Backtalk, February 1, 2006

Breathtaking Power Grab

Alan Bock wrote “I’m not so paranoid as to think they have purposely avoided capturing Osama bin Laden so as to keep the potential threat out there.” I quite disagree. There exists anecdotal as well as published evidence to the contrary which suggests that this is precisely what this and previous administrations were and are doing.

When the U.S. pressured Sudan to expel Osama bin Laden in 1996, they learned from Sudanese intelligence that bin Laden was en route to Afghanistan along with his precise itinerary. He could have easily been apprehended at that time, but was not. Why not? Why, for example, in 1997 when a journalist provided the FBI with information, which included a map of bin Laden’s whereabouts, was no action taken by the Clinton administration? Taliban officials confided to me during interviews in Kandahar and New York that they had approached the U.S. countless times during both the Clinton and Bush administrations to settle the issue of bin Laden. A series of meetings in Kandahar and at the State Department between Taliban and U.S. officials resulted in no action, diplomatic or otherwise, being taken.

The Taliban were also convinced at the time that when anti-Taliban sentiment was building in Washington it was more a result of them sending the UNOCAL oil-pipeline team packing and their subsequent inking of a deal with BRIDAS of Argentina than over any disagreement concerning the disposition of Osama bin Laden.

In my opinion, Osama bin Laden has become just another asset or tool with which the administration markets fear to the American people, and as such is a license for interminable warfare and the expansion of “executive power.”

~ Bruce G. Richardson

Alan Bock replies:

Although Bush now says he talks with Clinton often and the two have become like brothers – suggesting that the political class knows who belongs to it and is increasingly open about the fact that the differences between the two official parties are dwarfed by their pact to maintain power against the interests of most of the American people – I’m not sure Bush can be held responsible for what happened or didn’t happen under Clinton. Mr. Richardson does make some good points, however. Still, I never discount the role of incompetence in government when government fails at what most people think are primary duties, such as protecting the country from attacks like 9/11 or alleviating disasters like Katrina. Could they, at some level, be avoiding capturing Osama to keep the threat “out there”? I don’t have enough information to have a solid opinion. But it is an intriguing possibility.

Hamas, Son of Israel


Where is the evidence for this: “Sheik Yassin and his followers soon became a force within the Village Leagues”?

~ Jeff Blankfort

Justin Raimondo replies:

My source is Ray Hanania, “How Sharon and the Likud Party Nurtured the Rise of Hamas and Benefit From Its Terrorism“:

“Under Begin and later Shamir, Israel created, funded and controlled the ‘Village Leagues,’ a system of local councils managed by Palestinians who were hand-picked by Israel to run local city and village administrations. The plan was devised by Sharon, who was Israel’s Defense Minister. Sharon appointed Menahem Milson, a professor of Arabic literature and former Hebrew University Dean, as its first Civil Administration leader in November 1981. Less than one year later, the two broke over Sharon’s role in the Sabra and Shatilla massacres and Milson resigned. In 1984, Shamir was forced into a coalition government with Labor Party’s Shimon Peres. Under a shared-leadership agreement, Peres held the office for two years until 1986 before returning it to Shamir. During those two years, the Likud party leaders saw firsthand the behind-the-scenes negotiations take place between Labor Party leaders and Arafat, who was exiled in Tunisia.

“Within a year, Hamas leaders exploited the funds that Israel directed to the Village Leagues and collected tens of millions more from supportive Arab regimes angry with Arafat. Hamas used the money to operate a network of schools, medical clinics, social service agencies, religious institutions and provide direct services to the poverty stricken Palestinian population.”

See also: The PLO and Israel: From Armed Conflict to Political Solution by Avraham Sela.

They didn’t study their Russian history. In the late 19th century, the populist/anarchist/sometimes terrorist Narodnaya Volya (“People’s Will”) was a constant irritant to Czarist rule. Beyond the usual means of repression, the Czarist secret police decided another way to weaken the Narodniks was to try to split the opposition by allowing the promulgation of competing radical doctrines. In particular, they deliberately allowed the importation of works by a radical German philosopher, Karl Marx. That worked out pretty well in terms of stemming the growth of the Narodniks.

~ Larry Howes

Rank Ignorance Reigns

Mr. Roberts,

I think it silly to profess that Iran does not want nuclear weapons. They want them for MAD (mutually assured destruction) if nothing else.

However, MAD is the very reason Iran would never use such weapons against Israel.

