For centuries the US has been a part of wars foreign and domestic. According to some numbers, the US Army flag has 183 campaign ribbons hanging by it and in the 236 years of America’s existence the country participates in an average of roughly 1.3 wars per year. Many feel that the US’ major export is war and many wonder why America so gun-ho about going to war? Andrew Gavin Marshall, project manager for ThePeoplesBookProject.com, joins us helps us answer that question.
Economic Warfare and Strangling Sanctions: Punishing Iran for its “Defiance” of the United States
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
The economic sanctions imposed upon Iran are having the desired effect of punishing the population through hunger and economic strangulation, making life miserable for the many. As tensions increase between the “international community” (the West) and Iran, talk of war is in the air. For years, sanctions have been imposed upon Iran in an attempt to devastate its dependence upon the oil industry for 80% of its revenues. The West seeks ‘regime change,’ and we hear a never-ending proliferation of proclamations from Western leaders about respecting democratic rights and freedom for Iranians, in lambasting the Iranian government for its human rights record, portraying it as a state sponsor of terrorism, and, of course, that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons with a stated goal of wanting to ‘wipe Israel off the map.’
The propaganda has been consistent and increasingly desperate, and the claims are dubious at best, often relegated to the realm of blatant lies. Gazing through the propaganda, however, we must ask some important questions: what are the effects and purpose of sanctions? What has Iran done to make it the primary target of Western imperialism? Why is Iran such a ‘threat’ to the ‘world’?
In December of 2006, the United Nations imposed the first of four rounds of sanctions upon Iran to keep Iran in line with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT has 189 states signed onto it, including five nuclear states, all permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom – which binds nations to not develop nuclear weapons, to achieve complete disarmament of the weapons they have, and to pursue only peaceful nuclear enrichment. In 1996, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that, “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be illegal under international law,” and would constitute a war crime.
Four nuclear states remain outside of the NPT: North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Israel, the only nuclear nation in the Middle East. Under the NPT, the five nuclear states are bound by law to disarm their nuclear weapons, which of course they have not done. The United States has since the end of World War II (when it dropped two atomic bombs on Japan) additionally threatened to use nuclear weapons against nations, largely ‘Third World’ states, over thirty times, including in Korea, Vietnam, and more recently, Iran.
George Bush rapidly expanded the United States’ development of nuclear weapons and even included nuclear ‘first-strike’ options in military and strategic plans, all of which was in gross violation of international law. When Obama became president, he delivered a speech in Prague announcing “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” The following year Obama signed an agreement with Russia (the START Treaty) which planned for a 30% reduction in nuclear weapons by 2020, limiting their deployed warheads to 1,550. In other words, it reflected ‘the illusion of progress’ in small, incremental, long-term and largely toothless efforts to reduce the nuclear arsenals. Imagine yourself and another individual each have three guns and eighteen bullets, but then you sign an agreement stipulating that in seven years, you will have two guns and twelve bullets… are you now safer from the risk of being shot or shooting someone else? It only takes one bullet, one gun, to kill a person. So too does it only take one nuclear weapon, one delivery system, to kill millions.
Immediately thereafter, Obama then pledged “to spend $180 billion dollars over the next 10 years to upgrade and modernize the nuclear weapons complex so that more weapons can be produced if necessary.” In May of 2010, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference took place in New York City, attempting to reaffirm the three pillar agreement aimed at: non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful nuclear energy. The Non-Nuclear Weapons States (NNWS) pushed for a 2025 deadline for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which was of course dashed by the nuclear states, which instead agreed to “accelerate concrete progress” toward disarmament, essentially, a meaningless statement. The Final Report, however, emphasized, much to the distaste of the United States, “the importance of Israel’s accession to the Treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards,” and called for the creation of a 2012 “nuclear-free zone in the Middle East in an attempt to pressure Israel to relinquish its undeclared nuclear arsenal.” Iran has expressed support for a nuclear-free Middle East and is a signatory to the NPT, though Israel refused to participate in the NPT. The United States of course responded to the singling out of Israel and omission of Iran as “deplorable,” and National Security Adviser James L. Jones stated that, “because of the gratuitous way that Israel has been singled out, the prospect for a conference in 2012 that involves all key states in the region is now in doubt and will remain so until all are assured that it can operate in a unbiased and constructive way.”
While the United States is in violation of the NPT, and Israel is not even a signatory, Iran is actually in compliance with the NPT. In 2005, the United States National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), compiled by all sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies (yes, there are sixteen of them!), stipulated that, “even if Iran decided it wanted to make a nuclear weapon, it was unlikely before five to ten years, and that producing enough fissile material would be impossible even in five years.” A 2007 NIE stated, “with high confidence that in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme … Tehran had not started its nuclear weapons programme as of mid-2007.” Further, the NIE admitted that, “we do not know whether [Iran] currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.” The nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) consistently issued reports declaring it found no evidence of nuclear weapons facilities upon its inspections inside Iran, and referred to such accusations as “outrageous and dishonest.”
One may assume, however, that this is old news, and things may have changed since 2007. U.S. Secretary of Defense and former CIA Director Leon Panetta stated in an interview in January of 2012, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that’s what concerns us.” Panetta added, of course, “I think the international strategy here, and this really has been an international strategy to apply sanctions, to apply diplomatic pressure on them, to try to convince Iran that if… they want to do what’s right, they need to join the international family of nations and act in a responsible way.” He added, “”I think the pressure of the sanctions, I think the pressure of diplomatic pressures from everywhere — Europe, United States, elsewhere — is working to put pressure on them, to make them understand that they cannot continue to do what they’re doing.” And of course, what’s a statement on Iran without the additional threat of reaffirming that the United States does not “take any option off the table.” James Clapper, the Director of the National Intelligence Council (which oversees all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies), stated on 31 January 2012 that, “We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”
In November of 2011, the IAEA released a new assessment of Iran’s nuclear capabilities, which was quickly grasped onto by the Western media and politicians as evidence that past reports were wrong and that Iran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons. CNN had a headline, “IAEA report to detail efforts by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.” The Wall Street Journal described it as the “most detailed assessment to date about Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons,” and claimed that, “It lays to rest the fantasies that an Iranian bomb is many years off, or that the intelligence is riddled with holes and doubts, or that the regime’s intentions can’t be guessed by their activities.”
In reality, however, analysts who actually studied the report instead of repeating politically-motivated statements derived from politically-blinding interpretations, stated that, “There is nothing in the report that was not previously known by the major powers.” In regards to nuclear weapons capabilities mentioned in the report, the bulk of the report, noted Julian Borger in the Guardian, “is historical, referring to the years leading up to 2003.” So while the report acknowledged, as earlier reports did, that there was a weapons program up until 2003, it also again acknowledged that it was stopped that same year. A nuclear Iran, therefore, was “neither imminent nor inevitable,” and there “has been no smoking gun when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons intentions,” regardless of the absurdities of the Wall Street Journal.
Since 2006, the United Nations Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran in Resolutions 1737, 1747, 1803 and 1929, which “seek to make it more difficult for Iran to acquire equipment, technology and finance to support its nuclear activities. They ban the sale to Iran of materiel and technology related to nuclear enrichment and heavy-water activities and ballistic missile development, restrict dealings with certain Iranian banks and individuals, stop the sale of major arms systems to Iran (Russia has cancelled the sale of an anti-aircraft missile system) and allow some inspections of air and sea cargoes.”
On March 5, 2012, the IAEA chief, Yukiya Amano, said he had “serious concerns” over Iran’s nuclear program and its ambitions. It’s interesting to note, however, that in a ‘Confidential’ diplomatic cable from the U.S. State Department in 2009, American diplomats discussed Amano’s appointment to head the IAEA, and stated that he “displayed remarkable congruence of views with us on conducting the Agency’s missions,” and speaking to an American Ambassador, Amano “thanked the U.S. for having supported his candidacy and took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency.” Though, Amano informed the Ambassador, “that he would need to make concessions to the G-77, which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”
So, as Amano emphasized that he would need to “make concessions to the G-77” in an attempt to present himself as “fair-minded and independent,” it should be asked: what is the G-77 and why is it a cause for concern? The G-77 is a group of ‘developing’ nations, organized as a coalition of nations at the UN, originally composed of 77 nations upon its founding in 1964, but today consisting of roughly 132 member countries, essentially consisting of the entire ‘Global South’ – Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Closely related to the G-77 is the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), a grouping of countries that consider themselves to not be aligned with any one power bloc in the world, founded in 1961, now with 120 members and 17 observer nations, largely overlapped with that of the G-77, again representative of the majority of the world’s population.
Why are these organizations significant in relation to Iran? The answer is simple: they support Iran and it’s right to peaceful nuclear development. In 2006, the Non Aligned Movement called the United States “a grave threat to world peace and security,” explaining that the U.S. “is attempting to deprive other countries of even their legitimate right to peaceful nuclear activities.” That same year, Iran received the support of the G-77 in pursuit of peaceful nuclear ambitions, as stipulated in the NPT. In 2008, the NAM “backed Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear power,” which was obviously contradictory to the “claims that most of the international community wanted Iran to stop enrichment.”
In 2010, as the United States was attempting to secure support for sanctions against Iran from Brazil, one of the fastest growing economies and most admired countries of the non-aligned world, Brazil, under the leadership of Lula da Silva, came out in support of Iran’s nuclear program. As one Brazilian diplomat stated, “When Brazil looks at Iran it doesn’t only see Iran, it sees Brazil too.” The New York Times then described this move to block sanctions against Iran as a “Spot on Brazilian Leader’s Legacy.” This was because Turkey and Brazil reached a deal with Iran to exchange uranium, which was described by the UN as “a step toward a negotiated settlement.” So, naturally, the move was attacked by the Western powers and their media stenographers.
A 2010 public opinion poll of the Arab world indicated that 57% of those polled felt that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, it would be good for the stability of the Middle East. On top of that, 77% of respondents felt that Iran had a right to its nuclear program, which was especially high in Egypt, which polled at 97% in favour of Iran pursuing its right to a nuclear program, followed by Jordan at 94%. If Iran acquired nuclear weapons, 82% of Egyptians polled believed it would be beneficial for the Middle East. The two countries which were polled as posing the greatest threat to the Middle East were Israel at 88% and the United States at 77%, while Iran was viewed as a one of the two major threats to the region by only 10% of respondents, equal to those who viewed Algeria as a major threat.
A follow up poll in 2011 indicated that Iran increased as one of the region’s two major perceived threats, from 10% to 18%. From those polled, 64% said that Iran had a right to its nuclear program, while 25% felt that it would be a positive thing for the Middle East if Iran had nuclear weapons. While Iran was seen as one of the major threats to the region, with 18%, Israel remained as the largest threat at 71% and the United States at 59%. Mahmoud Ahmadinajad was tied for second as the most admired world leader tied with Hasaan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah at 13%, while Turkey’s leader Recep Erdogan got first place with 22%. Meanwhile, Barack Obama received 4%, falling below King Saud, Saddam Hussein, and Hugo Chavez, but just above Fidel Castro.
The main solution that isn’t being discussed, however, was the one agreed to at the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review in establishing a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. In a major poll of Israeli public opinion, less than half of Israelis support a strike on Iran, while 65% said it would be better if neither Israel nor Iran had a nuclear weapon, with 64% supporting the idea of a nuclear free zone in the region, which would mean Israel giving up its nuclear weapons. 60% of Israelis also favoured “a system of full international inspections” of the country’s nuclear arsenal, “as a step toward regional disarmament.”
So what is the threat posed by Iran, if not that of nuclear weapons?
In 2010, the Pentagon’s report to Congress stressed that Iran’s strategy in the region was not one of aggression, as our media and politicians would have us believe, but in fact, was a “deterrent strategy.” The report stated, “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.” The U.S. approach to Iran, then, “remains centered on preventing it from obtaining nuclear weapons and on countering Iran’s influence in the Middle East.” Iran itself has claimed that it “pursues a defensive and deterrent strategy.” Why is the concept of ‘deterrence’ so important? As the United States and Israel continually frame Iran as being a “destabilizing” force in the region, they portray Iran as an aggressor and threat to security and stability with desires for regional domination and the destruction of entire nations. The fact that the Pentagon itself admits that Iran’s strategy is one of “deterrence” stipulates that Iran does not desire domination, but defense. So why is this a threat? It’s simple: America is the global empire, and as such, it has an assumed ‘right’ to dominate the entire world. Thus, the prospect of a nation “defending” itself or establishing a “deterrent” capability directly threatens American political-strategic and economic dominance of the entire world.
There is an important imperial concept to understand here: namely, the threat of a good example. This is a concept which is as old as empire, quite literally, and manifests itself in the concept that any nation which defies the empire has the ability to “set a good example” for other nations to defy the empire. This “threat” is all the greater if the nation is smaller and seemingly more insignificant, for if even a tiny little nation can successfully defy the empire, any nation could do it.
An excellent example of this concept is with Cuba. The Cuban Revolution in 1959 threw out the American puppet dictator and the monopoly of industry and banking held by Morgan and Rockefeller interests. The main problem with Cuba to the United States was not that it was Communist, per se, but, as explained in a 1960 National Intelligence Estimate, Cuba provided “a highly exploitable example of revolutionary achievement and successful defiance of the US.”
Since the United States seemed unable to overthrow Castro through covert military means, it was decided to use sanctions. Castro, however, had widespread popular support, and as Under Secretary of State Douglas Dillon feared at the time the Eisenhower administration was discussing the possibility of sanctions, they “would have a serious effect on the Cuban people.” However, he quickly changed his mind about caring about the Cuban people, and stated, “we need not be so careful about actions of this kind, since the Cuban people [are] responsible for the regime.” As the Assistant Secretary of State, Rubottom, added, “We have gone as far as we can in trying to distinguish between the Cuban people and their present government, much as we sympathize with the plight of what we believe to be the great majority of Cubans.” The sanctions imposed on Cuba were not designed to affect the regime directly, but rather to subject the Cuban population to hardship in the hopes that it would destroy Castro’s popular support and they would overthrow the regime. President Eisenhower remarked that, “if [the Cuban people] are hungry, they will throw Castro out.” The “primary objective” of the sanctions, explained Eisenhower, was “to establish conditions which will bring home to the Cuban people the cost of Castro’s policies and of his Soviet orientation.” CIA Director Allen Dulles added that, “a change in the sentiment of the lower classes… would only occur over a long period of time, probably as a result of economic difficulties.” Thomas Mann, the Assistant Secretary of State, agreed, explaining that sanctions would “exert a serious pressure on the Cuban economy and contribute to the growing dissatisfaction and unrest in the country.”
President Kennedy continued with this line of thinking, feeling that the embargo on Cuba would rid the country of Castro as a result of the “rising discomfort among hungry Cubans.” General Edward Lansdale, who was responsible for managing covert operations against Cuba, explained that the objective of the covert operations were “to bring about the revolt of the Cuban people,” and that these actions were to “be assisted by economic warfare.” The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lester Mallory declared that, “The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support… is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.” And thus, Mallory continued, “every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba” in order “to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of the government.” The Assistant Secretary of State Rubottom added that the approach was designed “in order to engender more public discomfort and discontent and thereby to expose to the Cuban masses Castro’s responsibility for mishandling their affairs.”
Nowhere are the devastating effects of sanctions more evident than in Iraq, between 1990 and 2000. The embargo “was intended to prevent anything from getting through to Iraq,” and “appeared to support the contention that the UNSC [United Nations Security Council] was using famine and starvation as potential weapons to force Iraq into submission.” These sanctions which began in 1990, were quickly followed up with the U.S. attack on Iraq in 1991, which destroyed Iraq’s entire infrastructure. Margaret Thatcher explained the objectives of the American and British assault against Iraq in 1991, stating that the objective was “not to limit things to a withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait but to inflict a devastating blow at Iraq, ‘to break the back’ of Saddam and destroy the entire military, and perhaps industrial, potential of that country.”
After the Gulf War, more sanctions were imposed upon Iraq, lasting the rest of the decade, and resulting in the deaths of roughly 1.5 million Iraqis, 500,000 of which were children. The New York Times was an ardent supporter of the sanctions, even stating that the UN “had enjoyed one of its greatest successes in Iraq.” Denis Halliday, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq overseeing the sanctions program resigned in 1998, calling the sanctions “a totally bankrupt concept” which “probably strengthens the leadership and further weakens the people of the country.” Upon his resignation, Halliday stated, “Four thousand to five thousand children are dying unnecessarily every month due to the impact of sanctions because of the breakdown of water and sanitation, inadequate diet and the bad internal health situation.” Just over a year later, Hans von Sponeck, Halliday’s replacement as UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, resigned in protest “at the impact of the sanctions on the civilian population.” The following day, another high UN official, the head of the UN World Food Program in Iraq, Jutta Purghart, resigned in protest.
Madeleine Albright, who was Secretary of State and prior to that, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration, was thus at the centre of the decisions and policies to place sanctions on Iraq. When she was asked in an interview if the deaths of over half a million Iraqi children were worth the price of sanctions, Albright replied, “This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.”
In February of 2012, the United States and the European Union imposed new sanctions on Iran targeting its oil sales. Between 2006 and 2010, the United Nations had imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran, including “a ban on the supply of heavy weaponry and nuclear-related technology to Iran, a block on Iranian arms exports, and an asset freeze on key individuals and companies. Resolution 1929, passed in 2010, mandates cargo inspections to detect and stop Iran’s acquisition of illicit materials.” In late January of 2012, the EU “approved a ban on imports of Iranian crude oil, a freeze of assets belonging to the Central Bank of Iran, and a ban all trade in gold and other precious metals with the bank and other public bodies,” and “agreed to phase in the oil embargo.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner went to Japan to attempt to pressure the Japanese to reduce their oil imports from Iran, as well as applying pressure on the Chinese to do the same. Japan relies upon Iran for 10% of its oil imports, and is the second largest customer for Iranian oil in the world, accounting for 17% of Iranian oil exports. China, the primary customer for Iranian oil, accounts for 20% of Iranian exports, India in third place with 16%, followed by Italy at 10%, South Korea at 9%, and 28% to other areas. China, however, continues to oppose trade sanctions on Iranian oil.
In response to the sanctions on Iran, Saudi Arabia has increased its output oil production levels to a level not seen since the late 1970s, in an attempt to balance the global supply of oil. As one oil industry analyst explained, “Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are already close to their maximum production level, so it will all be up to Saudi Arabia.” Meanwhile, Iran is struggling to find new customers to purchase roughly 500,000 barrels of oil a day to make up for the loss of exports due to sanctions, what amounts to nearly 25% of Iran’s exports in 2011.
Oil is an important resource to control if a nation, like the United States, seeks to dominate the entire world. A 1945 memorandum to President Truman written by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs in the U.S. State Department, Gordon Merriam, stated: “In Saudi Arabia, where the oil resources constitute a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history, a concession covering this oil is nominally in American control.” Adolf A. Berle, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s closest advisers, particularly in relation to the construction of the post-War world, years later remarked that controlling the oil reserves of the Middle East would mean obtaining “substantial control of the world.”
As sanctions kicked in for Iran, the country immediately began to struggle to pay for basic food imports, such as “rice, cooking oil and other staples to feed its 74 million people.” The sanctions, thus, are “having a real impact on the streets of Iran, where prices for basic foodstuffs are soaring.” In early February, Malaysian exports of palm oil – “the source of half of Iran’s consumption of a food staple used to make margarine and confectionary” – was stopped due to Iran apparently being unable to pay for the imports. Iran had also defaulted on payments for rice from India, its top supplier of the staple food, and Ukrainian shipments of maize were cut in half. Iran has now been attempting to purchase large quantities of wheat to stock up on food supplies as the sanctions will further wreak havoc on the economy.
In the days of the British colonial empire, there was a saying in the diplomatic circles, “Keep the Persians hungry, and the Arabs fat.” Sanctions on Iran, explained the New York Times, “are turning into a form of collective punishment,” which while supposedly designed to deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions, tends to reflect the idea that “Western politicians also seem to believe that punishing the Iranian people might lead them to blame their own government for their misery and take it upon themselves to force a change in the regime’s behavior, or even a change in the regime itself,” just as was desired in Cuba. In fact, the sanctions, just as in Cuba, negatively effect the very middle class and pro-Western population which the West seeks to urge to overthrow the prevailing regime. Just as in Cuba then, it is likely that the result will be emigration out of the country by the middle class, strengthening the regime in power, and punishing the population into hunger.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.
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 Ronald C. Kramer and Elizabeth A. Bradshaw, “US State Crimes Related to Nuclear Weapons: Is There Hope for Change in the Obama Administration?” International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice (Vol. 35, No. 3, August 2011), pages 245-246.
 Ibid, page 246.
 Ibid, pages 248-249.
 Ibid, pages 249-250.
 Ibid, pages 250-252.
 Phyllis Bennis, “We’ve seen the threats against Iran before,” Al-Jazeera, 18 February 2012: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/201221510012473174.html
 Kevin Hechtkopf, “Panetta: Iran cannot develop nukes, block strait,” CBS News, 8 January 2012: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3460_162-57354645/panetta-iran-cannot-develop-nukes-block-strait/
 Tabassum Zakaria, “Iran may or may not be building nuclear weapon, but they’re keeping their options open: U.S. intelligence chief,” The National Post, 31 January 2012: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/01/31/iran-may-or-may-not-be-building-nuclear-weapon-but-theyre-keeping-their-options-open-u-s-spy-chief/
 Elise Labott, “IAEA report to detail efforts by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” CNN, 6 November 2011: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-11-07/middleeast/world_meast_iran-iaea-report_1_nuclear-weapon-iranian-nuclear-facilities-nuclear-program?_s=PM:MIDDLEEAST
 Opinion, “If Iran Gets the Bomb,” The Wall Street Journal, 10 November 2011: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204224604577027842025797760.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
 Julian Borger, “The IAEA report: what does it really mean and will it lead to war with Iran?”, The Guardian, 9 November 2011:
 Greg Thielmann and Benjamin Loehrke, “Chain reaction: How the media has misread the IAEA’s report on Iran,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 23 November 2011:
 BBC, “Q&A: Iran nuclear issue,” BBC News, 23 January 2012: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11709428
 Alex Spillius, “Iran: watchdog says suspicious activities continue at blocked sites,” The Telegraph, 5 March 2012:
 US Embassy Cables, “New UN chief is ‘director general of all states, but in agreement with us’,” The Guardian, 2 December 2012:
 CBC, “Non-aligned nations slam U.S.,” CBC News, 16 September 2006:
 JESSICA T. MATHEWS, “Speaking to Tehran, With One Voice,” The New York Times, 21 March 2006:
 World Briefing, “Nations back right to nuclear power,” The Chicago Tribune, 31 July 2008:
 ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO and GINGER THOMPSON, “Brazil’s Iran Diplomacy Worries U.S. Officials,” The New York Times, 14 May 2010:
 ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO, “Iran Deal Seen as Spot on Brazilian Leader’s Legacy,” The New York Times, 24 March 2010:
 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll: Results of Arab Opinion Survey Conducted June 29-July 20, 2010, The Brookings Institution, 5 August 2010:
 The 2011 Arab Public Opinion Poll, The Brookings Institution, 21 November 2011:
 SHIBLEY TELHAMI and STEVEN KULL, “Preventing a Nuclear Iran, Peacefully,” The New York Times, 15 January 2012:
 John J. Kruzel, “Report to Congress Outlines Iranian Threats,” American Forces Press Service, 20 April 2010:
 Press TV, “’Iran pursues deterrent defense strategy’,” Press TV, 22 September 2011:
 Document 620. Special National Intelligence Estimate, “Prospects for the Castro Regime,” 8 December 1960.
 Louis A. Pérez, Jr., “Fear and Loathing of Fidel Castro: Sources of US Policy Towards Cuba,” Journal of Latin American Studies (Vol. 34, No. 2, May 2002), pages 240-241.
 Ibid, pages 241-242.
 Abbas Alnasrawi, “Iraq: Economic Sanctions and Consequences, 1990-2000,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 22, No. 2, April 2001), pages 208-209.
 Yevgeni Primakov, “The Inside Story of Moscow’s Quest For a Deal,” Time Magazine, 4 March 1991.
 Abbas Alnasrawi, “Iraq: Economic Sanctions and Consequences, 1990-2000,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 22, No. 2, April 2001), page 214.
 Brian Michael Goss, “‘Deeply Concerned About the Welfare of the Iraqi People’: The Sanctions Regime Against Iraq in the New York Times (1996-98),” Journalism Studies (Vol. 3, No. 1, 2002), page 88.
 Patrick Cockburn, “UN aid chief resigns over Iraq sanctions,” The Independent, 1 October 1998:
 Ewen MacAskill, “Second official quits UN Iraq team,” The Guardian, 16 February 2011:
 John Pilger, “Squeezed to Death,” The Guardian, 4 March 2000:
 BBC, “Q&A: Iran sanctions,” BBC News, 6 February 2012:
 BBC, Japan ‘to reduce Iran oil imports’, BBC News, 12 January 2012:
 Bloomberg News, “Iran Sanctions Don’t Determine China’s Oil Needs, Official Says,” Bloomberg, 4 March 2012:
 Javier Blas and Jack Farchy, “Iran sanctions put Saudi oil output capacity to the test,” The Financial Times, 29 February 2012:
 JAVIER BLAS AND NAJMEH BOZORGMEHR, “Iran struggles to find new oil customers,” The Globe and Mail, 20 February 2012:
 Report by the Coordinating Committee of the Department of State, “Draft Memorandum to President Truman,” Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, The Near East and Africa, Vol. 8, 1945, page 45.
