Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity: Source: TruthOut.org Published: August 28, 2006
Author: Dahr Jamail / Ray McGovern An Interview With Ray McGovern By Dahr Jamail August 28, 2006
“Well, this is the policy that is being implemented now. You can read it, it’s in the text: “We will go after Lebanon. We will find a pretext which will justify us going after Lebanon big time. Next, Iran. Next, Syria. And of course Iraq came in the preceding paragraphs. The plan is laid out there. Anyone who doesn't take that seriously dismisses it at their own peril.”
During the Veterans for Peace National Convention in Seattle, I conducted an interview with Ray McGovern. McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
In this first installment of this short interview series for Truthout, I asked McGovern what he thought of the fact that Israel had been planning their attack on Lebanon for well over a year.
Ray McGovern: The most important thing, from our perspective, is to determine what role the US government played. It's very clear that the US government not only gave the green light to the Israelis, but actively encouraged them to do what they are doing now, and then blocked diplomatic efforts to prevent them, to halt them, or to have an immediate cease-fire. That much is clear. You can even read Charles Krauthaumer, who says precisely that: that we are proud that we not only gave the permission, but we encouraged them to do precisely what they are doing.
Now, the question arises, why? What in God's name would possess our so-called neo-con leadership to persuade this new fledgling Israeli government, which represents in my understanding a right-wing fringe of the Israeli people and not at all the Israeli people as a whole, just as our government represents the extremist right wing of the Republican Party? These so-called neo-conservatives who pretty much mounted and successfully waged a putsch of our government early in this administration, what in God's name do they have in mind?
The tactics they used seem to be identical to the invasion of Iraq. We called it "shock and awe." Well, a lot of the Lebanese, as well as the world populace, are shocked and awed quite enough, thank you very much, by what the Israelis are doing. It's incredible that we would see that they would take out the infrastructure of a whole country as a way of "retaliating" against the capture of two Israeli prisoners of war, the capture of them, rather than the kidnapping of two Israelis.
So, obviously this thing was planned well in advance, and the timing really gives me great pause, because this was a situation where there were glimmers of hope that the neo-cons in our government were taking a back seat to more enlightened and more flexible policy, specifically vis-à-vis Iran. It looks very much to me, from what the president, Condoleezza Rice and others have said, that this could be used, and may be designed to be used intentionally, to go after the Iranians and the Syrians on the pretext that they were the ones who really put Hezbollah up to this, as well as Hamas in Gaza. And now we really have to go to the source and destroy the authors of this.
That sounds extreme, but we're dealing with people who ... well, in my days in government, were widely known as "the crazies." I kid you not. This was the case from the very top levels of government, and I can speak personally of that, down to the lowest analysts in the CIA.
I'd come in on a Monday morning and somebody would say, "Hey Ray, guess what the crazies did on Friday afternoon." And I'd know exactly what the allusion was to. It would be [Paul] Wolfowitz, it would be [Richard] Perle, it would be that whole coterie of folks. Now, to his great credit the first President Bush had the good sense to keep close to him people with good sense. General Brent Scowcroft, his National Security Advisor, Jim Baker, his Secretary of State, and they told him, "Mr. President, you can't get rid of the crazies because the right wing of our party would be up in arms, so let Perle and Wolfowitz hang around at the middle reaches of the Pentagon, but for God's sake don't let them get this country into trouble." And he did. And he listened. And when Wolfowitz came out with that crazy report in 1992 that foreshadowed all this business, the Defense Policy Review, and someone leaked that to the New York Times, Baker and Scowcroft went right into the president's office and said to the first President Bush, "You've got to disavow this right away." Which he did.
Now, imagine our surprise, those of us who knew about the crazies, when we found them in the key policy-making positions. Not only they, but the likes of convicted felon Elliot Abrams, who is running our policy toward the Middle East right out of the White House as Deputy National Security Advisor, right now as we speak.
So it seems to me what has happened here is that they have, together with the infamous Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal, of which Colonel Wilkerson, Colin Powell's Chief of Staff often speaks, Cheney/Rumsfeld and this coterie of neo-conservatives plus Elliot Abrams, who fits that category, had decided, "Well, we're going to input the rest of that famous study that several of them wrote back in 1996, called, 'A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.'"
