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Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | March 19, 2014

You might think that policymakers with so many bloody fiascos on their résumés as the U.S. neocons, including the catastrophic Iraq War, would admit their incompetence and return home to sell insurance or maybe work in a fast-food restaurant. Anything but directing the geopolitical decisions of the world’s leading superpower.

But Official Washington’s neocons are nothing if not relentless and resilient. They are also well-funded and well-connected. So they won’t do the honorable thing and disappear. They keep hatching new schemes and strategies to keep the world stirred up and to keep their vision of world domination – and particularly “regime change” in the Middle East – alive.

Sen. John McCain appearing with Ukrainian rightists at a rally in Kiev.

Sen. John McCain appearing with Ukrainian rightists at a rally in Kiev.

Now, the neocons have stoked a confrontation over Ukraine, involving two nuclear-armed states, the United States and Russia. But – even if nuclear weapons don’t come into play – the neocons have succeeded in estranging U.S. President Barack Obama from Russian President Vladimir Putin and sabotaging the pair’s crucial cooperation on Iran and Syria, which may have been the point all along.

Though the Ukraine crisis has roots going back decades, the chronology of the recent uprising — and the neocon interest in it – meshes neatly with neocon fury over Obama and Putin working together to avert a U.S. military strike against Syria last summer and then brokering an interim nuclear agreement with Iran last fall that effectively took a U.S. bombing campaign against Iran off the table.

With those two top Israeli priorities – U.S. military attacks on Syria and Iran – sidetracked, the American neocons began activating their influential media and political networks to counteract the Obama-Putin teamwork. The neocon wedge to splinter Obama away from Putin was driven into Ukraine.

Operating out of neocon enclaves in the U.S. State Department and at U.S.-funded non-governmental organizations, led by the National Endowment for Democracy, neocon operatives targeted Ukraine even before the recent political unrest began shaking apart the country’s fragile ethnic and ideological cohesion.

Last September, as the prospects for a U.S. military strike against Syria were fading thanks to Putin, NED president Carl Gershman, who is something of a neocon paymaster controlling more than $100 million in congressionally approved funding each year, took to the pages of the neocon-flagship Washington Post and wrote that Ukraine was now “the biggest prize.”

But Gershman added that Ukraine was really only an interim step to an even bigger prize, the removal of the strong-willed and independent-minded Putin, who, Gershman added, “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad [i.e. Ukraine] but within Russia itself.” In other words, the new hope was for “regime change” in Kiev and Moscow.

Putin had made himself a major annoyance in Neocon World, particularly with his diplomacy on Syria that defused a crisis over a Sarin attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013. Despite the attack’s mysterious origins – and the absence of any clear evidence proving the Syrian government’s guilt – the U.S. State Department and the U.S. news media rushed to the judgment that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did it.

Politicians and pundits baited Obama with claims that Assad had brazenly crossed Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons and that U.S. “credibility” now demanded military retaliation. A longtime Israeli/neocon goal, “regime change” in Syria, seemed within reach.

But Putin brokered a deal in which Assad agreed to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal (even as he continued to deny any role in the Sarin attack). The arrangement was a huge letdown for the neocons and Israeli officials who had been drooling over the prospect that a U.S. bombing campaign would bring Assad to his knees and deliver a strategic blow against Iran, Israel’s current chief enemy.

Putin then further offended the neocons and the Israeli government by helping to facilitate an interim nuclear deal with Iran, making another neocon/Israeli priority, a U.S. war against Iran, less likely.

Putting Putin in Play

So, the troublesome Putin had to be put in play. And, NED’s Gershman was quick to note a key Russian vulnerability, neighboring Ukraine, where a democratically elected but corrupt president, Viktor Yanukovych, was struggling with a terrible economy and weighing whether to accept a European aid offer, which came with many austerity strings attached, or work out a more generous deal with Russia.

There was already a strong U.S.-organized political/media apparatus in place for destabilizing Ukraine’s government. Gershman’s NED had 65 projects operating in the country – training “activists,” supporting “journalists” and organizing business groups, according to its latest report. (NED was created in 1983 to do in relative openness what the CIA had long done in secret, nurture pro-U.S. operatives under the umbrella of “promoting democracy.”)

So, when Yanukovych opted for Russia’s more generous $15 billion aid package, the roof fell in on him. In a speech to Ukrainian business leaders last December, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover and the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, reminded the group that the U.S. had invested $5 billion in Ukraine’s “European aspirations.”

Then, urged on by Nuland and neocon Sen. John McCain, protests in the capital of Kiev turned increasingly violent with neo-Nazi militias moving to the fore. Unidentified snipers opened fire on protesters and police, touching off fiery clashes that killed some 80 people (including about a dozen police officers).

On Feb. 21, in a desperate attempt to tamp down the violence, Yanukovych signed an agreement brokered by European countries. He agreed to surrender many of his powers, to hold early elections (so he could be voted out of office), and pull back the police. That last step, however, opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias to overrun government buildings and force Yanukovych to flee for his life.

With these modern-day storm troopers controlling key buildings – and brutalizing Yanukovych supporters – a  rump Ukrainian parliament voted, in an extra-constitutional fashion, to remove Yanukovych from office. This coup-installed regime, with far-right parties controlling four ministries including defense, received immediate U.S. and European Union recognition as Ukraine’s “legitimate” government.

As remarkable – and newsworthy – as it was that a government on the European continent included Nazis in the executive branch for the first time since World War II, the U.S. news media performed as it did before the Iraq War and during various other international crises. It essentially presented the neocon-preferred narrative and treated the presence of the neo-Nazis as some kind of urban legend.

Virtually across the board, from Fox News to MSNBC, from the Washington Post to the New York Times, the U.S. press corps fell in line, painting Yanukovych and Putin as the “black-hat” villains and the coup regime as the “white-hat” good guys, which required, of course, whiting out the neo-Nazi “brown shirts.”

Neocon Expediency

Some neocon defenders have challenged my reporting that U.S. neocons played a significant role in the Ukrainian putsch. One argument is that the neocons, who regard the U.S.-Israeli bond as inviolable, would not knowingly collaborate with neo-Nazis given the history of the Holocaust (and indeed the role of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators in extermination campaigns against Poles and Jews).

But the neocons have frequently struck alliances of convenience with some of the most unsavory – and indeed anti-Semitic – forces on earth, dating back to the Reagan administration and its collaboration with Latin American “death squad” regimes, including work with the World Anti-Communist League that included not only neo-Nazis but aging real Nazis.

More recently in Syria, U.S. neocons (and Israeli leaders) are so focused on ousting Assad, an ally of hated Iran, that they have cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni monarchy (known for its gross anti-Semitism). Israeli officials have even expressed a preference for Saudi-backed Sunni extremists winning in Syria if that is the only way to get rid of Assad and hurt his allies in Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Last September, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel so wanted Assad out and his Iranian backers weakened, that Israel would accept al-Qaeda operatives taking power in Syria.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in the interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.”

Oren said that was Israel’s view even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Oren, who was Israel’s point man in dealing with Official Washington’s neocons, is considered very close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reflects his views. For decades, U.S. neocons have supported Netanyahu and his hardline Likud Party, including as strategists on his 1996 campaign for prime minister when neocons such as Richard Perle and Douglas Feith developed the original “regime change” strategy. [For details, see’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

In other words, Israel and its U.S. neocon supporters have been willing to collaborate with extreme right-wing and even anti-Semitic forces if that advances their key geopolitical goals, such as maneuvering the U.S. government into military confrontations with Syria and Iran.

So, while it may be fair to assume that neocons like Nuland and McCain would have preferred that the Ukraine coup had been spearheaded by militants who weren’t neo-Nazis – or, for that matter, that the Syrian rebels were not so dominated by al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists – the neocons (and their Israeli allies) see these tactical collaborations as sometimes necessary to achieve overarching strategic priorities.

And, since their current strategic necessity is to scuttle the fragile negotiations over Syria and Iran, which otherwise might negate the possibility of U.S. military strikes against those two countries, the Putin-Obama collaboration had to go.

By spurring on the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s elected president, the neocons helped touch off a cascade of events – now including Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and its annexation by Russia – that have raised tensions and provoked Western retaliation against Russia. The crisis also has made the continued Obama-Putin teamwork on Syria and Iran extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Like other neocon-engineered schemes, there will surely be much collateral damage in this latest one. For instance, if the tit-for-tat economic retaliations escalate – and Russian gas supplies are disrupted – Europe’s fragile recovery could be tipped back into recession, with harmful consequences for the U.S. economy, too.

There’s also the certainty that congressional war hawks and neocon pundits will press for increased U.S. military spending and aggressive tactics elsewhere in the world to punish Putin, meaning even less money and attention for domestic programs or deficit reduction. Obama’s “nation-building at home” will be forgotten.

But the neocons have long made it clear that their vision for the world – one of America’s “full-spectrum dominance” and “regime change” in Middle Eastern countries opposed to Israel – overrides all other national priorities. And as long as the neocons face no accountability for the havoc that they wreak, they will continue working Washington’s corridors of power, not selling insurance or flipping hamburgers.

