Backtalk, February 5, 2005

Let the Israelis Do It?

Look, is it too much to ask that Gordon Prather refrain from using the phrase “go-anywhere, see-anything” in reference to his endlessly rehashing the details of the current situation with Iran and the IAEA inspections? I’m very sympathetic regarding the situation with Iran, but the statement seems to indicate that Iran allowed highly intrusive inspections of all of its nuclear sites, when it clearly withheld inspections of military sites, which would be equally suspect.

I’m firmly convinced that were I Iran I would be working to get nukes as fast as humanly possible and to conceal that evidence whenever possible. It’s only natural given the “cowboy diplomacy” angle from the Bush administration. I am in complete agreement that any inspection of Iran without, for example, opening up Israel to the same inspections is hypocrisy at best.

The problem is that the aforementioned term A) isn’t really completely true and B) doesn’t have the ring of a term like “neo-Jacobins.” Something else could be substituted or even just saying: “Iran voluntarily subjected itself to a highly intrusive Additional Protocol to their IAEA Safeguards Agreement.”

You already describe what it’s about below, anyway. Saying “go-anywhere, see-anything” is just extra wordage.

~ Scott R. Looney

Gordon Prather replies:

The reason for the “endless rehashing” is that the neo-crazy media sycophants endlessly misinform you, claiming that the Iranians are prohibiting ElBaradei from going anywhere he wants to go and seeing anything he wants to see. Here is what ElBaradei, himself, had to say in an interview with The Washington Post-Newsweek‘s Lally Weymouth at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last week:

Q: Now the Bush administration is arguing that you are not tough enough on Iran. Your reaction?

A: It depends how you define soft. The results in Iran are something I am quite proud of. Eighteen months ago, Iran was a black box – we didn’t know much about what was happening. Now, we have a fairly good picture of what is happening. We understand how complex and extensive that program is. Through our tenacity, Iran’s facilities that could produce fissile material are frozen. And we are still going everywhere we think we need to go to be sure there are no undeclared activities in Iran. Between our tenacious verification and the diplomatic process, I hope we will be able to get a package solution in Iran, which is what we want to have with North Korea.

Elections and Torture

This article neglects to take into account the role of Richard Perle’s “clean break” strategy for Israeli security as the true impetus for the Iraq invasion. The removal of Saddam Hussein was only the first stage of that strategy; the ultimate goal was the containment of Syria.

Given that that objective remains outstanding, I expect Paul Wolfowitz still sees his life’s work as unfinished. Shouldn’t we be wary of the Pentagon before too long trying to find a way to creep the Iraq mission to changing the regime in Damascus?

Please see “Clean Break or Dirty War? Israel’s Foreign Policy Directive to the United States.” Also see the Perle paper, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” in its entirety here.

~ Steve Jensen

Alan Bock replies:

You’ve got a point, and the end result of the Iraq invasion could be permanent U.S. bases in Iraq from which to project power into the Middle East, perhaps specifically at Syria (although Iran seems to be more on the rhetorical front burner these days). While the neocons have plans and scenarios, however, their execution depends on all kinds of contingent factors, including the credibility of critics and the willingness of Congress and the American people – perhaps even W – to go along with another costly foreign adventure. One can’t predict how well out best-laid plans will work out, any more than the neocons can be sure they’ll be able to implement their grandiose schemes. But for the moment, I see some possible advantages – besides the fact that a lot of Iraqis really did turn out to vote – in going along with the Bush/Fox version of the election as a resounding success. We’ll just take different lessons – earlier withdrawal and an end to full occupation – from it than they will.

Casualties in Iraq

I have been trying for about half an hour to get info on Iraqi military casualties – I am amazed that your website (and others), which supplies great detail on American military casualties, seems to make no mention of Iraqi military casualties since war was declared in 2003. Do you know where I might find this info?

~ Joseph Gaylard

Eric Garris replies:

The problem is that no such data exists. The Iraqi government (of Saddam) stopped making casualty estimates after the invasion began. The U.S. never kept count, and the only estimates that exist are vague guesses made by various think-tanks. The U.S. still has no idea what happened to most of the Iraqi army, and doesn’t know how many of them are behind the current insurgency.

His Rhetoric, Our Reality

Dear Ms Mercer,

I totally agree with the statements you make in your “His Rhetoric, Our Reality” article. Bush is romanticizing imperialism, that’s all there is to it.