Why do I mention that? I won my intelligence spurs as an analyst of Soviet affairs. We used to take very seriously reading Pravda and the ideological visionary statements that came out of the Soviet Union. Karl Marx, Lenin and all of the rest of them. They had to be taken seriously and often we found very conclusive clues as to what they had in mind.
So, it's not a big effort to go and put PNAC in your URL line and download some of the documents from the Project for the New American Century and the "Clean Break" study, and you will see that all of this was very well presented to Netanyahu when he was elected Israeli premier. In the first instance, it was too radical even for Netanyahu, and that's saying something.
Well, this is the policy that is being implemented now. You can read it, it's in the text: "We will go after Lebanon. We will find a pretext which will justify us going after Lebanon big time. Next, Iran. Next, Syria." And of course Iraq came in the preceding paragraphs. The plan is laid out there. Anyone who doesn't take that seriously dismisses it at their own peril.
I see this as the first step, having encouraged Israel, and the supreme irony is that this young Israeli government doesn't seem to realize that this is hardly in the long-term interests of Israel. It's hardly even in the medium-term interests of Israel. Israel cannot survive without making peace with its neighbors. It cannot survive if it takes up the sword every time it pleases, because the US is not going to survive in that area either. Witness what's happening in Iraq, to which very little attention is being paid.
The bottom line here, in my view, is that both the US and the Israelis are in perilous circumstances now. That they will be run out of the Middle East in the next couple of years. That is exaggerating, but my point is that their policies are failed policies. Unless Israel changes its tune, and decides that shock and awe is not going to work over the long term, I fear for Israel's future because I'm concerned about that. And of course I'm concerned about the US GIs we have in Iraq.
The whole situation seems terribly sad, terribly unfixable, and terribly dangerous insofar as this: if the plan is to use what's happening in Lebanon as a pretext, of which these PNAC documents really speak, if that's what's afoot here and we're going to say Iran is behind all of this and we have to go to the source and prevent Iran from supplying rockets to Hezbollah and so forth, then the Israelis, whether with our without our permission this time, take some shots at Iran from the air and our blue-suited generals decide we can bomb the heck out of their suspected nuclear sites and go ahead and do so, then we will have WWIII. Then we will have Iran wrecking the economy of the western world by hitting the oil heads in the Gulf or blocking the Straight of Hormuz. The Iranians can retaliate, and it seems idiocy, it seems just craziness for the US to be thinking about going after Iran.
These policy-makers are so naïve, they have no concept of what this will do to the Chinese, or even the Russians. The Chinese have long term oil deals with Iran. They're not about to as they would put it, "sit idly by" and watch us do this to Iran. They have all kinds of potential to hurt us and to hurt us very badly. And they will, if we start to attack Iran.
Not only that, but if you're worried about the price of gasoline, you might want to invest in the company that's building new meters for the pumps because they are going to have to add another digit. It's not going to be nine dollars a gallon anymore; it's going to be ten dollars a gallon. You don't have to trust McGovern for that - listen to what the Saudi ambassador is saying about that, listen to what the Saudi foreign minister is saying. So, for Americans who don't really care very much about what is happening in Lebanon, even though they know what is happening, well they ought to look to their pocketbooks at least and think that if this is part of a long-term strategy to go after Iran, and the economic consequences for our country are going to be so severe that we're going to have to pay ten dollars a gallon for our gasoline, maybe then the self-interested Americans will wake up and say, "The morality of this doesn't bother us much, but hey, please don't do it because we don't want to have to pay $10 per gallon."
That's not cynical, I'm sorry to say, that's real. Because Americans really haven't been affected by this war, and Americans really haven't been informed about this war. In Vietnam we had photos, we had journalists who were not embedded or in bed with the government. That was a huge difference between that situation and the one which exists now.