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

FBI Bust Another Handcrafted ‘Terrorist’ For The Crime Of Thinking About Supporting A Terrorist Organization

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | March 19, 2014

The FBI’s string of thwarted, self-created terrorist plots continues unabated. Why look for terrorists when you can just craft them yourselves? Digital Fourth has the rundown on the latest “coup” by the agency.

The news this morning is full of the arrest of yet another American on charges of “attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.” Nobody’s suggesting that 20-year-old National Guardsman Nicholas Teausant of Acampo, CA is a terrorist, or that he provided any help whatsoever to terrorists, or that he was in contact, ever, with any actual terrorists. But, the media breathlessly report, he’s still facing charges that can put him in jail through to the 2030s.

The more you dig into the story, the more ridiculous it becomes. And Alex Marthews digs in deeply. The propellant (if you will) for this latest thwarted terrorist plot is little more than a campfire story.

Well, seems that he was on a camping trip sometime last year – or maybe not; investigators couldn’t corroborate that the camping trip ever happened – but anyway, afterwards, Teausant is reported to have said to some guy that he had been on a camping trip and had talked with friends about “blowing up the LA subway,” but that they hadn’t done anything because “they” had been “tipped off”.

Unfortunately for Teausant (but fortunately for America!), the “somebody” he relayed his camping conversation to was an FBI agent. Recognizing that Teausant needed a little more prodding to turn against his own nation, the agent connected him with a terrorist tutor of sorts (another FBI agent). This agent/mentor suggested Teausant travel to Canada to further radicalize and then sent more FBI agents to arrest him at the border. Voila, another terrorist attack thwarted.

Teausant is now facing charges of “attempting to provide material support” to a terrorist organization, a crime that seems to be treated just as severely as actually providing material support. As evidence of Teausant’s terrorist proclivities, agents cited posts to his “online photo account” which said such things as desiring to see America’s downfall and “I would love to join Allah’s Army but I don’t know where to start.”

They also cited the following evidence, which exposes the USA’s contradictory and arbitrary determination of who does and does not qualify as a terrorist.

Also, Teausant was apparently trying to figure out how to go to Syria and fight against Bashar al-Assad. This horrifying offense was committed at the same time that the US government was … trying to figure out how to go to Syria and fight against Bashar al-Assad. Last time I checked, Assad was a brutal dictator. But the winds have changed, and now that some of the people fighting against him are Sunni radicals inspired by, but actually repudiated by, al-Qaeda, I guess that makes Assad now a staunch American ally and defender of secular values?

Here’s some more of the government’s evidence.

The complaint said Teausant referred to himself as a convert to Islam but did not give details about when or why he may have done so. He met the informant through a mutual acquaintance, the document said.

Among Teausant’s plans was to appear in videos for the group, without covering his face — to be “the one white devil that leaves their face wide open to the camera,” he was quoted in the complaint as saying…

The complaint also states that Teausant told the informant he has an infant daughter, and had arranged for his mother to get custody of the girl if he disappeared.

At one point, the informant questioned him about whether he was serious about his plans, given that he talked a lot but did not seem to follow through.

So, while there are indications that Teausant could have wandered down the path into Islamic radicalism, at the point he was arrested he had done little more than talk smack around the campfire with some other young men (Teausant is only 20) and talk further smack with undercover agents. But as usual, it looks as though the FBI had to do most of the legwork to convert this person into a potential terrorist. It was the FBI, not Teausant, that arranged to get him an “application” to join a violent Al-Qaeda-linked group. It was the FBI that pushed him towards Canada to further his terrorist education. And it was the FBI that convinced itself that Teausant was enough of threat to lock up for a potential 15 years, even though he had never actually “provided material support” to a terrorist organization.

The FBI now gets to chalk up another win in the “terrorist captured” column despite having done little more than arrest a guy who talked a lot, but wasn’t big on following through. Sure, there’s always a chance Teausant would have done all of this on his own, but rather than sit back and keep an eye on him, the FBI proactively made his moves for him… and arrested him for following the undercover agents’ bidding.

Marthews points out how completely bizarre this is in a land where free speech is considered a right.

In a more sensible legal environment, Teausant would walk free because, let me think now, because we have a First Amendment and he is entitled to say whatever dumb thing he wants to so long as he doesn’t actually harm anyone, and the FBI informant and agent would be being charged with entrapment.

That’s the way it should work, but that’s not the way it does work. The counterterrorism money train comes off the rails if government agencies fail to capture terrorists. So, rather than restrict themselves to investigating terrorist organizations and sniffing out plots, the FBI has chosen to pad the books with ringers. Teausant may have made some poor decisions and said some unwise things, but even the FBI’s preponderance of evidence fails to portray him as much more than a dumb kid with stupider dreams. And rather than allow the events to play out, and possibly expose the FBI’s alleged terrorist sympathizer as an ineffectual pretender, it set him up for a date with the penal system. All the while, the accolades and money keep rolling in, ensuring the FBI’s terrorist manufacturing apparatus will keep humming smoothly.

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , | Comments Off on FBI Bust Another Handcrafted ‘Terrorist’ For The Crime Of Thinking About Supporting A Terrorist Organization

Israel ‘destroyed’ Islamic archaeological sites in Silwan dig

Ma’an – 19/03/2014

JERUSALEM – The Israel Antiquities Authority has destroyed several ancient archeological sites and antiquities as a result of a controversial dig in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage said Tuesday.

The authority recently began the final stage of archaeological excavations at the site, which is located in the Wadi Silweh area only 20 meters from the walls of the Old City, the foundation said in a statement on Tuesday.

As a result of the excavations, several ancient Islamic archeological sites and antiquities have been destroyed, including a cemetery that dated back to the Abbasid caliphate.

Additionally, the dig has damaged relics that date back to the Jebusite Canaanite era in the second millenium BC, the Al-Aqsa foundation alleged.

The excavations are the continuation of an Israeli project to build a biblical park in the area alongside the City of David archaeological park, and will feature a “museum of Jewish history” and a “Jewish national park.”

The excavation site measures around six dunams (1.5 acres) and runs 20 meters deep in some places.

The excavations are connected by a network of tunnels that “the Israeli occupation has been digging under and around Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the statement said, pointing out that the third-holiest site in Islam is located only 100 meters from the site itself.

The foundation said that the Ir David Foundation — commonly known as Elad — is funding the excavations as part of a plan to build a seven-story building which will serve as a Jewish cultural center.

The excavation site is located on what used to be private Palestinian land owned by the Siyam family from Silwan. The land was confiscated by Israeli authorities for the dig.

Israel frequently permits excavations and archaeological digs in East Jerusalem, specifically around the Al-Aqsa mosque and in the Silwan neighborhood, that threaten the structural integrity of Palestinian homes and holy sites in the area.

Critics charge that the digs search for ancient Jewish ruins at the expense of existing homes, and that Israeli archaeologists often ignore and even damage non-Jewish artifacts.

In 1967, Israel demolished the 800-year-old Moroccan Quarter of Jerusalem, displacing 650 Palestinians and destroying numerous mosques, homes, and holy sites, in order to build a plaza in front of the Western Wall.

Israel also evicted around 6,000 Palestinians from nearby areas in order to massively expand the city’s historical Jewish Quarter.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Questions the Media Haven’t Been Asking about Flight MH370

By Doug E. Steil | Aletho News | March 19, 2014

By now, many people following the reports of Flight MH370, the missing Malaysian aircraft, are becoming very suspicious of a cover-up, almost as if though there is no genuine interest in locating the plane, yet going through the superficial motions of at least attempting to do so. Though some officially released information should be considered reliable because elaborate recovery efforts by numerous countries depend on it, for instance the two arcs showing possible 40° locations of the last “ping” with a satellite in geostationary orbit (which would exclude the possibility of the plane having been diverted, say, to the Diego Garcia military base or a variety of other places that have been mentioned), what seems more interesting is the information nobody mentions and the media appear too afraid to ask. For example:

* Why haven’t the corresponding data for previous possible “ping” locations been publicly released, thus constraining the area of the aircraft’s possible location, hence allowing more focus on prioritized search areas?

* Who were those lucky people who had booked that particular flight but did not board (according to initial reports some of them even checked in their luggage) and why has there been no public information about them?

More than seven years ago, in 2006, a publication by the name of Homeland Security News Wire, whose editor in chief studied at Tel Aviv University, ran a brief story about Boeing’s Uninterruptible Auto Pilot System. In the wake of the still missing Boeing 777 aircraft, another publication ran a story, which stated in part:

Perhaps the most unsettling information in regards to the missing Boeing 777 comes from retired 35 year Delta pilot, Field McConnell, who states that since 1995, Boeing Uninterruptible Auto Pilots have been equipped in Boeing planes. This information was apparently not released until March of 2007, following a subsequent lawsuit by McConnell. The modification was reported to the FAA, NTSB and ALPA (airline pilots association). According to McConnell’s documents, Boeing is said to have stated that by end of 2009 all Boeing planes would be fitted with the BUAP – making them impossible to manually hijack within the plane but susceptible to remote control by the military, according the flight veteran.

At least one organization, Voice of Russia, bothered to interview the retired pilot, mentioned above, on this particular topic, but it is obviously not deemed to be sufficiently relevant for general public consumption, as though it were yet another taboo subject, just too “hot” to address.