 Lloyd C. Gardner, Three Kings: The Rise of an American Empire in the Middle East After World War II (The New Press, 2009), page 96; Noam Chomsky, “Is the World Too Big to Fail?” Salon, 21 April 2011: http://www.salon.com/2011/04/21/global_empire_united_states_iraq_noam_chomsky/
 Reuters, “Iran struggles to pay for basic foods as sanctions kick in,” Irish Times, 9 February 2012: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2012/0209/1224311519827.html
 Michael Hogan, “Iran in talks to buy Russian, Indian wheat,” Reuters, 5 March 2012:
 Hooman Majd, “Starving Iran Won’t Free It,” The New York Times, 2 March 2012:
Fighting the “Rising Tide” of Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Syrian Crisis
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
The following sample is a compilation of unedited research, largely drawn from official government documents of the State Department, CIA, Pentagon, White House, and National Security Council, outlining the development of the Eisenhower Doctrine and the American imperial perceptions of the threat of ‘Arab Nationalism.’
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The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Threat of Arab Nationalism
Following the Suez Crisis, Nasser’s influence and reputation was enormously strengthened in the Arab, Muslim, and wider decolonizing world, while those of Britain and France were in decline. Nasser’s support for nationalist movements in North Africa, particular Algeria, increasingly became cause for concern. Pro-Western governments in the Middle East stood on unstable ground, threatened by the ever-expanding wave of Pan-Arab nationalism and indeed, Pan-African nationalism spreading from North Africa downward. The United States, however, noting the power vacuum created by the defeat of Britain and France in the conflict, as well as the increasing support from the Soviet Union for nationalist movements in the region as elsewhere, had to decide upon a more direct strategy for maintaining dominance in the region.
As President Eisenhower stated in December of 1956, as the Suez Crisis was coming to a final close, “We have no intention of standing idly by… to see the southern flank of NATO completely collapse through Communist penetration and success in the Mid East.” Secretary Dulles stated in turn, that, “we intend to make our presence more strongly felt in the Middle East.” Thus, the Eisenhower Doctrine was approved in early 1957, calling for the dispersal of “$200 million in economic and military aid and to commit armed forces to defend any country seeking assistance against international communism,” explaining that, “the existing vacuum… must be filled by the United States before it is filled by Russia.” Thus, Eisenhower told Congress, this new doctrine was “important… to the peace of the world.” Some Senators opposed the doctrine; though, with powerful political figures supporting it, as well as the New York Times providing an unfailing endorsement, it was approved in early March of 1957. In the Middle East, Libya, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan endorsed the doctrine in the hopes of receiving economic and military aid (even before the U.S. Congress approved it), King Hussein of Jordan endorsed it, and funds were further given to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
The main opposition to the Eisenhower Doctrine came from Syria and Egypt. Nasser later reflected that the doctrine appeared to be “a device to re-establish imperial control by non-military means,” and therefore he would “have nothing to do with it and felt it was directed at Egypt as much as at any communist threat.” This was not, as it turned out, far from the truth. A State Department Policy Planning Paper from early December of 1956 discussed the formation of a new regional policy (which resulted in the Eisenhower Doctrine), and while focusing on the notion that, “[t]he primary threat to the interests of the United States and the West in the Middle East (especially oil, Suez Canal and pipelines) arises from Soviet efforts at penetration,” Nasser and Egypt figured prominently in this formulation, but couched in the rhetoric of the Cold War. In fact, “Soviet penetration” of the Middle East was stated to rest on three main factors, the first of which was identified as the “ambitions of Nasser and the willingness of Nasser and the Syrians to work with the Soviets, especially to obtain arms.” The other two main factors were identified as, “instability and divisions among the other Middle Eastern nations,” referring to Western puppet governments in the region, and “increased animosity toward the UK and France resulting from their military action against Egypt and intensified by the fact that their action was taken in conjunction with Israel’s invasion of Egypt.”
Thus, while the strategy was presented as a means to prevent Soviet “penetration” of the Middle East, the actual content and objectives of the strategy being formulated were directly related to checking Egyptian influence in the region and beyond. Of course, Soviet advances in the area were of concern to the Americans, that cannot be denied, but the prevalence of Egypt and Nasserist influence as a decisive “Third Force” was undeniable as a source of fear among imperial strategists. The strategy overtly stated that “efforts to counter Soviet penetration” in the region “must include measures to… [c]ircumscribe Nasser’s power and influence.” Noting that the American stance during the Suez Crisis has “greatly increased our prestige and opportunity for leadership,” in presenting the view that the United States is “firmly committed to support[ing] genuine independence for the countries concerned,” the State Department document noted that the U.S. would have to avoid “counter suspicion that our aim is to dominate or control any of the countries or to reimpose British domination in a different form. For this reason, our actions will be largely self-defeating if they create a general impression that our objective is directly to overthrow Nasser.” That of course, implies that it is the “indirect objective” of the policy to overthrow Nasser. Noting that Egypt would likely oppose all the measures put forward by the United States in its regional policy, the Policy Planning Paper stated that, “We should play upon [Nasser’s] opposition to stigmatize Egypt as an impediment to peace and progress in the Middle East,” of which the objective would be “to mobilize opinion against Nasser and to circumscribe his power and influence.” The paper stated that it would be important to inform the U.K. and France that the U.S. objective of the program “is directed toward countering Soviet penetration in the Middle East and circumscribing Nasser’s power and influence,” and thus, it would “serve their interests as well as ours,” having in mind “the vital importance of the Middle East to Western Europe.” As such, the U.K. and France should be convinced to “avoid injecting themselves in the Middle East and leave to the US the primary responsibility of restoring the Western position in the area.”
A National Security Council (NSC) report explained that the “opportunistic and nationalistic Nasser government of Egypt gained in influence throughout the area and other Arab heads of state were less able to resist the formation of governments which catered to this surge of nationalism.” Syria was an obvious example; however, even Western friendly governments had to submit to various nationalistic pressures, as Jordan abrogated the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty with Britain, and “King Saud, while publicly friendly to Nasser and the Arab cause, maintained an independent position using his influence for moderation on nationalistic elements, steering a course between the extreme pro-Soviet and strongly pro-West Arab groups.” It’s important to note how Arab nationalism is described as “the extreme pro-Soviet” course when it actually represented a “Third Force” not allied to either the West or East. While the U.S. had an “extremely favorable” position in the Middle East following the Suez Crisis, the USSR was subsequently “given the greatest credit in the Arab world for the cessation of hostilities in Egypt.” Egypt and Syria increased their economic and military ties with the Soviet bloc, and through such support to these and other Arab nations, “the Soviet Union appeared as the defender of the sovereignty of small countries and of Arab nationalism against the threats of Western ‘imperialism’.” Explaining the “major operating problems” facing the United States in the region, nationalism was identified as the primary threat. The NSC Operations Coordinating Board report stated:
Throughout the Arab area there have been increasing manifestations of an awakened nationalism, springing in part from a desire to end both real and imagined vestiges of the mandate and colonial periods, but stimulated by opportunism, Soviet propaganda, aid and infiltration, and by Egyptian ambitions and intrigue. Because the former mandatory and colonial powers were from Western Europe, the nationalism has assumed generally an anti-Western form. This situation has created opportunities for Soviet exploitation, and has, at the same time, placed the United States in a difficult position. The natural U.S. sympathy with those genuinely desirous of becoming free and completely sovereign nations runs, at times, into sharp conflict with actions required to maintain the strength of the Western alliance and to support our closest allies.
Further problems include the threat to Western economic interests in the area, with the potential for nationalization following the example of the Suez Canal, which could put at risk substantial U.S. private investments in the Arab world. Another major problem was with the divides within the Western alliance itself on how it viewed the Arab world and its problems. Significantly, “the United States sees in nationalism much that represents a threat to the West,” but “it tends to regard this nationalism as an inevitable development which should be channeled, not opposed,” whereas “Britain and France have seen this nationalism… as a threat to their entire position in the area.” The NSC paper lamented that, “It is likely that for the time being Nasser will remain the leader in Egypt,” but “the United States cannot successfully deal with President Nasser.” The United States, then, must determine “the degree to which it will actively seek to curb Nasser’s influence and Egyptian activities in the Near East and Africa.”
Syria became an important part of this equation. Increasingly left-leaning, with major pipelines carrying oil to the Mediterranean supplying much-needed oil for Western Europe’s recovery, and the largest Communist Party in the Arab world, Syria was a strategic nightmare for Western interests. After the Suez Crisis, Syria and Egypt both edged toward closer ties with the Soviet Union, not out of an ideological proclivity toward communism, but because of a pragmatic approach toward preserving and expanding Arab nationalism, which the West was actively opposed to while the USSR had endorsed, naturally, as a means to gaining strategic inroads into the Middle East, not out of any benevolent conception of justice for colonized peoples. In 1956, President Eisenhower stated:
Syria was far more vulnerable to Communist penetration than was Egypt. In Egypt, where one strong man prevailed, Colonel Nasser was able to deal with Communists and accept their aid with some degree of safety simply because he demanded that all Soviet operations be conducted through himself. In Syria, where a weak man was in charge of the government [Quwatli], the Soviet penetration bypassed the government and dealt directly with the various agencies, the army, the foreign ministry, and the political parties. Syria was considered ripe to be plucked at any time.
The fears of Soviet penetration were of course exaggerated beyond the on-the-ground realities, as per usual. The real fear was the potential for Syria to more closely align with Egypt and become a strong partner in Nasser’s non-aligned “Third Force” which happened to be in a location of major strategic interest to the West. As the Eisenhower Doctrine framed the language in terms of the Cold War confrontation between the West and East, the internal documents leading to the formation of the doctrine pointed to the isolation and diminution of Egyptian influence in the region as the main objective. Britain’s only remaining pseudo-protectorate in the region through which it could protect its oil interests was in Iraq, while its relationship with Jordan was faltering under nationalistic pressure. The British then, had a major interest in Syria, a an idea was being pushed through Iraq where the leader of the country, Nuri al-Said, “had sought to take the leadership of the Arab nationalist movement away from Egypt by instituting a ‘Fertile Crescent’ union of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan.” The British objective and vision for the region, not coincidentally, “corresponded with this ambition.” Syria was viewed as a potential point through which to secure access to oil by ensuring a pro-Iraqi government, as well as checking Arab nationalism and Nasser.
In October of 1957, the United States produced a National Intelligence Estimate analyzing “probable developments affecting US interests” in the Middle East “during the next several years.” The outlook for the United States and the West in the Middle East “has deteriorated,” stated the estimate. The USSR’s influence has increased by “supporting the radical element of the Arab nationalist movement,” meaning Nasser. The NIE stated that, “radical Arab nationalists control only Egypt and Syria” at the moment, however, “sympathy and support for their strong anti-Western, revolutionary, and pan-Arab policies come from a substantial majority of the Arabs of the Near East,” while the indigenous support for the West in the region “comes largely from the outnumbered and often weakly-led conservative nationalist elements.” Acknowledging that the regimes in Syria and Egypt were likely to maintain for a few years, their reliance upon the Soviet Union would likely increase, and, moreover, “Nasser and the Syrian leaders will probably continue to exert a powerful influence over radical Arab nationalists throughout the area, except in the unlikely event of their emerging clearly as Soviet puppets.” Even if these specific regimes collapsed, noted the NIE, “the radical Arab nationalist movement will continue as a basic element in the Near East situation.”
The “conservative grouping” which supports the West in the region, consists of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, “forms a loose coalition of regimes that look to the US for aid because of their common interest in the existing system and opposition to the forces of revolution represented by the radicals.” While they do not oppose Arab nationalism in general, for it also justifies their own self-rule, they remain conservative and opposed to radical elements typified by Nasser. The NIE noted that the potential “for broadening or consolidating the position of the conservative forces in the Arab states are poor, although these forces will continue to be an important factor in the area.” One of the main problems was the continued Arab-Israeli dispute, of which prospects for a solution were poor. The NIE warned that the United States believed “that there will almost certainly be some armed conflict in the area during the next several years,” likely in Syria, Jordan, Yemen, and potentially with Israel. While France and the U.K. have lost influence in the region, the USSR has increased its own, with supplying arms to Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, and the U.S. is the main representative of the West in the Middle East. As such, the NIE stated, the region “has thus become a principal arena of the contest between the US and the USSR.”
Since the Suez Crisis, “Nasser has become… the spokesman and symbol of radical Pan-Arab nationalism.” Yet, the conservative forces in the region, especially Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, remained increasingly distrustful of Nasser, and thus welcomed the Eisenhower Doctrine “as an opportunity to strengthen their own positions,” resulting in “a division of the Arab Near East into two loose groupings.” The radical Pan-Arab nationalist movement of Nasser and Syria “advocate the union of all Arabs in a single state,” and are “both the most dynamic and the most violent in their anti-Westernism, the most interested in a military buildup as a symbol of Arab strength, and at the present time the most activist in their hostility toward Israel.” Nasser and the Syrian leaders, stated the NIE, “are revolutionaries who believe in replacing many traditional social and economic institutions with a state socialism of their own devising.” Importantly, the NIE observed that, “[t]he majority of politically conscious Arab Moslems throughout the Near East, particularly the middle class intelligentsia, are sympathetic to this concept of Arab nationalism,” and believe that the interests of the West in the region are “Israel, oil, and domination of the area.” Further, they “also believe the West to be opposed to their concept of Arab unity.” The conservative elements, which reject the radical notions of Arab nationalism, reject ties to the Soviet Union, and draw themselves close to the West, are “largely confined to the upper and professional classes and [have] little popular support.” In other words, the pro-West regimes are simply dominated by “conservative and traditional” elites, while the majority of the population of the region support Nasser’s vision of Pan-Arab nationalism.
Oil interests in the region remained paramount for the West. The NIE took note of the fact that the “non-Communist world looks increasingly for its petroleum requirements to the vast reserves of the Middle East,” which was “particularly true of Western Europe,” which in 1957, “consumes almost three million barrels of oil per day, of which 72 percent comes from the Middle East,” and that rate was expected to increase by 1965. Nationalistic governments and movements in the region were exerting increasing pressure upon the “existing pattern of oil production and transportation” in seeking “increased revenue and more control over oil operations.” Luckily for the West, the conservative elements control the major oil producing areas, but transportation of oil through pipelines and waterways go through areas dominated by the radical Arab nationalist regimes. In fact, 35% of oil going to the West from the region was transported by pipeline, while 65% went through the Suez Canal. The NIE noted, however, that “Egypt and Syria are unlikely, except under extreme provocation, to exercise their capability to stop the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf area to the Mediterranean.” Opposition to Israel was identified as “the principal point of agreement among all factions of Arabs and acute tension between the Arab states and Israel will continue.” The Cold War struggle between the West and East “is regarded as a battle of giants which concerns the Arab world only insofar as it intrudes in Arab affairs or offers opportunities to the Arabs to advance their own interests.” Thus, Arab views toward the Soviet Union and the West are not framed in the Cold War dialectic of the “Free World” versus “Communist dictatorship,” but rather “the result of past experience, present friction, and future aspirations,” which naturally put the West in the part of imperial aggressors, while the Soviet Union can legitimately portray itself as ‘anti-imperial.’ The United States will continue to represent the West in the region, but “Britain, France, and other Western states will be critical of US policy if it does not act effectively to protect Western interests, particularly in petroleum, when threatened.”
Western influence had increased among the conservative Arab regimes over the preceding year, but has failed to be recognized “among the Arab public,” who fail “to understand Western indignation at Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal Company and at his taking Soviet arms.” The French-British-Israeli invasion of Egypt confirmed the radical Arab nationalist portrayal of “Western imperialists,” and, while U.S. actions during the crisis increased its favor in the region, the “Soviet threats against the UK made an equal or greater impression on the Arab public.” The U.S. stance during the crisis “was misinterpreted among the Arabs as an indication that the US intended to back the Pan-Arab program against the UK and France, and many became confused and disillusioned when this turned out not to be the case.” While radical Arab nationalism will continue over the following years, stated the NIE, “[t]he forces of conservative Arab nationalism are likely to continue to be generally identified with the West,” and in some areas this could lead to “instability.” Israel, for its part, “will continue to receive outside financial and diplomatic support [largely from France] and will persist as a dynamic force within the area,” as well as seeking “to keep its armed forces qualitatively superior to those of its Arab opponents.”
For Western interests in the region, a number of factors had to dictate American policy. Naturally, the possibility of cooperation with Syria and Egypt remained slim, while conservative Arab governments were “likely to become progressively more dependent upon the US,” which would mean that “economic progress in these states will be regarded in the area as an index of the value of association with the US.” The increasing “public expectation of improvement in economic standards and welfare will impose difficulties upon governments,” as the “radical nationalist governments of Egypt and Syria are committed to ambitious social and economic reforms,” though they may likely fail to “fulfill their expectations, even with Soviet assistance, and they will probably experience political difficulties as a consequence.” For the conservative governments, which are home to the vast oil reserves of the region, they will have the “financial resources with which to effect reforms which would probably broaden the base of popular support and thus ultimately strengthen their position and that of the conservative grouping.”
Syria and Jordan: The Evolution of a Crisis
The Syrian Crisis emerged between July and October of 1957, after the Ba’ath Party (an Arab Socialist party) won control of the Parliament and Cabinet in early January, with increased Syrian disputes with Turkey over territory, reluctance to grant the Saudi ARAMCO company a pipeline across the country (owned by the Rockefeller Standard Oil Company), and the acceptance of left-wing Arab groups, the “moderate” Syrian leadership was increasingly sidelined. The United States and its Western allies, particularly Britain, had been involved for a number of years in supporting various coups in Syria. One coup was supposed to take place in 1956, but was outflanked by the importance of the Suez Crisis. Codenamed Operation Straggle, it was felt that the plans could be resumed once the British and French had left Suez. Thus, in late 1956, the British and Americans began again discussing “certain operational intentions regarding Syria,” and the CIA stated that “the UK, France, Turkey, Israel, and Iraq all… would welcome US participation and support in strong measures to check or counter the leftward trends in Syria.” With the passing of the Eisenhower Doctrine, Syria had been identified “as evidence of Russian intent” in the region. Syria, of course, denounced the doctrine, and American strategists, such as Allen Dulles at the CIA, increasingly painted Syria with a Soviet brush.
Jordan played an increasingly important role in this situation. King Abdullah, long supported and in fact, put in power by the British, had been assassinated by a Palestinian in 1951. In 1953, King Hussein emerged as the conservative leader of the country. Jordan, situated between Israel, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, was a pivotal player in any schemes at regional “stability” and preventing the spread of Pan-Arab nationalism. As Britain’s influence in the region dissipated, King Hussein sought to cement his regime’s ties with the Americans. Jordan had, for years, been subjected to cross-border raids from Israeli commandos, and the conservative pro-Western government of Jordan had to subdue national public opinion to refrain from striking back. The U.S. attempted to pressure Jordan into a peace settlement with Israel, but when Colonel Ariel Sharon destroyed a West Bank village in 1953, killing sixty-nine Palestinians, most of whom were women and children, “such a hope [had] been dashed to smithereens,” said a U.S. official at the time. Jordan had to wrestle with the reality of being home to a massive Palestinian refugee population, which was the source of enormous instability and caution for any regime in power. While King Hussein, due largely to domestic pressures, refrained from joining the Baghdad Pact (an alliance between Britain, Iraq, and Turkey), once Nasser had purchased Soviet arms in 1955, both the UK and United States began to see Hussein’s Jordan as “virtually impotent” in the confrontation of “universal popular Jordanian enthusiasm for [the] flame of Arab political liberation ignited by Nasser’s arms deal.” Thus, reported an American official in Amman, the capitol of Jordan, the “[p]olitical situation in Jordan is disintegrating and resulting instability is playing into [the] hands of anti-Western nationalists and Communists.”
The British, in response, attempted to entice Jordan to join the Baghdad Pact, which was looked favourably upon by King Hussein. However, when news of this spread to the West Bank, wrote Douglas Little, “anti-Western demonstrations erupted and pro-Nasser Palestinians demanded that Hussein sever his ties with Britain and rely instead on Soviet arms and Saudi gold.” Thus, lamented a British official, “If Saudi/Egyptian/Communist intrigue can prevent Jordan joining the Pact… despite the King and Government wishing to do so… how far has the rot spread?” The “rot” referred to by the British official, of course, was Arab nationalism. Many American officials felt that Britain would be completely extricated from Jordan, leaving CIA Director Allen Dulles to comment in early 1956 that, “The British… have suffered their most humiliating defeat in modern history.” King Hussein shortly thereafter removed the head of the Arab Legion, which was the British-controlled Jordanian army, and put the army under absolute Jordanian control, leading the British to cut Jordanian economic and military aid in retribution. The Americans, however, felt this was a smart move by Hussein, as the “King is now [a] hero and no longer [a] puppet.” Hussein put in place a new leader of the Arab Legion, described by some as an “anti-Western opportunist,” of whom the British presented as having an objective for Jordan that, “is likely to be a military dictatorship on the lines of Colonel Nasser.” This leader, Abu Nuwar, even invoked many concerns among the Americans, who were wary of his pro-Nasser stance and his ties to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank. With the Suez Crisis under way, Jordan requested Iraq send hundreds of military advisers, to which Israel responded with “savage blows” against the Arab Legion, in Eisenhower’s own words, increasing the fear that, “Jordan is going to break up… like the partition of Poland.”
In October of 1956, elections in Jordan led to the formation of a Government coalition of Communists and anti-Western nationalists, “led by Sulieman Nabulsi, a pro-Palestinian East Bank activist whom [King] Hussein reluctantly named prime minister on the eve of the Suez war.” As British participation in the Suez war became clear, Jordan’s government threatened to toss out the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty of 1948, leading Arab Legion chief Abu Nuwar to warn U.S. diplomats that, “If [the] US wants to salvage anything in Jordan,” it would have to act quickly to “furnish military and economic aid… [to] compensate for British aid which will soon be ended.” Hussein warned the Americans that Nuwar and Nabulsi were even considering Soviet aid as a replacement for British subsidy. Thus, the United States jumped into Jordan with $30 million in aid. With the Eisenhower Doctrine unveiled in early 1957, Hussein quietly endorsed the program, to which he was rewarded with suitcases of cash from the CIA, and in April, Hussein forced the prime minister to resign, instigating large anti-Western protests. At that time, however, Allen Dulles informed the National Security Council, “The situation in Jordan had reached the ultimate anticipated crisis… The real power of decision rests largely with the Army, whose loyalty to the King is uncertain.” Two days later, amid protests denouncing the Baghdad Pact and the Eisenhower Doctrine, Nuwar, the head of the Army, attempted to oust King Hussein in a coup. The King, however, was not taken by surprise. With the help of the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt, he had mobilized loyalist army factions who forced Nuwar into exile in Syria. The crisis, however, continued, as massive anti-US demonstrations took place in Amman and Jerusalem, leading Hussein to ask Secretary of State John Foster Dulles if he could count on US support in proposing “to take a strong line in Jordan, including martial law on the West Bank.” Dulles then urged Eisenhower to send a battalion of US Marines into the Eastern Mediterranean “to signal US support for the embattled Hussein.”
The United States then immediately granted $10 million in economic aid to Jordan, followed closely with $10 million in military aid, both provided through the auspices of the Eisenhower Doctrine, designed to ensure that the Arab Legion remained as “as effective force for the maintenance of internal security,” which translates into domestic repression. Jordan got a new Prime Minister, ostensibly pro-Western, and America increasingly replaced the British as the imperial master of Jordan. Problems persisted, however, as Secretary Dulles noted, as within “wretchedly poor” Jordan, the Palestinians “were a continuing menace to stability,” and “the King sat on dynamite where the refugees were concerned.”
The Syrian Crisis
At the same time, as the crisis began to boil over in Syria, Eisenhower stated that, “If by some miracle stability could also be achieved in Syria,” by which he means pro-Western subservience, “American would have come a long way in an effort to establish peace in that troubled area,” by which he means domination. The CIA, for its part, was already encouraging right-wing factions of the Syrian military to “join forces effectively against the leftists.” In May of 1957, the CIA was attempting to remove “the pro-Communist neutralists” and “achieve a political change in Syria.” With Syrian elections, both Communists and Ba’athist made large gains, while an oil refinery was being constructed at Homs by Czech engineers from the Soviet bloc, and Soviet military advisers made inroads into the nation, resulting in a $500 million grain-for-weapons deal signed with Soviet Premier Khrushchev in July of 1957. In August, the National Security Council’s Operations Coordinating Board produced a report explaining that, “Syrian leaders seem more inclined to accept Soviet influence blindly than in any other country in the area… There was evidence that the Soviets are making Syria the focal point for arms distribution and other activities, in place of Egypt.” Within two days, the United States gave authorization for the covert operation against Syria, which the CIA had been planning for months, aiming to install the former Syrian pro-West leader, Shishakli. This operation, however, according to the U.S. Ambassador to Syria in 1957, was “a particularly clumsy CIA plot” which had been “penetrated by Syrian intelligence.” It was later revealed that, “[h]alf a dozen Syrian officers approached by American officials immediately reported back to the authorities so that the plot was doomed from the start.” Therefore, on August 12, the head of Syrian counterintelligence expelled known CIA agents, arrested their local assets, and put the U.S. Embassy under surveillance. Eisenhower expelled the Syrian ambassador to the United States, which was reciprocated with Syria expelling the American ambassador. Painting the picture of a Syria which was about to “fall under the control of International Communism and become a Soviet satellite,” Secretary Dulles supported invoking the Eisenhower Doctrine.