Did you know that the U.S. furnished Iran with its first nuclear reactor and 5.5 kilograms of enriched uranium in 1967? (See NTI: Iran: Nuclear Chronology.) We thought Iran’s quest for nuclear technology was a great idea until the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

One has to wonder why we are assisting India in its nuclear program even though only four years ago the possibility of a nuclear exchange with Pakistan was considered imminent.

The real issue, in my opinion, is that a nuclear Iran would be virtually impregnable to an assault on their oil fields.

~ Duane Angell, Denver, Colorado

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

I agree with the reader that Iran has legitimate reasons to want nuclear weapons. But we cannot initiate a war based on a supposition that Iran will act on a legitimate desire to have nuclear arms. As the IAEA inspections have revealed, there is no evidence Iran is acting on a desire it might have.

Hands Off Google

Dear Mr. Raimondo,

I read your site daily and often profit from it. Since I actually live in China, I can tell you something about net and radio censorship here.

VOA’s Web site is always blocked. One can listen to VOA’s English short-wave broadcasts to China easily enough, although they are nearly as boring and propagandistic as China Radio International’s. (The special English program, 30 minutes of world news in simple grammar and a 1,000-word vocabulary, is popular with college students.) The Chinese language broadcasts are often jammed, I’m told. BBC’s Web site is partially blocked. I can log easily into the BBC World Service Web site and listen to the English news broadcast online or download, e.g., “Off the Shelf.” The section of the Web site which posts news items is always blocked. I can listen to English language BBC short-wave broadcasts for nearly 24 hours a day, if I like. But (I’m told) that the Chinese language broadcasts are often jammed.

There are many other countries which broadcast in English. Radio Netherlands, Radio Japan, Voice of Russia, and their English language short-wave broadcasts are never jammed, so far as I can tell. Neither are their Web sites, so far as I can tell. Even U.S. evangelists’ short-wave broadcasts, such as the one telling the world that the Bible says a nuclear war between the U.S. and China is inevitable, and that God plans to kill 200 million Chinese people, are never interfered with. (I cannot say about their Chinese language broadcasts.)

Your Web site is always available to me, but links to, e.g.,, are sometimes blocked. I have never been blocked from links to, e.g., the New York Times. Porn sites are almost never blocked.

The fuss about Google’s censorship is misplaced since the political issues that matter to Chinese people are almost never what foreigners expect. China has flaws, but virtues, too, and as an American who despises Bush, all his works and all his ways, I feel safer in China than I would in the USA. China is getting better and the U.S. (unfortunately) is getting worse.

~ Lester Ness, Kunming, China

When Pigs Fly

Many thanks to Gordon Prather for his continuing informative (and informed) comments on the U.S.-contrived Iranian crisis faux.

It should be noticed that Prather’s interpretation of Iran’s president’s to say the least ill-advised statement re the removal of Israel is essentially correct. Sixty years ago when Franklin D. Roosevelt met with Saudi Arabia’s King Ibn Saud when returning from the Yalta conference and informed the king of the plan to settle the European Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Palestine, ibn Saud asked why, if this was to compensate the Jews for what the Germans had done, they weren’t being given land in Germany? And, in fact, if the so-called Morgenthau Plan for destroying Germany’s industrial capacity and reducing it to a peasant agricultural state had been carried out settling the Holocaust survivors in Germany might have been feasible. The Arab or Middle Eastern question then, as now, is why should the peoples of Palestine be punished for the sin of Germany?

With regard to calling the Holocaust a “myth” – another extraordinarily unwise, not to say stupid, statement – this does not necessarily mean denying the truth of the Holocaust. All nations have some sort of founding myth, a historical event that comes to define and justify the nation – Bunker Hill, the storming of the Bastille, Magna Carta. The question is whether the founding myth, altogether factual or not, justifies all subsequent actions of that nation.

In any event, given the total access that the IAEA has to Iran’s nuclear power program, and despite the disputed failure of Iran to report to the IAEA some alleged past research activities, apparently of a minor nature, it seems farfetched to believe that Iran, in violation of its Nuclear Proliferation Treaty obligations, could produce a genuine nuclear bomb. That being the case, as I believe it is, and given the considerable trade relations that the countries of the European Union have with Iran, not to mention their current and future reliance on Iran’s contribution to world energy supplies, it seems self-defeating for them to line up with the United States in seeking the imposition of economic sanctions on Iran. The U.S., of course, which as a matter of policy, has no direct trade relations with Iran at all and would not have its economic interests directly adversely affected except, and this is a huge “except,” by interruption of Iran’s contribution to the world oil and gas pool, something which would send oil prices spinning toward the feared $100 dollar a barrel level.