I like to refer to what my four-year-old granddaughter said when she saw me on TV. When it was all over she went to my daughter and said, "Mommy, that was grandpa. That means the other people are real too." Now, that's sort of cute on the surface, but think about what that means. If you don't know someone in the picture, the other people aren't real too. And we're deprived even of the pictures of the carnage that's going on in Iraq, and now in Lebanon. And we have to fess up to that and realize that unless we get our hearts involved in this, as well as our minds, we're not going to be able to stand up and do our duty as American patriots and face down this situation and say to our government, "Enough. Enough. No more carnage. Bring our troops home from Iraq. And reign in this Israeli government that is using your helicopter gun ships, your fighter-bombers, your tanks, etc."
Because if only for self-enlightened interest, you have to remember, folks, that there are 1.3 billion Muslims out there and they are watching this every night on Al Jazeera and some of the other Middle Eastern outlets and they are mightily, mightily disturbed at this. And the actions of our government have put our position in the Middle East and in other Muslim countries back to the likes of when we did the crusades.
DJ: What is your perspective on the possibility that the US could take the present day situation in Lebanon and use it as a pretext to wage war against Iran?
RM: If you are talking about pretexts, there doesn't have to be much reality behind the pretexts. We saw that in Central America. We were told that the Soviets were going to use the Nicaraguans as pawns to come up into Texas, remember? Did Ronald Reagan really believe this?
They don't really have to plant anything - they've got the Iranian missiles there [southern Lebanon] there are stories about Iranian soldiers in there advising them, stories which to my knowledge are not true. But if they want to use this as a pretext to take off after Iran, they are free to do so.
Who would do it? As with the case with respect to Iraq, Iran poses no danger to the US. I repeat, no danger to the US. Iran has not started any wars in that part of the world. They hate us for other reasons. They hate us because they had a democratically elected government in 1953 and we overthrew it because we wanted their oil, pure and simple. They know that, and they are used to it, and they don't want it anymore.
DJ: How does this lead into Iran, if you are the policy-makers in Israel/US?
RM: What we have here is that Israel does feel threatened. Why? Because the Israelis have a nuclear monopoly now in the Middle East, and most people believe they have about 300 nuclear weapons which they can fire from missiles and submarines and whatever else. And Iran and their other neighbors have none.
Now, if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon, would that be a threat to Israel's security? I don't think so. They'd have to be suicidal to mount an attack on Israel because they would be obliterated. What would it give Iran? It would give Iran a certain modicum of what we used to call deterrence. It's a word that's dropped out of the vocabulary of Washington but it worked for 40 years after WWII. It would give them a measure of deterrence. So if the Iranians, say 10 years from now, saw the Israelis about to pounce on Syria and do what they are doing to Lebanon, in this case to Syria, perhaps the Ayatollahs would say, "Now wait a minute, we know of your plans. Don't think that you can do this with impunity."
And this would give the Israelis pause. Up until now, they have had free reign, they have been unencumbered in doing whatever they hell they please in the West Bank, in Gaza, and now in Lebanon, with the support of the US government and military, and they don't want to lose that kind of freedom of action. So they are hell bent on preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. In that sense they see a threat.
Now, our government ... On inauguration day 2005 Dick Cheney found it necessary to say that Iran was a terrible threat, the top of the list of threats to us. That it should not get a nuclear weapon. And that the Israelis just might go ahead and take that capability out and let the rest of us pick up the pieces.
He said that in such a way as to indicate that that would be fine with him, it's a possibility, and why not? Since then, the president in the US has time after time talked about "our ally Israel." That "our ally Israel" deserves our support, and if "our ally Israel" is attacked, we will automatically spring to its aid under our defense treaty.
Now, Americans who might be reading this, listen up, as we used to say in the Army. There is no treaty of mutual defense between the US and Israel. That's a lie. It's a misrepresentation; juridically speaking Israel is not our ally.
I've often been interested in that. When I started out as an analyst I wondered, why is there no treaty? And I concluded, very understandably, that this was a mark of US prudence. Why would we want to tick off the Arabs even more than we already have? Why would we want to be juridically obliged to engage in hostilities in the Middle East?
But guess what? That wasn't the case at all. In 1967 after the first Arab/Israeli War, we offered Israel a mutual defense treaty with the rationale that perhaps this would give the Arabs pause from attacking Israel again, and give us a certain leverage over the Israelis. And guess what? The Israelis said, "Thanks, but no thanks."