On August 21, 1957, an emergency meeting on Syria was held at the White House, and Secretary Dulles asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to attend, stating that, “We are thinking of the possibility of fairly drastic action… so come with anybody he needs in that respect.” Though the actual minutes of the meeting remain classified, Eisenhower’s memoirs reflect on some of the discussion that took place: “Syria’s neighbors, including her fellow Arab nations, had come to the conclusion that the present regime in Syria had to go; otherwise the takeover by the Communists would soon be complete.” The U.S. would then encourage Iraq and Turkey to mass troops along their borders with Syria, and “if Syrian aggression should provoke a military reaction” – note how it’s defined as “Syrian aggression” as opposed to “reaction” or “defense” to an aggressive military buildup on its borders – the United States would “expedite shipments of arms already committed to the Middle Eastern countries and, further, would replace losses as quickly as possible.” As such, the U.S. Sixth Fleet was again ordered to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, as it was during the Jordanian crisis earlier that year, while U.S. jets were sent from Western Europe to a NATO base in Turkey. Over the following two weeks, the Americans slowly backed down from their aggressive strategy, which threatened to provoke a major regional war drawing both the Soviet Union and the United States directly into the conflict. Soviet leader Khrushchev wrote a letter to Eisenhower in early September warning him not to intervene in Syria. John Foster Dulles claimed that the crisis had created “a period of the greatest peril for us since the Korean War,” saying that Khrushchev was “more like Hitler than any other Russian leader we have previously seen.” In typical Orwellian fashion, changing the actual crisis from that of a major covert and potentially overt American aggression in the region, Dulles, when speaking to the press, expressed his “deep concern at the apparently growing Soviet Communist domination of Syria.”
While the conservative Arab allies were hesitant to pursue aggressive American policies against Syria, Turkey seemed to be ready for war, as even “despite words of caution from American diplomats and NATO officials,” Turkey “refused to demobilize the 50,000 troops they had massed along the Syrian frontier.” Dulles attempted to placate the Soviets, explaining that Eisenhower was convincing the Turks to retract, and Khrushchev warned, “if Turkey starts hostilities against Syria, this can lead to very grave consequences, and for Turkey, too,” which was a NATO ally, and thus, if Turkey was “to go it alone in Syria,” the Soviet Union would “attack Turkey, thereby precipitating an open, full scale conflict between ourselves and Russia.” With this in mind, U.S. officials bribed Turkey with economic and military aid to demobilize the border in late October. Following the crisis, Syrian leaders saw a dual threat of either Soviet domination of their country or Turkish invasion. In response to this, they promoted a formal union with Egypt along the lines espoused by Pan-Arab nationalism, and in early 1958, the United Arab Republic (UAR) was formed between Syria and Egypt. The Americans then feared that Nasser would use the UAR “to threaten Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq and perhaps engulf them one by one.” However, despite the American fears that the UAR would seek to absorb other Arab states, the United States felt that a merger with Egypt would repress Communist elements in Syria, and that open hostility to the UAR would only incur Arab resentment. Thus, while the UAR was formed on 1 February 1958, the United States formally recognized it on 25 February, and the Syrian crisis came to an end.
U.S. Policy After the Syrian Crisis
On 24 January 1958, a National Security Council report on “Long-Range U.S. Policy Toward the Near East” was issued which explained that the Middle East was “of great strategic, political, and economic importance to the Free World,” as the region “contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world and essential facilities for the transit of military forces and Free World commerce.” Thus, it was deemed that the “security interests of the United States would be critically endangered if the Near East should fall under Soviet influence of control,” and that the “strategic resources are of such importance” to the West, “that it is in the security interest of the United States to make every effort to insure that these resources will be available and will be used for strengthening the Free World,” noting also that the “geographical position of the Near East makes the area a stepping-stone toward the strategic resources of Africa.” The Report went on note:
Current conditions and political trends in the Near East are inimical to Western interests. In the eyes of the majority of Arabs the United States appears to be opposed to the realization of the goals of Arab nationalism. They believe that the United States is seeking to protect its interest in Near East oil by supporting the status quo and opposing political or economic progress, and that the United States is intent upon maneuvering the Arab states into a position in which they will be committed to fight in a World War against the Soviet Union. The USSR, on the other hand, had managed successfully to represent itself to most Arabs as favoring the realization of the goals of Arab nationalism and as being willing to support the Arabs in their efforts to attain those goals without a quid pro quo. Largely as a result of these comparative positions, the prestige of the United States and of the West has declined in the Near East while Soviet influence has greatly increased. The principal points of difficulty which the USSR most successfully exploits are: the Arab-Israeli dispute; Arab aspirations for self-determination and unity; widespread belief that the United States desires to keep the Arab world disunited and is committed to work with “reactionary” [i.e., dictatorial] elements to that end; the Arab attitude toward the East-West struggle; U.S. support of its Western “colonial” allies [France and Britain]; and problems of trade and economic development.
These points of “exploit” are, further, accurate. The United States, affirmed the NSC report, “supports the continued existence of Israel,” and “our economic and cultural interests in the area have led not unnaturally to close U.S. relations with elements in the Arab world whose primary interest lies in the maintenance of relations with the West and the status quo in their countries – Chamoun of Lebanon, King Saud, Nuri of Iraq, King Hussein [of Jordan].” These relations, stated the document, “have contributed to a widespread belief in the area that the United States desires to keep the Arab world disunited and is committed to work with ‘reactionary’ elements to that end,” while the USSR can proclaim “all-out support for Arab unity and for the most extreme Arab nationalist aspirations, because it has no stake in the economic, or political status quo in the area.” In its look at the advances of Communism in the region, the report stated that, “Communist police-state methods seem no worse than similar methods employed by Near East regimes, including some of those supported by the United States,” while the “Arabs sincerely believe that Israel poses a greater threat to their interests than does international Communism.” Lamenting against perceptions of the West in the region, the NSC document noted that the Arabs “believe that our concern over Near East petroleum as essential to the Western alliance, our desires to create indigenous strength [i.e., police-states, dictatorships, strong militaries] to resist Communist subversion or domination, our efforts to maintain existing military transit and base rights and deny them to the USSR, are a mere cover for a desire to divide and dominate the area.”
Unfortunately for the United States reputation, the NSC report stated, “[t]he continuing and necessary association of the United States in the Western European Alliance makes it impossible for us to avoid some identification with the powers which formerly had, and still have, ‘colonial’ interests in the area.” In other words, yes, the United States supports colonialism and imperialism in the Middle East. Further, “[t]he continuing conflict in Algeria excites the Arab world and there is no single Arab leader, no matter how pro-Western he may be on other issues, who is prepared to accept anything short of full Algerian independence as a solution to this problem,” and thus, this creates “fertile ground for Soviet and Arab nationalist distortion of the degree of U.S. and NATO moral and material support to the French in Algeria.” While the area is rife with “extremes of wealth and poverty,” the blame is put on “external factors” such as “colonialism” as well as “unfair arrangements with the oil-producing companies, and a desire on the part of the West to keep the Arab world relatively undeveloped so that it may ultimately become a source of raw materials and the primary market for Israeli industry.” The NSC document then stated that, “we cannot exclude the possibility of having to use force in an attempt to maintain our position in the area,” but that, “we must recognize that the use of military force might not preserve an adequate U.S. political position in the area and might even preserve Western access to Near East oil only with great difficulty.”
As an American objective in the region, the NSC document stated that, “[r]ather than attempting merely to preserve the status quo, [the United States should] seek to guide the revolutionary and nationalistic pressures throughout the area into orderly channels which will not be antagonistic to the West and which will contribute to solving the internal social, political and economic problems of the area.” However, the report went on to essentially counter this point with the policy objective of seeking to “[p]rovide military aid to friendly countries to enhance their internal security and governmental stability,” or in other words, to maintain the status quo, and, “where necessary, to support U.S. plans for the defense of the area.” The document did, however, recommend that when a “pro-Western orientation is unattainable,” to “accept neutralist policies of states in the area even though such states maintain diplomatic, trade and cultural relations with the Soviet bloc… so long as these relations are reasonably balanced by relations with the West.” The United States should “provide assistance… to such states in order to develop local strength against Communist subversion and control and to reduce excessive military and economic dependence on the Soviet bloc.”
In dealing with the “threat” of Pan-Arab nationalism, the NSC report recommended that the United States should proclaim its “support for the ideal of Arab unity,” but to quietly “encourage a strengthening of the ties among Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq with a view to the ultimate federation of two or all of those states.” The aim of this would be to create a “counterbalance [to] Egypt’s preponderant position of leadership in the Arab world by helping increase the political prestige and economic strength of other more moderate Arab states such as Iraq, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon.” In Syria, the aim was simply to seek “a pro-Western, or if this is not possible, a truly neutral government.” Further, it was essential to continue “friendly relations with King Saud and continue endeavors to persuade him to use his influence for objectives we seek within the Arab world.” Referencing the potential use of covert or overt warfare and regime change, the document stated that the United States had to “[b]e prepared, when required, to come forward, as was done in Iran [with the 1953 coup], with formulas designed to reconcile vital Free World interests in the area’s petroleum resources with the rising tide of nationalism in the area.”
The preceding was a research sample of a chapter on the American Empire in the Middle East in The People’s Book Project. This chapter was made possible through donations from readers like you through The People’s Grants. The new objective of The People’s Grants is to raise $1,600 to finance the development of two chapters on a radical history of race and poverty. If you find the following research informative, please consider donating to support The People’s Book Project.
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Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.
 Peter L. Hahn, “Securing the Middle East: The Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, (Vol. 36, No. 1, March 2006), pages 39-40.
 Ibid, page 41.
 Document 161, “Paper Prepared in the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs and the Policy Planning Staff,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iran; Iraq, 5 December 1956.
 Document 178, “Operations Coordinating Board Report,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iran; Iraq, 22 December 1956.
 Ivan Pearson, “The Syrian Crisis of 1957, the Anglo-American ‘Special Relationship’, and the 1958 Landings in Jordan and Lebanon,” Middle Eastern Studies (Vol. 43, No. 1, January 2007), pages 45-46.
 Ibid, pages 46-47.
 Document 266, “National Intelligence Estimate,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iran; Iraq, 8 October 1957.
[11 – 15] Ibid.
 Douglas Little, “Cold War and Covert Action: The United States and Syria, 1945-1958,” Middle East Journal (Vol. 44, No. 1, Winter 1990), pages 68-69.
 Douglas Little, “A Puppet in Search of a Puppeteer? The United States, King Hussein, and Jordan, 1953-1970,” The International History Review (Vol. 17, No. 3, August 1995), pages 512, 516-519.
 Ibid, pages 519-522.
 Ibid, pages 522-524.
 Ibid, pages 524-525.
 Douglas Little, “Cold War and Covert Action: The United States and Syria, 1945-1958,” Middle East Journal (Vol. 44, No. 1, Winter 1990), pages 69-71.
 Ibid, pages 71-73.
 Ibid, pages 73-74.
 Peter L. Hahn, “Securing the Middle East: The Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, (Vol. 36, No. 1, March 2006), page 44.
 Document 5, “National Security Council Report,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iraq; Iran; Arabian Peninsula, 24 January 1958.
Recent interview with Raymond Geisler on the Unbought and Unbossed Radio Show on the history of American Imperialism. Starting with the 1832 Marine invasion of Indonesia, to the Spanish-American War of 1898 which led to the invasion of Cuba and the occupation and colonization of the Philippines, up to the present day, this show looks at the evolution of American imperialism transitioning from the 19th into the 20th centuries:
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Organized Terror and Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
A brief note from The People’s Book Project: Welcome to 2012: The Book Project and the World We Live In
The following is Part 2 of a sample on The Origins of Imperial Israel from an upcoming book supported through The People’s Book Project.
See some other samples from the book, and if you like what you see, please donate:
The official Israeli government explanation for the ‘disappearance’ of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from the land (roughly half the Arab population in Palestine in 1948) was that they left “voluntarily.” The “new history” of Israel emerged within the past couple decades due to declassified documents relating to the 1948 war and its origins, and with a number of Israeli historians recreating the history of Israel and challenging the official story. David Ben-Gurion, who would become Israel’s first Prime Minister, was a leading Zionist at the time. He and other Zionists “accepted” the UN partition plan, wrote Jerome Slater, “only as a necessary tactical step that would later be reversed.” In a 1937 letter to his son, Ben-Gurion wrote:
A partial Jewish state is not the end, but only the beginning. The establishment of such a Jewish state will serve as a means in our historical efforts to redeem the country in its entirety… We shall organize a modern defense force… and then I am certain that we will not be prevented from settling in other parts of the country, either by mutual agreement with our Arab neighbors or by some other means… We will expel the Arabs and take their places… with the forces at our disposal.
In the same year, Ben-Gurion also wrote that, “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.” A year later, in 1938, Ben-Gurion told a Zionist meeting that, “I favor partition of the country because when we become a strong power after the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and spread throughout all of Palestine.” Palestine, as defined by the Zionists, had included the West Bank, Golan Heights in Syria, Jerusalem, southern Lebanon, and a significant degree of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
For any settler colonies, as the Zionists were, there are roughly four conditions which have to met if they are to survive. Graham Usher, an Israeli journalist, wrote that:
They must obtain a measure of political, military, and economic independence from their metropolitan sponsors. They must achieve military hegemony over, or at least normal relations with, their neighboring states. They must acquire international legitimacy. And they must solve their “native problem.”
The Jewish state, as defined by leading Zionists such as David Ben-Gurion, was not to simply be Jewish in its sociopolitical structure, explained Ilan Pappé, “but also in its ethnic composition.” Further, this would be made possible “only by force.” To accomplish this task, an efficient military organization was built over several years, with extensive financial resources. The main Jewish paramilitary organization in Palestine was founded in 1920 in order to protect the Jewish colonies, assisted by “sympathetic” British officers. Orde Wingate, a British officer, was central to convincing Zionist leaders of the need for such a military organization, associating the idea of a Jewish state with militarism and an army. Wingate was assigned to Palestine in 1936, and had established close connections between the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah and the British forces during the 1936-39 Arab Revolt.
In 1940, Ben-Zion Luria, a historian at Hebrew University who was also employed by the Jewish Agency in Palestine suggested that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) should conduct a registry of all the Arab villages in Palestine, numbering some 1,200 in all, which had spread across the countryside for hundreds of years. Luria stated that, “This would greatly help the redemption of the land” into Jewish hands. The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was founded in 1901 as one of the principal colonization organizations focused on buying Palestinian land to settle Jewish colonies. By the end of the Mandate in 1948, the Zionists had control over 5.8% of the land in Palestine.
When news about the “village files” reached Yossef Weitz, the chief of the JNF settlement department (a major Zionist colonialist), he suggested that it be transformed into a “national project.” Other top Zionists became very enthusiastic about the project, of which the main emphasis was on mapping the villages. In several cases, these maps in the Israeli State Archives are all that remains of the entire villages. The British, aware of these projects, were unable to find the headquarters for the secret intelligence network that was established to construct the maps. By the later 1940s, the “village files” included much more than mere locations of villages, but rather had details about road access, the quality of the land, water resources, common sources of income for the local population, religious and sociopolitical affiliations, and even the age of individual men within the village. One important category, explained Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, was the index of “hostility,” referring to those individuals and communities which were ‘hostile’ to the Zionist project of colonization, which was largely determined according to examining the participation of certain villages and people in the Arab Revolt of 1936-39, which “included lists of everyone involved in the revolt and the families of those who had lost someone in the fight against the British. Particular attention was given to people alleged to have killed Jews.”
The British, who had the Mandate over Palestine from 1923, when it was given to the British by the League of Nations, always saw Palestine as a highly strategic and vital imperial possession, largely due to its proximity to the Suez Canal, and thus, the route to Britain’s colonial “Jewel”, India. Palestine was considered a ‘buffer’ in the Middle East, in a land of potentially hostile peoples infused with the ideas of Arab nationalism. Just prior to World War II, the Arab population in Palestine revolted against the British rule in reaction to the dramatically increased rate of Jewish immigration and colonization of the land. The Arab Revolt (1936-39) presented the British with a civil war situation, which was suppressed by force of arms. Where the Arabs were a major problem for the British in the 1930s, the Zionists became a problem for the British in the 1940s, for they too turned to terrorist tactics to make British rule over Palestine impossible. Following World War II, the British Security Service (MI5), according to declassified documents from the agency, focused on the threat to Britain posed by Zionist terrorism, both within the Mandate and within Britain itself. The two main organizations identified by MI5 as terrorist groups were the Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Gang, who had planned on taking the war against Britain to its home, hoping to send several terrorist “cells” to London to “beat the dog in his own kennel.” As the secret documents reveal, “MI5 was actually more concerned about the threat of Zionist terrorism than about the looming threat of the Soviet Union.”
MI5’s wartime Director-General, Sir David Petrie, stated in 1946 in regards to the threat of Zionist terrorism that, “the red light is definitely showing.” From a network of informers within Zionist organizations, Britain uncovered plots to assassinate British politicians associated with Palestine policy, including the Prime Minister himself. The Stern Gang had, in 1944, assassinated the British Minister of State in the Middle East, Lord Moyne, and had also tried (on several occasions) to assassinate the British High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Harold MacMichael. On July 22, 1946, the Irgun bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was home to British government officials and personnel, and resulted in the deaths of 91 individuals, some of them Jews. Both MI5 and MI6 had offices in the Hotel at the time. As Britain responded with force against Zionist terrorist groups and other organizations, the extremist nature of the groups naturally increased. In October of 1946, the Irgun bombed the British Embassy in Rome, and conducted several sabotage operations against British military transportation routes in occupied Germany. In April of 1947, the British Colonial Office in London discovered an Irgun bomb consisting of 24 sticks of explosives, but the timer had broken, so the bomb did not detonate. In June of 1947, the Stern Gang launched a letter bomb campaign in Britain, “targeting every prominent member of the Cabinet,” totaling 21 in all, but none of them ultimately got through to their targets. Another letter bomb assault was undertaken by the Stern Gang in 1948.
In June of 1946, the British Army in Palestine undertook a search for the Jewish Agency, Haganah, and Palmach to retrieve their arms and arrest specific members and leaders. The Zionist organizations, however, had infiltrated the British just as the British had infiltrated the Zionist organizations; thus, the Zionists had advanced warning of the raid and some top officials were able to avoid arrest. The chief of the Haganah, Moshe Sneh, which was the military branch of the Jewish Agency, was in liaison with the terrorist organizations Irgun and Lehi. David Ben-Gurion, the president of the Jewish Agency, was also wanted by the British for his complicity in terrorist attacks. All in all, during the raid, roughly 2,700 people were arrested, including a significant portion of the political leadership within the Palestinian Jewish community, and some arms caches were retrieved. The result, predictably, was to multiply the violence committed against the British in retribution for the raids and arrests. Thus, the British High Commissioner in Palestine, Sir Alan Cunningham, concluded that, “immediate partition is the only solution which gives a chance of stability.”
This was largely the result of the Jewish Resistance Movement (JRM) which had emerged and developed between 1945 and 1946, consisting of the Haganah, Palmach, Irgun and Lehi, “directed and coordinated by the Jewish Agency for Palestine, despite the objections of some of its left-wing members.” The aims of the JRM were to “weaken or destroy British rule in Palestine.” The Haganah was founded as a territorial militia to defend Zionist settlements in Palestine, and in 1938, several Haganah units worked with the British to help crush the Arab Revolt. The British created the Palmach during World War II as an “elite offensive unit” in order “to assist [the British] in the event of a German invasion of Palestine.” In 1945, the Haganah engaged in a secret agreement with the terrorist groups Irgun and Lehi against the British Mandate government. The Irgun was formed in 1931 when several officers separated from the Haganah over socialist sympathies within the defense forces, and became a right-wing paramilitary army, standing in opposition to the original conception of socialist and labour Zionism. The Stern Gang (also known as Lehi) separated from the Irgun during World War II when the Irgun agreed to cooperate with the British. The Stern Gang was a radical far-right group which held many fascist sympathies, and even “pursued agreements with Mussolini and the Nazis in 1940,” though unsurprisingly, Hitler did not respond to the requests.
It was within these various terrorist and paramilitary organizations that Plan D was formed among several Zionist leaders, most notably, David Ben-Gurion, to plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Throughout the 1940s, the planning stages of the village files went through many revisions, and encapsulated Plans A through D. In the planning stages during 1940, as one member of the data collection team, Moshe Pasternak, later recalled:
We had to study the structure of the Arab village. This means the structure and how best to attack it. In the military schools, I had been taught how to attack a modern European city, not a primitive village in the Near East. We could not compare it [an Arab village] to a Polish, or an Austrian one. The Arab village, unlike the European ones, was built topographically on hills. That meant we had to find out how best to approach the village from above or enter it from below. We had to train our “Arabists” [the Orientalists who operated a network of collaborators] how best to work with informants.
A large network of informants had been established to gain intelligence on the Palestinian villages throughout the Mandate. The intelligence which was provided allowed for even more details into the village files, especially after 1943, as the expanded information included: “detailed descriptions of the husbandry, cultivation, the number of trees in plantations, the quality of each fruit grove (even of individual trees!), the average land holding per family, the number of cars, the names of shop owners, members of work shops, and the names of the artisans and their skills.” As time passed, and the village files collected more information, political affiliations were added in regards to individuals within the villages, and in 1945, information regarding village mosques, the names of the imams and even accounts of the inside of particular homes. As the end of the Mandate grew close, the village files increasingly provided information of a more militaristic nature: “the number of guards in each village (most had none) and the quantity and quality of arms at the villagers’ disposal (generally antiquated or even nonexistent).” In 1944, a small village was home to the training of informants and spies and from which they would conduct reconnaissance missions. The final report for the village files was in 1947, focusing on forming lists of “wanted” individuals. As Ilan Pappé explained:
In 1948, Jewish troops used these lists for the search-and-arrest operations they carried out as soon as they had occupied a village. That is, the men in the village would be lined up and those whose names appeared on the lists would be identified, often by the same person who had informed on them in the first place, but now wearing a cloth sack over his head with two holes cut out for his eyes so as not to be recognized. The men who were picked out were often shot on the spot… Among the criteria for inclusion in these lists, besides having participated in actions against the British and the Zionists, were involvement in the Palestinian national movement (which could apply to entire villages) and having close ties to the leader of the movement, the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husayni, or being affiliated with his political party. Given the Mufti’s dominance of Palestinian politics since the establishment of the Mandate in 1923, and the prominent positions held by members of his party in the Arab Higher Committee that became the embryo government of the Palestinians, this offense too was very common.
Villages of roughly 1,500 people had about 20-30 individual “suspects” within them. In November of 1947, the Zionist military command concluded that, “the Palestine Arabs had nobody to organize them properly,” and that, “If not for the British, we could have quelled the Arab riot [the opposition to the UN Partition Resolution in 1947] in one month.” The Arabs, while constituting a demographic challenge to the Zionist aspirations for Palestine, were not a military threat. Their military structures and leadership were largely destroyed by the British during the Arab Revolt and the Zionists were also aware that the Arab states were disorganized and hesitant to move forward on the Palestine issue. Thus, it was the British that primarily stood in the way of the Zionist plans for Palestine, and with 100,000 troops stationed in the an area with roughly 2 million people, it was no small force to contend with. Thus, the Zionist leadership, and specifically David Ben-Gurion, began advocating to support the Partition in the hopes of establishing a small Jewish state in order to have a base from which to expand. In 1946, Ben-Gurion told a gathering of the Zionist leadership that they could accept a smaller state, but that, “We will demand a large chunk of Palestine.” Within a few months, the Jewish Agency created a map of a partitioned Palestine. The UN produced a partition map with less land allotted for the Jewish state. After the 1948-49 war, however, the new Jewish state had – through ethnic cleansing – established itself along the lines set out for it in the Jewish Agency map: all of Palestine, save the West Bank and Gaza.
It was in this context that Plan C was evolved from Plans A and B. The British could not repress the eventual Jewish uprising in Palestine after World War II as they had the Arab Revolt prior to the war, and it was clear to the Zionist leadership that the British were on the way out, in no small part due to pressure from Zionist terrorism. In 1946, Plan C was finalized to prepare the Jewish military structures for their offense against the Palestinian population, including striking against political leadership, anti-Zionist Arabs, senior Arab officials, transportation routes, economic infrastructure, etc. Plan C added upon the village files information regarding leaders and activists within the Arab population and other “potential human targets.” Within a few months, the addition of “operational specifics” became the basis for Plan D, which envisioned a Jewish State composed of 78% of the land of Palestine, as set out in the Jewish Agency map. As for the one million Palestinians within those lands, Plan D was very specific:
These operations can be carried out in the following manner: either by destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by planting mines in their rubble), and especially those population centers that are difficult to control permanently; or by mounting combing and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the villages, conducting a search inside them. In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state.
As Ghazi Falah wrote in the journal, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Plan D’s “underlying objective was the nationwide conquest and control of territories.” Among the tactical objectives of Zionist forces were to occupy “all police fortresses/stations evacuated by British forces, and of Arab villages close to Jewish settlements; creating continuity between Jewish cities and neighbouring Jewish settlements; gaining control of lines of communications; besieging enemy cities; capturing forward bases of the enemy; counter attacks both inside and outside the borders of the State.”