What makes even less sense is the concept of forcing “freedom” onto the other people. How can somebody be forced into freedom (it’s no longer freedom if it is forced)? And when I hear the rhetoric “they hate our freedom” I say that it’s all nonsense. The precise reason they hate us is because we stick our nose everywhere.

Finally, you mention the causes that would be dishonorable to abandon. Arguments of the similar nature were made about Vietnam: “We can’t leave now.” The solution of the current administration is to stay on the “honorable” course, and let the blood of the Iraqis and the American soldiers flow.

Also I have a personal question for you. You seem to express a strong sentiment against the war in Iraq. As a Jew, it must take a great deal of courage. I get attacked all the time (I am Jewish), that being against the war in Iraq is being anti-Israel (since Iraq and Israel were not the best of friends). Many Jewish people support the war in Iraq (and the neocons behind it); do you believe that by opposing the war in Iraq we are (in a way) betraying Israel?

~ MG

Ilana Mercer replies:

Most Jews are Leftists. As such, they are more inclined to vote for the Democrats, and thus, if anything, are more likely to be against the war. Jews are well represented in antiwar circles – I hear quite a few Jewish names among antiwar protesters. Tikkun and Forward have certainly not been on board with Commentary.

Opinions ought not to be based on who a policy benefits but on what is right. Injustice is not beneficial, although, even if it were one would be obliged to oppose it. (The Hebrew Testament repeatedly instructs, “Justice, justice you shall seek.” The biblical narrator uses the verb “to pursue” – much stronger than “to seek.” There is a reason he never shut up about justice, going as far as to repeat it twice in one sentence.)

The war is good for Israel? I doubt it. As I wrote in “Who’s the Boss – Israel or the US?“:

“It so happens that Israel, incorrectly, thinks that American foreign policy serves her well – although, arguably, for Israel to have endorsed the war on Iraq so enthusiastically is bad for a future Arab-Israeli relationship. As one who supports the Jewish state, but also opposes current American foreign policy, I would prefer to see Israel refrain from conflating America’s unlimited worldwide war on terror with the narrowly delimited battle for survival that Israel has conducted since her inception. But once again reality bites. Israel is a small country that is necessarily dependent on a large state. It is Israel who is obliged to support the US and acquiesce to American foreign policies, not the other way round.”

Since Israel is riddled with leftists, you’ll find there a respectable opposition to the invasion of Iraq.

Of one thing I am sure: debate there would be more robust and open than here. The Hannitization of discourse would not be tolerated in Israel.

Lethal Weapons: Neocon Groupies


Just read your funny and right-on piece about neocon women from December 2004. I had to laugh at your insights into Coulter and gang. If it helps any, beautiful women aren’t only in the GOP and DNC, but apparently the Libertarian Party as well!

The difference: you don’t need to bleach and you actually have a brain! Coulter apparently was sick the day they taught the Constitution at her law school.

~ Chris Campbell

Ilana Mercer replies:

Dear Chris,

I’m glad “Lethal Weapons: Neocon Groupies” made you laugh. Ann Coulter? I regret being soft on her. She and the malevolent Sean Hannity were vibing again on Fox today. At the same time, CNN screened a program about the murdered, maimed, and mentally crippled American soldiers in Iraq. (If you want to learn anything about Iraqis under “freedom,” I’m afraid you’ll have to watch the Canadian Public Broadcaster, CBC.)

I’ll say this: Coulter, in black leather, was dressed for the part. She looked like a character from a Leni Riefenstahl Nazi propaganda film.

Behind the Headlines


Before I go and donate some more FRNs so that you can carry on with your work, I thought I’d take a moment and give you guys a pat on the back.

It takes a fantastic amount of courage to pull back the curtain so we can see who is pushing the buttons and turning the knobs of this twisted mediacracy. This plutocratic/ Stalinist administration is pedaling a density of propaganda that is stunning and the sheep just keep drinking it in.

The only counter to this evil is a glimmering slice of truth. That’s what you bring to the table. Some day when the historians point out that the US attacked a sovereign nation and killed over 100,000 innocent men, women and children to that we could take their oil they will find your lone voice.

