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Why Paris Reveals the Horror – and the Hypocrisies – of Global Terrorism

Why Paris Reveals the Horror – and the Hypocrisies – of Global Terrorism

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

23 November 2015

Originally posted at Occupy.com on 17 November 2015

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The world was shocked and horrified at the terror inflicted upon Paris on the night of Friday the 13th, 2015, when ISIS-affiliated militants killed well over 100 civilians in one of the world’s most iconic cities. An outpouring of grief, solidarity, support and condolences came in from across the world. The tragedy, and tyranny, of such terror cannot be underestimated, but it should also be placed in its global context: namely, that the chief cause of terrorism is, in fact, terrorism, and that the chief victims are the innocent, wherever they may be.

While ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, following attacks the group undertook in previous days in both Beirut and Baghdad, it is worth remembering and reflecting on what led to the development of ISIS itself. The so-called Islamic State had its origins in the Iraq War, launched by the United States and closely supported by the United Kingdom in March of 2003. After overthrowing Saddam Hussein, a dictator once favored by the U.S., the occupying powers struggled to deal with a growing Sunni insurgency against their military occupation. In response, the U.S. helped create death squads in Iraq that further fueled a sectarian conflict between Shi’a and Sunni communities, which likewise fueled a growing regional rivalry between Shi’a Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

The resulting civil war in Iraq killed hundreds of thousands, and the U.S. aligned itself even more tightly with Saudi Arabia, a country the West considers to be “moderate” in comparison to both Iran and Syria, yet it was the primary financier of al-Qaeda. The broader aim, in Iraq and across the Middle East, was to support the regional hegemony of the West’s allies – Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab dictatorships – against their chief rivals, Iran and Syria. If it meant supporting the countries that supported al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, so be it.

After all, it has never been much of a secret that the Saudis and their Gulf neighbors were the major financial backers of global terrorists; even then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted as much in a memo leaked by Wikileaks. Nor was it a secret that Saudi Arabia was responsible for more destabilization and terrorism inside Iraq than Iran, which nonetheless received most of the blame.

The Saudis and the Gulf dictatorships are U.S. and Western allies, with immense oil riches that have made them some of the largest investors and shareholders in Western banks and corporations. Iran and Syria, on the other hand, are not.

Al-Qaeda did not exist inside Iraq until after the U.S. invasion and occupation. Over the years, since the war and occupation began, the group has undergone a number of name changes and transitions. One such evolution of the group is the al-Nusra front. And another is now known as the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Origins of the Current Terror

When the Arab uprisings began against Western-supported dictators back in late 2010 and early 2011, the U.S. and its key Middle East allies faced an unprecedented crisis. The longtime French and U.S.-supported dictator of Tunisia, Ben Ali, fled his country in January of 2011. The following month, it was Egypt’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak, a “family friend” of Hillary Clinton’s, who had to leave.

The Saudis and other Arab dictators were furious that the U.S. could toss one of its major regional clients aside, fearful that if Mubarak could be removed, any of them could be next. Thus, Saudi Arabia and other Arab dictators led a counter-revolution against the Arab Spring, pouring in money to support dictators they considered friendly (such as in Jordan), sending in troops to violently crush uprisings (such as in Bahrain), and arming rebel groups and terrorists against long-time foes in an effort to take advantage of the uprisings and undermine their rivals (such as in Libya).

In Libya, NATO led a war against long-time dictator Colonel Gaddafi in cooperation with many extremist rebel groups, including al-Qaeda. France and Britain were the main proponents of the war against Libya, which is hardly surprising given that both countries have hundreds of years of experience invading, occupying, colonizing and waging war against peoples of the Middle East and Africa. The war in Libya was of course a monumental disaster. While it removed a dictator long despised by both the Western powers and the Gulf Arab dictators, its ultimate effect was to plunge the country into civil war and chaos, terrorism and collapse.

Meanwhile, the weapons looted in Libya during the war began making their way into neighboring Mali and the more-distant Syria. As the arms crossed borders, so too did terror and warfare, and the French weren’t far behind. In early 2013, France launched airstrikes in Mali, leading to a ground invasion that ended in 2014. Around the same time, France also military intervened in the Central Africa Republic.

In 2013, Western powers including France, the UK and U.S. began increasing their participation in the Syrian civil war, which was already a full-blown regional proxy war pitting Syria’s government, led by Bashar al-Assad allied with Iraq and Iran, against Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Turkey. The Gulf dictatorships armed and funded religious extremist sects to fight against the Syrian government, and were aided in this process by Western countries.

The U.S., France and Britain provided training and support to so-called “moderate” rebels inside Jordan to fight against the Syrian government. The CIA has been involved in arming and training Syrian rebels at least since 2012, in close cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The official line stressed that the CIA’s efforts aimed to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of extremist groups like al-Qaeda – yet virtually all of the rebel groups it was aiding inside Syria were hardline religious extremists.

Even as reports emerged that secular and moderate rebel groups had all but collapsed, the CIA continued to funnel more sophisticated weapons (in cooperation with Saudi allies) to these mythical “trustworthy” rebel groups. France was not far behind in delivering arms to Syrian rebel groups.

Around the same time, an internal CIA study noted that in its decades of experience arming insurgencies against regimes that the U.S. opposed, the agency’s efforts had largely failed. The main “exception” to the litany of failures, ironically, was when the CIA armed and trained the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. That “success,” as we now know, led directly to the creation of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

A Plan Backfires

With all the support given to Syrian rebel groups in the form of training and arms, those same groups quickly became enemies of the West that had armed and trained them. This includes ISIS, whose rise was fueled by U.S. involvement in both Syria and Iraq, and who is funded and supported by key U.S. allies in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

In fact, a report prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012 predicted the rise of ISIS, noting that such al-Qaeda-affiliated groups were the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” and added that they were being supported in their efforts to take over large parts of Syria and Iraq by “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey.” Further, the document noted, this was “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.” A former Pentagon official who ran the DIA even suggested that the U.S. not only didn’t “turn a blind eye” to its support of such groups, but that “it was a willful decision.”

Here is the takeaway: the Syrian civil war, combined with the effects of the Iraq war, Libyan war and other conflicts in the region that were fueled by Western powers and their regional allies, has resulted in the massive refugee crisis Europe faces today, as millions of civilians flee the conflicts plaguing their nations while Western powers continue to pour weapons and money into them. Conflict and terror has bred further conflict and terror.

Yet when terrorism hits inside Western nations, like it did Friday in Paris, the reaction by Western governments is fairly, and tragically, typical. The Paris attacks occurred less than two months after France began launching air strikes against ISIS inside Syria, and have already prompted calls for a more aggressive strategy against ISIS in the future. So what can we expect as a result? Simply, more terror.

In short, if the objective is to oppose or prevent terrorism, the most logical strategy is not to dismantle civil liberties at home and send militaries and weapons abroad, but to stop participating in terrorism itself. This does not take away from the tragedy of the lives lost in Paris on Nov. 13, but the hypocrisy in how we acknowledge and address terrorism only enhances the tragedy. French President Francois Hollande called the attacks that killed 129 people an “act of war,” which it was. But in turn, he declared that “France will be merciless” in its response, and this is something we have yet to see.

If 200,000 dead Syrians, millions of refugees, and regional warfare spreading from state to state is considered “merciful” participation by Western nations in Middle East conflicts, the terror that might now be unleashed abroad – and the new terror that will, inevitably, once again wash ashore as a result – is indeed something to fear. To end terror, perhaps Western states should consider stopping its own participation in terror. In the very least, it would be a first step in the right direction.

 

In the Arms of Dictators: America the Great… Global Arms Dealer

In the Arms of Dictators: America the Great… Global Arms Dealer

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Photograph: Mido Ahmed/AFP/Getty Images

Photograph: Mido Ahmed/AFP/Getty Images

The following is a first draft sample from a chapter currently being written for The People’s Book Project. Read more about The People’s Book Project here, and please consider donating to help the Project continue.

The American imperial system incorporates much more than supporting the occasional coup or undertaking the occasional war. Coups, wars, assassinations and other forms of overt and covert violence and destabilization, while relatively common and consistent for the United States – compared to other major powers – are secondary to the general maintenance of a system of imperial patronage. A “stable” system is what is desired most by strategic planners and policy-makers, but this has a technical definition. Stability means that the populations of subject nations and regions are under “control” – whether crushed by force or made passive by consent, while Western corporate and financial interests have and maintain unhindered access to the “markets” and resources of those nations and regions. Since the 19th century development of America’s overseas empire, this has been referred to as the “Open Door” policy: as in, the door opens for American and other Western economic interests to have access to and undertake exploitation of resources and labour.

As the only global imperial power, and by far the world’s largest military power, America does not merely rely upon the “goodwill” of smaller nations or the threat of force against them in order to maintain its dominance, it has established, over time, a large and complex network of imperial patronage: supplying economic aid, military aid (to allow its favoured regimes to control their own populations or engage in proxy-warfare), military and police training, among many other programs. These programs are largely coordinated by and between the Defense Department, State Department, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Arms sales are a major method through which the United States – and other powerful nations – are able to exert their hegemony, by arming and strengthening their key allies, directly or indirectly fueling civil wars and conflicts, and funneling money into the world’s major weapons manufacturers. The global economic crisis had “significantly pushed down purchases of weapons” over 2009 to the lowest level since 2005. In 2009, worldwide arms deals amounted to $57.5 billion, dropping 8.5% from the previous year. The United States maintained its esteemed role as the main arms dealer in the world, accounting for $22.6 billion – or 39% of the global market. In 2008, the U.S. contribution to global arms sales was significantly higher, at $38.1 billion, up from $25.7 billion in 2007. In 2009, the second-largest arms dealer in the world was Russia at $10.4 billion, then France at $7.4 billion, followed by Germany, Italy, China and Britain.[1]

There are two official ways in which arms are sold to foreign nations: either through Foreign Military Sales (FMS), in which the Pentagon negotiates an agreement between the U.S. government and a foreign government for the sale and purchase of arms, and through Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), in which arms manufacturers (multinational corporations) negotiate directly with foreign governments for the sale and purchase of arms, having to apply for a license from the State Department.

Between 2005 and 2009, U.S. arms sales totaled roughly $101 billion, with direct commercial sales (DCS) accounting for more than half of the total value, at $59.86 billion, and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) accounting for $40.85 billion. The top seven recipients of U.S. arms sales between 2005 and 2009 were: Japan at $13.14 billion, the United Kingdom at $8.32 billion, Israel at $8 billion, South Korea at $6.53 billion, Australia at $4.17 billion, Egypt at $4.07 billion, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at $3.98 billion.[2]

The United States experienced a slight decline in global arms sales over 2009, though it maintained its position as the world’s number one arms dealer, holding 30% of the global market. However, the Obama administration in 2010 decided to change certain “export control regulations” in order to make arms deals easier and increase the U.S. share of the global market. The stated reason for the legal change was “to simplify the sale of weapons to U.S. allies,” though it had the added benefit of “generating business for the U.S. defense industry.” The U.S. National Security Advisor at the time, General James Jones, claimed that without the changes, the existing system of arms sales “poses a potential national security risk based on the fact that its structure is overly complicated.”[3]

In early 2010, the Obama administration began pressuring Saudi Arabia and other Gulf dictatorships (aka: “allies”) to increase their purchases of U.S. arms, upgrade their defense of oil installations and threaten Iran with overwhelming military superiority. In the lead were Saudi Arabia and the UAE in undertaking a regional “military buildup” – or arms race – resulting in more than $25 billion in U.S. arms sales to the region over the previous two years. A senior U.S. official in the Obama administration commented: “We’re developing a truly regional defensive capability, with missile systems, air defense and a hardening up of critical infrastructure… All of these have progressed significantly over the past year.” Another senior official stated, “It’s a tough neighborhood, and we have to make sure we are protected,” adding that Iran was the “number one threat in the region.”[4]

Of course, Iran is actually a nation that exists within the region, and thus has the right to defend itself, whereas the United States cannot “defend” itself in a region in which it does not exist. But then, geographical trivialities have never been a concern to imperialists who believe that the world belongs to them and it was a mere accident of history that all the resources exist outside of the empire’s home country. Therefore, with such a rationalization, the United States – and the West more broadly – have a “right” to “defend” themselves (and their economic and political interests) everywhere in the world, and against everyone in the world. Any other nation which poses a challenge to Western domination of the world and its resources is thus a “threat” to whichever region it belongs, as well as to U.S. “national security.”

Iran is of course not the only competition for the United States and the West in its unhindered access to and control of the world, but China is another and arguably much more significant threat (though not an officially sanctioned U.S. enemy, as of yet). Around the same time the U.S. was pushing for increased arms sales to the Persian Gulf dictatorships (no doubt, to advance the causes of “democracy” and “peace”), the Obama administration secured an arms deal with Taiwan worth over $6 billion, incurring the frustration of China. The deal included the sale of 114 Patriot missiles, 60 Black Hawk helicopters, and communications equipment for Taiwan’s fleet of F-16s, with the possibility of future sales of F-16 fighter jets.[5]

The Chinese vice foreign minister expressed “indignation” to the U.S. State Department in response to the arms deal, adding: “We believe this move endangers China’s national security and harms China’s peaceful reunification efforts [with Taiwan]… It will harm China-U.S. relations and bring about a serious and active impact on bilateral communication and cooperation.” In response, the U.S. National Security Advisor General James Jones stated that the announcement shouldn’t “come as a surprise to our Chinese friends.”[6]

In September of 2010, the Obama administration announced the intention to undertake the largest arms deal in U.S. history, the sale of advanced aircraft to Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion for fighter jets and helicopters (84 F-15s, 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks, and 36 Little Birds), as well as engaging “in talks with the [Saudi] kingdom about potential naval and missile-defense upgrades that could be worth tens of billions of dollars more,” according to the Wall Street Journal, with “a potential $30 billion package to upgrade Saudi Arabia’s naval forces.” The stated objective was to counter the role of Iran in the region, though no agreement had been initially reached. The U.S. was selling the idea to Congress as a means of creating “jobs,” a political euphemism for corporate profits. One official involved in the talks noted, “It’s a big economic sale for the U.S. and the argument is that it is better to create jobs here than in Europe.”[7]

The arms deal would purchase equipment and technology from Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, and United Technologies. In recent years, Saudi Arabia had been purchasing more European and Russian-made arms from companies like BAE Systems. U.S. officials were also attempting to ease the fears of Israel while massively building up the arsenal of a close neighbor, ensuring that the planes sold to the Kingdom wouldn’t have long-range weapons systems and further, that the Israelis would purchase the more advanced F-35 jet fighters. The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, commented, “We appreciate the administration’s efforts to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.” The potential $60 billion arms deal with the Saudis would be stretched out over several years, though there was talk that the Saudis might only guarantee a purchase of at least $30 billion, at least, initially.[8]

The Financial Times reported that the Arab dictatorships in the Gulf “have embarked on one of the largest re-armament exercises in peacetime history, ordering US weapons worth some $123 billion as they seek to counter Iran’s military power.” Saudi Arabia’s $60 billion was the largest, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signing arms deals worth between $35 and $40 billion in purchases of a “high altitude missile defence system” known as THAAD, developed by Lockheed Martin, as well as purchasing upgrades of its Patriot missile defense systems, produced by Raytheon. Oman was expected to purchase $12 billion and Kuwait $7 billion in arms and military technology. The CEO of Blenheim Capital Partners, a consultancy firm which helps arrange arms deals, noted that Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries were replacing Western European nations as the largest arms purchasers, adding: “They are the big buyers.”[9]

Anthony Cordesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that the United States was seeking to create a “new post-Iraq war security structure that can secure the flow of energy exports to the global economy.” These massive arms sales would then “reinforce the level of regional deterrence” – or in other words, expand American hegemony over the region through local proxy powers and dictatorships – and thus, “help reduce the size of forces the US must deploy in the region.” As a Saudi defense analyst noted, “[t]he Saudi aim is to send a message especially to the Iranians – that we have complete aerial superiority over them.”[10]

According to three of four members of an ‘Expert Roundup’ published by the Council on Foreign Relations, the $123 billion arms deals with the Arab dictatorships are “a good idea for the United States and the Middle East.” One of the “experts” is Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, former director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as having served in several other State Department and NATO staffs, and has been a regular consultant to the Afghan and Iraqi occupation commands, U.S. embassies, and was a member of the Strategic Assessment Group which advised General Stanley McChrystal in developing a new strategy in Afghanistan for 2009. He also regularly consults with the U.S. State and Defense Departments and the intelligence community. Cordesman wrote that the US “shares critical strategic interests with Saudi Arabia,” notably the control of oil for “the health” of the global economy.[11]

Cordesman also emphasized the role of pliant dictatorships in carrying out U.S imperial objectives in the region, writing that the U.S. “needs allies that have interoperable forces that can both fight effectively alongside the United States and ease the U.S. burden by defending themselves,” meaning, to defend America’s interests, which then become the interests of America’s proxies – or “allies.” The arms sales would be a helpful counter to Iran in the region, and secure a strong relationship between “the current Saudi government as well as Saudi governments for the next fifteen to twenty years,” the suggested timeline for delivery of all purchases, providing Saudi Arabia with a “strong incentive to work with the United States” over the long-term.[12]

Loren B. Thompson, the Chief Operating Officer of the Lexington Institute, also participated in the Council on Foreign Relations ‘Roundup’ report, writing that the arms deal “appears to be a careful reconciliation of Saudi requirements with Israeli fears, while also offering a strategic balance against Iran.” Whatever the differences between Saudi Arabia and the United States, he wrote, casting aside the fact that the Kingdom is one of the most brutal and dictatorial regimes in the world, “the Saudis have been reliable allies of America for decades and have exercised a moderating influence on the behavior of other oil-producing states.” Helping the Saudis, Thompson wrote, “means helping ourselves.”[13]

F. Gregory Gause III, Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Vermont wrote that the arms deal “will not buy much security in the long run in the Persian Gulf,” but, he added, “there are no good reasons not to sell the Saudis those weapons, and there are some potentially positive results (besides the economic benefits to the US),” such as opposing the “Iranian regional challenge,” with which he included Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Occupied Territories of Palestine, “various Iraqi parties,” Syria, and “Shia activists in the Gulf monarchies.” One could not object to the arms sale on the basis of supporting a regime with a horrible record on democracy, women’s rights, Islam, and human rights, Gause wrote, adding: “Moral purity would be purchased at the price of reduced American regional influence.” In other words, it’s a terrible regime, but it’s America’s terrible regime, and thus, challenging or changing the nature of the regime could undermine and erode America’s influence through the dictatorship and over the region.[14]

William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, was another “expert” in the Council on Foreign Relations ‘Roundup’ report, providing the one “cautionary note” on the arms deal on the basis that it could amount to fueling an arms race in the region, building up the forces of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchs, and Israel, thus providing pressure on Iran “to ratchet up its own military capabilities.” The Saudi deal “consists primary of offensive weapons,” though it is stated to be for defensive purposes, and if Saudi Arabia were to undertake aggressive military actions in the region, such as in Yemen (as it has), it would more likely “inflame passions” against Saudi Arabia instead of solving security problems.[15]

The United States has for years dominated the arms market of the Persian Gulf, supplying military equipment to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain, all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional governance association. A Middle East “defense analyst” with Forecast International, stated: “The U.S. arms sales to these countries are meant to improve the defense capabilities of the recipient nations, reinforce the sense of U.S. solidarity with its GCC partners and, finally, create a semblance of interoperability with American forces.” After the United States, the largest arms dealers to the region are France, Russia, Britain and China. Russian and Chinese arms mostly went to Iran, while Israel received $2.78 billion in U.S. military aid in 2010.[16]

In October of 2010, the United States assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, Andrew Shapiro, formally announced the intended Saudi arms deal for the U.S. Congress to approve for a program to last from 15 to 20 years. Shapiro stated that, “This is not solely about Iran… It’s about helping the Saudis with their legitimate security needs… they live in a dangerous neighbourhood and we are helping them preserve and protect their security.”[17]

For an average of $13 billion per year in arms sales between 1995 and 2005, the Department of Defense announced in 2010 that it intended to sell up to $103 billion, though presumably achieving a lower number, such as $50 billion, over the course of the year. A defense industry consultant, Loren Thompson, stated that, “Obama is much more favorably disposed to arms exports than any of the previous Democratic administrations.” Jeff Abramson of the Arms Control Association stated that there was “an Obama arms bazaar going on.” While the discussion about the massive arms sales in most of the press and political discourse was focused upon supporting 200,000 workers in the ‘defense’ industry, industry consultant Thompson was less ambiguous: “It’s about U.S. allies, it’s about maintaining jobs, and it’s about America’s broader role in the world – and what you have to do to maintain that role;” the role being – of course – that of the global imperial hegemon.[18]

Military contractors spread their factories and workforce out across several U.S. states in order to use their leverage as “major employers” with the U.S. Congress and other political powers. Boeing has facilities in over 20 U.S. states, and the corporation’s head of business development for military aircraft, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, was previously responsible for overseeing arms exports for the Pentagon. The entire industry of military contractors is entirely dependent upon massive state subsidies to survive, doing 80-90% of their business with the Pentagon. And, as CNN Money reported, “business recently has been good,” with the U.S. more than doubling its military spending since 2001 to roughly $700 billion, nearly as much as the rest of the entire world spends combined.[19]

Congress agreed in December of 2010 to spend $725 billion on ‘defense’ for 2011. Military contractors were largely seeking “growth” – a euphemism for exploitation and profit – by turning to foreign arms sales. The military contractor EADS sought to establish a headquarters in Asia, Honeywell created a new “international sales” division, and Lockheed Martin was planning to increase its revenue share acquired outside the United States from 14 to 20% by 2012, Boeing aimed to increase international sales from 17-25%, and Raytheon had the largest percentage of revenue from overseas at 23%. But sadly, for the arms dealers, it’s not so easy to sell weapons to foreign governments, since each deal requires a license from the U.S. State Department, a pesky barrier to “growth.” The countries with the “biggest appetite for U.S weapons” are “oil-rich nations in the Middle East,” with roughly 50% of foreign military sales by U.S. contractors between 2006 and 2009 being sold to countries in the region, with Boeing reaping the most overall profits. Mark Kronenberg, the head of Boeing’s international business development, noted: “The last time we had a period like this in the Middle East was the early ‘90s,” during the lead up to and aftermath of the first Gulf War, adding, “Here we are, 20 years later, and they’re recapitalizing.”[20]

A report prepared by the U.S. Congressional Research Service and published in December of 2011 detailed Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreements between the United States and other nations for the period of 2003 to 2010. Between 2003 and 2006, the top ten largest recipients of U.S. arms through FMS (and excluding Direct Commercial Sales and Foreign Military Aid programs) were: Egypt ($4.5 billion), Saudi Arabia ($4.2 billion), Poland ($4.1 billion), followed by Australia, Japan, Greece, South Korea, Kuwait, Turkey, and Israel. For the years 2007 to 2010, the top ten recipients were: Saudi Arabia ($13.8 billion), UAE ($10.4 billion), Egypt ($7.8 billion), followed by Taiwan, Australia, Iraq, Pakistan, UK, Turkey, and South Korea. In 2010, the top ten purchases of U.S. arms were: Taiwan ($2.7 billion), Egypt ($1.8 billion), Saudi Arabia ($1.5 billion), followed by Australia, UK, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, South Korea, and Singapore.[21]

In April of 2011, Leslie H. Gelb, the President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that in light of “the possible consequences of the new popular awakenings” across the Middle East, and the fact that as dictatorships increasingly “crack down even harder against the protesters… enabled by Western arms,” Americans “don’t like thinking of themselves or having others think of them as merchants of death.” The “nightmares” of Western policy-makers “comes from their hopes for Arab democracy” – that is, the emergence of “stable democracies over time” – and “their fears that fledgling Arab democracies will go awry.”[22] So naturally, arms deals are a good means to secure U.S. interests in the region.

In May of 2011, Andrew Shapiro, the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, spoke to the U.S. Department of State’s Defense Trade Advisory Group, at which he said the “demand” for U.S. arms and military technology “will remain strong because the U.S. has longstanding defense commitments to allies around the world,” and “we will remain very busy no matter the fluctuations of the global market.” The “dynamic nature of the geopolitical landscape” would require the U.S. “to adapt to changing situations.” Shapiro stated that, “we are witnessing another geopolitical shift, which may have broad implications for U.S. foreign policy,” referencing the popular uprisings across the Middle East as “perhaps the most significant geopolitical development since the end of the Cold War.” In his speech, Shapiro praised his audience at the Defense Trade Advisory Group (DTAG) as “valuable” in “giving us a formal channel to the private sector,” enabling the State Department “to better evaluate U.S. laws and regulations, especially during times of immense change.”[23]

The members of the DTAG included top executives and officials from such companies as BAE Systems, ITT Defense, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, EADS North America, Intel, General Electric, General Dynamics, United Technologies, Tyco, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell International, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, among a total of 45 individuals.[24] According to its website, the DTAG advises the State Department Bureau of Political-Military Affairs “on its support for and regulation of defense trade to help ensure that impediments to legitimate exports are reduced while the foreign policy and national security interests of the U.S. continue to be protected and advanced.”

Shapiro told these corporate representatives that, “It is important to emphasize that arms transfers are a tool to advance U.S. foreign policy. And therefore when U.S. foreign policy interests, goals, and objectives shift, evolve, and transform over time, so will our arms transfer policy.” As always, stated Shapiro, “we urge you to provide your thoughts and ideas over how we should move forward.” Foreign military sales – especially to the Middle East – will continue as “a critical foreign policy instrument” allowing the U.S. to “gain influence and leverage, which can be used to help advance our foreign policy goals and objectives.”[25]

As an example, the United States approved $200 million in military sales from U.S. corporations to the government of Bahrain in 2010, just months before pro-democracy protests erupted in the country, resulting in “a harsh crackdown on protesters,” killing at least 30 and injuring hundreds of more people in a matter of months.[26]

In December of 2011, Andrew Shapiro announced the formal signing with Saudi Arabia to sell the dictatorship $30 billion in F-15 fighter jets to be delivered by 2015, as well as other plans to sell $11 billion in arms to Iraq. The Saudi deal was the result of extensive lobbying efforts by top government officials, including Obama making several phone calls to Saudi King Abdullah, and the U.S. National Security Advisor, Thomas E. Donilon, twice traveling to Riyadh while Vice President Joe Biden led a “high-level delegation” to a funeral for a Saudi Prince in October of 2011.[27]

Embracing the World with Open “Arms”

In 2009, worldwide arms sales stood at $65.2 billion, dropping by 38% to $40.4 billion in 2010, the lowest number since 2003, with the United States contributing $21.4 billion – or 52.7% – of the global arms deals, Russia in second place at $7.8 billion over 2010, followed by France, Britain, China, Germany and Italy, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Over 75% of global arms sales in 2010 were for ‘developing’ countries, with India in top place at $5.8 billion in arms deals, followed by Taiwan at $2.7 billion, Saudi Arabia at $2.2 billion, Egypt, Israel, Algeria, Syria, South Korea, Singapore and Jordan.[28]

This relative decline in global arms sales over 2010 was not to be repeated for 2011, with the number skyrocketing to $85.3 billion, with the U.S. contribution tripling to $66.3 billion, accounting for more than three-quarters of global arms deals.[29] Russia stood in a distant second place with $4.8 billion in arms sales.[30] While the United States controls roughly 75% of the global arms trade, it would be wrong to ignore the role of the other major players, though they are far from even competing with the U.S.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that the rise in arms sales had increased by 60% in real terms since 2002, with the total sales of the top 100 arms companies reaching $411.1 billion in 2010. The arms industry is “increasingly concentrated” to the point where the top ten firms account for 56% of all sales, with Lockheed Martin at the top with sales of $35.7 billion in 2010, followed by Britain’s BAE Systems at $32.8 billion, Boeing at $31.3 billion, and Northrop Grumman at $28.5 billion.[31] Other major companies on the top 100 list of arms manufacturers include: General Dynamics, Raytheon, EADS, L-3 Communications, United Technologies, Thales, SAIC, Honeywell, Rolls-Royce, General Electric, KBR, Hewlett-Packard, and DynCorp.[32]

Following the beginning of the Arab Spring and the toppling of the Western-backed dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, British Prime Minister David Cameron continued with a pre-planned tour of the Middle East in February of 2011, leading what the British Green Party leader called a “delegation of arms traders,” with almost 75% of the businessmen accompanying the Prime Minister on his trip to the region representing the defense and aerospace industries.[33] As the first Western leader to visit Egypt following the fall of Mubarak, Cameron praised the pro-democracy movement: “Meeting the young people and the representatives of the groups in Tahrir Square [in Cairo] was genuinely inspiring,” adding: “These are people who have risked a huge amount for what they believe in.” Immediately after praising Egypt’s revolution and expressing his own ‘beliefs’ in democracy, Cameron flew to Kuwait with his arms dealer delegation to sell weapons to other Arab dictatorships. When criticized for the excessive hypocrisy of his democracy-praising and dictatorship arms-dealing tour of the Middle East, Cameron simply asserted that Britain had “nothing to be ashamed of,” as there was nothing wrong with such transactions.[34]

As dictators across the region were becoming increasingly belligerent toward protesters, seeking to violently crush resistance after the successful examples of Tunisians and Egyptians toppling their long-standing dictators, increasing arms shipments to the region’s despots seemed to be only natural for Western imperial powers seeking stability and control. Kevan Jones, the British Shadow Defence Minister noted: “The defence industry is crucially important to Britain but many people will be surprised that the prime minister in this week of all weeks may be considering bolstering arms sales to the Middle East.” Accompanying David Cameron on his trip were 36 corporate representatives, including Ian King, the CEO of BAE Systems, as well as Victor Chavez of Thales UK, Alastair Bisset of Qinetiq, and Rob Watson of Rolls Royce. When questioned about his ‘arms dealer delegation,’ Cameron stated: “I have got a range of business people on the aeroplane, people involved in infrastructure and people involved in the arts and cultural exchanges. Yes, we have defence manufacturers as well. Britain does have a range of defence relationships with countries in the region. I seem to remember that we spent a lot of effort and indeed life in helping to defend Kuwait. So it is quite right to have defence relationships with some of these countries.”[35]

As Cameron was hopping around the region selling weapons, the largest arms fair in the Middle East – the Index 2011 – was taking place in Abu Dhabi, bringing thousands of arms dealers to an exhibition hall with fighter jets flying overhead, tanks in the sand, with Predator drones and assault rifles on display, models fully dressed in the latest riot police outfits, and all choreographed to a hip-hop soundtrack. Meanwhile, not very far from the booming arms fair, protesters in Bahrain were being violently repressed by a dictatorship armed and supported by the West. The British delegation to the arms fair was led by the Defence Minister, Gerald Howarth, helping represent British companies which were displaying and selling their latest tools for ‘crowd control,’ showcasing teargas grenades, stun grenades, and rubber bullets.[36]

A British officer from the government’s Trade and Industry stand at the arms fair was explaining the benefits of a particular fragmentation bomb to a top military official from the Algerian dictatorship. Howarth explained, “I am here as the minister for national security strategy, supporting this important exhibition.” While in 2011 the British had to revoke export licenses to Bahrain and Libya following the violence erupting in both countries, over the previous year the British issued 20 licenses for exports of “riot control weapons,” such as teargas, smoke and stun grenades, to Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, as well as nearly 200 million pounds in “crowd control ammunition” to the government of Libya.[37]

Weapons manufacturers stated that they felt the increased criticism inflicted upon their industry following the start of the Arab Spring had left them “battered and bruised.” One arms trader, commenting less than two weeks after Mubarak was toppled, stated that, “[t]he Middle East was a growing market until a few weeks ago,” while a representative from BAE agreed that the market for arms was insecure: “It is too early to say where it will end up… Given what is going on at the moment, nobody is likely to be talking about how to spend their defence procurement budget.” When a representative for the British arms exporter Chemring was questioned about selling CS gas shotgun cartridges and stun grenades, he explained, “we have an ethical policy in place and look closely at the countries we are considering exporting to and see if they fit that.” A representative for Primetake, a British firm selling rubber ball shot, teargas, and rubber baton rounds, defended his firm: “We are a very respectable organization and we take very careful advice from the Ministry of Defense and the business department.”[38]

Between October of 2009 and October of 2010, the British exported arms and military equipment to multiple countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including over 270 million pounds in materials to Algeria, including combat helicopters, roughly 6.4 million pounds in arms deals with Bahrain, nearly 17 million pounds with Egypt, 477 million pounds with Iraq, 27 million pounds with Israel, 21 million pounds with Jordan, 14.5 million pounds with Kuwait, 6.2 million pounds with Lebanon, 215 million pounds with Libya, 2.2 million pounds with Morocco, 14 million pounds with Oman, 13 million pounds with Qatar, 140 million pounds with Saudi Arabia, 2.6 million pounds with Syria, 4.5 million pounds to Tunisia, and 210 million pounds to the UAE. These sales included assault rifles, tear gas, ammunition, bombs, missiles, body armour, gun parts, gas mask filters, signaling and radar equipment, armoured vehicles, anti-riot shields, patrol boats, military software, shotguns, “crowd-control equipment,” tank parts, military cargo vehicles, air surveillance equipment, armoured personnel carriers, small arms ammunition, heavy machine guns, and a plethora of other products, almost exclusively delivered to dictatorships (with the exception of Israel).[39]

Germany, which stood as the world’s third-largest arms exporter in previous years (after the US and Russia), had doubled its share of the global arms trade over the previous decade to 11%, totaling roughly 6 billion euros in arms deals for 2008 alone, with companies like EADS, Rheinmetall and Heckler & Koch leading the way. Even Russia was becoming a big customer for German military equipment, purchasing armoured plating and tanks.[40]

In 2009, the European Union had established new export rules for arms and military technology, much-praised as preventing the export of arms that “might be used for undesirable purposes such as internal repression or international aggression or contribut[ing] to regional instability.” With the EU rules in place, member countries were free to completely disregard them. A European Commission study leaked to Der Spiegel in 2012 revealed that combined exports from EU nations made the European Union “the world’s largest exporter of weapons” to Saudi Arabia, delivering at least $4.34 billion in equipment in 2010 alone. Sweden helped the Saudi dictatorship build a missile factory, Finland delivered grenade launchers, Germany sold tanks and Britain provided fighter jets. The arms exporters were unfazed by the fact that equipment such as the tanks were used by Saudi Arabia in its “invitation” to invade Bahrain and help the Bahraini dictatorship crush the pro-democracy movement in early 2011. An official with the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society noted that the Swedish support for building a missile factory in Saudi Arabia has meant that, “we are legitimizing one of the most brutal regimes in the world.” Pakistan had meanwhile become China’s biggest customer for arms exports, while India purchased 10% of the world’s arms exports in 2010 “to defend itself against neighbor and arch enemy Pakistan.”[41]

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at the Munich Security Conference in 2011, she mentioned the “obligation to pursue value-based foreign policy,” and has often argued that “no compromises” can be made on issues of human rights. As part of Merkel’s respect for “human rights” and “value-based foreign policy,” weapons sales have increased as a significant factor in Germany’s foreign policy strategy, quietly changing the rules for arms exports to increase weapons sales to “crisis regions” as “a major pillar of the country’s security policy.” The objective would be to strengthen countries within “crisis regions” and therefore reduce the possibility that the German military would itself have to participate in “international missions.”[42]

The German publication Der Spiegel referred to this as the “Merkel doctrine” of “tanks instead of soldiers.” Among the key countries to support, identified by Merkel and eight other ministers who met behind closed doors under the aegis of the Federal Security Council, were Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Qatar, India, and Angola. Merkel explained her doctrine in a speech at an event in Berlin in September of 2011 where she stated that if the West lacks the will and ability to undertake direct military intervention, “then it’s generally not enough to send other countries and organizations words of encouragement. We must also provide the necessary means to those nations that are prepared to get involved. I’ll say it clearly: This includes arms exports.” This, of course, Merkel added, would nicely manifest as a foreign policy “that is aligned with respect for human rights.”[43]

As part of the “Merkel doctrine” of engaging in a “value-based foreign policy” with “respect for human rights,” Germany increased its arms sales to the Algerian dictatorship from 20 million euros in 2010 to nearly 400 million euros in 2012, with German military manufacturer Rheinmetall planning to produce 1,200 armored personnel carriers for Algeria over the next ten years.[44] According to published European Union documents, over 2011, the top five arms exporting countries in the EU were France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, and Spain, collectively exporting over 80% of 37.5 billion euros in arms from EU countries. The European Union, winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, increased its arms exports by 18.3% since the previous year, with an increase in export licenses to Asia, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa. There were arms licenses issued to Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and over 300-million euros-worth of arms for Egypt. The EU increased its arms exports to “areas of tension,” including India, Pakistan, and a record 465 million euros in arms to Afghanistan, “a country still under partial arms embargo.”[45] However, ‘partial’ is apparently debatable.