In November of 1947 the UN proposed the partition plan into two states, with Jerusalem and Bethlehem as an international zone. The UN partition plan vastly increased the amount of land for the Zionists, as Jewish land amounted to less than 7% of the total of Palestine in 1947, which was increased to 56% in the UN partition plan, leaving 42% for the Palestinians, who prior to partition had over 90% of the land. The Zionists immediately began the ethnic cleansing in December of 1947 prior to the British leaving, and the first Arab army did not invade until May of 1948, when the British left. Thus, under British rule, wrote Falah, “Jewish forces initiated a war of demographic and territorial expansion which took on the dimension of space purification – expulsion and prevention on the return of the expellees.” All able-bodies Jews within Palestine were mobilized by the Zionist forces to partake in the operation, with civilian Jews settling in the depopulated Palestinian villages in order to prevent any possible return of refugees. Civilians also imposed economic sanctions, disseminating propaganda, and preventing Palestinians from harvesting their crops. Destruction of Arab crops was a general policy, or to have Jewish settlers move in and harvest existing Arab fields in cleansed towns.
Certain towns were then selected for massacres, usually carried out in small villages which had previously good relations with their Jewish neighbours. These towns were selected with the specific purpose of providing “lessons in toughness” for other Palestinians villages to incite them to leave and not return. Between May 1947 and March 1948, there were 92 cases of Zionist terrorism and massacres against Palestinians, organized by the Haganah in cooperation with the Irgun and Stern Gang. The small villages were chosen to be “victims,” to be an example – a terror campaign – to incite fear in the Palestinian population. One such massacre in April of 1948 killed 254 Arab civilians in one village. On top of the massacres, the rape of Arab Palestinian women, whether Christian or Muslim, was also a prominent feature of the more brutal cleansings. When the British left Palestine and the Arab states invaded, they prevented the Zionist forces from occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
All in all, some 400 Palestinian villages were cleansed, forcing roughly 750,000 Palestinians to flee, leaving roughly 100,000 Palestinians within the newly conquered Jewish territories, who remained under a virtual state of martial law and concentrated in small pales within Israel, the state which was declared by the Zionists in May of 1948. Massive Jewish immigration commenced for survivors of the Holocaust as well as Jews from Arab nations and the Soviet Union.
The men who carried out the ethnic cleansing of Palestine became the mythical heroes of the founding of the state of Israel, most notably David Ben-Gurion, and the future leaders of the Israeli army, Yigael Yadin and Moshe Dayan, along with prominent Arabist academics, who, much like the intellectuals of the Nazi state, were among the most systematically malevolent, responsible for the final decisions regarding which villages were to be eradicated and which villagers were to be executed. The operations of the Arabists – Orientalist intellectuals – “were supervised by Issar Harel, who later became the first head of Mossad and the Shin bet, Israel’s secret services.” The ruthless murders, assassinations, and massacres – even of women and children – were not a mere ‘result’ of the war, as many historians have claimed, but were a matter of policy. As Ezra Dannin, the Israeli government adviser on Arab affairs stated that, “If the High Command believes that by destruction, killing, and human suffering its aims will be achieved faster, then I would not stand in its way. If we don’t hurry up, our enemies will do the same things to us.”
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project.
 Jerome Slater, “What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 116, No. 2, 2001), pages 173-174.
 Ilan Pappé, “The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 36, No. 1, Autumn 2006), page 9.
 Jerome Slater, “What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 116, No. 2, 2001), page 174.
 Graham Usher, “Unmaking Palestine: On Israel, the Palestinians, and the Wall,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 35, No. 1, Autumn 2005), page 26.
 Ilan Pappé, “The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 36, No. 1, Autumn 2006), pages 9-10.
 Ibid, pages 10-11.
 Ibid, page 11.
 Calder Walton, “British Intelligence and the Mandate of Palestine: Threats to British National Security Immediately After the Second World War,” Intelligence and National Security (Vol. 23, No. 4, 2008), pages 435-436.
 Ibid, pages 439-440.
 Steven Wagner, “British Intelligence and the Jewish Resistance Movement in the Palestine Mandate,” Intelligence and National Security (Vol. 23, No. 5, 2008), pages 629-630.
 Ibid, pages 630-631.
 Ilan Pappé, “The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 36, No. 1, Autumn 2006), pages 11-12.
 Ibid, pages 12-13.
 Ibid, pages 13-15.
 Ibid, pages 15-16.
 Ghazi Falah, “The 1948 Israeli-Palestinian War and its Aftermath: The Transformation and Se-Signification of Palestine’s Cultural Landscape,” Annals of the American Association of American Geographers (Vol. 86, No. 2, 1996), page 259.
 Ibid, page 261.
 Ibid, page 262.
 Graham Usher, “Unmaking Palestine: On Israel, the Palestinians, and the Wall,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 35, No. 1, Autumn 2005), page 27.
 Ilan Pappé, “The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 36, No. 1, Autumn 2006), pages 18-19.
 Jerome Slater, “What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 116, No. 2, 2001), page 175.
Interview with Devon D.B.
The Progressive Playbook, 9 September 2011
This is the transcript of an interview I had with Andrew Gavin Marshall, an independent researcher and writer. His work can be seen here. In the following interview, we discuss the US-NATO “intervention” in Libya and its effects on the African continent, as well as whether or not a Western intervention of Syria is possible. For more information on Libya, read Mr. Marshall’s article entitled Lies, War, and Empire: NATO’s “Humanitarian Imperialism” in Libya.
Devon DB: Seeing as how the rebels are split into factions, do you think this will come back to haunt the US and NATO in the formation of the new Libyan government?
Mr. Marshall: The fact that the rebels are split into factions is not a surprise to the West. From the beginning of the TNC (Transitional National Council), the organization was factionalized, and with the recent assassination of one of the military commanders (several weeks prior to the storming of Tripoli), these factions were known to be in competition. Thus, it is likely that this potential was taken into consideration by Western strategists. Whomever may become supreme within the TNC in a power struggle, it would be likely that the country could descend into a more chaotic system or civil war. If the al-Qaeda rebel factions (those with the most military training and experience) were to get a strong foothold in the country, this could even provide the West with a pretext for an occupation of Libya in order to “secure” the “transition” of the country into a liberal democratic structure.
It seems unlikely that the West would support a new dictatorship in Libya. In 2005, the Council on Foriegn Relations (the premier strategic policy planning institution in the United States – the “imperial brain trust” as some theorists have referred to them) produced a document, “In Support of Arab Democracy” (http://www.cfr.org/democracy-promotion/support-arab-democracy/p8166). One of its chief authors was Madeleine Albright, a protégé of the most influential strategic thinker in the American Empire, Zbigniew Brzezinski. The ultimate conclusion laid out in the report was that the United States needed to undertake a strategy of “democracy promotion” in the Arab world, replacing once-plient dictatorships with more stable, secure liberal democratic states. The report stated quite emphatically, that democracy should be promoted through “Evolution, not revolution.” However, it also emphasized the need to employ different strategies in different countries, and not resort to a “one-size fits all” strategy. With the ‘Arab Spring’, the democracy promotion agenda was forced to the forefront and had to act, pre-empt, and co-opt at a rate in which it was perhaps not prepared. Thus, we have seen the co-optation (or attempted co-optation, since these events have not yet subsided) of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
A true revolution is a threat to Western domination of the region, its resources and population. Thus, evolution into liberal democratic states is preferable to a true people’s revolution. True democracy, however, is not desired by Western strategists. True democracy (where the people would rule) is anathema to American imperial interests for a very clear reason: the public opinion of the Arab world.
In 2010, a major Western polling agency conducted a survery of popular opinion in the Arab world. Among the findings were that a vast majority felt that Iran had a right to a nuclear program (as high as 97% agreed with that in Egypt), that a majority felt Iran obtaining nuclear weapons would be good for the stability of the Middle East, and that the two countries which were perceived as the “biggest threat” to the Middle East were Israel and the United States, respectively (with 88% and 77%) while Iran was perceived as a major threat by only 10%, China by 3%, and Syria by 1%. [Download document at: http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2010/0805_arab_opinion_poll_telhami.aspx]
Thus, we must see the current upheavals in the Arab world as part of a larger, global strategy. Following the collapse of the USSR, Western liberal capitalist democracy was promoted as the “winner” of the Cold War, and the only system worthy of upholding. Thus, Yugoslavia, a socialist state, had to be dismantled so that no “alternatives” to the Western dominated system may persevere. The Latin American dictatorships, so strongly supported for decades (and indeed much longer), were no longer sustainable. The neoliberal reforms of the age of ‘structural adjustment’ (promoted and implemented by the IMF and World Bank from the 1980s onward) had thoroughly discredited the states that implemented them, both in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.
As poverty spread, and social destruction accelerated, we saw the proliferation of NGOs as modern missionaries, seeking to treat the symptoms of our system of ‘global apartheid’ (seeking to releive poverty, address health care, education, etc), while refusing to challenge the system that created these conditions. It was also in this context that we saw the emergence of the “democratization” agenda of Western powers. The “failure” of the ‘structural adjustment programs’ was framed as being the responsibility of the governments that implemented them, largely dictatorships, and thus, it was perceived as a “governance” issue, not a failure of the economic conditions imposed upon those nations.Thus, democracy promotion became part of future “adjustment” programs. Yet, this version of democracy is very specific, not populist: build a liberal democratic state with multi-party elections, civil society, and a constitution. The aim and result, however, was to create factions of elites which would compete for power in elections (often taking the form of ethno-centric parties, further dividing subject populations among ethnic lines); civil society would seek to promote and implement the contours of a liberal democratic Western-oriented capitalist state, institutionalizing this Western ideology into the construction of the state system, promoting “human rights”, accountability, poverty-reduction, etc., all which while often providing some minimal relief and constructive support to people in need, ultimately provide the hegemonic system (imperial in nature) with an aspect of consent. Hegemony, as defined by Antonio Gramsci, is of a dual nature: coercion and consent.
While the coercive apparatus of the state (police, military, etc) is essential in creating and maintaining hegemony (as the dozens of IMF riots where people rose up and protested against ‘structural adjustment’ in the 80s and 90s were often violently repressed by the state). However, consent to the system creates a more stable, lasting hegemony. Consent is engineered largely through civil society, which seeks to make ‘reforms’ to the system, which lessen the symptoms of imperialist oppression and domination, but thereby enhance the stability of that very system by acting as a pressure valve against revolution. This system was promoted in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Thus, dictatorships were slowly replaced with liberal democratic states, which were not only more effective in terms of securing consent to the global apartheid system, but were also more subservient to Western domination, as instead of having to deal with entrenched local dictatorships, which could (and have often) challenged Western domination over their country (Saddam Hussein is a good example), they would simply be able to “promote democracy” through funding opposition parties, and just as in the United States itself, you change the parties, but the system remains the same, the same interests are served, and the people are divided into “party politics” instead of united against their true challenge: empire. In Latin America, this system became largely discredited, and thus we saw the emergence of populist democracies, with Jean-Bertrande Aristide in Haiti (who was twice overthrown by the West), and Chavez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia, et. al. These populist leaders have challenged (to various degrees) Western domination over their nations and peoples.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the wave of populist democracies has yet to emerge, if at all. Yet, the liberal democratic states have already been largely discredited in the eyes of the majority of people. The Arab world, long dominated by pliant Western dictatorships (and a few anti-Western dictatorships), is now experiencing its wave of “democratization.” The true question then, is whether we will see the emergence of pliant liberal democratic capitalist states (as is preferred by the West in order to maintain hegemony over the region, an absolute imperial necessity), or if we will see the development of populist democracies. It should be noted that populist revolutions and democracies would be ardently opposed by the Western nations. So, just as in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and elsewhere, we will see different strategies and methods all seeking to achieve roughly similar goals: “democratization” of the state in order to secure Western regional hegemony.
As we have seen with Libya, one strategy that will not be shied away from is war (or “humanitarian intervention”). We must also not rule out the possibility of an occupation, presumably under the auspices of securing the “transition to democracy”, which I think is a very likely scenario in Libya. Support for radical, militant elements in the Libyan rebels (specifically those linked to al-Qaeda) was a specific strategy which achieved its objective: change of government. This strategy may be employed elsewhere, such as in Syria, Yemen, et. al. However, from an imperial-strategic standpoint, it is not favourable to have a radical Islamist government in power, as the threat of popular revolution would remain. We may see some form of radicalized dictatorships being established for short periods of time, but these would ultimately be harder to control; thus, the ulitmate objective is totally dependent, and pliant regimes. In such a situation, I believe the West will prefer to see the faction in which the leader of the TNC, Jabril, takes control of the country, as he has made it quite clear that he favours neoliberal reforms and Western “investment” in Libya. Documents released by Wikileaks revealed in a 2009 diplomatic cable from the US Ambassador to Libya referring to Jabril as someone who “gets the US persepctive” on investment, and suggested supporting him further. Just as has been done from the very origins of al-Qaeda, the United States has covertly supported the organization in order to achieve strategic objectives, largely in terms of overthrowing or waging war against unfavourable regimes. However, another popular strategic aim of supporting al-Qaeda affiliated organizations lies in using them as a pretext to invade and occupy particular countries. We have seen the former strategy already used in Libya, the question is: will we see the latter?
Devon DB: How will other nations react now that the West has a foothold in Africa? Do you think that they will obey the West for fear of “humanitarian invervention?”
Mr. Marshall: The reactions from other nations will vary. Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, many nations were scared into cooperating with the West, including Gaddafi and Libya itself. It was in 2004 that the sanctions were ended and economic cooperation and investment began. The United States and NATO, having displayed their willingness to use force in achieving objectives in Africa, will likely create a more compliant atmosphere among several states in the Arab and African world. However, the populations would likely be more opposed to Western domination over their own nations, so the political leaders will have to play a dangerous game of attempting to secure their own position vis a vis, meeting the demands of the West while placating the demands of their own people. In the current ‘Age of Awakening’ (the Arab Spring), domestic leaders are increasingly fearful of their own populations, and must take popular opinion into account more than they previously have. An occupation of Libya would also give the West the opportunity to enhance its military presence on the continent, establish military bases, and possibly even establish a continental headquaretrs for the Pentagon’s newest strategic command, AFRICOM (which is currently based out of Germany, due to no African nations being willing to host it). This would be a strong indication of maintaining a military presence on the continent and thus, resembles a geopolitical threat to all other nations.
Devon DB: Would you say that the African Union truly stood up to the US and NATO? Do you think they could have done more?
Mr Marshall: No, the African Union did not truly stand up to NATO. Certainly, their rhetoric of opposition revealed that the only ones who were not buying the line of “humanitarian intervention” in Africa were Africans themselves. This was the most important aspect of the AU’s opposition to such an operation. However, ultimately, South Africa was pressured into releasing its frozen Libyan assets for the new government, and the AU is falling into line. In terms of whether or not they could have “done more,” their abilities are highly limited. They did, early on, attempt to land in Libya (prior to the intervention, but immediately following the no-fly zone) in order to attempt to negotiate a seize fire and come to a peaceful solution. Yet, as a result of the no-fly zone, the dominant Western powers (in particular, the US, France, and UK) refused to allow the AU’s plane to land in Libya and pursue a peaceful resolution. Ultimately, the AU, like the Palestinian Authority in the occupied territories, is not a separate power from that of the greater institution. It is an organization whose power is derived from that which is given to it. The PA is able to employ the authority which it is given to it by Israel. The AU is able to use the authority which is granted to it by the UN, US and the “international community.”
The AU takes part in “peacekeeping operations” which are rhetorical covers for occupations, such as in Sudan and Somalia and elsewhere. In such cases, the more Western-complaint nations (such as Uganda and Rwanda in Central Africa) send in their military forces (heavily trained, armed, and subsidized by American “aid”) to nations such as Somalia (whose government the US overthrew in 2007) as “AU peacekeepers”, thus creating a sense of legitimacy, as it is Africans policing Africans, not white Westerners. In short, the AU is not able to be an effective counter to Western domination because it has been allowed to be built up only so much as it can be integrated into a system of global domination (or “global governance”).
A new part for the AU which could potentially challenge Western domination would be to pursue a more overt non-aligned movement type of institution, anti-imperialist and pro-African, bringing Africa together not to allow for more effective co-optation of the continent, but to allow for more effective opposition to Western domination. My hopes for such an organization to achieve that objective are minimal however; I have little to no faith in the ‘nation-state’ or supra-national institutions in countering the system of domination, as they are institutionally and ideologically a product and part of that very system.
Devon DB: How likely is it that the West will intervene in Syria? If the West does intervene, do you think that the intervention will be in the style of Egypt, with the co-opting of the protest movement or will they decide to militarily intervene, as in the situation with Libya?
Mr. Marshall: I think a Western intervention in Syria is very likely. This is a dictator who has not been a stalwart puppet of the Western nations. This, in what we refer to as “international politics” is among the greatest sins a nation can commit. Any and all means could be undertaken in order to replace this regime. As the situation is already one mired in violence, it would appear likely that a violent “solution” would be undertaken. Thus far, in the Arab Spring, we have seen very different strategies taking place in very different countries: civil society co-optation in Tunisia, support for the military in creating a new government in Egypt, violent and brutal repression in Bahrain, war and “intervention” in Libya, etc. I think it is premature to declare which strategy will be used in Syria, as I think it will ultimately become the “Syria strategy.”
The imperialist powers are not analyzing and implementing strategies in a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all method, so outside analyists and observers should not view the situation as such. In order to understand imperialism and contemplate imperial strategies, one must allow themselves to think like an imperialist. What is the aim in Syria? Put simply: a change of government. What are external forces which could likely step into an internal conflict in Syria? Iran, for one; but also Israel. Israel will simply not tolerate a radical and populist government coming to power in Syria. Iran does not want to lose a regional ally. Thus, the costs and consequences of a foreign intervention in Syria are far different from those of Libya.
A foreign military intervention in the country (which I think is a likely possibility), has an enormous potential to result in a rapid and exponentially accelerated descent into chaos for the entire region. One must not rule out the possibility of a major regional war and destabilization campaign being on the table of imperial strategists. If all else fails, plunge a region into absolute war, and you will, in time, be able to re-shape its political structures through violence and destruction, and “reconstruction”. It was, after all, World War I that brought an end to the Ottoman Empire, where at the Paris Peace talks of 1919, the nations of the Middle East were drawn up by French and British imperialists who implanted pliant leaders and consuls. War is a highly effective strategic tool for the aim of total reorganization. For decades now, there have been discussions in various strategic circles about the “re-making of the Middle East”, re-drawing the borders, etc. To undertake such a task, if that is the current desired strategy, destabilization and war is the most effective means.
Devon DB: If the West does intervene in Syria, what will be the consequences for Iran and the great Middle East region? How do you think Iran and its allies will react?
Mr. Marshall: I think Iran would attempt to counter an intervention in Syria through support to counter-revolutionary forces in Syria, supporting such organizations like Hezbollah or Hamas as they do in Palestine and Lebanon. Iran must be careful of being drawn into a more direct conflict by the West, (which could be a strategic aim of a Syrian intervention), as it could likely incur a Western reaction directly against Iran. If Iran becomes involved, militarily, in Syria, it is unlikely that Israel would remain uninvolved. This would lead to a rapid acceleration of conflict: Israel and Iran would likely go to war, and the entire region would become engulfed in conflict. We must remember that Israel has upwards of 200 nuclear weapons, the only regional nuclear superpower. Israel, also, would not hesitate to use those weapons. In such a situation, I think it would be likely that we could begin using the term, “World War Three” to describe the global context of such a conflict, which would surely draw in Russia, China, India, and Pakistan, all of which are also nuclear powers.
The Predatory Global Empire in Panama: Punishing the Poor
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
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Establishing a New War Doctrine
The war on Panama presents an interesting case to study. Taking place in 1989, it was the first war and intervention (whether covert or overt) which was not justified on the basis of a ‘Communist threat’. As such, it has been deemed as the first post-Cold War war. However, the justifications for the intervention, which was incredibly violent and destructive, especially upon the poor majority of Panama, were confused and inconsistent. Like all wars, conflicts, and interventions, it was made necessary through imperial logic: a once-client regime and puppet leader became too autonomous from the United States, its leader (and his nefarious connections with the American elite) became a liability and an embarrassment, and the tiny country of Panama threatened American strategic interests in the region, notably with the Panama Canal and the American military bases present to protect it. More importantly, perhaps, Panama was experiencing the development and growth of a populist-nationalist movement, particularly among its poor black and brown population, who had been previously ruled by a tiny white elite of European descent. In the imperial paradigm, the greatest threat to empire is the political, social, and economic mobilization of the people over whom the empire dominates.
Of course, it is a challenge to publicly justify a foreign intervention and war on the premises of a small nation and its people threatening the strategic imperial interests of America; after all, in the eyes and minds of most Americans, America is not an empire, but a bright shining beacon of freedom and bastion of democracy to lead the ‘free world.’ Thus, to sell a war requires the maintenance of more lies to fit in with the prevailing mythology. Yet, in the strategic vacuum created by the ending of the Cold War, and thus the disappearance of ‘Communism’ as the prevailing global boogeyman to serve as an excuse for any and all atrocities committed by America and the West, Panama was subjected to a far less eloquently articulated and designed justification. The threat of Communism was briefly attempted, and then the strategy quickly switched into the realm of the U.S. ‘War on Drugs,’ with many other failed attempts at justification thrown in for fair measure.
While the war was ultimately successful at removing the imperial ‘threat’, the politics surrounding the event were so disjointed that the war fails to stand up to any half-decent examination of the conflict as legitimate, and is, in fact, slightly embarrassing. There is a reason why it is a largely ‘forgotten’ war in terms of the collective memory of the American people having overlooked that ‘incident’ in recent history. People tend to remember only the wars they are reminded about and told to remember. This one, however, is worth remembering, not least because of the great loss of life it incurred on an incredibly poor and innocent people.
The Jimmy Carter administration, in 1978, signed an agreement with Panama allowing the country to regain control of the Panama Canal by 2000. The canal no longer had the same strategic importance it once held for the United States, as it did in the early 20th century. Long considered by American strategists to be “America’s back yard,” Latin America has been subjected to overt and covert U.S. interventions, coups, and wars more frequently than any other region of the world. In 1823, the Monroe Doctrine was written, which “asserted the pre-eminent and unilateral claim of the United States to hegemony in the Western hemisphere.” This document projected “near-absolute strategic control” over Latin America, thus justifying literally dozens of interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean. With the Cold War, the ‘doctrine’ was that of anti-Communism. With the end of the Cold War, “foreign policy managers [were] bereft of a national security doctrine and severely constrained by the greater volatility and suspicion of North American public opinion in foreign policy matters, and congressional and public fear of future Vietnam-style interventions.”
In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt “forcibly separated Panama from Colombia by sending in the U.S. Navy and Marines.” In 1904, he announced an updated version of the Monroe Doctrine with “a U.S. right to intervene unilaterally in the affairs of neighboring republics” in order to “prevent chronic wrongdoing.” Thus, in 1912, U.S. Marines entered Nicaragua’s civil war on the side of wealthy land owners; in 1914 the Navy bombarded and briefly occupied Veracruz, Mexico; in 1915, U.S. Marines occupied Haiti, establishing a military government and remaining there for over a decade; that same year U.S. Marines also occupied the Dominican Republic, also remaining there for over a decade. In 1926, the U.S. invaded Nicaragua again, destroying the agrarian rebel movement threatening domestic and international elite interests. Throughout the 1920s, the U.S. intervened in Panama, Honduras, and Cuba.
The Reagan and Bush administrations (1981-1993) dramatically increased U.S. militarism and interventions around the world, such as in Lebanon, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Honduras, the covert war against the Sandanistas in Nicaragua, the Iran-Contra conspiracy, the invasion of Grenada, invasion of Panama, the Gulf War, and the 1992 intervention in Somalia. As Waltraud Queiser Morales wrote, “the Panamanian case can be seen as an important transition from ‘Monroe militarism’ and Reagan’s ‘containment militarism’ to Bush’s ‘New World Order militarism’.” This was characterized less by anti-Communist rhetoric, which was only partially (at least initially) used in the justification for the Panama invasion, but largely “projected ahead to an era of future global lawlessness in the ‘strategic slums’ of the Third World, where the US faced the chronic danger of ‘prolonged security operations’.”
National Security Doctrines (NSDs) are important for American administrations to establish and articulate, as they deflect dissent and justify state actions with an aura of credibility and most notably by employing the notion that the end justifies the means. The Reagan doctrine for Latin America employed such a technique: “The national security of all the Americas is at stake in Central America. If we cannot defend ourselves there, we cannot expect to prevail elsewhere. Our credibility would collapse, our alliances would crumble, and the safety of our homeland would be put at jeopardy.”
The Reagan doctrine was largely realized through its support of anti-Soviet and virulent anti-Communist “freedom fighters” in the Third World, as well as “friendly anti-Communist authoritarians.” This strategy defined the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, the largest covert operation in history, but had the Reagan administration particularly preoccupied with Central America; most notably, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The new strategic doctrine defined low intensity conflict (LIC) as a principle means for implementing this vision. LIC was defined by the Pentagon in 1985 as, “a limited politico-military struggle to achieve political, social, economic, or psychological objectives,” often using methods of insurgency and terrorism. The war, however, is waged in three key areas: the field, within the administration in Washington, and in the media. During the Reagan years, the “War on Drugs” emerged as a potentially powerful new National Security Doctrine (NSD).
