sharing agreements’ which last 20 to 30 years and which are only usually negotiated by governments in areas where the presence of significant oil reserves is uncertain and the terrain makes it costly to explore and drill – neither of which apply to Iraq. Under the new draft oil law backed by the US government foreign oil companies would not be required to employ Iraqis and could repatriate any or all profits they made back to their home countries. The share of profits given to foreign companies would also increase from 10% under Saddam to 12.5% - despite the price of oil having more than doubled since the 2003 invasion, greatly increasing potential profits.The draft law, if passed, would also establish an appointed committee to oversee contracts and oil policy which could include “representatives of relevant oil companies”, opening up the possibility of foreign oil firms regulating their own operations. As appointees of the Iraqi Council of Ministers they could be replaced or refused places on the committee – and disputes would be referred to the Iraqi Oil Minister or Iraqi courts, but the influence of oil firms would certainly be increased (66), (67), (68), (69).

The BBC reported in July last year that the 30 Iraqi MPs loyal to Al Sadr joined Sunni MPs on grounds of securing Iraq’s oil for Iraqis in voting against the new oil law(57). Iraqi trade unions also oppose the law (58).

With Al Sadr having withdrawn from the governing Shia coalition the Iraqi government doesn’t have a majority in parliament to pass the new oil law. So Madhi army claims that the government’s offensive against them aims to weaken their vote in future elections may be accurate.

Even with many of the Madhi army’s crimes Sadr’s record (see sections above) doesn’t fit very well with the official narrative of Al Sadr as an evil Iranian backed sectarian out to massacre Sunnis, democrats, socialists and trade unionists and impose a Shia theocracy. In fact the real threats posed by the Sadrists is that they are Iraqi nationalists who aim to unite Sunni and Shia Iraqis against the occupying forces as they showed in April 2004 and again in April 2007 when Sadr helped organise marches in which Sunnis and Shia
marched together against the occupation (59), (60).

So Sadr’s unique sins in the eyes of the US administration are to refuse to accept the presence of foreign forces in his country and to oppose the US backed draft oil law for Iraq, along with his sporadic attempts to ally with Sunnis opposed to the occupation. The core of this dispute though is a struggle over the distribution of oil revenues.

Iraq’s transitional administrative laws, dictated in practice solely by Paul Bremer as head of the CPA in practice (or “the
new dictator of Iraq” as UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called him), remain in force under the new constitution (70).

They include Bremer’s Order 39 which allows foreign companies to buy 100% control of Iraqi companies and repatriate 100% of their profits as well as Saddam’s 1987 law banning trade unions independent of the government, which Bremer never repealed. US and Iraqi troops frequently ban trade union activities, raid the offices of independent trade unions and “detain” trade union officials using these
laws (71), (72), (73), (74), (75), (76).

The IMF and ‘developed world’ governments have also made the writing off of 50% of Iraq's foreign debts (which Saddam’s regime accumulated) conditional on policies including cuts in government subsidies on which Iraqis rely due to decades of sanctions followed by the current chaos. There are plenty of precedents for writing off debts run up by dictators on the transition to democracy – but making debt write-offs conditional gives the coalition governments another point of leverage to control Iraq’s government and economy (77), (78).

Far more Iraqis suffering hunger and malnutrition than under sanctions and Saddam

Photo : A baby suffering from malnutrition and undernutrition. Malnutrition rates in Iraq doubled under sanctions in the 90s and have doubled again since the invasion, with many families now scavenging for food in bins, something unheard of even under Saddam.

The Medhi army and the Sadrists, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, provide the health-care, education, pensions and support for the populations that support them which their governments fail to. IMF imposed ‘reforms’ in Lebanon almost led to civil war through ending subsidies to the poor. In Iraq IMF policies imposed as conditions for debt reduction include cuts in food price subsidies and provision of food rations to the poorest. In Iraq by autumn 2007 more people relied on government rations for food than under Saddam and UN sanctions – and the quantity and types of food available were reduced compared to the 1990s. Hundreds of people in Baghdad were scavenging in bins for food. Yet in December 2007 the Iraqi government cut the budget for food rations again on the stated grounds that the budget (much larger than under Saddam and sanctions in the 90s) couldn’t pay for them. In theory the rations were to be replaced by cash payments of social security – but with rocketing food prices and Iraqi and US government corruption this has never been implemented and would be unlikely to allow Iraqis to afford enough food to eat. Many refugees inside Iraq – ‘internally displaced people’ forced out of their homes by coalition offensives and sectarian killings by other Iraqis – can’t get food rations at all as they are no longer at the address they were listed at for rations but in tents elsewhere. (79), (80), (81), (82), (83), (84), (85), (86), (87).

As a result the majority of poor Shia in Iraq, as in Lebanon, back Shia radicals against the occupiers and their allies who would deny them jobs, welfare and in many cases even enough food to feed their children.

So far from a war between tolerant democrats and intolerant murderous Iranian backed fundamentalists the war against Al Sadr and the Medhi army is a conflict over the distribution of oil wealth, over whether the majority of Iraqis will get enough of a share of it to even barely support themselves and their families or whether the majority will go to foreign firms and a small minority of Iraqis bribed and threatened to ensure their complicity.

The rise in support for Al Sadr since 2003 is partly because the ranks of the poor and unemployed among Iraq’s Shia are growing due to the corruption and theft perpetrated by the Iraqi government and by US firms linked to the Bush administration (88), (89),(90).

Half of dead civilians in every offensive - polls show Iraqis want Coalition troops to leave Iraq now

Every time fighting breaks out against the Madhi army food prices are pushed up even further in the area affected, food shortages worsen, rubbish and sewage contaminates drinking water (causing disease). What's more at least half of the dead are always civilians (91), (91b). For instance during the March-April 2008 Iraqi government and coalition offensive the UN's OCHA reported "In the 21 days since clashes began a total of 597 people were killed in Baghdad City, of which 272 were Iraqi civilians" (92). It's been the same in every coalition or Iraqi government offensive in Iraq. Iraq Body Count found half the media reported deaths in the April 2004 assault on Fallujah were women and children (suggesting more than half were civilians) (93).
Hospitals in Samarra in October 2004 reported half the dead were similarly women, children and old people (suggesting more than half
were civilians) (94).

Photo : A 2 year old boy - Ali Hussein - killed when his house collapsed after a US rocket hit it during fighting with the Madhi army in Sadr city, Baghdad , reported by ABC News May 2nd 2008

No wonder polls show Iraqis increasingly think more US troops in their area means things will get worse, not better – and no wonder the proportion wanting foreign troops to leave and leave soon keeps increasing (95). By March 2007 a poll by Opinion Research Business on behalf of the Brookings Institution more than half of Iraqis polled still said the security situation would improve if coalition forces left Iraq. By August 2007 more Iraqis were saying Coalition forces were most responsible for violence in Iraq even than Al Qaeda and foreign jihadis. By March 2008 found 73% of Iraqis said they opposed the presence of Coalition troops in Iraq, compared to 51% asked the same question in 2004. (96).

Photo : A march against another US air raid in Sadr city, this time in 2007, which also killed civilians

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Sadr the Dictator or Theocrat? ; Another Saddam or Khomeini?

It’s disputed whether Al Sadr is a supporter of an Iranian style semi-theocracy. The Sadrists have always been anti-Iranian Iraqi nationalists but some of them supported an Iranian style theocracy but headed by an Iraqi cleric in Najaf.

Muqtada Al Sadr has never rejected democratic elections as ‘unIslamic’, only saying they could not be fully free under foreign military occupation - and he and his MPs have been part of the Iraqi government at some points since 2005.

In any case, with or without Sadr, if the majority of Iraqis want an Islamic state there will be one – and the occupation has so far increased support for one. For instance, as Naomi Klein noted in 2004, support for an Islamic state in polls of Iraqis went from 21% to 70% during the offensives of 2004 (97). So if we don’t want an Islamic state in Iraq maybe we should bring our troops home rather than target the Sadrists.

The Sadrists so far are similar in some ays to Hezbollah (or their Palestinian equivalent Hamas) and it’s quite likely that like these two organizations the Sadrists will want an Islamic state but will accept a non Islamic one if they can’t get the support of the majority of Iraqis for one. The Sadrists are probably the largest or second largest Shia faction in Iraq – but they’re also Iraqi nationalists and the Shia are merely the largest minority in Iraq, not a majority. So like Hezbollah and Hamas they will have to accept that
they can’t have everything their own way – and so far they have.

Muqtada Al Sadr’s predecessor and cousin Baqir Al Sadr for instance supported an Islamic democracy with clerics restricted to the role of elected judges under a democratically elected executive and legislature (98).
While Baqir and Muhammad Al Sadiq Al Sadr said they accepted Velayat e faqih (rule by a religious hierarchy) their versions of it differed from the Iranian system based on Khomeini’s version of Velayat e faqih (rule by a religious hierarchy headed by a single cleric with supreme power). SCIRI/SIIC – the largest party in the Iraqi government – follow Khomeini’s teachings even more closely than the Sadrists (99).

The appeal to Al Sadr of an Islamic state headed by a theocrat in Iraq might also be reduced by the probability that that theocrat might well be Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani or his named successor (who would be unlikely to be Al Sadr). In Shi’a Islam candidates for Grand ayatollah must work their way up through the ranks of clerics by first finding an established cleric to teach them and then pass theological exams. Al Sadr’s own qualifications are modest, though he is allegedly studying in Iran - and his mass support among Iraqis could possibly get him the position of Theocrat one day if he wants it.

The Madhi army have killed people in enforcing what they have claimed to be Al Sadr’s religious edicts. The question, as usual, is whether Al Sadr actually gave these orders or if those Madhi army members are out of control .)

It’s a bit ironic for the Coalition to warn of the dangers of Sadr’s potential dictatorship though given that their past support for Saddam as dictator in the 80s, sanctions in the 90s and occupation today is the biggest cause of support for Sadr among Iraqis. The preferred candidate of the British and American governments in the 2005 elections was Ayad Allawi – a former member of Saddam’s Mukhabarat
(secret police) who used to work in Europe targeting Iraqi dissidents under the cover of being a doctor (100). By the 90s he was organising car and cinema bombings using CIA money in Baghdad (101).
Allawi as interim Prime Minister in 2004 headed a government whose forces used systematic torture and had the victims confess to terrorism on television. He also shot prisoners in the head according to diplomats of several countries who say they were told to watch as he did (102).
True he was secular, not religious. Just like Saddam back in the 70s and 80s. He got advisers and campaign money from the Bush
administration and Blair government in 2005 (103).

Iyad Allawi , who Bush and Blair appointed Interim Iraqi Prime Minister and backed in the 2005 elections. A former member of Saddam's secret police, then an organiser of car and cinema bombings for the CIA, he lost.

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The occupation keeps increasing support for extremists – whether Sadr is an extremist or a moderate trying to rein them in

An Iraqi man and boy cry after dozens, including children, are killed in a US military raid on Sadr city, August 2007.

Some of Al Sadr’s aims – to end the occupation and ensure that his supporters – the poorest and unemployed Iraqi Shia – get a fair share of the country’s oil wealth – are not reprehensible ones.

There is no reason (other than the US Presidency's obduracy and threats to overthrow any Prime Minister who disobeys its wishes) that the Iraqi government could not concede to the Sadrists on these issues while refusing to do so on issues such as womens’ rights (on which the government’s record is poor – for instance they ordered all women police to hand in their weapons despite an increase in murders of women accused of being ‘unIslamic’). If there were no foreign troops killing Iraqis, less people unemployed and better public services provided by the government then support for extreme views would almost certainly fall along with sectarianism and crime rates.

Nor are government and coalition offensives a response to Medhi army aggression. Al Sadr has repeatedly maintained ceasefires and realizes his militia is too weak to defeat US and Iraqi government forces militarily. The attacks are mostly by the stronger side against the weaker – i.e by the coalition and government, including infiltrating rival militias like the Badr Brigade, on the Medhi army and Al Sadr (104), (105).
(The Medhi army, far from being the strongest militia in Iraq, is one of the weakest in terms of equipment and funding, since it has the full support of no foreign power (such as Iran which backs the Badr brigade) and its supporters are mostly in poverty.)

Killing or jailing Al Sadr won’t end the conflict. Dozens of Sadr’s family and predecessors as leaders of the Shia poor were killed by Saddam – it never ended the influence of the Shia poor and their leaders. Killing Muqtada wouldn’t either.

More military defeats of the Medhi army won’t help either. The Medhi army’s political influence has increased even as it has suffered heavy losses against coalition forces, with Iraqi government forces often defecting or refusing to fight when ordered to attack the militia.

The rest of Iraq’s Shia parties in the Iraqi government have also shown that when it comes to it they are unwilling to see the Sadrists completely broken – as they realize that, while they are rivals, the US government is seeking to divide and conquer the Shia due to conflating being Shia with being pro-Iranian. They know, as former Iraqi government minister Ali A. Allawi, pointed out, that if the Sadrists were crushed other Shia parties could be next (106).