Aside from such issues as an unauthorized intruder with malicious intent being able to hack the airplane’s avionics and communications system with external piloting commands that override those of the pilots inside the cockpit, the alleged ubiquity of such an autopilot system raises other questions that ought to be addressed; here are just eight:

* Is it only a nation’s military that is authorized to activate the system in an emergency situation?

* Would multiple military organizations be involved in the case of an actual on-board hijacking, say, over Europe?

* Could the military of Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and perhaps even Indonesia and India have been in the loop about the situation involving Flight MH370?

* Would those authorized to intervene be able to actively supersede the malicious commands of an unauthorized commandeering attempt?

* Wouldn’t it make more sense for the airline operating the aircraft to be primarily responsible, through a 24-hour command center on stand-by, with the military of the countries the aircraft is flying over or near at any particular moment?

* Who would be in charge, say, of an aircraft from a European airline flying over international waters far away, on the other side of the world?

* Could the central command in the case of such rare emergencies that require 24-hour stand-by have been contractually delegated to a private security company to deal with, simply for the sake of expediency or cost, just as the security operations at many airports have been delegated to Israeli-run companies?

* Does the software for these remote autopilot systems get customized or at least regularly updated to fix or at least patch up known or possible security leaks?

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 9 Comments

‘War for Oil’ — The Notion That Will Not Die

By Dr. Stephen J Sniegoski | My Catbird Seat | March 11, 2014

Those who claim that the United States went to war for oil seem to assume that since Iraq has huge reserves of oil, gaining control of that resource must have been the reason that the United States invaded the country. As the most prominent intellectual exponent of that view, Noam Chomsky, has put it:

Of course it was Iraq’s energy resources. It’s not even a question. Iraq’s one of the major oil producers in the world. It has the second largest reserves and it’s right in the heart of the Gulf’s oil-producing region, which U.S. intelligence predicts is going to be two thirds of world resources in coming years. [1]

Operating from that assumption, the proponents of the war-for-oil thesis have endeavored to produce evidence that proves it, at least in their eyes.

I have offered counter-evidence in my book, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, and elsewhere to show that the existing arguments in support of the oil-war thesis just do not provide anything close to compelling proof. [2]

The fact that Iraq has a large amount of oil does not mean that the oil companies would necessarily push for war; instead, they could seek to exploit that oil in peaceful ways.

Indeed, the companies were pushing for an end to sanctions against Iraq. A Business Week article in May 2001, for example, reported that the easing of sanctions on “rogue” states “pits powerful interests such as the pro-Israeli lobby and the U.S. oil industry against each other. And it is sure to preoccupy the Bush Administration and Congress.” [3]

In short, an easing of sanctions supported by the oil companies, which would enable them to have access to Iraq’s oil, would serve to strengthen Saddam and make it more difficult to overthrow his regime, which was the goal of the neocons, a leading element of the Israel lobby.

Moreover, the oil companies were quite fearful of the impact of war on oil production. According to oil analyst Anthony Sampson in December 2002, “Oil companies have had little influence on U.S. policy-making. Most big American companies, including oil companies, do not see a war as good for business, as falling share prices indicate.” [4]

Fareed Mohamedi of PFC Energy, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., that advised petroleum firms, stated that “[t]he big oil companies were not enthusiastic about the Iraqi war,” maintaining that “[c]orporations like Exxon-Mobile and Chevron-Texaco want stability, and this is not what Bush is providing in Iraq and the Gulf region.” [5]

Despite the lack of solid evidence, and the existence of contrary evidence, the war-for-oil argument just will not die, for various political, psychological, social, and economic reasons.

It fits the prevalent belief in the rapacious nature of capitalist companies, and it is also a safe view to hold — it is doubtful that anyone ever lost a job or a friend for blaming the oil interests, unless one were actually employed by an oil company. In contrast, the explanation involving the neoconservatives and Israel represents a dangerous taboo.

Given the strong attraction of the oil argument, therefore, it is appropriate to examine a prominent piece of purported evidence used by its adherents. Thus, this article will look at the role of the National Energy Policy Development Group, which President George W. Bush created in his second week in office. The group had as its purpose the creation of a national energy policy for the United States. Chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney — who in the war-for-oil scenario is assumed to be an archetypal oil man — it would be dubbed the Cheney Energy Task Force.

As Cheney’s biographer Barton Gellman points out, the task force became, in many respects, a “creature of Cheney’s worldview.” [6] De-emphasizing conservation and environmental protection, Cheney believed that the United States needed a “near-term boost in domestic energy production,” which had suffered from over-regulation. [7] In short, Cheney’s view on energy production coincided with that of the producers of fossil fuels. And in developing the energy policy, he would consult closely with leading figures in the fossil-fuels industry while giving short shrift to the opinions of environmentalists, with whom he rarely met.

Perhaps because of the biased nature of the sources of his information, but also in line with his expansive view of the executive branch’s prerogatives, Cheney kept the meetings secret, and only as a result of legal efforts was any information about them revealed to the public; and even then it was far from everything. It was that secrecy that the war-for-oil theorists fell upon in order to substantiate their claim that the oil interest played the leading role in bringing about the U.S. attack on Iraq.

To the adherents of the thesis, it seemed apparent that the secrecy meant that something very ominous had been discussed in those meetings that could not be made known to the public, and the most ominous development in the early Bush administration was assumed to be the planning for the attack on Iraq.

Now, there is plenty of evidence that such planning was underway, and in fact had already been made, by the neoconservatives, with whom Cheney was certainly in league and whom he had actually brought into the Bush administration. However, there is no evidence that an attack on Iraq garnered substantial support from the oil industry. Far from pushing for war, industry representatives publicly supported the elimination of sanctions on Iraq (and elsewhere) so that they could have access to oil.

Moreover, they were concerned about any form of instability in the Middle East, fearing that war would disrupt the extraction and transportation of oil. Thus, ex-President George H.W. Bush and his cronies, who according to the oil-war scenario are associated with the war on Iraq, were at least cool to the war.

Brent Scowcroft, for one, was actively opposed. Scowcroft had been the elder Bush’s national security advisor and during the run-up to the 2003 war sat on the board of Pennzoil-Quaker State. [8]

As an aside, let me deal with the implication that the oil companies were advocating war only in secret meetings with high Bush administration officials, with their pro-war views unknown to the media.

That invisible approach is highly unlikely. Any contention that the oil interests primarily work behind the scenes is belied by the fact that they have been quite visible indeed in their public advocacy on many issues: fracking regulations; the termination of restrictions on the export of American-produced crude oil; the Keystone XL pipeline; regulations on refineries; and opposition to limitations on the use of fossil fuels because of “climate change” (anthropogenic global warming). And as mentioned, the oil companies were visible in their public opposition to the existing oil sanctions in 2001. The oil companies have been not only quite vocal in those matters but also far from successful in getting their way.

The war-for-oil theorists’ suggestion that the oil interests could be more successful taking an invisible approach instead of a public one does not seem plausible. The neocons had developed and publicized their Middle East war agenda before 2001; once George W. Bush took office, they openly promoted an attack on Iraq, both in the media and from their key positions in the administration. All of that being so, it is reasonable to believe that it was their efforts that accounted for the U.S. attack. There is no need to posit any undocumented, invisible support from the oil lobby; by the standards of proof in argumentation, the neocon explanation fits the simplicity principle of Occam’s razor. In an example of reverse logic, proponents of the oil thesis deny, ignore, or at least downplay the role of the neocons in bringing about the war on Iraq.

Despite counter-evidence, proponents of the war-for-oil thesis claim to find solid evidence for the coming invasion in the documents produced by the Cheney Energy Task Force. Some war-for-oil proponents, for example, have cited the maps of Iraqi oil fields used by the task force as evidence of plans for how those fields would be divvied up among U.S. companies. As the result of a court order, Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, obtained a batch of task force-related U.S. Commerce Department papers that included a detailed map of oil fields, terminals, and pipelines, as well as a list titled “Foreign Suitors of Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” But the papers obtained also included a detailed map of oil fields and pipelines in Saudi Arabia and in the United Arab Emirates, as well as a list of oil and gas development projects in those two countries. The U.S. secretary of commerce said there were also maps of other key oil-producing regions of the world, including Russia, North America, the Middle East, and the Caspian Sea region. It seems quite reasonable that a task force on energy would seek clear knowledge about the key global locations of oil production. [9]

Strategic-Energy-Policy-Challenges-for-the-21st-CenturyIraq is barely mentioned in the final report from the Cheney task force, but it is given more, though still quite limited, attention in a report, “Strategic Energy Policy: Challenges for the 21st Century,” by an Independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A.Baker III Institute of Public Policy.

According to the Baker Institute, that task force was “comprised [of] 52 prominent Americans from government, industry, and academia … [and] offered 110 recommendations to the Cheney task force and U.S. Congress regarding steps to build a comprehensive energy policy and national consensus.”