I was surprised to hear that. I asked the people who were involved in this, who happen to be involved in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, including one person who was actually in the process of making this overture to Israel. I said, "Why did they turn it down?" He said, "Ray, mutual defense treaties require clearly defined international boundaries. And the Israelis, after they took the occupied territories in '67 and '73, didn't want any part of clearly defined international boundaries. And also, the Israelis really like to be able to do what they want to do. If they want to attack Iraq and take out the Osirak nuclear reactor as they did in 1981, they don't want to have to ask Washington, they just want to do it. So they didn't want to be inhibited by any of the normally accepted norms of behavior. If you have a mutual defense treaty, you usually tell the other partner what you're going to do, if you are going to invade or bomb another country."
So what's the upshot of all of this? There is no mutual defense treaty between Israel and the US. But why does the president say there is? Well, I don't know why he says there is. General Scowcroft, his father's National Security Advisor, told us, "Sharon just has him wrapped around his little finger." He had our president "mesmerized," according to Scowcroft.
In any case, he has made it out that there is a defense treaty with Israel. So, the Israelis are smiling all the way to the bank and saying, "Hey, we have no treaty obligations on the one hand, and yet we've got just as good as a treaty because the president either really believes there is one or he's going to act as if there is one. So we've got the best of both worlds. We can have our cake and eat it too."
That, to me, bespeaks a violation of the admonition of our very first president, who happened to be a general and knew about this kind of stuff. George Washington warned us, very vividly, against entangling alliances. The kind of alliances where the perceived needs of another country become inextricably woven around what we perceive to be the needs of our country. When, in fact, those needs do not coincide.
DJ: What are some of the intermediate steps US/Israeli policy makers might take before beginning a war with Iran?
RM: So this is a very important factor here, and I mention that because if this president is going to proceed on the assumption that Israel is a mutual defense treaty partner of ours, and Israel takes off after Iran and takes the first shot (and they do have the capability, not of doing the whole job, but of doing half or 3/4 of it, with our weaponry of course, our smart bombs and everything else) then, as Cheney pretty much explicitly said, we will be in the position of picking up the pieces. Because Israel is our ally, and we'll be involved in what will be the most dangerous situation that our country has faced since Pearl Harbor.
We'll be involved in a major war in the Persian Gulf with a country that has done us no wrong, has posed no threat to us - but has in Israeli eyes caused a possible longer-term threat - a country that has incredible oil resources which the Chinese desperately need, which the Indians desperately need. And we'll have a major world conflagration there, because I'm sure the Iranians will - I'm sure - do the kinds of things that will put the world economy back several steps, drive up the price of gasoline to over $10 a gallon, and cause all manner of trouble to our troops in Iraq.
Our troops in Iraq are incredibly vulnerable. The Iranians can send three Revolutionary Guard Divisions right across that border into Iraq within a week or two. And our guys are busy with the resistance on the part of most of the Iraqi population. We're not deployed to contain an invasion from Iran. Indeed, the Iranians wouldn't even have to do it themselves. All they have to do is encourage their Shia allies to cut our lines of communication and cut our supply line between Kuwait and Baghdad, an easy thing to do, and our guys would be in deep kimshei. Because what happens then? The only option the US would have would be to use these clever mini-nukes. That really scares me because the people advising this president are convinced that these mini-nukes are just a little more powerful than high explosive weaponry and our air force is so precision targeted that we can cope with this kind of thing. Not only if the Iranians pour across the Iraqi border, but if the North Koreans start to fool around ... and this is idiocy. Anyone who knows about either of these situations, the Middle East or Korea, knows that these are not options, and if they are options everyone will suffer monstrous losses.
DJ: What is the solution for this dysfunctional entanglement between the US and Israel regarding their failed policy in the Middle East?
RM: It is very hard to perceive a solution to the entanglement between our country and Israel. No one has more power than the Israeli lobby. We know the study that professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt did was criticized, as they predicted, as being anti-Semitic. But they didn't tell half of the story. They omitted, for example, the USS Liberty.