Whether looked at morally or ‘pragmatically’ negotiating with the Sadrists is a better option than a war to try to crush the poorest Iraqi Shia into accepting unemployment and poverty.

This remains true even if Sadr and his immediate subordinates do turn out to be extremists who want to murder Sunnis and ‘unIslamic women’, because war, foreign occupation, mass unemployment, poverty and lack of education has increased support for these kind of extremists - and because military offensives and raids end up killing far more people than they could possibly save. (Support for Al Sadr
among Iraqis has rocketed in opinion polls as the occupation has dragged on.)Conversely peace, education and jobs lead to falling crime
rates and a fall in support for extremist parties.

Saddam’s dictatorship was always brutal and - in the 1980s and 1991 – genocidal, but when Iraq was prosperous in the 1970s and 1980s it developed an educated middle class who were more secular in outlook and largely non-sectarian. The sanctions imposed after the Gulf War led to a massive rise in unemployment and fall in education levels. This was partly due to corruption by Saddam’s regime but the vast majority of it was due to a fall in the income of the entire country due to sanctions. Much of the crime, extreme politics and religion and sectarian violence in Iraq today is a result of sanctions and dictatorship followed by an almost equally brutal occupation and sectarian killings (107).

It’s impossible to know to what extent Al Sadr genuinely tries to prevent sectarian and extremist killings of Sunnis and women or not. What is certain is that the occupation and the profits being made at the expense of lost Iraqi jobs, lives and public services are increasing support for Al Sadr and the membership of the Madhi army, increasing the number of people in Iraq backing extreme forms of religious fundamentalism and as a result increasing sectarian violence and violence against women. They are also producing a growth in crime (often linked to sectarian conflict) – such as the kidnapping for ransom of Sunnis by Shia and vice-versa. This process began under
Saddam’s dictatorships and sanctions on Iraq but the occupation has made these problems worse, not better.

The US occupation cannot defeat the Sadrists or the Madhi army any more than the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the 80s and 90s could defeat Hezbollah – because in both cases the extreme violence and other negative effects (poverty and unemployment) of the occupation itself is what created an extreme response by many of the occupied people.

Meanwhile coalition and Iraqi government offensives in cities are, as usual, killing at least one non-combatant for every armed opponent – and torture by the forces of the new government, as much as by militias, is as common as under Saddam. Coalition and Iraqi government offensives against the Madhi army have been repeated many times and just like past offensives they will not lead to any conclusive result in the long term other than more people – Iraqi, American and British – dead or homeless - and more Iraqis turning to
religious nationalism (108), (109), (110), (111).

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The Solution – Replace Occupation and Military Offensives with Reparations and Debt cancellation

It’s time this counter-productive bloodbath, which only benefits a tiny minority of Iraqis, Americans and Britons at the expense of the rest, was ended, by bringing our troops home and offering an effective solution instead in the form of massive foreign aid to provide employment, education and welfare which would reduce extremism. We certainly have a responsibility to sort the chaos our governments created in Iraq – we can do that best by reparations or foreign aid though, not by military fiascos that make things worse.

How to deal with the militias is a chicken and egg riddle. Do we provide security by arresting the criminals in the militias first to allow Iraqis the security they need to get jobs and reconstruction? ; Or should we provide jobs and reconstruction to draw members out of the militias to allow the hard-core of criminals to be isolated and arrested without fighting a military conflict? So far the ‘security first’ approach has failed, partly because full scale military offensives destroy economies and strengthen extremists and partly because reconstruction has been a sham. So as the International Crisis Group argue, the jobs first approach should be tried (112).

Iraq’s foreign debts built up under Saddam should be cancelled. The United Arab Emirates has already cancelled Iraq’s entire debt to them (113). How can the US and Russian governments refuse to forgive theirs in
order to twist Iraqi’s arms into giving them cushy oil deals first?

The governments who supported him for decades (which include the US, UK , most of Europe, Russia and China) then punished the whole Iraqi population with sanctions, bombing, invasion and occupation do have a responsibility to ‘fix what they broke’. They can do this most effectively not by more pointless military action which costs lives and feeds extremism but by massive war reparations or foreign aid – and not going to companies based in their own countries or to relatives of the corrupt Iraqi government but direct to the people through community groups and aid agencies.

Iraqis are owed something after the suffering they have been put through over decades by governments including the US, Chinese, British, French, German and Russian. They are owed a future in which some of their children should survive and be allowed to live lives free of constant fear, poverty, unemployment, torture, hunger and random violent death in future.

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2008

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Sources and notes

Background : Sadr, the Madhi army and US forces in Iraq

(1) = AP / The Independent 8 Mar 2007, ‘We'll have to talk to militants, says US chief in Iraq’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/well-have-to-talk-to-militants-says-us-chief-in-iraq-439367.html ; Back

= In April 2004 the US commander in Iraq, General Ricardo Sanchez, said “the mission of US forces is to kill or capture Moqtada Sadr” and the head of US Central Command, General John Abizaid, said the IGC intended to "bring Sadr to justice. (see BBC News 13 Apr 2004, ‘Iraqi police 'retake' holy city’,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3623297.stm ); Back

= Sanchez recounted a video conference in April 2004 in which President Bush said “We can't allow one man to change the course of the country,” stated Bush in a video teleconference. “He must be wiped out.” Sanchez claims this mission was called off due to the upcoming 2004 US Presidential elections in November. (see Time magazine website ‘Muqtada al-Sadr’ By Ricardo Sanchez, http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1733748_1733757_1735554,00.html )Back

(4) = CNN 15 April 2004, ‘Iraqi cleric open to disarming, spokesman says’,
http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/04/14/iraq.main/index.html; (see 2nd paragraph)Back

(5) = Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’,
Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 13, pages 196-7 of hardback editionBack

(6) = ABC News 13 Feb 2006, ‘Al Sadr Fled Iraq, Fearing U.S. Bombs’,
http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/IraqCoverage/story?id=2872953 ; Back

(7) = Fox News 12 Nov 2007, ‘Gen. Petraeus Meets With Al-Sadr Deputies’,
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,310697,00.html ; Back

(8) = Washington Post 7 Dec 2007, ‘Petraeus Says Cleric Helped Curb Violence’,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/06/AR2007120602822_pf.html ; Back

(9) = Reuters 29 Mar 2008, ‘Baghdad curfew extended indefinitely’,
(Maliki calls the Madhi army ‘worse than Al Qaeda’) Back

Iranian backed criminals, sectarians and murderers?

(10) = According to a Pentagon report in 2006 “The group that is currently having the greatest
negative affect on the security situation in Iraq is Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM), which has
replaced al-Qaeda in Iraq as the most dangerous accelerant of potentially self-sustaining
sectarian violence in Iraq.” (see Report to Congress November 2006, ‘Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq’, p19, http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/9010Quarterly-Report-20061216.pdf ) Back

(11) = Human Rights Watch 29 Oct 2006, ‘Iraq: End Interior Ministry Death Squads’,
http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2006/10/29/iraq14473.htm ; Back

(12) = Dispatches, Channel 4 (UK) Broadcast: Tuesday 07 November 2006 11:00 PM, ‘Dispatches : War on Terror : Iraq’s Death Squads’,
http://www.channel4.com/news/dispatches/article.jsp?id=158145 ; Back

(13) = The Independent 31 March 2008, ‘Al-Sadr calls ceasefire after six days of clashes’,
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/alsadr-calls-ceasefire-after-six-days-of-clashes-802735.html ; Back

(14) = Observer 30 March 2008, ‘Shia fighting threatens to bury hope of united Iraq’,

(15) = Telegraph 30 March 2008, ‘Iraqi army forces defect to Moqtada al-Sadr’,

= Confusingly the Iraqi government’s Basra offensive in March did target one other militia according to Norwegian academic Reidar Vissar
– the Tharallah milita, a pro-Iranian, ally of the pro-Iranian SCIRI or SIIC party. Since SCIRI are the largest party in the Iraqi government this seems strange – unless Maliki, Dawa , the US military and Muqtada Al Sadr were co-operating to attack Tharallah and pro-Iranian elements within the anti-Iranian Madhi army?; or else Iran’s government is simply trying to keep Iraq’s Shia divided so they can influence them more easily? ;see Visser, Reidar 9 April 2008, ‘Maliki, Hakim, and Iran’s Role in the Basra Fighting’, http://www.historiae.org/iran.asp ;

(17) = Sunday Times 16 Dec 2007, ‘Tossed from a car and shot in cold blood’,
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article3056693.ece ; Back

(18) = Guardian 17 Dec 2007, ‘UK has left behind murder and chaos, says Basra police chief’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/dec/17/iraq.military ; Back

(19) = The Times 8 Dec 2007 , ‘Basra's murderous militias tell Christian women to cover up or face death’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article3018766.ece ; Back

(20) = CBS News 11 Dec 2007, ‘Iraqi Policewomen Ordered To Turn In Guns’,
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/12/11/the_skinny/main3605610.shtml ; Back

(21) = Report to Congress November 2006, ‘Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq’, p19-20, http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/9010Quarterly-Report-20061216.pdf ; Back

(22) = Independent 20 May 2007, ‘Mehdi fighters 'trained by Hizbollah in Lebanon'’,

(23) = Independent on Sunday15 Apr 200, ‘The Iranian connection: from Tehran to Baghdad’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/the-iranian-connection-from-tehran-to-baghdad-444721.htmlBack

= 110,000 AK47s supplied to Iraqi government forces by the US have gone
missing , many now used by militias - see Guardian 7 Aug 2007, 'The US
arsenal lost in Iraq', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/aug/07/topstories3.usa ; Also see
Gareth Porter 06 Jun 2008, 'Arming our own enemies in Iraq : Bush
officials claim that Iran has supplied grenade launchers to Iraqi
militants -- but the real source of the weapons is U.S. negligence', http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/06/06/grenade_launchers/ ;

Visser, Reidar (2007) ‘The Surge, the Shiites and Nation Building in
Iraq’ in The Terrorism Monitor 13 Sep 2007 (Vol 5, Issue 17) ; http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2373640.org ; Back

(26)= Guardian 27 Jan 2007, ‘'If they pay we kill them anyway' - the kidnapper's story’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,1999917,00.html; Back

(27)= Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’,
Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 14, pages 209-210 of hardback edition Back

(28)= Kaldor, Mary (1999) ‘New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era’, Polity Press, 1999 Back

(29)= Melvern, Linda (2000) , ‘A People Betrayed : The Role of the West in Rwanda’s genocide’, Zed Books, London and N.Y, 2000 Back

(30) Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn), p122-130PBack

Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’,
Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 13, pages 196-7 of hardback edition

= See section of this article ( Get Sadr ?) on ‘A struggle over
resources’ and sources for it; further info and sources in another
article i'm writing - will link it when complete Back

Many Sunni militiamen paid by US military murdering and threatening Shia - they include former Al Qa'ida fighters

(31a) = Guardian 10 Nov 2007, 'Meet Abu Abed: the US's new ally against al-Qaida', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/nov/10/usa.alqaida , cited by Patrick Cockburn (2008), ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’,
Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 17, p252-3 & 265 ; Back

(31b) = Sunday Times 25 Nov 2007, ‘American-backed killer militias strut across Iraq’,
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article2937104.ece ; Back

(31c) = Guardian 20 Dec 2007, 'A surge of their own: Iraqis take back the streets', http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2229892,00.html ; ; Back

(31d) = NPR 17 July 2008, 'U.S. Trains Ex-Sunni Militias as Iraqi Police',
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11240000; Back

(31e) = Guardian 1 Aug 2007, 'Tehran the target of huge arms deal, says Rice', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/aug/01/usa.iran ; Back

(31f) = Guardian.co.uk 31 July 2007 11am, 'Rice defends Middle East arms sales plan', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jul/31/usa.egypt; Back

(31g) = New Yorker magazine ‘The Re-direction’ by Seymour Hersh, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/05/070305fa_fact_hersh; Back

(31h) = ABC News 03 Apr 2007, ‘ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran’, http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/04/abc_news_exclus.html; Back

Sadr the Sectarian?