The chairman of the task force was Edward L. Morse, an energy economist and at the time an advisor at Hess Energy Trading Co. During the Carter administration he served as deputy assistant secretary of state for international energy policy, from 1979 to 1981.[10]

Adherents of the oil-war argument have connected the Baker report to the Cheney task force and have interpreted its few references to Iraq as indications of the forthcoming American invasion. [11]

The Baker group urged four “immediate steps”; one such step, labeled “Deter and Manage International Supply Shortfalls,” was in five parts; the Iraq issue was merely one of those five parts. The “immediate steps” were “to be considered in the very short term to assure that appropriate mechanisms are in place to deal with potential supply disruptions and to buffer the economy from adverse impacts of price volatility.” [12]

The recommendation pertaining to Iraq read: “Review policies toward Iraq with the aim to lowering anti-Americanism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and set the groundwork to eventually ease Iraqi oil-field investment restrictions.” The report acknowledged that “Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to U.S. allies in the Middle East, as well as to regional and global order, and to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets.” [13]

The report stated that “[t]he United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq, including military, energy, economic, and political/diplomatic assessments.” [14] The emphasis, however, was not on military action against Iraq but on a sanctions policy toward Iraq that was better-coordinated with other countries, the existing sanctions being perceived as harming the Iraqi people without effectively weakening Saddam’s power and ability to acquire weaponry.

“The United States,” the report thus maintained, “should then develop an integrated strategy with key allies in Europe and Asia and with key countries in the Middle East to restate the goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore a cohesive coalition of key allies…. Actions and policies to promote these goals should endeavor to enhance the well-being of the Iraqi people. Sanctions that are not effective should be phased out and replaced with highly focused and enforced sanctions that target the regime’s ability to maintain and acquire weapons of mass destruction. A new plan of action should be developed to use diplomatic and other means to support U.N. Security Council efforts to build a strong arms-control regime to stem the flow of arms and controlled substances into Iraq.” [15]

The Baker report continued: “Once an arms-control program is in place, the United States could consider reducing restrictions on oil investments inside Iraq. Like it or not, Iraqi reserves represent a major asset that can quickly add capacity to world oil markets and inject a more competitive tenor to oil trade.” [16]

The report acknowledged that if a diminution of the sanctions led to an increase in Saddam’s oil revenues, he “could be a greater security threat to U.S. allies in the region if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) sanctions, weapons regimes, and the coalition against him are not strengthened.” Nonetheless, it supported making a change since the continuation of the “oil sanctions is becoming increasingly difficult to implement” and “Saddam Hussein has many means of gaining revenues, and the sanctions regime helps perpetuate his lock on the country’s economy.” [17] A one-sided reading of that passage alone might seem to include war as one alternative to the existing sanctions, but, in fact, the report explicitly prescribed narrowing the scope of sanctions.

The Baker Institute report’s fundamental concern that “energy disruptions could have a potentially enormous impact on the U.S. and world economy, and … affect U.S. national security and foreign policy in dramatic ways” [18] would suggest that the United States not engage in military adventures that could destabilize the region. The U.S. invasion of Iraq certainly did cause such destabilization and explains why the oil interests and the traditional American foreign-policy establishment in general were cool or opposed to the attack on Iraq. [19]

Now, once it had become clear that the United States would attack Iraq, and certainly after it actually had invaded, one may assume that the oil companies would want to take advantage of the situation and jockey for a favored position in postwar Iraq. But that does not somehow prove by itself that the oil interests pushed the country into war. And as it happened, the U.S. government did little to guarantee a favorable position for American oil companies after the war. As I pointed out in The Transparent Cabal, the U.S. government never made plans (much less implemented such plans) to dominate Iraq, to the extent of being able to control Iraq’s oil for its own benefit and that of its oil companies at the expense of the Iraq government and people. To exercise any permanent control of Iraq’s oil reserves, Washington would have had to turn the country into a virtual colony (which would have been very difficult, if not impossible). [20] It was inevitable that an Iraqi government with any type of autonomy would sell oil leases to the highest bidder.

Under the oil argument, the violence and political resistance that sprang up in Iraq during the occupation thwarted the U.S. plan to control oil. The likelihood of such internal violence, however, was fully recognized in a number of pre-invasion government studies. [21] About the only ostensibly knowledgeable group that claimed otherwise was the neocons, and if their expressed view here is accepted as a candid account, it seems necessary to accept also their public pronouncements about establishing democracy and ridding Iraq of WMDs as reasons for the war.

When Iraq began to sell oil leases to foreign companies in 2009, only a very few went to American companies while a disproportionate number went to America’s major rivals, China and Russia. That could hardly be a goal of American foreign policy. One reason given for those countries’ success has been that their companies were government-owned or government-supported, and thus could better afford to incur risk and accept low profits than their American counterparts, which were strictly private. [22] Of course, if the U.S. government really fought a multi-trillion-dollar war for the purpose of gaining control of Iraqi oil for its companies, one would expect it to subsidize any oil leases in Iraq by American companies, the cost of which would pale beside the overall war costs.

In sum, there does not seem to be any real evidence that Washington went to war against Iraq to enhance the profits of the oil industry, or control oil for the United States, nor is there any logical reason to think that would be the case. Nevertheless, as I indicated at the beginning, there are strong political, psychological, social, and economic motivations for maintaining that belief, especially as opposed to the non-P.C. and rather dangerous alternative view to which I adhere — focusing on the role of the pro-Israel neocons. In most cases, those concerns are far more important in determining the prevalence of any view in modern America than logic and evidence, even for that very small minority of the population with high intellectual ability who are actually knowledgeable about the issues.

In fact, such people are often far more affected by concerns involving employment and social status than average Americans, and are thus less open-minded and less willing to alter their views in light of the facts. Whatever their actual personal views, the oil argument provides a safe position for those who want to oppose America’s war policies in the Middle East without endangering themselves by expressing a view that could bring on lethal accusations of anti-Semitism.

However, a false view of reality will not serve to effectively solve problems. If we focus on a false culprit, the neocons and the overall Israel lobby are apt to flourish, and American military adventures are apt to continue in the Middle East.


1. Noam Chomsky, interview with Dubai’s Business Channel, “‘Of course, it was all about Iraq’s resources,’” December 2, 2003.
2. Stephen J. Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel (Norfolk, Va.: Enigma Editions, 2008), pp. 333-50; Sniegoski, “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004.
3. “Rogue States: Why Washington May Ease Sanctions,” Business Week, May 6, 2001. Quoted in Transparent Cabal, p. 336; quoted in “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
4. Anthony Sampson, “Oilmen don’t want another Suez,” The Observer, December 21, 2002. Sampson is author of The Seven Sisters(New York: Bantam Books, 1976), which deals with oil companies and the Middle East; quoted in Transparent Cabal, p. 336; quoted in “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
5. Quoted in Roger Burbach, “The Bush Ideologues vs. Big Oil in Iraq,” CounterPunch, October 3-5, 2003.
6. Barton Gellman, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), p. 90.
7. Ibid., p. 91.
8. Transparent Cabal; “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004; “Brent Scowcroft,” Sourcewatch.
9. “Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Detail Iraqi Oil Industry,” Fox News, July 18, 2003; “Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Feature Map of Iraqi Oil Fields,” Judicial Watch, July 17, 2003.
10. James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy, Energy Forum Policy Research.
11. Ritt Goldstein, “‘Oil War’ Questions Surround Cheney Energy Group”; Michael T. Klare, “The Bush/Cheney Energy Strategy: Implications for U.S. Foreign and Military Policy,” a paper prepared for the second annual meeting of the Association for Study of Peak Oil, Paris, France, May 26-27, 2003; Carol Brightman, Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence, London: Verso, 2004, p. 190; Jason Leopold, “Eager to Tap Iraq’s Vast Oil Reserves, Industry Execs Suggested Invasion,” The Public Record, July 1, 2009.
12. “Strategic Energy Policy,” p. 42.
13. Ibid., p. 46.
14. Ibid., p. 46.
15. Ibid., p. 46-47.
16. Ibid., p. 47.
17. Ibid., p. 47.
18. Ibid., p. 2.
19. The traditional foreign-policy establishment’s opposition to the neocon position is brought out throughout The Transparent Cabal, but especially see: pp. 59, 270-73, 291-297, 343-350; Sniegoski, “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
20. Transparent Cabal, pp. 340-42; “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004.
21. Transparent Cabal, pp. 336-38.
22. Mohammed Abbas, “No boon for U.S. firms in Iraq oil deal auction,” Reuters, August 12, 2009.

Dr. Stephen J. Sniegoski, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in American history,with a focus on American foreign policy, at the University of Maryland. His focus on the neoconservative involvement in American foreign policy antedates September 11, 2001. His first major work on the subject, “The War on Iraq: Conceived in Israel” was published February 10, 2003, more than a month before the American attack. He is the author of “The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel”.

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Ending the “Passionate Attachment”

Allies in the Medieval-Modern Struggle

By Harry Clark | Dissident Voice | March 15, 2014

In his farewell address in 1796, George Washington warned the nation he had served as its first president against a “passionate attachment” or “inveterate hatred” toward any nation. Some Americans were impassioned about revolutionary France. Within a few years, agents of foreign minister Talleyrand would boast to American diplomats of French power within the United States, and demand large bribes and loans to advance relations. The correspondence was eventually published in the US, in the XYZ Affair, which embarrassed France and the French party in the US, and incited US opinion against France. The rupture was not permanent, and relations eventually resumed on dispassionate terms, to the benefit of both countries.