With the United States reaching a record-breaking $60 billion in arms deals over 2011, Andrew Shapiro at the State Department stated that 2012 was set to be an equally – if not larger – bonanza for arms dealers. Revealing the role of diplomats and top government officials as glorified lobbyists and corporate representatives, Shapiro told a group of defense writers in the Summer of 2012: “We’ve really upped our game in terms of advocating on behalf of U.S. companies,” adding, “I’ve got the frequent-flyer miles to prove it.” Shapiro had traveled to more than 11 countries over 2012 promoting arms deals, noting that sales were at a record level for the third quarter of 2012, already passing $50 billion. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had made “advocacy” for arms dealers “a key priority” for U.S. diplomats and State Department officials who “were now expected to undertake such efforts on all trips abroad.” Shapiro and others had been lobbying for American military contractors in deals ranging from Japan’s $10 billion purchase of aircraft from Lockheed Martin to India’s increased arms purchases, where Shapiro saw “tremendous potential” for U.S. arms sales, and to Brazil, where Boeing was competing with France’s Dassault company for a multibillion-dollar defense contract, of which Shapiro stated, “We’re eager to make the best possible case for the Boeing aircraft, and we’re hopeful that it will be selected.”[46]

By March of 2013, the world’s five largest arms exporters were the U.S., Russia, Germany, France, and China overtook the UK for the first time in fifth place, having increased its arms exports by 162% between 2008 and 2012, increasing its share of the global arms trade from 2 to 5%, over 50% of which are delivered to Pakistan, with other large recipients being Myanmar, Bangladesh, Algeria, Venezuela and Morocco.[47] Li Hong, the secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association noted: “Military exports are one way for China to increase its international status,” explaining that, “China needs to increase its influence in regional affairs and from that perspective it needs to increase weapons exports further.” As China increased its own military budget in recent years, it had turned to developing its own weapons industries, thus moving from being the world’s number one arms importer (of conventional weapons) between 2003-2007 to taking second place behind India in the 2008-2012 period, acquiring roughly 69% of its arms imports from Russia.[48]

British Prime Minister David Cameron again traveled to the Middle East, accompanied by his Defense Secretary Philip Hammond and another delegation of arms dealers in 2012, seeking to sell up to 100 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, built by EADS and marketed by BAE, competing with France’s cheaper Rafale strike jet made by Dassault Aviation. The increased – and increasingly profitable – arms race in the Middle East was largely facilitated by America’s policies toward Iran. William Cohen is a former U.S. Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, current Counselor and Trustee to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), former member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1989 to 1997, current Vice Chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council, on the board of directors of CBS Corporation, and is Chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group, an international business consulting firm. Commenting on the growing arms race in the Middle East, Cohen repeated the usual American propaganda, stating that there was “A very legitimate concern about Iran being a revolutionary country,” though also adding that terrorism, cyberattack threats, and “the implications of the Arab Spring” spurred each country in the region “to make sure it’s protected against that.” Cohen added that military contractors, information technology firms and other corporations “have an enormous opportunity” in the region.[49]

When British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond traveled to Indonesia to promote arms deals for British military contractors like BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, he explained that increasing military ties with notoriously corrupt Indonesia, posed “manageable” risks. He commented: “From the companies I have talked to, they recognize that there is a challenge but they think that it is manageable, and they can operate here successfully while observing the UK and US legal requirements to address anti-corruption issues.” This statement came amid accusations of Rolls-Royce engaging in bribery to acquire business in China, Indonesia, and elsewhere. Hammond noted that in light of the U.S. “pivot” to Asia, Britain was “looking east in a way we have not done before.” Indonesia had recently purchased F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters from the U.S., Sukhoi fighters from Russia, missile systems from China, anti-aircraft missiles, Hawk jets and small arms from British companies.[50] Prime Minister David Cameron defended arms sales to oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, declaring it to be “completely legitimate and right.”[51]

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a major think tank, projected that defense spending in Asia would overtake that of Europe for the first time in 2012, noting that Asia was in the midst of an arms race between China and other states in the region. The expenditure of European members of NATO on defense spending over 2011 was just under $270 billion, whereas in Asia it had reached $262 billion (excluding Australia and New Zealand). As China announced increased defense spending, the United States announced a “shift in military strategy” which treats the Asia-Pacific region “as one of the Pentagon’s priorities at a time when forces in Europe are being sharply cut.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that large and rising powers like China “have a special obligation to demonstrate in concrete ways that they are going to pursue a constructive path.” Leon Panetta, the U.S. Defense Secretary, noted that America’s “military posture in Asia will be increased.”[52]

Indeed, in 2012, Asian defense spending surpassed that of Europe for the first time, reaching a record level of $287.4 billion, though the United States continued to account for 45.3% of total global military spending, meaning that the United States spends almost as much on military expenditures than the rest of the entire world combined.[53] The United States, as part of its Pacific ‘pivot’ in military strategy, increased its arms sales to countries neighbouring China and North Korea. Fred Downey, vice president of the U.S. trade group, Aerospace Industries Association, which includes top U.S. military contractors, noted that the Pacific pivot “will result in growing opportunities for our industry to help equip our friends.” U.S. arms sales to the region increased to $13.7 billion in 2012, up more than 5% from the previous year. There were 65 individual notifications to the U.S. Congress over the previous year regarding total foreign military sales brokered by the Pentagon with a collective value exceeding $63 billion. The State Department, responsible for issuing licenses for direct commercial sales between military contractors and foreign governments, noted that 2012 saw a new record increase with more than 85,000 license requests.[54]

As Obama set a new record for arms sales to the Middle East in 2012, Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro noted, “If countries view the United States unfavorably, they will be less willing to cooperate on security matters,” and for this reason, “the current administration has sought to revitalize U.S. diplomatic engagement, especially relating to security assistance and defense trade.” The growth in arms sales, noted Shapiro, speaking to the Defense Trade Advisory Group in November of 2012, “has been truly remarkable,” that in spite of the global economic crisis, “demand for U.S. defense sales abroad remains robust” with “significant growth both in direct commercial sales and in foreign military sales.”[55]

As part of America’s Pacific ‘pivot,’ the United States announced a $5.9 billion arms deal with Taiwan in 2011, upgrading the country’s fleet of 145 F-16 fighter jets. Zhang Zhijun, a Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister, commented: “The wrongdoing by the US side will inevitably undermine bilateral relations as well as exchanges and co-operation in military and security areas.” Upon the announcement of the arms deal, Zhijun summoned the U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, and informed him that, “China strongly urges the US to be fully aware of the high sensitivity and serious harm of the issue, [to] seriously treat the solemn stance of China, honour its commitment and immediately cancel the wrong decision.” A top Obama administration official replied, “We believe that our contribution to the legitimate defense needs of Taiwan will contribute to stability across the Taiwan Strait.”[56] The Chinese Ministry of Defense warned that the arms deal “will create a serious obstacle to developing normal exchanges between the two militaries” and that the “U.S. has ignored China’s firm opposition and insisted on selling arms to Taiwan.”[57] Obviously, there are different definitions of “stability” at play.

In April of 2012, the Pentagon announced an arms deal with Japan of four F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft with an option to purchase an additional 38 F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin at an estimated cost of $10 billion.[58] In late 2011, Japan announced its intention to relax a ban on weapons exports which dated back to 1967, which, the Financial Times reported, could open “the way for Japanese companies to participate in the international development and manufacture of advanced weapon systems.” Japan’s largest business lobby, the Keidanren, praised the move as “epoch-making.”[59] Following the “relaxing” of controls, Japan and Britain announced that they would jointly develop weaponry, the first time that Japan would work with another country (apart from the United States) on constructing military equipment.[60]

In October of 2012, the United States announced an arms deal in which South Korea would get longer-range missiles capable of striking anywhere in North Korea, “altering” (or violating) a 2001 accord which barred the U.S. “from developing and deploying ballistic missiles with a range of more than 300km (186 miles),” in order to avert a regional arms race. Obviously, a decision was made to create a regional arms race, so the accord was “altered” and the US agreed to sell South Korea missiles with a range of 800km. South Korea’s defense ministry praised the new deal, stating that they would then be able to “strike all of North Korea, even from southern areas.” The 2001 accord also ensured that the U.S. would not deploy or develop missiles for the South with a payload of more than 500 kg (1,100lbs), since the “heavier a payload is, the more destructive power it can have.” So obviously, that pesky restriction also had to be “altered,” and while long-range missiles maintain the 1,100lb payload, missiles with shorter ranges will be permitted to hold much more. South Korea will also be able to operate U.S.-supplied drones, permitted to hold payloads up to 5,510lb with a range of more than 300km, and no payload restrictions on drones with a flying distance less than 300km. South Korea can also acquire cruise missiles with unlimited range, and some media reports suggested that South Korea had already deployed cruise missiles with a range of more than 1,000km, though officials “refused to confirm” if that were true. The South Korean Defense Ministry reported that North Korea had missiles that could reach South Korea, Japan, and Guam, a Pacific territory of the United States.[61] Thus, the United States intends to counter the “threat” of North Korea by instigating a massive arms race in the region.

Arms Trade Diplomacy: “Chief Commercial Officer” or Ambassador?

As the massive release of diplomatic cables from Wikileaks revealed, U.S. and other diplomats are often little more than glorified lobbyists and salesmen for the Western arms industry. Lockheed Martin got help from the U.S. State Department in selling C-130 military transport planes to the government in Chad starting in 2007. The U.S. Embassy in Chad noted that the government likely could not afford the aircraft, not to mention that it would probably use the aircraft “to defend the regime against a backlash provoked by its refusal so far to open its political system and provide for a peaceful democratic transition.” In other words, the government of Chad wanted to use the military equipment to crush a pro-democracy movement. Nevertheless, noted the U.S. Embassy, we “would concur in allowing the sale to go forward.”[62]

With Chad’s air force chief, its ambassador to the U.S. and a representative from Lockheed Martin promoting the deal with the State Department, the Embassy noted that the sale “would provide a healthy boost to U.S. exports to Chad” and “strengthen U.S. military cooperation.” While Chad told the State Department that it wanted the aircraft “to go after terrorists or help refugees,” the U.S. Embassy noted that in reality, “it needs them to support combat operations against the armed rebellion in eastern Chad,” and commented: “A decision to approve the sale would be met with dismay by many Chadian supporters of peaceful democratic change.” Our conclusion, noted a U.S. Embassy cable, “is that, like it or not, our interests line up in favor of allowing the sale in some form to go forward.” However, the U.S. would have to promote the sale with full knowledge of how Chadians will perceive it, and will have to undertake “a strategy to counter these perceptions.”[63]

Ben Berkowitz wrote for Reuters that Wikileaks cables painted “a picture of foreign service officers and political appointees willing to go to great lengths to sell American products and services,” where, “in some cases, the efforts were so strenuous they raise the question of where if anywhere the line is being drawn between diplomacy and salesmanship.” A State Department spokesperson said in response that the U.S. government “has broad, though not unlimited, discretion to promote and assist U.S. commercial interests abroad.” Such practice became official policy shortly after the end of the Cold War when U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger introduced a bill which gave corporations a direct role in foreign policy. One former U.S. diplomat in Asia noted, “Until (then), U.S. diplomats were not particularly encouraged to help U.S. business. They were busy fighting the Cold War.” Suddenly, he noted, “we were given new direction: if a single U.S. company is looking for business, we should advocate for them by name; if more than one U.S. company was in the mix, stress buying the American product.” The former diplomat added: “It was great to see how influential the right word from the U.S. ambassador was.”[64]

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero had informed the U.S. Embassy, “to let him know if there was something important to the (U.S. government) and he would take care of it,” according to a 2009 diplomatic cable. The embassy took up the offer when General Electric was bidding against Rolls-Royce to sell helicopters to the Spanish Ministry of Defense (MOD), with GE informing the U.S. Embassy that if it did not get the contract, it would close part of its business in Spain. The U.S. Embassy passed the information along to Zapatero’s economic adviser, and, although there was “considerable” evidence that the government was going to award the contract to Rolls Royce, the Zapatero’s office “overturned the decision and it was announced that GE had won the bid,” and the U.S. Ambassador was “convinced that Zapatero personally intervened in the case in favor of GE.”[65]

The U.S. Embassy in the United Arab Emirates promoted the interests of Halliburton to participate in a joint venture with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. in 2003, a time at which Halliburton’s former CEO, Dick Cheney, was Vice President of the United States. The contract was eventually awarded to Halliburton. The U.S. Ambassador to the UAE at the time, Marcelle Wahba, noted, “I can’t think of a time when a month went by when a commercial issues wasn’t on my plate… Some administrations put more of an emphasis on it than others, but now I think, regardless of who’s in power you really find it’s become an integral part of the State Department mandate.”[66]

Tom Niles, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, the European Union and Greece, as well as former president of the “pro-trade group” the U.S. Council for International Business, stated: “By the time I was retired from the Foreign Service, which was 1998, things had changed fundamentally and being an active participant in the commercial program and promoting trade using the prestige of the ambassador and receptions held at the ambassador’s residence was an important part of what I did.” Niles suggested that a U.S. ambassador was as much a “chief commercial officer” for corporations as a diplomat. “We might have been a little bit late to the game. The Europeans understood the crucial role of foreign trade in the growth and development of their economies before we did.” A former ambassador to the UAE noted: “Oftentimes European ambassadors, that’s all they’re there for.” Of course, that’s only logical, considering that European ambassadors do not have to be concerned with managing the world in the same way the United States does. Therefore, their interests are specific: economic.[67]

In the Arms of America

With all the flowery rhetoric of “democracy” and “freedom,” American – and the Western world’s – hypocrisy can easily be revealed with a brief look at the global arms trade: supporting ruthless and repressive dictatorships, as well as creating and supporting regional arms races which increase instability and the threat of war. The objective is simple, and from the imperial perspective, very practical: support regional proxy states to do our dirty work for us. If this happens to increase regional instability and even lead to war, well, such things are inevitable within and as a result of an imperial system. So long as the final result is that the United States and the West maintain their “access” to and control over regions, resources, and populations, the means are incidental.

To put it another way: if our nations were actually interested in concepts and ideas of “democracy” and “freedom” for all people, around the world, why do we sell billions of dollars in weapons and military technology to the countries which most enthusiastically crush democracy and prevent freedom?

The answer to that question reveals the true nature of our society.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, with a focus on studying the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance across a wide spectrum of social, political, economic, and historical spheres. He has been published in AlterNet, CounterPunch, Occupy.com, Truth-Out, RoarMag, and a number of other alternative media groups, and regularly does radio, Internet, and television interviews with both alternative and mainstream news outlets. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, Research Director of Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and has a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

Notes

[1]       Thom Shanker, “Bad Economy Drives Down American Arms Sales,” The New York Times, 12 September 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/world/13weapons.html

[2]       Matt Sugrue, “GAO Report on U.S. Arms Sales, 2005-2009,” Arms Control Now, 29 September 2010:

http://armscontrolnow.org/2010/09/29/gao-report-on-u-s-arms-sales-2005-2009/

[3]       Maggie Bridgeman, “Obama seeks to expand arms exports by trimming approval process,” McClatchy, 29 July 2010:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/07/29/98337/obama-seeks-to-expand-arms-exports.html

[4]       Joby Warrick, “U.S. steps up weapon sales to Mideast allies,” The Washington Post, 31 January 2010:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2010-01-31/world/36894203_1_gulf-states-obama-administration-united-arab-emirates

[5]       Helene Cooper, “U.S. Approval of Taiwan Arms Sales Angers China,” The New York Times, 29 January 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/30/world/asia/30arms.html

[6]       Ibid.

[7]       Adam Entous, “Saudi Arms Deal Advances,” The Wall Street Journal, 12 September 2010:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704621204575488361149625050.html

[8]       Ibid.

[9]       Roula Khalaf and James Drummond, “Gulf states in $123bn US arms spree,” The Financial Times, 20 September 2010:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ffd73210-c4ef-11df-9134-00144feab49a.html#axzz2O8uMZ7cn

[10]     Ibid.

[11]     Anthony H. Cordesman, et. al, “Is Big Saudi Arms Sale a Good Idea?” Expert Roundup, the Council on Foreign Relations, 27 September 2010:

http://www.cfr.org/defensehomeland-security/big-saudi-arms-sale-good-idea/p23019

[12 – 15]         Ibid.

[16]     “U.S. dominates Middle East arms market,” UPI, 28 December 2010:

http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2010/12/28/US-dominates-Middle-East-arms-market/UPI-52831293559959/

[17]     “US confirms $60bn Saudi arms deal,” Al-Jazeera, 20 October 2010:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2010/10/20101020173353178622.html

[18]     Mina Kimes, “America’s hottest export: Weapons – Full version,” CNN money, 24 February 2011:

http://money.cnn.com/2011/02/10/news/international/america_exports_weapons_full.fortune/index.htm

[19]     Ibid.

[20]     Ibid.

[21]     Richard F. Grimmett, “U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 2003-2010,” U.S. Congressional Research Service, 16 December 2011, page 3.

[22]     Leslie H. Gelb, “Mideast Arms Sales Not So Bad,” The Daily Beat, 12 April 2011:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/04/12/mideast-arms-sales-soar-but-the-west-isnt-worried-for-now.html

[23]     Andrew J. Shapiro, “Remarks: Defense Trade Advisory Group Plenary,” Dean Acheson Auditorium, U.S. Department of State, 3 May 2011:

http://www.state.gov/t/pm/rls/rm/162479.htm

[24]     DTAG Activity 2010, “2010-2012 Membership,” The Defense Trade Advisory Group (DTAG), U.S. Department of State:

http://www.pmddtc.state.gov/dtag/index.html

[25]     Andrew J. Shapiro, “Remarks: Defense Trade Advisory Group Plenary,” Dean Acheson Auditorium, U.S. Department of State, 3 May 2011:

http://www.state.gov/t/pm/rls/rm/162479.htm

[26]     Agencies, “US arms sales to Bahrain surged in 2010,” Al-Jazeera, 11 June 2011:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/06/2011611144528164171.html

[27]     Mark Landler and Steven Myers, “With $30 Billion Arms Deal, U.S. Bolsters Saudi Ties,” The New York Times, 29 December 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/30/world/middleeast/with-30-billion-arms-deal-united-states-bolsters-ties-to-saudi-arabia.html

[28]     Thom Shanker, “Global Arms Sales Dropped Sharply in 2010, Study Finds,” The New York Times, 23 September 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/24/world/global-arms-sales-dropped-sharply-in-2010-study-finds.html

[29]     Harry Bradford, “U.S. Arms Sales Tripled In 2011 To $66.3 Billion: Report,” The Huffington Post, 27 August 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/27/us-arms-sales-2011_n_1833602.html

[30]     Thom Shanker, “U.S. Arms Sales Make Up Most of Global Market,” The New York Times, 26 August 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/world/middleeast/us-foreign-arms-sales-reach-66-3-billion-in-2011.html?_r=0

[31]     Richard Northon-Taylor, “Arms sales rise during downturn to more than $400bn, report reveals,” The Guardian, 29 February 2012:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/29/arms-sales-rise-downturn-military

[32]     Ami Sedghi, “Arms sales: who are the world’s 100 top arms producers?,” The Guardian Data Blog, 2 March 2012:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/mar/02/arms-sales-top-100-producers

[33]     “Cameron Middle East visit ‘morally obscene’ says Lucas,” BBC News, 23 February 2011:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12582723

[34]     Benjamin Bidder and Clemens Hoges, “Democracy or Dollars?: Weapons Sales to the Arab World under Scrutiny,” Der Spiegel, 1 April 2011:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/democracy-or-dollars-weapons-sales-to-the-arab-world-under-scrutiny-a-754224.html

[35]     Nicholas Watt and Robert Booth, “David Cameron’s Cairo visit overshadowed by defence tour,” The Guardian, 21 February 2011:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/feb/21/cameron-cairo-visit-defence-trade

[36]     Robert Booth, “Abu Dhabi arms fair: Tanks, guns, teargas and trade at Index 2011,” The Guardian, 21 February 2011:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/21/abu-dhabi-arms-fair-idex-2011

[37]     Ibid.

[38]     Ibid.

[39]     Simon Rogers, “UK arms sales to the Middle East and North Africa: who do we sell to, how much is military and how much just ‘controlled’?” The Guardian, 22 February 2011:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/feb/22/uk-arms-sales-middle-east-north-africa

[40]     Benjamin Bidder and Clemens Hoges, “Democracy or Dollars?: Weapons Sales to the Arab World under Scrutiny,” Der Spiegel, 1 April 2011:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/democracy-or-dollars-weapons-sales-to-the-arab-world-under-scrutiny-a-754224.html

[41]     “Weapons Exports: EU Nations Sell the Most Arms to Saudi Arabia,” Der Spiegel, 19 March 2012:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-makes-controversial-weapons-sales-to-saudi-arabia-a-822288.html

[42]     Ulrike Demmer, Ralf Neukirch and Holger Stark, “Arming the World for Peace: Merkel’s Risky Weapons Exports,” Der Spiegel, 30 July 2012:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/merkel-s-risky-weapons-sales-signal-change-in-german-foreign-policy-a-847137.html

[43]     Ibid.

[44]     “Tanks in the Desert: Germany Plans Extensive Arms Deal with Algeria,” Der Spiegel, 12 November 2012:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-arms-sales-to-algeria-have-increased-dramatically-a-866690.html

[45]     Press Release, “Large increase in EU arms exports revealed,” Campaign Against Arms Trade, 10 January 2013:

http://www.caat.org.uk/press/press-release.php?url=20130110prs

[46]     Andrea Shalal-Esa, “U.S. government advocacy said boosting foreign arms sales,” Reuters, 27 July 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/27/us-defense-exports-idUSBRE86Q1FL20120727

[47]     Michael Martina, “World’s Top 5 Arms Exporters: China Replaces UK In Weapons Trade,” Reuters, 18 March 2013:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/18/worlds-top-5-arms-exporters_n_2899052.html

[48]     Jamil Anderlini and Victor Mallet, “China joins top five arms exporters,” The Financial Times, 18 March 2013:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/c7215936-8f64-11e2-a39b-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2O8uMZ7cn

[49]     “Defense contest over major gulf arms buys,” UPI, 20 November 2012:

http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2012/11/20/Defense-contest-over-major-gulf-arms-buys/UPI-49931353436670/

[50]     Ben Bland, “UK defence minister bullish on arms sales,” The Financial Times, 16 January 2013:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/5377e148-5fb8-11e2-8d8d-00144feab49a.html#axzz2OOPsqPsh

[51]     “David Cameron defends arms deals with Gulf states,” The Telegraph, 5 November 2012:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/defence/9656393/David-Cameron-defends-arms-deals-with-Gulf-states.html

[52]     FT Reporters, “Asia defence spending to overtake Europe,” The Financial Times, 7 March 2012:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0aab435c-6846-11e1-a6cc-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2O8uMZ7cn

[53]     Myra MacDonald, “Asia’s defense spending overtakes Europe’s: IISS,” Reuters, 14 March 2013:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/us-security-military-iiss-idUSBRE92D0EL20130314

[54]     “US Arms Sales to Asia Set to Boom on Pacific ‘Pivot’,” Reuters, 2 January 2013:

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100347792

[55]     “Obama set record in 2012 for Mideast defense exports,” World Tribune, 4 December 2012:

http://www.worldtribune.com/2012/12/04/obama-set-record-in-2012-for-mideast-defense-exports/

[56]     Richard McGregor, “US agrees $5.9bn arms deal with Taiwan,” The Financial Times, 21 September 2011:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/55a1c47c-e488-11e0-92a3-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2O8uMZ7cn

[57]     Kathrin Hille, “China hits at US over Taiwan arms deal,” The Financial Times, 22 September 2011:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/2ae01e5c-e4f4-11e0-9aa8-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2O8uMZ7cn

[58]     “U.S. Government Says Japan’s Cost to Buy 42 F-35s Around $10 Billion,” Ottawa Citizen, 2 May 2012:

http://blogs.ottawacitizen.com/2012/05/02/u-s-government-says-japans-cost-to-buy-42-f-35s-around-10-billion/

[59]     Mure Dickie, “Japan relaxes weapons export ban,” The Financial Times, 27 December 2011:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/ab812ee0-3079-11e1-b96f-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2O8uMZ7cn

[60]     Reuters, “Japan and Britain ‘set to agree arms deal’,” The Telegraph, 4 April 2012:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/9185080/Japan-and-Britain-set-to-agree-arms-deal.html

[61]     AP, “South Korea to get longer-range missiles under new deal with US,” The Guardian, 7 October 2012:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/07/south-korea-longer-range-missiles

[62]     07NDJAMENA43, “C-130’s for Chad?”, 12 January 2007, Wikileaks Diplomatic Cables:

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/01/07NDJAMENA43.html

[63]     Ibid.

[64]     Ben Berkowitz, “Wikileaks reveals extent of State Department’s involvement in arms sales, oil deals,” Reuters, 4 March 2011:

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/03/04/wikileaks_reveals_extent_of_state_department_involvement_in_arms_sales/

[65-67]   Ibid.

Bringing Down the Empire: Challenging the Institutions of Domination

Bringing Down the Empire: Challenging the Institutions of Domination

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

We have come to the point in our history of our species where an increasing amount of people are asking questions, seeking answers, taking action, and waking up to the realities of our world, to the systems, ideas, institutions and individuals who have dominated, oppressed, controlled, and ensnared humanity in their grip of absolute control. As the resistance to these ideas, institutions, and individuals grows and continues toward taking action – locally, nationally, regionally, and globally – it is now more important than ever for the discussion and understanding of our system to grow in accord. Action must be taken, and is being taken, but information must inform action. Without a more comprehensive, global and expansive understanding of our world, those who resist this system will become increasingly divided, more easily co-opted, and have their efforts often undermined.

So now we must ask the questions: What is the nature of our society? How did we get here? Who brought us to this point? Where are we headed? When will we get to that point? Why is humanity in this place? And what can we do to change the future and the present? These are no small questions, and while they do not have simple answers, the answers can be sought, all the same. If we truly seek change, not simply for ourselves as individuals, not merely for our specific nations, but for the whole of humanity and the entire course of human history, these questions must be asked, and the answers must be pursued.

So, what is the nature of our society?

Our society is one dominated not simply by individuals, not merely by institutions, but more than anything else, by ideas. These three focal points are of course inter-related and interdependent. After all, it is individuals who come up with ideas which are then institutionalized. As a result, over time, the ‘institutionalization of ideas’ affect the wider society in which they exist, by producing a specific discourse, by professionalizing those who apply the ideas to society, by implanting them so firmly in the social reality that they often long outlive the individuals who created them in the first place. In time, the ideas and institutions take on a life of their own, they become concerned with expanding the power of the institutions, largely through the propagation and justification of the ideas which legitimate the institution’s existence. Ultimately, the institution becomes a growing, slow-moving, corrosive behemoth, seeking self-preservation through repression of dissent, narrowing of the discourse, and control over humanity. This is true for the ideas and institutions, whether media, financial, corporate, governmental, philanthropic, educational, political, social, psychological and spiritual. Often the idea which founds an institution may be benevolent, altruistic and humane, but, over time, the institution itself takes control of the idea, makes it rigid and hesitant to reform, and so even the most benevolent idea can become corrupted, corrosive, and oppressive to humanity. This process of the institutionalization of ideas has led to the rise of empires, the growth of wars, the oppression of entire populations, and the control and domination of humanity.

How did we get here?

The process has been a long one. It is, to put it simply, the history of all humanity. In the last 500 years, however, we can identify more concrete and emergent themes, ideas, institutions, individuals and processes which brought us to our current place. Among these are the development of the nation-state, capitalism, and the financial system of banking and central banking. Concurrently with this process, we saw the emergence of racism, slavery, and the transformation of class politics into racial politics. The ideas of ‘social control’ came to define and lay the groundwork for a multitude of institutions which have emerged as dominant forces in our society. Managing the poor and institutionalizing racism are among the most effective means of social control over the past 500 years. The emergence of national education systems played an important part in creating a collective identity and consciousness for the benefit of the state. The slow and steady progression of psychiatry led to the domination of the human mind, and with that, the application of psychology in methods of social engineering and social control.

Though it was in the 19th century that revolutionary ideas and new philosophies of resistance emerged in response to the increasing wealth and domination at the top, and the increasing repression and exploitation of the rest. In reaction to this development, elites sought out new forms of social control. Educational institutions facilitated the rise of a new intellectual elite, which, in turn, redefined the concept of democracy to be an elite-guided structure, defined and controlled by that very same intellectual elite. This led to the development of new concepts of propaganda and power. This elite created the major philanthropic foundations which came to act as “engines of social engineering,” taking a dominant role in the shaping of a global society and world order over the 20th century. Ruthless imperialism was very much a part of this process. By no means new to the modern world, empire and war is almost as old as human social organization. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, rapid imperial expansion led to the domination of almost the entire world by the Western powers. As the Europeans took control of Africa, the United States took control of the Caribbean, with Woodrow Wilson’s brutal occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The two World Wars transformed the global order: old empires crumbled, and new ones emerged. Bankers centralized their power further and over a greater portion of human society. After World War II, the American Empire sought total world domination. It undertook to control the entirety of Latin America, often through coups and brutal state repression, including support to tyrannical dictators. This was done largely in an effort to counter the rise of what was called “radical nationalism” among the peoples of the region.  In the Middle East, the United States sought to control the vast oil reserves in an effort to “control the world.” To do so, the United States had to set itself against the phenomenon of Arab Nationalism. Israel emerged in the context of great powers seeking to create a proxy state for their imperial domination of the region. The birth of Israel was itself marked by a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the domestic Palestinian population, a fact which has scarred forever the image and reality of Israel in the Arab world. The development of the educational system facilitated the imperial expansion, not only in the United States itself, but globally, and largely at the initiative of major foundations like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford.