(32) = Newsday 23 May 2005, ‘A violent cycle in Iraq :
Retaliatory killings, mainly involving Shias and Sunnis, threaten to throw country into deadly civil war’, http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/ny-wosect224272672may23,0,5314425,print.story?coll=ny-worldnews-headlines ; Back

(33) = BBC News 24 Feb 2006, ‘Friday prayer plea for Iraq calm’,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4747886.stm ;Back

(34) = Times 4 Sep 2005, ‘Al-Sadr vows revenge on Sunnis over stampede deaths’,
(note – the text of the article shows the headline is very mis-leading – Sadr neither blamed all Sunnis nor called for revenge on them – the 1st sentence of the 3rd paragraph reads ‘al-Sadr identified “Ba’athists and Saddamists” and “fanatic sectarians” as likely culprits. “The number of dead is sufficient for us to prove that this incident was organised,” he said.’ This could well be paranoia that makes revenge attacks on Sunnis more likely, but its certainly not a call for revenge on all Sunnis.) ; Back

(35) = CBS 24 Nov 2006, ‘ Iraqis Burned Alive In Revenge Attacks
Mosques And Homes Burned, Unknown Number Killed Following Massive Attack On Shiite Slum’, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/11/23/world/main2207491.shtml ; Back

(36) = Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’,
Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 16, pages 229-232 of hardback edition; also see ch17 page238 ; Back

(37) = International Crisis Group 11 Jul 2006, ‘IRAQ’S MUQTADA AL-SADR: SPOILER OR STABILISER?’, http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/leaders/2006/0711muqtada.pdf ; Back

(37b) = Guardian 10 Apr 2004, ‘Sunni and Shia unite against common enemy’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/apr/10/iraq.rorymccarthy1 ; Back

(37c) = Guardian 10 Apr 07, ‘Moqtada rallies Shia to demand withdrawal of foreign troops’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2053247,00.html ; Back

Is Sadr behind the assassination of his rivals?

(38) = Times 10 Apr 2003, ‘Briefing: the killing of Majid al-Khoei’,
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/tools_and_services/specials/article1128976.ece ; Back

(39) = BBC 10 April 2003, ‘Shia leader murdered in Najaf’,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2936887.stm ; Back

(40) = Guardian 12 April 2003, ‘Obituary : Abdul Majid al-Khoei’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2003/apr/12/guardianobituaries.iraq ; Back

(41) = National Review Online 15 April 2003, ‘Killed in “Free Najaf”’,
http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-taheri041503.asp ; Back

(42) = Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’,
Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 10 p149-158 of hardback edition ; Back

(43) = Eye Raki blog 04 Jul 2007, ‘The Untold Story’, (written by Haider Al Khoei, son of the murdered cleric) ; Back

(44)= Allawi, Ali A. (2007), ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) p 90-93 ; Back

(45)= CBS News 22 Oct 2003, ‘Friend And Foe’,
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/10/21/60II/main579155.shtml ; Back

(46) = Guardian 22 Oct 2003, ‘Plan to arrest maverick Iraqi cleric for murder’
http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1068114,00.html ; Back

(47) = Human Rights Watch 25 Jan 2005, ‘Iraq: Torture Continues at Hands of New Government’, http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/01/26/iraq10053.htm ; Back

(48) = Amnesty International Annual Report 2008 (covering 2007), Middle East and North Africa, Iraq , http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/regions/middle-east-and-north-africa/iraq ; (also see http://www.duncanmcfarlane.org/who's_right_on_Iraq/torture/ and the sources at the bottom of that page) ; Back

(49) = Raphaeli, Nimrod (2004) , ‘Understanding Muqtada al-Sadr’, in Middle East Quarterly Fal 2004, http://www.meforum.org/article/655 (refers to unpublished document alleged to provide evidence of Sadr being guilty of ordering Khoie’s murder) ; Back

(50) = Allawi, Ali A. (2007), ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) p59-60 ; Back

(51) = New York Times 12 Apr 2008, ‘Gunmen Kill Aide and In-Law of Iraqi Cleric’,
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/12/world/middleeast/12iraq.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin ; Back

Misogynists oppressing and murdering women?

(52) = BBC News 17 Mar 2008, ‘Firebrand Sadr finds moderation’,
(see under sub-heading ‘Criminal Element’) ; Back

(53) = Washington Post 06 Oct 2006, ‘Another Freedom Cut Short
Iraqi Barbers and Their Customers Feel Threat of Sect-Based Grooming Rules’,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/05/AR2006100501825.html ; Back

(54) = BBC News 15 Nov 2007, ‘Basra militants targeting women’,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7095209.stm ; Back

= Walbridge, Linda S. , ‘The Most Learned of the Shi‘a: The Institution
of the Marja‘Taqlid’, Oxford university Press US, 2001, pages 149-150, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=_FVf4V4aXWgC&pg=PA150&lpg=PA150&dq=Sadr+unIslamic+women&source=web&ots=e-kGzM0-_P&sig=DSSQIS_EQ9VkLbw0XVi2hZ_wuls&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=7&ct=result#PPA150,M1 ; Back

(56) = Assyrian International News Agency 31 Nov 2006, ‘Sadr Followers Target Assyrian School Girls in Baghdad’, http://www.aina.org/news/20061130101108.htm ; Back

Sadr’s unique sins and the war for the oil law ; A struggle over resources

(61) = BBC News 22 Feb 2008, ‘Profile: Moqtada Sadr’,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3131330.stm ; Back

(62) = Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’,
Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 13, pages 192 & 199-200 of hardback edition ; Back

(63) = Galbraith, Peter W. (2006) ‘The End of Iraq’, Simon & Schuster, Sydney (Australia) 2006, p197-203 ; Back

(64) = Observer 19 Aug 2007, ‘Oil giants rush to lay claim to Iraq’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/aug/19/oilandpetrol.news ; Back

(65) = New York Times 13 Mar 2007, ‘Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?’,
By ANTONIA JUHASZ, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/opinion/13juhasz.html?_r=1&oref=slogin ; Back

15 Feb 2007 , ‘Draft Oil and Gas Law of 2007’, http://www.krg.org/uploads/documents/Draft%20Iraq%20Oil%20and%20Gas%20Law%20English__2007_03_10_h23m31s47.pdf (pdf file on Kurdish regional govt website) ; Back

(67) = Independent On Sunday 07 Jan 2007, ‘Blood and oil: How the West will profit from Iraq's most precious commodity’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/blood-and-oil-how-the-west-will-profit-from-iraqs-most-precious-commodity-431119.html ; Back

(68) = New York Times 13 Mar 2007, ‘Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?’,
By ANTONIA JUHASZ, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/opinion/13juhasz.html?_r=1&oref=slogin ; Back

(69) = Tomdispatch.com 06 May 2007 ‘The prize of Iraqi Oil’ by Professor Michael Schwarz,
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174779/michael_schwartz_the_prize_of_iraqi_oil" ; Back

(57) = BBC News 3 July 2007, ‘Iraqi cabinet backs draft oil law’,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6264184.stm ; Back

(58) = Observer 10 June 2007, ‘Iraqi government threatens arrest for leaders of striking oil workers’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/jun/10/oilandpetrol.iraq ; Back

(59) = Guardian 10 Apr 2004, ‘Sunni and Shia unite against common enemy’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/apr/10/iraq.rorymccarthy1 ; Back

(60) = Guardian 10 Apr 07, ‘Moqtada rallies Shia to demand withdrawal of foreign troops’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2053247,00.html ; Back

(70) = Guardian 3 Jan 2004, ‘How honest broker was defeated - and with him hopes of credibility’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1230291,00.html ; Back

(71) = http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1176394,00.html (see 4th from last and 3rd from last paragraphs on Bremer’s Order 39 in the new constitution) ; Back

(72) = General Federation of Iraqi Workers 21 Aug 2007 ‘USA: Trade unionists protest ban on Iraqi unions' http://www.iraqitradeunions.org/archives/2007_08.html (scroll down to entry for August 21, 2007 ‘USA: Trade unionists protest ban on Iraqi unions’) ; Back

(73) = General Federation of Iraqi Workers 30 Jan 2004 'Interview with Iraqi trade union leaders imprisoned by US troops' , http://www.iraqitradeunions.org/archives/2004_01.html ;
2nd item is on arrest of 8 trade unionists by US troops in raid on IFTU union HQ in December 2003 ; Back

= International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General
Workers' Unions 5 Mar 2007, 'Military Raids, Arrest at Iraqi Union
Office Demands Action', http://www.icem.org/en/77-All-ICEM-News-Releases/2159-Military-Raids-Arrest-at-Iraqi-Union-Office-Demands-Action
GFIW union raided by US troops in March 2007, trade unionist “arrested” ; Back

(75) = Observer 5 Aug 2007, ‘Iraq imposes 'Saddam style' ban on oil union’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/aug/05/iraq.theobserver ; Back

= International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General
Workers' Unions 19 May 2008, 'Iraqi Trade Union Conference Demands
Repeal of Draconian Labour Decrees' http://www.icem.org/en/24-North-Africa-Middle-East-/2653-Iraqi-Trade-Union-Conference-Demands-Repeal-of-Draconian-Labour-Decrees ; Back

(77) = Allawi, Ali A. (2007), ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn), p428 ; Back

(78) = Jubilee Iraq, background, http://www.jubileeiraq.org/background.htm ; Back

(79) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 02 Apr 2006, ‘IRAQ: Food prices rise after reduction of monthly rations’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=26250 ; Back

(80) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 9 Sep 2007, ‘IRAQ: Food rationing system failing as Ramadan approaches’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=74196 ; Back

(81) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 17 Oct 2007, ‘IRAQ: Hundreds forced to scavenge for food in garbage bins’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportId=74829 ; Back

(82) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 4 Dec 2007, ‘IRAQ: Government to cut items from its free food handouts’, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=75677 ; Back

(83) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) p 375-376, 430-431 ; Back

(84) = IPS/ Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail 03 May 2008, ‘Corruption Eats Into Food Rations’,
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/hard_news/archives/iraq/000795.php#more ; Back

= IMF 01 Jan 2007, ‘Lebanon -- Letter of Intent, Memorandum of Economic
and Financial Policies, and Technical Memorandum of Understanding’, http://www.imf.org/external/np/loi/2007/lbn/033007.pdf ; Back

(86) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn) Ch20 , p348-369 & 427 ; Back

(87) = Refugees International 04 Oct 2007, ‘Iraq: Fix the Public Distribution System to meet needs of the displaced
http://refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/9971/ ; Back

(88) = BBC News 22 Mar 2008, ‘Profile: Moqtada Sadr’,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3131330.stm ; Back

(89) = USA Today 24 May 2004, ‘U.S. struggles to breach wall of Iraqi skepticism’,
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-05-24-us-credibility_x.htm ; Back

(90) = On corruption , theft and lack of reconstruction see See (war on terror chapter and sources) ; Back

(91) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 10 April 2008, ‘IRAQ: “Acute shortages” in clash-hit Baghdad suburbs’, http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=77701 ; Back

(91b) = IRIN news service of the UN's OCHA 24 Apr 2008, 'IRAQ: Baghdad’s Sadr City residents under “strain” - ICRC',
http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=77909 ; Back

= UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Humanitarian Situation Report : Sadr City, Baghdad 15 April 2008 , http://www.uniraq.org/documents/HumSitRep15April2008.pdf
; Third paragraph of summary on page 1 says [referring to the government offensives beginning 25th March] "In the 21 days since clashes began a total of 597 people were killed in Baghdad City, of which 272 were Iraqi civilians (an average of 13 civilian casualties per day). Of the 597 casualties, 195 were killed in Sadr City. This compares to a total of 300 casualties in Baghdad in the 21 days prior to clashes, of which 164 were civilians (an average of 8 civilian casualties per day)." ; Back

(93) = Iraq Body Count Press Release 06 October 2004
, ‘No Longer Unknowable: Falluja's April Civilian Toll is 600’, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/press/archive.php#pr9
For a compilation of links to polls of Iraqis see Iraq Analysis , http://www.iraqanalysis.org/INFO/55 ; ; Back

(94) = Independent 4 Oct 2004 , 'Civilians bear brunt as Samarra 'pacified'', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/civilians-bear-brunt-as-samarra-pacified-550807.html ; Back

(95) = For a compilation of links to polls of Iraqis see http://www.iraqanalysis.org/INFO/55 ; Back

(96) = The Brookings Institution 2 July 2008, ‘Iraq Index :
Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq’, p48-49, 52-53,
http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex , http://www.brookings.edu/saban/~/media/Files/Centers/Saban/Iraq%20Index/index.pdf ; Back

Another Khomeini? Sadr the Theocrat?