Between 1986 and 1988, U.S. policy-makers employed a conscious rhetorical effort to associate the flourishing global drug trade with leftist guerillas in the Third World. The acceleration of employing the “war on drugs” in defining National Security interests increased as U.S. (largely covert) efforts experienced setbacks in Central America. Thus, Presidential directives were signed which increased efforts on the part of intelligence and military personnel against drug operations. Thus, still employing the method of a Low Intensity Conflict (LIC), “militarized drug operations provided a laboratory to project US power, train local militaries in the new strategic doctrine, transfer military hardware and gather intelligence.” The drug war could thus be used “to generate public support behind a resurgent, interventionist US foreign policy in Latin America.”
Of course, missing from this discourse is the very-well documented facts revolving around how the United States has covertly – directly following World War II – supported the drug trade around the world, largely through efforts of the CIA. This was especially the case in Southeast Asia during the Indochina War, where heroin was the principle prize for these covert efforts; Afghanistan and Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan war (and in the present occupation of Afghanistan), which then came to replace Southeast Asia as the main producer of heroin in the world, and of course, South and Central America (particularly during the Reagan years onward) in terms of the cocaine trade. The role of the CIA and other covert elements has been extensively documented by professors Alfred McCoy and Peter Dale Scott in various books and publications, most notably, The Politics of Heroin (McCoy) and American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (Scott).
The Destabilization of Panama
General Omar Torrijos, Panama’s military strongman, “was a populist reformist” who had negotiated the Panama Canal Treaties with the United States in the late 1970s. While the Canal held less strategic significance for the United States than in previous times, the 14 military bases present in Panama remained incredibly significant in strategic circles, particularly with the Pentagon’s Southern Command headquarters based in Panama, “which was the site for U.S. military and covert operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.” In 1981, Torrijos died mysteriously when his plane blew up in midair, and he was subsequently replaced by the head of Panama’s military intelligence, General Manuel Noriega. Noriega had long been supported by the United States, going back to when George H.W. Bush was Director of the CIA in the Ford administration, at which time the CIA paid Noriega $200,000 a year.
Following the death of Torrijos, “US relations became cosy with his successor and head of the Panamanian Defence Forces, General Manuel Antonio Noreiga, who had associations with the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Southern Command (Southcom), housing over 14,000 US troops in Panama at 14 US military bases worth some $5 billion.” Noriega was a longtime participant in the drug trade, particularly with the Colombian drug cartel, which was all well-known to the U.S. Embassy, Southcom, and the CIA. Yet, in 1987, letters from the DEA and the US Justice Department referred to Noriega’s cooperation with those agencies in the drug war as “superb.” It was ‘superb’ in the true sense of intent and methods, whereby the U.S. was an active organizational participant in the drug trade. Noreiga and many others in the Panamanian military “facilitated drug smuggling and laundered millions in drug money with the complicity of the DEA, Southcom and the CIA.” When cash reserves were high in Panama in 1986, “deposits of $1.3 billion in laundered drug monies were easily transferred from Panama’s central bank to the Federal Reserve Bank in Miami.” Further, large sums of drug money were diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras (death squad terrorists) fighting a war against the Sandanistas on behalf of the CIA. The operation of support for the Contras in their brutal war in Nicaragua were exposed in Congressional hearings and investigations known as the ‘Iran-Contra Affair,’ which was made public in the late 1980s. The scandal, by no means exclusive to the case of Nicaragua, involved the CIA and Pentagon covertly funding, training, and arming the Contras with money earned from illegal arms sales to Iran as well as money from the drug trade. The investigations revealed a complex network of relationships and actors, centered in the National Security Council (NSC), and directly involving CIA Director William Casey, Lt. Col. Oliver North, and then Vice President George H.W. Bush.
Yet, despite Noriega’s “cosy” relationship with these agencies and individuals in the United States, “there were limits to [his] willingness to serve Washington.” As political scientist Michael Parenti explained:
He reasserted Panama’s independence over the control of the Canal Zone and the leases for U.S. military bases. He reportedly refused to join an invasion against Nicaragua and maintained friendly relations with both Managua and Havana. Before long, hostile reports about him began appearing in the U.S. media. In 1987, the Justice Department indicted Noriega for drug smuggling. A crippling economic embargo was imposed on Panama, a country of two million people, causing a doubling of unemployment and a drastic cutback in social benefits.
The initial aim, then, of US intervention in Panama, “was to destabilize Noriega and install in his place a more pliant right-wing commander, but US military leaders feared an even greater threat in the nationalistic Panamanian Defence Forces [PDF].” Further, with the exposure of the Iran-Contra Scandal, “Noriega became a potential domestic political embarrassment and threat to higher-ups in the government, including Bush himself.” Subsequently, “a media blitz demonized the Panamanian leader as a drug dealer, thus preparing the U.S. public for the ensuing invasion.” Thus, “in the end, the drug war served as the public excuse for invasion. But it was not the real reason.”
As Waltraud Queiser Morales wrote, just as was done elsewhere (such as Chile, Grenada, and Nicaragua), the United States promoted the destabilization of Panama, as “economic sanctions, pro-democracy and electoral manipulation, and confrontational military exercises worked to intimidate and provoke incidents that could provide pretexts for intervention.” The pro-democracy and electoral strategy employed by the United States (part of America’s “democratization” project), involved the “Bush administration, the CIA, and the National Endowment for Democracy [which] funneled more than $10 million to opposition candidates – Guillermo Endara, Guillermo Ford and Ricardo Arias Calderon – in the 1989 Panamanian national elections.” With Endara having won, amidst claims of vote fraud by the Panamanian Defence Forces (PDF), and with Noriega subsequently annulling the elections and staying in power, riots and protests erupted. Images of US-supported politicians being beaten and attacked by the PDF and Noriega’s supporters erupted in the American media, which ultimately “damaged Noriega’s regime and enhanced the opposition’s image in Panama and the United States.” Noriega, however, annulled the elections on the basis of “foreign interference,” which, as a direct result of millions of US dollars funding opposition candidates, is an accurate claim of “interference.” Imagine the notion of a foreign power throwing tens of millions of dollars at domestic American politicians in a national election. The idea alone is reprehensible, not to mention illegal. But this is how America “promotes democracy” around the world: through buying the politicians.
The Reagan and Bush administrations had hoped to encourage a coup by the Panamanian Defence Forces (PDF). The Reagan administration began to encourage this option in 1988, as Ronald Reagan continuously refused to employ the option of a direct military intervention. However, additional US forces were sent to their bases in Panama as an indication to Noriega of the increasingly threatening posture of the United States. On March 16, 1988, the Panamanian Chief of Police, Colonel Leonidas Macias, attempted to orchestrate a coup against Noriega, which ultimately failed. The Reagan administration was split internally on the potential to use the military option. The State Department supported the option, while the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) had opposed military intervention. Elliot Abrams, the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, in March of 1988, suggested using limited force, “a commando raid to capture Noriega and to bring him to trial in the United States, accompanied by 6,000 American soldiers to defend… against any PDF retaliations,” yet the Pentagon remained opposed to the option.
In anticipation that Reagan would eventually adopt Abrams’ suggestion, the Pentagon launched a public counter-attack to discredit Abrams and his suggestions, which included leaking many of his ‘suggestions’ to the press. The Reagan administration attempted to negotiate a deal with Noriega, offering to drop the drug-related charges against him which were brought forward in US courts in 1988. Vice President Bush, however, firmly opposed negotiations with Noriega, as he was campaigning for the presidency, Bush did not want to appear soft on Noriega, as he had suffered the public image of a ‘wimp.’ Bush’s victory in the Presidential elections in 1988 allowed for the development of a new strategy for Panama, and with a change in administration personnel, the administration could become more unified in their position.
On October 1, 1989, the United States was informed about a future coup attempt by a member of Noriega’s inner circle, Moises Giroldi, and asked for U.S. assistance in blocking roads to protect the family of the coup plotter. The United States Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney, agreed to help, and when the coup took place two days later, on October 3, the U.S. blocked the requested roads. However, Noriega outmaneuvered the coup plotters, getting help from a special military unit, and the U.S. refused to intervene to ensure the success of the coup. Thus, the plotter was killed, and Noriega began to purge the PDF of dissenting elements. The failure of the U.S. to ensure the success of the coup led to many domestic political leaders criticizing Bush and his strategy. However, this was actually part of a larger strategy. The coup was not supported because there were internal complications within the Bush administration as well as a larger overall strategy. Two top military commanders were replaced days before the coup took place. The chief of Southcom was replaced three days prior to the coup, and the next day, Colin Powell (Reagan’s National Security Adviser), became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The men that these two replaced – General Woerner and Admiral Crowe, respectively – had opposed direct military intervention in Panama, and thus preferred a coup option. Thurman and Powell, however, wanted the change of government to take place “on a U.S. timetable,” and Powell stated that he didn’t like the idea of “a half-baked coup with a half-baked coup leader.” Powell advocated, instead, not simply for replacing Noriega, but that the United States would have to employ a strategy of “destroying and replacing his entire regime.”
What was needed, then, was a pretext for a full-scale invasion in order to crush the regime and destroy the PDF. As the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama revealed, “over 100 instances of U.S. military provocations in 1989 were documented by the Panamanian government. These included U.S. troops setting up roadblocks, searching Panamanian citizens, confronting PDF forces, occupying small towns for a number of hours, buzzing Panamanian air space with military aircraft, and surrounding public buildings with troops.” Again, simply imagine if a foreign military in the United States, which had over a dozen major bases around the country, was engaging in such provocative actions within America. This would be construed as a direct military threat and interpreted as a foreign occupation.
In December of 1989, a Panamanian soldier was injured by U.S. troops. Subsequently, on 15 December, the Panamanian National Assembly declared Panama to be in a state of war with the United States. This, however, was “interpreted” in the U.S. media as a declaration of war against the United States by the tiny Central American nation of Panama. Ted Koppel of ABC “reported that Noriega had declared war in the United States.” Yet, as Noriega himself stated, America “through constant psychological and military harassment, has created a state of war in Panama.” In mid-December, the United States achieved its goal of provoking Panamanian Defence Forces to act, as PDF soldiers stopped a U.S. military patrol car, holding the police officer at gunpoint, and on 16 December, “they fired at an American vehicle in a checkpoint and killed” a U.S. Marine. On 17 December, “a U.S. officer shot a PDF policeman.”
On that same day, the Bush administration discussed their options in Panama. Colin Powell “advocated a large scale intervention whose goal would be to destroy the PDF and the entire Noriega regime and not just [aim to achieve] the capture of Noriega.” Powell reasoned, “that it could be difficult to find Noriega and arrest him at the beginning of the operation, but destroying the PDF would ensure Noriega’s capture.” Thus, Powell concluded, “the PDF’s destruction would be required to establish democracy in Panama.” Subsequently, “Bush agreed and approved the plan for large-scale military intervention in Panama.”
On December 20, 1989, George Bush launched a midnight attack on Panama with an invasion of 26,000 US troops. The invasion took place amidst “a complete media blackout,” allowing for great atrocities to take place with no independent voices or visuals emerging from the nation. The “three-day intervention” known cynically as “Operation Just Cause” was heaped with praise in the United States, as Bush’s reputation as a ‘wimp’ was erased and his popularity shot up. As Bush declared war, the publicly pronounced reasons were “to protect American lives and bring the drug-indicted dictator to justice.”
The True ‘Threat’ in Panama: The Poor
In reality, there were far greater reasons for the war, dictated not by humanitarian, legal, or moral claims; instead, the true reasons were ardently imperial in nature. There were of course the strategic considerations: more reliable client states and puppet leaders, more indirect control over the Canal and maintenance of the fourteen military bases as a launching point for counter-revolutionary operations around Central America, and to install a “democratic” regime based upon party politics as opposed to potentially problematic military leaders who may stand up to the United States. However, there was also a far greater threat, which wove through all the other reasons: Panama was in the midst of a nationalist popular movement, consisting largely of the poor black majority who had for centuries been repressed by a tiny white elite of European descent, as has been the case across all Latin America.
Before Noriega, the military dictatorship of General Omar Torrijos established itself during a period where the issues of race and class were becoming more public and vocal. Torrijos, who ruled Panama from 1968 until 1981 (when he died in a mysterious plane explosion), “sought to legitimize his military regime by seeking support from all social groups for his populist-nationalist project.” The Panamanian Black movement, which had begun in earnest some decades before, truly began to flourish during the Torrijos regime, and played a large part in creating the heated nationalistic sentiments and public demands for the Carter-Torrijos Panama Canal Treaties in the 1970s. As George Priestley and Alberto Barrow wrote:
It was within this new political environment of military led populism and nationalism that racial discrimination and racism was weakened in Panama as progressive and Black groups emerged to gain greater visibility, challenged racial stereotypes, and forged transnational bonds.
The movement was helped along in no small part due to Afro-Panamanian organizations based in the United States, which were directly engaged with the Torrijos government to build support for the “nationalist struggle for the recuperation of the Panama Canal and Panamanian sovereignty.” When Torrijos was killed in the plane explosion, the CIA’s man in Panama, Noriega, back-tracked on many of Torrijos’ programs, including “interventionist” state measures in the economy which “had brokered the populist-nationalist alliance and eased social and racial tensions.” Noriega, instead, embraced the Western neoliberal policies of ‘structural adjustment,’ which antagonized the growing popular movement in Panama. As Noriega failed to become a “responsible” leader in the eyes of the United States, he faced two increasing problems: antagonizing the United States and the Panamanian Black movement simultaneously. However, there were still several remnants of the Torrijos reforms, and the populist-nationalist sentiments which had been fostered by the Torrijos military regime remained strong in the military ranks of the PDF itself. With the U.S. invasion and occupation (and the subsequent media blackout), the true intent of the war became clear to those who suffered in it:
A disproportionate number of those who were affected economically by Noriega’s structural adjustment policies, and who lost their lives because of the U.S.’s Low Intensity Conflict and invasion were from El Chorillo, Colon, and San Miguelito, [poor] communities whose residents are predominantly Black and brown.
These communities, along with the PDF itself, had to be targeted in the war. While Noriega’s economic structural adjustment policies had weakened the populist movement for social justice and equality, the movement continued to struggle and the PDF remained an ideological ally in the promotion of nationalism. This is ultimately the real reason why the United States could not simply support another military coup, as it would still take place from within the ranks of an intensely nationalistic and somewhat left-leaning military, just as was the case with Noriega. This explains why the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, claimed that it was not enough to remove Noriega from power, but that the U.S. had to have a strategy of “destroying and replacing his entire regime.” Destroying the regime is just what the U.S. did. As Morales wrote in Third World Quarterly:
The invasion victimized thousands of innocent Panamanians and left densely populated areas devastated. Local and international eye witnesses said civilians and residential areas were deliberately targeted. Perhaps 18,000 Panamanians were displaced and thousands remain[ed] in refugee camps in 1993. Local reports had 7000 Panamanians, primarily progressives and labour activists, arrested. Charges of summary executions and secret mass graves also emerged. The Panamanian National Human Rights Committee claimed that 4000 persons were killed in the invasion; regional human rights agencies and the United Nations Human Rights Commission reported over 2500 deaths. The US military admitted only 250; later the Pentagon released the figure of 516 Panamanians killed, over 75% civilian.
The United States media, for its part, “covered Operation Just Cause like a U.S. Army recruitment film,” explained Michael Parenti. American audiences were shown “helicopters landing, planes dive-bombing, troops trotting along foreign streets, the enemy’s headquarters engulfed in flames, friendly Panamanians welcoming the invaders as liberators.” Of course, Parenti elaborated, there was no mention in the media that “the Panamanians interviewed were almost always well dressed, light skinned, and English speaking, in a country where most were poor, dark skinned, and Spanish speaking. Also left out of the picture were the many incidents of armed resistance by Panamanians.” As for the actual bombings and indeed, the virtual ‘scorched-earth’ policies of burning down El Chorillo along with several other working-class poor black neighbourhoods, the media treated “these aerial attacks on civilian populations as surgical strikes designed to break resistance in ‘Noriega strongholds’.”
Following the invasion, the United States installed their favoured candidates from the previously held elections (whom the US – through the CIA and NED financed with $10 million) as Panama’s new “democratic” leaders: President Guillermo Endara, Vice President Guillermo Ford, and Attorney General Rogelio Cruz. As it turned out, unsurprisingly, “all three of these rich, white oligarchs were closely linked to companies, banks, and people heavily involved in drug operations or money-laundering.” After invading, the U.S. “abolished the Panamanian Defense Forces and crushed the popular movement, creating conditions for the consolidation of a right of center party system and the growth of an economy based on neoliberal policies that have exacerbated socio-economic inequalities and increased racial/ethnic exclusion of Afro-Panamanians.” As Priestly and Barrow wrote:
The U.S. invasion and the so-called transition to democracy had negative effects on popular organizing. During and immediately after the invasion, Black and brown communities were devastated; their organizations negatively affected, and their leaders killed or jailed, or otherwise persecuted. Political parties regained center stage in the electoral process and many Black and popular militants were co-opted into these organizations, reducing the organizational capabilities of some organizations and eliminating others.
Only months after the invasion “did a few brief reports appear regarding mass graves of Panamanians dead buried hastily by U.S. Army bulldozers,” while the American media focused on the sideshow of the pursuit of Noriega, who ultimately turned himself in early January. No footage was shown of the poor neighbourhoods destroyed by U.S. bombing, such as El Chorillo’s “total devastation,” and no mention “of the many lives lost in what amounted to a saturation terror-bombing of a civilian neighborhood.” As Michael Parenti wrote:
With the U.S. military firmly controlling Panama, conditions in that country deteriorated. Unemployment, already high because of the U.S. embargo, climbed to 35 percent as drastic layoffs were imposed on the public sector. Pension rights and other work benefits were lost. Newspapers and radio and television stations were closed by U.S. occupation authorities. Newspaper editors and reporters critical of the invasion were jailed or detained, as were all the leftist political party leaders. Union heads were arrested by the U.S. military, and some 150 local labor leaders were removed from their elected union positions. Public employees not supporting the invasion were purged. Crime rates rose dramatically, along with poverty and destitution. Thousands remained homeless. Corruption was more widespread than ever. More money-laundering and drug-trafficking occurred under the U.S.-sponsored Endara administration than under Noriega.
Noriega was taken to the United States and convicted of drug smuggling in 1992. The United States conveniently ignored the drug-trafficking by Panama’s new “democratic” Endara administration, not to mention “its infringement of civil liberties and democracy.” The U.S. Congress received George Bush with a standing ovation when he declared, “One year ago the people of Panama lived in fear under the thumb of a dictator. Today democracy is restored. Panama is free.” Endara, however, “was extremely unpopular in Panama,” seen as “just another pliant US puppet.” In June of 1990, the Washington Post had declared that the Endara regime, against all evidence, improved human rights and “press freedoms have been restored.”
The struggles of the once-popular resistance and Black movement continued well into the 21st century, and up to the present day. The war on Panama represented the true nature of what was to come in the post-Cold War world, as it was the first war the United States undertook without Cold War rhetoric. Its principle aim was to destroy a popular people’s movement, remove a non-compliant dictator, and establish more control over the country and the region. Of course, among our political leaders and media in the West, this is referred to as “restoring democracy.” Thus, the threat of the Communist boogeyman faded, and the benevolent aim of ‘democracy’ resurfaced, as it initially did following World War I when Woodrow Wilson declared that the world must be made safe for democracy. For all the rhetoric of Western leaders and media, the greatest crime a leader or people can commit is to support themselves, or simply seek to do so; to provide for the poor and needy, to attempt to industrialize and develop their own country as they see fit, and to create an educated, free, healthy and stable population and society. This, above all else, is the ultimate sin in the world of “international politics.”
Logic thus dictates, then, that the greatest potential for true change and hope in this world is solidarity among all people’s movements the world over, and for a resurgence of populist movement, ideally not nationalistic in character, but simultaneously local and global: seeking local autonomy (moving around the nation-state, an easily corrupted and contemptuous institution), and seeking solidarity globally, to align itself with all such movements around the world, achieving strength in numbers, interaction of ideas, articulation of strategies, and advancement of all peoples in all places.
If a popular movement in a tiny little nation like Panama was such a threat to the massive American Empire, the largest, most militarily advanced, and most globally expansive empire in all of human history, this is actually a source of hope for all humanity. If Panama was such a threat that the United States saw fit to invade and occupy the small country, then imagine the threat which would be posed if all people, everywhere in the world, simultaneously sought a populist liberation struggle; not divided by nations and regions, but acting locally – for local autonomy from domestic elites and liberation from the empire – and interacting globally, with other such movements around the world. This is truly the greatest threat ever known to a global empire. This threat has been articulated by one of the empire’s most prominent strategists, Zbigniew Brzezinski, as the “Global Political Awakening.” Thus, it is in the interest of all peoples, everywhere, always and eternally, to seek and support all liberation struggles, to advance the “Awakening” and bring in a new concept of democracy, one which lives up to the rhetoric of our current system: “of, by, and for the people”; a democracy void of predatory elites. This is true freedom, true liberation, and no other philosophy or ideology is so capable of uniting the people of the world under one banner than that of the ‘ultimate liberation’: of, by, and for the people.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is co-editor of the book, “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.” His website is http://www.andrewgavinmarshall.com
 Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 77.
 Charles Maechling, Jr., “Washington’s Illegal Invasion,” Foreign Policy (No. 79, Summer 1990), pages 113-114.
 Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 78.
 Waltraud Quesler Morales, “The War on Drugs: A New US National Security Doctrine?” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 11, No. 3, July 1989), page 151.
 Ibid, page 152.
 Ibid, pages 154-155.
 Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 45.
 Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 82.
 Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), pages 45-46.
 Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 83.
 Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 46.
 Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 83.
 Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 547.
 Ibid, page 548.
 Ibid, page 549.
 Ibid, page 551.
 Ibid, pages 554-555.
 Ibid, page 556.
 The Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama, The U.S. invasion of Panama: the truth behind operation ‘ Just Cause’ (South End Press, 1991), page 24.
 Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 558.
 Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 46.
 Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 558.
 Ibid, pages 558-559.
 Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), pages 83-84.
 George Priestley and Alberto Barrow, “The Black Movement in Panama: A Historical and Political Interpretation, 1994-2004,” Souls (Vol. 10, No. 3, 2008), page 231.
 Ibid, pages 231-232.
 Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 556.
 Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 84.
 Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 46.
 Ibid, page 48.
 George Priestley and Alberto Barrow, “The Black Movement in Panama: A Historical and Political Interpretation, 1994-2004,” Souls (Vol. 10, No. 3, 2008), page 232.
 Ibid, page 234.
 Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), pages 46-47.
 Ibid, page 49.
 Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 84.
 Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 49.
Lies, War, and Empire: NATO’s “Humanitarian Imperialism” in Libya
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
In this report I seek to examine the war against Libya in a more critical and comprehensive manner than that of the story we have been told. We hear a grand fairy tale about powerful Western nations working together to save innocent civilians in a far-off country who simply want the freedoms and rights we already have. Here we are, our nations and governments – whose officials we elect (generally) – are bombing and killing people on the other side of the world. Is it not our responsibility, as citizens of these very Western nations, to examine and critique the claims of our governments? They are, after all, killing people around the world in our name. Should we not seek to discover if they are lying?
It has been said, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” Libya is no exception. From the lies that started the war, to the rebels linked to al-Qaeda, ethnically cleansing black Libyans, killing civilians, propaganda, PR firms, intelligence agents, and possible occupation; Libya is a more complex story than the fairy tale we have been sold. Reality always is.
What Were the ‘Reasons’ for ‘Intervention’?
We were sold the case for war in Libya as a “humanitarian intervention.” We were told, of course, that we “needed” to intervene in Libya because Muammar Gaddafi was killing his own people in large numbers; those people, on the same token, were presented as peaceful protesters resisting the 40-plus year reign of a brutal dictator.
In early March of 2011, news headlines in Western nations reported that Gaddafi would kill half a million people. On March 18, as the UN agreed to launch air strikes on Libya, it was reported that Gaddafi had begun an assault against the rebel-held town of Benghazi. The Daily Mail reported that Gaddafi had threatened to send in his African mercenaries to crush the rebellion. Reports of Libyan government tanks sitting outside Benghazi poised for an invasion were propagated in the Western media. In the lead-up to the United Nations imposing a no-fly zone, reports spread rapidly through the media of Libyan government jets bombing the rebels. Even in February, the New York Times – the sacred temple for the ‘stenographers of power’ we call “journalists” – reported that Gaddafi was amassing “thousands of mercenaries” to defend Tripoli and crush the rebels. Italy’s Foreign Minister declared that over 1,000 people were killed in the fighting in February, citing the number as “credible.” Even a top official with Human Rights Watch declared the rebels to be “peaceful protesters” who “are nice, sincere people who want a better future for Libya.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights declared that “thousands” of people were likely killed by Gaddafi, “and called for international intervention to protect civilians.” In April, reports spread near and far at lightning speed of Gaddafi’s forces using rape as a weapon of war, with the first sentence in a Daily Mail article declaring, “Children as young as eight are being raped in front of their families by Gaddafi’s forces in Libya,” with Gaddafi handing out Viagra to his troops in a planned and organized effort to promote rape.
As it turned out, these claims – as posterity notes – turned out to be largely false and contrived. Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International both investigated the claims of rape, and “have found no first-hand evidence in Libya that rapes are systematic and being used as part of war strategy,” and their investigations in Eastern Libya “have not turned up significant hard evidence supporting allegations of rapes by Qaddafi’s forces.” Yet, just as these reports came out, Hillary Clinton declared that the U.S. is “deeply concerned by reports of wide-scale rape” in Libya. Even U.S. military and intelligence officials had to admit that, “there is no evidence that Libyan military forces are being given Viagra and engaging in systematic rape against women in rebel areas”; at the same time Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, “told a closed-door meeting of officials at the UN that the Libyan military is using rape as a weapon in the war with the rebels and some had been issued the anti-impotency drug. She reportedly offered no evidence to backup the claim.”