Who brought us here?

While the ideas and institutions are the major forces of domination in our world, they are all started by individuals. We are ruled, though it may be difficult to imagine, by a small dynastic power structure, largely consisting of powerful banking families, such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and others. The emerged in controlling the financial system, extended their influence over the political system, the educational system, and, through the major foundations, have become the dominant social powers of our world, creating think tanks and other institutions which shape and change the course of society and modern human history. Among these central institutions which extend the domination of these elites and their social group are the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, and the Trilateral Commission.

Where are we headed, and when will we get there?

We face the possibility of a major global war. Already the Western imperial powers have been interfering in the Arab Spring, attempting to co-opt, control, or outright repress various uprisings in the region, as well as extending their imperial interests by supporting militant and destructive elements in order to implement – through war and destabilization – regime change, such as in Libya. The war threats against Iran continue, not because Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon, but because Iran seeks to continue to develop independent of Western domination and has the capacity to defend itself, an incomprehensible thought for a global empire which believes it has the ‘right’ to absolute world domination. The empire itself is threatened by a ‘Global Political Awakening’ which marks the changing ideas and understandings of humanity about our situation and the possibility for change, even revolutionary if necessary. As the global economic crisis continues to descend into a ‘Great Global Debt Depression,’ we see the increasing development of resistance, leading even to riots, rebellion, and potentially revolution. The middle classes of the West are being plunged into poverty, a condition which the rest of the world has known for far too long, and as a result, the political activation of these classes, along with the radicalization of the student population – left in jobless debt for an eternity – create the conditions for global solidarity and revolution. These conditions also spur on the State to impose more repressive and totalitarian measures of control, even to the possibility of state terror against the domestic population.

Just as the process of resistance and repression increase on a global scale, so too does the process of global centralization and expansion of domination. Through crises, the global elites seek to construct the apparatus of a ‘global government.’ The major think tanks such as the Bilderberg Group have long envisioned and worked toward such a scenario. This ‘new world order’ being constructed is specifically for the benefit of the elite and to the detriment of everyone else, and will inevitably – as by the very nature of institutions – become tyrannical and oppressive. The ‘Technological Revolution’ has thus created two parallel situations: never before has the possibility of absolute global domination and control been so close; yet, never has the potential of total global liberation and freedom been so possible.

Why are we here, and what can we do to change it?

We are here largely due to a lack of understanding of how we have come to be dominated, of the forces, ideas, institutions, and individuals who have emerged as the global oligarchy. To change it, firstly, we need to come to understand these ideas, to understand the origins and ‘underneath’ of all ideas that we even today hold as sacrosanct, to question everything and critique every idea. We need to define and understand Liberty and Power. When we understand these processes and the social world in which we live, we can begin to take more informed actions toward changing this place, and toward charting our own course to the future. We do have the potential to change the course of history, and history will stand in favour of the people over the powerful.

The People’s Book Project seeks to expand this understanding of our world, and the ideas, institutions, and individuals which have come to dominate it, as well as those which have emerged and are still emerging in resistance to it. What is the nature of our society? How did we get here? Who brought us here? Why? Where are we going? When will we get there? And what can we do to change it? These are the questions being asked by The People’s Book Project. The products of this project, entirely funded through donations from readers like you, is to produce a multi-volume book on these subjects and seeking to answer as best as possible, these questions. It is, essentially, a modern history of power, people, and potential. The book itself lays the groundwork for a larger idea, and a plan of action, a method of countering the institutional society, of working toward the empowerment of people, the undermining of power, to make all that we needlessly depend upon irrelevant, to push people toward our true potential as a species, and to inform the action of many so that humanity may learn, discover, try and, eventually, succeed over that which seeks to dominate.

The People’s Book Project depends entirely upon you, the reader, for support, and that support is needed now.

See what others are saying about The People’s Book Project:

The People’s Book Project may be a radical idea for radical times, but it’s an idea whose time has come. With crowd-funding the people finally have the chance to compete with the seemingly unlimited resources of  the financial elite who have traditionally written our history. This  is why I support Andrew Gavin Marshall’s project and hope others will  support it, too. For once the people have the chance to reclaim their own history, and to tell the truth the way it deserves to be told.

James Corbett

The People’s Book Project is a great undertaking for our time. Around the world we have seen a political awakening of the oppressed, exploited, and impoverished that has swept the globe, from Cairo to Melbourne to the imperial capital itself: Washington D.C. The project is so important because by tracing how we got to this point in history and who got us here, it allows us to then use that knowledge to begin to envision and articulate a new global social, political, and economic order and then take concrete steps to see this vision come to fruition.

Devon DB

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the People’s Book Project because our society is in desperate need of creating new Social Architectures.  The Industrial Age is crumbling – but ‘the new’ has yet to be invented.  Thus, we need brilliant young minds to create new possibilities, through the haze of mind numbing commodification of everything.  The People’s Book Project represents incredible discipline and in-depth research by brilliant young minds to discover the futures we need to build together.  Join me in supporting this exploration of our future.

Jack Pearpoint and Lynda Kahn

Please support The People’s Book Project and make a donation today!

Thank you for your support,

Andrew Gavin Marshall

Economic Warfare and Strangling Sanctions: Punishing Iran for its “Defiance” of the United States

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4] 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.”[5]

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.”[6]

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.”[7] 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.”[8]

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.”[9] 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.”[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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.”[13]

On March 5, 2012, the IAEA chief, Yukiya Amano, said he had “serious concerns” over Iran’s nuclear program and its ambitions.[14] 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.”[15]

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.”[16] That same year, Iran received the support of the G-77 in pursuit of peaceful nuclear ambitions, as stipulated in the NPT.[17] 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.”[18]

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.”[19] 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.[20]

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.[21]

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.[22]

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.”[23]

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.”[24] Iran itself has claimed that it “pursues a defensive and deterrent strategy.”[25] 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.”[26]

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.”[27]

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.”[28]

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.[29] 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.”[30]

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.[31] 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.”[32] 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.”[33] 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.[34]

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.”[35]

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.”[36]

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.[37] China, however, continues to oppose trade sanctions on Iranian oil.[38]

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.”[39] 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.[40]

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.”[41] 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.”[42]

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.[43] 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.[44]

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.[45]

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.

Contribute to The People’s Book Project:

Notes

[1]            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.

[2]            Ibid, page 246.

[3]            Ibid, pages 248-249.

[4]            Ibid, pages 249-250.

[5]            Ibid, pages 250-252.

[6]            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

[7]            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/

[8]            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/

[9]            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

[10]            Opinion, “If Iran Gets the Bomb,” The Wall Street Journal, 10 November 2011: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204224604577027842025797760.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

[11]            Julian Borger, “The IAEA report: what does it really mean and will it lead to war with Iran?”, The Guardian, 9 November 2011:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/julian-borger-global-security-blog/2011/nov/09/iaea-nuclear-iran-israel1

[12]            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:

http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/chain-reaction-how-the-media-has-misread-the-iaeas-report-iran

[13]            BBC, “Q&A: Iran nuclear issue,” BBC News, 23 January 2012: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11709428

[14]            Alex Spillius, “Iran: watchdog says suspicious activities continue at blocked sites,” The Telegraph, 5 March 2012:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/9124478/Iran-watchdog-says-suspicious-activities-continue-at-blocked-sites.html

[15]            US Embassy Cables, “New UN chief is ‘director general of all states, but in agreement with us’,” The Guardian, 2 December 2012:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/230076

[16]            CBC, “Non-aligned nations slam U.S.,” CBC News, 16 September 2006:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2006/09/16/nonalign.html

[17]            JESSICA T. MATHEWS, “Speaking to Tehran, With One Voice,” The New York Times, 21 March 2006:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/21/opinion/21mathews.html

[18]            World Briefing, “Nations back right to nuclear power,” The Chicago Tribune, 31 July 2008:
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-07-31/news/0807300925_1_nuclear-program-freeze-uranium-enrichment-nuclear-power

[19]            ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO and GINGER THOMPSON, “Brazil’s Iran Diplomacy Worries U.S. Officials,” The New York Times, 14 May 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/15/world/americas/15lula.html

[20]            ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO, “Iran Deal Seen as Spot on Brazilian Leader’s Legacy,” The New York Times, 24 March 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/world/americas/25brazil.html

[21]            2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll: Results of Arab Opinion Survey Conducted June 29-July 20, 2010, The Brookings Institution, 5 August 2010:

http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2010/0805_arab_opinion_poll_telhami.aspx

[22]            The 2011 Arab Public Opinion Poll, The Brookings Institution, 21 November 2011:

http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2011/1121_arab_public_opinion_telhami.aspx

[23]            SHIBLEY TELHAMI and STEVEN KULL, “Preventing a Nuclear Iran, Peacefully,” The New York Times, 15 January 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/16/opinion/preventing-a-nuclear-iran-peacefully.html?_r=2&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

[24]            John J. Kruzel, “Report to Congress Outlines Iranian Threats,” American Forces Press Service, 20 April 2010:

http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=58833

[25]            Press TV, “’Iran pursues deterrent defense strategy’,” Press TV, 22 September 2011:
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/200611.html

[26]            Document 620. Special National Intelligence Estimate, “Prospects for the Castro Regime,” 8 December 1960.

[27]            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.

[28]            Ibid, pages 241-242.

[29]            Abbas Alnasrawi, “Iraq: Economic Sanctions and Consequences, 1990-2000,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 22, No. 2, April 2001), pages 208-209.

[30]            Yevgeni Primakov, “The Inside Story of Moscow’s Quest For a Deal,” Time Magazine, 4 March 1991.

[31]            Abbas Alnasrawi, “Iraq: Economic Sanctions and Consequences, 1990-2000,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 22, No. 2, April 2001), page 214.

[32]            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.

[33]            Patrick Cockburn, “UN aid chief resigns over Iraq sanctions,” The Independent, 1 October 1998:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/un-aid-chief-resigns-over-iraq-sanctions-1175447.html

[34]            Ewen MacAskill, “Second official quits UN Iraq team,” The Guardian, 16 February 2011:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2000/feb/16/iraq.unitednations

[35]            John Pilger, “Squeezed to Death,” The Guardian, 4 March 2000:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2000/mar/04/weekend7.weekend9

[36]            BBC, “Q&A: Iran sanctions,” BBC News, 6 February 2012:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15983302

[37]            BBC, Japan ‘to reduce Iran oil imports’, BBC News, 12 January 2012:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16523422

[38]            Bloomberg News, “Iran Sanctions Don’t Determine China’s Oil Needs, Official Says,” Bloomberg, 4 March 2012:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-04/iran-sanctions-don-t-determine-china-s-oil-needs-official-says.html

[39]            Javier Blas and Jack Farchy, “Iran sanctions put Saudi oil output capacity to the test,” The Financial Times, 29 February 2012:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/66031696-62ef-11e1-b837-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1oGemzKru

[40]            JAVIER BLAS AND NAJMEH BOZORGMEHR, “Iran struggles to find new oil customers,” The Globe and Mail, 20 February 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/iran-struggles-to-find-new-oil-customers/article2343996/

[41]            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.

[42]            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/

[43]            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

[44]            Michael Hogan, “Iran in talks to buy Russian, Indian wheat,” Reuters, 5 March 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/05/grain-iran-idUSL5E8E593J20120305

[45]            Hooman Majd, “Starving Iran Won’t Free It,” The New York Times, 2 March 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/03/opinion/starving-iran-wont-free-it.html

 

Wikileaks and the Worldwide Information War

Wikileaks and the Worldwide Information War
Power, Propaganda, and the Global Political Awakening
Global Research, December 6, 2010

Introduction

The recent release of the 250,000 Wikileaks documents has provoked unparalleled global interest, both positive, negative, and everywhere in between. One thing that can be said with certainty: Wikileaks is changing things.

There are those who accept what the Wikileaks releases say at face value, largely due to the misrepresentation of the documents by the corporate-controlled news.

There are those who see the documents as authentic and simply in need of proper interpretation and analysis.

Then there are those, many of whom are in the alternative media, who approach the leaks with caution and suspicion.

There are those who simply cast the leaks aside as a ‘psy-op’ designed to target specific nations that fit into U.S. foreign policy objectives. Finally, then, there are those who deplore the leaks as ‘treason’ or threatening ‘security’. Of all the claims and notions, the last is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous. This essay aims to examine the nature of the Wikileaks releases and how they should be approached and understood. If Wikileaks is changing things, let’s hope people will make sure that it changes things in the right direction.

Media Propaganda Against Iran: Taking the Cables at Face Value

This perspective is perhaps the most propagated one, as it is largely influenced and undertaken by the mainstream corporate media, which present the leaked diplomatic cables as ‘proof’ of the media’s take on major world issues; most notably among them, Iran’s nuclear program. As per usual, the New York Times steps center stage in its unbridled contempt for truth and relentless use of propaganda to serve U.S. imperial interests, headlining articles with titles like, “Around the World, Distress Over Iran,” which explained how Israel and the Arab leaders agree on Iran as a nuclear threat to the world, with the commentary in the article stating that, “running beneath the cables is a belief among many leaders that unless the current government in Tehran falls, Iran will have a bomb sooner or later.”[1] Fox News ran an article proclaiming that, “Leaked Documents Show Middle East Consensus on Threat Posed by Iran,” and commented that, “the seismic document spill by WikiLeaks showed one area of profound agreement — that Iran is viewed in the Middle East as the region’s No. 1 troublemaker.”[2]

This, it should be understood, is propaganda. Yet, we need to properly refine our understanding of propaganda in order to assess what is specifically propagandistic about these stories. While one should remain skeptical of sources and disinformation campaigns (as those who critically analyze the media have known take place time and time again), one must also consider the personal perspective of the source and decipher between authenticity and analysis. These documents, I truly believe, are authentic. In this sense, I do not adhere to the notion that these are a part of a psychological operation (psy-op) or propaganda effort, in terms of the actual release of the documents. We must keep in mind that the sources for these cables are U.S. diplomatic channels, and thus the statements within them reflect the perspectives and beliefs of U.S. diplomatic personnel. The documents are an authentic representation of their statements and beliefs, but that does not imply that they are an accurate representation of reality.

This is where the media comes in to propagandize the information within the leaks. The two above examples claim that the leaks show that there is a “consensus” on Iran, and thus, that the U.S. and indeed Israeli positions on Iran for the past several years have been “vindicated,” namely in that they fear Iran is making nuclear weapons. This is nonsense. The media has essentially read and propagated the documents at face value, meaning that because U.S. diplomats, Middle Eastern and Arab leaders all agree that Iran is a “threat” and is trying to make a “nuclear weapon,” it therefore must be true. This is a non sequitur. If a military general tells several soldiers to commit a raid on a house because there are “suspected terrorists” inside, the fact that the soldiers carry out the raid – and that they believe there are terrorists inside – does not make it so. In contextualizing this example with the current Wikileaks release, just because Middle Eastern and Arab leaders see Iran as a threat, does not make it so.

Again, consider the sources. What makes the Arab leaders trustworthy sources for ‘unbiased’ information? For example, one ‘revelation’ that made its way around the world was the insistence of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to America to “cut off the head of the snake” of Iran, and urging America to launch military strikes against Iran.[3] This has largely been interpreted in the media as “proof” that there is a “consensus” on the “threat” posed by Iran to the Middle East and the world. This has been the propaganda line towed by the New York Times, Fox News and the Israeli government, among many others. Yet, we need to properly contextualize this information, something which the New York Times has a long record of failing to properly do (intentionally, I might add). I do not doubt the authenticity of these statements or the beliefs of the Arab leaders that Iran is a ‘threat’. Iran, on the other hand, has claimed that the leaks are “mischievous” and that they serve US interests, and claimed that Iran is “friends” with its neighbours.[4] This too, is propaganda. Again, we need to contextualize.

Iran is a Shi’a nation, while the Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, are predominantly Sunni. This presents a means of division among these nations in the region, at least on a superficial basis. The reality, however, is that Saudi Arabia and Iran are far from “friendly”, and have not been on good terms since the Shah was deposed in 1979. Iran is Saudi Arabia’s primary contender and competition for power and influence in the region, and thus Iran is, inherently, a threat to Saudi Arabia, politically. Further, the Arab states, whose claims against Iran have been widely publicized, such as those of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, the UAE and Egypt, must be understood in their relation to the United States. The Arab states are American proxies in the region. Their armies are subsidized by the American military industrial complex, their political regimes (all of which are dictatorships and dynasties), are propped up and supported by America. The same goes for Israel, although it has at least the public outward appearance of a democracy, much like the United States, itself.

The Arab nations and leaders know that the only reason they have and maintain their power is because the United States allows them and helps them to do so. Thus, they are dependent upon America and its political, financial and military support. Going against America’s ambitions in the region is a sure way to end up like Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The history of the Middle East in the modern era is replete with examples of how one-time puppets and personal favourites of the American Empire can so easily turn into new enemies and “threats to peace.” American sponsored regime change takes place, and a new puppet is installed. If Arab leaders said that Iran was not a threat to peace, they would soon find themselves targets of Western imperialism. Further, many, like King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, are so virulent in their hatred and distrust of Iran simply because they are regional competitors for influence. One thing can be said of all states and their leaders, they are inherently self-interested and obsessed with self-preservation and personal power expansion.

Saudi Arabia, in particular, is not a passive actor in the regional battle of influence with Iran. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia is involved in another American imperial war of conquest, in suppressing secessionist and indigenous liberation movements in the North and South of Yemen. Yemen, ruled by an American supported dictator, Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, is also working with the Americans to suppress its own population in order to maintain its hold on power. Much of the presentation of the conflict, however, is in propagandizing the conflict, portraying it as a regional battle for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran. While there is no doubt, and clear admissions, of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war, there has been no information that Iran has had any involvement, yet it is constantly accused by both Saudi Arabia and Yemen of being involved. This may be an attempt to draw Iran into a regional proxy war, if not to simply demonize the nation further. In the midst of this new Yemeni war, America made an arms deal with Saudi Arabia which broke the record as the largest U.S. arms deal in history, at $60 billion. The deal, of which it is no secret, is aimed at building up Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities in order to both engage more effectively in the Yemen war, but primarily to challenge and counter increased Iranian influence in the region. In short, America is arming its proxy nations for a war with Iran.

[For a detailed examination of the war in Yemen, see: “Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire.”]

Israel did not denounce the arms deal as it was taking place, simply because it ultimately served Israel’s interest in the region as well, of which its main target is Iran. Further, Israel is left subdued to American interests, as an American proxy itself. If Israel’s military financing and hardware comes from America (which it does), thus making it dependent upon America for its own military power, Israel is in no position to tell America to not arm its other regional proxies. If indeed there is a regional war against Iran in the making, which it has appeared for some time that there is, it is certainly in Israel’s interest to have allies against Iran in the region.

Is Wikileaks a Propaganda Effort?

The leaders of Israel have been very adamant that the Wikileaks documents do not embarrass Israel to any extent. Prior to the release, the U.S. government briefed Israeli officials on the type of documents that would be released by Wikileaks regarding Israel.[5] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “there is no disparity between the public discourse between us and Washington, and the mutual understanding of each other’s positions.”[6] The Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, claimed that the documents “show a more accurate view of reality.”[7] One top Turkish politician stated that looking at which countries are pleased with the releases says a lot, and speculated that Israel “engineered the release” of documents in an attempt to advance its interests and to “pressure Turkey.”[8]

Further, the Internet and various alternative news organizations are abuzz with speculation that Wikileaks itself may be a propaganda front, perhaps even a CIA front organization, a method of “controlling the opposition” (which, historically we know, is no stranger to CIA activities). Yet, this speculation is based upon the use of the information that is released in the cables, and it strikes me as a lack of contextualizing the documents.

So, how should one contextualize this? Let’s begin with Israel. Certainly, Israel is without a doubt a criminal state (as all states essentially are), but its criminality is amplified more so than most states on this planet, possibly outdone only by America, itself. Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is one of the most horrific and long-lasting crimes against humanity seen in the past 50 years, and posterity will view Israel as the vicious, war-mongering, dehumanizing and abhorrent state it is. Yet, for all that Israel is, one thing Israel is not, is subtle. When the Israeli PM states that the Wikileaks releases are not embarrassing to Israel, he is mostly correct. This is not because Israel has nothing to hide (remember, the Wikileaks documents are not ‘top secret’ documents, but merely diplomatic cables), but because the diplomatic exchanges Israel makes largely reflect the reality of the public statements Israel makes. Israel and its political elite are no strangers to making absurd public statements, to constantly threatening war with Iran and other neighbours, or to propagandizing their beliefs that Iran is making nuclear weapons (something which has never been proven). Thus, the leaks do not ‘hurt’ Israel’s image, because Israel’s image, internationally, is already so abysmal and despicable, and because Israeli diplomats and politicians are generally as brazen in what they say publicly as they say to each other, that Israel’s image has largely remained the same. Of course, Israeli leaders – political and military – are using the leaks to suggest that it “vindicates” their perspective on Iran as a threat, which of course is an absurd propaganda ploy, the exact same technique taken on by the corporate media, in taking the cables at face value.

While Iran has slammed the Wikileaks releases as Western propaganda aimed at Iran, this statement itself should be taken as a form of propaganda. After all, Iran claimed that it is “friends” with all its neighbours, a claim which is an historical and present falsity. Iran, like all states, uses propaganda to advance its own interests. Iran is not by any means a wonderful nation. However, compared to the American favourites in the region (such as Saudi Arabia), Iran is a bastion of freedom and democracy, which isn’t saying much. Those who attempt to battle the spread of misinformation and propaganda, myself included, must remain highly critical of media representations and campaigns against Iran, of which there are many. Iran is firmly in the targets of America’s imperial ambitions, this is no secret. Yet, there is nothing in the current batch of Wikileaks releases that strikes me as inauthentic in relation to Iran, especially those documents pertaining to the perspectives of Western diplomats and Arab leaders in relation to Iran. No doubt, they have these perspectives simply because they reflect the policy priorities of America and the West, itself, not because they are factual in their substance. In this, we must decipher between authenticity and accuracy.

Iran stating that the Wikileaks documents are propaganda is a misnomer and is misleading. Analysts must not only critically assess the authenticity of documents (and the sources from which they come), but also, and perhaps even more importantly, they must critically analyze the interpretation of those documents. So while I do not doubt the authenticity of documents pertaining to Western and Middle Eastern perceptions of Iran (as it fits in with the wider geopolitical realities of the region), it is the interpretation of the documents that I view as active propaganda efforts on the part of Western governments and media. The methods of this propaganda effort, however, are in depicting the documents as ‘factual assessments’ of the on-the-ground reality, which they are not. The documents are factual in how they represent the views of those who wrote them, which does not mean that they are factual in their substance. There is a difference, and acknowledging this difference is incredibly important in both the exposure of propaganda and assessment of truth.

The Truth About Diplomacy

Craig Murray is one voice that should be heard on this issue. Craig Murray was a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan who made a name for himself in exposing intelligence from Uzbekistan related to al-Qaeda as entirely unreliable, due to the methods of torture used to get the information (such as boiling people alive). This intelligence was passed to the CIA and MI6, which Murray said was “factually incorrect.” When Murray expressed his concerns with the higher-ups in the British diplomatic services, he was reprimanded for talking about “human rights.”[9] The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) told Murray that he had one week to resign, and was threatened with possible prosecution or jail time for revealing “state secrets.”[10] He was subsequently removed from his ambassadorial position, and has since become something of a political activist. In short, Murray is exactly the type of diplomat a person should want: honest. But he was also exactly the type of diplomat that Western imperial powers don’t want: honest.

In the midst of the latest Wikileaks releases of diplomatic documents, Craig Murray was asked to write an article for the Guardian regarding his interpretation of the issue. As Murray later noted, the paper placed his article, largely reduced, hidden in the middle of a long article which was a compendium of various commentaries on Wikileaks. Murray, however, posted the full version on his website. In the article, Murray begins by assessing the claims of government officials around the world, particularly in the United States, that Wikileaks exposes the United States to “harm,” that it puts lives at risk, and that they will “encourage Islamic extremism,” and most especially, the notion that “government secrecy is essential to keep us all safe.” Murray explains that having been a diplomat for over 20 years, he is very familiar with these arguments, particularly that as a result of Wikileaks, diplomats will no longer be candid in giving advice, “if that advice might become public.” Murray elaborates:

Put it another way. The best advice is advice you would not be prepared to defend in public. Really? Why? In today’s globalised world, the Embassy is not a unique source of expertise. Often expatriate, academic and commercial organisations are a lot better informed. The best policy advice is not advice which is shielded from peer review.

What of course the establishment mean is that Ambassadors should be free to recommend things which the general public would view with deep opprobrium, without any danger of being found out. But should they really be allowed to do that, in a democracy?[11]

Murray pointedly asked why a type of behaviour that is considered reprehensible for most people – such as lying – “should be considered acceptable, or even praiseworthy, in diplomacy.” Murray explained that for British diplomats, “this belief that their profession exempts them from the normal constraints of decent behaviour amounts to a cult of Machiavellianism, a pride in their own amorality.” He explained that diplomats come from a very narrow upper social strata, and “view themselves as ultra-intelligent Nietzschean supermen, above normal morality” who are socially connected to the political elite. In criticizing the claims made by many commentators that the release of the leaks endanger lives, Murray pointedly wrote that this perspective needs to be “set against any such risk the hundreds of thousands of actual dead from the foreign policies of the US and its co-conspirators in the past decade.” Further, for those who posit that Wikileaks is a psy-op or propaganda operation or that Wikileaks is a “CIA front”, Murray had this to say:

Of course the documents reflect the US view – they are official US government communications. What they show is something I witnessed personally, that diplomats as a class very seldom tell unpalatable truths to politicians, but rather report and reinforce what their masters want to hear, in the hope of receiving preferment.

There is therefore a huge amount about Iran’s putative nuclear arsenal and an exaggeration of Iran’s warhead delivery capability. But there is nothing about Israel’s massive nuclear arsenal. That is not because wikileaks have censored criticism of Israel. It is because any US diplomat who made an honest and open assessment of Israeli crimes would very quickly be an unemployed ex-diplomat.[12]

Murray concluded his article with the statement that all would do well to keep in mind: “Truth helps the people against rapacious elites – everywhere.”[13]

World Order and Global Awakening

In attempting to understand Wikileaks and its potential effects (that is, if the alternative media and citizens activists use this opportunity), we must place Wikileaks within a wider geopolitical context. Our human world exists as a complex system of social interactions. As powerful and dominating as elites are and have always been, we must understand that they are not omnipotent; they are human and flawed, as are their methods and ideas. There are other forces at work in the human social world, and these various interactions created and changed the world into what it is, and will determine where it is going. In effect, nothing is preordained; nothing is exact. Plans are made, certainly, by elites, in designing ideas and reshaping and controlling society. However, society – and in the globalized world, a ‘global society’ – react and interact with elite forces and ideas. Just as the people must react to and experience repercussions from changes in elite processes, so too must the elite react to and experience repercussions from changes in social processes. Today, we can conceptualize this dichotomy – the geopolitical reality of the world – as ‘The Global Political Awakening and the New World Order’:

There is a new and unique development in human history that is taking place around the world; it is unprecedented in reach and volume, and it is also the greatest threat to all global power structures: the ‘global political awakening.’ The term was coined by Zbigniew Brzezinski, and refers to the fact that, as Brzezinski wrote:

For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. Global activism is generating a surge in the quest for cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world scarred by memories of colonial or imperial domination.

It is, in essence, this massive ‘global political awakening’ which presents the gravest and greatest challenge to the organized powers of globalization and the global political economy: nation-states, multinational corporations and banks, central banks, international organizations, military, intelligence, media and academic institutions. The Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC), or ‘Superclass’ as David Rothkopf refers to them, are globalized like never before. For the first time in history, we have a truly global and heavily integrated elite. As elites have globalized their power, seeking to construct a ‘new world order’ of global governance and ultimately global government (decades down the line), they have simultaneously globalized populations.

The ‘Technological Revolution’ involves two major geopolitical developments. The first is that as technology advances, systems of mass communication rapidly accelerate, and the world’s people are able to engage in instant communication with one another and gain access to information from around the world. In it, lies the potential – and ultimately a central source – of a massive global political awakening. Simultaneously, the Technological Revolution has allowed elites to redirect and control society in ways never before imagined, potentially culminating in a global scientific dictatorship, as many have warned of since the early decades of the 20th century. The potential for controlling the masses has never been so great, as science unleashes the power of genetics, biometrics, surveillance, and new forms of modern eugenics; implemented by a scientific elite equipped with systems of psycho-social control.

Brzezinski has written extensively on the issue of the ‘Global Political Awakening,’ and has been giving speeches at various elite think tanks around the world, ‘informing’ the elites of this changing global dynamic. Brzezinski is one of the principle representatives of the global elite and one of the most influential elite intellectuals in the world. His analysis of the `global politicl awakening`is useful because of his repesentation of it as the primary global threat to elite interests everywhere. Thus, people should view the concept of the `global political awakening`as the greatest potential hope for humanity and that it should be advanced and aided, as opposed to Brzezinski`s perspective that it should be controlled and suppressed. However, it would be best for Brzezinski to explain the concept in his own words to allow people to understand how it constitutes a `threat`to elite interests :

For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. There are only a few pockets of humanity left in the remotest corners of the world that are not politically alert and engaged with the political turmoil and stirrings that are so widespread today around the world. The resulting global political activism is generating a surge in the quest for personal dignity, cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world painfully scarred by memories of centuries-long alien colonial or imperial domination… The worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening.

…America needs to face squarely a centrally important new global reality: that the world’s population is experiencing a political awakening unprecedented in scope and intensity, with the result that the politics of populism are transforming the politics of power. The need to respond to that massive phenomenon poses to the uniquely sovereign America an historic dilemma: What should be the central definition of America’s global role? … The central challenge of our time is posed not by global terrorism, but rather by the intensifying turbulence caused by the phenomenon of global political awakening. That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing.

… It is no overstatement to assert that now in the 21st century the population of much of the developing world is politically stirring and in many places seething with unrest. It is a population acutely conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree, and often resentful of its perceived lack of political dignity. The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches.

The youth of the Third World are particularly restless and resentful. The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well. With the exception of Europe, Japan and America, the rapidly expanding demographic bulge in the 25-year-old-and-under age bracket is creating a huge mass of impatient young people. Their minds have been stirred by sounds and images that emanate from afar and which intensify their disaffection with what is at hand. Their potential revolutionary spearhead is likely to emerge from among the scores of millions of students concentrated in the often intellectually dubious “tertiary level” educational institutions of developing countries. Depending on the definition of the tertiary educational level, there are currently worldwide between 80 and 130 million “college” students. Typically originating from the socially insecure lower middle class and inflamed by a sense of social outrage, these millions of students are revolutionaries-in-waiting, already semi-mobilized in large congregations, connected by the Internet and pre-positioned for a replay on a larger scale of what transpired years earlier in Mexico City or in Tiananmen Square. Their physical energy and emotional frustration is just waiting to be triggered by a cause, or a faith, or a hatred.

Brzezinski thus posits that to address this new global “challenge” to entrenched powers, particularly nation-states that cannot sufficiently address the increasingly non-pliant populations and populist demands, what is required, is “increasingly supranational cooperation, actively promoted by the United States.” In other words, Brzezinski favours an increased and expanded ‘internationalization’, not surprising considering he laid the intellectual foundations of the Trilateral Commission. He explains that “Democracy per se is not an enduring solution,” as it could be overtaken by “radically resentful populism.” This is truly a new global reality:

Politically awakened mankind craves political dignity, which democracy can enhance, but political dignity also encompasses ethnic or national self-determination, religious self-definition, and human and social rights, all in a world now acutely aware of economic, racial and ethnic inequities. The quest for political dignity, especially through national self-determination and social transformation, is part of the pulse of self-assertion by the world’s underprivileged.

Thus, writes Brzezinski, “an effective response can only come from a self-confident America genuinely committed to a new vision of global solidarity.” The idea is that to address the grievances caused by globalization and global power structures, the world and America must expand and institutionalize the process of globalization, not simply in the economic sphere, but in the social and political as well. It is a flawed logic, to say the least, that the answer to these systemic problems is to enhance and strengthen the systemic flaws that created them. One cannot put out a fire by adding fuel.

Brzezinski even wrote that, “let it be said right away that supranationality should not be confused with world government. Even if it were desirable, mankind is not remotely ready for world government, and the American people certainly do not want it.” Instead, Brzezinski argues, America must be central in constructing a system of global governance, “in shaping a world that is defined less by the fiction of state sovereignty and more by the reality of expanding and politically regulated interdependence.” In other words, not ‘global government’ but ‘global governance’, which is simply a rhetorical ploy, as ‘global governance’ – no matter how overlapping, sporadic and desultory it presents itself – is in fact a key step and necessary transition in the moves toward an actual global government structure.

[See: Andrew Gavin Marshall, The Global Political Awakening and the New World Order, Global Research, 24 June 2010]

Conceptualizing Wikileaks

I feel that Wikileaks must be conceptualized within our understanding of this geopolitical reality we find ourselves in today. While indeed it is necessary to be skeptical of such monumental events, we must allow ourselves to remember that there are always surprises – for everyone – and that the future is nothing if not unknown. Anything, truly, can happen. There is of course logic behind the automatic skepticism and suspicion about Wikileaks from the alternative media; however, they also risk losing an incredible opportunity presented by Wikileaks, to not only reach more people with important information, but to better inform that information itself.