(97) = Guardian 07 Oct 2004, ‘The making of a hero
: Moqtada al-Sadr is a dangerous theocrat - but his appeal for Iraqis is that he calls for free elections’ Naomi Klein ,http://www.iraqanalysis.org/INFO/5 for a compilation of links to polls of Iraqis ; Back

(98) = Patrick Cockburn (2008) , ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’,
Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 3, page 48 of hardback edition Back

(99) = Visser, Reidar (2008) , ‘The Sadrists of Basra and the Far
South of Iraq’, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs 2008,
http://www.historiae.org/documents/Sadrists.pdf ; Back

(100) = New Yorker magazine 24 March 2004, ‘Annals of National Security : Plan B’,
By Seymour Hersh, page 5 , http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/06/28/040628fa_fact?currentPage=5 ; Back

(101) = New York Times 9 Jun 2004 ‘THE REACH OF WAR: NEW PREMIER; Ex-C.I.A. Aides Say Iraq Leader Helped Agency in 90's Attacks’ ,http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=FB0912F83D540C7A8CDDAF0894DC404482 ; Back

(102) = Sydney Morning Herald 17 Jun 2004‘Allawi shot prisoners in cold blood: witnesses’ ,http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/07/16/1089694568757.html ; Back

= New Yorker Magazine 25 July 2005‘Annals of National Security ; Get
Out the Vote ; Did Washington try to manipulate Iraq’s election? ’ by
Seymour Hersh ,http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/07/25/050725fa_fact?currentPage=4 ; Back

The occupation keeps increasing support for extremists

(104) = CNN 22 Feb 2008, ‘Al-Sadr extends Mehdi Army cease-fire’,
http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/02/22/iraq.main/ ; Back

(105) = Independent 13 May 2008, ‘Al-Sadr ceasefire allows troops to enter Shia slum’,
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/alsadr-ceasefire-allows-troops-to-enter-shia-slum-827012.html ; Back

(106) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn), p321 ; Back

(107) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn), p122-130; Back

= UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Humanitarian Situation Report : Sadr City, Baghdad 15 April 2008 , http://www.uniraq.org/documents/HumSitRep15April2008.pdf
; Third paragraph of summary on page 1 says [referring to the
government offensives beginning 25th March] "In the 21 days since
clashes began a total of 597 people were killed in Baghdad City, of
which 272 were Iraqi civilians (an average of 13 civilian casualties
per day). Of the 597 casualties, 195 were killed in Sadr City. This
compares to a total of 300 casualties in Baghdad in the 21 days prior
to clashes, of which 164 were civilians (an average of 8 civilian
casualties per day)." ; Back

(109) = Iraq Body Count Press Release 06 October 2004
, ‘No Longer Unknowable: Falluja's April Civilian Toll is 600’, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/press/archive.php#pr9 ; Back

(110) = Independent 4 Oct 2004 , 'Civilians bear brunt as Samarra 'pacified'', http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/civilians-bear-brunt-as-samarra-pacified-550807.html ; Back

(111) = Amnesty International Annual Report 2008 (covering 2007), Middle East and North Africa, Iraq , http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/regions/middle-east-and-north-africa/iraq
; 2nd and 3rd last sentences of summary (for instance) says 'This added to the growing humanitarian crisis. Iraqi security forces also
committed gross human rights violations, including unlawful killings, rape and other torture, and arbitrary arrests and detentions. The MNF killed civilians and held more than 25,000 detainees without charge or trial, including some who had been held for several years. Civilians were also killed by guards employed by private military and security companies who had immunity against prosecution in Iraq until October' ;

The Solution

(112)International Crisis Group 11 Jul 2006, ‘IRAQ’S MUQTADA AL-SADR: SPOILER OR STABILISER?’, http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/leaders/2006/0711muqtada.pdf ; Back

(113)Guardian 7 July 2008, ‘Emirates cancel Iraqi debt’,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/07/iraq.middleeast ; Back

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2008

Chapter 10: The First Steps to Defeating Terrorism

The Effective Way to defeat Al Qa’ida :

Understand that terrorism is about revenge

Then end actions that result in more deaths and more people wanting revenge - principally military occupations; air strikes; and aid, political backing and arms sales to dictatorships and countries carrying out occupations

It may be comforting to believe that Al Qa’ida and similar groups want to kill us just because they’re crazy, evil, deranged or have an insane ideology. It’s also untrue though and as long as we continue to believe it without changing our governments’ actions we will continue to be at risk and will never end the flow of new recruits that these groups rely on to survive and continue attacking us.

The targeting of civilians by Al Qa’ida and similar groups is completely wrong and unjustifiable. However it’s not merely insane. They do have an extreme ideology but though their main motive is wrong it’s also straight-forward and exactly the same thing that motivated most American troops in Iraq: revenge.

Over 80% of U.S soldiers in Iraq polled by the American Zogby polling in 2006 cited Saddam’s involvement in September 11th as the main reason they were in Iraq with 77% believing it was also to stop him harbouring Al Qaeda in Iraq (1). Of course Saddam, though guilty of many other crimes, wasn’t involved in September 11th in any way and did not allow Al Qaeda to operate there, though anyone listening only to Bush administration speeches could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

Bin Laden after 9-11 said “Every time they kill us, we kill them” (2). The Madrid bombers asked “Is it OK for you to kill our children, women, old people and youth in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine..? And is it forbidden to us to kill yours.” (3). Al Qa’ida in Europe said the July 7th bombings were revenge for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (4). In 2004 Bin Laden offered a truce to European countries if they withdrew their troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, saying “stop spilling our blood so we can stop spilling yours” (5).

In both cases those carrying out acts of “vengeance” are mostly torturing and killing people who were innocent of any involvement in the killings and torture they think they’re exacting revenge for.

Most of the people killed in September 11th had no involvement in US support for the corrupt dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, or US forces’ presence in Saudi, or the killing of Muslim civilians in Iraq by bombing and sanctions, or US military aid used by Israeli forces in the killing of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Even those who had were civilians.

The same goes for the Madrid bombings and the London bombings. The vast majority of Spaniards and many British citizens in opinion polls opposed their governments’ decision to send troops to Iraq – and even if they hadn’t, were civilians.

Of the many thousands of Afghan civilians killed in US and then NATO bombing campaigns in Afghanistan most supported neither the Taliban nor Al Qa’ida. Many of them didn’t even know where New York was never mind what the September 11th attacks were. An analysis by Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire found at least 3,100 Afghan civilians were killed by US and NATO bombing between the October 2001 invasion and 15th March 2003 (6). Tens of thousands more died due to the invasion making civilians flee in the middle of winter and due to bombing and the closure of the border with Pakistan during a famine, preventing aid getting into Afghanistan or refugees out of it (7)(9).

There have been many more killed since, including over 100 deaths of women and children confirmed by International Red Cross staff in a single day in May 2008 – and more refugees suffering in Afghanistan and Pakistan due to NATO and Pakistan army offensives. Arguing that this was unintentional is academic; nor has any special care been taken to avoid killing civilians. The judgement has been simply that air strikes impose maximum suffering on the enemy at minimum loss of our own troops’ lives. The cost in civilian lives isn’t even seriously considered (see chapter on atrocities by both sides and ‘Mistakes from Iraq to Af-Pak’ for more details and sources).

The men who tried to murder civilians at Glasgow airport in 2007 were Iraqis. There was a great deal of condemnation of trainee doctors – people who had sworn a Hippocratic oath not to harm their patients – trying to murder people. Yet if we consider the accounts of some Iraqi doctors of the targeting of civilians, ambulances and doctors’ clinics in coalition assaults on Iraqi cities its possible to see how some Iraqis might seek revenge, even if that revenge remains completely wrong and like the attacks it’s intended to ‘avenge’ attempts to kill innocent people.

For instance the Independent newspaper reported that during the November 2004 Coalition assault on Fallujah “Twenty Iraqi doctors and dozens of civilians were killed in a US air strike that hit a clinic in Fallujah, according to an Iraqi doctor who said he survived the strike. There are fears that heavy civilian casualties could be damaging for US-led forces. The US military said it had killed 71 insurgents, and that 10 American soldiers and two members of the Iraqi security forces fighting alongside the Americans had been killed. 

"In the early morning the US attacked the clinic, a place that we were using for treating the injured people in the city," Dr Sami al-Jumaili said, describing the air strike. "I really don't know if they want to tackle the insurgents or the innocent civilians from the city." 

Witnesses described dead bodies lying in the streets of the Jumhuriya district, with hungry street dogs crowding around them.  (10)

(For many more examples, including deliberate targeting of civilians by coalition forces in some cases, see the chapter on atrocities by both sides or this page and this page and sources for them)

A detailed study of a captured Iraqi “insurgent”’s motives by the CIA in 2005 found that one of his main motives was revenge for Coalition forces having “hurt” a member of his family. The CIA source would not reveal in what way the family member had been hurt (10a).

The same holds for Palestinian suicide bombers, whose main aim is also usually to take revenge for the killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces. For instance Wafa Idrees was one example of how an ordinary Palestinian became a suicide bomber. She began as a First Aid worker for the Red Crescent. John Pilger interviewed many people who knew her. In her work she saw pregnant women and wounded civilians die or lose their babies as Israeli soldiers routinely prevent them passing through checkpoints to get to hospital. She went to bring wounded civilians to hospital by ambulance – and she and her colleagues were fired on, often wounded, some of them killed by Israeli forces. She herself was shot and wounded twice and sometimes beaten by Israelis (11), (12).

She became the first Palestinian woman to become a suicide bomber. Her colleague Ahlam Nasser was still witnessing and experiencing what Wafa did under occupation by Israeli forces years later (13)

Many politicians have claimed that terrorist attacks can’t be linked to their foreign policies because the September 11th attacks took place before the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Those who try this argument are either ignorant of history or hope to rely on the ignorance of others. The September 11th attacks (just like the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) were seen by those who planned them as a way at striking at the most powerful ally of Israel’s government – whose military has been occupying Palestinian territory and killing Palestinians for decades (see this page and sources). They also targeted the US as an ally of the corrupt Saudi monarchy which tortures its own people and executes them without trial just as Saddam did (14); the US as an ally of the election rigging, torturing dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, where the main opposition party is banned from elections and opposition supporters beaten, tortured and killed (15) - (18); the US as the government whose forces killed Muslims, including tens of thousands of civilians in Iraq directly by bombing and many more by it’s indirect effects, from 1991 on and imposed sanctions which UN officials overseeing them said killed around 5,000 Iraqi children a month for over 10 years (19) - (23) . None of this makes revenge, still less revenge on innocent civilians, right – but plenty of Muslim deaths, including huge numbers of civilians, caused by the US government preceded 9-11. U.S foreign policy can’t justify September 11th as two wrongs can never make a right, but it did contribute to causing it. 9-11 was not Year Zero.

Hosni Mubarak has been President of Egypt for six terms. Independent observers found every one of his elections involved fraud and violence by police and Mubarak’s hired thugs against the opposition (see (15) - (18)). Yet Mubarak receives praise and financial aid from American governments. The main opposition party – the Muslim Brotherhood – is banned from standing for election and its members tortured – and then people wonder ‘why do Muslim countries have so many terrorists’? A big part of the answer is ‘Because our governments back dictatorships that don’t allow any peaceful way to reform in them’. By contrast President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has been democratically elected in elections international observers found free and fair twice – yet when he tried to change the constitution so he could run for President again American politicians shouted ‘dictator’.

To understand terrorists’ motives is not to support or appease them. Refusing to attempt to understand them will ensure that we’ll never end terrorist attacks. Calls to end the cycle of revenge may be seen as naïve by the supporters of a “tough response”, but what have the results of “tough responses” carried out by both sides been? ; Total failure; worse than failure – the loss of more lives and the strengthening of the extremists on all sides. This is as true for the global “war on terror” as it is for Israel Palestine. Al Qa’ida’s September 11th attacks were a gift to the opportunists on the right in Washington who were waiting for a new Pearl Harbour that would give let them put their plans into action; the US invasion of Iraq was as much a gift to Al Qa’ida. The alternative is that “More violence will cause more violence and this will be an endless spiral” as Iraqi Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi put it in 2004 (24).

We can claim that using helicopter gunships or artillery or dropping bombs on refugee camps, villages, towns and cities is completely different – legitimate military action which targets combatants with any civilians killed being regrettable collateral damage – but the fact is that by using these methods we know as well as any suicide bomber that we’re going to kill civilians. We know that in every modern war about half the people killed by each side are civilians. We know this will make many of the survivors want revenge on us – including people who previously were not our enemies. We know that if those people come from countries with much weaker militaries than ours their response will be guerrilla warfare or terrorist attacks on our civilians. (see chapter on atrocities by both sides)

The most effective ways to fight terrorism are the simplest and easiest. : stop using our militaries to occupy foreign countries and kill civilians ; stop supporting dictatorships; stop backing Israel’s government in its occupation and settlement of the West Bank and the borders of Gaza. In short stop creating suffering abroad that creates a desire for revenge. These methods don’t require our governments to do anything except end some of their current policies which cost a great deal in money and lives.

In a study of suicide bombings the American Professor Robert Pape found that the vast majority of suicide bombers came from countries occupied by the forces of the target country or whose government received significant financial and military aid from the target country (usually the US or UK). He omitted to mention that the latter category receiving aid were all corrupt, torturing dictatorships – with the exception of Israel which is occupying Palestinian territory and killing Palestinians. Not one Al Qa’ida suicide bomber has come from Iran, an Islamic fundamentalist regime. Not one has come from Syria, an ‘Axis of Evil’ country. They’ve come from Iraq (since the invasion), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco. So it’s neither ideological nor religious hatred of the US that is the key factor; military occupations and support for dictatorships are the key factor (25).