An investigation by Amnesty International, released in June, attempted to assess the on-the-ground (as opposed to ‘in-the-newspapers’) reality of the claims made which led to Western “intervention” in Libya. Among the stories of mass rapes were the use, by Gaddafi, of “foreign mercenaries” and using helicopters and jets to attack rebel forces and protesters. As the Independent reported in June:
An investigation by Amnesty International has failed to find evidence for these human rights violations and in many cases has discredited or cast doubt on them. It also found indications that on several occasions the rebels in Benghazi appeared to have knowingly made false claims or manufactured evidence.
Hillary Clinton stated, “Rape, physical intimidation, sexual harassment, and even so-called ‘virginity tests’ have taken place in countries throughout the region,” and at the same time, the senior crisis responder for Amnesty International who was in Libya for three months following the uprising stated, “we have not found any evidence or a single victim of rape or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped.” Human Rights Watch reported, “We have not been able to find evidence.” The rebels had been very active, in fact, in manufacturing and propagating lies that supported intervention and war, as the Amnesty representative explained, “rebels dealing with the foreign media in Benghazi started showing journalists packets of Viagra, claiming they came from burned-out tanks, though it is unclear why the packets were not charred.” Further, in regards to the use of foreign mercenaries, for which many black Africans were killed and imprisoned by the rebels, Amnesty reported, “there was no evidence for this.” The Amnesty rep in Libya declared: “Those shown to journalists as foreign mercenaries were later quietly released… Most were sub-Saharan migrants working in Libya without documents.” Others, Amnesty reported, “were not so lucky and were lynched or executed,” as “the politicians kept talking about mercenaries, which inflamed public opinion and the myth has continued because they were released without publicity.”
Those migrants who were shown to foreign media were not represented in that media in a friendly or even falsely unbiased manner. As the Daily Mail reported at the time, publishing photos of the “savage mercenaries” who later turned out to be migrant workers, “they were a pretty sorry bunch,” and that, “you could smell their fear.” The article then went on to declare, “these men are alleged to have been among several thousand foreign thugs and gunmen that Muammar Gaddafi sent against his own people, to kill and destroy and quell the uprising in eastern Libya.” Now, claimed the Daily Mail, “they are the prisoners of the people.” However, the article continued to – several paragraphs below, mind you – quote some of the “savage mercenaries” who made statements to the reporter such as: “We did not do anything… We are all construction workers from Ghana. We harmed no one… they are lying about us. We were taken from our house at night when we were sleeping.” The reporter assessed the situation with: “Still complaining, they were led away. It was hard to judge their guilt.”
Further, with the “credible” reports – as the Italian Foreign Minister referred to them – of “thousands” of civilians killed by Gaddafi in the early weeks of rebellion, the Amnesty International investigation found that, “there is no proof of mass killing of civilians.” During the first days of the uprising, most of the fighting was in Benghazi, “where 100 to 110 people were killed, and the city of Baida to the east, where 59 to 64 were killed.” However, there were indications that some of these deaths were also pro-Gaddafi forces, and that some “protesters” had weapons, indicating that it may have been a fight as opposed to a massacre. Further, reported Amnesty: “There is no evidence that aircraft or heavy anti-aircraft machine guns were used against crowds. Spent cartridges picked up after protesters were shot at came from Kalashnikovs or similar calibre weapons.” The Amnesty report further criticized Western media coverage of the war:
Much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the regime’s security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no security challenge.
As for the notion that NATO was bombing Gaddafi troops poised for an invasion, even the New York Times quoted a Libyan official who claimed, “that Western powers were now attacking the Libyan Army in retreat, a far cry from the United Nations mandate to establish a no-fly zone to protect civilians.” This is an important point, because the reason for the UN no-fly zone was purportedly to “protect civilians,” not to “take sides” in the civil conflict between the government and the rebels. As a Libyan official stated, some Libyan forces “were attacked as they were clearly moving westbound,” as in, away from Benghazi and the rebels in the east. He further stated, “Clearly NATO is taking sides in this civil conflict. It is illegal. It is not allowed by the Security Council resolution. And it is immoral, of course.” At the same time, the NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, declared that, “NATO will implement all aspects of the U.N. resolution. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Days before the Libyan government official claimed that Libyan forces were in retreat as they were bombed (something which would no doubt be immediately cast aside as Libyan propaganda by Western media sources), the New York Times, within days of NATO strikes beginning, reported on 20 March 2011 that, “with brutal efficiency, allied warplanes bombed tanks, missile launchers and civilian cars, leaving a smoldering trail of wreckage that stretched for miles,” and further, outside of Benghazi, “many of the tanks seemed to have been retreating, or at least facing the other way. And others were simply abandoned.”
Richard Haas, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, the most prestigious and influential think tank in the United States, was also a former Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. Department of State, former National Security Council Senior Director, who has also been a key figure within the Brookings Institution, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In short, it is a hard thing to be a more institutionalized imperial strategist than Haas; however, even he wrote in early April that, “I did not support the U.S. decision to intervene with military force in Libya. The evidence was not persuasive that a large-scale massacre or genocide was either likely or imminent.” However, he of course went on to support NATO’s efforts, as – he explained – “we are where we are.”
Long before the UN resolution 1973 and the NATO air strikes began, the Russian military, who had been monitoring events in Libya from satellites, said that Libya never launched attacks from helicopters or jets against its own civilians, and that, “as far as they are concerned, the attacks some media were reporting have never occurred.” Of course, this was later confirmed by an independent investigation, however the war had already been sold on the basis of such dubious reporting. Indeed, far more journalists are “stenographers of power” rather than ‘investigators of truth.’
On March 1, the same day that the Russian military reported that there had been no jets used in attacks by Gaddafi against his own civilians, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, gave a press conference at the Pentagon where one reporter posed the question: “Do you see any evidence that he actually has fired on his own people from the air? There were reports of it, but do you have independent confirmation? If so, to what extent?” Secretary Gates responded: “We’ve seen the press reports, but we have no confirmation of that,” and Admiral Mullen added, “That’s correct. We’ve seen no confirmation whatsoever.” So even the Pentagon itself admitted that it had absolutely “no confirmation whatsoever” that jets and helicopters had been used to attack civilians, yet the whole Western world took this as de facto truth. In this, we can see the power of the media in making a case for war, where their propaganda is more absurd and manufactured than that of the Pentagon’s.
Stenographers of Power?
Glenn Greenwald, an American constitutional and civil rights lawyer who writes for Salon.com wrote an article about the notion of reporters as “stenographers of power.” He quoted an article entitled, “How to be a stenographer,” in which it was written:
If you are considering a career as a stenographer, one of the most important things that you should consider is what type of job duties stenographers have. They transcribe, or type, material which they are dictated. This can include orders, memos, correspondence, reports and various other types of information.
Greenwald, in describing his own personal experience with courtroom stenographers, wrote:
Their defining trait is that they have a fierce devotion to transcribing accurately everything that is said and doing nothing else. It’s not uncommon for lawyers, in the heat of some dispute, to attempt to recruit the stenographer into the controversy in order to say who is right… Stenographers will never do that. They will emphasize that they are only there to write down what is said, not to resolve disputes or say what actually happened… But there’s a fundamental difference: stenographers are far better at their job, since they give equal weight to what all parties say. But Time and friends exist principally to trumpet government claims and minimize and belittle anything to the contrary, and they pretend to “balance” it all only when they’re caught mindlessly transcribing these one-sided claims and are forced to write down what the other side says, too. The bulk of our establishment journalists aren’t merely stenographers. They’re bad stenographers.
Following the beginning of the Iraq war, many newspapers had to publish small pieces outlining their role as “[bad] stenographers of power” in presenting the case for war in the first place. Of course, at the time that the New York Times, the Washington Post and others were selling the war to the American people, dissenters and critics were unabashedly seeking truth and were able to assess the claims made as “false” long before the war, let alone before these news publications had “discovered” the falsities they reported. Of course, claims will always be made that “hindsight is 20/20” and “we didn’t know,” but such claims don’t stand to scrutiny when the dissenters whose voices were never heard in the Times or Post were far ahead of the media in assessing the validity of the government’s assertions. In 2004, the New York Times had to publish a brief report on its own pre-Iraq war coverage, stating:
We have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged.
The Washington Post ran a similar story, detailing the attitude its editors and journalists took in the run up to the war in Iraq. It was reported that any article questioning the validity of claims made by the administration, such as the notion that there were WMDs in Iraq, wouldn’t make the front page. Bob Woodward, Assistant Managing Editor at the Post stated, “We should have warned readers we had information that the basis for this was shakier.” The article further explained:
Some reporters who were lobbying for greater prominence for stories that questioned the administration’s evidence complained to senior editors who, in the view of those reporters, were unenthusiastic about such pieces. The result was coverage that, despite flashes of groundbreaking reporting, in hindsight looks strikingly one-sided at times… Administration assertions were on the front page. Things that challenged the administration were on A18 on Sunday or A24 on Monday. There was an attitude among editors: Look, we’re going to war, why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?..
Across the country, “the voices raising questions about the war were lonely ones,” [Washington Post Executive Editor] Downie said. “We didn’t pay enough attention to the minority.”…
From August 2002 through the March 19, 2003, launch of the war, The Post ran more than 140 front-page stories that focused heavily on administration rhetoric against Iraq. Some examples: “Cheney Says Iraqi Strike Is Justified”; “War Cabinet Argues for Iraq Attack”; “Bush Tells United Nations It Must Stand Up to Hussein or U.S. Will”; “Bush Cites Urgent Iraqi Threat”; “Bush Tells Troops: Prepare for War.”
One story that was submitted to the Post for publication, which threw into doubt all the claims made by the U.S. administration, and which largely quoted retired military officials and outside experts, “was killed by Matthew Vita, then the national security editor and now a deputy assistant managing editor” of the Post. Karen DeYoung, a former assistant managing editor who covered the prewar diplomacy, said quite bluntly that, “Bush, Vice President Cheney and other administration officials had no problem commanding prime real estate in the paper, even when their warnings were repetitive”:
“We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power,” DeYoung said. “If the president stands up and says something, we report what the president said.” And if contrary arguments are put “in the eighth paragraph, where they’re not on the front page, a lot of people don’t read that far.”
There you have it, a former assistant managing editor of the Washington Post herself admitted that, “We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power.” If there had ever been a clearer admission of being stenographers of power, I have yet to hear it.
No doubt, then, that upon the militaristic adventurism of yet another war, the media is again doing what it does best: being a “mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power.” Yet, with Libya it is even more profound; sold as a “humanitarian intervention,” this war must be presented in the media as a type of “rescue” operation as opposed to an imperial adventure. This task requires all the more deception on the part of both official statements and media “mouthpieces.”
As the saying goes, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” Indeed, it was so in Libya, and continues to be assaulted day-in day-out so long as this unjustified war continues.
Who are the Rebels?
We have been told a great many things about the rebels in Libya. We were told that they were “peaceful protesters,” that they were “nice guys,” and represented a popular uprising. From the flurry of reports about the rebels, the general ‘presentation’ given by Western governments and media was that the rebels are average Libyan civilians seeking to liberate themselves from a brutal tyrant who was indiscriminately killing them. Invariably and incessantly, the media in the West, such as the Financial Times, frame the forces as “pro-democracy rebels.” Naturally, such assertions must be more diligently questioned and investigated. So who are the rebels? Who makes up Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC), largely recognized by the Western nations as the “legitimate” government in Libya?
The protests in Libya began in Benghazi on February 15, 2011. Fighting broke out between protesters and government forces, though it was naturally framed by Western media as a massacre, which ultimately turned out to be false. On 27 February, the National Transition Council (NTC) (also referred to as the Transitional National Council – TNC) was formed as a consolidated effort on the part of rebel groups to form an opposition ‘government.’ The TNC immediately called for a no-fly zone to be imposed by the U.N. and for air strikes against Gaddafi forces, which the TNC claimed were committing air strikes against them, which also turned out to be false. The rebels, however, were composed of a wide array of different groups. Among them, as Political Scientist and Sociologist Mahmood Mamdani explained, are “four different political trends: radical Islamists, royalists, tribalists, and secular middle class activists produced by a Western-oriented educational system.” Further, “of these, only the radical Islamists, especially those linked organisationally to Al Qaeda, have battle experience.”
While many Western media outlets initially tried to frame the rebels as simply, “lawyers, academics, businessmen and youths,” trying to sidetrack the Islamist elements within the rebel groups, eventually the story started to slowly break, though still largely downplayed. The TNC includes many former Libyan government officials who defected to the rebel camp at the start of the fighting. As the Wall Street Journal reported at the time, “some of the officials are known in Washington and European capitals as secular, pro-Western and pro-business,” and that, “Islamists among the rebels have been largely kept out of the public spotlight, though they are believed to have support in eastern Libya and have assumed key functions in the rebel efforts.” The head of the TNC is a man named Mahmoud Jibril, a Western-educated political scientist and economist who previously headed Libya’s National Economic Development Board, “with the mandate to boost foreign investment and economic growth in country.” By putting Jibril at the head of the TNC, the Council is “sending a message to foreign companies that the future Libyan government is interested in foreign investment and privatization.” According to a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks from 2009, the U.S. ambassador to Libya wrote that Jibril “gets the U.S. perspective,” as in a meeting with Jibril, he had “highlighted the need to replace the country’s decrepit infrastructure and train Libyans,” and “requested American public and private assistance to do so.” Jibril, in his pitch to the ambassador, stated that Libya “has a stable regime and is ‘virgin country’ for investors,” leading the ambassador to conclude: “we should take him up on his offer.”
Jibril and the TNC released, in late March, a document entitled, “A Vision of a Democratic Libya,” as a type of blueprint for building a ‘new’ Libya. Among the many points in the blueprint were to: “Draft a national constitution”, “Form political organisations and civil institutions including the formation of political parties, popular organisations, unions, societies and other civil and peaceful associations”, “Maintain a constitutional civil and free state by upholding intellectual and political pluralism and the peaceful transfer of power, opening the way for genuine political participation, without discrimination”, “Guarantee every Libyan citizen, of statutory age, the right to vote in free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections”, “Guarantee and respect the freedom of expression”, and a firm commitment to “political democracy.” The ‘vision’ further states that it seeks, “the development of genuine economic partnerships between a strong and productive public sector, a free private sector and a supportive and effective civil society.”
Well, that all sounds well and good, but just how truly “democratic” or “respectful” of ‘human rights’ are the rebels and the TNC? How does their purported statements of support for Libyans “without discrimination” stand up to scrutiny? How truly democratic and peaceful are these groups?
Western Intelligence and the Rebels
The rebel groups are not simply disparate, localized, and grassroots individuals rising up in support of democracy and against a brutal tyrant. In fact, from the very beginning of the fighting, many rebels have been actively supported by Western and NATO intelligence agencies and special forces, including the CIA.
In March it was reported that the CIA had been authorized by President Obama to begin operations in Libya. The CIA was reportedly sent to Libya to gather intelligence for air strikes and “to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels.” As Obama said no U.S. forces were on the ground in Libya, which itself is a direct violation of the UN resolution 1973 which authorized a no-fly zone in Libya (but directly forbade foreign troops on the ground), “small groups of C.I.A. operatives [had] been working in Libya for several weeks as part of a shadow force of Westerners that the Obama administration hopes can help bleed Colonel Qaddafi’s military,” reported the New York Times. As they had been in Libya “for several weeks,” they had arrived prior to even the passing of UN resolution 1973 and the imposition of a no-fly zone, indicating directly that there were no plans for peace, and war was the favoured option. Further, in the same report, it was revealed that British special forces and MI6 intelligence agents were also active in Libya. Prior to the UN resolution, which was implemented to only “protect civilians” and not to take sides in the conflict, President Obama signed a secret finding “authorizing the C.I.A. to provide arms and other support to Libyan rebels.”
The CIA officers in Libya, reported the Los Angeles Times, are “coordinating with rebels and sharing intelligence,” and that, “the CIA has been in rebel-held areas of Libya since shortly after the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Tripoli, was evacuated in February.” As the article pointed out, in a clear indication of where the war might be headed:
In the early days of the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, teams of CIA officers and U.S. special operations troops entered secretly, coordinated with opposition groups and used handheld equipment to call in and aim airstrikes against the government armies.
However, at the time, in late March, Obama and the White House were declaring that, “no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya.” Before the UN resolution was even passed in early March, a report broke in the Independent which revealed a secret plan by the U.S. to arm the Libyan rebels through Saudi Arabia. Also before the U.N. resolution was passed, the Wall Street Journal revealed that, “Egypt’s military has begun shipping arms over the border to Libyan rebels with Washington’s knowledge.” The Egyptian military is largely subsidized and supported by the United States, thus what it does with U.S. “knowledge” is also done with U.S. ‘consent.’
The leader of the Libyan rebel’s military command is a man named Khalifa Hifter. As McClatchy Newspapers revealed in March, he had “spent the past two decades in suburban Virginia but felt compelled — even in his late-60s — to return to the battlefield in his homeland,” and explained that he had maintained, over those 20 years in Virginia, strong ties to anti-Gaddafi groups without any ‘known’ financial support, while living a mere 20 miles from CIA headquarters. There is a significant amount of investigative research, largely not undertaken by the mainstream media, who largely kept Hifter’s name out of the press, that he is, in fact, an asset of the CIA, and has been for a great many years. However, the Guardian, in April of 2011, reported that Hifter had, in the early 1980s, “joined a CIA-run anti-Gaddafi force.”
Gaddafi, al-Qaeda, and … Charlie Sheen?
In late February and early March, Gaddafi was claiming that the rebel groups were linked to al-Qaeda, a claim which was largely ridiculed by Western media. Apparently, it is only the Western nations and media who have the ability to claim that all their ‘enemies’ are linked to al-Qaeda. As the Guardian reported on 1 March, “Muammar Gaddafi’s insistent claim that al-Qaida is behind the Libyan uprising – made in all his public appearances since the crisis began – has been dismissed at home and abroad as propaganda.” The group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an affiliate of al-Qaeda, have long been in Libya, and have been long-opposed to Gaddafi’s rule. Established in Afghanistan in the 1990s, the group has been responsible for assassinating dozens of Libyan soldiers and policemen. At the time, MI6, the British foreign intelligence agency, was accused of supporting the LIFG in Britain’s vehement campaign to rid Libya of Gaddafi.
The Western media attempted to ridicule Gaddafi for making such claims, as MSNBC reported Gaddafi’s denouncement as a “rambling phone call to Libyan state TV.” The media kept up its campaign, with a Guardian headline in early March asking readers to participate in an online questionnaire entitled, “Charlie Sheen v Muammar Gaddafi: whose line is it anyway?” Or how about Vanity Fair, which ‘challenged’ their readers with a hard-bitten ‘journalistic’ quiz, asking, “The Two and a Half Men star and the Libyan dictator delivered rambling rants this week. Can you tell who said what?” As the National Post – Canada’s vociferously imperial national newspaper – wrote in early March:
It’s rare that the news stories that would usually be relegated to the “bizarre news” section make it onto the front pages, but over the last few days the fantasies of two famous men have forced their way into the public consciousness. Muammar Gaddafi and Charlie Sheen have probably never met (though given the proclivity for Hollywood stars to dabble in foreign policy, you never know), but they share a number of qualities, such as a slipping grip on reality and easy access to TV interviewers through which to share their musings.
This line of ridicule comparing Gaddafi to Charlie Sheen was repeated all over Western news media, as a simple Google search of both of their names will indicate, with several publications engaging in the rank-and-file self-assured ridicule, including the Mirror, MSNBC, New York Magazine, The First Post, the Chicago Tribune, Life, Reuters, Salon, the Telegraph, the Atlantic, ABC News, and comedy pundits like Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central, among many others. So this is what our ‘news’ media has come to, in a situation of impending war and devastation, the destruction of human life and invasion of foreign countries and occupation of foreign peoples, sending our young, largely poor domestic populations to go kill or be killed, turning their guns on other poor, forgotten peoples for the benefit of those who send them. Instead of taking an issue like “humanitarian intervention” in the proper context of a war, which like all wars, would kill inordinate amounts of innocent civilians, our media chose to engage in the disgraceful frenzy of a group joke.
As the claims of Gaddafi were increasingly ridiculed as the crazy rants of a beleaguered psychopathic dictator (note: I am not casting doubt on the fact that he IS a dictator), several intermittent reports slipped through the cracks which in fact validated many of Gaddafi’s “crazy” claims.
The Wall Street Journal reported in early April that ex-Mujahideen (CIA-trained) fighters from the Afghan-Soviet war are in Libya aiding the rebels. The ex-Mujahideen fighters that the West trained, armed and supported in Afghanistan in the 1980s are now referred to in common parlance as “al-Qaeda,” unless of course we are supporting them. Then, just as Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s, we call them “freedom fighters” or “pro-democracy protesters” in Obama’s case. In fact, the actual term “al-Qaeda”, as explained by former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, literally means “the database,” which “was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians.” In short, al-Qaeda is a “database” of Western intelligence assets used to expand Western imperial interests around the world. They provide an excuse for intervention in countries whose governments you want to overthrow or whose people you want to prevent from ushering in a popular liberation struggle. Or, conversely, you can support them covertly in engaging in warfare against a hated regime, but invariably you would not want to refer to them as ‘al-Qaeda’ in such an instance, as it would conflict with the propagated concept of a worldwide “war on terror”, instead of what it actually is: a “war of terror.”
However, as the WSJ reported from Beghazi, “Sufyan Ben Qumu, a Libyan army veteran who worked for Osama bin Laden’s holding company in Sudan and later for an al Qaeda-linked charity in Afghanistan, is training many of the city’s rebel recruits.” Many other officials within the rebel command come from similar backgrounds, as they make up the experienced elements of the rebel army, which is incidentally led by a CIA asset (as explained above). Even a rebel leader admitted that his fighters have al-Qaeda links, as reported by the Telegraph. Further, a senior American Admiral, and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander (leading the attack on Libya), admitted that al-Qaeda was among the rebels.
Yet, while these admissions surfaced in the mainstream media, once reported, in true Orwellian fashion, they were cast into the “memory hole,” all but forgotten. Thus, when any reference or indeed dissenter continues to refer to the rebel’s links to al-Qaeda, they are cast aside as a “crackpot” or a “conspiracy theorist.” It may have even been the very news outlet which is denouncing such claims that actually reported them as fact in the first place. The National Post recently engaged in a hit-piece against independent journalists who were based in Tripoli covering events and views unwanted by the NATO powers. In ridiculing these reports of NATO involvement with al-Qaeda linked rebels, the National Post journalist stated, cynically, “No massive popular uprising, no victorious rebels flooding into Tripoli greeted by throngs of well-wishers among the city’s populace. It was a NATO – Al Qaida job.”
The writer went on to denounce my former employers and colleagues at the Centre for Research on Globalization as “a Canadian clubhouse for crackpots of the anti-war, 911-truth, anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist variety. The Centre would not normally be worth noticing except for a laugh.” Seemingly, in the eyes of Terry Glavin and the National Post, “anti-war” and “anti-imperialist” sentiments are the intellectual bastion of “crackpots.” What, might I ask, does that say about the National Post? Personally, the label of “anti-war” and “anti-imperialist” is not an insult to me, nor to my former colleagues; it is a badge of honour, a source of pride and a directive for action. The framing of such anti-war and anti-imperialist sentiments as a ‘negative’ label, indeed says more about the National Post than it does about Global Research and its writers.
Is this a Popular Democratic Uprising?
The National Post refers to the rebels as a “massive popular uprising” of “victorious rebels” who entered Tripoli “greeted by throngs of well-wishers among the city’s populace,” perhaps we should ask if this is indeed the case. Scott Taylor, a Canadian journalist writing for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald in late August, observed (and it is worth quoting at some length):
The rebellion in Libya has been more of a media war than a full-scale armed clash… To prevent Gaddafi from inflicting reprisals on the rebels, the UN authorized a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Libya to protect unarmed civilians from being bombed. That, of course, did not apply to civilians living in Gadhafi-controlled sectors, as the Canadian-led NATO coalition soon began mounting airstrikes against government targets.
For more than five months now NATO planes have supported the rebels, and NATO warships have enforced a one-sided arms embargo against Gadhafi’s forces. And all foreign-held Libyan financial assets have been frozen, making it virtually impossible for Libya to purchase any war materiel, or even basic necessities such as fuel…
On a fact-finding trip into Tripoli last week, I saw first-hand that Gaddafi has solidified his control over the capital and most of western Libya. Foreign diplomats still based in Tripoli confirmed to me that, since NATO started bombing, Gaddafi support and approval ratings have actually soared to about 85 per cent.
Of the 2,335 tribes in Libya, over 2,000 are still pledging their allegiance to the embattled president. At present, it is the gasoline shortage due to the embargo and lack of electricity from NATO’s bombing that are causing the most hardship to Libyans inside Gadhafi-controlled sectors.
However, at present, the people still blame NATO — not Gaddafi — for the shortages. In an effort to combat that sentiment and to encourage a popular uprising against Gadhafi, NATO planes have taken to dropping leaflets in canisters over the streets of Tripoli. Unfortunately for the NATO planning staff, the canisters are heavy enough to cause injury and damage roofs when they plummet to the ground…
It is possible that the continued embargo, shortage of fuel and downgrading of Libyan utilities will create a humanitarian crisis inside Gadhafi’s Libya so severe that his followers have no choice but to turn on him for their own survival. However, if that indeed transpires it will be impossible for the West to justify this as being a humanitarian intervention.