Since the 1992 publication of The Passionate Attachment: America’s Involvement With Israel, 1947 to the Present, by George W. Ball, undersecretary of state for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and his son Douglas B. Ball, Washington’s prescient term has become ubiquitous to describe the US-Israel relationship. No agents of Israel have ever been embarrassed by boasting of Israel’s power in the US, or by demanding loans and aid. The protestations of American diplomats at Israel’s aggrandizement and damage to US interests have embarrassed them, not the pro-Israel party, which has gone from strength to strength until quite recently.

This has produced a loose establishment diaspora of US diplomats, military and intelligence officers, politicians, academics and journalists critical of the US-Israel relationship, in Washington and elsewhere. On March 7 a quorum of these and other critics gathered in Washington, for a “National Summit to Reassess the U.S.-Israel ‘Special Relationship.” The event was organized by the Council for the National Interest, If Americans Knew, Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, and Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. There was a full day of six panels with a total of 25 speakers. Despite the full program moderators kept the event on schedule. The ballroom of the National Press Club was filled, and the event was broadcast live on C-Span. Video of each panel and separate audio for each speaker, and near-complete transcripts, are at the IRMEP program page. The proceedings survey Israel’s influence and its damage to the US.

How does the Israel lobby influence Congress?

The first speaker on this first panel was former Congressman Paul Findley, at 92 the grand old man of Arabophile politicians, the handful honest and courageous enough to oppose what the US and Israel do in the Middle East. Findley’s advocacy for Palestine cost him the seat he held in Congress for 22 years, but he regretted not doing more, said he should have made it “the cause of the day.” He called for President Obama to issue an executive order, bypassing Congress, suspending aid to Israel until it recognized Palestinian sovereignty over the territories occupied in the 1967 war, and negotiated a two-state solution, which would require all Israeli officials to leave, and for any remaining Israelis to live as foreign nationals. He extolled the benefits to Palestinians, to the US standing in the region, and not least to Israel.

Janet McMahon of Washington Report discussed the work of pro-Israel political action committees. They hide behind innocuous names, and bundle contributions from individuals, which typically are many times the PAC contribution. Pro-Israel PACs have in the past followed AIPAC’s instructions on which candidates to donate to. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the main congressional Israel lobby, is not a PAC and does not donate. Such advice is illegal and has been investigated but never prosecuted. Pro-Israel PACs should have ranked sixth in donations to Congress in the 2012 election cycle, as compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, but were not even in the top ten. 58% of pro-Israel PAC donations go to Democrats.

Former Representative Cynthia McKinney of Georgia delivered a taped message, recounting the pressure she and Representative Earl Hilliard of Alabama faced as members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, which contributed to their election defeats. She had advocated enforcement of US law against weapons sales to human rights violators such as Israel and other positions.

Delinda Hanley of Washington Report discussed US aid to Israel, which is the major recipient of US foreign assistance, despite a GDP per capita at the level of the European Union and high rankings in UN socioeconomic indexes. Direct aid totals over $3.1 billion annually, totaling $134 billion since 1949, plus $19 billion in loan guarantees. Tax-deductible contributions subsidize Israeli institutions and Zionist propaganda. Economist Thomas Stauffer estimates $1.6 trillion in direct and indirect costs of Israel to the US for the period 1973-2003. Israel continues to enjoy US largesse even as public needs for infrastructure and social purposes in the US rise.

Do Israel and its lobby exercise too much influence on U.S. decisions to wage war in the Middle East?

Historian Stephen Sniegoski, author of The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, surveyed the rise of the neoconservatives in US politics and their influence on the Iraq war. This began in the 1970s, with the rightward migration of Jewish former liberals, who rose in the Reagan Administration in the 1980s. During the Clinton Administration they founded the Project for a New American Century and plotted the invasion of Iraq, and then served in the George W. Bush Administration. The 9/11 attacks provided the opening to advocate the invasion of Iraq, and to overcome resistance within the government. While the neocons include gentile radical nationalists, the movement is mainly a Jewish ascendancy in conservative politics.

Retired US Air Force Colonel Karen Kwiatowski recounted her experience in the Near East and South Asia office in the Pentagon, which hatched the Office for Special Plans, the center of Iraq war planning in the Department of Defense. NESA, in the office of the Secretary of Defense, was headed by Navy Captain William Ludy, a lowly rank for such a position, but Ludy had neoconservative connections. He told his analysts to rely solely on OSP and ignore other sources within the government. OSP was headed by neoconservative appointee Douglas Feith, and tailored intelligence to support the war. Visiting Israeli officials were very familiar with it.

Historian Gareth Porter discussed the findings of his recent book, Manufactured Crisis. The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, and the current negotiations over Iran’s nuclear power program. Israel has used the threat of war on Iran to manipulate the US and the EU over Iran sanctions and negotiations; the US is to do any fighting. The neoconservatives had intended regime change in Iraq to lead to Lebanon, Syria and Iran but Iraq backfired. The US has tried to manipulate the International Atomic Energy Agency against Iran. Israel has fabricated evidence on an Iranian nuclear program and fed it to the US through an Iranian anti-regime terrorist group, and German intelligence. The US has just re-introduced this discredited evidence in the current negotiations, raising doubts about US sincerity in reaching an agreement with Iran.

Retired Army Brigadier General James David served in the Middle East from 1967-69, among many other assignments. He emphasized the hypocrisy of ceaseless US calls for freedom and democracy, except in Palestine, where the US calls for the opposite. He also criticized Israel’s ceaseless imprecations of Palestinian and Arab threats, when it holds overwhelming power and commits heinous atrocities. He praised the boycott-divestment-sanctions movement, and the internet, noting that he found the Israeli Haaretz more informative and reliable than US media.

Does the “special relationship” transcend rule of law?

Grant Smith, of IRMEP, surveyed the history of the “Israel lobby” since the 1940s. Smith has written half a dozen books based on documents unearthed with the Freedom of Information Act. He described a pattern of systematic illegality, beginning with arms procurement and smuggling, nuclear fuel procurement and smuggling, evasion of foreign agent registration and lobbying laws, and extensive industrial and political espionage. All this has been detected by US law enforcement and intelligence agencies, but investigations have been quashed and prosecutions thwarted or limited to minor figures, through Zionist influence. Smith concluded that US law is essentially unenforceable against the Israel lobby.

Ernest A. Gallo, retired US Navy and CIA communications technician, is president of the Liberty Veterans Association. He was on board the electronic intelligence ship USS Liberty when it was repeatedly attacked and nearly sunk by Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats in the eastern Mediterranean during the June, 1967 Arab-Israeli war. 34 crewmen were killed and 174 were wounded. He described the official cover-up, including the Navy’s superficial investigation, orders to the crewmen’s families to keep silent, the surreptitious awarding of the Congressional Medal of Honor to the captain, and the failure of Congress to investigate, as it normally does any peacetime attack on a US naval ship. An unofficial investigation in 2003 by retired senior officers and diplomats found that Israel knew that the ship was American, called the attack an act of war against the United States, and said that it was covered up for fear of embarrassing Israel and confronting its lobby.

Mark Perry, an author on military, intelligence and foreign affairs, in addressing the topic of national security reporting, emphasized the terms “national interest” and “skin in the game.” He defined “national interest” as ideological, in terms of free trade, markets, and elections, and as economic, noting that 89,000 jobs in Texas depend on US relations with Qatar. He noted that the Central Command was formed in 1983 to protect US shipping, not to confront Iran. He cited the military’s emphasis on “skin in the game” in assessing allies, and noted that the skin in any war with Iran would be American. He cited the congressional testimony of then Central Command head General David Petraeus that failing to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict was the primary obstacle to obtaining respect and satisfying US interests in the Middle East.

The Jonathan Pollard case may be the exception that proves Smith’s rule. Retired Navy intelligence captain and attorney for military, intelligence and law enforcement, M.E. “Spike” Bowman worked on almost every espionage investigation from 1979 to 2009. He called Pollard one of the four worst espionage cases in that period. Israel wanted not secret but specific top secret and SCI documents (sensitive compartmented information) and had from a different source a Defense Intelligence Agency catalog of documents. By his own admission Pollard provided 360 cubic feet of material. Then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger wanted the death penalty but it was not legally possible. Pollard is eligible for parole but will not seek it because he wants clemency so he can go to Israel immediately.

History: How did the “special relationship” come to be?

Harvard scholar Stephen Walt outlined what had changed and what had not since the 2007 publication, with co-author John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, of their celebrated book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. He recalled their basic argument that the unprecedented generosity of the special relationship, with its possible Cold War strategic value now a strategic detriment, and any moral case offset by Israel’s own oppression and aggression, could only be explained by the Israel lobby. Since then discussion has widened in the media; the Lobby was unable to have Syria bombed and Iran further sanctioned; the charge of anti-Semitism is losing its power. On the other hand, President Obama’s first term bid for a settlement freeze and two-state solution failed utterly; there was a craven response to Israel’s Cast Lead attack on Gaza; elements of the Lobby intervened publicly and radically in the 2012 elections; aid still flows unconditionally; settlements grow and grow; the two-state solution may be dead; the Lobby continues to receive great deference; establishment insider discourse is still closed, though outsiders may comment. “Reports of the Lobby’s demise are greatly exaggerated”; change does not happen overnight, and a “broad tent” of opponents is needed.