(Pakistan is currently a democracy but its military governments have all been backed by the US and British governments – including the Musharraf dictatorship from 1999 till June 2008 – and its offensives against Taliban forces on its North West border with Pakistan are dividing the country by killing civilians along with Taliban).

Pape’s solution is a weak one though. He suggests the US end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and return to the role of ‘off-shore balancer’ (26). Since this would involve continuing support for dictatorships such as the Saudi monarchy and President Mubarak in Egypt though, Pape’s own data suggests it will fail.

The common belief that all suicide bombers are Muslims or religious fanatics is also false. The first modern suicide bombers in Lebanon were Christian women recruited by Christian militias seeking revenge on Israeli forces for occupying their country and killing other Lebanese people. Later Hizbullah adopted the tactic too. Out of 41 suicide bombers in Israeli occupied Lebanon from 1982 to 1999 twenty-seven were Communists or Socialists, 3 Christians, 3 of unknown beliefs. The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka include both Christians and Hindus and have used suicide bombings as part of a campaign for a separate Tamil state. In other words they are primarily nationalists (27), (28)

Professor Fawaz A. Gergez, who has interviewed former jihadists and studied them over decades, found in his book ‘The Far Enemy’ that political repression of radical Islamists through jail, torture and execution strengthens their movements, radicalises them and allows themselves to see themselves as victims of injustice and so as having a just cause. This gains them new recruits.

Gergez concludes that “As long as Muslim governments continue to violate the rights of their citizens and sanction abuse, they will continue to breed radicalism and militancy.” . No wonder that much of this radical Islamic violence has come to focus not only on their own dictators (“the near enemy” as Gergez put it) but also on the “far enemy” – the western governments who aid these dictatorships with money and with arms sales, training and political support (29).

Gergez, found that the majority of Muslims - and even of jihadists - condemned Al Qa'ida for targeting civilians. Even Zarqawi's former spiritual mentor Maqdisi condemned him - as did Sunni Iraqi clerics like Grand Imam Sheikh Tantawi and Egyptian and other jihadist groups. Sayed Fadllallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, has repeatedly condemned al Qaeda, 9-11 and any attacks on non-combatants or 'pre-emptive' attacks as being illegal under Sharia law. The majority even of Al Qaeda's ruling Shura council opposed the 9-11 attack plan (not because it targeted civilians but because they feared the reaction of the US government) but were over-ruled by Bin Laden, who only told them of it when it was too late for them to cancel it. Al Qaeda and other violent jihadist groups were withering away as organisations before the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan gave them new recruits and supporters. There are also divisions between Islamists who use peaceful political methods - such as the Jordanian and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhoods - and violent jihadist groups. Violent jihadists in fact kill Islamic fundamentalists who attempt to get into government or opposition through elections, such as the Muslim Brotherhood parties, as 'traitors' as often as they kill moderate Muslims or non-Muslims (30).

So a wiser foreign policy that stopped relying on wars, occupations and propping up dictatorships could further isolate violent jihadists and especially Al Qaeda from the majority of Muslims instead of getting them new recruits.

Professor Mia Bloom in her book ‘Dying to Kill’ found no example of any government or military succeeding in reducing terrorist attacks by military force, ‘anti-terrorism’ laws, ‘counter-terrorism’ policing, jailing suspects without trial or torture. In every case from 18th century Jihadists in Asia fighting European colonial powers to Israel-Palestine, the Kurdish PKK in Turkey or the Hindu and Christian Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka these methods increased terrorist attacks – probably for the simple reason that they jailed, tortured and killed so many people that they created motives for violent revenge. The only method that actually worked was to make political concessions that allowed separatists or occupied people the chance of autonomy, democracy or independence by peaceful means through fair elections (31).

Critics may cite a few counter examples. The British campaign in Burma in the 1950s could be one – the Chinese campaign against independence movements in Tibet and Xinjiang, or the Russian one in Chechnya, or the US backed ‘counter insurgencies’ in South and Central America.

In the case of Burma there was an unusual factor. The Communist insurgents were almost all ethnic Chinese, a minority group in Burma. So they could not get the sympathy of other Burmese people so easily and were easily identified by the British.

In Chechnya, Tibet, Xinjiang and South America major world powers (Russia, China and the US respectively) used methods amounting to massacres bordering on genocide along with systematic torture – and even then took over a decade to crush resistance, replacing it with brutal client dictatorships or one party states. No one who claims to believe in democracy or human rights can suggest these methods without being a hypocrite whose claims to be a democrat deserve only contempt.

Russia’s campaign against Chechnyan separatists also resulted in several terrorist attacks each costing hundreds of lives, from bombings of tower blocks in Moscow (which may actually have been carried out by Russia’s FSB security services) to the Beslan school massacre (which was definitely perpetrated by Islamic terrorists including Chechens, but also carelessly handled by the Russian government). So even utter brutality that eventually succeeds is not guaranteed to prevent the greater power’s own civilians dying in terrorist attacks – indeed it’s actions in Chechnya probably helped create them.

A strategy of political negotiations and an end to both military occupations and support for corrupt, brutal dictatorships is not only a more moral way to end terrorism but a more effective way as well – and it doesn’t require our troops to go and die in foreign wars, or our taxpayers to pay for those wars or to pay to prop up dictators – or to create more terrorists in the process.

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2009


(1) = Zogby International 28 Feb 2006, ‘U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006’, http://www.zogby.com/news/readnews.dbm?id=1075 ; “While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.”

(2) = Guardian 12 Nov 2001 , ‘Bin Laden denies anthrax attacks’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/nov/12/afghanistan.anthrax

(3) = Guardian 12 Mar 2004, ‘The clues that point towards al-Qaida’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/mar/12/alqaida.spain2

(4) = Guardian Unlimited 17th July 2005 , 2.15p.m update ‘Al-Qaida in Europe claims responsibility for blasts’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/jul/07/terrorism.july7

(5) = Reuters / guardian.co.uk 15 Apr 2004 ‘Excerpts from 'Bin Laden' tape’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/apr/15/alqaida.usa

(6) = Guardian 20 May 2002 ‘Forgotten victims’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/may/20/afghanistan.comment

(7) = Independent 05 Dec 2001 Civilians abandon homes after hundreds are casualties of US air strikes on villages , http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/civilians-abandon-homes-after-hundreds-are-casualties-of-us-air-strikes-on-villages-619093.html

(8) = = Independent 19 Oct 2001 Blair in row with aid group over claim that Taliban are looting food convoys, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/blair-in-row-with-aid-group-over-claim-that-taliban-are-looting-food-convoys-631897.html

(9) = = Guardian 3 Jan 2002 Refugees left in the cold at 'slaughterhouse' camp , http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/jan/03/immigration.afghanistan

(10) = The Independent 11 November 2004 ‘US claims militants are trapped as air strike hits clinic’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-claims-militants-are-trapped-as-air-strike-hits-clinic-532823.html

(10a) = Washington Post 6 Feb 2005 ‘CIA Studies Provide Glimpse of Insurgents in Iraq’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A1508-2005Feb5?language=printer

(11) = Pilger, John (2006) , ‘Freedom Next Time’ , Bantam, London, 2006 , pages 93-95

(12) = Observer 3 Feb 2002, ‘Hatred sown in a carer's heart' ’, http://observer.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,4348774-102275,00.html

(13) = as (11) above

(14) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2009 , Saudi Arabia, http://www.hrw.org/en/node/79258 The report states “Detainees, including children, are commonly the victims of systematic and multiple violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest and torture and ill-treatment in detention. Saudi judges routinely sentence defendants to thousands of lashes, often carried out in public. In 2008 the kingdom carried out 88 executions as of mid-November (compared to 150 over the equivalent period in 2007), including for drug offenses.”

(15) = Amnesty International World Report 2008 ‘Arab Republic of Egypt’, http://report2008.amnesty.org/eng/regions/middle-east-and-north-africa/egypt

(16) = BBC News 08 Sep 2005 ‘Egypt election counting under way’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4224456.stm (last sentence reads ‘The biggest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, is excluded from the election.’)

(17) = Guardian 27 May 2005 ‘Egypt claims 83% yes vote for change’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/may/27/brianwhitaker

(18) = Guardian 26 May 2005 ‘Dissent quashed as Egypt votes on reform’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/may/26/brianwhitaker

(19) = Bennis, Phyllis & Moushabeck, Michel (1992) , ‘Beyond The Storm : A Gulf Crisis Reader’, 1991 Olive Branch Press and Canongate, Edinburgh 1992 , pages 326-355

(20) = Lee , Ian (1991) ‘Continuing Health Costs of the Gulf War’, Medical Educational Trust , London , 1991

(21) = Pilger , John (1998) Hidden Agendas Vintage , London , 1998, 29-30 ,52-53 ,614

(22) = BBC News 30 Sep 1998 ‘UN official blasts Iraq sanctions’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/183499.stm

(23) = Guardian 29 Nov 2001 ‘The Hostage Nation’ by Dennis Halliday & Hans Von Sponeck , http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/nov/29/iraq.comment

(24) = Guardian 08 Apr 2004 ‘Battles rage from north to south’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/apr/08/iraq.ewenmacaskill1

(25) = Pape, Robert (2005) ‘Dying to Win’, Gibson Square Books, 2006, hardcover edition, especially chapter 7 and pages 114-116, 125

(26) = Pape, Robert (2005) ‘Dying to Win’, Gibson Square Books, 2006, hardcover edition, chapter 12, especially pages 249-250

(27) = Bloom, Mia (2005) ‘Dying to Kill : The Allure of Suicide Terrorism’, Colombia University Press, New York, 2005 ; Chapter 3 & Ch6 , p122

(28) = Pape, Robert (2005) ‘Dying to Win’, Gibson Square Books, 2006, hardcover edition, chapter8, pages129-130, 141

(29) = Gerges, Fawaz A. (2005) ‘The Far Enemy: Why Jihad went Global’, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York 2005, especially prologue, pages 9-10; especially Chapters 3, 5 & 6 and pages 235,238-245, 273, 250-252, 275-276

(30) =Gerges, Fawaz A. (2005) ‘The Far Enemy: Why Jihad went Global’, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York 2005 , pages 237 & 261

(31) =Bloom, Mia (2005) ‘Dying to Kill : The Allure of Suicide Terrorism’, Colombia University Press, New York, 2005

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2009

Chapter 11: Words and Actions - How to Deal with the Iranian nuclear issue

The Persian Problem: What should we do about Iran?

Iranian President - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

President Ahmadinejad is often presented as evidence that Iran's government are too crazy to be allowed nuclear weapons.

To listen to some of the rhetoric about Iran and its nuclear programme you might think the Iranian government is composed entirely of crazed anti-Semites who are planning a second holocaust – this time nuclear and targeting Israel. They’re compared to Al Qaeda suicide bombers with glorious martyrdom as their only wish.

Yet Iran’s government rejected the option of glorious national martyrdom in 1988. When the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian passenger plane in the Gulf the Iranians believed the US was about to join the Iran-Iraq war as a direct participant. The Iranian military told their leaders they couldn’t win such a war – and Khomeini was persuaded to sue for peace. Members of Khomeini’s regime included Ayatollah Khameini (now Supreme Leader of Iran) and Rafsanjani – a former President who led the calls for a peace deal in 1988 and now sits on the powerful Expediency Council. (see Ray Takeyh's book 'Hidden Iran'. (1) Takeyh is a member of the US Council on Foreign Relations. Also see former CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack's 'The Persian Puzzle' (2) )

What's more Ahmadinejad may be President of Iran, but the President has little power in the Iranian system of government. Khameini , holding the office of Supreme Leader, has the final say on every issue - and is Commander in Chief of the Iranian military. He over-ruled the previous President - Khatami - repeatedly - and can do the same with Ahmadinejad. Rafsanjani on the Expediency council has as much influence as the President. Ahmadinejad has only one vote on Iran's National Security Council , which is headed by Ali Larijani, appointed by Khameini. Khameini can over-rule the Security Council in practice must still take public opinion and the views of the reformist and pragmatist factions of Iranian politics led by people like Khatami and Rafsanjani into account (especially as these two factions have now allied to oppose the conservatives). (3) , (4) , (5) , (6)

Iran's 'Supreme Leader' Ayatollah Khomeini has control of Iran's military

Iran's 'Supreme Leader' Ayatollah Khomeini (above) has control of Iran's military - not President Ahmadinejad while the pragmatic Ayatollah Rafsanjani (below) is influential in Iranian politics. Both helped persuade Khomeini to choose peace over national martyrdom in 1988.