For those who view Wikileaks as a conspiracy or plot, as a psy-op of some kind, while indeed these things have taken place in the past, there is simply no evidence for it thus far. Every examination of this concept is based upon speculation. Many nations around the world, particularly in the Middle East and South Asia, are pointing to the Western nations as engaging in a covert propaganda campaign aimed at creating disunity between states and allies. Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan have made such claims. It is no surprise that most of these are nations, particularly Iran, are targets of U.S. imperial policy. Since, however, the Wikileaks releases speak heavily and negatively about Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, China, Venezuela, etc., one must remember that these are ‘diplomatic cables’, and represent the ‘opinions and beliefs’ of the diplomatic establishment, a social group which is historically and presently deeply enmeshed and submissive to elite ideology and methodology. In short, these are the foreign imperial envoys, and as such, they are ideological imperialists and represent imperial interests.

As has been the case both historically and presently, imperial objectives are hidden with political rhetoric. Since, politically, these are target nations of the American imperial elite, America’s diplomatic representatives will focus on these nations, and adopt the same ideas and beliefs. How many people have ever been given a raise by questioning and then disregarding their superior’s management technique? Thus, in their respective nations and operations, the diplomats will seek information that targets these nations or serve specific American imperial objectives. If all the information they come up with are rumours and conjectures and repeated talking points, that is what will be seen in the diplomatic cables. Indeed, that was exactly the case. The cables are full of rumours and unsupported allegations. So naturally, they would target these specific nations – deemed geopolitically significant by American imperial interests – and why there would be far less information on Israel and other allied nations. This is why it seems to me that these cables are authentic. They seem to represent the reality of the ‘diplomatic social group’, and thus they are a vivid exploration in the study of imperialism. We have been given the opportunity to see the ‘communications’ of imperial diplomacy. It is in this, that we are presented with an incredible opportunity.

Further, in regards to many Middle Eastern and Asian nations framing Wikileaks as a “Western plot,” as critical thinkers we must take note of the geopolitical reality of the ‘global political awakenng.’ All states are self-interested, that is the nature of a state. Elites all over the world are aware of the reality and potential political power of the ‘global political awakening’ and thus, seek to suppress or co-opt its potential. States which are often viewed by the critical press as ‘targets’ by Western imperial powers (such as Iran), may seek to use this power to its own advantage. They may attempt to steer the ‘global awakening’ and the ‘alternative media’ to their favour, which gives them political power. But the alternative media must not ‘pick sides’ in terms of global elites and power structures, we must remain critical of all sides and all actors.

Wikileaks is receiving an incredible readership and is reaching out to new audiences, globally, in the American homeland itself, and to the youth of the world. People’s perceptions are beginning to change on a variety of issues. The question is: will the alternative media ignore Wikileaks and isolate itself, or will they engage with Wikileaks, and prevent the mainstream corporate media from having a ‘monopoly of interpretation’, which becomes inherently propagandistic. Wikileaks is having global repercussions, and has been very good for the newspaper and mainstream news industries, which have been on a steady decline. This too, can be an issue to reach out to this new and growing audience, and to bring them to a new perspective. If we do not reach out, we are left talking to each other, further isolating ourselves, and ultimately becoming subverted and ineffective for change. We need to reach out to new audiences, and this is an incredible opportunity to do so. People are interested, people are curious, people are hungry for more.

Wikileaks and the Media

Instead of deriding Wikileaks as “not telling us anything we didn’t know” before, perhaps the alternative media should use the popularity and momentum of Wikileaks to take from it the documentation and analysis that further strengthens our arguments and beliefs. This will allow for others, especially new audiences of interested people worldwide, to place the Wikileaks releases within a wider context and understanding. The reports from Wikileaks are ‘revelations’ only to those who largely adhere to the ‘illusions’ of the world: that we live in ‘democracies’ promoting ‘freedom’ around the world and at home, etc. The ‘revelations’ however, are not simply challenging American perceptions of America, but of all nations and their populations. The fact that these people are reading and discovering new things for which they are developing an interest is an incredible change. This is likely why the corporate media is so heavily involved in the dissemination of this information (which itself is a major source of suspicion for the alternative media): to control the interpretation of the message. It is the job of the alternative media and intellectuals and other thinking individuals to challenge that interpretation with factual analysis. The Wikileaks releases, in fact, give us more facts to place within and support our interpretations than they do for the corporate media.

We must ask why the Wikileaks releases were ‘revelations’ for most people? Well, it was surprising simply for the fact that the media itself has such a strong hold on the access, dissemination and interpretation of information. They are ‘revelations’ because people are indoctrinated with myths. They are not ‘revelations’ to the alternative media because we have been talking about these things for years. However, while they may not necessarily be ‘revelations’, they are in fact, ‘confirmations’ and ‘vindications’ and bring more information to the analysis. It is in this, that a great opportunity lies. For since the leaks support and better inform our perspectives, we can build on this concept and examine how Wikileaks adds to and supports critical analysis. For those who are newly interested and looking for information, or for those who are having their previous perceptions challenged, it is the alternative media and critical voices alone who can place that information in a wider context for everyone else. In this, more people will see how it is the alternative media and critical perspectives which were more reflective of reality than say, the mainstream media (for which Wikileaks is a ‘revelation’). Thus, more people may soon start turning to alternative media and ideas; after all, our perspectives were vindicated, not those of the mainstream media (though they attempt to spin it as such).

We are under a heavy propaganda offensive on the part of the global corporate and mainstream media to spin and manipulate these leaks to their own interests. We, as alternative media and voices, must use Wikileaks to our advantage. Ignoring it will only damage our cause and undermine our strength. The mainstream media understood that; so too, must we. Wikileaks presents in itself a further opportunity for the larger exposure of mainstream media as organized propaganda. By ‘surprising’ so many people with the ‘revelations’, the media has in effect exposed itself as deeply inadequate in their analysis of the world and the major issues within it. While currently it is giving the mainstream media a great boost, we are still immersed in the era of the ‘Technological Revolution’ and there is still (for now, anyway) Internet freedom, and thus, the tide can quickly turn.

Like the saying goes, ‘the rich man will sell you the rope to hang him with if he thinks he can make a buck on it.’ Perhaps the mainstream media has done the same. No other organized apparatus was as capable of disseminating as much material as quickly and with such global reach as the mainstream media. If the leaks initially only made it into alternative media, then the information would only reach those whom are already reading the alternative press. In that, they would not be such grand ‘revelations’ and would have had a muted effect. In the mainstream media’s global exposure of Wikileaks material (never mind their slanted and propagandistic interpretations), they have changed the dynamic and significance of the information. By reaching wider and new audiences, the alternative and critical voices can co-opt these new audiences; lead them away from the realm of information ‘control’ into the realm of information ‘access’. This is potentially one of the greatest opportunities presented for the alternative and critical voices of the world.

Wikileaks is a globally transformative event. Not simply in terms of awakening new people to ‘new’ information, but also in terms of the effect it is having upon global power structures, itself. With ambassadors resigning, diplomats being exposed as liars and tools, political rifts developing between Western imperial allies, and many careers and reputations of elites around the world at great risk, Wikileaks is creating the potential for an enormous deterioration in the effectiveness of imperialism and domination. That, in itself, is an admirable and worthy goal. That this is already a reality is representative of how truly transformative Wikileaks is and could be. People, globally, are starting to see their leaders through a lens not filtered by ‘public relations.’ Through mainstream media, it gets filtered through propaganda, which is why it is an essential duty of the alternative media and critical thinkers to place this information in a wider, comprehensive context. This would further erode the effectiveness of empire.

With the reaction of several states and policing organizations to issue arrest warrants for Julian Assange, or in calling for his assassination (as one Canadian adviser to the Prime Minister suggested on television), these organizations and individuals are exposing their own hatred of democracy, transparency and freedom of information. Their reactions can be used to discredit their legitimacy to ‘rule’. If policing agencies are supposed to “protect and serve,” why are they seeking instead to “punish and subvert” those who expose the truth? Again, this comes as no surprise to those who closely study the nature of the state, and especially the modern phenomenon of the militarization of domestic society and the dismantling of rights and freedoms. However, it is happening before the eyes of the whole world, and people are paying attention. This is new.

This is an incredible opportunity to criticize foreign policy (read: ‘imperial strategy’), and to disembowel many global power structures. More people, now, than ever before, will be willing to listen, learn and investigate for themselves. Wikileaks should be regarded as a ‘gift’, not a ‘distraction.’ Instead of focusing on the parts of the Wikileaks cables which do not reflect the perspectives of the alternative media (such as on Iran), we must use Wikileaks to better inform our own understanding not simply of the ‘policy’ itself, but of the complex social interactions and ideas that create the basis for the ‘policy’ to be carried out. In regards to the diplomatic cables themselves, we are better able to understand the nature of diplomats as ‘agents of empire,’ and so instead of discounting the cables as ‘propaganda’ we must use them against the apparatus of empire itself: to expose the empire for what it is. Wikileaks helps to unsheathe and strip away the rhetoric behind imperial policy, and expose diplomats not as ‘informed observers’, but as ‘agents of power.’ The reaction by nations, organizations and institutions around the world adds further fuel to this approach, as we are seeing the utter distaste political leaders have for ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom of information’, despite their rhetoric. Several institutions of power can be more widely exposed in this manner.

A recent addition to this analysis can be in the role played by universities not in ‘education’ but in ‘indoctrination’ and the production of new ‘agents of power.’ For example, Columbia University is one of the most “respected” and “revered” universities in the world, which has produced several individuals and significant sectors of the political elite (including diplomats). In reaction to the Wikileaks releases, Columbia University has warned “students they risk future job prospects if they download any of the material,” which followed “a government ban on employees, estimated at more than two-and-a-half million people, using work computers and other communication devices to look at diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.” The University “emailed students at the university’s school of international and public affairs, a recruiting ground for the state department.”[14] Good for Columbia! What do they think university is for, ‘education’ or something? How dare students take education into their own hands, especially students who will likely be future diplomats. This university reaction to Wikileaks helps call into attention the role of universities in our society, and specifically the role of universities in shaping the future ‘managers’ of the imperial apparatus.

Wikileaks as an Opportunity

If Wikileaks is a psy-op, it is either the stupidest or most intelligent psychological operation ever undertaken. But one thing is for sure: systems and structures of power are in the process of being exposed to a much wider audience than ever before. The question for the alternative media and critical researchers, alike, is what will they do with this information and this opportunity?

Julian Assange was recently interviewed by Time Magazine about Wikileaks, in which he explained to the inadequately informed editor of Time Magazine that organizations which are secretive need to be exposed:

If their behavior is revealed to the public, they have one of two choices: one is to reform in such a way that they can be proud of their endeavors, and proud to display them to the public. Or the other is to lock down internally and to balkanize, and as a result, of course, cease to be as efficient as they were. To me, that is a very good outcome, because organizations can either be efficient, open and honest, or they can be closed, conspiratorial and inefficient.[15]

Assange further explained some of his perspectives regarding the influence of and reactions to Wikileaks, stating that the Chinese:

appear to be terrified of free speech, and while one might say that means something awful is happening in the country, I actually think that is a very optimistic sign, because it means that speech can still cause reform and that the power structure is still inherently political, as opposed to fiscal. So journalism and writing are capable of achieving change, and that is why Chinese authorities are so scared of it. Whereas in the United States to a large degree, and in other Western countries, the basic elements of society have been so heavily fiscalized through contractual obligations that political change doesn’t seem to result in economic change, which in other words means that political change doesn’t result in change.[16]

In the interview, Assange turned to the issue of the Internet and community media:

For the rise of social media, it’s quite interesting. When we first started [in 2006], we thought we would have the analytical work done by bloggers and people who wrote Wikipedia articles and so on. And we thought that was a natural, given that we had lots of quality, important content… The bulk of the heavy lifting – heavy analytical lifting – that is done with our materials is done by us, and is done by professional journalists we work with and by professional human-rights activists. It is not done by the broader community. However, once the initial lifting is done, once a story becomes a story, becomes a news article, then we start to see community involvement, which digs deeper and provides more perspective. So the social networks tend to be, for us, an amplifier of what we are doing. And also a supply of sources for us.[17]

As researchers, media, and critics, we must realize that our perspectives and beliefs must be open to change and evolution. Simply because something like this has never happened before does not mean that it isn’t happening now. We live in the era of the ‘Technological Revolution,’ and the Internet has changed economics, politics and society itself, on a global scale. This is where the true hope in furthering and better informing the ‘global political awakening’ will need to take speed and establish itself. True change in our world is not going to come from already-established or newly-created institutions of power, which is where all issues are currently being addressed, especially those of global significance. True change, instead, can only come not from global power structures, but from the global ‘community’ of people, interacting with one another via the power unleashed by the ‘Technological Revolution.’ Change must be globally understood and community organized.

We are on the verge of a period of global social transformation, the question is: will we do anything about it? Will we seek to inform and partake in this transition, or will we sit and watch it be misled, criticizing it as it falters and falls? Just as Martin Luther King commented in his 1967 speech, Beyond Vietnam, that it seemed as if America was “on the wrong side of a world revolution,” now there is an opportunity to remedy that sad reality, and not simply on a national scale, but global.

Despite all the means and methods of power and domination in this world, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As things progressively get worse and worse, as any independent observer of the world has noticed, life has a way of creating means and methods to counter these regressions. As ‘globalization’ has facilitated the emergence of a global elite, and several global institutions and ideologies of global power, so too has this process facilitated the ‘globalization of opposition.’ So while elites, globally, actively work to integrate and expand global power structures, they are inadvertently integrating and expanding global opposition to those very same power structures. This is the great paradox of our time, and one which we must recognize, for it is not simply a factual observation, but it is a hopeful situation.

Hope should not be underestimated, and it is something that I have personally struggled with in my views of the world. It is hard to see ‘hope’ when you study so much ‘horror’ in the world, and see how little is being done about it. But activism and change need hope. This is very evident from the Obama campaign, which was splashed with rhetoric of ‘hope’ and ‘change’, something that all people rightfully want and need. However, Obama’s ‘hope’ and ‘change’ were Wall Street brands and patents, it was a glorious practice in the art of propaganda, and a horrific blow to true notions of ‘hope’ and ‘change’. There is a reason why the Obama campaign took the top prizes in public relations industry awards.[18]

Hope is needed, but it cannot be misplaced hope, as it was with Obama. It must be a hope grounded not in ‘blind faith’ but in ‘honest analysis.’ While indeed on most fronts in the world, things are getting progressively worse, the alternative media has focused almost exclusively on these issues that they have blinded themselves to the positive geopolitical developments in the world, namely the ‘global political awakening’ and the role of the Internet in reshaping global society. While these issues are acknowledged, they are not fully understood or explained within the wider context: that these are in fact, hopeful developments; that there is hope. Wikileaks strengthens this notion, if it is to be taken as an opportunity. A critique without hope falls on deaf ears. No one wants to hear that things are ‘hopeless’, so while an examination of what is wrong in the world is integral to moving forward, so too is an examination of what is hopeful and positive. This spreads the message and builds its supporters. The Internet as a medium facilitates the spread of this message, and after all, as one of the foremost media theorists, Marshall McLuhan, noted, “The medium is the message.”

Appendix of ‘Revelations’ and ‘Vindications’: A Call to Action for Alternative Media

So what are some of the supposed ‘revelations’ which can be used as ‘vindications’ by the alternative media? Well, for one, the role of royalty as a relevant and powerful economic and political actor in the world today. And by this I do not simply refer to states where monarchs remain as official rulers, such as in Saudi Arabia, but more specifically to West European and notably the British monarchs. For those who have studied institutions like the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission, the relevance of European royalty in international affairs is not a new concept. For the majority of people (who haven’t even heard of the Bilderberg Group or Trilateral Commission), these monarchs are largely viewed as symbolic figures as opposed to political actors. This is, of course, naïve, as all monarchs have always been political actors, however, it is a naivety that has now been challenged on a much wider scale and to a much wider audience. There was a time when I would discuss the relevance of monarchs in the modern world, and it would be a subject that would be treated by many others as an absurd notion: “but the Queen has no real power, she’s a figurehead,” etc. Wikileaks has exposed that notion as a falsity, and it should be an issue that is expanded upon.

For example, within the Wikileaks cables, take the British Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, who has been subject to many cable ‘revelations.’ The U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan wrote a cable regarding a meeting she attended with several British and Canadian businessmen and Prince Andrew, who is a special U.K. trade representative to the Middle East and Central Asia. At the meeting, Prince Andrew ranted against “those [expletive] journalists … who poke their noses everywhere,” and he “railed at British anticorruption investigators, who had had the ‘idiocy’ of almost scuttling the al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia,” particularly “referencing an investigation, subsequently closed, into alleged kickbacks a senior Saudi royal had received in exchange for the multi-year, lucrative BAE Systems contract to provide equipment and training to Saudi security forces.” When he ranted against the media – specifically the Guardian paper – for making it harder to do business abroad, the U.S. Ambassador noted that the businessmen in attendance “roared their approval” and “practically clapped.”[19] Again, evidence for how elites despise true representations of democracy and freedom.

At that same meeting, Prince Andrew made another startling claim, and one which had not been as widely publicized in the media to date. He stated that to the U.S. Ambassador that: “the United Kingdom, Western Europe (and by extension you Americans too) were now back in the thick of playing the Great Game,” and, “this time we aim to win!” Further, Prince Andrew – the ‘Duke of York’ – “then stated that he was very worried about Russia’s resurgence in the region,” and referred to Chinese economic and political expansion in the region as “probably inevitable, but a menace.” On the way out of the meeting, one British businessman said to the U.S. Ambassador, “What a wonderful representative for the British people! We could not be prouder of our royal family!”[20] Well, there you have it, a rich prince running around the world with rich businessmen promoting their economic interests in foreign countries and referring to it as the age-old imperial competition between Britain and Russia in the “Great Game” for dominance over Central Asia. And we call our countries ‘democracies’ and exporters of ‘freedom’?

This is quite typical behaviour of the royal family, however, as a former South African MP and anti-corruption campaigner, Andrew Feinstein, explained, “the royal family has actively supported Britain’s arms sales, even when corruption and malfeasance has been suspected,” and that, “the royal family was involved in trying to persuade South Africa to buy BAE’s Hawk jets, despite the air force not wanting the planes that cost two and a half times the price of their preferred aircraft. As an ANC MP at the time, I was told that £116m in bribes had been paid to key decision-makers and the ANC itself. The royal family’s attitude is part of the reason that BAE will never face justice in the UK for its corrupt practices.”[21]

The British royals are also very close with Arab monarchs, which makes sense, considering it was the British Empire (and the ‘Crown’ behind it) that created the Arab monarchs and gave them power in the first place. Prince Andrew went on hunting trips with the King of Jordan and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the UAE.[22] Further, Prince Charles is considered a strategic diplomatic figure in regards to Saudi Arabia, as the cables reveal. The British media headlined with the ‘revelation’ that Prince Charles is not as “respected” as Queen Elizabeth, but the real story was buried in the same article beneath the royal gossip, as cables revealed that Prince Charles and his wife “have helped to overcome ‘severe strains’ following Saudi Arabia’s imprisonment and torture of five Britons from December 2001 to August 2003 and the UK’s official fraud investigations of British Aerospace operations in Saudi Arabia in 2004.” As one U.S. diplomatic cable explained, the British royals “helped re-build UK-Saudi ties” as “the House of Saud and the House of Windsor build upon their royal commonality.” In other words, they both represent unelected and unaccountable elite dynastic power, and so they should naturally work together in ‘their’ own interests. How ‘democratic’ of them. Further, a Saudi royal threw a lavish party for Prince Charles in Saudi Arabia with the help of an unnamed British businessman.[23]

It looks, however, like the British royals will have to again move in to “smooth out” ties with Saudi Arabia, as ‘revelations’ about the country and its monarch paint a picture of a not-so-helpful Western ally. In short, Saudi Arabia and its monarch have received one of the largest public relations disasters in recent history. The British monarch may be too busy cleaning up their own mess, or have too much light on them at the moment, to be able to ‘gracefully’ maneuver through yet another ‘imperious’ royal visit. What am I referring to here in terms of bad PR for the Saudis? It’s quite simple, the Saudi royals, good friends of the British monarch, are incidentally the principle financiers of Sunni terrorists (which includes what we commonly refer to as ‘al-Qaeda’) worldwide.

While this comes as no surprise to those who have critically analyzed al-Qaeda or the “war on terror,” it is indeed a ‘revelation’ to the majority of people. While Western governments and media propaganda machines have for years blamed terrorist financing and support on ‘target’ nations like Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and more recently, Pakistan and Yemen, the Wikileaks cables ‘vindicated’ the historical and present reality that it is in fact the main Western allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia, but also the other major Gulf Arab states (and their monarchs), who are the main financiers and supporters of terrorism, and most notably, al-Qaeda. A memo signed by Hillary Clinton confirmed that Saudi Arabia is understood to be “the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba,” as well as al-Qaeda itself. Further, three other Arab states, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates are listed as other chief terrorist financiers. As the Guardian put it, “the cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea.” While Pakistan is largely blamed for aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan, it is in fact Saudi Arabia as well as UAE-based businesses which are its chief financiers. Kuwait, another staunch U.S. ally, is a “source of funds and a key transit point” for al-Qaeda.[24]

While the New York Times was busy declaring Wikileaks as providing a “new consensus” on Iran, with the Saudi King urging America to attack and “cut the head off the snake,” they mentioned only in passing, how “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda.”[25] Now, while these are indeed ‘revelations’ to many, we must place these facts in their proper context. This is not simply to be taken as Saudi Arabia and Arab states being responsible, alone, for support of terrorism and al-Qaeda, but that they are simply playing the role they have always played, and that diplomacy is sidelined and kept in the dark on this issue as it always has been.

What I mean by this is that the contextualization of these facts must be placed in a comprehensive historical analysis. Looking at the history of al-Qaeda, arising out of the Soviet-Afghan War, with major covert support from America and other Western allies, the center of this operation was in the ‘Safari Club,’ which constituted a secret network of Western intelligence agencies (such as those of France, Britain and America) and regional intelligence agencies (such as those of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan), in carrying out the financing, training, arming and operational support of the Mujahideen, and subsequently the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The ‘Safari Club’ was established in 1976 (with the help of CIA director at the time, George H.W. Bush, another close friend of the Saudi royals), and was designed to respond to increasing political oversight of intelligence operations in America (as a result of the Church Committee investigations on CIA operations), and so the Safari Club was created to allow for a more covert and discreet network of intelligence operations, with no oversight. Diplomats were kept in the dark about its operations and indeed its existence, while the quiet covert relationships continued behind the scenes. This network, in some form or another, exists up to the present day, as I recently documented in my three-part series on “The Imperial Anatomy of al-Qaeda.”

[See: The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda. The CIA’s Drug-Running Terrorists and the “Arc of Crisis”; Empire, Energy and Al-Qaeda: The Anglo-American Terror Network; 9/11 and America’s Secret Terror Campaign]

In short, there is a reason that while diplomats complain quietly about Saudi and Arab financing and support for al-Qaeda, nothing is actually done: because through other avenues, the American imperial structure and apparatus supports and facilitates this process. Diplomacy is more overt in its imperial ambitions, thus the reality of the cables reflecting a focus on Iran and Pakistan, yet intelligence operations are a much more covert means of establishing and maintaining particular imperial relationships. This information again should not be taken “at face value,” but rather placed within its broader geopolitical context. In this sense, the information is not ‘disinformation’ or ‘propaganda’, but rather additional factual ‘vindication’ and information.

While Western governments and media publicly scorn Iran and accuse it of “meddling” in the affairs of Iraq, and of supporting terrorism and destabilization of the country, the reality is that while Iran certainly exerts influence in Iraq, (after all, they are neighbours), Saudi Arabia is a far greater source of destabilization than Iran is accused of being, and this is from the mouths of Iraqi leaders themselves. Iraqi government officials, reported the Guardian, “see Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state.” In a cable written by the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, it was explained that, “Iraq views relations with Saudi Arabia as among its most challenging given Riyadh’s money, deeply ingrained anti-Shia attitudes and [Saudi] suspicions that a Shia-led Iraq will inevitably further Iranian regional influence.” Further, “Iraqi contacts assess that the Saudi goal (and that of most other Sunni Arab states, to varying degrees) is to enhance Sunni influence, dilute Shia dominance and promote the formation of a weak and fractured Iraqi government.” In short, that would mean that Saudi Arabia is actually doing what the West accuses Iran of doing in Iraq. So while Iran certainly has been promoting its own interests in Iraq, it is more interested in a stable Shi’a government, while Saudi Arabia is more interested in a weak and fractured government, and thus promotes sectarian conflict. One interesting fact to note that came out of the cables, is the increasing perspective among Iraqi youth rejecting foreign interference from any government, with diplomatic cables articulating that, “a ‘mental revolution’ was under way among Iraqi youth against foreign agendas seeking to undermine the country’s stability.”[26]

It should come as no surprise, then, that one top Saudi royal (in fact the former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency and thus the man responsible for handling Saudi Arabia’s relationship with terrorists), Prince Turki al-Faisal, said that the source of the diplomatic leaks should be “vigorously punished.” Turki, who has also been the Saudi Ambassador to the U.K. and America, said, “the WikiLeaks furor underscored that cyber security was an increasing international concern.”[27]

What other areas can Wikileaks be used to further inform and ‘vindicate’ the critical media? Well, start with Saudi Arabia’s neighbour to the south, Yemen. Whether or not most Americans (or for that matter, most people in general) are aware that America is waging a war in Yemen, just across the water from where America is waging another war against Somalia (since 2006/07). This past October, I wrote an article about the imperial war in Yemen as a war being fought under the auspices of the “War on Terror” and fighting al-Qaeda (financed by the Saudi elite); but which in reality is about America and other Western imperial powers (such as the U.K.) propping up a despotic leaders who has been in power since 1978, by supporting him in his campaign to eliminate a rebel movement in the North and a massive secessionist movement in the South. Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in August of 2009 by bombing rebel holdouts in the North along the Saudi border, as the Saudi elite are afraid of the movement spreading to disaffected groups within Saudi Arabia itself.

America inserted itself into the war by increasing the amount of money and military aid given to Yemen (in effect, subsidizing their military, as they do heavily with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, all the Arab states, and dozens of other states around the world), as well as providing direct special forces training and assistance, not to mention carrying out missile strikes within Yemen against “al-Qaeda training camps” which American intelligence officials claimed killed 60 ‘militants’. In reality, 52 innocent people died, with over half of them being women and children. At the time, both Yemen and America claimed it was an al-Qaeda training camp and that the cruise missile was fired by the Yemeni government, despite the fact that it had no such weapons in its arsenal, unlike the U.S. Navy patrolling the coastline. The missile strike was carried out by America “on direct presidential orders.”

Several days later, there was the bizarre “attempted terrorist attack” in which a young Nigerian man was arrested attempting to blow up his underwear (who was helped onto the plane by a mysterious Indian man in a suit who claimed he was a diplomat, according to witnesses), and who was subsequently linked to “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (an organization which started up not much earlier when a Guantanamo inmate returned to Saudi Arabia only to ‘escape’ Saudi custody, and flee to Yemen to start a new al-Qaeda branch). This provided the justification for America to dramatically increase its military aid to Yemen, which more than doubled from $67 million to $150 million, and came with increased special forces training and assistance, as well as increased CIA activity, discussing using drone attacks to kill innocent people (as they do in Pakistan), and more missile strikes.

This previous September, the Yemen government “laid siege” to a town in the South while the Obama administrations top counter-terrorism official, John Brennan, was in Yemen for ‘talks’ with President Saleh. The town was claimed to be a “sanctuary for al-Qaeda,” but it has key strategic significance as well. It is just south of a major new liquid natural gas pipeline, and the town happened to be home to many people involved in the Southern secessionist movement. The Yemeni government “barred” any outside or independent observers from witnessing the siege, which lasted days. However, for the many who fled the conflict and “siege,” they were claiming that the Islamic militants were working with the government against the rebel movement in the North and secessionist movement in the South, and according to one NPR reporter, “this is more about fighting or subduing the secessionist movement than it is about al-Qaida.”

[See: Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire,” Global Research, 5 October 2010]

The Wikileaks ‘revelations’ further inform and confirm much of this analysis. In regards to the missile strike that killed innocent women and children on Obama’s orders, Wikileaks cables revealed that Yemeni President Saleh “secretly offered US forces unrestricted access to his territory to conduct unilateral strikes against al-Qaida terrorist targets.” As Saleh told John Breannan in September of 2009, “I have given you an open door on terrorism. So I am not responsible.” Regarding the December 21 strike that killed the innocent civilians, a cable explained, “Yemen insisted it must ‘maintain the status quo’ regarding the official denial of US involvement. Saleh wanted operations to continue ‘non-stop until we eradicate this disease,” and days later in a meeting with U.S. Central Command head, General David Patraeus, “Saleh admitted lying to his population about the strikes.” He told the General, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”[28]

In regards to Pakistan, while it is important to be highly critical of the validity of the ‘perspectives’ within the cables in regards to Pakistan and the Taliban, since Pakistan is a current and escalating target in the “War [OF] Terror,” there are things to keep in mind: historically, the Pakistani ISI has funded, armed and trained the Taliban, but always with U.S. assistance and support. Thus, we must examine the situation presently and so historically. Wikileaks revealed (as I mentioned previously), that Arab Gulf states help fund the Taliban in Afghanistan, so the common claim that it is Pakistan ‘alone’ is immediately made to be erroneous. Is it possible that Pakistan is still working with the Taliban? Of course. They have historically through their intelligence services, the ISI, and while they have never done it without U.S. support (mostly through the CIA), the ISI still receives most of its outside funding from the CIA.[29] The CIA funding of the ISI, a reality since the late 70s, picked up dramatically following 9/11, the operations of which the ISI has been itself complicit in financing.[30] Thus, the CIA rewarded the financiers of 9/11 by increasing their funds.

The trouble with discounting information that does not fit in with your previously conceived ideas is that it does not allow for evolution or progress in thinking. This should never be done in regards to any subject, yet it is commonly done for all subjects, by official and critical voices alike. With Pakistan, we must understand that while historically it has been a staunch U.S. ally in the region, propping up every government, supporting every coup, American geopolitical ambitions have changed as a result of the changing geopolitical reality of the world. Pakistan has drawn increasingly close to China, which built a major seaport on Pakistan’s coast, giving China access to the Indian Ocean. This is a strategic threat to India and the United States more broadly, which seeks to subdue and control China’s growing influence (while simultaneously attempting to engage in efforts of international integration with China, specifically economically). India and Pakistan are historical enemies, and wars have been fought between them before. India and America are in a strategic alliance, and America helped India with its nuclear program, much to the distaste of the Pakistanis, who drew closer to China. Pakistan occupies an area of the utmost strategic importance: with its neighbours being Afghanistan, China, India and Iran.

American policy has changed to support a civilian government, kept weak and subservient to U.S. interests, while America covertly expands its wars inside Pakistan. This is creating an incredible potential for absolute destabilization and fragmentation, potentially resulting in total civil war. America appears to be undertaking a similar policy in Pakistan that it undertook in fracturing Yugoslavia throughout the 1990s. Only that Pakistan has a population of 170 million people and nuclear weapons. As America expands its destabilization of Pakistan, the risk of a nuclear war between Pakistan and India dramatically increases, as does the risk of destabilization spreading regionally to its neighbours of India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. The American-urged separation of the Pakistani military from official power in Pakistan (as in, it’s not a military dictatorships), was designed to impose a completely U.S. dependent civilian government and isolate an increasingly frustrated and antagonized Pakistani military.

As the Wikileaks cables revealed, General Kayani, head of the Pakistani military, threatened to depose the Pakistani government in a coup in March of 2009, and he discussed this in meetings with the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson. The cables revealed that the Pakistani Army Chief disliked the civilian government, but that they disliked the opposition even more, which was rallying people in the streets.[31] This reveals the intimate nature the U.S. has with the Pakistani military, as it always has. The U.S. did not support this proposal, as it currently favours a weak civilian government, and therefore a strong military dictatorship is not in America’s (or India’s) interest. Thus, there was no coup. Hence, Wikileaks can be used to further inform and vindicate analysis of Pakistan. For those who have been speaking about the destabilization of Pakistan for years, and there have been many, Wikileaks provides more resources to a critical analysis, and suddenly more people around the world might be interested in new ideas and perspectives, as Wikileaks has challenged so many of their previously held beliefs.

The list of examples surfacing from the Wikileaks cables is endless in the amount of additional information it can add in the alternative media’s dissemination of information and analysis. These were but a few examples among many. Make no mistake, this is an opportunity for the spread of truth, not a distraction from it. Treat it accordingly.