Let me tell you about the USS Liberty. It was off the coast of Israel during the 1967 war. It was an intelligence collection ship. The Israelis knew what it was. The ship had a great big American flag flying on top of it. On the 8th of June, three days into the war, Israeli fighter bombers reconnoitered the ship and then came back an hour later and did their damnedest to sink it. Not only that, but torpedo boats participated in this, knowing that it was a US ship. 34 US sailors were killed, 171 US sailors were severely wounded. The ship limped back on its own power into Malta.
In the midst of all this, during the engagement, the commander of the 6th Fleet, having been apprised of what was going on, immediately ordered fighter bombers to do battle with whoever was attacking the USS Liberty. Guess what happened? They were called back halfway. They were called back halfway. By whom? By President Lyndon Johnson and by Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara.
When the sailors who survived got off that ship, they were allowed to sleep one night. The first thing the next morning, they were told they would be court-martialed if they ever mentioned that Israel had deliberately tried to sink their ship. They were sworn to secrecy. And that secrecy held for about 20 years, but now the story is out. The navy lawyers who were cajoled into suppressing the real story have come out and told exactly what the story was.
Why do I mention all this?
Among other things, Admiral [Thomas Hinman] Moorer, who had been chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, did his own investigation and came up with the fact that the Israelis did this.
Now, Congress suppressed this information, our press suppressed this information, so what effect did this have on the Israelis? I think the Israelis concluded that this was pretty good - that they could literally get away with murder. They could literally get away with murder, and the US government would not criticize Israel even if they killed 34 US soldiers and wounded 171. That was 1967.
Since then, the Israeli lobby in this country has become even more powerful. And the money they disperse to various candidates, congressman and senators has become even more grandiose, and it's not possible to discuss this or get politicians to be honest about this sort of thing. So what do we have to do? I think we just have to plug away at the media and do alternative media, studies and articles and point out that this is precisely what George Washington warned against and that Israeli interests are not the same as ours. That the neo-cons have great difficulty distinguishing what they perceive to be Israeli interests and those of the US and we have to adopt a more balanced policy.
I'll conclude by pointing out that over the last several decades, US policy has been very consistent in the Middle East. Two major objectives: 1. To secure the safe provision of oil and natural gas; 2. To secure the state of Israel within secure and internationally recognized borders.
Now, in a sense, George W. Bush's policy is consonant with those two aims. The only difference is that he thought it was OK to start a war of aggression to achieve those aims. And that's a little different, I would suggest. What we have now is a policy that was adopted at the very first meeting of the National Security Council (NSC), on the 30th of January, 2001, well before 9/11. That was a meeting in which two things happened. Number one, the president said: "This honest broker business in the Middle East, this attempt to mediate between the two and adopt some sort of even-handed policy - that's for the birds. We're jettisoning that. We'll tilt towards Israel. Who knows this fellow Sharon?" Colin Powell, Secretary of State, raises his hand, "Yeah, I know him." Bush says, "Well, I think we'll just let him cope with the Palestinians the way he wants to. Sometimes a show of force can do a lot of good."
How do we know all this? We know all this because Paul O'Neill, the secretary of the treasury, was there. He was aghast, and he looked at Powell and described Powell as "startled." This is the first time Powell knew about this. So he gently, in his manner, remonstrated and said, "Mr. President, that would give Ariel Sharon a free hand." Bush responded, "That's all right, let's see what happens."
Well we know what happened. Ariel Sharon did have a free hand, and most people forget that he didn't wait 24 hours after 9/11 before sending his US-built tanks into the West Bank and wreaking havoc there.
That was a major departure in US policy, and it has caused all manner of reverberations in the Middle East.
The second part of that NSC meeting on the 30th of January, 2001, was devoted exclusively to Iraq. The president himself made it clear that Condoleezza Rice, who was national security advisor at the time, would be orchestrating these meetings and had orchestrated this one.
At that point she said, "George Tenet [resigned director of the CIA] has a photo he brought along with him, and he would like to show it." So Tenet put up a satellite photo of a building in Iraq, and he said, "We suspect that this building is involved in chemical/biological warfare agent production." Someone asked, "Do you have any corroboration?" Tenet said, "No, we don't have any corroboration. We just suspect that this might be the case."
He took the picture down, and the conversation immediately proceeded to which targets in Iraq would be the best to hit first. This was the 30th of January, 2001, 10 days into the first term of the regime of George W. Bush. And most of that first meeting was devoted to how we get Saddam.