Geoffrey Wawro, a military historian at the University of North Texas, offered a broad survey of the US-Israel relationship. President Wilson initially opposed the Balfour Declaration, but was swayed by its popularity with Jewish voters. President Truman’s diplomatic advisers were thwarted by his aides, and the Palestine portfolio brought into the White House and domestic politics. Such pressure plagued Eisenhower in 1956, even as Israel withdrew from Gaza and Sinai, turned Kennedy’s independent policy into the first arms sales, and led Johnson not to call for withdrawal after June 1967, disregarding the US ambassador’s 1965 warning that Israel had to be restrained, and pressured if it made further conquests . Nixon and Kissinger declined to extract concessions from Israel during the 1973 war and greatly increased US aid afterward. Obama has failed at every attempt to address issue; Israel might agree to a settlement to blunt the BDS movement, and as prerequisite to Sunni Arab coalition against Iran.

Ohio State international law professor John Quigley discussed the impact of the special relationship on US international legal views. Despite legislation requiring that the US embassy be moved to Jerusalem, successive presidents have not done it. Otherwise, President Johnson initially opposed but then assented to Israel’s June, 1967 attack, which the Bush Administration used as “pre-emptive” precedent to justify invading Iraq in 2003. The US has claimed that Palestinian statehood can arise only from Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but the legal criterion is recognition by the world community. The Carter Administration found Israel’s settlements illegal, which has dwindled to John Kerry finding them “illegitimate.” Ambiguous statehood status has been used to prevent the Palestinian Authority from seeking redress at the International Criminal Court. The right of return of refugees has been recognized but put off pending recognition of Israel by the Arab states, even though Egypt and Jordan do now.

Alison Weir of CNI and If Americans Knew recounted her involvement in the Palestine question, following the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa intifada in 2000. In traveling to Palestine and researching, she found a wide disparity between actual events and US media reports, and an overwhelming disparity of Israeli power and Palestinian suffering. In studying the Zionist movement in the US, she found its first influence in advocating US entry into World War I, in order to induce Britain to issue the Balfour Declaration supporting Zionism in Palestine. She noted the opposition of the US diplomatic and military establishments to Zionism, and the comprehensive Zionist mobilization to overcome it. She also noted Zionist manipulation of Jewish opinion, to overcome its non- and anti-Zionist tendency. Weir noted the lionization of journalist Dorothy Thompson for her criticism of Nazism, and her demonization when she objected to Zionism’s destruction of Palestine. All this is documented in mainstream sources cited in her book, Against Our Better Judgment.

Has the lobby captured political parties and news media?

Journalist Jeffrey Blankfort quoted anti-Zionist author Lenni Brenner’s statement that “the Left is the rear-guard of the Israel lobby.” Blankfort cited Noam Chomsky for setting parameters of criticism, and influential activist Phyllis Bennis for enforcing them in groups like US Campaign to End the Occupation. Chomsky holds that Israel is a US strategic asset, and that US has opposed a settlement with the Palestinians for its own reasons, both of which are “demonstrably false.” These parameters have influenced all US critics of Israel. Blankfort cited the left media, notably Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, for failing to report on Israel’s influence. When the Mearsheimer-Walt book The Israel Lobby appeared, Goodman did not interview the authors, but Noam Chomsky. For such reasons the US Palestine solidarity movement has been a total failure, according to Blankfort.

Alan C. Brownfeld, of the American Council for Judaism, noted that the classical Reform view of Jews as a religious minority, not a nationality, was at one time held by most American Jews. Zionism became a majority view because of Nazism and the Judeocide, and Zionism has had very negative effects on Jewish life; it is subversive of liberalism. Synagogues fly Israeli flags, and Jews are urged to make aliyah. Judaism has become idolatry, substituting Israel for God. American Jews support secularism and pluralism in the US, and obscurantist established religion and fanatical chauvinism in Israel. The American Jewish press reads as if written for an ex-patriate community. Brownfeld feels his views represents a “silent majority” of American Jews. Campus Hillel foundations are resisting official Zionist guidelines in their programming. Zionism is in retreat.

Justin Raimondo of noted the historic opposition of American conservatism to Zionism and its sympathy toward the Arabs. In the 1940s and 1950s, conservative publisher Regnery issued a stream of titles in that vein, which was shared by flagship journal National Review. He contrasted this with the sympathy of the left, in the views of Henry Wallace, the USSR’s support for partition and provision of arms through Czechoslovakia. The Cold War and Stalinist anti-Semitism changed the Soviet orientation, and the June, 1967 war earned criticism from the Left. The neoconservatives, Jewish former leftists, oriented the right toward Israel. The neocons were reinforced by the dispensationalist Christian Zionists, in whose eschatology Israel and the Jews are central. Raimondo finds this component of the Israel lobby the most important, but they and the neocons contend with libertarian anti-interventionism on the right.

Scott McConnell, founder of American Conservative and a former neoconservative, pointed to events at National Review to illustrate the neoconservative takeover of the right. William F. Buckley let neoconservatives dictate his treatment of editor Joseph Sobran and columnist Pat Buchanan when they were accused of anti-Semitism. McConnell found the accusations somewhat justified in Sobran’s case, and cited Buckley’s convoluted absolution of Buchanan; their arguments about Israel’s influence in the US and on US policies, and the consequences, were buried. Sobran eventually left as editor, while Buchanan was marginalized on the right. The neoconservatives effectively supervised discussion of Israel and related matters in National Review, the largest publication on the right, and young conservatives got the message.

Philip Weiss, co-editor of the Mondoweiss blog, cited examples of continuing Israel lobby hegemony in the media, including CNN’s featuring of former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren as new commentator; the triumphant book tour of Israeli author Ari Shavit, arranged by four senior Jewish American journalists, including David Remnick and Jeffrey Goldberg of the New Yorker, Leon Wieseltier, and Thomas Friedman; and acknowledgment by New York Times Jerusalem correspondent Jodi Rudoren of her Jewish background and familiarity with the “American Jewish and Israeli story”, which she has not transcended. Weiss noted positive changes also, including Friedman’s frank recognition of the Israel lobby, and the fair New York Times review of John Judis’s book Genesis, about Zionist influence on President Truman and earlier. Weiss’s journalistic instincts sense a wealth of hidden stories about Zionism to be written, which will eventually lead to high noon for the Israel lobby.

Is Israel really a U.S. ally?

Paul Pillar, 28-year veteran of the CIA and National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, argued that alliance is based on broad congruence of interests and mutual benefits. He found that Israel’s ethnocracy is foreign to the US; that the US and Israel share some adversaries, but deal with them in different ways; that the occupation and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza are not a US interest; US aid to Israel, $234 billion in current dollars, has opportunity costs. Israel does little for the US that the US would not do for itself. Israel is not a regional military asset; Palestine is the chief grievance of terrorist suspects under interrogation; Israel is the chief source of extremism and terrorism directed against the US. If Israel were afraid of Iran it would support negotiations; denouncing Iran distracts from the occupation, and prevents Iran from becoming a western partner. US should disregard labels and look at interests in the case of each country.

Ray McGovern oversaw national intelligence estimates and the presidential daily briefing in 27 years at the CIA. He argued that “alliance” meant a mutual defense treaty, which the US does not have with Israel. The US offered such an alliance after the 1973 war, but Israel refused, because it preferred not to define its borders, and because an alliance would limit its freedom of action. McGovern noted the British Downing Street memo citing the CIA director’s statement that “intelligence is being fixed around the policy” of invading Iraq. He noted strong Israeli influence on the Bush Administration; the charges of anti-Semitism to his suggestion that Israel wanted to dominate the region; and that Israel’s assassination of Sheik Yassin in Gaza prompted the assault on US Blackwater mercenaries in Fallujah, in occupied Iraq, leading to US atrocities against the city

Philip Giraldi, a veteran of military intelligence and CIA counterterrorism, argued that not only is Israel no ally, but it is no friend, and influences policy in ways that are detrimental to the US and to itself. US officials close to the Israeli government were behind the Iraq war and the phony intelligence that justified it. Israel and its US partisans are trying to create a false casus belli and force the US into war on Iran. Congress is attempting to effectively delegate the decision to Israel. Israel’s actions are sui generis; its lavish aid is dispensed on terms favorable to it and costly to the US; it interferes in US elections; its government officials rebuke and mock US officials from the president down; its officials give alarmist briefings to Congress; it brazenly conducts espionage against the US government, including a murky operation before 9/11, and against US industry, and sells its products to anyone; 125 investigations into Israeli espionage have been stopped due to political pressure.

Michael Scheuer was scheduled to speak but did not. He headed and later advised the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, among many assignments. While still at the CIA he published two anonymous books, on bin Laden, and on the US “war on terror.” He has argued that US patronage of Israel was a major grievance of bin Laden, and that the Iraq invasion, which he attributed chiefly to the influence of the Israel lobby, was a huge gift to al-Qaeda. His appearance would have brought the discussion of whether Israel is a US ally to a negative crescendo.


The packed schedule and brisk moderation left little time for discussion, though overall there were few differences among the panelists, and in the allotted time few arose with the audience.