Notes

[1]        David E. Sanger, James Glanz and Jo Becker, Around the World, Distress Over Iran, The New York Times, 28 November 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/middleeast/29iran.htmlin

[2]        Fox, Leaked Documents Show Middle East Consensus on Threat Posed by Iran, Fox News, 29 November 2010: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/11/29/leaked-documents-middle-east-consensus-threat-posed-iran/

[3]        Ross Colvin, “Cut off head of snake” Saudis told U.S. on Iran, Reuters, 29 November 2010: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AS02B20101129

[4]        FT reporters, Iran accuses US over WikiLeaks, The Financial Times, 29 November 2010: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/940105fc-fbd1-11df-b79a-00144feab49a.html?ftcamp=rss#axzz16zUOP500

[5]        Barak Ravid, Netanyahu: Israel will not stand at center of new WikiLeaks report, Ha’aretz, 28 November 2010: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/netanyahu-israel-will-not-stand-at-center-of-new-wikileaks-report-1.327416?localLinksEnabled=false

[6]        Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Unexpectedly, Israel Welcomes WikiLeaks Revelations, IPS News, 1 December 2010: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53731

[7]        JPOST.COM STAFF, Barak: ‘Wikileaks incident has not damaged Israel’, Jerusalem Post, 30 November 2010: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=197357

[8]        Haaretz Service, Senior Turkey official says Israel behind WikiLeaks release, Ha’aretz, 2 December 2010: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/senior-turkey-official-says-israel-behind-wikileaks-release-1.328373

[9]        Craig Murray, Extraordinary Rendition, CraigMurray.org, 11 July 2005: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2005/07/extraordinary_r_1.html

[10]      Nick Paton Walsh, The envoy who said too much, The Guardian, 15 July 2004: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2004/jul/15/foreignpolicy.uk

[11]      Craig Murray, Raise A Glass to Wikileaks, CraigMurray.org, 29 November 2010: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/11/raise_a_glass_t.html

[12]      Ibid.

[13]      Ibid.

[14]      Ewen MacAskill, Columbia students told job prospects harmed if they access WikiLeaks cables, The Guardian, 5 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/05/columbia-students-wikileaks-cables

[15]      RICHARD STENGEL, Transcript: TIME Interview with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, Time Magazine, 30 November 2010: http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20101201/wl_time/08599203404000

[16]      Ibid.

[17]      Ibid.

[18]      Matthew Creamer, Obama Wins! … Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year, AdAge, 17 October 2008: http://adage.com/moy2008/article?article_id=131810; Mark Sweney, Barack Obama campaign claims two top prizes at Cannes Lion ad awards, The Guardian, 29 June 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jun/29/barack-obama-cannes-lions

[19]      David Leigh, Heather Brooke  and Rob Evans, WikiLeaks cables: ‘Rude’ Prince Andrew shocks US ambassador, The Guardian, 29 November 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/29/wikileaks-cables-rude-prince-andrew

[20]      US embassy cables: Prince Andrew rails against France, the SFO and the Guardian, The Guardian, 29 November 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/175722

[21]      Rob Evans and David Leigh, WikiLeaks cables: Prince Andrew demanded special BAE briefing, The Guardian, 30 November 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/30/prince-andrew-wikileaks-cables

[22]      US embassy cables: Prince Andrew hunts with Arab leaders, The Guardian, 29 November 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/8446

[23]      Robert Booth, Wikileaks cable: Prince Charles ‘not respected like Queen’, The Guardian, 29 November 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/nov/29/wikileaks-cable-prince-charles-queen

[24]      Declan Walsh, WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists, The Guardian, 5 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/05/wikileaks-cables-saudi-terrorist-funding

[25]      SCOTT SHANE and ANDREW W. LEHREN, Leaked Cables Offer Raw Look at U.S. Diplomacy, The New York Times, 28 November 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/29cables.html

[26]      Simon Tisdall, WikiLeaks cables: Saudi Arabia rated a bigger threat to Iraqi stability than Iran, The Guardian, 5 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/05/wikileaks-cables-saudi-meddling-iraq

[27]      William Maclean, Saudi royal: Punish WikiLeaks source “vigorously”, Reuters, 5 December 2010: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B41VA20101205

[28]      Robert Booth and Ian Black, WikiLeaks cables: Yemen offered US ‘open door’ to attack al-Qaida on its soil, The Guardian, 3 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/03/wikileaks-yemen-us-attack-al-qaida

[29]      Greg Miller, CIA pays for support in Pakistan, Los Angeles Times, 15 November 2009: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/15/world/fg-cia-pakistan15

[30]      Andrew Gavin Marshall, 9/11 and America’s Secret Terror Campaign, Global Research, 10 September 2010: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20975

[31]      David Batty and Declan Walsh, Pakistan army reacts to WikiLeaks cables with democracy pledge, The Guardian, 4 December 2010: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/04/pakistan-army-supports-government-wikileaks

Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire

Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire
Global Research, October 5, 2010

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of his least known and ultimately one of his most important speeches ever, “Beyond Vietnam,” in which he spoke out against the American war in Vietnam and against American empire in all its political, military and economic forms. In his speech, King endorsed the notion that America “was on the wrong side of a world revolution.” Dr. King explained:

During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”[1]

This is the nature of war of today: during King’s time, the pretext for war was to stop the spread of Communism; today, it’s done in the name of stopping the spread of terrorism. Terror has since time immemorial been a tactic used by states and governments to control populations. Al-Qaeda is no exception, as it was created and continues to largely function as a geopolitical extension of the covert apparatus of American empire. In short, al-Qaeda is an arm of the covert world of American intelligence agencies. In particular, the CIA, DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], US Special Forces, and multinational mercenary companies such as Blackwater [now Xe Services]. Where they go, al-Qaeda goes; where al-Qaeda goes, they accumulate; where they lay the groundwork, the American empire stands behind.[2]

Yemen is perhaps an excellent example of America being on the “wrong side of a world revolution,” as the secret war in Yemen being exacerbated in the name of “fighting al-Qaeda” is in actuality, about the expansion and supremacy of American power in the region. It is about the suppression of natural democratic, local, revolutionary elements throughout the country seeking self-autonomy in changing the nation from its current despotic, authoritarian rule sympathetic to American interests, into a nation of their own choosing. It is about repressing struggles for liberation.

This brings in the involvement of Saudi Arabia, itself interested in ensuring Yemen is a loyal neighbour; so they too must suppress indigenous movements within Yemen seeking autonomy, especially those that are Shi’a Muslims, as the Saudi state is a strict Wahhabist Sunni Muslim regime. Shi’as are primarily represented in the region through the state of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s “natural” enemy; both vying for influence in Iraq and both vying for influence in Yemen. Through this we see another key American imperial aim in this war, that of seeking to stir up a conflict with Iran, perhaps through a proxy-war within Yemen, or perhaps in hopes that the proxy war would expand into a regional war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, naturally drawing in Israel, Egypt and the United States. Finally, we have the strategic location of Yemen to consider, bridging one of the largest oil transport routes in the world, parallel to Somalia and the Horn of Africa (where America is waging another war, again on the “wrong side of a world revolution”).

Just as American geopolitical strategists had chosen to favour Tutsis over Hutus in Central Africa in an effort to expand the American presence and business interests in the region; so too have American strategists chosen to favour a brand of radical Sunni Islam over the Shi’a or moderate Sunnis, and thus they support oppressive Sunni governments (such as Saudi Arabia), and denounce Shi’a governments as oppressive (such as Iran). Not to say that there is no oppression within Iran (there is oppression within all states everywhere in the world, Iran is no exception), but compared to Saudi Arabia, Iran is a bastion of freedom. Al-Qaeda is manifestly a significant facet of the pro-Wahhabist fundamentalist Sunni strategy of American imperialists. If they finance, train and arm the Sunni rebels or send in already-trained, armed and well-funded terrorists (commonly known as ‘al-Qaeda’ – the “database”), then they create a counter to any other domestic opposition or regional Shi’a dominance.

This essay examines the American war in Yemen as a war of empire, as a war against the rising tide of people’s movements and the “global political awakening” that is taking place around the world.

Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Art of Empire

To understand the current conflict in Yemen, as with all conflicts, we must go to history. To simply cast the conflict aside in the light of “fighting al-Qaeda” is a gross misrepresentation. Yemen’s history is deeply entwined with that of Arab nationalist politics in the Middle East, adding to that a balance of imperial power in the region.

The location of modern Yemen is vital in the notion of Yemen’s significance to imperial powers. Millennia ago, a settled civilization was established in the fertile south-west region of Arabia, and was “comprised by the kingdoms of Ma’in, Saba, and Himyar.” These kingdoms “were significant in the broader history of the Middle East, in part because of the long-distance trade links to India and the states at the top of the Red Sea.”[3] When Islam arose:

Yemen became part of the Arab and Islamic worlds and contributed both militarily to the Islamic conquests and culturally to the mediaeval Islamic period. From the tenth century onward, Yemen … ceased to be part of the broader Islamic empires … [and] it was ruled by a succession of dynasties, controlling more or less of to-day’s Yemeni territory. The last of these to control most of to-day’s North and South were the Qasimis, who ruled in the mid-seventeenth century. In the early modern period, Yemen fell under various degrees of external influence and control – in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Dutch and the Portuguese yielding to the Ottomans, and in the nineteenth century the Ottomans and the British dividing the country between them.[4]

When the Ottomans left in 1918, following their defeat in World War I, Zeidi Imam took over North Yemen, which was run by the Imams, while South Yemen was controlled by the British.[5] From the late eighteenth century, the British being the dominant power in the Arabian Peninsula, “sought to protect its imperial communications by entering into a series of treaties with the ruling shaykhs of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman and by bringing the strategic southern tip of the peninsula under direct British control as the Aden Protectorate [South Yemen].”[6]

Various families competed for power in Arabia, with Abd al-Aziz Ibn Sa’ud emerging victorious when in 1924 he exiled the previously imposed leader (supported by the British, but highly unpopular), Sharif Husayn. Britain quickly negotiated an agreement with Ibn Sa’ud in 1927, called the Treaty of Jeddah, which “recognized Ibn Sa’ud as the sovereign king of the Hijaz and sultan of Najd and its dependencies; he, in turn, acknowledged Britain’s special relationships with the coastal rulers [of the Arabian Peninsula] and pledged to respect their domains.” In 1932, the state became known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[7]

Following World War II, the United States became the single greatest superpower and it overtook the colonial possessions of the old European empires that collapsed prior to, during, and following World War II. In the Middle East:

New social and political forces emerged after 1945 to challenge the old elites and demand reform. Among them were pro-Soviet communist parties, but much more important and popular were radical nationalist movements and independent groups of young army officers determined to free their countries from lingering foreign control and chart a new course toward development and greater social justice.[8]

The Imams in North Yemen had begun laying claim to all of “natural Yemen,” directly challenging British rule in the south. In the 1940s, “there began to develop political oppositions, to both the Imams in the North and the British in the South.” The “Free Yemeni” movement in the North staged a failed coup in 1948 to free the North from the authoritarian rule of the Imams.[9]

Egypt saw the most significant upheavals in the immediate post-War years. In 1952, a group of junior military officers in the Egyptian Army orchestrated a bloodless coup in which they overthrew the Egyptian Monarchy and Colonel Abd al-Nasser took power, forming the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). The RCC’s primary political rival in Egypt was the Muslim Brotherhood, so when an assassination attempt on Nasser took place in 1954, the RCC outlawed the Brotherhood, arrested thousands of its members and executed several of its leaders. Nasser was not only the primary progenitor of nationalism in the region, but he was considered the exalted leader of the pan-Arab movement for unity.

Nasser set up a Soviet arms deal in 1955, in which Egypt exchanged cotton for Soviet military equipment, which dealt Nasser an impressive propaganda effect among Arab peoples who saw it as a rebuff of the Anglo-American grip on Egypt. Nasser, meanwhile, had been attempting to construct a dam at Aswan, and sought funds to do so from the World Bank in 1955. The World Bank approved a loan package (designed by the British and Americans), which would have required Egypt to accept particular conditions of the loan. Nasser had not made a decision on the package, when, in July of 1956, America announced it was withdrawing the offer.[10]

On July 26, 1956, days following the loan withdrawal, Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal, giving Nasser incredible support across the Muslim and Arab worlds, as the Canal, “built with Egyptian labour but operated by a French company and used as the lifeline of the British Empire, had stood as a symbol of Western exploitation.”[11] On October 29, 1956, Israel, Britain and France attacked Egypt, and a UN-sponsored cease-fire was signed by Britain and France on November 6, following the condemnation of the attack by both the USSR and America. The Suez Crisis, an Egyptian military defeat, had become a political success for Nasser.[12]

In Yemen, the struggle of the Free Yemenis in the North waged on against both the rule of the Imams in the North and the British in the South. The Free Yemenis were largely influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt initially, but changed the rhetoric as the 1950s changed the dynamic of politics in the region, with the rise of Arab nationalism, and thus, “the predominant politics of the oppositions in North and South was nationalistic, involving support not only for the general goal of ‘Arab unity’ but also for ‘Yemeni’ unity.” Following the failed coup in 1948, the opposition in the North was split between intellectuals and groups of officers. In 1962, the officers overthrew the Imams and proclaimed the “Yemen Arab Republic.”[13]

When this took place in the North, opposition spread to the countryside in the South where a guerilla movement developed. Between 1963 and 1967, the guerilla movement became a powerful force competing for power in Aden and the countryside, and was split into two: a Nasser-influenced group and a more radical Marxist “National Liberation Front” (NLF). Nasser inserted himself into the Yemeni civil war in 1962. The deposed Imam of Yemen had escaped to the mountains and rallied tribesmen to his cause, with significant support from powerful regional monarchs (and staunch American allies), Saudi Arabia and Jordan. So the new Yemeni regime turned to Nasser for assistance, and by 1965, close to 70,000 Egyptian troops were in Yemen fighting for the military regime in power. After several years of fighting rebels and traversing harsh terrain, Egypt withdrew in 1968.[14]

During the civil war, the British were still holding onto their protectorate in the South, and were still very much politically bruised by Nasser since the Suez Crisis. Thus, the British “devised a scheme with Israel’s secret service, the Mossad, to aid the anti-Nasser forces in Yemen by supplying them with arms and financial help.” This effort was aided by the CIA, as well as Saudi intelligence and the Iranian SAVAK.[15] Throughout the 1960s, the United States rapidly accelerated a program of military support for Saudi Arabia, which included a $400 million Anglo-American air defense program, military bases, infrastructure, “and a $100 million U.S. program to supply Saudi Arabia with trucks and military transport vehicles.”[16] The aim was to weaken Egypt and Nasser through a civil war in Yemen, with each side using various groups for their own geopolitical ambitions.

In 1967, the National Liberation Front (NLF) came to power in South Yemen, as the British left, and South Yemen became an independent state. Subsequently, North and South Yemen supported opposition movements within each other’s territory. In 1972, the two sides briefly went to war with one another, when the North attempted to conquer the South with Saudi and Libyan support.[17] While Yemen’s civil war had seen Yemen divided among itself, it had also become a regional conflict between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Yet, when the radical Marxist NLF government came to power in South Yemen in 1967, the NLF had “pledged its support for the overthrow of all the traditional monarchies in the Arabian Peninsula”:

The Saudi regime thus faced two hostile Yemens, both of them with radical governments, both of them supported by the Soviet Union, and both of them committed to the establishment of republican forms of rule. [Saudi] King Faysal responded to this danger by mending fences with the northern Yemen Arab Republic and attempting to foment discord between it and the People’s Republic of the south.[18]

The situation Saudi Arabia faced to its south created an impetus for the acceleration and growth of the Saudi armed forces. Thus, in the 1970s, “the Saudis allocated between 35 and 40 percent of their total annual revenues to defense and security expenditures.” In 1970, the defense budget had increased to $2 billion; by 1976 it was $36 billion.[19]

In North Yemen, the radical left fought a guerilla war against the government from 1978 until 1982, with support from South Yemen. This movement in the North “saw itself as the vanguard of a mass movement that would bring about unity through overthrowing the military and tribal forces dominating the country.”[20] The North Yemen government was not centralized, and so lacked a strong measure of legitimacy. During the 1970s, the President “promoted closer ties with the South as part of an attempt to strengthen the central government.”[21] Throughout the 1980s, closer ties between the two nations were sought, and “unity” committees were established, but with little if any success. Not until the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War in 1989-1990 was progress on unity made, when “the internal weaknesses of both regimes led them to agree to enter a provisional unification,” which occurred in May 1990.[22]

Each state thought that they could exploit the process of unification to exert their own authority over the other region. Thus, unity was “not a policy aimed at fusion but an instrument for inter-regime competition.”[23] The North, in particular, “believed it could impose its will on the South,” following the 1993 elections and through the process of misleading negotiations. Eventually, this goal started to be realized, and “Yemeni unity was thus achieved by the successful imposition of the Northern regime’s power on the South, in alliance with both Islamists in the North, and with dissident exiles from the South.”[24]

However, these disagreements and problems “led to a de facto split in the country in early 1994, followed at the end of April by an outright Northern attack on the South. On 7 July 1994 Northern forces entered Aden, thus effectively unifying the country under one regime for the first time in several centuries.”[25]

Operation Scorched Earth

During the 1994 civil war in Yemen, the North was aided in its war against the south by Wahhabist Sunni rebels (practicing the strict branch of Islam common to Saudi Arabia as well as al-Qaeda). Following the war and the success of the North, the government had granted the Wahhabis a stronger voice in the government. This is a major complaint of the Zaydis, a Shi’a branch of Islam. The Zaydis had Saada as their main stronghold in the North, but were driven from power in the 1962 revolution, left to a region that remained undeveloped. Saudi Arabia drew increasingly worried about having a rebellious group of Shi’a Islam fighters (the Houthi) so close to their border, with the potential to stir up groups within Saudi Arabia itself.[26]

In 2004, the Yemen government tried to arrest the leader, Hussein al-Houthi, a Zaydi religious leader, which sparked fighting and the leader was subsequently killed in an air strike, leaving the movement to be run by his brothers. In 2004, between 500-1000 people were killed in the fighting. In 2005, the fighting continued, and an estimated 1,500 people were killed. Fighting broke out again in 2007 between the government and the rebels, in which hundreds of people were killed.[27] In 2008, a Shi’a mosque was bombed during prayer in the Northern stronghold of Saada, with the Yemen government blaming the Shi’a rebels, who both denied responsibility and denounced the attack.[28] This spurred on further clashes between the government and the rebels, so that by late 2008, since the outbreak of fighting in 2004, between 3,700 and 5,500 “militants and civilians” had been killed in the fighting.[29]

In June of 2009, nine foreigners were kidnapped while having a picnic in Saada, “the bodies of three of them, a South Korean teacher and two German nurses were discovered. Five Germans, including three children and a Briton, are still missing and their status is unknown.” It was never determined who was behind the kidnappings and murders, but the government blamed the Houthi rebels. The Houthis in turn blamed drug cartels in the region for the murders. Yemen was faced simultaneously with a secessionist movement in both the North and the South, and was reportedly facing a “greater threat from al-Qaeda,” which had been a “growing concern” of the United States. In July of 2009, Gen. David Petraeus, CENTCOM Commander, “and an accompanying delegation, flew to Yemen and met with [President] Saleh,” at which one of the topics of discussion was “how to better combat terrorism.” In August of 2009, Yemen launched a military offensive against Houthi rebels in the North.[30]

This was Operation Scorched Earth, launched by the Yemen military on August 11, 2009. Troops, tanks and fighter aircraft were used in this Yemeni blitzkrieg against the Houthi and Zaydi in the North, with the President vowing to crack down with an “iron fist.”[31]

This led to a refugee crisis in which, by October 2009, over 55,000 people fled their homes due to the conflict.[32] In November, the rebels had a border fight with Saudi Arabia, killing a Saudi officer and injuring several others.[33] Saudi Arabian “warplanes and artillery bombarded a Shiite rebel stronghold,” and Saudi Arabia and Yemen were “cooperating and sharing intelligence in the fight.”[34] Moroccan special forces trained in guerilla warfare were accompanying Saudi soldiers, and Morocco cut off relations with Iran, which was being accused of arming the Houthi rebels. Jordan also reportedly sent 2,000 of its own special forces to help Saudi Arabia.[35]

The American Empire in the Gulf of Aden and Africa

What is America’s particular interest in Yemen, and more broadly, in the region that encompasses the Gulf of Aden, over which Yemen rests at the pinnacle? The Gulf of Aden connects the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea, with Yemen positioned directly across the water from Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea. The Gulf of Aden is a vital transport route for the shipment of Persian Gulf oil, forming “an essential oil transport route between Europe and the Far East.”[36] Clearly, control of the major oil transport routes is a key strategic imperative of any global power; in this case, America. Yemen, situated beneath Saudi Arabia, positions itself as even more significant to American strategic initiatives, in securing their interests in the world’s most oil-rich nation and key US ally. An American-friendly government in Yemen is a Saudi-friendly government.

Another key facet of American imperial strategy in the Gulf of Aden and Yemen regards the American imperial strategy in Africa. In 2005, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the main policy-planning group of the US elite, published a Task Force Report on US strategy in Africa called, “More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa.” In the report, it was stated that:

Africa is becoming more important because of its growing role in supplying the world with oil, gas, and non-fuel minerals. Now supplying the United States with 15 percent of oil imports, Africa’s production may double in the next decade, and its capacity for natural gas exports will grow even more. In the next decade, Africa could be supplying the United States with as much energy as the Middle East.[37]

The report stated that, “The United States is facing intense competition for energy and other natural resources in Africa,” identifying India and primarily China as its main competitors “in the search for these resources and for both economic and political influence on the continent.”[38] In particular, “China presents a particularly important challenge to U.S. interests.”[39]

Further, “To compete more effectively with China, the United States must provide more encouragement and support to well-performing African states, develop innovative means for U.S. companies to compete, give high-level attention to Africa, and engage China on those practices that conflict with U.S. interests.”[40] In analyzing how the War on Terror had been brought to Africa, the report stated:

Post-9/11, the U.S. counterterror approach to Africa has been led by the U.S. military: CENTCOM in the Horn; EUCOM in West, Central, and southern Africa; and the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). More quietly, U.S. intelligence cooperation with key states has expanded in parallel with the enlargement of the U.S. military’s role.[41]

As the Guardian reported in June of 2005, “a new ‘scramble for Africa’ is taking place among the world’s big powers, who are tapping into the continent for its oil and diamonds.” A key facet of this is that “corporations from the US, France, Britain and China are competing to profit from the rulers of often chaotic and corrupt regimes.”[42] In May of 2006, the Washington Post reported that in Somalia, the US has been “secretly supporting secular warlords who have been waging fierce battles against Islamic groups for control of the capital, Mogadishu.”[43]

In December of 2006, Ethiopia, heavily backed and supported by the US, invaded and occupied Somalia, ousting the Islamist government. The US support for the operations was based upon the claims of Somalia being a breeding ground for terrorists and Al-Qaeda. However, this was has now turned into an insurgency. Wired Magazine reported in December of 2008 that, “for several years the U.S. military has fought a covert war in Somalia, using gunships, drones and Special Forces to break up suspected terror networks – and enlisting Ethiopia’s aid in propping up a pro-U.S. ‘transitional’ government.”[44] Again, another case of America being on the “wrong side of a world revolution.”

The Ethiopian troops occupied Somalia for a couple years, and in January of 2009, the last Ethiopian troops left the capital city of Mogadishu. In 2007, the UN authorized an African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Somalia. In March of 2007, Ugandan military officials landed in Somalia. Essentially, what this has done is that the more overt Ethiopian occupation of Somalia has been replaced with a UN-mandated African Union occupation of the country, in which Ugandan troops make up the majority. Since Uganda is a proxy military state for the US in the region, the more overt US supported Ethiopian troops have been replaced by a more covert US-supported Ugandan contingent.

Africom

In 2007, Newsweek reported that, “America is quietly expanding its fight against terror on the African front. Two years ago the United States set up the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership with nine countries in central and western Africa. There is no permanent presence, but the hope is to generate support and suppress radicalism by both sharing U.S. weapons and tactics with friendly regimes and winning friends through a vast humanitarian program assembled by USAID, including well building and vocational training.” The Pentagon announced the formation of a new military strategic command called “Africom” (Africa Command), which “will integrate existing diplomatic, economic and humanitarian programs into a single strategic vision for Africa, bring more attention to long-ignored American intelligence-gathering and energy concerns on the continent, and elevate African interests to the same level of importance as those of Asia and the Middle East.”[45]

The article gave brief mention to critics, saying that, “not surprisingly, the establishment of a major American base in Africa is inspiring new criticism from European and African critics of U.S. imperial overreach.” Some claim it represents a “militarization of U.S. Africa policy,” which is not a stretch of the imagination, as the article pointed out, “the United States has identified the Sahel, a region stretching west from Eritrea across the broadest part of Africa, as the next critical zone in the War on Terror and started working with repressive governments in Chad and Algeria, among others, to further American interests there.”[46] The article continued:

The problem is that, increasingly, African leaders appear not to want Africom. They see it as the next phase of the War on Terror—a way to pursue jihadists inside Africa’s weak or failed states, which many U.S. officials have described as breeding grounds for terror. They worry that the flow of arms will overwhelm the flow of aid, and that U.S. counterterrorism will further destabilize a region already prone to civil wars.[47]

Ever since the 2007 US-supported air strikes and invasion of Somalia, piracy has been a significant issue in the waters off of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. In 2009, several major nations, including America, Britain and China, sent navy ships into Somali waters to combat the pirates who were negatively impacting trade through the region. As Johann Hari explained in the Independent:

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died…

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving… This is the context in which the “pirates” have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence”.[48]

In 2009, an American Navy commander suggested that the Somali pirates were in receivership of not only a great amount of sympathy from Yemeni people (while the government would help combat the piracy), but that “private citizens in Yemen are selling weapons, fuel and supplies to Somali pirates. And maritime experts worry that pirates are increasingly able to find refuge along Yemen’s vast coast.” Some Yemeni officials “suggest the extensive international attention to piracy is just a pretext for big powers like the U.S. to gain control of the Gulf of Aden, a waterway through which millions of barrels of oil pass every day.” One member of the Yemeni Parliament suggested that, “Western powers are allowing piracy to continue as a way to serve their own interests.”[49]

Al-Qaeda in Yemen

The current war in Yemen and US support for it is predicated on the basis of aiding Yemen in the fight against al-Qaeda. Said Ali al-Shihri was arrested by the Americans in 2001 in Afghanistan, and was promptly taken to Guantanamo Bay. The Americans released him into Saudi custody in 2007, and he “passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.” In other words, the US handed him over to Saudi Arabia, who enrolled him in a program for ‘former jihadists’, and then he became the second in command in Al-Qaeda in Yemen. As one American intelligence official stated, “he returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.” One Saudi security official had reported (on condition of anonymity) that, “Mr. Shihri had disappeared from his home in Saudi Arabia [in 2008] after finishing the rehabilitation program.”[50]

In June of 2009, US officials were reporting that Al-Qaeda fighters were leaving Pakistan to go fight in Somalia and Yemen. The CIA, the Pentagon and the White House reported that Al-Qaeda groups in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia were “communicating more frequently, and apparently trying to coordinate their actions.” The CIA Director, Leon Panetta, said that, “the United States must prevent Al Qaeda from creating a new sanctuary in Yemen or Somalia.” Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Brookings Institution, a major US policy think tank, “I am very worried about growing safe havens in both Somalia and Yemen, specifically because we have seen Al Qaeda leadership, some leaders, start to flow to Yemen.”[51] So the American national security establishment had refocused its efforts on Yemen. War seemed inevitable.

In the 1980s, millions of Yemeni men had worked in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, sending remittances back home to Yemen. In 1991, in the lead-up to the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia viewed these migrant workers as a potential security threat, so they expelled 800,000 Yemeni workers back to Yemen, and henceforth, Yemeni labour was banned in Saudi Arabia. Saudi financed Wahhabi madrasas sprung up across Yemen, providing a place for the disenchanted and unemployed Yemeni Sunni population to find an outlet for their political and economic dislocation. President Saleh of Yemen had often used Yemeni Wahhabis “to fight his domestic opponents – first the communists, then the Zaidis, and then the H[o]uthis.”[52]

In August of 2009, as the Saudi assault on the Houthi rebels in the North was underway, a Houthi leader and brother to the slain former leader, Yahya al-Houthi, spoke to a Middle Eastern news agency. He was a former Yemeni Member of Parliament, who had fled to Libya, and subsequently sought political asylum in Germany. He told Press TV:

Saudi Arabia wants the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh to remain in power because he is meeting all the Saudi demands especially those related to terrorism. Yemen is now a main party in carrying out terrorist plots sponsored by Saudi Arabia, therefore it is important for Saudi Arabia to keep Ali Abdullah Saleh in power as the overthrow of his regime would lead to many big secrets being revealed. The regime in Saudi Arabia also supports the Wahhabi ideology and is trying to spread this ideology amongst our people in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is also suffering from internal problems which it wants to export to Yemen. Many members of al-Qaeda , Yemenis and non Yemenis, are now in Yemen. In recent months [Yemeni President] Ali Abdullah Saleh has taken many recruits of Al-Qaeda who were afraid of falling into the hands of their regimes in countries like Egypt, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. His plan was to use these fighters from al-Qaeda to battle the Houthis in Saada. A training camp was also erected for these terrorists which still exists today in the area of Waila. These members of al-Qaeda and also Baathist elements are now taking part in the fighting alongside the Yemeni army against the Houthis. The areas of Malahit and Hasana which the Houthis have taken control over were used to transfer weapons from Saudi Arabia to the terrorists. These areas are also where most of the terrorists’ plans are made.[53]

In other words, according to al-Houthi, Yemen (along with Saudi Arabia) are directly supporting the al-Qaeda contingent in Yemen in an effort to sow chaos (thus providing a pretext for the military assault), as well as aiding in the fight against the Houthis. In October, as the fighting raged on, it was reported that the Yemeni governor in the northern province had “signed a deal” with al-Qaeda, in which the government “would provide the militants with arms, budget and other military requirements to assist the Yemeni army against the Shia fighters.”[54] Saudi Arabia remains, as it did throughout the entire history of the movement (since the 1980s), as the principle financier of al-Qaeda.[55]

In fact, in 2009, it was revealed that members of the Saudi royal family directly provide “extensive financial support for al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.” The documents were revealed in a court case in which families of victims of the September 11th attacks were seeking to bring legal action against the Saudis for their financial support. The documents were leaked to their lawyers, and the US Justice Department stepped in (on behalf of the Saudis), and “had the lawyers’ copies destroyed and now wants to prevent a judge from even looking at the material.”[56] Clearly, al-Qaeda is not an organization autonomous of Saudi financing.

The Southern Secessionist Movement

Apart from simply the Houthis, the Saleh dictatorship seeks to suppress a Southern Yemeni secessionist movement seeking autonomy and liberation against the illegitimate central government. Since 2007, “southern Yemenis have been staging mass protests calling for reinstatement of southerners dismissed from the civil service and army, higher pensions, a fairer share of the country’s dwindling national wealth, and an end to corruption.” The protests were met with “severe repression by the security services, which seemed to only spur on the demand for secession by the south, where most of the country’s oil is located.”[57] One Yemeni analyst stated that, “If there is one thing that will break the country, it’s going to be the southern secession.” One southern secessionist activist stated that Saleh’s government was using the pretext of al-Qaeda and it’s war on terror “for the liquidation of the southern movement,” and that, “the southern movement is trying to continue the peaceful struggle. But the powers in Yemen have used excessive violence against peaceful protests.” The government, for its part, has attempted to propagate the baseless claim that the southern secessionists have links with al-Qaeda.[58]

Interestingly, al-Qaeda’s leader in Yemen, in a recorded statement, “declared support for the Southern Movement, but Southern leaders have thus far rejected his endorsement.”[59] In an interview with France24, former South Yemen President, Ali Salem al-Beidh, explained that, “We have nothing to do with al Qaeda, we have never been in contact with this organization. Our movement rejects terrorism, which in contrast thrives in the north of the country. President Ali Abdallah Saleh uses al Qaeda to scare westerners and the United States.”[60] Saleh’s government has committed several human rights abuses against the movement in the South, unlawfully and unjustly killing innocents during protests, with the military surrounding peaceful protests and opening fire.[61]

The “rapidly spreading” protest movement in the South, explained the New York Times, “now threatens to turn into a violent insurgency if its demands are not met.” While the leaders of the movement favour peaceful protest, the government’s violent repression has made it so that “their ability to control younger and more violent supporters is fraying.” One southern leader stated, “We demand an independent southern republic, and we have the right to defend ourselves if they continue to kill us and imprison us.” Again refuting claims that the movement is tried to al-Qaeda, the leaders “say that they stand for law, tolerance and democracy, and that it is the north that has a history of using jihadists as proxy warriors.” A major problem arises within the Southern movement in that it remains deeply divided, with no clear singular leadership, drawing from an array of people, from socialists to Islamists, “with wildly different goals and unresolved disputes.”[62]

The Underwear Bomber

On December 25, 2009, a 23-year old Nigerian-born man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan, when he tried to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear. This incident, still shrouded in mystery, provided the excuse for American involvement in the conflict in Yemen, as it was reported that Farouk had been trained by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the newly-formed Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda group.