It is no surprise that Gaddafi’s support has risen to such extreme levels, as this tends to be the case whenever a country is bombed and attacked by an outside imperial power. It is also no wonder that Gaddafi has such strong support among his people when one considers the human toll of fighting. Reports vary on the amount of deaths, both combatant and civilian, but in early June, the U.N. Human Rights Council mission to Tripoli reported that between 10-15,000 people have been killed in the fighting thus far. Reports of NATO strikes killing civilians do not help “win the hearts and minds” of Libyans, especially when one such strike killed over 85 innocent civilians, including 33 children. Also in June, the Italian Foreign Minister, following a NATO bombing of a house in Tripoli, declared, “NATO is endangering its credibility,” and in an extrapolation of how the West is losing the ‘propaganda war’, he stated, “We cannot continue our shortcomings in the way we communicate with the public, which doesn’t keep up with the daily propaganda of Gaddafi.”
‘Worthy’ vs. ‘Unworthy’ Victims: Are the Rebels Committing ‘Ethnic Cleansing’?
A typical propaganda tactic used by Western media, throughout the entire Cold War (and arguably much longer) is the notion of “worthy” and “unworthy” victims. In any conflict in which the Western world engages and seeks a particular outcome, the presentation to the public – (i.e., propaganda) – determines, by the very way in which it reports the conflict, who are the “good guys” and who are the “bad guys.” It is important for conflicts to be framed – from the view of the propagandist – in a black and white, simplified manner. Effective propaganda tends to play to the lowest common denominator. If everything is geared towards a very base, simplified audience, with minimal critical thinking and contemplation required, it tends to manifest those very sensibilities in the audience who consumes it. In short, by the very method of reporting, they create the audience they seek.
Make it simple to create a simple audience. Then, that which is contrary to the saturated and filtered version of ‘reality’ is simply rejected outright as lunacy, fantasy, conspiracy theory, or worse. It is rejected almost instinctively because it requires more effort to determine accuracy, to investigate claims, to understand much broader concepts and employ far more contemplation and thinking than is required by the propaganda system. It is not simply that the ‘truth’ itself is more complicated, which makes lies so appealing to the masses, but it is exactly because the method of investigating truth is far more complicated. Thus, setting back into the comforts of ‘simplicity’ (“let the TV tell me what to think”), is far more attractive an option than taking painstaking efforts to investigate and understand an issue.
Thus, in conflicts we come to the nomenclature of ‘worthy’ versus ‘unworthy’ victims. This allows the West – and the public especially – to “take sides” in a conflict before understanding the realities of the conflict itself. That way, intervention can be justified and assured. Strategy, more today than ever before, requires the need of an efficient, organized, and effective propaganda machine. In Israel-Palestine, Israeli citizens and even soldiers (within the Occupied Territories) are deemed as ‘worthy victims’, while Palestinians are deemed ‘unworthy’ victims. When an Israeli dies, whether a civilian or soldier, the media ensures that the ‘consumer’ knows the names, is exposed to the families, learns the ambitions and dreams of the victims. When Palestinians die, however, they become – if at all even reported – mere statistics, and more often than not, they are blamed for their own deaths, vilified and generally dehumanized. The Palestinians are the ‘unworthy’ victims.
In Libya, it is apparent that the rebels are ‘worthy victims’, while the majority of civilians, (as roughly 85% support Gaddafi) are deemed ‘unworthy’ victims. The deaths of rebels are often hyped and exaggerated; others are denied, underplayed, justified, or simply not covered at all.
The best example of this in the current conflict is the rebels themselves committing atrocities, particularly against black African migrants in Libya. In this scenario, rebels remain the ‘worthy’ victims, and the black Africans ‘unworthy.’ This disparity is increased in that the deaths of black Africans were not only largely ignored, but they were first demonized, and thus their deaths became justified. This was the basis for the propaganda rhetoric regarding Gaddafi’s “African mercenaries.” These stories proliferated through the Western media ad nauseum and largely unquestioned; they were accepted at face value. As an Amnesty International investigation revealed, the stories of African mercenaries massacring rebels for Gaddafi emerged largely from the rebels themselves, and as it turned out, was false.
A Google search of “African mercenaries” and “Libya” from February 15 (when the rebellion began) to March 30, less than two weeks following the NATO ‘intervention’, turned up over 86,000 matches. As it turned out, the “mercenaries” were in fact African migrants working in Libya. A Google search over the same period (Feb. 15 – March 30), but with the terms “African migrants” and “Libya” revealed just under 48,000 results. Yet, from as early as February, African migrants reported that, “they’ve become targets for Libyans who are enraged that African mercenaries are fighting on behalf of the regime.” The migrants work in Libya’s oil industry and certain other sectors. It was the reports of African mercenaries – which later turned out to be false – that induced the violence against African migrants, instead of simply justifying them. The Deputy Director of the North Africa Center at Cambridge University stated in late February, in an interview with NPR, “I tell you, these people, because of their skin, they will be slaughtered in Libya. There is so much anger there against those mercenaries, which suddenly sprung up. I think it is urgent to do something about it now, otherwise, a genocide [could occur] against anyone who has black skin and who doesn’t speak perfect Arabic.”
Al-Jazeera reported in late February that dozens of black Africans were killed, with hundreds more in hiding, as “anti-government protesters” (read: ‘worthy victims’) “hunt down” the “black African mercenaries” (read: ‘unworthy victims’). Migrants fleeing the violence who returned to their home countries were interviewed, and reported that, “We were being attacked by local people who said that we were mercenaries killing people. Let me say that they did not want to see black people.” Further, one witness reported, “Our camp was burnt down, and we were assisted by the Kenyan embassy and our company to get to the airport.” A Senior Fellow with the International Migration Institute posed the question:
But why is nobody concerned about the plight of sub-Saharan African migrants in Libya? As victims of racism and ruthless exploitation, they are Libya’s most vulnerable immigrant population, and their home country governments do not give them any support.
These cases were rarely reported in Western media, however, African media sources reported much more diligently on these events, as they were more directly effecting their own citizens; thus, the victims are those who may deemed – in the African media – as ‘worthy victims.’ Thus, the coverage was much more extensive. One African media outlet reported in early March, that “rebel fighters and their supporters in eastern Libya are detaining, beating and intimidating African immigrants and black Libyans, accusing them of being African mercenaries.” In some instances, “rebels have executed suspected mercenaries captured in battle, according to Human Rights Watch and local Libyans.” Even the rebel-led government “concedes it is rounding up suspects and detaining them for questioning.” Not only is it African migrants who were in danger, but regular black Libyans as well, as in some cases rebels had lynched black Africans, claiming they were mercenaries. Human Rights Watch referred to the assault against black Libyans as “widespread and systematic attacks… by rebels and their supporters.” A Human Rights Watch official explained, “thousands of Africans have come under attack and lost their homes and possessions during the recent fighting,” and referred to the rebels (who are, in our media mostly referred to as ‘pro-democracy’ protesters) as “ad hoc military and security forces.”
Another report explained that the assaults against blacks have “revived a deep-rooted racism between Arabs and black Africans” in Libya, as “discrimination is common not only against migrant Black Africans, but also against darker-skinned Libyans, especially from the south of the country.” The Executive Director of the Afro-Middle East Centre in South Africa told IPS in late March, “Against this background, one needs to be a little wary of the accusations of ‘African mercenaries’ or even ‘Black African mercenaries’ that have been bandied around.” Further, he reported that, “about one and a half million Sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees, out of a population of nearly two to two and a half million migrants, work as cheap labour in Libya’s oil industry, agriculture, construction and other service sectors.” As it turned out, “this is not the first time Libya’s most vulnerable immigrant population has fallen victim to racist attack,” as in 2000, “dozens of migrant workers from Ghana, Cameroon, Sudan, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Nigeria were targeted during street killings in the wake of government officials blaming them for rising crime, disease and drug trafficking.”
One apparent victim of these assaults told media that, “I bet you many Ghanaians and Nigerians and other nationals of south of the Sahara have been killed and murdered,” and further, “they put the dead bodies in mass graves, while they still pursued others. Sometimes we had to dig deep and wide holes to hide ourselves for fear of being identified by the opposition forces.” By early March, there were reports of hundreds of black Africans from over a dozen countries who landed at Nairobi Airport after fleeing Libya by plane, and were arriving “with horrific tales of violence.” Even in early March, Human Rights Watch told the Sydney-Morning Herald that they were “yet to confirm a single case of a mercenary being used in the conflict.” Even as reports spread out regarding Gaddafi’s “African mercenaries,” Human Rights Watch stated that, “of the hundreds of suspected mercenaries detained in the east, all had turned out to be innocent workers or Libyans in the regular army.”
The most high-profile coverage in the West perhaps came from the Los Angeles Times, in which the reporter had been led by the rebels to view some of their captured “mercenaries,” and the reporter wrote that the so-called mercenaries told the media, “We are construction workers,” as they pleaded their innocence, and then “the interview was abruptly ended and the group of Africans were led away to detention by Muhammed Bala, who described himself as a security officer for the rebel government.” Bala added, “We’re out looking for mercenaries every day.”
Some reports in late March suggested that black Africans had been “slaughtered in the thousands in the ongoing civil war in Libya.” As the rebels claimed that Gaddafi’s forces were engaging in mass rape, other reports (otherwise unconfirmed) reported that the rebels were themselves, were starting “to detain, insult, rape and even executing black immigrants, students and refugees,” stating that more than 100 Africans were killed by early March, and “some of them were led into the desert and stabbed to death,” while other “black Libyan men receiving medical care in hospitals in Benghazi were reportedly abducted by armed rebels.” Further, there were “more than 200 African immigrants held in secret locations by the rebels.” As the Somaliland Press reported in early March, the attacks reflect racist and xenophobic attitudes among many Arabs in Libya (specifically the east, where the rebels were largely based), some of which was a result of Gaddafi’s ‘pan-Africanist’ views, which many Arabs felt betrayed by:
In many situations, Gaddafi and his inner circle preferred black Africans and Libyans from the south over Libyans from the east. Now the angry mobs using the revolutionary movement across Arabia and North Africa are hunting down black people.
Mohamed Abdillahi, Somaliland, 25, was sleeping at his home in Zouara, when the mobs arrived. “They knocked on the door around 1 o’clock in the morning. They said get out, we’ll kill you, you are blacks, foreigners, clear.”
The testimonials are very similar among the thousands of Africans that saw the ugly side of Libya in the past weeks. “They have attacked us, they took everything from us,” said Ali Farah, Somali labourer 29 years…
Many of the fleeing Africans are terrified to tell their stories. At the checkpoint, they do not mingle with others. When asked about their ordeal, they just freeze, “they stopped us many times and said not tell what has happened here, say there are no problems,” Elias Nour from Ethiopia said.
Of all the publications, the Wall Street Journal reported in late June that within the rebel-held city of Misrata, black Libyans were being targeted by the rebels who were ethnically cleansing Misrata of its black population. Espousing the lies that the black Libyans from Tawergha, a small mostly black town 25 miles south of Misrata, were being used as mercenaries, this galvanized the rebels and their supporters against them, referring to them as “traitors.” Prior to the siege of Misrata, roughly four-fifths of the population in the poor housing project of Misrata’s Ghoushi neighbourhood were black Tawergha natives. Now, reported the WSJ, “they are gone or in hiding, fearing revenge attacks by Misratans, amid reports of bounties for their capture.” The rebel leadership in Benghazi reportedly stated that they were working on a “post-Gadhafi reconciliation plan,” yet claim that, “Libya is one tribe.” Some were calling for the expulsion of the Tawerghans from the area, and one rebel commander said, “They should pack up… Tawergha no longer exists, only Misrata.” As further evidence of the increasingly ethnically focused rebel leadership, some “rebel leaders are also calling for drastic measures like banning Tawergha natives from ever working, living or sending their children to schools in Misrata.” One rebel slogan that has appeared on the road between Misrata and Tawergha refers to the rebels as “the brigade for purging slaves, black skin.”
It is thus a very legitimate concern that if the rebels take power in Libya, they may undertake an “ethnic cleansing” of Libya in order to eliminate threats to their power (as the black Libyans by and large are supportive of Gaddafi), as well as to have a convenient scapegoat target population upon whom they can place blame for all the ills that a post-Gaddafi Libya would surely face. Scapegoats are always necessary for leaders that seek to centralize their power and brutally enforce their rule. Totalitarian leaders throughout history have always employed such a tactic. The possibility of a rebel-led government committing ethnic cleansing in Libya is, I think, an imminent and extremely likely possibility.
By mid-March, the United Nations reported that black migrants were fleeing Libya at a rate of about 6,000 a day, while “some 280,000 have already escaped to neighboring states.” As one report in Uganda articulated, a major concern for European nations (who are actively engaged in the NATO assault) was in the possible exodus of black Africans into Europe, as Libya is one of the main routes for African immigrants into Western Europe, a major source of internal social stratification, xenophobia, racism, and political pressure. Thus, if Libya collapsed into a “state of lawlessness,” it could become a major problem for Western Europe. As one BBC reporter stated, “The fear with Libya is that sub-Saharan Africans will try to leave and there are more of them.” The Ugandan Independent reported that following the stories in the Western press about the “African immigrant” came the stories about the “African mercenary.”
In fact, the West European media did prominently feature stories about the impending ‘threat’ of a wave of African immigrants into their countries. An article in the major German publication, Der Spiegel, in late February reported that, “Moammar Gadhafi, in recent years, has enjoyed a cynical role as Europe’s border guard against African immigrants. Italian ministers now warn that if his Libyan government collapses, people will flow across the Mediterranean.” Italy’s Interior Minister, ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, warned that, “hundreds of thousands of immigrants could head for Europe” which would create a “catastrophic humanitarian emergency.” While immediately fearing a wave of immigrants due to “violence that Moammar Gadhafi’s regime has reportedly visited on its own people.” But, according to some observers, “if Libya collapses into anarchy… it could become an immigration route for far more people from sub-Saharan Africa.” Der Spiegel reported:
Gadhafi in recent years has played up his role as a bulwark against African immigrants to Europe. Italy and Libya began joint naval patrols in 2008 to stop boatloads of illegal or trafficked immigrants from crossing the Mediterranean, and last year Libya signed a 50 billion euro deal with the European Union to manage its borders as a “transit country” for sub-Saharan Africans.
Italian Foreign Minister Frattini said that some 2.5 million people in Libya — about a third of the population — are non-Libyan immigrants who would flee if the government fell.
Gadhafi himself has enjoyed stoking these fears. “Europe will become black,” he said last December, if European leaders failed to cooperate with him on immigration controls.
The fear of a wave of African immigrants into Europe was a major topic of discussion at the EU summit in Brussels in February, according to the Financial Times. EU ministers heard that, “the collapse of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime could result in a tidal wave of refugees and illegal immigrants pouring into Europe,” as roughly 1-2 million refugees “could attempt to make their way across the Mediterranean into southern Europe if the Gaddafi regime collapses.” The Italian Foreign Minister told the members at the EU summit:
We are following very closely the situation. Italy as you know is the closest neighbour, both of Tunisia and Libya, so we are extremely concerned about the repercussions on the migratory situation in the southern Mediterranean… We need a European comprehensive action plan. We should support all peaceful transitional processes that are ongoing in the Middle East while avoiding a patronising position.
The Minister further warned that, the collapse of the regime would lead to the “self proclamation of the so-called Islamic emirate of Benghazi.” He added: “I’m very concerned about the idea of dividing Libya in two, in Cyrenaica and in Tripoli. That would be really dangerous. Can you imagine having an Islamic Arab emirate on the borders of Europe? This would be a really serious threat.” The Czech Foreign Minister echoed this fear, warning that the fall of Gadhaffi could pave the way for “bigger catastrophes.”
The rebels are aided in their war – which is largely a “propaganda war” – by an American public relations firm “to help them earn recognition from the U.S. government.” The firm – the Harbour Group – in early April “signed a pro-bono contract with the National Transitional Council.” Pro-bono? Since when do public relations firms do charity work? In an article in the Hill, it was reported that Harbour Group “will be working with the council’s U.S. representative, Ali Aujali, who resigned as Libya’s ambassador to the U.S. in protest in February as the revolution began to hold.” The Harbour Group’s Managing Director Richard Mintz “will help manage the PR effort on behalf of the council.” Mintz told The Hill, “It’s the right thing to do. They need help and we are pleased that we are able to do that. It is in the U.S.’s interest, in the world’s interest.” Part of the firm’s work was to be aimed at gaining U.S. recognition of the TNC as the “legitimate” government in Libya, while “other goals for the Harbour Group are to encourage U.S. humanitarian aid to Libya and to push for the release of Gadhafi’s assets frozen by U.S. financial institutions to help pay for that aid.” The article went on:
To achieve those goals, the firm will help prepare speeches, press releases and op-eds, contact reporters and think tanks and develop a website and social media for the council.
According to the contract, the firm “will provide all of its professional services free of charge to the council,” though the council will be “directly responsible” for “major expenses,” such as Web design and travel.
The Harbour Group is plugged in politically — Mintz is a former director of public affairs for the Clinton administration’s Transportation Department — and is already familiar with the Middle East. The firm is helping to implement “a public diplomacy program” on behalf of the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, according to Justice records.
In early July, Patton Boggs, the number one lobby firm in the United States, was hired by the rebels to promote their cause in the U.S., to get America to recognize the TNC as the “legitimate government” in Libya, as well as to unfreeze Libya’s assets in order to provide funds for them. One outside counsel at Patton Boggs stated, “We care about the cause… We want the Transitional National Council to succeed on behalf of all the Libyan people… We are proud that they selected us in assisting them and we hope that we can continue being effective for them.” According to an article in The Hill, a Washington-D.C. paper, “Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., a partner at the firm who is one of Washington’s top lobbyists, will be leading the Libya account.” Boggs wrote that, “We understand that at this time the [Transitional National] Council may not have sufficient funds to pay our fees for these important services… We will charge the Council on an hourly basis for our work, according to our customary hourly billable rates… [and] will not seek payment for these funds and costs until the Council obtains sufficient funds to pay for them.” Further:
Two lobbyists at Patton Boggs, Stephen McHale and Vincent Frillici, have filed so far to lobby on behalf of the council. Frillici previously served as the director of operations at NATO for the 50th Anniversary Host Committee and was deputy director of finance operations for the Democratic National Convention in 1996. McHale served as the first deputy administrator of the Transportation Security Administration and helped merge the administration into the Homeland Security Department.
Robert Kapla, who has represented foreign governments in the past, and Matthew Oresman, formerly a law clerk within the State Department and the Senate Judiciary Committee, will also work for the council…
Announcing recognition of the Libyan council would cut Gadhafi off from any legal legitimacy, allow the rebels access to funding to help the Libyan people and announce to the international community that only the rebels have the right to “transfer the country’s natural resources,” [Patton Boggs counsel David]Tafuri wrote in a Washington Post editorial.
The notion that a rag-tag group of rebels fighting a war in a far-off foreign nation know exactly who the best lobbying firm and one of the best PR firms in Washington, D.C. are is hard to believe. The decision to contact these firms, then, was likely suggested by an American voice. As reported, the point man of contact between both firms and the rebels is Ali Aujali, the former Libyan Ambassador to the United States, who clearly still maintains his close ties to Washington.
Sure enough, in July the United States recognized the rebels as the “legitimate” government in Libya. And now in August, there are major pushes for Libya’s frozen assets to be unfrozen for the new rebel government.
Could Libya Collapse?
Naturally, to prevent such a “catastrophe” as a “tidal wave” of African immigrants, the Europeans – who are now fully involved in the Libyan war – will need to push for an occupation of Libya. While most ad-hoc coalitions try to maintain some vestiges of unity until their initial objectives (overthrowing the state) are achieved, the Libyan rebels have already descended into infighting and murder. In late July, members of the rebel armed forces killed the commander of the armed forces, Abdel Fatah Younis, who was a former Libyan government official who defected to the rebels in the early days of protests.
This event “triggered fears that opposition fighters battling to oust Col Muammar Gaddafi could instead turn their weapons on each other.” When news spread, many units who were loyal to Younis abandoned their front line posts at the oil town of Brega, and poured into Benghazi “to avenge their commander’s death.” The TNC attempted to blame the murder on pro-Gaddafi loyalists, but his supporters believed he was killed by “his rivals within the rebel leadership.” Some of the supporters even fired on the hotel in Benghazi which the TNC leader and a favourite of the U.S., Abdul-Jalil, earlier gave a press conference. The General, when he was killed, was headed to defend himself in front of four rebel judges who were questioning “illicit contacts he may have had with the Gaddafi regime,” which were instigated when the Daily Telegraph reported that he was “the regime’s main point of contact with the rebels.” As another Telegraph article revealed, “Gen Younes was also engaged in a very public feud with the rebels’ most celebrated battlefield commander, Khalifa Hifter,” which “was seen as an important factor in the pervasive chaos along the front line as the two frequently countermanded one another’s orders.” Thus, the elimination of the General could possibly allow for “greater cohesion” among the rebels on the front lines. Unreported in that article, however, was the previously revealed fact that Khalifa Hifter, the man who profits most from the assassination, also has a long history of working with the CIA.
Yet, it would still appear inevitable, with remaining divisions among the rebels and competing and contradictory ideas of what a post-Gaddafi Libya would be like, infighting will continue and likely accelerate. There is the possibility of a scenario in which one faction, and most likely the most militant and well-quipped faction (being the Islamist, al-Qaeda-linked faction run by a CIA-operative), simply purges the rebels entirely of competing visions. This assassination could have been the start of that effort already, and even a warning to potential challengers. Regardless of the specifics, the Libyan war is likely to plunge into a total civil war, so the Western nations would perhaps be most interested in having a united, militant, and ruthless proxy army under one leadership and vision, not many. With such enormous support for Gaddafi remaining in the country, and in fact, accelerating as the NATO bombings and rebel attacks continue, a rapid overthrowing of the Gaddafi government would certainly spark major national unrest far more severe than at present. In such a power vacuum, the Western powers certainly want to ensure the group they backed will be the winning horse on the way to fill the empty seat of power.
Western government have recognized the TNC as the “legitimate” government of the Libyan people, while the Libyan people – to the tune of 85% – largely support Gaddafi. So, in the face of such enormous opposition, this ‘horse’ in the race would by necessity have to be brutal, exacting, precise, and ruthless. If they do not seize power instantly, and establish a firm control over the country, it would be likely that the nation would plunge into a vicious civil war. Further, if Gaddafi supporters quickly regain the seat of power, Western powers may seek to stoke and actively create the conditions for civil war. It is arguable that they are attempting to do this already. In such a case, it would – from the imperial perspective – be better to ‘divide’ the people among each other, and ‘rule’ over them as a justification for maintaining ‘order.’ In this instance, using recent precedents of the past decades – two conflicts which Western powers claim they “don’t” want Libya to turn into – Rwanda and Iraq, became likely outcomes. Either a situation in which a Western-supported rebel army rushes to power amid a massive wave of carnage and establishes a strong dictatorship, ultimately resulting in the ‘cleansing’ of opponents to the potential of genocide (such as with U.S. support for the RPF in Rwanda). Or, there could be an attempt to establish a liberal democratic government, with a mix of rebels and former government officials, yet dividing power among ethnic or tribal lines, further inflaming those very divisions, and possibly resulting in a total civil war (such as in Iraq). Further, if pro-Gaddafi supporters re-take power quickly and effectively, the rebels would likely go underground and attempt a more insurgent war, attempting to plunge the country into a civil war. The dismantling of Yugoslavia also presents a telling example. In this case, ethnic or tribal rivalries are inflamed, al-Qaeda-linked radical sects are actively armed and aided; these groups engage in ethnic cleansing and a territorial war, with the country ultimately breaking up into several small and easily manageable parts. In whichever case, the potential for Western troops on the ground in Libya is a stark reality.
The Occupation of Libya
In late August, Libyan rebels rapidly advanced on Tripoli, preceded by a massive NATO bombardment of the city. The operation – Mermaid Dawn – was planned weeks in advance by the rebels and NATO. As the Guardian reported: “British military and civilian advisers, including special forces troops, along with those from France, Italy and Qatar, have spent months with rebel fighters, giving them key, up-to-date intelligence,” though the article then claimed that they were also “watching out for any al-Qaida elements trying to infiltrate the rebellion,” ignoring, of course, that we have long been supporting the ‘infiltrated’ elements. One of the rebel organizers of the operation said, “Honestly, Nato played a very big role in liberating Tripoli. They bombed all the main locations that we couldn’t handle with our light weapons.” While “sleeper cells rose up and rebel soldiers advanced on the city, Nato launched targeted bombings,” and American hunter-killer drones were also used in the attacks. According to a NATO diplomat, “Covert special forces teams from Qatar, France, Britain and some east European states provided critical assistance, such as logisticians, forward air controllers for the rebel army, as well as damage-assessment analysts and other experts.” Foreign military advisers were on the ground providing “real-time intelligence to the rebels,” or in other words, ‘directing’ the rebels. Apparently, Gaddafi aides attempted to communicate with Obama administration officials, including the Ambassador and Jeffrey Feltman, the Assistant Secretary of State, in order to “broker a truce.” Yet, reported the Guardian, “the calls were not taken seriously.” NATO warplanes bombed convoys of Libyan troops as they sought to re-take rebel advances within Tripoli and elsewhere, and further, NATO undertook “bombing raids on bunkers set up in civilian buildings in Tripoli.” The article continued:
The western advisers are expected to remain in Libya, advising on how to maintain law and order on the streets, and on civil administration, following Gaddafi’s downfall. They have learned the lessons of Iraq, when the US got rid of all prominent officials who had been members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party and dissolved the Iraqi army and security forces.