Justin Raimondo’s claim that evangelical Christian Zionists are the most powerful component of the Israel lobby was not echoed by other panelists. Mearsheimer and Walt called the Christian Zionists an “important junior partner” in their book, while emphasizing that Jewish organizations were the most important component. The Christ at the Checkpoint conference of evangelicals, held biannually in Bethlehem since 2010, was denounced vehemently by the Israeli government this year. Porter Speakman’s 2010 film With God on Our Side is another sign that evangelical support for Israel is diminishing by the day.

Ray McGovern offered the acronym “O.I.L.”, “oil, Israel and logistics” (bases) to explain the invasion of Iraq, and opined that “no one in this room would argue that Iraq would have been invaded if it had had no oil resources.” No other panelist seconded this. Mearsheimer and Walt found “logical and empirical difficulties” with this claim, and noted that the flow of oil was not endangered, that Saddam Hussein had been prevented from selling it by sanctions, which the oil companies were eager to end. Stephen Sniegoski has written of “‘War for Oil’–the Notion That Will Not Die.”

Scott McConnell argued that by the 1970s Nixon and Kissinger had accepted Israel as a strategic asset in the Cold War. Mearsheimer and Walt acknowledged the argument, but also noted that US support for Israel’s aggression had pushed the Arabs into Soviet arms, prevented a settlement, and fueled anti-Americanism in the region.

One questioner complained about the “religious dogma of the Holocaust taught in public schools which cannot be questioned,” and made some flaky comments about Jewish persecution of Germany at the 1919 Versailles peace conference and in the anti-Nazi boycott. Jeff Blankfort described the school curriculum in California, where he had worked as a teacher. He noted that the schools teach “weeks of Anne Frank” and Elie Wiesel’s Night because material is provided by Jewish organizations, and that was only in English. History teachers are required to teach more about the Holocaust (omitting such facts as the ideological and practical affinity of Nazism and Zionism) than about the genocide of the American Indians, or about slavery.

Philip Weiss then stated that “we should not be problematizing the education of the Holocaust” even if AIPAC and the ADL set the curriculum. He stated that “the West incurred a debt toward the Jews from the Holocaust and the Palestinians paid for that,” as if the creation of Israel were compensation for the Holocaust. He also stated that “one of the great discoveries of the past few years is that the West owes Palestinians a debt also,” as if the Jews, or Zionism and its supporters, do not, a point the conference was called to establish. Neither Brownfeld nor Weiss affirmed the exploitation of the Holocaust on behalf of Zionism and Israel, which has been attested by writers such as Norman Finkelstein and Peter Novick.

Next year’s summit might note the Zionization of US domestic law enforcement after 9/11, with hundreds of police delegations traveling to Israel for training and effectively, ideological conditioning. It might also note the damage to civil liberties and growth of Islamophobia from 9/11. These are domestic costs of the “special relationship.”

There was a patriotic tone to some presentations, and most of the speakers emphasized American interests. This is an observation, not a complaint. The American system of government expresses the democratic sovereignty of the American people, however corrupted and attenuated that principle is. Israel’s influence is fundamentally a usurpation of our sovereignty as US citizens. Veterans of the national security establishment, and democrats left, right and center can agree on that. They may or may not be allies in the class struggle, but they are allies in the medieval-modern struggle which Zionism has joined. As Stephen Walt noted, we need a “broad tent.”

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Islamophobia, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

Violence and Terror: The Ukrainian and Colombian Road to Empire Building

By James Petras | The People’s Voice | March 19, 2014


The two paths to 21st century empire-building-via-proxies are illustrated through the violent seizure of power in the Ukraine by a US-backed junta and the electoral gains of the US-backed Colombian war lord, Alvaro Uribe. We will describe the ‘mechanics’ of US intervention in the domestic politics of these two countries and their profound external effects – that is how they enhance imperial power on a continent-wide basis.

Political Intervention and Proxy Regimes: Ukraine

The conversion of the Ukraine into a US-EU vassal state has been a prolonged process which involved large scale, long term financing, indoctrination and recruitment of cadres, organization and training of politicos and street fighters and, above all, a capacity to combine direct action with electoral politics.

Seizing power is a high stakes game for empire: (1) Ukraine, in the hands of clients, provides a NATO with a military springboard into the heart of the Russian Federation; (2) Ukraine’s industrial and agricultural resources provide a source of enormous wealth for Western investors and (3) Ukraine is a strategic region for penetrating the Caucuses and beyond.

Washington invested over $5 billion dollars in client-building, mostly in ‘Western Ukraine’, especially in and around Kiev, focusing on ‘civil society groups’ and malleable political parties and leaders. By 2004, the initial US political ‘investment’ in regime change culminated in the so-called ‘Orange Revolution’ which installed a short-lived pro-US-EU regime. This, however, quickly degenerated amidst major corruption scandals, mismanagement and oligarchical pillage of the national treasury and public resources leading to the conviction of the former-Vice President and the demise of the regime. New elections produced a new regime, which attempted to secure ties with both the EU and Russia via economic agreements, while retaining many of the odious features (gross endemic corruption) of the previous regime. The US and EU, having lost thru democratic elections, relaunched their ‘direct action organizations’ with a new radical agenda. Neo-fascists seized power and established a dictatorial junta through violent demonstrations, vandalism, armed assaults and mob action. The composition of the new post-coup junta reflected two sides of the US-backed political organizations: (1) neo-liberal politicos for managing economic policy and forging closer ties with NATO, (2) and neo-fascists/violent nationalists to impose order by force and fist, and crush pro-Russian Crimean ‘autonomists’ and ethnic Russians and other minorities, especially in the industrialized south and east.

Whatever else may ensue, the coup and the resultant junta is fully subordinated to and dependent on the will of Washington: claims of Ukrainian ‘independence’ notwithstanding. The junta proceeded to purge the elected and appointed government officials affiliated with the political parties of the previous democratic regime and to persecute its supporters. Their purpose is to ensure that subsequent managed elections will provide a pretense of legitimacy, and elections will be limited to two sets of imperial clients: the neo-liberals, (self-styled “moderates”) and the neo-fascists dubbed as “nationalists”.

Ukraine’s road to imperialist power via a collaborator regime illustrates the various instruments of empire building: (1) the use of imperial state funds, channeled through NGOs, to political front groups and the build-up of a ‘mass base’ in civil society; (2) the financing of mass direct action leading to a coup (‘regime change’); (3) the imposition of neo-liberal policies by the client regime; (4) imperial financing of the re-organization and regroupment of mass direct action groups after the demise of the first client regime; (5) the transition from protest to violent direct action as the major backdrop to the extremist sectors (neo-fascists) organizing the seizure of power and purge of the opposition; (6) organizing an ‘international media campaign’ to prop up the new junta while demonizing domestic and international opposition (Russia) and (7) political power centralized in the hands of the junta, convoking “managed elections” limited to the victory of one or the other pro-imperial pro-junta candidates.

In summary, empire-builders operate on several/levels: violent and electoral; social and political; and with selected incumbents and rivals committed to one strategic aim: the seizure of state power and the conversion of the ruling elite into willing vassals of empire.

Columbia’s Deathsquad Democracy: Centerpiece of the Imperial Advance in Latin America

In the face of a continent-wide decline of US influence in Latin America, Colombia stands out as a constant bulwark of US imperial interests: (1) Colombia signed a free trade agreement with the US; (2) provided seven military bases and invited thousands of US counter-insurgency operatives; and (3) collaborated in building large-scale paramilitary death squads prepared for cross border raids against Washington’s arch enemy Venezuela.

Colombia’s ruling oligarchy and military have been able to resist the wave of massive democratic, national and popular social upheavals and electoral victories that gave rise to the post-neo-liberal states in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

While Latin America has moved toward ‘regional organizations’ excluding the US, Colombia strengthened its ties to the US through bilateral agreements. While Latin America reduced its dependence on US markets, Colombia expanded its commercial ties. While Latin America reduced their military ties to the Pentagon, Colombia tightened them. While Latin America moved toward greater social inclusion by increasing taxes on foreign multinational corporations, Colombia lowered corporate taxes. While Latin America expanded land settlements for its landless rural populations, Colombia displaced over 4 million peasants as part of the US-designed ‘scorched earth’ counter-insurgency policy.

Colombia’s “exceptional” unwavering submission to US imperial interests is rooted in several large-scale, long-term programs developed in Washington. In 2000, President ‘Bill’ Clinton committed the US to a $6 billion dollar counter-insurgency program (Plan Colombia) which greatly increased the brutal repressive capacity of the Colombian elite to confront the popular grass roots movements of peasants and workers. Along with arms and training, US Special Forces and ideologues entered Colombia to develop military and paramilitary terror operations – aimed primarily at penetrating and decimating political opposition and civil society social movements and assassinating activists and leaders. The US-backed Alvaro Uribe, notorious narco-trafficker and the very personification of a ruthless imperial vassal, became president over a ‘Death-Squad Democracy’.

President Uribe further militarized Colombian society, savaged civil society movements and crushed any possibility of a popular democratic revival, such as were occurring throughout the rest of Latin America. Thousands of activists, trade unionists, human rights workers and peasants were murdered, tortured and jailed.