However, how Farouk managed to get on the plane, let alone past security with explosives on his person, is still an important question. After all, America knew about Farouk for up to two years prior to the incident, and even had him “on a list that includes people with known or suspected contact or ties to a terrorist or terrorist organization.”[63] Britain’s MI5 knew three years prior to the incident that Umar had connections with Islamic extremists in Britain.[64] Umar’s father, a former Nigerian government minister and successful banker, had even warned the US Embassy in Nigeria of his son’s extremist beliefs.[65] Umar even had a US entry visa, and when the State Department stepped in to have his visa revoked, “intelligence officials asked [the State Department] not to deny a visa to the suspected terrorist over concerns that a denial would’ve foiled a larger investigation into al-Qaida threats against the United States.”[66]

Suddenly, there was a flurry of reports from “respected” newspapers (such as the Washington Post and New York Times propaganda rags), that this “failure” of following through with the intelligence that was available on Umar meant that a review of security was needed, both in terms of possibly expanding the “watch lists” and in terms of expanding airport security, and proposing the use of body-scanners. Several politicians and news-rags were also calling for expanded military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.[67]

Interestingly, there were several reports of eyewitnesses on board the plane who contradict the official account of Umar’s attempted terrorist act. An attorney on board the plane said that, “he saw another man come to the assistance of accused bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when he tried to board the airplane in Amsterdam without a passport.” The attorney and his wife had both seen this incident. The wife, also a lawyer, stated, “My husband noticed two men walk up to the ticket counter lady. The only reason he noticed them is that he thought they were really a mismatched pair.” She said that Umar “wore older, scraggly clothing, but the man who was assisting him, who appeared to be of Indian descent, was dressed in what looked like an expensive suit and shoes.” She recounted that the well-dressed man had told the ticket agent, “We need to get this man on the plane,” and that, “He doesn’t have a passport.” The ticket agent responded that no one was allowed to board the plane without a passport, to which the Indian man replied, “We do this all the time; he’s from Sudan.”[68] Yet no further information has come forward about this mysterious ‘second man’ who helped Umar board the plane. Nevertheless, the propaganda of this attempted terrorist ‘attack’ had taken effect, as people were again afraid of the menace of “Islamic terror” and “al-Qaeda,” and the U.S. got the pretext to justify its intervention in Yemen.

American Imperialism in Yemen

While the ‘Underwear Bomber’ was used as a propaganda vehicle for supporting direct US military intervention in Yemen, covert US military involvement in Yemen had already been underway for some time (as well as British). In 2002, a mere six months following 9/11, President Bush authorized the deployment of 100 US troop to Yemen “to help train that nation’s military to fight terrorists.” The troops “would consist predominantly of Special Forces, but could also include intelligence experts and other specialists. The main target would be Al Qaeda fighters who are hiding in Yemen.”[69] In September of 2002, it was reported that the United States was deploying Special Forces and CIA agents into the Horn of Africa in an effort to combat al-Qaeda in Yemen, and “800 US special forces have been moved to Djibouti, which faces Yemen.”[70] In November of 2002, a CIA Predator drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – UAV) launched an attack on an al-Qaeda target within Yemen, killing six suspected al-Qaeda members, one of whom was an American citizen.[71]

Prior to the ‘Underwear Bomber’ (as he has come to be known), the conflict in Yemen was primarily viewed as a civil war, and then with the participation of Saudi Arabia, as a regional Arab conflict. In September of 2009, it was reported that while the Yemeni government attempted to subdue a rebel Shi’a army in the north (Houthi), a refugee crisis was emerging, and a wider conflict was erupting, which could “suck the US into another sensitive conflict zone.” Many observed that if the US manages to stay out of the war, “the conflict might be subsumed in a regional war by proxy,” as in, through Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, further, was accusing Iran of supporting the Shi’a rebels in northern Yemen, with both money and arms, but Saudi Arabia “has produced no hard evidence.” From the time the Saudi assault on northern Yemen began in August of 2009, between 25,000 and 100,000 Yemeni refugees were displaced. One top official with the World Food Program (WFP) stated that, “We’re not confronted with a humanitarian crisis, it’s becoming a humanitarian tragedy.”[72]

A member of the International Crisis Group (ICG) said, “that the United States might be forced to intervene as the security situation worsened to prevent Yemen becoming a ‘failed state’.” Further, “the country has been used as an al-Qaeda base before, and its strategic location between the oil supply routes of the Gulf and the piracy haven of Somalia means its stability is regarded as a key western interest.” Thus, said the ICG analyst, “You might well see American advisers, maybe even some special troops, go in for special operations.” President Obama declared in September of 2009 that, “the security of Yemen is vital for the security of the United States.”[73]

In November of 2009, it was reported that a “delegation of military officers from Yemen arrived in the United States recently” for training, of which the purpose “was to familiarize the Yemeni military officers with formal training programs currently in use by the United States Marine Corps. Support to Yemeni military officer training is likely to increase the effectiveness of [Yemen’s] military force.”[74] On December 13, 2009, (less than two weeks prior to the “Underwear Bomber” incident), it was reported that, “US special forces have been sent to Yemen to train its army amid fears the unstable Arab state is becoming a strategically important base for al-Qaeda.”[75]

It would appear, then, that the “Underwear Bomber” incident arrived just in time for the United States to have an excuse to expand its war in the region. Without the propagandized attempted terrorist attack, the American public would not readily accept America’s entry into yet another war. Questions might be asked about the nature of the war, such as the US supporting the government of Yemen in its suppression and oppression of its own people and the autonomous movements developing within Yemen seeking change. Whereas with a terrorist attack (or attempted, rather), and the convenient link to al-Qaeda, which suddenly was reported to be heavily represented in Yemen, Americans see their involvement in Yemen as a war against al-Qaeda, and a necessary one at that.

Two days after the “Underwear Bomber” incident took place, the New York Times reported that, “in the midst of two unfinished major wars, the United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al Qaeda in Yemen.” In 2008, “the Central Intelligence Agency sent several of its top field operatives with counterterrorism experience to the country,” and simultaneously, “some of the most secretive Special Operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism tactics.” Further:

The Pentagon is spending more than $70 million over the next 18 months, and using teams of Special Forces, to train and equip Yemeni military, Interior Ministry and coast guard forces, more than doubling previous military aid levels.[76]

It was even reported that the US had been providing both intelligence and “fire power” to Yemen in its air strikes against “suspected al-Qaeda targets” throughout December, prior to the “Underwear Bomber.”[77] The New York Times did its part to propagandize the al-Qaeda issue by stating that, “al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has rapidly evolved into an expanding and ambitious regional terrorist network thanks in part to a weakened, impoverished and distracted Yemeni government.”[78] Naturally, the British were not far behind in supporting an imperialist campaign to crush indigenous movements for autonomy, directed against western-supported dictators. After all, the British have been doing this for centuries. Roughly one week following the attempted Detroit plane bomber story broke, it was reported that the UK sent counter-terrorist forces to Yemen, where they will train the Yemeni military “and will assist in planning operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.” The British media referred to Yemen as “the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden,” and had revealed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that:

Even before the attack, Britain quietly sent a military unit, believed to be about 30-strong and include members of the SAS, to train and mentor Yemeni forces in surveillance and strike operations, intelligence gathering, hostage rescue and interrogation techniques. It is understood that the detachment is being assisted by members of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.[79]

There further seems to be an effort to not only use al-Qaeda to advance US interests in the region, but also to draw a link to Iran, so as to further demonize Iran and even draw it into a regional war.

Pushing for a Proxy War With Iran

Government officials in Yemen had been declaring that the greatest threat to Yemen’s security comes not from al-Qaeda, but Iran, as they blame Iran “for fermenting the Shia rebellion,” and the chairman of Yemen’s national security agency stated that, “there are indeed signs, proof of Iranian interference.” While these allegations are made without any proof, “Western diplomats claim it is probable that Iran is providing money or materiel to the group, as it has to Hizbollah in Lebanon.”[80]

In November of 2009, when Saudi Arabia had stepped up its military campaign in Yemen, the New York Times reported that, “the border skirmish could lead to the realization of Saudi Arabia’s worst fear: a proxy conflict with its archrival, Iran, on its doorstep.” Quoting a Yemeni professor as saying that the Iran link to the Houthis was “a myth,” the Saudi assault against the Shi’a group could provoke Iran to “turn myth into reality”:

A battle between the Arab world’s leading Sunni power and Shiite Iran, even at one remove, could significantly elevate sectarian tensions across the region. Iran gained tremendous leverage over the Israeli-Palestinian problem by supporting the militant groups Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and Hamas, in Gaza. Helping the Houthis, another guerrilla group with great staying power, could give them a way to put pressure on Saudi Arabia.[81]

However, even as the New York Times acknowledged, the idea that the Houthis are more religiously aligned to Iran than the Arab Gulf nations is a misnomer, as the Houthi religion of Zaydism “is doctrinally closer to Sunnism than to mainstream Shiism.”[82] However, facts take a back seat to war propaganda.

On December 18, 2009, roughly one week before the “Underwear Bomber,” Time Magazine ran an article in which they reported on the claims of Yemen and Saudi Arabia that the Houthis “are receiving their funding, weapons and training from Iran in a bid to destabilize the region.” While acknowledging that there is no evidence of Iranian involvement, the Time article was entitled, “Yemen’s Hidden War: Is Iran Causing Trouble?” and the last sentence in the article wrote, “As for Iran — the only party that doesn’t seem to have any real involvement just yet — the time may soon be ripe to jump in.”[83] The Washington Post carried an article entitled, “Yemen denounces Iran’s ‘interference’,” yet only in the final paragraph of the article did they report, “Yemen has accused Iran of funneling arms and providing financial backing to the rebels, but the Yemeni government has not provided evidence to support the assertions. The rebels have insisted that they receive no support from Iran or any other foreign powers.”[84]

Saudi and Yemeni media and government propaganda presented a view that Iran was extensively involved in the internal conflict in Yemen. Yemen had seized an Iranian ship which it claimed was transporting weapons to Houthi rebels, while Saudi papers reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps was training the Houthi rebels. Another Saudi media outlet “reported that a dozen Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon were killed during battles in October,” and Saudi Arabia placed blame for the conflict on Iran, saying that “the insurgents are working for Tehran and [are] wanting to take their front to the Saudi border.”[85]

While there has been no actual evidence of Iranian involvement put forward, the situation could become a self-fulfilling prophecy of the Saudis and Yemenis, in the sense that the more they accuse Iran of involvement, the more they demonize and publicly lambaste Iran, the more likely it is that Iran will be drawn into the conflict. If they are already the target of a campaign aimed at blaming their alleged involvement for creating the crisis, what do they have to lose from entering the conflict? Thus, Yemen could “possibly become a battleground for a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” Regardless of whether or not the Iranians are or will be physically involved in the conflict, it has resulted in a war of rhetoric between both Saudi Arabia and Iran, further inflaming tensions between the two nations.[86]

In January of 2010, General David Petraeus, commander of US Forces in the Middle East, said that, “the domestic conflict in Yemen could become a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” He explained that, “it is not a proxy war now, but has the potential to become one, and there may already have been some movement in that direction.”[87]

There was even a pathetic attempt on the part of the Washington Times to link Iran to al-Qaeda.[88] Obviously, the Washington Times seemed to be blithely unaware of the fact that Iran is a Shi’a dominated state, which is religiously and ideologically opposed to al-Qaeda, which practices a strict Wahhabist Sunni brand of Islam, as propagated and practiced by Saudi Arabia, a major regional antagonist of Iran’s. To claim that there would be a link between Iran and al-Qaeda is simply to proclaim one’s own ignorance. No wonder then, that Senator John McCain, while on the campaign trail for President in 2008, so often ‘proclaimed his ignorance’ by several times making the claim that Iran was supporting al-Qaeda.[89]

Could the United States be seeking to foment a wider war in the region? Could the civil war in Yemen be expanded into a proxy-war against Iran? Well, the United States (with the participation of several other NATO partners) fueled the proxy war in the last civil war, where the target was Nasserist Egypt. Could the US simply be employing the same strategy today as they were then, with simply a change of target? To understand this answer, we must look to the direct role played by the United States in the Yemeni civil war.

America Wages War on Yemen

Over a week prior to the “underwear bomber” fiasco, on December 16, 2009, the United States reportedly “perpetrated an appalling massacre against citizens in the north of Yemen as it launched air raids on various populated areas, markets, refugee camps and villages along with Saudi warplane,” according to the Houthi fighters. Over 120 people were reported to have been killed in the US bombing.[90] The Houthi rebels have even reported that U.S. fighter jets “have launched 28 attacks on the northwestern province of Sa’ada.”[91]

On December 21, 2009, days before the “underwear bomber” pretext, ABC news reported that the US had begun launching cruise missile attacks in Yemen under the authorization of President Obama, and the French media reported on one such strike having massacred “49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women.” While the air strikes were reportedly undertaken to target al-Qaeda in Yemen, they took place in the south near where some of the leaders of the secessionist movement were reportedly living. These raids had been increasingly taking place, and as the New York Times reported, “the United States provided firepower, intelligence and other support to the government of Yemen as it carried out raids.”[92]

Over 2009, the Pentagon supplied the Yemeni military with $70 million, effectively subsidizing their military (as they do with a plethora of nations worldwide, most notably Colombia, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia), in order for Yemen’s military to be more able to crush the secessionist uprising in the South, the rebels in the North, and that pesky al-Qaeda which rears its head in any nation America seeks to conduct military operations in. As Newsweek reported in late December of 2009:

Over the past year U.S. and Yemeni interests have increasingly begun to align as Al Qaeda’s presence in the country has grown. “We started seeing a lot of foreign fighters coming in—Saudis, Pakistanis,” says one Yemeni diplomatic source. Many of those have arrived (or returned) from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. As they have, the networks of militants have begun to launch quiet, pinpoint strikes on local Yemeni intelligence chiefs—six or seven in the past several months alone. The government’s retaliatory raids were launched partly in response to those strikes… Government raids are almost certainly the products of close cooperation with the U.S.—perhaps carried out by CIA-operated Predator drones launched from nearby Djibouti. A. A. Al-Eryani, a former Yemeni prime minister who advises the current president, says that there is “complete intelligence cooperation” with the U.S. on counterterrorism.[93]

In other words, as the US brought in key Pakistani and Saudi assets (who themselves make up both the financial and operational arms of al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda militants began to emerge and launch strikes against Yemen. Suddenly, then, a pretext for US military involvement in the nation is delivered in the guise of fighting the “War on Terror.” Just as during the Cold War, the threat of ‘Communism’ was used to rally support for suppressing and waging war against national liberation movements all across the world, so now these movements are suppressed and waged war against under the guise of “fighting terror.” An odd ‘irony’ of history, then, that in order to “fight terror,” the West simply spreads it.

On December 29th, 2009, the Australian reported that, “the Americans have quietly opened a third, largely covert front against the al-Qa’ida terror network in Yemen, to combat a new generation of militants keen on transforming the country into a launching pad for jihad against the US, its Arab allies and Israel.” Besides the blatant propagandizing in the opening sentence, the first part reveals the fact of a new ‘secret war’ that America is waging. The article explained that a year previous, “CIA sent many of its top field operatives with counter-terrorism experience to the country, while some of the most secretive US special operations commandos began training Yemeni security forces in counter-terrorism tactics.”[94]

As US Senator Joe Lieberman proclaimed, “Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act pre-emptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.” Barbara Bodine, the former US Ambassador to Yemen, said that, “I think it would be a major mistake to turn this into a third front, if Iraq and Afghanistan are somehow front number one and number two.” She explained, “If we try to deal with this as an American security problem and dealt with by American military, we risk exacerbating the problem.” She astutely observed the nature of occupational forces when she warned, “If we go in and make this our war … it is suddenly going to become a war against us and we will lose it.”[95]

The United States took it upon itself to “press” the Yemeni government – a hard-line oppressive dictatorship – to “toughen its approach.”[96] In February of 2010, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved “more than doubling U.S. funding to train and equip Yemeni security forces to combat al Qaeda” at a figure of $150 million, up from $67 million the previous year. However, “the sum does not include covert U.S. assistance for Yemen, which has quietly increased in recent months.” U.S. CIA Director Leon Panetta, however, raised doubts as to whether Washington can count on Yemen in the long-term to fight al-Qaeda.[97] Covertly, the United States had increased ‘assistance’ to Yemen through U.S. Special Forces, the CIA and the National Security Agency, “sharing satellite and surveillance imagery, intercepted communications and other sensitive information to help Yemen pinpoint strikes against al Qaeda targets,”[98] or at least what are said to be al-Qaeda targets, but usually end up as civilian casualties.

In April of 2010, it was announced that the Pentagon had implemented plans to “boost U.S. military assistance to Yemen’s special operations forces to lead an offensive targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” AQAP, providing roughly $34 million in “tactical assistance” to Yemen’s special forces. A further $38 million will provide Yemen with military transport aircraft.[99]

As the United States has dramatically increased CIA drone attacks in Pakistan, killing thousands of innocent civilians,[100] in May of 2010, the United States announced that it had deployed drones to Yemen to target al-Qaeda.[101] In June of 2010, it was leaked that the U.S. “secret war” has expanded globally, as “Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60” at the beginning of 2009. As the Washington Post reported:

In addition to units that have spent years in the Philippines and Colombia, teams are operating in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia… Plans exist for preemptive or retaliatory strikes in numerous places around the world, meant to be put into action when a plot has been identified, or after an attack linked to a specific group… Obama, one senior military official said, has allowed “things that the previous administration did not.”

Special Operations commanders have also become a far more regular presence at the White House than they were under George W. Bush’s administration, when most briefings on potential future operations were run through the Pentagon chain of command and were conducted by the defense secretary or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“We have a lot more access,” a second military official said. “They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly.”

… Bush-era clashes between the Defense and State departments over Special Operations deployments have all but ceased. Former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld saw them as an independent force, approving in some countries Special Operations intelligence-gathering missions that were so secret that the U.S. ambassador was not told they were underway. But the close relationship between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is said to have smoothed out the process… In every place, Special Operations forces activities are coordinated with the U.S. ambassador and are under the operational control of the four-star regional commander.[102]

The British are also involved in supporting the conflict in Yemen. In July of 2010, the head of Yemen’s Special Forces met with a British military delegation, in which “aspects of bilateral military cooperation between Yemen and the UK were discussed in addition to training, and ways to benefit from British military expertise to bolster the military and security capabilities of Yemen’s armed forces.”[103]

In May of 2010, an air strike took place, which was reported to have killed al-Qaeda militants, in “a secret mission by the U.S. military.” However, “the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk al-Qaida members into giving up their fight.”[104] As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, “that would be the equivalent of some foreign military force killing the lieutenant governor of an American state in an air strike.” Further, the “U.S. attacks have had no apparent impact on al-Qaida or on anyone else in Yemen, apart from its civilian population who have taken casualties in badly targeted attacks.” Commenting on the fact that US Special Forces operations in Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Yemen, the reporter asks some important questions:

Why is Mr. Saleh our ally? Why are we killing innocent civilians in the back country of Yemen? Why are we stirring up the kind of trouble that can end up trashing Yemen the way we have trashed Iraq and Afghanistan? Does anyone believe for one minute that we are any safer for all that we are doing in those 12 countries — probably more — than we would be if we had normal, mutually respectful, mutually helpful relations with them?[105]

The questions are surprising to see being asked in the American media, as the rest of the corporate controlled media outlets simply report (without questioning) the government line, and explain that the U.S. has decided to expand the drone attacks in Yemen, which “would likely be modeled after the CIA’s covert drone campaign in Pakistan,” and that the Obama “administration will mount a more intense targeted killing program in Yemen,” without questioning who they are killing. As Glenn Greenwald of Salon Magazine pointed out:

There is anti-Americanism and radicalism in Yemen; therefore, to solve that problem, we’re going to bomb them more with flying killer robots, because nothing helps reduce anti-American sentiments like slaughtering civilians and dropping cluster bombs from the sky… And it’s therefore unsurprising that the 2009 Nobel Peace laureate [Obama] is rapidly becoming as disliked in the Muslim world as the prior U.S. President:  what looks to five Norwegians sitting in Oslo to be a Man of Peace looks much different in the region where his bombs are falling, his hit squads deploying, his war commitments expanding, and his sky robots multiplying.[106]

In September of 2010, it was reported that the Pentagon was considering expanding Yemen’s military ‘assistance’ to $1.2 billion over the next five years, but don’t worry, “the US is also providing significant development and humanitarian assistance” to Yemen.[107]

The ‘Cleansing’ of a Liberation Movement

In September 2010, while the Obama administration’s top counter-terrorism official, John Brennan, was in Yemen for talks with President Saleh, Yemeni security forces “laid siege” to a town in the South, Hawta, “where several dozen Qaeda militants were said to be holed up,” which led to thousands of civilians being forced to flee, while the military, as the New York Times reported, “was intermittently shelling the town with tanks and artillery and firing on the jihadists from attack helicopters.” As the article explained:

Hawta, in southern Yemen’s mountainous Shabwa Province, is at the heart of the remote area east and south of the capital where Al Qaeda’s regional arm has sought sanctuary. It is also just to the north of a major new liquid natural gas pipeline — a crucial resource in a country that is rapidly running out of oil and water — and Yemeni officials have voiced concern about the possibility that jihadists could rupture the line.[108]

In other words, the Yemeni government, under intense pressure and support from the United States, is laying siege to a town in the South – in the midst of a massive and growing secessionist movement – which represents the greatest threat to the stability of the staunch U.S.-ally, and which also happens to be home to natural gas reserves. But we are told that the siege is a fight against ‘al-Qaeda’. Meanwhile, civilians were being killed, and one fleeing family said that, “the troops did not spare any one from their fire over the past two days.”[109] The reality of what is going on in the village is “hard to know,” as NPR points out, “because the government is banning any independent observers from going in there.” As a reporter with NPR explained:

In fact, what the locals are saying is that this is a blood feud against the government. And that, in fact, these are local or armed tribesmen [i.e., Islamist forces such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP] that are sort of fighting with the government. And that this is more about fighting or subduing the secessionist movement than it is about al-Qaida… The government says about 2,000 people have fled. But actually, the Yemen Red Crescent and other aid groups that have had some contact with the people on the ground there put the numbers much higher. They say about 12,000. And that would be about three-quarters of the town emptying out and running away.

And this has created a real problem, because this is a very poor area. And so the other villages in the area cannot really accommodate or absorb these refugees. And so, you have a lot of people, now, living outdoors without any water, food or tents or any sort of medical, ’cause one can assume that there are probably injuries, if not deaths. So it’s become a real humanitarian crisis.[110]

Yemen’s government is not new to media censorship and obfuscation, as there have been “dozens of extralegal abductions, politicised trials, illegal confiscations, writing bans, and censorship over the years. What’s particularly alarming is a recent legislative push to erect an elaborate legal facade to obscure repressive tactics.” The government is also attempting to pass “a repressive bill designed to regulate television, radio and online media. If passed, these changes would significantly reduce an already narrow margin for free expression.” The government has even arrested, tortured and tried critical journalists as “supporting al-Qaeda” with absolutely no evidence.[111]

The “Friends” of Yemen: ‘Democratic Imperialism’ and NGOs as Modern Missionaries

In January of 2010, a group of nations and organizations met in London to form the “Friends of Yemen,” which includes the United States, U.K., 20 other countries, as well as the UN, EU, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab League, World Bank and IMF. The purpose of the group was to coordinate foreign aid to Yemen, so that it coincides with military, economic and civil assistance aid programs, including forcing Yemen to cooperate with the conditions set by the IMF in order to receive foreign aid. The overall aid would be used to combat what the ‘Friends’ refer to as “appalling indicators,” which include “a growing population, dwindling oil reserves, water shortages and political instability as the government battles Houthi insurgents in the north and secessionists in the south.”[112]

In September of 2010, the Friends of Yemen met in New York to organize a plan for Yemen’s foreign aid. As part of the package, Yemen has been forced to accept an IMF plan to increase taxes by 10% and to eliminate fuel subsidies.[113] At the meeting in New York, the UN reported that there are “168,000 Somali refugees in Yemen, as well as 304,000 Yemeni civilians who continue to be displaced by the seven-month conflict between government forces and Houthis rebels which ended with a shaky truce in February.”[114] The ‘Friends’ further encouraged “progress in the negotiations towards Yemen’s accession to the World Trade Organisation, which they hoped would be concluded by the end of 2010,” and while acknowledging that the proposed economic reforms would have an “adverse impact on the poor,” the Friends thus “committed to provide additional support for social protection,” as well as supporting the formation of national multi-party elections.[115]

At the ‘Friends’ meeting, the United States vowed to commit $67 million for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “to work in partnership with communities to directly address local needs.  This includes health, education, and water projects; mobile health and veterinary clinics; and support for increasing the capacity of local governments to deliver essential services.” Further plans include funneling millions of dollars through NGOs aimed at providing social services and ‘poverty alleviation’ programs.[116]

While sounding very pleasant and helpful, we must place the concept of promoting ‘democratization’ and the spread of NGOs in their proper geopolitical context. The fact that NGOs, ‘democratization’, economic programs under the direction of the IMF, and military assistance from the West are taking place at the same time is very significant, and not as contradictory as it might seem.

In Africa, the IMF and World Bank’s “Structural Adjustment Programs” that deconstructed society to service illegitimate debts to Western banks had the effect of spreading poverty and effectively induced “social genocide.” The national leaders became very rich, creating a tiny elite which was subservient to Western imperial interests. Western nations would arm the nation and use it as a proxy force in the region when necessary or help it in the oppression of its own people, in order to ensure the stability of their interests. The people of these various nations would protest, demonstrate, riot and rebel, so much so that between 1976 and 1992, there were 146 protests against IMF ‘austerity measures’ in 39 countries around the world.[117] Governments, in response, would generally resort to violence to suppress these demonstrations, with “strikes declared illegal, universities were closed, and trade unions, student organizations, popular organizations and political parties also became the target of repressive legislation or actions.”[118] This essentially created a “crisis of legitimacy,” where the economic ‘reforms’ were seen as destructive, where the political process was seen as corrupt, where the state oppressed and foreigners profited, while the people suffered. It didn’t help the situation that it was often authoritarian governments introducing these economic reforms.[119]

In 1989, the World Bank concluded that the reason for the failure of ‘structural adjustment’ across Africa was not due to the destructive poverty-inducing nature of the reforms, but was do to the corrupt governments implementing them. Thus, it was a “crisis of governance.”[120] The solution, in this sense, was to promote ‘democratization’, as in, a neoliberal concept of democracy. Africa had been experiencing a growth of democratic movements around the continent during the time of Structural Adjustment, which led the IFIs (International Financial Institutions) and Western nations to conclude that democratization and economic liberalization go hand-in-hand. In short, Structural Adjustment is ‘inherently’ democratic. The failure of this analysis was quite obvious: the pro-democracy movements that had arisen across Africa “reflect, to a significant extent, a popular reaction against the socially painful effects of structural adjustment.”[121]

The ‘democratization’ movement is largely an effort to maintain ‘stability’ in the hegemony of the IMF/World Bank and Western interests over Africa and other regions, as instead of rotating from one coup to another, there is a parliamentary democracy where you go from one party to another (who all accept the dominance of the West and the ‘advice’ of the IFIs), which produces a more ‘stable’ environment for Western interests, as it also has the effect of pacifying popular opposition under the guise of promoting democratic accountability. However, these are not true democracies (nor are those in the West), where you simply vote between competing factions of elites who are collectively co-opted by the same international financial elites. They impose the institutions of democracy (legislatures, political parties, judiciaries) “without combining political democracy and social reform.” Thus, these democracies are essentially stillborn (dead before they even exited), as “formal democracy without social reform increases economic inequality and thereby intensifies unequal distribution of power in society.”[122] As Noam Chomsky has argued, “the guardians of world order have sought to establish democracy in one sense of the term, while blocking it in a different sense.” He argued that “power holders use democracy as justification for their power and as an ideological instrument for keeping the public quiescent and out of decision-making processes.”[123]

Alison Ayers analyzes ‘democratization’ as a multi-faceted approach in Africa, entailing: multiparty elections, constitutionalism, the rule of law, a “particular conception of human rights,” ‘good governance’, and an “independent civil society.”[124] Multiparty elections comprise an occasional election in which people choose between competing factions of elites, while constitutionalism implies establishing a “set of rules securing property rights, governing civil and commercial behaviour, and limiting the power of the state.”[125] In promoting ‘multiparty systems’, “the dominant agents of the democratization project have established a veritable ‘elections industry’ comprising voter and civic education campaigns, party-building activities, and electoral assistance and monitoring.”[126] The “engineering of civil society” has taken on an explicitly neo-liberal form, in which it focuses on the “liberation of civil society” from the state, and of which NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have come to play a decisive role. Western aid agencies heavily finance international and local NGOs (thus often negating the notion that they are non-governmental), with the World Bank exponentially increasing its support of NGOs (often through governments).[127]

In fact, NGOs have come to play a pivotal role in the modern imperial project, as they have been co-opted into a program of “welfare provision, a social initiative that could be more accurately described as a programme of social control.”[128] The NGOs were used to respond to the social upheaval brought about by the age of ‘Structural Adjustment’, to provide a degree of social services that were formerly provided by the state. Thus, as the spread of Structural Adjustment increased throughout Africa, so too did the spread of Western NGOs. Western nations heavily support these supposed non-governmental organizations, with the U.S. transferring nearly 40 percent of its aid through NGOs.[129] They have become an essential aspect of the ‘development’ agenda in Africa, itself based upon a colonial mindset. Whereas in the formal colonial period at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, Africans were considered “uncivilized,” and so colonialism in Africa was not about oppression and economic exploitation, but was rather a ‘civilizing mission.’ Today, Africa is not ‘uncivilized’ but rather, ‘undeveloped’, and so, just as the missionaries of the formal colonial period played a role in ‘civilizing’ Africa – in the vision of the West (akin to how God created man in ‘his own image’) – the NGOs of the new imperial era have come to Africa in a ‘developing mission’. The ‘development’ paradigm had the effect of sterilizing popular opposition, as it framed the problem in Africa not as one of ‘emancipation’ (from colonial and oppressive powers), but as a problem of ‘poverty’ and ‘basic needs’.[130] The role of NGOs in ‘development’:

Represents a continuity of the work of their precursors, the missionaries and voluntary organizations that cooperate in Europe’s colonization and control of Africa. Today their work contributes marginally to the relief of poverty, but significantly to undermining the struggle of African people to emancipate themselves from economic, social and political oppression.[131]

There are further concerns to take into account in regards to ‘democratization’ and ‘aid’ through NGOs, not simply in the establishment of a system of lobotomizing resistance – preventing emancipation – and promoting the legitimization of the status quo powers (by treating the symptoms of poverty and oppression rather than the causes), but NGOs and ‘democratization’ often play a very covert role in imperialism, particularly through USAID (United States Agency for International Development) as well as a host of so-called Non-Governmental Organizations (which happen to be funded by the government), such as the National Endowment for Democracy. These organizations are effectively able to organize opposition to a national ruler, create a parallel media system, provide activist training and funding to covertly orchestrate a “soft power” coup, in which it is seen as a “democratic revolution” or a “peaceful revolution,” often following contested elections. This is done to create the illusion that these are popular people’s movements elevating leaders of “change”, but which simply are leaders that are subservient to Western imperial interests. Often, the CIA itself operates through such agencies covertly.

In South Vietnam for example, USAID provided cover for the CIA so extensively, “that the two became almost synonymous.”[132] In the 1980s, during the largest CIA covert operation in history, funding the Afghan Mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union, the CIA and USAID worked very closely, coordinating their efforts, as “the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.” The textbooks, made in America at the University of Nebraska with tens of millions of dollars of financing from USAID, taught children “to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and land mines,” and while USAID dropped funding for the program in 1994, the books continued in circulation, even after the Taliban came to power in 1996, and “private humanitarian groups paid for continued re-printings during the Taliban years. Today, the books remain widely available in schools and shops.”[133] The entire program was coordinated with the CIA.[134]

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is another particularly covert imperial force, a NGO that gets all it’s funding from the US government, and about which U.S. Congressman Ron Paul explained eloquently:

The misnamed National Endowment for Democracy is nothing more than a costly program that takes US taxpayer funds to promote favored politicians and political parties abroad. What the NED does in foreign countries … would be rightly illegal in the United States. The NED injects ‘soft money’ into the domestic elections of foreign countries in favor of one party or the other.

Imagine what a couple of hundred thousand dollars will do to assist a politician or political party in a relatively poor country abroad. It is particularly Orwellian to call US manipulation of foreign elections ‘promoting democracy.’ How would Americans feel if the Chinese arrived with millions of dollars to support certain candidates deemed friendly to China? Would this be viewed as a democratic development?[135]

The NED and a host of other NGOs (backed by government funding), as well as private foundations, have implemented a “soft power” approach to implementing “democratic regime change” in countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, often aimed at replacing former Western puppet leaders with new puppet leaders to better promote imperial interests in the nations where they take place. This has occurred in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and many other countries.[136] An effort was undertaken to impose a similar “democratic regime change” with the CIA funneling $400 million for implementing this “soft power” strategy in Iran, resulting in the Iranian elections protests in the summer of 2009. While the strategy failed in its aims of “regime change” it mounted an incredibly successful international propaganda campaign, so much so that the world was lashing out against Iran for what the West claimed were fraudulent elections (but turned out to be free and fair elections), and at the same time, the Western media failed to cover a successful military coup in Honduras, in which the democratically elected President was kidnapped and sent to a foreign country, while the subsequent dictatorship brutally repressed people’s protests and demonstrations, with the new regime all the while being supported by the United States.[137]

From this we can see that the “Friends of Yemen” promoting democratization and “good governance” in Yemen serves Western imperial ambitions. In the very least, it is designed to stifle and ultimately lobotomize organic, indigenous liberation, self-determination, and autonomy movements, while the same Western nations militarily arm and support the oppressive government in its repression of these people. It seems that for the time being, America has chosen to support the current Yemeni dictatorship, propping it up to crush its own people and their struggles for liberation. Simultaneously, America and the West are preparing themselves for a long-term strategy of “democratization,” in which they may have to replace Saleh and the current regime with a new client regime to secure American interests and hegemony in the region.