This is even harder to understand considering the modern historical record of Iran. This is a country which has never militarily attacked anyone. (We can, I think, overlook its suppression of the periodic rebellions of its Kurdish minority in the same manner as Turkey and Iraq). Indeed, Iran in the 1980s, being punished by the United States for its overthrow of the Shah and the holding hostage of the members of its embassy in Teheran for 400 and some days, was the victim of U.S.-supported and funded aggression by Iraq in a horrendous struggle that cost it hundreds of thousands of lives. Moreover, during this war, the U.S. not only provided Iraq with military intelligence but actively participated in operations in the Persian Gulf. This participation culminated in the shootdown of an Iranian civil airliner by the USS Vincennes with the loss of over 200 lives, something for which there has been neither apology nor compensation.

Iran, it should be noted, cooperated completely with the post-9/11 anti-Taliban campaign against Afghanistan and likewise is active against the heroin traffic originating in Afghanistan. It is hard to portray Iran, on the basis of its past and current actions in the Middle East, as a potential aggressor needing to be in some way preempted.

Certainly, if Iraq, as it seems likely to do, comes under sectarian Shi’ite domination, it is certain that Iran, as the major Shi’ite power in the region, will have greatly increased influence in Iraq. While this certainly disturbs the United States, which is determined to maintain control over any emerging Iraqi government, and, arguably, is of concern to Saudi Arabia and other states where the dominant strain of Islam is Sunni, it is hard to discern where any economic or strategic interest of the European Union is jeopardized or even threatened.

Again looking at this situation from the perspective of long-term European interests, one has to ask why Europe would see itself well-served by antagonizing India, Pakistan, and China, all of whom, as Prather emphasizes, have, or are building, close economic and strategic relationships with Iran? By the same token, the European stance vis-à-vis Iran also exacerbates EU relations with Russia, already strained by the (in my view) unwise European efforts to push NATO’s boundaries eastward.

Finally, when looking at the issue of whether Iran, in its NPT-permitted effort to develop an indigenous nuclear electric power program completely under its own control, right down to the production of enriched uranium, is secretly committed to producing nuclear weapons, one has to agree, as Prather has argued over the pasts months, that the evidence is slim to nonexistent. Moreover, one has to agree that Iran has opened itself totally to IAEA supervision of its activities. In addition, in view of the embarrassing failure of the U.S. WMD case against Iraq, it is hard to see how the EU can grant any credibility to the U.S. “intelligence” about Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities and intentions. And, at the bottom line, would Iranian possession of a handful of nuclear weapons really change the balance of military power in a region where Israel, Pakistan, India, and most importantly, the United States already have large nuclear arsenals and the means to employ them?

Israel? Well, that’s a very important element in the equation, but one requiring more detailed discussion than can be gone into here.

For me, the question remains, why is the European Union taking a position in the Iranian nuclear matter that appears to be so completely at odds with its own economic and long-range strategic interests?

~ David MacMichael, steering group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Domestic Spying Hurts Our National Security

My recollection is that at the time Gary Powers undertook his fateful picture-taking flight over the Soviet Union for the CIA, the CIA reportedly had about a zillion rolls of spy-film in its coffers that hadn’t even been looked at, much less subjected to rigorous analysis. I knew and was then working with some of the scientists who had developed the cameras for the U-2.

~ Gordon Prather


Are you guys nuts?

After looking at this Web site, I thought there must be something wrong. Now as I look further, I find, to my deep disappointment, that I wasn’t seeing things.

It’s one thing for a liberal/communist to talk about this country like they do, but when it comes from people I admired (Paul Craig Roberts) and voted for (Pat Buchanan), it is more closely associated with betrayal.

~ Dale Coparanis

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

Dale is a good example of the mistake Pat Buchanan and I have warned against. He confuses government with country. He elevates Bush/Cheney over the U.S. Constitution, the separation of powers, and civil liberties. In contrast, Pat and I hold Bush/Cheney accountable for their assault on America’s foundations. We are patriots defending our country.

Dale might ask himself what he has learned from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice. Does Dale discern shining intellects, or propagandists who manipulate emotions with images of “mushroom clouds” in order to rush people, unthinkingly, to war?

It was Pat and myself (and a number of others) who warned, correctly, that Bush’s invasion of Iraq would be a strategic disaster, not a cakewalk.

Why does Dale trust the people who deceived him, rather than the people who warned him?

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