The ‘Colombian System’ combined the systematic use of para-militarism (death squads) to smash local and regional trade union and peasant opposition and the technification and massification of the military (over 300,000 soldiers) in fighting the popular insurgency and ‘emptying the countryside’ of rebel sympathizers. Large-scale multi-billion dollar drug trafficking and money laundering formed the ‘financial glue’ to cement a tight relationship among oligarchs, politicos, bankers and US counter-insurgency advisers – creating a terrifying high-tech police state bordering Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil – countries with substantial popular mass movements.

The same state terror machinery, which decimated the pro-democracy social movements, has protected, promoted and participated in ‘stage-managed elections’, the hallmark of Colombia as a “death squad democracy”.

Elections are held under a vast overlapping network of military bases, where death squads and drug traffickers occupied towns and villages intimidating, terrorizing and ‘corrupting’ the electorate. The only ‘safe’ protest in this repressive atmosphere has been voter abstention. Electoral outcomes are pre-ordained: oligarchs never lose in death squad democracies, they are the empire’s most trusted vassals.

The cumulative effects of the decade and a half-long bloody purge of Colombian civil society by Presidents Uribe and his successor, Santos, have been to eliminate any consequential electoral opposition. Washington has achieved its ideal: a stable vassal state; a large-scale and obedient military; an oligarchy tied to US corporate elites; and a tightly-controlled ‘electoral’ system that never permits the election of a genuine opponent.

The March 2014 Colombian elections brilliantly illustrate the success of US strategic intervention in collaboration with the oligarchy: The vast majority of the electorate, over two-thirds, abstained, demonstrating the absence of any real legitimacy among the eligible voters. Among those who ‘voted’, ten percent submitted ‘spoiled’ or blank ballots. Voter abstention and ballot-spoilage was especially high in the rural regions and working class areas which had been subject to state terror.

Given the intense state repression, the mass of voters decided that no authentic pro-democracy party would have any chance and so refused to legitimize the process. The 30% who actually voted were largely urban middle and upper class Colombians and residents in some rural areas completely controlled by narco-terrorists and the military where ‘voting’ may have been ‘compulsory’. Of a total of 32 million eligible voters in Colombia, 18 million abstained and another 2.3 million submitted spoiled ballots. The two dominant oligarchical coalitions led by President Santos and ex-President Uribe received only 2.2 million and 2.05 million votes respectively, a fraction of the number who abstained (14 million). In this widely scorned electoral farce, the center-left and left parties made a miserable showing. Colombia’s electoral system puts a propaganda veneer on a dangerous, highly-militarized vassal state primed to play a strategic role in US plans to “reconquer” Latin America.

Two decades of systematic terror, financed by a six-billion dollar militarization program, has guaranteed that Washington will not encounter any substantial opposition in the legislature or presidential palace in Bogota. This is the ‘acrid, gunpowder-tinged smell of success’ for US policymakers: violence is the midwife of the vassal state. Colombia has been turned into the springboard for developing a US-centered trade bloc and a military alliance to undermine Venezuela’s Bolivarian regional alliances, such as ALBA and Petro Caribe as well as Venezuela’s national security. Bogota will try to influence neighboring right and center-left regimes pushing them to embrace of the US Empire against Venezuela.


Large-scale, long-term subversion and organization in Ukraine and Colombia, as well as the funding of paramilitary and civil society organizations (NGO) has enabled Washington to: (1) construct strategic allies, (2) build ties to oligarchs, malleable politicians and paramilitary thugs and (3) apply political terrorism for their seizure of state power. The imperial planners have thus created “model states” – devoid of consequential opponents and ‘open’ to sham elections among rival vassal politicians.

Coups and juntas, orchestrated by longstanding political proxies, and highly militarized states run by ‘Death Squad Executives’ are all legitimized by electoral systems designed to expand and strengthen imperial power.

By rendering democratic processes and peaceful popular reforms impossible and by overthrowing independent, democratically elected governments, Washington is making wars and violent upheavals inevitable.


James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York. He is the author of 64 books published in 29 languages, and over 560 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, Journal of Contemporary Asia, and Journal of Peasant Studies.

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Resurgent Chilean Social Movements Advance Cross-Border Solidarity

By Emily Achtenberg | Rebel Currents | March 14, 2014

On March 11, newly elected President Michelle Bachelet began her inaugural speech by acknowledging her debt to the social movements that propelled her center-left New Majority coalition to victory, on a radical platform that has transformed Chile’s political landscape. Even as they continue to shape the domestic political agenda, activist students, trade unionists, and other civil society and political organizations are also mobilizing to build cross-border solidarity, pressuring Bachelet to ally with other leftist governments in the region.

On February 15, the militant University of Chile Student Federation (FECH)—fresh on the heels of forcing the ouster of Bachelet’s newly-appointed education undersecretary and her replacement with a more politically compatible designeeissued a strong statement critical of Venezuelan students who have spearheaded ongoing protests against the Chavista government of Nicolás Maduro. “We don’t feel represented by the actions of Venezuelan student sectors that are defending the old order, in opposition to the path that the people have defined,” the statement read in part.

Demonstrating at the Venezuelan embassy, representatives of FECH and other student federations emphasized that the middle-class Venezuelan students, unlike their Chilean counterparts, are not demanding educational or other social reforms. Rather, student leaders explained, they are mobilizing against the Chavista government which has advanced the goals of free, public education and democratization of the university, the very issues that Chilean students are fighting for.

To be sure, FECH’s stance is opposed by Chile’s Young Christian Democrats (JDC), student organizations from some private universities, and other dissident factions, who have urged support for the protesters. Some groups, such as the Student Federation of Catholic University (FEUC), have called for protection of Venezuelan students’ rights, while stopping short of endorsing their demands.

The split mirrors divisions within the New Majority coalition itself. Under pressure from FECH and allied student organizations, Bachelet has publicly supported Maduro and the people of Venezuela, calling on all sides to seek a peaceful and democratic resolution to the conflict, while leading Christian Democrats accuse the Venezuelan government of criminalizing and repressing dissent. The recent assassination of a 47-year old Chilean citizen in Venezuela, a Chavista supporter and mother of four, has heightened domestic tensions over the issue. Still, the majority of student organizations continue to emphasize (to both Chilean and foreign media) that their movement has little in common with Venezuela’s student protests.

Following Bachelet’s inaugural ceremony, some 5,000 representatives of student, trade union, community, indigenous, and other civil society organizations assembled at the Teatro Caupolicán in Santiago to welcome Bolivian President Evo Morales with the slogan “Mar para Bolivia!” (“The sea for Bolivia!”). The issue of regaining coastal territory lost to Chile in the 1879 War of Pacific, which left Bolivia landlocked, has long been a rallying point for Bolivia and is now a crusade for the Morales government.

Last year, Morales filed a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, demanding that Chile negotiate in good faith to provide Bolivia with sovereign access to the Pacific. Morales argues that the 1904 Peace Treaty signed by the two countries was imposed under duress, and should be scrapped or modified. On economic grounds, Bolivia claims that its landlocked status has reduced its GNP by more than $30 billion since 1970, while the mineral-rich ceded territory (now the site of some of the world’s biggest copper mines) has made Chile the wealthiest country in South America.

The dispute has strained relations between the two countries for decades. Ironically, former dictators Augusto Pinochet and Hugo Banzer were on the brink of an agreement in 1975, which derailed when Pinochet demanded territorial compensation from Bolivia in exchange for granting it a sea corridor. A 13-point bilateral agenda developed by Morales and Bachelet during her first term in 2006 was sidelined by her conservative successor, Sebastián Piñera.

Recent efforts to resume dialogue with Bolivia have been spearheaded by Chilean social sectors and political activists. Last April, 57 civil society groups, including the Workers United Center of Chile (CUT, the major national trade union federation) and indigenous Mapuche organizations, signed a letter demanding that Piñera offer Bolivia a constructive proposal. Former Progressive Party presidential candidate Marco Enríquez-Ominami, who placed third in the first-round election, visited Morales last month to convey Chilean solidarity and pave the way for the post-inaugural encounter. 

Former student leader and newly elected Communist Party congressional deputy Camila Vallejo has been a leading voice pressing the Bachelet government to re-engage with Bolivia. “It’s not about giving away a gift,” she emphasizes. “Bolivia has significant energy (gas) resources and we are, supposedly, in an energy crisis. Why not have a politics of integration and mutual solidarity?”

To the consternation of many, Bachelet—bowing to conservative pressures—announced the day after her inauguration that Chile will not negotiate Bolivia’s sea access while the matter is pending before the International Court. For his part, Morales has refused to abandon Bolivia’s legal claims, leaving civil society activists with a significant role to play in the continuing controversy .

Finally, last December more than 50 Chilean civil society leaders, 15 senators, and 37 congressional deputies signed a public declaration demanding a halt to negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a U.S.-led trade initiative involving a dozen Pacific Rim nations. Activists are demanding increased transparency, as well as protections from trade rules that could undermine national sovereignty over intellectual property rights, access to medicine, capital flow management, and other crucial matters. Bachelet, a strong supporter of free trade, is also an advocate of national sovereignty. Her campaign manager (now finance minister) Alberto Arenas has indicated his support for civil society’s position.

As Bachelet struggles to manage competing ideological tensions within her own New Majority coalition, continuing pressure from Chile’s resurgent social movements on these and other cross-border issues will be critical in positioning Chile within Latin America’s growing political divide.

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