In this context we may view the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a program of the U.S. State Department aimed at supporting “reforms” in the Middle East and North Africa, in which they support international and local NGOs, educational institutions, local governments and private businesses to implement projects designed to directly engage and invest in the people of the region. MEPI has completed roughly 28 programs in Yemen alone, with roughly seven grants ongoing, aimed at organizing journalists, ‘human rights’ activists, improving the Parliamentary process, improving political participation, promoting women’s ‘empowerment’, and “raising democratic awareness.”[138]

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is also active in Yemen, funding and running programs aimed at promoting “civic and human rights awareness,” facilitating “the free flow of independent news information to Yemenis on issues related to social, political, and economic growth of the country and to build the capacity of journalists to effectively monitor and report on human rights issues,” as well as identifying “the political needs and concerns of women, and to push political parties to adopt women’s issues in their party platforms.” One program of the NED includes nearly $200,000 of funding for the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). According to their website, CIPE “strengthens democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform. CIPE is one of the four core institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy,” and is also an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.[139] The $184,000 grant to CIPE from the NED is to “facilitate access to information and analysis about economic reform,” which will include producing “thirty 20-30 minute radio programs on economic reform in Yemen and sponsor economic reform pages in two independent newspapers,” in order to “empower Yemenis to participate in the democratic and economic reform process.”[140] However, considering the group promotes “private enterprise” and is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the “information and analysis” about economic reform is more likely to be misinformation and propaganda. In total, the NED is operating roughly 13 programs in Yemen at the moment.[141]

USAID’s programs in Yemen aim at taking the “missionary position” in addressing some of the symptoms of conflict, deprivation, disenfranchisement, and oppression, without allowing the people to seek emancipation and liberation. These programs includes a “new three-year Responsive Governance Project [which] aims to strengthen government institutions, support reforms including decentralization, and improve the delivery of public services while encouraging more citizen participation in the political process,” as well as “the Community Livelihoods Project that is focusing on improving agriculture and increasing employment opportunities in highly vulnerable communities, especially for youth.” Other programs aim at promoting education, health care, and ‘peace and security.’[142]

So, while the U.S. government uses the IMF to wreck the economy of Yemen, spreading poverty and dismantling health care, social services and education; the U.S. simultaneously funds and arms the Yemeni dictatorship to repress the people rising up against their economic, social and political conditions; yet, again simultaneously, the United States – through USAID and various other “democratization” programs – aims to alleviate some of the social repercussions to maintain stability of their interests. Imperialism has an economic facet (the IMF), a political facet (military-intelligence support), and a social facet (NGOs and ‘democratization’).

Thus we also see the significance in that while the CIA expands its operations in Yemen (in support of the dictatorship), the current CIA Director holds doubts about “whether Washington can count on Yemen in the long-term to fight al Qaeda, citing internal unrest that threatens to destabilize the government and break up the country, along with growing anti-American sentiment.”[143] This is made all the more interesting to take into account that the CIA Director announced that the CIA will be expanding its use of under-cover assets through a variety of unofficial organizations – such as corporations or other organizations.[144]

War, Empire, and “Perception Management”: Propaganda Creates ‘Cultural Schizophrenia’

So who exactly is the US supporting in Yemen? Ali Abdullah Saleh has been in power since 1978, first ruling North Yemen, and subsequently ruling all of Yemen. Saleh has managed to remain the ruler of a ‘united’ Yemen by “clamping down on the press, concentrating military and economic power in the hands of friends and family and winning elections by suspiciously high margins.” Time Magazine reported that Saleh described ruling Yemen as “dancing on the heads of snakes.” Saleh, however, can hardly act as if he rules a ‘united’ Yemen, when “two-thirds of the country is in the hands of either separatist groups or local tribes.” Further:

Yemen’s most volatile regions are among those hardest hit by drought and government neglect — are at the heart of most of those conflicts, especially the war between the government and Shi’ite rebels, known as Houthis, that is being waged in the northern province of Sa’ada.[145]

The significance of this piece of information, located in the Time article, which was otherwise propagandistic of the “fight against al-Qaeda,” is that it acknowledges that the key to Yemen’s issues today is the legitimacy of the central government’s rule over the people of Yemen. The essential issue is that this is about people’s rights to govern themselves, to not be oppressed, not be murdered, nor economically devoured by international capital and national industrial interests. Our nations and our media call these people “terrorists”; our intelligence agencies sponsor ‘terrorists’ in these nations, who kill these people, and then we use that as an excuse to send in the military to kill more of these people. We support an illegitimate government, an oppressive and brutal dictator who vowed to crack down with an “iron fist” in August of 2009. His subsequent “iron fist” created “a humanitarian tragedy,” where by September over 25,000 people had become refugees,[146] by October 2009, over 55,000 people fled their homes due to the conflict.[147] These are the people the West is helping the Yemeni dictator kill. And not only him, but Saudi Arabia is helping, as are Pakistan and Jordan, three other nations subservient to American interests, and whose militaries are ‘American made’. Saudi Arabia especially, as it seeks to prevent the spread of the Shi’a resistance, which to the illegitimate state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, combined with several other resistant and oppressed groups, could create the political, economic and social conditions for revolution. No wonder then, that the United States is planning to undertake the largest arms deal in American history with Saudi Arabia, valued at $60 billion, which “is aimed at establishing air superiority over rival Iran while also addressing weaknesses bared in border fighting with Yemeni rebels.”[148]

A state seeks only its own survival and growth in power; that is the nature of all states. This is why nation-states are naturally inclined to forgo competition for power with the economic sphere, and simply merge interests and elite social structures. It is in their interest for both survival and growth in power.

Our oppressive and illegitimate nation-states seek to aid in the oppression of other peoples in other places, and increasingly so at home. However, it is through the media that this massive collective wave of ignorance and ‘cultural schizophrenia’ takes place. This is why most in the west see the world, blissfully unaware of its realities. The media leads the people through that old wardrobe into the land of Narnia: the media’s ‘perception management’ of the world is nothing but a ‘fantasy’. A good example of this ‘fantasy world’ is located in a Time Magazine article. It wrote:

On Dec. 17 and 24, joint Yemeni-U.S. strikes against purported AQAP [Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] training camps took place and killed more than 60 militants, U.S. intelligence officials claimed.[149]

The attack, in reality, killed 52 people, more than half of them being women and children, in which a US missile armed with cluster ammunition was used, with both the Yemeni and American governments claiming the target was an al-Qaeda training camp. The cruise missile was designed to be fired from a warship or submarine, and was filled with “cluster munitions which spray steel fragments for 150 meters along with burning zirconium for igniting buildings.” However, “the Yemeni government does not possess cruise missiles, which are part of the arsenal of US Navy vessels patrolling off the Horn of Africa and in the Arabian Sea.”[150] The missiles were “launched on direct presidential orders.”[151]

Our governments kill these people and call them “militants” and “terrorists,” our media repeat the accusation with no dissent. War is like no other situation that can lead to the growth of the state. War is the ultimate organizing principle in society, for with war powers, a nation can build, destroy, grow, oppress, control, expand, consume, corrupt and continue. As this power grows, so too does the power of all the other various major spheres of influence over humanity, such as the media and the academics. We can add to that the scientific and technological elite, who help to create the conditions, understanding, technology, and means of expanding power and controlling the masses so that today we have unmanned aerial vehicles called “Predator Drones” flying over Yemen killing innocent civilians, while the drones are operated from American military bases in Florida. America has been doing the exact same thing in Pakistan at a much more significant rate and for a much longer period of time (and most rapidly accelerated under the Obama administration of ‘change’).

This ‘invisible empire’ is managed through ‘perception management’ – propaganda – which infects all spheres of social power structures, but which is arguably most prominent and powerful in the media. This creates among western citizens, and most particularly among Americans, a type of ‘cultural schizophrenia’ in which the ‘mind of the nation’ (how the majority of people view their nation and their world) is so contrary to the reality of that nation and the world around it, that it creates a nation or a people ‘of two minds’, holding both the fantasy world of those who encompass it, and the hard-bitten reality of global power structures and systems.

This ‘cultural schizophrenia’ is most emblematic in the United States, where the majority of those within it view it as a force for good in the world, spreading freedom, democracy and ‘free markets’ around the world; while the reality is so different, that the majority of the rest of the world view the United States as a force for spreading fear, war, economic exploitation and power. This is the view, especially, of those to whom the United States has attempted to spread “freedom and democracy.”

This has slightly changed in the context of the “war on terror”, which has allowed for flowery rhetoric about democratic rights and liberty to subside beside the urgency of “fighting terror.” Around the world, people were rejecting the “liberal democratic” project in replacing the dictatorships of the 70s – 90s with [neo]liberal democratic governments, which were democratic only so much as they created political powers and held usually corrupt elections in which various power factions would compete for the authority to plunder the nation in cooperation with international corporations, financial institutions and western governments. Democracy in the ‘Third World’ had essentially proven itself a farce, and people’s movements were increasing. The “war on terror” has subsequently fiercely mobilized the American military (and its NATO cohorts), vastly increased its scope, operations, abilities and entanglements; and created the political conditions for the nation to rapidly accelerate the use of its military apparatus around the world, something which the American people would not support without what is perceived to be a good reason. After all, they will largely be the ones forced to fight and partake in these wars.

And so we come back to Yemen. As Martin Luther King said in 1967, “We are on the wrong side of a world revolution.”

Notes

[1]        Rev. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City:
http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/058.html

[2]        Andrew Gavin Marshall, The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda. The CIA’s Drug-Running Terrorists and the “Arc of Crisis”, Global Research, 5 September 2010:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20907
; Empire, Energy and Al-Qaeda: The Anglo-American Terror Network, Global Research, 8 September 2010:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20944; 9/11 and America’s Secret Terror Campaign, Global Research, 10 September 2010:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20975

[3]        James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, eds., Rethinking Arab Nationalism in the Arab Middle East. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), page 30

[4]        Ibid.

[5]        Ibid, page 31.

[6]        William L Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Westview Press, 2004), page 231

[7]        Ibid, pages 231-232

[8]        Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), page 116

[9]        James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, Op Cit, page 31

[10]      William L. Cleveland, op cit, pages 310-311

[11]      Ibid, page 311.

[12]      Ibid, page 312.

[13]      James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 31.

[14]      William L. Cleveland, op cit, page 315

[15]      Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. (New York: Owl Books, 2005), pages 140-141

[16]      Ibid, page 142.

[17]      James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 32.

[18]      William L Cleveland, op cit, page 455.

[19]      Ibid, pages 455-456.

[20]      James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 40.

[21]      Ibid, page 39.

[22]      Ibid, page 32.

[23]      Ibid, page 38.

[24]      Ibid, page 39.

[25]      Ibid, page 32.

[26]      Profile: Yemen’s Houthi fighters, Al Jazeera, August 12, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/08/200981294214604934.html

[27]      Ploughshares, Armed Conflicts Report: Yemen, January 2009:
http://www.ploughshares.ca/libraries/ACRText/ACR-Yemen.htm#Status

[28]      Deadly blast strikes Yemen mosque, BBC, May 2, 2008:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7379929.stm

[29]      Ploughshares, Armed Conflicts Report: Yemen, January 2009:
http://www.ploughshares.ca/libraries/ACRText/ACR-Yemen.htm#Status

[30]      Mohammed Jamjoom, Yemen lays out truce terms to rebel fighters, CNN, August 13, 2009:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/08/13/yemen.truce/index.html

[31]      Yemen targets northern fighters, Al-Jazeera, August 12, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/08/200981262048170260.html

[32]      Yemen denies warplane shot down, Al-Jazeera, October 2, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/10/2009102103834822778.html

[33]      Yemen rebels ‘seize Saudi area’, BBC, November 4, 2009:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8341875.stm

[34]      Saudis still bombing us, Yemen rebels say, MSNBC, November 7, 2009:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33755909/

[35]      Mohammed Al-Amrani, Moroccan, Jordanian Soldiers Fight along Saudi Troops, Yemen Gazette, December 5, 2009:
http://www.yemengazette.com/topnews/politics/524-moroccan-jordanian-soldiers-fight-along-saudi-troops.html

[36]      ESA, Earth from Space: The Gulf of Aden – the gateway to Persian oil. European Space Agency: April 13, 2006:
http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEMWOXNFGLE_index_0.html

[37]      Anthony Lake and Christine Todd Whitman, More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa. The Council on Foreign Relations, 2005: page 32

[38]      Ibid.

[39]      Ibid, page 33.

[40]      Ibid, page 48.

[41]      Ibid, page 81.

[42]      David Leigh and David Pallister, Revealed: the new scramble for Africa. The Guardian: June 1, 2005:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/jun/01/g8.development

[43]      Emily Wax and Karen DeYoung, U.S. Secretly Backing Warlords in Somalia. The Washington Post: May 17, 2006:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/16/AR2006051601625.html

[44]      David Axe, U.S. Losing ‘Secret’ War in Somalia. Wired, December 30, 2008:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/12/us-losing-sec-1/

[45]      Scott Johnson, The Next Battlefront. Newsweek: September 17, 2007:
http://www.newsweek.com/id/40797

[46]      Ibid.

[47]      Ibid.

[48]      Johann Hari, You are being lied to about pirates. The Independent, January 5, 2009:
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-you-are-being-lied-to-about-pirates-1225817.html

[49]      Kelly McEvers, In Anti-Piracy Fight, Yemen May Be Part Of Problem. NPR, May 8, 2009:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103904390

[50]      ROBERT F. WORTH, Freed by the U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief. The New York Times: January 22, 2009:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/world/middleeast/23yemen.html

[51]      ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER, Some in Qaeda Leave Pakistan for Somalia and Yemen. The New York Times, June 11, 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/12/world/12terror.html

[52]      Mai Yamani, Yemen, haven for jihadis. The Guardian, May 25, 2009:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/25/yemen-jihadi-guantanamo-saudi-arabia

[53]      Saudi, al-Qaeda support Yemen crackdown on Shias, Press TV, August 29, 2009:
http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/104778.html

[54]      Yemeni gov,deal with al-Qaeda to crush Shia fighters, Shebastan News Agency, October 28, 2009:
http://www.shabestan.net/en/pages/?cid=2720

[55]      Josh Meyer, Saudis faulted for funding terror. The Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2008:
http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/02/nation/na-terror2

[56]      ERIC LICHTBLAU, Documents Back Saudi Link to Extremists. The New York Times: June 23, 2009:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/world/middleeast/24saudi.html

[57]      Daniel Schwartz, Al-Qaeda is almost the least of Yemen’s problems, CBC News, 29 January 2010:
http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/01/28/f-indepth-yemen.html

[58]      Andrew England, Gunmen attack Yemen security office, The Financial Times, 14 July 2010:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e66c91a8-8f1b-11df-a4de-00144feab49a.html

[59]      Stephen Day, The Political Challenge of Yemen’s Southern Movement, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 2010: http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=40411

[60]      ‘The Southern Movement has nothing to do with al Qaeda’, France24, 3 August 2010:
http://www.france24.com/en/20100308-southern-movemen-al-qaeda-yemen-southern-mobility-movement-secession

[61]      Human Rights Watch alert over Yemen ‘climate of fear’, BBC News, 15 December 2009:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8413271.stm

[62]      Robert F. Worth, In Yemen’s South, Protests Could Cause More Instability, The New York Times, 27 February 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/world/middleeast/28yemen.html

[63]      Eileen Sullivan, US officials knew name of terror suspect who tried to blow up airliner in Detroit. AP, December 26, 2009:
http://www.news889.com/news/world/article/11645–ap-source-us-officials-knew-name-of-terror-suspect-who-tried-to-blow-up-airliner-in-detroit

[64]      David Leppard and Dan McDougall, MI5 knew of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s UK extremist links. The Times, 3 January 2010: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6973954.ece

[65]      Father of Terror Suspect Reportedly Warned U.S. About Son. Fox News, December 26, 2009:
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2009/12/26/father-terror-suspect-reportedly-warned-son-1857952999/

[66]      Current TV, Terror suspect kept visa to avoid tipping off larger investigation. The Detroit News, February 3, 2010:
http://current.com/news/92056789_terror-suspect-kept-visa-to-avoid-tipping-off-larger-investigation-detnews-com-the-detroit-news.htm

[67]      Karen DeYoung and Michael Leahy, Uninvestigated terrorism warning about Detroit suspect called not unusual. The Washington Post, December 28, 2009: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/27/AR2009122700279.html; ERIC LIPTON and SCOTT SHANE, Questions on Why Suspect Wasn’t Stopped. The New York Times, December 27, 2009:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/us/28terror.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

[68]      Paul Egan, Atty. Says He Saw Man Try to Help Nigerian on Flight Without a Passport. The Detroit News, December 29, 2009:
http://www.ticklethewire.com/2009/12/29/atty-says-he-saw-man-try-to-help-nigerian-on-flight-without-a-passport/

[69]      MICHAEL R. GORDON and JAMES DAO, U.S. Broadens Terror Fight, Readying Troops for Yemen. The New York Times, March 2, 2002: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/02/world/nation-challenged-military-us-broadens-terror-fight-readying-troops-for-yemen.html

[70]      Duncan Campbell and Brian Whitaker, US elite force gets ready for Yemen raid. The Guardian, 19 September 2002: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/sep/19/duncancampbell.brianwhitaker

[71]      Dana Priest, U.S. Citizen Among Those Killed In Yemen Predator Missile Strike. The Washington Post, November 8, 2002:
http://tech.mit.edu/V122/N54/long4-54.54w.html

[72]      Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6162617/US-risks-being-sucked-into-Yemen-civil-war.html

[73]      Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6162617/US-risks-being-sucked-into-Yemen-civil-war.html

[74]      Gunnery Sgt. Christian Harding, Yemen military observes Marine training. United States Central Command, 3 November 2009:
http://www.centcom.mil/news/yemen-military-observes-marine-training

[75]      Damien McElroy, US special forces train Yemen army as Arab state becomes al-Qaeda ‘reserve base’. The Telegraph, 13 December 2009: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6803120/US-special-forces-train-Yemen-army-as-Arab-state-becomes-al-Qaeda-reserve-base.html

[76]      ERIC SCHMITT and ROBERT F. WORTH, U.S. Widens Terror War to Yemen, a Qaeda Bastion. The New York Times, 27 December 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/world/middleeast/28yemen.html?_r=1

[77]      Ibid.

[78]      Steven Erlanger, Yemen’s Chaos Aids the Evolution of a Qaeda Cell. The New York Times, 2 January 2010:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/world/middleeast/03yemen.html?pagewanted=1

[79]      Sean Rayment, et. al., Detroit terror attack: Britain sends counter-terrorist forces to Yemen. The Telegraph, 3 January 2010: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6924502/Detroit-terror-attack-Britain-sends-counter-terrorist-forces-to-Yemen.html

[80]      Damien McElroy, US special forces train Yemen army as Arab state becomes al-Qaeda ‘reserve base’. The Telegraph, 13 December 2009: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6803120/US-special-forces-train-Yemen-army-as-Arab-state-becomes-al-Qaeda-reserve-base.html

[81]      Robert F. Worth, Saudis’ Efforts to Swat Rebels From Yemen Risk Inflaming Larger Conflict. The New York Times, 12 November 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/13/world/middleeast/13saudi.html

[82]      Ibid.

[83]      Abigail Hauslohner, Yemen’s Hidden War: Is Iran Causing Trouble? Time Magazine, 18 December 2009:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1947623,00.html

[84]      Sudarsan Raghavan, Yemen denounces Iran’s ‘interference’. The Washington Post, 12 November 2009:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/11/AR2009111126674.html

[85]      Olivier Guitta, Iran and Saudi Arabia drawn to Yemen. Asia Times Online, 11 November 2009:
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KK11Ak01.html

[86]      Meris Lutz, YEMEN: Raging insurgency exacerbates tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Los Angeles Times Blog, 13 November 2009: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2009/11/yemen-internal-fighting-threatens-to-descend-into-regional-conflict.html

[87]      Al Pessin, US General Says Yemen Could Become Iran-Saudi Proxy War. VoA, 22 January 2010:
http://www.voanews.com/english/news/US-General-Says-Yemen-Could-Become-Iran-Saudi-Proxy-War-82427857.html

[88]      EDITORIAL: Iran’s al Qaeda connection in Yemen, The Washington Times, 6 January 2010:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jan/06/irans-al-qaeda-connection-in-yemen/

[89]      Sam Stein, McCain Repeats Iran-Al Qaeda Gaffe Yet Again. Huffington Post, 19 March 2008:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/19/mccain-repeats-iranal-qae_n_92349.html

[90]      Robert Taylor, US bombs Yemen, kills 120, just another day in the life of an empire. The Examiner, 16 December 2009:
http://www.examiner.com/sunset-district-libertarian-in-san-francisco/us-bombs-yemen-kills-120-just-another-day-the-life-of-an-empire

[91]      ‘US fighter jets attack Yemeni fighters’, Press TV, 14 December 2009:
http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/113687.html

[92]      Paul Woodward, US-backed raid killed 49 Yemeni civilians, officials said. The National, 21 December 2009:
http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091221/GLOBALBRIEFING/912219995/1009/FOREIGN?template=globalbriefing

[93]      Kevin Peraino, Friends for Now. Newsweek, 29 December 2009:
http://www.newsweek.com/2009/12/28/friends-for-now.html

[94]      Agencies, US fighting covert war against terror in Yemen. The Australian, 29 December 2009:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/us-fighting-covert-war-against-terror-in-yemen/story-e6frg6so-1225814224061

[95]      Michelle Shephard, Yemen: Terror threat? U.S. ally? Nearly failed state? Toronto Star, 2 January 2010:
http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/744948–yemen-terror-threat-u-s-ally-nearly-failed-state

[96]      Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, U.S. increases efforts to boost security in Yemen amid increasing terror threat, The Washington post, 20 January 2010: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/19/AR2010011904604.html

[97]      Adam Entous, Gates backs big boost in U.S. military aid to Yemen, 22 February 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61L4L120100222

[98]      Adam Entous, U.S. gives Yemen key intelligence to strike al Qaeda, Reuters, 27 January 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60Q5KA20100127

[99]      Adam Entous, Pentagon to boost Yemen’s special operations forces, Reuters, 20 April 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63J32A20100420

[100]    Salman Siddiqui, Drone attacks hit all-time high, The Express Tribune, 27 September 2010:
http://tribune.com.pk/story/54883/drone-attacks-hit-all-time-high/

[101]    Con Coughlin and Philip Sherwell, American drones deployed to target Yemeni terrorist, The Telegraph, 2 May 2010: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/7663661/American-drones-deployed-to-target-Yemeni-terrorist.html

[102]    Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role, The Washington Post, 4 June 2010: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060304965.html

[103]    Mohammed Al-Amrani, Special Forces Commander Meets UK Military Delegation, Yemen Gazette, 10 July 2010:
http://www.yemengazette.com/lastweek/morenewsx1/677-special-forces-commander-meets-uk-military-delegation.html

[104]    SCOTT SHANE, MARK MAZZETTI AND ROBERT F. WORTH, Veil lifts on covert action in Yemen, The New York Times, 14 August 2010: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2012625717_covertwar15.html

[105]    Dan Simpson, The U.S. spreads the misery to Yemen, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 18 August 2010:
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10230/1080682-374.stm

[106]    Glenn Greenwald, An exciting new Muslim country to drone attack, Salon, 25 August 2010:
http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/08/25/yemen

[107]    AFP, US looks at bolstering funding for Yemeni military, The Jordan Times, 3 September 2010:
http://www.jordantimes.com/index.php?news=29747

[108]    Robert F. Worth, Yemen Military Attacks Town It Says Is Militant Hide-Out, The New York Times, 21 September 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/world/middleeast/22yemen.html

[109]    Yemen civilians killed in ‘al-Qaeda hunt’, Press TV, 21 September 2010:
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/143318.html

[110]    Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson and Steve Inskeep, Civilians Flee From Battle In Southern Yemen, NPR, 24 September 2010:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130093677

[111]    Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Yemen’s veneer of legality, The Guardian, 29 September 2010:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/29/yemen-press-repression-veneer-legality

[112]    Mark Landler, As Nations Meet, Clinton Urges Yemen to Prove Itself Worthy of Aid, The New York Times, 27 January 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/world/asia/28diplo.html

[113]    Brian Whitaker, Can Yemen’s friends really help? The Guardian, 20 September 2010:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/20/friends-of-yemen

[114]    James Reinl, Friends of Yemen discuss extremist threat, The National, 26 September 2010:
http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100926/FOREIGN/100929723/1011

[115]    Ministerial Meeting of Friends of Yemen, Joint statement from the Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of Yemen, British Commonwealth Office, 24 September 2010: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=PressS&id=22916622

[116]    Aaron W. Jost, A Comprehensive Approach to Yemen, The White House Blog, 24 September 2010:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/09/24/a-comprehensive-approach-yemen

[117]    Firoze Manji and Carl O’Coill, “The Missionary Position: NGOs and Development in Africa,” International Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 3, (2002), p. 578

[118]    Ibid.

[119]    Ernest Harsch, “Structural Adjustment and Africa’s Democracy Movements,” Africa Today, Vol. 40, No. 4, (1993), p. 14

[120]    Ibid, page 10.

[121]    Ibid, page 12.

[122]    Barry Gills and Joel Rocamora, “Low Intensity Democracy,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 3, (1992), p. 502

[123]    Ibid, page 503.

[124]    Alison J. Ayers, “Demystifying Democratisation: The Global Constitution of (Neo)liberal Polities in Africa,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 2, (2006), p. 323

[125]    Ibid, page 325.

[126]    Ibid, page 326.

[127]    Ibid, page 329-331.

[128]    Firoze Manji and Carl O’Coill, op cit, page 579.

[129]    Ibid, page 580.

[130]    Ibid, pages 574-575.

[131]    Ibid, page 568.

[132]    Jeff Stein, CIA chief promises spies ‘new cover’ for secret ops, Washington Post Blog – SpyTalk, 26 April 2010:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/04/cia_chief_promises_spies_new_a.html

[133]    Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, From U.S., the ABC’s of Jihad, The Washington Post, 23 March 2002:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A5339-2002Mar22?language=printer

[134]    Carol Off, Back to school in Afghanistan, CBC, 6 May 2002:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/afghanistan/schools.html

[135]    Harley Sorensen, NED’s feel-good name belies its corrupt intent, The San Francisco Chronicle, 17 November 2003:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/gate/archive/2003/11/17/hsorensen.DTL

[136]    Andrew Gavin Marshall, Colour-Coded Revolutions and the Origins of World War III, Global Research, 3 November 2009:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=15767

[137]    Andrew Gavin Marshall, A New World War for a New World Order, Global Research, 17 December 2009:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16535

[138]    MEPI, Ongoing MEPI Local Grants – Yemen, Middle East Partnership Initiative, Accessed October 2010:
http://www.abudhabi.mepi.state.gov/abstracts/yemen.html

[139]    CIPE, Who We Are, Center for International Private Enterprise:
http://www.cipe.org/

[140]    NED, Country Profile – Yemen, The National Endowment for Democracy, Accessed October 2010:
http://www.ned.org/where-we-work/middle-east-and-northern-africa/yemen

[141]    Ibid.

[142]    USAID, Yemen, United States Agency for International Development:
http://www.usaid.gov/locations/middle_east/countries/yemen/

[143]    Adam Entous, Gates backs big boost in U.S. military aid to Yemen, Reuters, 22 February 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61L4L120100222

[144]    Jeff Stein, CIA chief promises spies ‘new cover’ for secret ops, Washington Post Blog – SpyTalk, 26 April 2010:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/04/cia_chief_promises_spies_new_a.html

[145]    Andrew Lee Butters, Yemen: The Most Fragile Ally. Time Magazine, 7 January 2010:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1952142,00.html

[146]    Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6162617/US-risks-being-sucked-into-Yemen-civil-war.html

[147]    Yemen denies warplane shot down, Al-Jazeera, October 2, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/10/2009102103834822778.html

[148]    Paul Handley, Huge Saudi arms deal aimed at Iran, Yemen troubles: analysts, AFP, 12 September 2010: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jxlLTtu2Ccx7EsT_qH_tPhukgKCA

[149]    Andrew Lee Butters, Yemen: The Most Fragile Ally. Time Magazine, 7 January 2010:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1952142,00.html

[150]    Kim Sengupta, US cruise missile parts found in Yemeni village where 52 died, The Independent, 7 June 2010:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-cruise-missile-parts-found-in-yemeni-village-where-52-died-1993253.html

[151]    Gilbert Mercier, Yemen: US Strikes Used Cluster Bombs And Killed 41 Civilians. NewsJunkiePost, 7 June 2010:
http://newsjunkiepost.com/2010/06/07/yemen-us-strikes-used-cluster-bombs-and-killed-41-civilians/

The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda: The CIA’s Drug-Running Terrorists and the “Arc of Crisis”

The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda: The CIA’s Drug-Running Terrorists and the “Arc of Crisis”
Part I
Global Research, September 5, 2010

Introduction

As the 9th anniversary of 9/11 nears, and the war on terror continues to be waged and grows in ferocity and geography, it seems all the more imperative to return to the events of that fateful September morning and re-examine the reasons for war and the nature of the stated culprit, Al-Qaeda.

The events of 9/11 pervade the American and indeed the world imagination as an historical myth. The events of that day and those leading up to it remain largely unknown and little understood by the general public, apart from the disturbing images repeated ad nauseam in the media. The facts and troubled truths of that day are lost in the folklore of the 9/11 myth: that the largest attack carried out on American ground was orchestrated by 19 Muslims armed with box cutters and urged on by religious fundamentalism, all under the direction of Osama bin Laden, the leader of a global terrorist network called al-Qaeda, based out of a cave in Afghanistan.

The myth sweeps aside the facts and complex nature of terror, al-Qaeda, the American empire and literally defies the laws of physics. As John F. Kennedy once said, “The greatest enemy of the truth is not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, pervasive, and unrealistic.”

This three-part series on “The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda” examines the geopolitical historical origins and nature of what we today know as al-Qaeda, which is in fact an Anglo-American intelligence network of terrorist assets used to advance American and NATO imperial objectives in various regions around the world.

Part 1 examines the origins of the intelligence network known as the Safari Club, which financed and organized an international conglomerate of terrorists, the CIA’s role in the global drug trade, the emergence of the Taliban and the origins of al-Qaeda.

The Safari Club

Following Nixon’s resignation as President, Gerald Ford became the new US President in 1974. Henry Kissinger remained as Secretary of State and Ford brought into his administration two names that would come to play important roles in the future of the American Empire: Donald Rumsfeld as Ford’s Chief of Staff, and Dick Cheney, as Deputy Assistant to the President. The Vice President was Nelson Rockefeller, David Rockefeller’s brother. When Donald Rumsfeld was promoted to Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney was promoted to Chief of Staff. Ford had also appointed a man named George H.W. Bush as CIA Director.

In 1976, a coalition of intelligence agencies was formed, which was called the Safari Club. This marked the discreet and highly covert coordination among various intelligence agencies, which would last for decades. It formed at a time when the CIA was embroiled in domestic scrutiny over the Watergate scandal and a Congressional investigation into covert CIA activities, forcing the CIA to become more covert in its activities.

In 2002, the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki bin Faisal gave a speech in which he stated that in response to the CIA’s need for more discretion, “a group of countries got together in the hope of fighting Communism and established what was called the Safari Club. The Safari Club included France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Iran [under the Shah].”[1] However, “The Safari Club needed a network of banks to finance its intelligence operations. With the official blessing of George H.W. Bush as the head of the CIA,” Saudi intelligence chief, Kamal Adham, “transformed a small Pakistani merchant bank, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), into a world-wide money-laundering machine, buying banks around the world to create the biggest clandestine money network in history.”[2]

As CIA director, George H.W. Bush “cemented strong relations with the intelligence services of both Saudi Arabia and the shah of Iran. He worked closely with Kamal Adham, the head of Saudi intelligence, brother-in-law of King Faisal and an early BCCI insider.” Adham had previously acted as a “channel between [Henry] Kissinger and [Egyptian President] Anwar Sadat” in 1972. In 1976, Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia formed the Safari Club “to conduct through their own intelligence agencies operations that were now difficult for the CIA,” which was largely organized by the head of French intelligence, Alexandre de Marenches.[3]

The “Arc of Crisis” and the Iranian Revolution

When Jimmy Carter became President in 1977, he appointed over two-dozen members of the Trilateral Commission to his administration, which was an international think tank formed by Zbigniew Brzezinski and David Rockefeller in 1973. Brzezinski had invited Carter to join the Trilateral Commission, and when Carter became President, Brzezinski became National Security Adviser; Cyrus Vance, also a member of the Commission, became Secretary of State; and Samuel Huntington, another Commission member, became Coordinator of National Security and Deputy to Brzezinski. Author and researcher Peter Dale Scott deserves much credit for his comprehensive analysis of the events leading up to and during the Iranian Revolution in his book, “The Road to 9/11”,* which provides much of the information below.