Ayatollah Rafsanjani (below) is influential in Iranian politics

Saddam, another leader who was supposedly so crazy he was just itching to spark off some WMDs at a nuclear armed enemy, similarly had the option of inviting nuclear retaliation and national annihilation in the 1991 Gulf War when he possessed chemical warheads for his scud missiles. After warnings of nuclear consequences if chemical weapons were used on the US or its allies every scud missile fired had a conventional warhead. (7) , (8)

In short nuclear deterrence works. As Condoleeza Rice wrote of “rogue states” in Foreign Affairs in 2000 “These regimes are living on borrowed time, so there need be no sense of panic about them. Rather, the first line of defense should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence -- if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration.” (9)

A CIA analysis provided to US Senators by George Tenet in 2002 similarly said there was little threat to the US or its allies from Saddam – unless they invaded Iraq.(10)

We’re constantly told that the latest bogeyman is uniquely crazy and willing to commit suicide where others wouldn’t. Yet in over 50 years since the first nuclear weapons were developed every kind of government of every ideology has possessed them – including the Islamist military of Pakistan. None has ever used nuclear weapons – or other WMDs (chemical or biological) – against a government that could retaliate with nuclear weapons.

As Takeyh also points out, those Iranians who want nuclear weapons want them for rational reasons of deterrence (11). During the Iran-Iraq war Iranian forces and Iraqi Kurds were attacked by Saddam’s military using chemical weapons systems supplied by the US, China, France, Germany and Britain. US and British aid to Saddam continued after the gassing by Saddam of the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja, US aid to Saddam ending only in May 1990 (12) , (13), (14) , (15) , (16). At the time Tony Blair MP refused to sign eight parliamentary motions condemning the gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja by Saddam (17).

Iraqi kurds mourning the dead as they prepare to bury them after Saddam's gassing of Halabja in 1988

Iraqi kurds mourning the dead as they prepare to bury them after Saddam's gassing of Halabja in 1988. Chemical weapons were also used by Saddam against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war. Chemical munitions and the materials to produce them plus delivery systems were provided by the US, British, French , Chinese and German governments among others. Aid from the US and UK to Saddam continued after Halabja.

No wonder then that many Iranians (and Iraqis) distrust international law and the international community.

The proponents of war or military strikes might switch tack and raise Iran’s poor human rights record and its support for terrorism.

Iranian dissidents and separatists often face jail, torture or death; but would an invasion change this? Bush has said the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever from Iraq. In fact Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports show they’re there to stay – many of them now run by coalition or Iraqi government forces including Saddam's former Mukhabarat secret police. So forget "liberating" Iranians by force. (18), (19), (20) , (21) , (22), (23) , (24)

As for backing terrorism Iran certainly supplies training and arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon and to the Badr brigade (and possibly the Madhi army) in Iraq. This however is matched , according to the renowned American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, by US special forces deployed in Iran and the neighbouring countries – and US ‘black operations’ funding armed Sunni extremist groups across the Middle East in order to ‘contain Iranian influence’ much as arming the Mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 80s was meant to ‘contain Soviet Power’. ABC News report that the CIA is also aiding the Jundullah terrorist group – Sunni Arab (Baluchi) separatists based in Pakistan and affiliated to Al Qaeda - who are carrying out roadside bombings against Iranian Revolutionary Guard units , assassinations of Iranian government officials and beheadings of captives inside Iran. The aim of all this , according to Hersh, is to provoke the Iranians into doing something that will give Cheney an excuse to get Bush to declare war on Iran. (Iran and Pakistan also brutally repress Baluchi separatists but that does not make Jundullah any less brutal) (25) , (26), (27).

Iran is not then a nuclear threat, its peoples’ human rights are unlikely to be improved by overthrowing its government by military force and it’s no more of a sponsor of terrorism than the Bush administration.

So what can we do to bring greater democracy to Iran?

To answer this you need to take history into account. In 1953 the British and American governments conspired with Anglo-Iranian Oil (now BP) and the Shah (the grand-son of a former military dictator) to over-throw Iran’s first post-independence elected government. Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh was over-thrown for the crime of planning to nationalise Iran’s oil industry since Anglo-Iranian refused to give the Iranian government even a 50% share of oil revenues or to pay decent wages to Iranian employees. From 1953 to 1979 European and American governments supported and sold arms to the Shah as he tortured his own people and squandered the country’s oil revenues on himself and his favourites. Even when, in 1979, the Shah responded to mass demonstrations by having the army massacre the demonstrators, this support continued (28) , (29), (30).

This history ensures that as long as the British and American governments threaten Iran with sanctions or a war of ‘regime change’ Iranians will rally behind their government – and the theocracy will find it easy to label the opposition fifth columnists for foreign powers.

So the best thing we can do to bring democracy to Iran is to leave it to Iranians. Leave Iranians alone and they’ll demand and eventually create democracy themselves. Keep threatening them and those threats will keep shoring up the current regime.

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(1) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006 - pages 170-174

(2) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 231-233

(3) = Hauser Global Law School Program (New York University School of Law) Mar 2006, 'A Guide to the Legal System of the Islamic Republic of Iran' by Omar Sial' , http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/iran.htm

(4) = Time magazine 20 Apr 2006‘Iran President's Bark May Be Worse than His Bite', http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1185293,00.html

(5) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(20054), ‘The Persian Puzzle, Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 249-374

(6) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006 - pages 30-57

(7) = Nye , Joseph S. & Smith , Robert K. (1992), ‘After the Storm, Madison Books , London , 1992 , - pages 211-216

(8) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2002), ‘The Threatening Storm, Random House, New York, 2002 - pages 248-249

(9) = Rice, Condoleeza (2000) in Foreign Affairs January/February 2000‘ - 'Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest' http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20000101faessay5-p50/condoleezza-rice/campaign-2000-promoting-the-national-interest.html - cited in Chomsky, Noam (2003) 'Hegemony or Survival' , Penguin Books , London & NY 2004, pages 34 & 260 citing Mearsheimer, John & Walt, Stephen (2003) in Foreign Policy Jan/Feb 2003

(10) = Guardian 10 Oct 2002, ‘CIA in blow to Bush attack plans, , http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,808956,00.html

(11) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006 - pages 140-149

(12) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2002), ‘The Threatening Storm, Random House, New York, 2002 - pages 18-20 Pollack mentions Reagan administration financial aid and arms sales to Saddam - and that these continued after Halabja - but pretends that only "the Germans(among others)" provided Saddam with dual-use equipment they knew was being used for Saddam's chemical and biological weapons programmes. In fact the "others" included the Reagan administration , which provided chemical and biological weapons and delivery systems to Saddam. The Reagan and then Bush senior administrations also continued financial aid to Saddam up until May 1990 (see 13 , 14 and 15 below).

(13) = Washington Post 22 Mar 1992, ‘Gonzalez's Iraq Expose: Hill Chairman Details U.S. Prewar Courtship, Washington Post archive article here ; full article also reproduced at the Federation of American Scientists' website here ; This gives an account provided by A US Congressman based on information provided to congressional committees by the CIA.

(14) = Washington Post 5 Aug 1992, ‘GOP Seeks Probe of Gonzalez Over Iraq Data, Washington Post archive article here ; also reproduced at http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-1018781.html Far from disputing the accuracy of Gonzalez's claims the Bush (senior) administration and the CIA instead stopped providing Gonzalez with intelligence briefings and attempted to have him censured by congress for releasing the information to the public

(15) = 'U.S. chemical and biological warfare-related dual use exports to Iraq and their possible impact on the health consequences of the Persian Gulf War'/ A report of Donald W. Riegle, Jr. and Alfonse M. D’Amato of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with respect to export administration, United States Senate (1994) - Link to Library of Congress record

(16) = Aburish, Said K.(2000), ‘Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, Bloomsbury, London, 2001(paperback) - pages 241-250 - esp.249

(17) = Guardian 18 March 2003 , 'Diary' , "http://www.guardian.co.uk/diary/story/0,,916313,00.html

(18) = White House Press Release 13th Dec 2003, ‘President Bush Addresses Nation on the Capture of Saddam Hussein, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/12/20031214-3.html

(19) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 (Introduction) ‘Torture and Inhumane Treatment: A Deliberate U.S. Policy, http://hrw.org/wr2k6/introduction/2.htm#_Toc121910421

(20) = Amnesty International 6 March 2006 ‘Beyond Abu Ghraib : Detention and Torture in Iraq, http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engmde140012006

(21) = Human Rights Watch Jan 2005 ‘The New Iraq? Torture and ill-treatment of detainees in Iraqi custody', http://hrw.org/reports/2005/iraq0105/

(22) = Washington Post Wednesday, September 28, 2005; A21,‘ A Matter of Honor’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/27/AR2005092701527_pf.html

(23) = Telegraph 03 Jan 2004 ‘CIA plans new secret police to fight Iraq terrorism', http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/01/04/wirq04.xml

(24) = Times 7 Jul 2005 ‘West turns blind eye as police put Saddam's torturers back to work', http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article541123.ece

(25) = New Yorker Magazine 5 Mar 2007 , ‘Annals of National Security : The Redirection’, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/05/070305fa_fact_hersh

(26) = ABC News 03 Apr 2007 , ‘ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran’, http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/04/abc_news_exclus.html

(27) = Telegraph 17 Jan 2006 , ‘'We will cut them until Iran asks for mercy' ’, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/01/15/wiran15.xml

(28) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 27-140

(29) = Curtis, Mark (1995), ‘The Ambiguities of Power : British Foreign Policy since 1945', Zed Books, London & New York, 1995 paperback edition - pages 87-96

(30) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran', Times Books , New York, 2006 - pages 83-96

Chapter 13 - Why Pakistan's military are not allies in the war on terror

Sorry, this chapter has still to be written.

Mistakes from Iraq to Af-Pak


The Obama administration’s offensives in Afghanistan and Pakistan fail to learn the lessons of the failure of the same methods in Iraq in 2004

Afghan Mourners

Afghans mourn people killed in a US air strike in August 2008 (Photograph: Fraidoon Pooyaa/AP – guardian.co.uk


The Obama administration’s reliance on airstrikes and military offensives in Pakistan and Afghanistan suggest it’s not learned from failures in Iraq in 2004 where the Coalition and Iraqi army ‘won’ in battles for control of Fallujah, Samarra and other cities, without ever making any progress in the war. Any full scale military offensive using heavy weaponry such as air forces and artillery kills at least as many civilians as combatants. This is true whether you look at Israeli offensives in the occupied territories, Russian ones in Chechnya (until a few years ago), Coalition offensives in Iraq or current NATO, Afghan army or Pakistani ones. Of course the fact that armies are frequently ordered to fire on ambulances and anyone else present – as reported by both Iraqis and western journalists and aid workers who were eye-witnesses of the April 2004 assault on Fallujah (1) , (2), (3),(4) .

The assumptions involved seem to be that anyone left is a terrorist and that if someone’s got to do it’s better that it’s one of ‘them’ than one of ‘our guys’. Whether you choose to blame the militaries for indiscriminate fire or the guerrillas and terrorist groups for hiding among civilians the result is the same though. Military offensives kill at least one civilian for every combatant. Killing the people closest to them is not a great way to win anyone’s heart or mind, nor is such an extreme action likely to make them more moderate in their beliefs or their actions.

That’s why, apart from the obvious moral issues involved in using methods you know from experience will kill as many innocent people as guilty ones, superior military force is worthless in a war against a much weaker enemy.

When fighting irregulars using overwhelming military force each battle won loses the war by killing so many civilians and alienating so many survivors that the insurgents get more recruits and more supporters than they lost. That (plus lots of massacres of civilians using napalm, carpet bombing and ‘free fire zones) is why the Americans lost in Vietnam (5) . It’s why the Soviets lost in Afghanistan. It’s why the American offensives in Iraq in 2004 ended up going round in circles taking and re-taking the same cities – Fallujah for instance twice in the same year, first in April and then again in November. It’s one of the main reasons that NATO and its allies are losing in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Everyone will be familiar with the condemnation of ‘cowardly’ insurgents for ‘hiding among civilians’. A force that has no air force, artillery or tanks doesn’t stand a chance in open combat against regular militaries that have all three. So it is forced to use guerrilla or terrorist tactics – not wearing uniforms and escaping or blending in among civilians when a major assault by the regular forces arrives. We can condemn this as cowardice if we want but the reality is that it’s the only way a much weaker force can fight a much stronger one and these tactics were used by French and Italian partisans against the Germans in World War Two and by Zionist groups in the British Mandate of Palestine before the foundation of Israel in the 1948 war (6) . They do not mark a side as morally inferior or superior, only as militarily weaker. They are a breach of the Geneva conventions, but then so are many of the methods used by regular militaries.