The rebels who helped in planning the operation had hoped that an invasion of Tripoli would have sparked an uprising among the people, joining with the rebels against Gaddafi, clearly indicating their own ignorance of the support for Gaddafi within Libya and especially Tripoli. The New York Times, explaining why the mass popular uprising never took place, claimed that it was a result of “a bloody crackdown on protesters in February by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces [which] had served as a grim deterrent to those inside Tripoli who might try to challenge the government’s authority.” Naturally, the New York Times failed to report, as Amnesty International confirmed, that those reports were largely exaggerated, and there were deaths on both sides, indicating that the “peaceful protesters” had – at least a few – fighters among them.
With British and French Special Forces troops on the ground alongside CIA operatives, NATO was integral in launching this “pincer” campaign in Libya, often bombing government troops in retreat. Britain played a strong role with both military and intelligence officials – Special Forces and MI6 – in planning and coordinating the assault on Tripoli. As the Telegraph reported, “MI6 officers based in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi had honed battle plans drawn up by Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) which were agreed 10 weeks ago,” while “the RAF stepped up raids on Tripoli on Saturday morning [August 20] in a pre-arranged plan to pave the way for the rebel advance.” Before the official rebel attack even began, the RAF bombed a key communications facility in Tripoli “as part of the agreed battle plan.” It is likely that in a rebel government, two prominent factions, that which is composed of the former Libyan National Army, founded and now currently run by Khalifa Hafter, a CIA asset; and the Islamist al-Qaeda linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), both of which are currently supported through the TNC by the CIA, MI6, and NATO military structures.
So while it is clear that not only are NATO forces already in Libya, but they are in fact directing the operations of rebel forces, far beyond the mandate from the United Nations to simply “protect civilians.” But then, that wasn’t the point of the war.
Even as the rebels continue to fight in Tripoli, Western media has jubilantly and prematurely declared a victory for the rebels and for NATO. The Washington Post reported that the ‘lesson of Libya’ was that, “limited intervention can work.” But then, this is no surprise from the Post, considering that one of their editors had previously said, “We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power.” As the rebels were far from victorious – though victory had already been declared – the media engaged in a ‘discussion’ of “post-Gaddafi Libya.” Meanwhile, fighting continued in the streets of Tripoli, as one resident told the Independent, “The rebels are attacking our homes. This should not be happening,” and further:
The rebels are saying they are fighting government troops here, but all those getting hurt are ordinary people, the only buildings being damaged are those of local people. There has also been looting by the rebels, they have gone into houses to search for people and taken away things. Why are they doing this? They should be looking for Gaddafi, he is not here.
While British SAS Special Forces were on the ground in Libya helping to hunt down Gaddafi, the British Foreign Secretary declared that, “Gaddafi must accept defeat,” and President Sarkozy of France said, “Gaddafi’s time has run out.” Average Libyans in Tripoli were nervous with the celebratory rebels, claiming, “The situation here reminds me of Iraq in 2003,” and that, “We don’t know who has entered the city. We don’t know anything about the people who will rule this country, about their mentality.” As one resident explained to the Independent:
The past 42 years we knew everything about the country: our people, our politics, everything. Now we don’t know anything about the future. We are afraid of the end of this, that Gaddafi will use chemical weapons, that there will be a massacre. I am afraid of both sides – of the rebels and of Gaddafi… We have no safety in this city. Now most of the people in this area have left. There are no families in the building now, just the young men.
Robert Fisk, writing in the Independent, drew several parallels between Libya and Iraq, such as the fact when the Americans took Baghdad, Saddam fled underground promising to fight to the death, as Gaddafi just did. Further, as the U.S. was faced with the birth of the Iraqi insurgency in 2003, officials and media pundits alike claimed that the insurgents were “die-hards” who apparently “didn’t realise that the war was over.” As Fisk observed, already a pundit on SkyNews in Britain had claimed the remaining fighters were “die-hards.” Fisk repudiates the notion, as repeated throughout the media and by Western officials, that it is now “up to the Libyans,” as amidst “the massive presence of Western diplomats, oil-mogul representatives, highly paid Western mercenaries and shady British and French servicemen – all pretending to be ‘advisers’ rather than participants – is the Benghazi Green Zone.” Fisk explained:
Of course, this war is not the same as our perverted invasion of Iraq. Saddam’s capture only provoked the resistance to infinitely more attacks on Western troops – because those who had declined to take part in the insurgency for fear that the Americans would put Saddam back in charge of Iraq now had no such inhibitions. But Gaddafi’s arrest along with Saif’s would undoubtedly hasten the end of pro-Gaddafi resistance to the rebels. The West’s real fear – right now, and this could change overnight – should be the possibility that the author of the Green Book [Gaddafi] has made it safely through to his old stomping ground in Sirte, where tribal loyalty might prove stronger than fear of a Nato-backed Libyan force.
Sirte, Fisk elaborated, is an oil rich region with a strongly pro-Gaddafi populace. It was in Sirte where the rebels were defeated by the loyalists in the current war. However, as Fisk opined, “we shall soon, no doubt, have to swap these preposterous labels – when those who support the pro-Western Transitional National Council will have to be called loyalists, and pro-Gaddafi rebels turn into the ‘terrorists’ who may attack our new Western-friendly Libyan administration.”
NATO officials stated that the alliance “will not put troops on the ground,” ignoring the fact that already there are special forces and intelligence operatives on the ground who have been there for several months since even before the war broke out. Though, NATO officials claimed that if any organization sends in troops, it would be the UN, with one official commenting, “It is a classic case for blue helmets,” and that, “Nato will help the UN if asked.” The Western “advisers,” according to NATO officials, “are expected to remain in Libya, advising on how to maintain law and order on the streets, and on civil administration, following Gaddafi’s downfall.”
The Telegraph reported that, “Britain is preparing to send a team to Tripoli to help with a key plan to stabilise Libya after the fall of the Gaddafi regime and prevent any repeat of the chaos seen in post-war Iraq.” Thus, the Western nations are engaging in double-speak, whereby they claim that no boots will be put on the ground, yet simultaneously send boots onto the ground. The trick, however, is in calling these boots “advisers.” This has been a common tactic for decades, as even before the escalation of the Vietnam War, President Kennedy, and Eisenhower before him, had sent “advisers” to Vietnam, which slowly, and inevitably became a massive occupying force. The British plan, which has already begun in effect, “included contacting officials in ministries in Libya by mobile phone to try to persuade them not to abandon their posts.” The British “stabilisation response team” has been sent to Libya by the Foreign Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence. The Development Secretary stated, “It has been clear that we needed to learn the lessons of Iraq and plan for stabilisation and that that needed to take place in an organised and timely way.” Yet, in the same breath – and in the usual double-speak – he claimed, “It was equally clear that the process had to be Libyan led and owned.” The EU also offered to send “experts” to Tripoli “at any minute.” Libyan government officials have been and continue to be contacted “to let them let them know that they could stay in place under the new regime,” which Western officials proclaim is a lesson they learned from Iraq, where they had simply purged the former Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein and dismantled the army, adding to the chaos and crisis of post-Saddam Iraq. Commenting on this, the Development Secretary stated, “if you can get hold of the chief of police and tell him, ‘You’ve got a job, don’t take to the hills, and you will get paid,’ we can avoid that.” Another aspect of the plan includes unfreezing Libya’s assets around the world to give them to the new provisional government of the TNC.
The plans for the latest assault were organized far in advance. As Debkafile, an Israeli publication, revealed, they were established back in July between the US and France, as they were organizing plans for managing the Israel-Palestine issue:
According to the US-French plan, [an agreement] will take place shortly after the Libyan war is brought to a close – ideally by a four-way accord between the US, France, Muammar Qaddafi and the Libyan rebels or, failing agreement, by a crushing NATO military blow in which the United States will also take part. The proposed accord would be based on Muammar Qaddafi’s departure and the establishment of a power-sharing transitional administration in Tripoli between the incumbent government and rebel leaders.
As recently as April, the EU said that they had a ‘ready’ force of 1,000 soldiers poised to be sent in to Libya in case they were needed. The Guardian reported that the EU “has drawn up a ‘concept of operations’ for the deployment of military forces in Libya, but needs UN approval for what would be the riskiest and most controversial mission undertaken by Brussels.” Purportedly, the combat troops would not be engaged in a combat role but would be authorised to fight if they or their humanitarian wards were threatened.” As one EU official stated, “It would be to secure sea and land corridors inside the country.” Another EU official declared, “The operation is agreed. It’s ready to go when we get the nod from the UN.”
How to Get NATO Support: Die and Lie
However, if the EU, NATO, or the UN were to deploy troops into Libya, it would need to be under the guise of providing “peacekeeping” or other “aid” support. Thus, it would only be possible to do so in the event that Libya collapses into chaos, whether there be mass killings, genocide, or civil war. In such a situation, one is reminded of the events surrounding the ‘Srebrenica massacre’ in Bosnia in 1995.
The official account was that roughly 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed by Serb aggressors, thus justifying a NATO intervention. The reality, however, was that the Bosnian Muslims had been struggling for years to “persuade the NATO powers to intervene more forcibly on their behalf,” writes Edward Herman. In fact: “Bosnian Muslim officials have claimed that their leader, Alija Izetbegovic, told them that [Bill] Clinton had advised him that U.S. intervention would only occur if the Serbs killed at least 5000 at Srebrenica.” As a result of Clinton’s statement, the town was sacrificed by the Bosnian Muslims, and the propagated claim was that the Serbs had gone in and killed 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, thus justifying the NATO intervention in Bosnia. However, not only did the Bosnians sacrifice the town, but the numbers themselves were subject to much manipulation, and the facts of the circumstances surrounding the event were ignored by the media. The Croatians, along with Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton, were delighted at the reporting of the ‘massacre,’ as for the Croats, explained Herman:
this deflected attention from their prior devastating ethnic cleansing of Serbs and Bosnian Muslims in Western Bosnia (almost entirely ignored by the Western media), and it provided a cover for their already planned removal of several hundred thousand Serbs from the Krajina area in Croatia. This massive ethnic cleansing operation was carried out with U.S. approval and logistical support within a month of the Srebrenica events, and it may well have involved the killing of more Serbian civilians than Bosnian Muslim civilians killed in the Srebrenica area in July: most of the Bosnian Muslim victims were fighters, not civilians, as the Bosnian Serbs bused the Srebrenica women and children to safety.
In short, NATO (and Bill Clinton in particular) told the Bosnian Muslims that at least 5,000 Muslims needed to die at the hands of the Serbs in order to justify an intervention and the continuing war against Serbs all across the former Yugoslavia. The fact that a number of 8,000 Muslims having been killed was (and remains) widely propagated, though widely inflated and unsubstantiated (save for the investigations into the manipulation of those numbers), was a ‘convenient’ event for NATO and the Bosnians. Also significant is the fact that such an event took place in the midst of massive ethnic cleansing of Serbs, largely ignored by the Western media, as it was committed by those who NATO were claiming to “save” from “Serbian aggression”; in particular, the Bosnian Muslims and Croatians. Some years later, Madeleine Albright, upon being told of another massacre which was good for U.S. interests, stated that, “spring has come early this year.” Of course, this is also the same woman who said that 500,000 dead Iraqi children (killed by the UN sanctions Albright helped impose and enforce during the Clinton administration) was “worth it.” So, it is safe to say that we can dispense with any claims of “humanitarian” concerns on the part of NATO leaders. Their interests are imperial. Their propaganda is humanitarian.
The same must be kept in mind about Libya, where we were told we went to “intervene” in order to “protect civilians.” Yet, immediately we began supporting what turned out to be a ruthless military outfit, including al-Qaeda-linked Islamists, who have concocted lies to justify their cause and foreign intervention, and who have been committing ethnic cleansing of black migrants and citizens in Libya. We call these people “pro-democracy” and claim that they represent a “popular uprising.”
The British government stated on 22 August that, “hundreds of British soldiers could be sent to Libya to serve as peacekeepers if the country descends into chaos,” with two hundred troops on standby since the start of July, as well as 600 Royal Marines who “are also deployed in the Mediterranean and would be available to support humanitarian operations.”
The possibility of an invasion seems imminent, as even if the rebels take Tripoli and overthrow Gaddafi, since thereafter the real struggle would begin, and the rebel TNC would likely struggle to maintain unity and possibly engage in attempts to purge various factions from the leadership, as the assassination of the former army commander in late July indicated is already taking place. Uniting these factions remains one of the greatest challenges the rebels will face.
Military sources revealed to some alternative media the plans for the U.S. to occupy Libya with upwards of 30,000 soldiers by October. A Debkafile report from July indicates that Western leaders were actively planning for a military invasion and occupation of Libya, starting with the French and British and followed by American troops. In early July, the Russian envoy to NATO stated that, “I think that now we are witnessing the preparation stage of a ground operation which NATO, or at least some of its members… are ready to begin.”
The Barons of ‘Humanitarian Imperialism’
As the rebels entered the capital, the true nature and purpose of the war and “intervention” in Libya was made known, as Western oil companies made their intentions and interests public, and the rebel TNC established themselves as subservient to those very interests.
Gaddafi may have signed his own death warrant back in 2009, when his government gathered 15 executives from global oil and energy corporations and demanded that they foot the bill – to the tune of $1.5 billion – for Libya’s settlement with victims of the downed Pan Am Flight 103 (itself a very mysterious terrorist attack possibly tracing back to the CIA itself). Libya had been subjected to UN sanctions from 1992-2003 as punishment for the terrorist attack, though it has never been conclusively proven that Libya had any involvement. Gaddafi, for his part, was seeking to make those who profited off of his country’s wealth (foreign oil conglomerates) pay for the costs of their punishment, as the sanctions had largely affected the nation’s economy. Libyan officials warned the oil companies that if they did not comply, there would be “serious consequences” for their oil leases. In 2004, when trade restrictions were lifted with Libya, Gaddafi gave in to Western interests in the aftermath of the Iraq war, fearing that Libya would be next. As the trade barriers broke down, the U.S. Department of Commerce “began to serve as self-described matchmakers for American businesses,” as companies like Halliburton, Boeing, Raytheon, ConocoPhillips, Occidental, and Caterpillar tried to “gain footholds” in the country. However, there were several problems and corporate plundering was increasingly stalled. The Gaddafis often demanded the corporations plunder the nation in joint partnerships with state-owned (and Gaddafi family run) companies, which the foreign conglomerates resisted, in which the State Department tried to intervene (according to diplomatic cables), but often failed to come to an agreement. However, some companies such as Occidental Petroleum, Petro-Canada, and Canadian arms manufacturer, SNC-Lavalin made inroads into Libya.
In January of 2009, Gaddafi threatened that Libyan oil “maybe should be owned by national companies or the public sector at this point, in order to control the oil prices, the oil production or maybe to stop it.” Forbes magazine asked: “Is Libya about to take the lead of its friends in Venezuela and Russia and launch a new round of energy-sector nationalism?” Postulating on the answer, Forbes wrote: “The thought sends a shiver through the collective spines of ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil, Occidental Petroleum, Amerada Hess, and Royal Dutch Shell. All have made massive new investments in Libya.” Libyan papers had all been discussing the possibility of nationalization.
Libya, as Africa’s largest oil producer, even far surpassing the proven reserves of Nigeria, would be an enormous loss to Western interests. In March of 2009, Libya was trying to convince three American oil companies operating in the country “to sign revised contracts giving the North African nation a greater share of its oil production.” Libya had already revised its contracts with Petro-Canada, ENI of Italy, and Repsol of Spain, as well as Occidental Petroleum in the U.S. It was seeking to revise its contracts with ConcocoPhillips, Amerada Hess, and Marathon Oil, all U.S. companies.
In March of 2010, Middle Eastern press reported that, “Libya is an economic force to be reckoned with,” as it challenged both Europe and America, and gave “a warning to US oil firms that their contracts are in danger.” Oil companies were finding it increasingly difficult to do business in Libya. As one oil industry expert reported, many companies are seeking an exit, “That’s partly because Libyan authorities have, over the past year, taken a very hard line on contract negotiations and renegotiations. A lot of companies developing oilfields are finding it incredibly difficult to make money.” Libya also expelled Swiss companies and even detained two Swiss businessmen after police in Geneva arrested one of Gaddafi’s sons. U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley publicly derided Gaddafi, “which in turn provoked a warning from Libya that failure to apologise could hurt US oil companies.” Crowley, in a not-so-subtle display of who the State Department really works for, apologized. As one commentator from an American think tank explained, Libya’s use of oil as political leverage represents a new turn in the country’s leadership: “After decades in isolation, Libya’s oil reserves and a sovereign wealth fund worth around US$60 billion (Dh220bn) have given it unprecedented leverage with western governments.” Italy received roughly a quarter of its energy supplies from Libya, and many other Europeans hoped that Libya’s natural gas fields would free them from dependence upon Russia. One industry analyst explained, “Libya mostly gets its way because people are prepared to pay the price,” and that, “the future of new discoveries really boils down to a small number of companies – such as BP, Shell, ExxonMobil – which have massive exploration programmes going on for the next few years, and which could open new frontiers.” However, “for time being, oil companies are leaving rather than entering.” There was even a diplomatic row in November of 2010 when Libya expelled an American diplomat from the country “for breaching diplomatic rules.”
In October of 2010, U.S. oil companies Chevron and Occidental Petroleum did not extend their 5-year licenses with Libya, and instead left the country. The companies, among the first to rush to Libya following the lifting of international sanctions and formation of bilateral relations with the U.S. in 2004, established 5-year contracts with Libya in 2005. Libya, while home to Africa’s largest proven oil reserves, remained largely ‘under-explored’, and thus, unexploited.
Gaddafi’s Libya had many shady dealings with foreign (primarily British, but also French, Italian, and American) companies and individuals. Prime Minister Tony Blair had especially facilitated the emergence of prominent British industrial and financial interests into Libya, setting up meetings with top executives and Libyan officials, both while in office and after leaving. Blair and a former top MI6 official who joined BP, helped the oil conglomerate establish itself in Libya. Business and social relationships were also established between top British elites and Gaddafi’s family. Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, had a cozy relationship with British Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, and in 2009, both men were guests of Lord Jacob Rothschild’s at his villa in Corfu. Until 2009, Lord Rothschild was an adviser to the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA). Tony Blair, who after leaving office, took up a job at JP Morgan, continued to go to Libya as a representative of the bank, and Gaddafi’s son referred to Tony Blair as “a personal family friend.”
JP Morgan Chase reportedly, as of late January 2011, “handles much of the Libyan Investment Authority’s [LIA’s] cash, and some of the Libyan central bank’s reserves.” According to one Libyan financier, by the summer of 2008, “a great percentage of the L.I.A.’s funds were in the interbank money markets, channelled through the central bank. They have given mandates to some of the international banks to manage this liquidity,” such as JP Morgan Chase.
Within ten days of Britain’s sanctions on Libya having been lifted in 2004, a secret delegation of British officials had rushed to Libya to open the way for British business interests. Among the officials were Lord Foster of Thames Bank; Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, the former Army Chief of Staff; and the financier Lord Rothschild, who brought his son Nathaniel, “and the party was accompanied by four executives from a public relations firm run by Lord Bell.” As reported by the Times, “At stake was access to oil and gas reserves and the opportunity to profit from the country’s $90 billion sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority.” Lord Rothschild became an adviser to the Libyan Investment Authority, until 2009.
As Tony Blair and his secret delegation went to Libya in 2004, their meeting with Gaddafi “led to lucrative Libyan oil contracts for Shell,” and “a month before stepping down as PM, Mr Blair visited-Colonel Gaddafi in Tripoli again at the same time that BP signed a $900million deal with the Libyan National Oil Company.” On behalf of JP Morgan, Blair helped develop banking opportunities in Libya. As the fighting broke out in February of 2011, Gaddafi’s “friends” in the West immediately turned their backs on him. A statement from Tony Blair’s office stated: “Tony Blair does not and has never had any sort of commercial relationship or any sort of advisory role with any member of the Gaddafi family, the government of Libya, the Libyan Investment Authority nor any Libyan companies.”
In early March, Britain (and several other nations, including the United States and Canada) froze Libya’s foreign assets in their countries, which had been managed by the Libyan Investment Authority. Over $3.2 billion in assets were frozen in London, and over $32 billion were frozen in the U.S. As the fighting began, the major Western oil conglomerates closed down their operations and fled.
Clearly, Gaddafi, after establishing significant ties with foreign elites, from JP Morgan, to Rothschild, to Prince Andrew of the British Royals and Tony Blair, made ‘friends’ of himself and his family to the dominant foreign financial and oil interests. When he began using Libya’s newfound oil wealth as a political tool, his “new friends” quickly became “old enemies.” These Western elites had helped Gaddafi gain access to Western markets and invest in their companies, while those companies tried to plunder the resources of Libya, as soon as Gaddafi felt secure enough, he began to use his new oil and financial leverage as a political tool. As this began, the West – and in particular the banking and oil elites – found Gaddafi to be much more of a liability than an asset. Now that Gaddafi is “gone,” the jubilation of Western conglomerates can barely be contained.
This is evident in the fact that as the rebels have gone into Libya, foreign oil conglomerates quickly followed behind. On 24 August 2011, the Independent reported that, “British businesses are scrambling to return to Libya in anticipation of the end to the country’s civil war,” yet, “they are concerned that European and North American rivals are already stealing a march as a new race to turn a profit out of the war-torn nation begins.” Thus, it is a new ‘scramble for Africa’ as the Western nations and corporations rush to plunder the country’s resources and wealth. British business leaders said that, “plans are in hand to send a trade mission to Benghazi to meet leaders of the Transitional National Council (TNC).” Among the stampeding oil conglomerates, there “is also intense lobbying for the multibillion-pound reconstruction contracts that are likely to be offered once fighting ends.”
Even as the rebels had not taken Tripoli, reported the Globe and Mail, “already the leaders of France and Italy, and their national oil champions, were openly courting the top men of the rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC).” As for who will get to reap the rewards of Libya’s newly “liberated” oil, “the NTC has already said it will reward the countries that bombed Col. Gadhafi’s forces.” One rebel official stated, “We don’t have a problem with Western countries like Italians, French and U.K. companies,” however, he added, “we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil.” These were, of course, the countries that did not back the strong sanctions on Gaddafi’s regime.
This is what we call “humanitarian intervention.” A situation in which we go to war against a foreign nation, based upon lies; in which we support – arm, organize, and lead – a militant rebel army; an army which has been committing atrocities, ethnic cleansing, and spreading lies and misinformation; in which we call these rebels ‘pro-democracy’ protesters; in which we call a group with less than 15% of the support of the people a “popular uprising”; in which we bomb innocent civilians to allow these rebels to move forward and occupy new territory; in which our oil companies move in to plunder the wealth of the most oil-rich country in Africa. This – this! – is what we call “humanitarian intervention.”
Our leaders do not care for human life. They care about power and profits. They will tell you anything you want to hear in order to justify their imperial conquests around the world. They will send you – most especially the poor ‘you’ – off to foreign countries in order to kill poor, foreign people. They will do this in order to obtain control over resources and strategic routes. One of America’s most pre-eminent imperial strategists, Zbigniew Brzezinski, wrote in his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard, that America must maintain hegemony over the entire world, but – he wrote – “the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of well-being.” In the same book, Brzezinski, in blunt language explained the purpose and role for America to play in the world:
To put it in a terminology that hearkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.
Brzezinski, incidentally, supported the military intervention in Libya, which he claimed is “something between war and military intervention, to stop something that is going on, but without really trying to conquer the country,” and that, “if we didn’t act it would be worse.”
Who are we really helping? Who are we really hurting? And why?
We must not support this cynical and disastrous conquest of “humanitarian imperialism,” whether it is in Libya, or perhaps – quite soon – in Syria. Wherever we “intervene,” we make everything much worse for that vast majority of the people involved. Where our nations go, they spread chaos, war, death, destruction and genocide. When our nations speak, they speak of hypocritical morality and paradoxical ethics. They speak with twisted tongues and poison words.
We must speak truth back. We must “intervene” in the discourse of the powerful around the world, in order to promote the true interests of humanity: freedom, peace, and solidarity. Only when we seek – and speak – truth, can we ever hope to meet the true ‘humanitarian’ needs of the world’s people.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is co-editor of the book, “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.” His website is http://www.andrewgavinmarshall.com
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 Ibid, page 412.
 Ibid, page 411.
 Rahul Mahajan, ‘We Think the Price Is Worth It’, FAIR, November/December 2001:
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 Ibid, page 40.
 Hiram Reisner, Brzezinski: Libya Action Isn’t War, But Necessary Intervention, NewsMax, 24 March 2011:
Andrew Gavin Marshall from the Centre for Research on Globalization says that a ground invasion is quite likely, and that the process is already underway.
“There have been certain Western ground forces in Libya since before the NATO bombardment,” he said. “In early March the CIA, MI6 from Britain, special forces from both the UK and US were on the ground. And in April, France, Italy and the US agreed to send military advisers into Libya. And this drew a lot of parallels to Vietnam. First military advisers were sent, later the troops followed.”
He added that according to some reports, “a full-scale ground invasion [by the West] is being discussed. It may even be launched within the next few weeks. Other military sources in the US said they are preparing for the ground.