Samuel Huntington and Zbigniew Brzezinski were to determine the US policy position in the Cold War, and the US-Soviet policy they created was termed, “Cooperation and Competition,” in which Brzezinski would press for “Cooperation” when talking to the press, yet, privately push for “competition.” So, while Secretary of State Cyrus Vance was pursuing détente with the Soviet Union, Brzezinski was pushing for American supremacy over the Soviet Union. Brzezinski and Vance would come to disagree on almost every issue.[4]

In 1978, Zbigniew Brzezinski gave a speech in which he stated, “An arc of crisis stretches along the shores of the Indian Ocean, with fragile social and political structures in a region of vital importance to us threatened with fragmentation. The resulting political chaos could well be filled by elements hostile to our values and sympathetic to our adversaries.” The Arc of Crisis stretched from Indochina to southern Africa, although, more specifically, the particular area of focus was “the nations that stretch across the southern flank of the Soviet Union from the Indian subcontinent to Turkey, and southward through the Arabian Peninsula to the Horn of Africa.” Further, the “center of gravity of this arc is Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil producer and for more than two decades a citadel of U.S. military and economic strength in the Middle East. Now it appears that the 37-year reign of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi is almost over, ended by months of rising civil unrest and revolution.”[5]

With rising discontent in the region, “There was this idea that the Islamic forces could be used against the Soviet Union. The theory was, there was an arc of crisis, and so an arc of Islam could be mobilized to contain the Soviets. It was a Brzezinski concept.”[6] A month prior to Brzezinski’s speech, in November of 1978, “President Carter named the Bilderberg group’s George Ball, another member of the Trilateral Commission, to head a special White House Iran task force under the National Security Council’s Brzezinski.” Further, “Ball recommended that Washington drop support for the Shah of Iran and support the fundamentalist Islamic opposition of Ayatollah Khomeini.”[7] George Ball’s visit to Iran was a secret mission.[8]

Throughout 1978, the Shah was under the impression that “the Carter administration was plotting to topple his regime.” In 1978, the Queen and Shah’s wife, told Manouchehr Ganji, a minister in the Shah’s government, that, “I wanted to tell you that the Americans are maneuvering to bring down the Shah,” and she continued saying that she believed “they even want to topple the regime.”[9] The US Ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan, thought that the revolution would succeed, and told this to Ramsey Clark, former US Attorney General under the Johnson administration, as well as professor Richard Falk, when they were visiting Sullivan in Iran in 1978. Clark and Falk then went from Iran to Paris, to visit Khomeini, who was there in exile. James Bill, a Carter adviser, felt that, “a religious movement brought about with the United States’ assistance would be a natural friend of the United States.”[10]

Also interesting is the fact that the British BBC broadcast pro-Khomeini Persian-language programs daily in Iran, as a subtle form of propaganda, which “gave credibility to the perception of United States and British support of Khomeini.”[11] The BBC refused to give the Shah a platform to respond, and “[r]epeated personal appeals from the Shah to the BBC yielded no result.”[12]

In the May 1979 meeting of the Bilderberg Group, Bernard Lewis, a British historian of great influence (hence, the Bilderberg membership), presented a British-American strategy which, “endorsed the radical Muslim Brotherhood movement behind Khomeini, in order to promote balkanization of the entire Muslim Near East along tribal and religious lines. Lewis argued that the West should encourage autonomous groups such as the Kurds, Armenians, Lebanese Maronites, Ethiopian Copts, Azerbaijani Turks, and so forth. The chaos would spread in what he termed an ‘Arc of Crisis,’ which would spill over into the Muslim regions of the Soviet Union.”[13] Further, it would prevent Soviet influence from entering the Middle East, as the Soviet Union was viewed as an empire of atheism and godlessness: essentially a secular and immoral empire, which would seek to impose secularism across Muslim countries. So supporting radical Islamic groups would mean that the Soviet Union would be less likely to have any influence or relations with Middle Eastern countries, making the US a more acceptable candidate for developing relations.

A 1979 article in Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, described the Arc of Crisis, saying that, “The Middle East constitutes its central core. Its strategic position is unequalled: it is the last major region of the Free World directly adjacent to the Soviet Union, it holds in its subsoil about three-fourths of the proven and estimated world oil reserves, and it is the locus of one of the most intractable conflicts of the twentieth century: that of Zionism versus Arab nationalism.” It went on to explain that post-war US policy in the region was focused on “containment” of the Soviet Union, as well as access to the regions oil.[14] The article continued, explaining that the most “obvious division” within the Middle East is, “that which separates the Northern Tier (Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan) from the Arab core,” and that, “After World War II, Turkey and Iran were the two countries most immediately threatened by Soviet territorial expansionism and political subversion.”[15] Ultimately, “the Northern Tier was assured of a serious and sustained American commitment to save it from sharing the fate of Eastern Europe.”[16]

While Khomeini was in Paris prior to the Revolution, a representative of the French President organized a meeting between Khomeini and “current world powers,” in which Khomeini made certain demands, such as, “the shah’s removal from Iran and help in avoiding a coup d’état by the Iranian Army.” The Western powers, however, “were worried about the Soviet Union’s empowerment and penetration and a disruption in Iran’s oil supply to the west. Khomeini gave the necessary guarantees. These meetings and contacts were taking place in January of 1979, just a few days before the Islamic Revolution in February 1979.”[17] In February of 1979, Khomeini was flown out of Paris on an Air France flight, to return to Iran, “with the blessing of Jimmy Carter.”[18] Ayatollah Khomeini named Mehdi Bazargan as prime minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government on February 4, 1979. As Khomeini had demanded during his Paris meeting in January 1979, that western powers must help in avoiding a coup by the Iranian Army; in that same month, the Carter administration, under the direction of Brzezinski, had begun planning a military coup.[19]

Could this have been planned in the event that Khomeini was overthrown, the US would quickly reinstate order, perhaps even place Khomeini back in power? Interestingly, in January of 1979, “as the Shah was about to leave the country, the American Deputy Commander in NATO, General Huyser, arrived and over a period of a month conferred constantly with Iranian military leaders. His influence may have been substantial on the military’s decision not to attempt a coup and eventually to yield to the Khomeini forces, especially if press reports are accurate that he or others threatened to withhold military supplies if a coup were attempted.”[20] No coup was subsequently undertaken, and Khomeini came to power as the Ayatollah of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As tensions increased among the population within Iran, the US sent “security advisers” to Iran to pressure the Shah’s SAVAK (secret police) to implement “a policy of ever more brutal repression, in a manner calculated to maximize popular antipathy to the Shah.” The Carter administration also began publicly criticizing the Shah’s human rights abuses.[21] On September 6, 1978, the Shah banned demonstrations, and the following day, between 700 and 2000 demonstrators were gunned down, following “advice from Brzezinski to be firm.”[22]

The US Ambassador to the UN, Andrew Young, a Trilateral Commission member, said that, “Khomeini will eventually be hailed as a saint,” and the US Ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan, said, “Khomeini is a Gandhi-like figure,” while Carter’s adviser, James Bill, said that Khomeini was a man of “impeccable integrity and honesty.”[23]

The Shah was also very sick in late 1978 and early 1979. So the Shah fled Iran in January of 1979 to the Bahamas, allowing for the revolution to take place. It is especially interesting to understand the relationship between David Rockefeller and the Shah of Iran. David Rockefeller’s personal assistant, Joseph V. Reed, had been “assigned to handle the shah’s finances and his personal needs;” Robert Armao, who worked for Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, was sent to “act as the shah’s public relations agent and lobbyist;” and Benjamin H. Kean, “a longtime associate of Chase Manhattan Bank chairman David Rockefeller,” and David Rockefeller’s “personal physician,” who was sent to Mexico when the shah was there, and advised that he “be treated at an American hospital.”[24]

It is important to note that Rockefeller interests “had directed U.S. policy in Iran since the CIA coup of 1953.”[25] Following the Shah’s flight from Iran, there were increased pressures within the United States by a handful of powerful people to have the Shah admitted to the United States. These individuals were Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, John J. McCloy, former statesman and senior member of the Bilderberg Group, Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, who was also a lawyer for Chase Manhattan, and of course, David Rockefeller.[26]

Chase Manhattan Bank had more interests in Iran than any other US bank. In fact, the Shah had “ordered that all his government’s major operating accounts be held at Chase and that letters of credit for the purchase of oil be handled exclusively through Chase. The bank also became the agent and lead manager for many of the loans to Iran. In short, Iran became the crown jewel of Chase’s international banking portfolio.”[27]

The Iranian interim government, headed by Prime Minister Bazargan, collapsed in November of 1979, when Iranian hostages seized the US Embassy in Teheran. However, there is much more to this event than meets the eye. During the time of the interim government (February, 1979 to November, 1979), several actions were undertaken which threatened some very powerful interests who had helped the Ayatollah into power.

Chase Manhattan Bank faced a liquidity crisis as there had been billions in questionable loans to Iran funneled through Chase.[28] Several of Chase’s loans were “possibly illegal under the Iranian constitution.”[29] Further, in February of 1979, once the interim government was put in power, it began to take “steps to market its oil independently of the Western oil majors.” Also, the interim government “wanted Chase Manhattan to return Iranian assets, which Rockefeller put at more than $1 billion in 1978, although some estimates ran much higher,” which could have “created a liquidity crisis for the bank which already was coping with financial troubles.”[30]

With the seizure of the American Embassy in Iran, President Carter took moves to freeze Iranian financial assets. As David Rockefeller wrote in his book, “Carter’s ‘freeze’ of official Iranian assets protected our [Chase Manhattan’s] position, but no one at Chase played a role in convincing the administration to institute it.”[31]

In February of 1979, Iran had been taking “steps to market its oil independently of the Western oil majors. In 1979, as in 1953, a freeze of Iranian assets made this action more difficult.”[32] This was significant for Chase Manhattan not simply because of the close interlocking of the board with those of oil companies, not to mention Rockefeller himself, who is patriarch of the family whose name is synonymous with oil, but also because Chase exclusively handled all the letters of credit for the purchase of Iranian oil.[33]

The Shah being accepted into the United States, under public pressure from Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and David Rockefeller, precipitated the hostage crisis, which occurred on November 4. Ten days later, Carter froze all Iranian assets in US banks, on the advice of his Treasury Secretary, William Miller. Miller just happened to have ties to Chase Manhattan Bank.[34]

Although Chase Manhattan directly benefited from the seizure of Iranian assets, the reasoning behind the seizure as well as the events leading up to it, such as a hidden role for the Anglo-Americans behind the Iranian Revolution, bringing the Shah to America, which precipitated the hostage crisis, cannot simply be relegated to personal benefit for Chase. There were larger designs behind this crisis. So the 1979 crises in Iran cannot simply be pawned off as a spur of the moment undertaking, but rather should be seen as quick actions taken upon a perceived opportunity. The opportunity was the rising discontent within Iran at the Shah; the quick actions were in covertly pushing the country into Revolution.

In 1979, “effectively restricting the access of Iran to the global oil market, the Iranian assets freeze became a major factor in the huge oil price increases of 1979 and 1981.”[35] Added to this, in 1979, British Petroleum cancelled major oil contracts for oil supply, which along with cancellations taken by Royal Dutch Shell, drove the price of oil up higher.[36] With the first major oil price rises in 1973 (urged on by US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger), the Third World was forced to borrow heavily from US and European banks to finance development. With the second oil price shocks of 1979, the US Federal Reserve, with Paul Volcker as its new Chairman, (himself having served a career under David Rockefeller at Chase Manhattan), dramatically raised interest rates from 2% in the late 70s to 18% in the early 80s. Developing nations could not afford to pay such interest on their loans, and thus the 1980s debt crisis spread throughout the Third World, with the IMF and World Bank coming to the “rescue” with their Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), which ensured western control over the developing world’s economies.[37]

Covertly, the United States helped a radical Islamist government come to power in Iran, “the center of the Arc of Crisis,” and then immediately stirred up conflict and war in the region. Five months before Iraq invaded Iran, in April of 1980, Zbigniew Brzezinski openly declared the willingness of the US to work closely with Iraq. Two months before the war, Brzezinski met with Saddam Hussein in Jordan, where he gave support for the destabilization of Iran.[38] While Saddam was in Jordan, he also met with three senior CIA agents, which was arranged by King Hussein of Jordan. He then went to meet with King Fahd in Saudi Arabia, informing him of his plans to invade Iran, and then met with the King of Kuwait to inform him of the same thing. He gained support from America, and financial and arms support from the Arab oil producing countries. Arms to Iraq were funneled through Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.[39] The war lasted until 1988 and resulted in over a million deaths.

This was the emergence of the “strategy of tension” in the “Arc of Crisis,” in particular, the covert support (whether in arming, training, or financing) of radical Islamic elements to foment violence and conflict in a region. It was the old imperial tactic of ‘divide and conquer’: pit the people against each other so that they cannot join forces against the imperial power. This violence and radical Islamism would further provide the pretext for which the US and its imperial allies could then engage in war and occupation within the region, all the while securing its vast economic and strategic interests.

The “Arc of Crisis” in Afghanistan: The Safari Club in Action

In 1978, the progressive Taraki government in Afghanistan managed to incur the anger of the United States due to “its egalitarian and collectivist economic policies.”[40] The Afghan government was widely portrayed in the West as “Communist” and thus, a threat to US national security. The government, did, however, undertake friendly policies and engagement with the Soviet Union, but was not a Communist government.

In 1978, as the new government came to power, almost immediately the US began covertly funding rebel groups through the CIA.[41] In 1979, Zbigniew Brzezinski worked closely with his aid from the CIA, Robert Gates (who is currently Secretary of Defense), in shifting President Carter’s Islamic policy. As Brzezinski said in a 1998 interview with a French publication:

According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.[42]

Brzezinski elaborated, saying he “Knowingly increased the probability that [the Soviets] would invade,” and he recalled writing to Carter on the day of the Soviet invasion that, “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.” When asked about the repercussions for such support in fostering the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, Brzezinski responded, “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”[43]

As author Peter Dale Scott pointed out in, The Road to 9/11:*

For generations in both Afghanistan and the Soviet Muslim Republics the dominant form of Islam had been local and largely Sufi. The decision to work with the Saudi and Pakistani secret services meant that billions of CIA and Saudi dollars would ultimately be spent in programs that would help enhance the globalistic and Wahhabistic jihadism that are associated today with al Qaeda.[44]

Hafizullah Amin, a top official in Taraki’s government, who many believed to be a CIA asset, orchestrated a coup in September of 1979, and “executed Taraki, halted the reforms, and murdered, jailed, or exiled thousands of Taraki supporters as he moved toward establishing a fundamentalist Islamic state. But within two months, he was overthrown by PDP remnants including elements within the military.”[45] The Soviets also intervened in order to replace Amin, who was seen as “unpredictable and extremist” with “the more moderate Barbak Karmal.”[46]

The Soviet invasion thus prompted the US national security establishment to undertake the largest covert operation in history. When Ronald Reagan replaced Jimmy Carter in 1981, the covert assistance to the Afghan Mujahideen not only continued on the path set by Brzezinski but it rapidly accelerated, as did the overall strategy in the “Arc of Crisis.” When Reagan became President, his Vice President became George H.W. Bush, who, as CIA director during the Ford administration, had helped establish the Safari Club intelligence network and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) in Pakistan. In the “campaign to aid the Afghan rebels … BCCI clearly emerged as a U.S. intelligence asset,” and CIA Director “Casey began to use the outside – the Saudis, the Pakistanis, BCCI – to run what they couldn’t get through Congress. [BCCI president] Abedi had the money to help,” and the CIA director had “met repeatedly” with the president of BCCI.[47]

Thus, in 1981, Director Casey of the CIA worked with Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal who ran the Saudi intelligence agency GID, and the Pakistani ISI “to create a foreign legion of jihadi Muslims or so-called Arab Afghans.” This idea had “originated in the elite Safari Club that had been created by French intelligence chief Alexandre de Marenches.”[48]

In 1986, the CIA backed a plan by the Pakistani ISI “to recruit people from around the world to join the Afghan jihad.” Subsequently:

More than 100,000 Islamic militants were trained in Pakistan between 1986 and 1992, in camps overseen by CIA and MI6, with the SAS [British Special Forces] training future al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in bomb-making and other black arts. Their leaders were trained at a CIA camp in Virginia. This was called Operation Cyclone and continued long after the Soviets had withdrawn in 1989.[49]

CIA funding for the operations “was funneled through General Zia and the ISI in Pakistan.”[50] Interestingly, Robert Gates, who previously served as assistant to Brzezinski in the National Security Council, stayed on in the Reagan-Bush administration as executive assistant to CIA director Casey, and who is currently Secretary of Defense.

The Global Drug Trade and the CIA

As a central facet of the covert financing and training of the Afghan Mujahideen, the role of the drug trade became invaluable. The global drug trade has long been used by empires for fuelling and financing conflict with the aim of facilitating imperial domination.

In 1773, the British colonial governor in Bengal “established a colonial monopoly on the sale of opium.” As Alfred W. McCoy explained in his masterful book, The Politics of Heroin:

As the East India Company expanded production, opium became India’s main export. [. . . ] Over the next 130 years, Britain actively promoted the export of Indian opium to China, defying Chinese drug laws and fighting two wars to open China’s opium market for its merchants. Using its military and mercantile power, Britain played a central role in making China a vast drug market and in accelerating opium cultivation throughout China. By 1900 China had 13.5 million addicts consuming 39,000 tons of opium.[51]

In Indochina in the 1940s and 50s, the French intelligence services “enabled the opium trade to survive government suppression efforts,” and subsequently, “CIA activities in Burma helped transform the Shan states from a relatively minor poppy-cultivating area into the largest opium-growing region in the world.”[52] The CIA did this by supporting the Kuomintang (KMT) army in Burma for an invasion of China, and facilitated its monopolization and expansion of the opium trade, allowing the KMT to remain in Burma until a coup in 1961, when they were driven into Laos and Thailand.[53] The CIA subsequently played a very large role in the facilitation of the drugs trade in Laos and Vietnam throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s.[54]

It was during the 1980s that “the CIA’s covert war in Afghanistan transformed Central Asia from a self-contained opium zone into a major supplier of heroin for the world market,” as:

Until the late 1970s, tribal farmers in the highlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan grew limited quantities of opium and sold it to merchant caravans bound west for Iran and east to India. In its decade of covert warfare against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the CIA’s operations provided the political protection and logistics linkages that joined Afghanistan’s poppy fields to heroin markets in Europe and America.[55]

In 1977, General Zia Ul Haq in Pakistan launched a military coup, “imposed a harsh martial-law regime,” and executed former President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (father to Benazir Bhutto). When Zia came to power, the Pakistani ISI was a “minor military intelligence unit,” but, under the “advice and assistance of the CIA,” General Zia transformed the ISI “into a powerful covert unit and made it the strong arm of his martial-law regime.”[56]

The CIA and Saudi money flowed not only to weapons and training for the Mujahideen, but also into the drug trade. Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq appointed General Fazle Haq as the military governor of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), who would “consult with Brzezinski on developing an Afghan resistance program,” and who became a CIA asset. When CIA Director Casey or Vice President George H.W. Bush reviewed the CIA Afghan operation, they went to see Haq; who by 1982, was considered by Interpol to be an international narcotics trafficker. Haq moved much of the narcotics money through the BCCI.[57]

In May of 1979, prior to the December invasion of the Soviet Union into Afghanistan, a CIA envoy met with Afghan resistance leaders in a meeting organized by the ISI. The ISI “offered the CIA envoy an alliance with its own Afghan client, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar,” who led a small guerilla group. The CIA accepted, and over the following decade, half of the CIA’s aid went to Hekmatyar’s guerillas.[58] Hekmatyar became Afghanistan’s leading mujahideen drug lord, and developed a “complex of six heroin labs in an ISI-controlled area of Baluchistan (Pakistan).”[59]

The US subsequently, through the 1980s, in conjunction with Saudi Arabia, gave Hekmatyar more than $1 billion in armaments. Immediately, heroin began flowing from Afghanistan to America. By 1980, drug-related deaths in New York City rose 77% since 1979.[60] By 1981, the drug lords in Pakistan and Afghanistan supplied 60% of America’s heroin. Trucks going into Afghanistan with CIA arms from Pakistan would return with heroin “protected by ISI papers from police search.”[61]

Haq, the CIA asset in Pakistan, “was also running the drug trade,” of which the bank BCCI “was completely involved.” In the 1980s, the CIA insisted that the ISI create “a special cell for the use of heroin for covert actions.” Elaborating:

This cell promoted the cultivation of opium and the extraction of heroin in Pakistani territory as well as in the Afghan territory under Mujahideen control for being smuggled into Soviet controlled areas in order to make the Soviet troops heroin addicts.[62]

This plan apparently originated at the suggestion of French intelligence chief and founder of the Safari Club, Alexandre de Marenches, who recommended it to CIA Director Casey.[63]

In the 1980s, one program undertaken by the United States was to finance Mujahideen propaganda in textbooks for Afghan schools. The US gave the Mujahideen $43 million in “non-lethal” aid for the textbook project alone, which was given by USAID: “The U.S. Agency for International Development, [USAID] coordinated its work with the CIA, which ran the weapons program,” and “The U.S. government told the AID to let the Afghan war chiefs decide the school curriculum and the content of the textbooks.”[64]

The textbooks were “filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings,” and “were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines.” Even since the covert war of the 1980s, the textbooks “have served since then as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books.” The books were developed through a USAID grant to the “University of Nebraska-Omaha and its Center for Afghanistan Studies,” and when the books were smuggled into Afghanistan through regional military leaders, “Children were taught to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and land mines.” USAID stopped this funding in 1994.[65]

The Rise of the Taliban

When the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the fighting continued between the Afghan government backed by the USSR and the Mujahideen backed by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, so too did its aid to the Afghan government, which itself was overthrown in 1992. However, fighting almost immediately broke out between rival factions vying for power, including Hekmatyar.

In the early 1990s, an obscure group of “Pashtun country folk” had become a powerful military and political force in Afghanistan, known as the Taliban.[66] The Taliban “surfaced as a small militia force operating near Kandahar city during the spring and summer of 1994, carrying out vigilante attacks against minor warlords.” As growing discontent with the warlords grew, so too did the reputation of the Taliban.[67]

The Taliban acquired an alliance with the ISI in 1994, and throughout 1995, the relationship between the Taliban and the ISI accelerated and “became more and more of a direct military alliance.” The Taliban ultimately became “an asset of the ISI” and “a client of the Pakistan army.”[68] Further, “Between 1994 and 1996, the USA supported the Taliban politically through its allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, essentially because Washington viewed the Taliban as anti-Iranian, anti-Shia, and pro-Western.”[69]

Selig Harrison, a scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars and “a leading US expert on South Asia,” said at a conference in India that the CIA worked with Pakistan to create the Taliban. Harrison has “extensive contact” with the CIA, as “he had meetings with CIA leaders at the time when Islamic forces were being strengthened in Afghanistan,” while he was a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. As he further revealed in 2001, “The CIA still has close links with the ISI.”[70] By 1996, the Taliban had control of Kandahar, but still fighting and instability continued in the country.

Osama and Al-Qaeda

Between 1980 and 1989, roughly $600 million was passed through Osama bin Laden’s charity front organizations, specifically the Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), also known as Al-Kifah. The money mostly originated with wealthy donors in Saudi Arabia and other areas in the Persian Gulf, and was funneled through his charity fronts to arm and fund the mujahideen in Afghanistan.[71]

In the 1980s, the British Special Forces (SAS) were training mujahideen in Afghanistan, as well as in secret camps in Scotland, and the SAS is largely taking orders from the CIA. The CIA also indirectly begins to arm Osama bin Laden.[72] Osama bin Laden’s front charity, the MAK, “was nurtured” by the Pakistani ISI.[73]

Osama bin Laden was reported to have been personally recruited by the CIA in 1979 in Istanbul. He had the close support of Prince Turki bin Faisal, his friend and head of Saudi intelligence, and also developed ties with Hekmatyar in Afghanistan,[74] both of whom were pivotal figures in the CIA-Safari Club network. General Akhtar Abdul Rahman, the head of the Pakistani ISI from 1980 to 1987, would meet regularly with Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, and they formed a partnership in demanding a tax on the opium trade from warlords so that by 1985, bin Laden and the ISI were splitting the profits of over $100 million per year.[75] In 1985, Osama bin Laden’s brother, Salem, stated that Osama was “the liaison between the US, the Saudi government, and the Afghan rebels.”[76]

In 1988, Bin Laden discussed “the establishment of a new military group,” which would come to be known as Al-Qaeda.[77] Osama bin Laden’s charity front, the MAK, (eventually to form Al-Qaeda) founded the al-Kifah Center in Brooklyn, New York, to recruit Muslims for the jihad against the Soviets. The al-Kifah Center was founded in the late 1980s with the support of the U.S. government, which provided visas for known terrorists associated with the organization, including Ali Mohamed, the “blind sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman and possibly the lead 9/11 hijacker, Mohamed Atta.[78]

This coincided with the creation of Al-Qaeda, of which the al-Kifah Center was a recruiting front. Foot soldiers for Al-Qaeda were “admitted to the United States for training under a special visa program.” The FBI had been surveilling the training of terrorists, however, “it terminated this surveillance in the fall of 1989.” In 1990, the CIA granted Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman a visa to come run the al-Kifah Center, who was considered an “untouchable” as he was “being protected by no fewer than three agencies,” including the State Department, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA.[79]

Robin Cook, a former British MP and Minister of Foreign Affairs wrote that Al-Qaeda, “literally ‘the database’, was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians.”[80] Thus, “Al-Qaeda” was born as an instrument of western intelligence agencies. This account of al-Qaeda was further corroborated by a former French military intelligence agent, who stated that, “In the mid-1980s, Al Qaida was a database,” and that it remained as such into the 1990s. He contended that, “Al Qaida was neither a terrorist group nor Osama bin Laden’s personal property,” and further:

The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al Qaida. And any informed intelligence officer knows this. But there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an identified entity representing the ‘devil’ only in order to drive the ‘TV watcher’ to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism. The country behind this propaganda is the US and the lobbyists for the US war on terrorism are only interested in making money.[81]

The creation of Al-Qaeda was thus facilitated by the CIA and allied intelligence networks, the purpose of which was to maintain this “database” of Mujahideen to be used as intelligence assets to achieve US foreign policy objectives, throughout both the Cold War, and into the post-Cold War era of the ‘new world order’.

Part 2 of “The Imperial Anatomy of al-Qaeda” takes the reader through an examination of the new imperial strategy laid out by American geopolitical strategists at the end of the Cold War, designed for America to maintain control over the world’s resources and prevent the rise of competitive powers. Covertly, the “database” (al-Qaeda) became central to this process, being used to advance imperial aims in various regions, such as in the dismantling of Yugoslavia. Part 2 further examines the exact nature of ‘al-Qaeda’, its origins, terms, training, arming, financing, and expansion. In particular, the roles of western intelligence agencies in the evolution and expansion of al-Qaeda is a central focus. Finally, an analysis of the preparations for the war in Afghanistan is undertaken to shed light on the geopolitical ambitions behind the conflict that has now been waging for nearly nine years.

* [Note on the research: For a comprehensive analysis of the history, origins and nature of al-Qaeda, see: Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire and the Future of America, which provided much of the research in the above article.]

Notes

[1]        Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. University of California Press: 2007: page 62

[2]        Ibid, page 63.

[3]        Ibid, page 62.

[4]        Ibid, pages 66-67.

[5]        HP-Time, The Crescent of Crisis. Time Magazine: January 15, 1979:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,919995-1,00.html

[6]        Peter Dale Scott, op. cit., page 67.

[7]        F. William Engdahl, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New  World Order. London: Pluto Press, 2004: page 171

[8]        Manouchehr Ganji, Defying the Iranian Revolution: From a Minister to the Shah to a Leader of Resistance. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002: page 41

[9]        Ibid, page 39.

[10]      Ibid, page 41.

[11]      Ibid.

[12]      F. William Engdahl, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New  World Order. London: Pluto Press, 2004: page 172

[13]      Ibid, page 171.

[14]      George Lenczowski, The Arc of Crisis: It’s Central Sector. Foreign Affairs: Summer, 1979: page 796

[15]      Ibid, page 797.

[16]      Ibid, page 798.

[17]      IPS, Q&A:  Iran’s Islamic Revolution Had Western Blessing. Inter-Press Service: July 26, 2008:
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=43328

[18]      Michael D. Evans, Father of the Iranian revolution. The Jerusalem Post: June 20, 2007:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1181813077590&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

[19]      Peter Dale Scott, op cit., page 89.

[20]      George Lenczowski, The Arc of Crisis: It’s Central Sector. Foreign Affairs: Summer, 1979: page 810

[21]      F. William Engdahl, op cit., page 172.

[22]      Peter Dale Scott, op cit., page 81.

[23]      Michael D. Evans, Father of the Iranian revolution. The Jerusalem Post: June 20, 2007:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1181813077590&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

[24]      Peter Dale Scott, op cit., page 83.

[25]      Ibid, page 84.

[26]      Ibid, page 81.

[27]      Ibid, pages 85-86.

[28]      Ibid.

[29]      Ibid, page 87.

[30]      Ibid, pages 88-89.

[31]      Ibid.

[32]      Ibid, pages 87-88.

[33]      Ibid, page 85.

[34]      Ibid, page 86.

[35]      Ibid, page 88.

[36]      F. William Engdahl, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New  World Order. London: Pluto Press, 2004: page 173

[37]      Andrew Gavin Marshall, Controlling the Global Economy: Bilderberg, the Trilateral Commission and the Federal Reserve. Global Research: August 3, 2009:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=14614

[38]      Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. University of California Press: 2007: page 89

[39]      PBS, Secrets of His Life and Leadership: An Interview with Said K. Aburish. PBS Frontline:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/saddam/interviews/aburish.html

[40]      Michael Parenti, Afghanistan, Another Untold Story. Global Research: December 4, 2008:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=11279

[41]      Oleg Kalugin, How We Invaded Afghanistan. Foreign Policy: December 11, 2009:
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/12/11/how_we_invaded_afghanistan

[42]      ‘’Le Nouvel Observateur’ (France), Jan 15-21, 1998, p. 76:
http://www.ucc.ie/acad/appsoc/tmp_store/mia/Library/history/afghanistan/archive/brzezinski/1998/interview.htm

[43]      Ibid.

[44]      Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. University of California Press: 2007: page 73

[45]      Michael Parenti, Afghanistan, Another Untold Story. Global Research: December 4, 2008:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=11279

[46]      Peter Dale Scott, op cit., page 78.

[47]      Ibid, page 116.

[48]      Ibid, page 122.

[49]      Ibid, page 123.

[50]      Ibid,.

[51]      Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. (Lawrence Hill Books: Chicago, 2003), page 80

[52]      Ibid, page 162.

[53]      Ibid.

[54]      Ibid, pages 283-386.

[55]      Ibid, page 466.

[56]      Ibid, page 474.

[57]      Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. University of California Press: 2007: page 73

[58]      Alfred W. McCoy, op cit., page 475.

[59]      Peter Dale Scott, op cit., page 74.

[60]      Ibid, pages 75-76.

[61]      Ibid, page 124.

[62]      Ibid, pages 75-76.

[63]      Ibid, page 124.

[64]      Carol Off, Back to school in Afghanistan. CBC: May 6, 2002:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/afghanistan/schools.html

[65]      Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, From U.S., the ABC’s of Jihad. The Washington Post: March 23, 2002:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A5339-2002Mar22?language=printer

[66]      Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Penguin Books, New York, 2004: Page 328

[67]      Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 11, 2001. (London: Penguin, 2005), page 285

[68]      Steve Coll, “Steve Coll” Interview with PBS Frontline. PBS Frontline: October 3, 2006:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/taliban/interviews/coll.html

[69]      Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2005), page 326

[70]      ToI, “CIA worked in tandem with Pak to create Taliban”. The Times of India: March 7, 2001:
http://www.multiline.com.au/~johnm/taliban.htm

[71]      Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2005), pages 279-280

[72]      Simon Reeve, The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, and the Future of Terrorism. (London: André Deutsch Ltd, 1999), page 168

[73]      Michael Moran, Bin Laden comes home to roost. MSNBC: August 24, 1998:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3340101/

[74]      Veronique Maurus and Marc Rock, The Most Dreaded Man of the United States, Controlled a Long Time by the CIA. Le Monde Diplomatique: September 14, 2001: http://www.wanttoknow.info/010914lemonde

[75]      Gerald Posner, Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11. (New York: Random House, 2003), page 29

[76]      Steve Coll, The Bin Ladens. (New York: Penguin, 2008), pages 7-9

[77]      AP, Al Qaeda Financing Documents Turn Up in Bosnia Raid. Fox News: February 19, 2003:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,78937,00.html

[78]      Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. University of California Press: 2007: pages 140-141

[79]      Ibid, page 141.

[80]      Robin Cook, The struggle against terrorism cannot be won by military means. The Guardian: July 8, 2005:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/jul/08/july7.development

[81]      Pierre-Henri Bunel, Al Qaeda — the Database. Global Research: November 20, 2005:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=BUN20051120&articleId=1291