~ Jim Burnes

The ‘Christian Nation’ Bombs Again

Today I was without hope or answer as my husband and I tried (try) to grasp what has happened to Christians and what has happened to Christ in the church. I stumbled across your website on Common Dreams News Center and looked into it. I am now, as I type this, emailing selected articles that hit my concerns right on the head and provide answers I have so desperately needed. My brother-in-law was riding with friends, a group of dentists, and one was so zealous about his “born again” status and his love of GWB that my brother turned to him and inquired what brand of Christianity he represented. I, too find myself wondering what brand of Christianity our churches are shoving down our throats. We live in a small rural community that is neocon heaven and I have never felt so alone. Thank you for the insight and an escape from the religious “wrong.”

~ Jacquelynne Warren

Iraq Elections a Disaster in the Making

Keith Best: Election day is near. Peace is what we want. By "we," I say myself and President Bush. To those who say “War is not the answer” I say this: We answered the British in 1776 in founding this great nation. We answered the Confederacy in 1865, ending slavery. And we answered Hitler putting an end to the Holocaust. Germany did not attack us. But who knows how many more than the six million people who were murdered would have perished. There is a price for freedom and democracy. A lot of people are paying that price now. Someday in the future President Bush will be remembered for giving women the right to get an education in Afghanistan. And for giving a home for democracy to Iraq. The world should remember we occupied Germany, France, Japan and a multitude of other countries after World War II. Yet we showed them the freedom that they have today.

Sam Koritz: In none of your three examples of war being “the answer” (the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, or W.W.II) was the U.S. the aggressor – as defined by U.S. treaties and international agreements (see these Nuremberg Trial guide picks) – so they offer no historical precedent to support the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Also, Congress declared war against the Confederacy and Germany, as constitutionally required, and did not declare war against Iraq.

KB: To those who say the U.S. is just an occupier I say, after World War II we occupied Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Japan and many others. We helped Japan write their constitution. The U.S. helped South Korea win democracy. Yet these countries govern themselves today, just as Afghanistan and Iraq will thanks to President Bush. I salute the courage of the Iraqi voters.

SK: One year after W.W.II no U.S. troops were killed in the occupation of the aggressor nations. Increasing numbers of U.S. troops are dying in the occupation of Iraq. Aggression tends to encourage resistance.

KB: You are correct. No troops were killed after we liberated numerous countries after W.W.II. If it wasn’t for Muslim extremists who flooded Iraq after the invasion, the same could be said. …

SK: Can you offer any evidence for that claim? “Insurgents are domestic, Sunni and nationalist,” according Peter Spiegel of the Financial Times, and pretty much everyone else who’s researched it.

KB: It is not an occupation but a liberation. Why should women not be allowed to get an education in Afghanistan and Iraq? Why can’t Afghanistan and Iraq have a democratic form of government?

SK: Not an occupation? “Occupation: Invasion, conquest, and control of a nation or territory by foreign armed forces.”

KB: You didn’t answer the questions. Why can’t Afghan and Iraqi women be allowed to get an education and be allowed to vote? What’s wrong with democracy in those two countries?

SK: I didn’t answer your question about women’s education because it’s both misinformed and irrelevant. Iraq was one of the most secular nations in the Middle East prior to the U.S. invasion, and women were allowed to get an education. Women were also allowed to get an education in Afghanistan prior to U.S. intervention (starting in the late ’70s), in which the U.S. government and its Saudi and Pakistani allies armed and organized Muslim fanatics to fight the feminist commies. (By the way, women in Saudi Arabia actually don’t have the right to get an education, or to drive a car, for that matter.)

As for democracy, I’m in favor of it, if by the term you mean majority rule along with political liberty and the rule of law. The U.S. has not brought this form of government to Iraq – and fighting illegal, aggressive wars doesn’t help democracy in America either.

Even if U.S. officials were primarily motivated by a desire to improve Iraqis’ lives (they aren’t), and even if these improvements were likely to be achieved (they’re not), and even if the direct costs of the invasion and occupation (tens of thousands killed, tens of billions of tax dollars spent, increased terrorist recruitment, international condemnation, diversion from the battle against al-Qaeda, etc.) were acceptable, it would still be a treaty-violating unconstitutional act of military aggression, and worthy of opposition on that basis. As Edmond Burke wrote (regarding the French revolution):

“I do not deny that, among an infinite number of acts of violence and folly, some good may have been done. They who destroy everything certainly will remove some grievance. They who make everything new, have a chance that they may establish something beneficial. To give them credit for what they have done in virtue of the authority they have usurped, or which can excuse them in the crimes by which that authority has been acquired, it must appear, that the same things could not have been accomplished without producing such a revolution.”


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