Paul O'Neill, who has reported all of this in great detail, was shaking his head as he left that meeting, saying, "I just don't understand. There must be something I don't get. But I never thought the primary policy of this administration would be to invade and get Saddam. What kind of threat is he posing?"
So that's the way the Middle East policy was laid, and of course George Tenet, to my great regret, showed himself a willing pawn in the shell game, showing a picture and saying, "Well, we suspect this might be a really dangerous sort of thing." And Condoleezza Rice, having orchestrated the thing, said, "See! Let's go to Don Rumsfeld now. What about the targets, Don?"
The whole thing is so corrupt. The whole thing is so disingenuously deceitful that it's hard to believe that our elected leaders and the people they appoint could be so corrupt.
DJ: What might a first step be toward bringing US/Israeli relations into a more functional paradigm?
RM: Our job now is to get the truth out about the realities of US/Israeli relations. We have to be willing to be called anti-Semitic. We have to be willing to face what happens whenever somebody says, "Hey, there's an elephant in the living room. There's an elephant in the living room, and its name is Israel."
We have to be willing to approach this in a more objective way. We have to be willing to openly discuss it, at least as freely as they do in the state of Israel. There is much freer discussion there in their press. We have to be willing to do this, because the truth will set us free.
The bottom line, really, is that we do Israel a great service, as well as doing a great service for our own country, by pointing out the short-sightedness, the myopia that attends this policy - that you can just bomb the hell out of a country, that you can send rockets and tanks to catch a resistance group like Hezbollah. It never has been done. You will not be able to defeat Hezbollah any more than you'll be able to defeat the resistance in Iraq.
The sooner that both our countries realize that, the sooner that that truth gets out and the American people know that's the truth, the sooner we can hope for some change in policy.
Still, vouching for the defense of Israel - nobody wants to see Israel pushed into the sea, but that's not the problem. Israel's not going to be pushed into the sea with 300 nuclear weapons. They've got to make peace with their neighbors.
You have to take official pronouncements pretty seriously. Take those from Osama bin Laden. In our media coverage of his press announcements, they leave out something that they find inconvenient. And what they find inconvenient is what he says about the motivation for what he and other insurgents are doing. And that is that they are acting out of extreme hatred for US policies, the primary policy being our one-sided support for the state of Israel, vis-á-vis the Palestinians. Also, of course, our support for the corrupt regimes in places like Saudi Arabia.
I remember Osama bin Laden, just a couple of months after 9/11, included a story in his tapes. The story depicted an Arab camel driver. The camel driver was tying up the camel across the street from where another camel was. And the other camel was at the hands of a butcher and the butcher was hacking into this camel in the full sight of this other camel driver and his camel. The Arab camel driver's camel broke his ropes and ran over and bit the butcher's hand off.
Osama's comment on this was, "So it will be. So it will be with Arab mothers who see their children being slaughtered, being hacked to death. They will rise to the occasion and bite the hand of the invader."
I should add that when the 9/11 Commission was preparing their report, something that escaped media attention was that in the midst of their drafting, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, was captured. On page 147, even though this commission was appointed to look into the background, and why it all happened, there is just one sentence that says Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, when asked why he devised the 9/11 plan, said, "I did it out of violent hatred for the effects of one-sided US support for the state of Israel." Then there is a footnote at the back of the book that says [paraphrased], "Indeed, this is what Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's nephew, said, after he tried to knock down one of the Twin Towers in 1993 and was arraigned, convicted and sentenced to 243 years in a Federal Prison." What he said was, "I'm proud to have done this deed, I'm sorry I failed to knock down the whole building. But I did it out of my extreme violent hatred for US policies, one-sided in the favor of Israel."
None of that has appeared in the American press, but it happens to be part of the reality. If we want to stem terrorism, we have to be a little more enlightened, educated and sensible. Because the way you defeat terrorism is the same way you defeat malaria.
With malaria you find the swamp that breeds mosquitoes and you station sharp-shooters all around that swamp and you try to hit every one of those mosquitoes when they try to leave the swamp, right? Not really. What you do is you drain the swamp.