Some claim that the Coalition ended the war in Iraq after General Petraeus’ surge. There was certainly a reduction in attacks on Coalition forces during the surge, but there was actually an increase in sectarian killings by Iraqis of other Iraqis. This was because the surge did not reduce attacks on Coalition forces because there were more of them in Iraq, but because the US began paying Iraqis more than Al Qa’ida or the militias or organised crime could offer to fight for Iraqi government ‘awakening’ militias. Some of the same people joining these militias had previously fought for Sunni groups fighting the Coalition – some of them had even fought for Al Qa’ida (7), (8), (9), (10)

Wars and poverty result in increased support for extreme sectarian ideologies and violent crime replacing jobs as the main source of income. The presence of foreign troops – and ones not of the same religion as the majority in that country - only makes this problem worse, because it boosts nationalism and fundamentalism.

The latest NATO air strike in Afghanistan was confirmed by International Red Cross staff to have killed dozens of civilians. The strikes went on for 14 hours, long after Red Cross staff told NATO there were civilians present, which should have been obvious anyway; and also bombed compounds full of civilians 8 kilometres from ground fighting. There are also reports of the use of white phosphorus wounding and killing civilians (11), (12), (13), (14), (15), (16).

Injured Afghan girl

An Afghan girl injured in NATO airstrikes on the village of Farah (Photograph: Independent newspaper

There are claims from Afghan police that the Taliban forced villagers to stay with them in houses or compounds they’d occupied (17). Even if that turns out to be true it can’t justify razing three villages to the ground with air strikes and killing over 100 civilians in order to kill enemy fighters though. How would we react if, when British and American civilians were taken hostage, our governments responded by having the building they were held in bombed to dust with everyone inside it in order to avoid casualties among those fighting the hostage takers? It’s unlikely we would praise the decision as the right thing to do, so, unless we want to send the message that Afghan and Pakistan civilians’ lives don’t matter to us we shouldn’t do the same there either.

The US military denies reports of over 100 civilians killed by the strikes but they have been proven to have taken place in many other cases in which the US military flatly denied civilians had died or claimed the numbers were lower. Independent investigations by Human Rights Watch and the UN found past US military investigations of other air strikes which killed dozens of civilians were ‘deeply flawed’ and inaccurate(18), (19), (20), (21), (22), (23).

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates felt it necessary to make up a story about the Taliban running from house to house throwing grenades in order to kill civilians and then blame it on NATO air strikes. To be fair he did withdraw this fairy tale later and he’s probably got into bad habits what with having been involved in white-washing CIA involvement in drugs and arms running during the Iran-Contra inquiry and then being part of the Bush administration. (23a), (23b)

President Karzai of Afghanistan has repeatedly publicly demanded that air strikes end after many strikes causing civilian deaths over years, but he’s been repeatedly been ignored. His latest demand was refused on the grounds that it would risk the lives of Afghan Army forces (24), (25), (26), (27). So Afghan civilian lives aren’t a concern and the Afghan government has no right to say what foreign troops can do in it’s country or what methods should be used to fight the Taliban? This makes a mockery of claims that NATO are only in Afghanistan at the request of the elected government and provides more propaganda to the Taliban who can point to Karzai as a powerless puppet of the US. If it really respects the Afghan government as a democratically elected one NATO has to act in accordance with the wishes of the elected President and Afghan public opinion, both of which oppose air strikes.

Making people homeless refugees also kills indirectly through lack of clean water, sanitation, food and medical care. Making people destitute refugees also creates a huge pool of potential criminals, insurgents or terrorists. Hundreds of thousands fled the cities assaulted by the coalition in Iraq in 2004 and a cholera epidemic followed in 2007(28), (29). Half a million people are now fleeing the Pakistan military offensive in the North-West of the country (30). Since the Soviet invasion in 1979 refugee camps in Pakistan full of homeless Afghans have been the main recruiting grounds for the different factions in Afghanistan. If fighting in Pakistan continues they will be full of Pakistani recruits for Pakistan’s Taliban too, especially as some are grieving family members killed in US missile strikes and Pakistan army air and artillery strikes (31), (32)


Refugees queue for food
Refugees queue for food in North-West Pakistan, May 2009 (Photograph: Fred Baker/AP – The Star (Lebanon)

While the Obama administration has now replaced the most senior US general in Afghanistan and announced a new strategy it remains to be seen if that strategy is significantly different from the Bush administration’s, which was also meant to combine non-military reconstruction and development with ‘counter-insurgency’. The new US commander in Afghanistan, General David Kiernan, was involved in ‘special operations’ in Afghanistan and Iraq and was head of Special Operations commanding units involved in torture in Iraq, including at Camp Nama – where methods included punching prisoners in the spine till they passed out and kicking them in the stomach till they vomited (33), (34).

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2009




(1) = BBC News 23 Apr 2004 ‘Picture emerges of Falluja siege’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3653223.stm

(2) = Guardian 17 Apr 2004 ‘'Getting aid past US snipers is impossible'’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/apr/17/iraq

(3) = Iraq Body Count 26 Oct 2004 ‘No Longer Unknowable: Falluja's April Civilian Toll is 600’, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/analysis/reference/press-releases/9/

(4) = B’Tselem Press Release 31 Dec 2007, ‘131 Palestinians who did not participate in the hostilities killed by Israel's security forces in 2007’, http://www.btselem.org/english/Press_Releases/20071231.asp

(5) = Marilyn B. Young (1991), The Vietnam Wars , HarperCollins, New York , 1991

(6) = Benny Morris (1999), ‘Righteous Victims : A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1999’, John Murray Publishers, London, 2000, Hardback Edition, pages 147, 173-179

(7) = Guardian 10 Nov 2007, 'Meet Abu Abed: the US's new ally against al-Qaida', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/nov/10/usa.alqaida

(8) = Sunday Times 25 Nov 2007, ‘American-backed killer militias strut across Iraq’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article2937104.ece

(9) = Guardian 20 Dec 2007, 'A surge of their own: Iraqis take back the streets', http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2229892,00.html

(10) = NPR 17 July 2008, 'U.S. Trains Ex-Sunni Militias as Iraqi Police', http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11240000

(11) = ICRC News Release 06 May 2009 ‘Afghanistan: ICRC confirms dozens killed in air strikes’, http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/afghanistan-news-060509!OpenDocument

(12) = Independent 06 May 2009 ‘Afghans riot over air-strike atrocity’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghans-riot-over-airstrike-atrocity-1681070.html

(13) = Independent 08 May 2009 ‘US denies 147 Afghan civilians killed’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/us-denies-147-afghan-civilians-killed-1681620.html

(14) = IOS 10 May 2009 ‘Patrick Cockburn: Who killed 120 civilians? The US says it's not a story’, http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/patrick-cockburn-who-killed-120-civilians-the-us-says-its-not-a-story-1682310.html

(15) = Independent 06 May 2009 ‘'Dozens die' in Afghan air strikes says Red Cross’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/dozens-die-in-afghan-air-strikes-says-red-cross-1679930.html

(16) = guardian.co.uk 10 May 2009 ‘Phosphorus claim after fatal air strikes in Afghanistan’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/10/afghanistan-attacks-phosphorus-investigation

(17) = See (15) above

(18) = PBS 27 Aug 2008 ‘U.N. Says 90 Civilians Killed in Afghan Airstrike’, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/asia/july-dec08/afghan_08-27.html

(19) = Washington Post 29 Aug 2008 ‘Pentagon Reports U.S. Airstrike Killed 5 Afghan Civilians, Not 90’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/28/AR2008082802203.html

(20) = Guardian.co.uk 28 Nov 2007 ‘US air strikes kill civilian roadworkers in Afghanistan’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/nov/28/afghanistan.davidbatty

(21) = Guardian.co.uk 11 Jul 2008 ‘US air strike wiped out Afghan wedding party, inquiry finds’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/11/afghanistan.usa

Seven Effective Ways to Defeat Extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Afghan police destroy a poppy crop – but does poppy ‘eradication’ really help end the war in Iraq and the drugs trade or is it failing and making things worse? (Photo: AP/America.gov)


copyright©Duncan McFarlane2009


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Legalise opium poppy production for opiate painkillers, as proposed by the Senlis Trust (1). The British and American governments propose poppy crop destruction in Afghanistan, but the British government have legalised their growth for sale as opiates in the UK (2). Opium poppies grown for heroin provide around 38% of Afghanistan’s annual income (3). For comparison the recent credit crisis has led to a reduction in the size of the British economy of around 1.6% in the last quarter. The effects of reducing the income of Afghanistan, a much poorer country, by 38%, would be mass starvation on a scale even greater than that in the famines of 2001-2. Poppies can grow with very little water in poor soil. Due to the destruction of irrigation systems over decades of civil wars and invasions there are large parts of Afghanistan where no other crop is viable. With less than 7% of Afghanistan now arable land Afghans rely on poppies as a cash crop to earn revenue to import enough food (4). Neither destroying nor legalising poppy crops is likely to eliminate the drugs trade in any case – only move production to other countries. Legalisation for painkillers in Turkey succeeded, but then heroin production moved to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US government has funded and pushed pesticide spraying of crops from the air in South and Central American countries with ‘Roundup’, a modern version of Agent Orange, which, like Agent Orange, kills not only coca crops but food crops, animals and people. Despite the ‘eradication’ programme cocaine production in Colombia has increased rapidly (5), (6). In Afghanistan it’s the same. Between 2002 and 2008 heroin poppy cultivation doubled from around 75,000 hectares to over 150,000 hectares. There was a small reduction in the area cultivated between 2007 and 2008 (7).

One possible reason, as discovered by many academics and journalists and confirmed by former US Drug Enforcement Agency officers is that the drugs trade has been used for decades by elements of the US military intelligence and CIA as a means of providing funds for ‘covert operations’ and support to groups which congress has refused funding for. The most famous case was in the 1980s when Colonel Oliver North’s operations which involved smuggling arms to the contras in Nicaragua on the same planes that cocaine was smuggled into the US in. This was discovered in investigations into the Iran-Contra scandal. Obama’s Defence Secretary Robert Gate was a high ranking member of the CIA at the time. Although there wasn’t evidence he was directly involved the inquiry found his statements to it “seemed scripted and less than candid” (8) - (12). Given all this any eradication programme is likely to go the way the Colombian one has – becoming a war for control of the drugs trade in that country rather than to end it. The Bush administration backed the Uribe government’s ‘war on drugs’ in Colombia despite Senators close to Uribe having been convicted on charges of involvement in the drugs trade and high ranking members of the Colombian military having been reported by the CIA and Human Rights Watch to be working along with right wing paramilitaries involved in murders and drug trafficking (13) - (15). Obama in his Presidential campaign suggested he would change Plan Colombia to focus on social and economic causes of the drugs trade and protecting human rights rather than military aid. The reality remains to be seen though and it’s hard to see how this could be done through a government as corrupt as Uribe’s.

Critics of the legalisation for opiates proposal have claimed that painkillers couldn’t provide the same income to farmers as heroin. That’s not true though – it would provide more. Legalisation for painkiller production is a viable alternative which could provide farmers with at least as much income as illegal drugs would, since they only get around 20% of the final sale price from drugs smugglers (16). In 2004 US state department official Robert Charles claimed heroin could sell for 100 times the price poppy farmers are paid by smugglers (though, like all Bush administration claims, this must be treated with scepticism) (17). If fair trade schemes for farmers growing poppies for painkillers were set up they would be likely to make much more from poppy crops grown for painkillers than poppies grown illegally for heroin. Farmers producing a legal product can demand the government ensures they are paid a fair price for it. Farmers growing an illegal product can’t.

Making poppy production illegal and attempts at poppy crop eradication unnecessarily turn many Afghans into criminals and threaten their main source of income. As a result many farmers and smugglers who would otherwise have no reason to fight the central government are hiring people to defend their crops and income by force. Legalisation for painkiller production could end this problem without any more deaths.

One World Bank and UN report on the benefits of poppy crop eradication in Afghanistan came to the stunning conclusion that “The interdiction campaign should lead to a substantial improvement in the balance of payments. The decline in farmers' income should result in a substantial reduction of aggregate demand, including for traded goods. Moreover, the decline in labor costs relative to the price of tradable goods should boost investment and production in the tradable goods sector. Overall, the resulting improvement in the licit trade balance would largely offset the deterioration in the illicit balance of payments.” (18)

In other words poppy eradication will reduce the income of Afghan farmers and the wages of Afghan farm workers, so they’ll not be able to afford to buy as much, reducing imports and so improving the balance of payments as imports will be reduced relative to exports. This shows how far many official policies are from aiming at benefiting the majority of Afghans.

Ahmed Rashid has pointed out that farm labourers earn $10 a day harvesting opium poppies – five times the average wage in Afghanistan (19). They could earn just as much from poppies grown for painkillers.

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Provide foreign aid to build factories and laboratories to refine the opium paste into generic opiate painkillers. This way Afghans and Pakistanis would get skilled jobs and increased personal incomes and government revenues from this manufacturing and export industry, rather than only the income from the raw materials grown by farmers. Their health services would also get cheaper painkillers for their own patients.