Now, we have to drain the swamp of legitimate grievances that come from over four decades of concentration-camp type living on the part of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Of grievances that come from our support for dictatorial regimes like the one in Saudi Arabia. We have to address those grievances.
If you believe what the president says about why they hate us, "They hate our freedom," well I have a bridge of mine in Manhattan that goes to Brooklyn I'd love to sell you. You have to look a little deeper than that. The reason they hate us is because they have these un-redressed grievances and there are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world and they see, every night on their TV, what is going on. They see the Israelis using our weaponry to suppress their brothers and sisters.
Osama bin Laden uses the line about the Palestinians in his addresses because it is effective. Even if he doesn't truly believe it himself, it is effective because the broad majority of Muslims listening know these un-redressed grievances all too well, and that is why it is effective as a rallying cry.
We all warned before the invasion of Iraq that the recruiting lines for al-Qaeda would go around the corner. If we thought we would lessen the threat of terrorism by going into Iraq, we were sadly mistaken - because before we attacked Iraq, there were no terrorists in Iraq. I repeat: There were no terrorists in Iraq.
What Saddam Hussein was doing was paying some of the families of suicide bombers who did their dastardly deeds in Israel, or elsewhere. But that was the extent of the terrorism in Iraq.
But now Iraq is teeming with terrorists. This is important because if, as I believe to be the case, one of the main reasons the US thought they would invade and take over Iraq was to make that part of the world safer for the state of Israel, then the situation now is just the opposite of that.
The situation now is much more precarious with all of these terrorists in Iraq. Israel is much less safe, and the bottom line as far as US policy is concerned is that it's much more difficult to contemplate withdrawing forces from Iraq under these conditions.
If you put yourself in the place of the Israelis, I can understand the concern, of course. During the first Gulf War there were 39 Scud Missiles shot towards Israel. That's pretty scary. So the Israelis were hell-bent and determined to make sure there were no scuds left in Iraq.
As we know, Colin Powell said in his infamous speech in front of the UN on February 5, 2003, that our best estimate was there were about two dozen scuds left in Iraq. Now, he happened to be off by only 24, because there were no functioning scuds in Iraq. But if I were an Israeli citizen, I'd like to make damned sure that was the case.
Well, they did make damned sure that was the case. But they could have done that through traditional intelligence sources. They didn't have to do that by encouraging the US to invade Iraq and clean it out, because the results speak for themselves. An upsurge in terrorism, very long recruiting lines for al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the others, and no draining of the swamp. No coherent policy toward addressing the grievances of those who then become terrorists.
Don Rumsfeld, he'll scratch his head as he did two years ago and say, "You know, I just don't understand what would possess someone to put a bunch of explosives on their body and blow themselves up just to kill other people. Why do people act this crazy?"
My advice to Secretary Rumsfeld is he really ought to tune into Al Jazeera for just one evening and see the diet that 1.3 billion Muslims are getting - a diet of weaponry provided by the US to the state of Israel and to others, weapons that are used against Arabs and Muslims, people who have been repressed for more than 50 years now. And that would give Don Rumsfeld some insight as to why people act this "crazy."
I'd suggest that our policy is more deserving of that label than the terrorists.
DJ: Do you see any time-frame within which the Bush administration would like to drag Iran into this?
RM: It's hard to discern whether Iran would come before Syria. The best thing to do would be to read the "Clean Break" document, and some of the others and try to figure it out for yourself, because they've had to adjust things a bit.
But as far as Iran is concerned, which would be the main threat, the way I see it, the reason I give such urgency to the question is because the president is in real trouble. His numbers are very low. There are these midterm elections coming up in November and the stakes are really high. Because if the Democrats take the House, my view is that John Conyers wouldn't wait two weeks before initiating impeachment proceedings against the president for due cause. What would that mean? That wouldn't necessarily mean conviction, because who knows what would happen in the Senate, but it would mean the president would be bogged down for his last two years in defending himself for crimes committed. Demonstrable crimes. Witness only the violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Deliberate violation. Admitted violation, where the president brags about having authorized violation 29 times.
Why do I cite that among other indignities? That happens to be one of the indictment counts that the House Judiciary Committee passed to impeach President Nixon in 1974. So it's an impeachable offense, demonstrably by precedent.