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End counter-productive military offensives, including reducing the use of air strikes and unmanned drones.. These result in too many civilian deaths and lose support for their governments and democratic values by associating them with the killing of civilians and foreign forces. Air strikes should only be used to defend against Taliban offensives. A single US airstrike in Afghanistan on 5th May 2009 was confirmed to have killed dozens of civilians by International Red Cross aid workers. It was one of many. President Karzai has repeatedly and publicly asked NATO to end its reliance on air strikes which cause heavy civilian casualties, but has been ignored so far. (See this page and sources for it)

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Focus any military effort on defending schools and development projects and areas the central government currently controls, not on offensives to clear the Taliban out of areas they currently control. This would encourage those outside the core areas where the central government’s authority is strong to want to join it voluntarily and get the benefits it offers rather than alienate people by force and violence. This would work on the model of the EU rather than NATO, though it does not need to mean an entirely ‘free market’ approach. One possible exception would be to secure control of main roads to prevent attacks by Taliban or bandits on them and permit trade and development within the country.

Ideally Afghan and Pakistan forces should be trained and equipped to do this. Currently they are hampered by poor equipment, low wages and infiltration by the Taliban. The other measures suggested here could help with these problems. The problem with this is that most of the military forces in Iraq are loyal to one warlord or another, involved in human rights abuses such as torture and even in kidnapping, banditry, murder and theft. This includes many of the poorly paid Afghan police. Foreign aid providing increased pay for police would be one way to reduce this problem.

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Increase civilian aid rather than military aid, in order to provide jobs, healthcare and education. That is what could win the battle for hearts and minds which military force has so far lost. Families and children who can get a real education rather than only a religious one in a madrassa are less likely to become extreme in their views. People who are provided with viable livelihoods and healthcare by their government and foreign donors are much less likely to become supporters or members of extremist groups than people who have lost friends and family members in offensives by government and foreign forces. Killing people’s relatives and friends causes them extreme suffering. It should not be surprising that it creates extreme reactions. Much military aid is probably still being used by elements of the Pakistan and Afghanistan militaries as it has in the past for their own aims – such as training Islamic groups such as the Taliban to help counter Indian influence or ‘threats’ in the case of Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence (20) - (28).

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Make civilian aid to the Afghan and Pakistan governments conditional on increased minimum wages for the poorest as well as human rights, democracy and the right to form trade unions. Aid which only benefits the wealthy and powerful will not help or persuade the majority of Afghans and Pakistanis. Increasing minimum wages will not only benefit Afghans and Pakistanis but will help to stop people in Europe and America being put out of work by cheap exports made by exploiting people in other countries.


Also make aid conditional on increases in wages for Afghan and Pakistani police and soldiers to amounts as high as those currently paid by the Taliban, Al Qa’ida and other warlords. This will give desperate people an option other than fighting for the other side and will reduce crimes such as kidnapping by police forces. One lesson from Iraq was that people in countries suffering dire poverty will fight for whoever pays most. The Sunni ‘awakening’ militias began turning on Al Qa’ida after the US offered aid to fund pay of $300 a month for each militia member.

Some of them were even former Al Qa’ida fighters, who were fighting more for money to survive than anything else (29) - (32). When this US aid ended in November 2008 and the Iraqi government decided to disband and disarm the militias and move them to other (possibly lower paid) jobs there was a resurgence of car bombing attacks against Shia within months Shia (33), (34). This may have been as much or more due to Sunnis’ fear of becoming victims of Shia attacks if they were disarmed as any possible reduction in pay though.


While the US military claimed great successes for the surge, no reliable statistics were available and those from independent bodies did not show the same degree of success. Even on the coalition’s figures the number of civilian deaths in late 2007 was higher than it had been in January 2006 (35), (36). The ‘El Salvador’ option of hiring locals to torture and murder the opposition was promoted by many former Pentagon and CIA staff and most probably implemented, so that some of the ‘militia’ or ‘sectarian’ violence by Iraqis against Iraqis may have been by US backed groups, just as it was in South and Central America in the 80s (37) - (45). The fact that occupying powers have always sought to divide the people of occupied countries and turn them against each other to stop them uniting against the occupiers is also worth remembering.

Any solution focusing on the military and policing over political negotiations, peace settlements and social and economic solutions is at risk of making things worse rather than better.

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(1) = Senlis Council (2007) ‘Poppy for Medicine - Licensing poppy for the production of essential medicines: an integrated counter-narcotics, development, and counter-insurgency model for Afghanistan’, http://www.poppyformedicine.net/ and http://www.icosgroup.net/

(2) = Herald 03 Sep 2008 ‘UK farmers allowed to cultivate poppies for morphine’, http://www.theherald.co.uk/search/display.var.2439164.0.uk_farmers_allowed_to_cultivate_poppies_for_morphine.php

(3) = CARE & CIC March 2005 ‘TOO EARLY TO DECLARE SUCCESS: Counter-Narcotics Policy in Afghanistan’, page 2, http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/APCITY/UNPAN022664.pdf, Cited by Ahmed Rashid (2008) ‘Descent Into Chaos’ , Chapter 15, page 325

(4) = Ahmed Rashid (2008) ‘Descent Into Chaos’ , Chapter 15, pages 317-319

(5) = Observer 17 Jun 2001 ‘How global battle against drugs risks backfiring’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/jun/17/usa.drugstrade

(6) = Washington Post 19 Jun 2008 ‘Coca Cultivation Rises In Colombia, U.N. Says’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/18/AR2008061802950.html

(7) = BBC News 26 Aug 2008 ‘UN reports Afghan opium decline’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7582018.stm (see graph of heroin production based on UN figures)

(8) = Levine , Michael (2000) Deep Cover uPublish.com , 2000 (Michael Levine is a former US Drug Enforcement Agency officer)

(9) = Scott , Peter Dale & Marshall , Jonathan(1998) Cocaine Politics University of California Press , LA & London ,1998

(10) = McCoy , Alfred (1991) The Politics of Heroin - CIA complicity in the global drug trade Lawrence Hill , New York ,1991

(11) = Cockburn , Alexander & St.Clair , Jeffrey (1998) Whiteout - The CIA , Drugs & The Press Verso , London & New York , 1998

(12) = FINAL REPORT OF THE INDEPENDENT COUNSEL FOR IRAN/CONTRA MATTERS, Volume I: Investigations and Prosecutions, Lawrence E. Walsh, Independent Counsel, August 4, 1993, Chapter 16 – Robert M. Gates, http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/chap_16.htm

(13) = Guardian 27 Mar 2007, ‘The politicians and the drugs cartels - scandal engulfs Colombia's elite’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/mar/27/colombia.internationalnews

(14) = Human Rights Watch 2002(a) ‘Colombia Human Rights Certification IV’, http://www.hrw.org/legacy/backgrounder/americas/colombia-certification4.htm

(15) = Guardian 18 May 2007, ‘Colombian leader denies link to paramilitaries’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/colombia/story/0,,2082667,00.html

(16) = UN Office on Drugs and Crime & The World Bank ‘Afghanistan’s Drug Industry’, http://www.unodc.org/pdf/afg/publications/afghanistan_drug_industry.pdf (cited by Ahmed Rashid (2008) Descent into Chaos, Chapter 15, p326)

(17) = Voice of America (VOA) News 27 Feb 2004 ‘US Officials See Link Between Terrorists and Narcotics Trade in Afghanistan’, http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2004-02/a-2004-02-27-2-US.cfm?moddate=2004-02-27

(18) = UN Office on Drugs and Crime ‘Afghanistan’s Drug Industry’ & The World Bank, http://www.unodc.org/pdf/afg/publications/afghanistan_drug_industry.pdf (cited by Ahmed Rashid (2008) Descent into Chaos, Chapter 2, p40)

(19) = Ahmed Rashid (2008) ‘Descent Into Chaos’ , Chapter 15, page 325

(20) = New York Times 09 Oct 2001 , 'Pakistani Is Already Calling on U.S. to End Airstrikes Quickly', http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D01E3D9113CF93AA35753C1A9679C8B63

(21) = Ahmed Rashid (2008) , ‘Descent Into Chaos’, Penguin, London & NY, 2008, (hardback edition) especially Chapter 17 and esp 367-368 and note 35 on page 452 (notes for ch17) on June 2006 internal NATO and Afghan intelligence report on Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence training, funding , arming of Taliban in Pakistan for attacks in Pakistan , but also pages 77-78, 48, 50, 114, 116 and rest of Ch17

(22) = Telegraph 06 Oct 2006 ‘Nato's top brass accuse Pakistan over Taliban aid’,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1530756/Nato's-top-brass-accuse-Pakistan-over-Taliban-aid.html

(23) = Independent 14 March 2006, ‘Pakistanis accused of aiding Taliban with missile parts’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/pakistanis-accused-of-aiding-taliban-with-missile-parts-469798.html

(24) = Guardian 19 May 2006, ‘Pakistan sheltering Taliban, says British officer’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/may/19/pakistan.alqaida

(25) = Times 8 Oct 2006 ‘Britain says Pakistan is hiding Taliban chief’,http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article665054.ece

(26) = Times 21 Jab 2007 ‘Pakistan accused of backing Taliban’,http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/01/21/asia/web.0121pakistan.php?page=1

(27) = Times 27 Dec 2007 ‘Main suspects are warlords and security forces’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article3100052.ece

(28) = IHT 01 Oct 2008 ‘Spanish report ties Pakistan spy agency to Taliban’, http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/10/01/europe/EU-Spain-Pakistan-Taliban.php

(29) = Guardian 10 Nov 2007, 'Meet Abu Abed: the US's new ally against al-Qaida', http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/nov/10/usa.alqaida , cited by Patrick Cockburn (2008), ‘Moqtada Al Sadr and the fall of Iraq’, Faber & Faber, London, 2008 , chapter 17, p252-3 & 265

(30) = Sunday Times 25 Nov 2007, ‘American-backed killer militias strut across Iraq’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article2937104.ece

(31) = Guardian 20 Dec 2007, 'A surge of their own: Iraqis take back the streets', http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2229892,00.html ;

(32) = NPR 17 July 2008, 'U.S. Trains Ex-Sunni Militias as Iraqi Police', http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11240000

(33) Guardian 02 Apr 2009 ‘Iraq disbands Sunni militia that helped defeat insurgents’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/02/iraq-sunni-militia-disbanded

(34) Time 24 Apr 2009 ‘Baghdad Bombings: Is Iraq Unraveling Again?, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1893770,00.html

(35) Council on Foreign Relations 12 Sep 2007 ‘Backgrounder - Iraq Security Statistics’, http://www.cfr.org/publication/14196/

(36)Council on Foreign Relations 14 Sep 2007, ‘Daily Briefing - An Appeal for Time in Iraq’, http://www.cfr.org/publication/14175/

(37)Arnson, Cynthia J. (2000)‘Window on the Past: A Declassified History of Death Squads in El Salvador’ in Campbell, Bruce & Brenner, Arthur (2000) ‘Death Squads in Global Perspective: Murder with Deniability’, Chapter 4

(38)Newsweek 08 Jan 2005 ‘'The Salvador Option', http://www.newsweek.com/id/47986

(39)Times 10 Jan 2005 ‘El Salvador-style 'death squads' to be deployed by US against Iraq militants’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article410491.ece

(40)HRW 09 Jan 2005 ‘U.S./Iraq: Reject Use of “Death Squads”’, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2005/01/09/usiraq-reject-use-death-squads

(41)Guardian 13 Mar 2007 ‘Pessimistic Pentagon studies fallback options in Iraq’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/mar/13/usa.iraq

(42)Human Rights Watch 28 Oct 2006 ‘Iraq: End Interior Ministry Death Squads’, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2006/10/28/iraq-end-interior-ministry-death-squads

(43)Human Rights Watch 10 Apr 2005 ‘The Lesson of Honduras’, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2005/04/10/lesson-honduras

(44)Reuters 27 Nov 2004 ‘U.S. sends in secret weapon: Saddam's old commandos’, http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/iraq/20041127-0600-iraq-swat.html

(45)IPS 19 Oct 2006 ‘IRAQ: Govt. Death Squads Ravaging Baghdad’, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=35159

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2009


Make military aid conditional on increased wages for police and soldiers


Make civilian aid conditional on increased minimum wages


Increase civilian aid to provide jobs, healthcare and education which can win ‘hearts and minds’ and stop people being forced into crime


Defend development in government areas instead of attacking


End counter-productive military offensives and air strikes


Provide foreign aid to build factories to refine opium into painkillers


Legalise opium poppy production for opiate painkillers

Chapter 16 - Conclusion: Nobody's Pawns Any More

Nobody's Pawns Any More - Even if the the ‘New Great Game’ had right aims – and it doesn’t - that couldn’t justify wrong means and means that make us less safe instead of safer – we should learn from the past


Sorry, this chapter has still to be written