All I'm saying is that the president has to look with great concern at a takeover of the House by the Democrats. Not only will he be under the gun, but every committee will be looking into crimes and misdemeanors by other departments and other agencies. And the next two years would be completely wasted in terms of his achieving more of the neo-con agenda.
Not only that, there is personal liability here. Take torture for example. When the president decided he'd like the CIA to start torturing folks who were captured in Afghanistan, they came back to him and said, "We have 12-13 people who are willing to do this, they are all special-ops guys from Vietnam and know how to do this. But Mr. President, we have this little paper we'd like you to sign."
It was then and only then that the president called in Alberto Gonzales, his White House Counsel and said, "Hey, can I authorize this torture of Taliban and al-Qaeda?" Gonzales goes to the vice president's lawyer, David Addington, who then drafts this memo that Gonzales signs. This is the one, dated January 25th, that says Geneva is quaint and obsolete and according to Gonzales, "you don't really have to worry about international law like that. However, Mr. President, there is unfortunately US Law, 18 US Code 2441, called the War Crimes Act, and it has very, very stringent penalties, including death, and it's all tied explicitly to the provisions of the Geneva Convention. So that's a little sticky, but we believe there is a reasonable basis in law where you can escape prosecution if at some later date some mean-spirited special prosecutor is appointed and decides to move against you juridically."
Now, there wasn't and there still isn't a respectable lawyer in this country who says that was a good opinion. But George W. Bush acted on that opinion, and two weeks later, on February 7, 2002, he wrote a memorandum that parroted this business and said in the final bottom line, "As a matter of policy, the US Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva."
Now my friends, that is the loophole through which Don Rumsfeld drove the Mack Truck of torture. "To the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity." Who decides that? Don Rumsfeld and his folks. So what I'm saying is these people are criminally culpable, in my view, criminally liable under US Code, criminal statute for war crimes. This is something that has to worry them, and it's precisely why they are trying to change the law. They are trying to change the US War Crimes Act of 1996 to permit the kinds of things that they've already done. I've never seen the likes of it.
How does this all play out?
If I were they, I would be very receptive to a Karl Rove and a Dick Cheney who would come up and say, "Mr. President, we have to do something to prevent this. And the best thing we can think of is: you did pretty well as a war president. You like that role. So we think if we take off after Iran, because of course it is threatening Israel, and juice that as the justification and the fact that they are still trying to get a nuclear weapon - we can make people think that. Then you'll be a war president again. It's risky, these damned armed-forces guys are a bunch of cowards and warn that all hell could break loose, but look at the downside here. Let's say the Democrats take the House. We are in very deep kimshei. So this is what we advise. We advise using these smart bombs, and the Air Force guys say they can do it, even though the Army and Marines are being a bunch of wimps about this, they are afraid of having to go in and clean up after the Air Force. But the Air Force guys say they know where most of the targets are and the Israelis could start it. We could finish it up. The domestic ramifications would be OK because of the control of the media and the Israeli lobby and there's a good chance that if you could become that kind of war president, maybe it would be accompanied by a minor terrorist incident - which we could certainly arrange - you have a decent chance of hanging onto the House."
Is that Machiavellian? Is that un-American? Is that beyond the pale? Yeah, it is! But I would not put that past this crew. Watching Cheney, watching the lawyers they got out of the yellow pages to justify torture and stuff like that, I would not put it past them. I would say that the sycophants that have risen to the rank of general, I'm talking about the armed forces now and especially the Air Force, that they would probably tell Cheney and Rumsfeld what they thought they wanted to hear, "Yeah, we could do the job." And we'd have Vietnam all over again when the Air Force told MacNamara, "Yeah, we'll bomb the hell out of them and they'll come to their senses."
So that's what worries me. And you ask about the timing - I think the timing is just as likely to happen in the next couple of months before the election, that there is this additional incentive to do it before the election. And I must say that not all of my colleagues agree, and I dare say most people think it won't happen until early next year, but that's how I come at it and that's the rationale that I use.
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has reported for the Guardian, the Independent, and the Sunday Herald. He now writes regularly for Inter Press Service and Truthout. He maintains a web site at dahrjamailiraq.com.