Wednesday, 15 August 2007

US foreign policy: Weapons of Mass Destruction

Today, I have heard one of the most chilling programmes on the radio for a very long time. I used to work in a local radio station, and I listen to the wireless all the time, as I hardly watch much TV, apart from the news and Still Game.

It was a long day at work today, and I finished about 19.45h. On the way back, I realised that Hecklers, the new Radio 4 debate program was on. Excellent, I thought: long day in the office, but a pleasurable drive back from Edinburgh to Glasgow listening to informed opinions and intelligent debate.

But the proposer of tonight’s programme was one of the most dangerous and deluded people I have ever heard on the BBC.

Patrick Clawson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argues that
it would be better to have a war with Iran than to allow its government to
develop nuclear weapons. He debates the issues with a panel of hecklers,
including George Galloway, in front of an audience at Chatham House in London.

This individual argued, in his soft American tone and paused, affable, if slightly irritating speech, that it would be in the best interests of the West to go to war against Iran rather than to allow that country to develop nuclear weapons. Patrick Clawson is deputy director for research of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. More info on the interesting views espoused by Mr Clawson here
Don’t want to go into a tangent here... but Near East? I always thought it was Far East but never mind...

After a few minutes listening to his disparaging arguments I started to feel sick. My legs were trembling. Listening to that man gave me the creeps. I was listening to a man advocating going to war against Iran as a pre-emptive step to bring stability to the region.
Now, where have we heard this line of argument before?

Although the program is called Hecklers, it is nothing of the sort. The proposer has three slots in which he can develop his argument and the ‘hecklers’ (panellists) are not allowed to interrupt during the first 3 minutes or so of each slot. Then a bell goes off and the panel guests are allowed to raise questions. Today, George Galloway MP was always the first to speak up after the bell rang.

Whatever one thinks of Mr Galloway and his politics and media persona, it is undeniable that the man is a great orator, and one of the few MPs in Parliament willing to challenge the establishment. If only there were a few more like him, perhaps this country would not be now fighting a pointless and illegal war based on false “intelligence”. As much as I disagree with the majority of Gorgeous George’s politics, today he was top notch. He tore apart every one of the arguments put forward by Mr Clawson.

I recommend that you set aside about 1 hour of your time to listen to the program via the BBC Radio 4 website.

It shows to what extent American foreign policy is the cause, rather than the cure, for most of the ills in the Middle East and the Gulf region. For Mr Clawson, it is quite alright that Israel already has nuclear weapons pointing at Iran and other states, and that we (as in the US and the UK) are supplying conventional and nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The former is a theocracy where women are second class citizens. The regime in Saudi Arabia is probably the most tyrannical in the region, and certainly the least accountable to the population. As for Pakistan, it is a breeding ground for Al-Qaida terrorists, and a country divided between a secular or moderate population and the mullahs supporting Islam fundamentalism. What happens if the latter ever get into power and get control of the nuclear weapons supplied by the US and the UK?

Exactly this is what happened a few decades ago. In order to overthrow the Soviets from Afghanistan, the US financed and supplied the Mujaidins with training and conventional weapons. Once the Soviets were expelled from the region, they turned against the US and the West. These are the origins of Al-Qaida: US finance and training. The US trained and armed Osama Bin Laden. That is the result of US foreign policy.

You may be too young to remember: Iran was a democracy a long time ago. However, its leaders did not yield to US and UK foreign policy so the US&UK instigated a coup after Iran's elected government renationalised the oil industry; then the Shah took over and instituted a dictatorial regime. Read more about Operation Ajax in the Wikipedia. Yes, we (the US and the UK) instigated a coup against a democratically elected government to get control of Iranian oil.
The people of Iran rebelled, both the secular moderates (yes, there was a Communist Party in Iran...) and the Islamists joined forces and they did overthrow the dictator; sadly, the radical Islamists won the internal battle for government control. Then they turned against the US and against the West.

Remember the Iran/Iraq war of the ‘80s. Well, guess what: Saddam Hussein was supported by the West and supplied with the conventional and chemical weapons he used in the bloody war against Iran. We (US and UK) supplied Saddam Hussein and his regime with weapons. A few years later, the US and the UK bombarded Iraq, causing mass civilian casualties but without deposing the dictator. In 2003, we then have the illegal invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition and the country is now is a much worst state, on the brink of civil war and engulfed in sectarian violence, than it was with Saddam in power. And now the Iraqis are turning against the US and the West.

Do you see a pattern emerging?

You can read all this and much, much more in the extraordinary, priceless, colossal book “The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East" by Robert Fisk.
Admittedly, I have not yet started reading the book. A certain master degree thesis on Credit Default Swaps is taking a lot of my spare time –about 1 year and 4 months to be exact.

So you can imagine my anger when this very dangerous man was arguing live on BBC radio 4, the moral and cultural backbone of Britain, that a US strike against Iran would somehow encourage middle-class Iranians to rebel and overthrow the tyrannical dictatorship of the Council of Guardians. It was frightening.

However “imperfect” (a word he constantly used to refer to the Non-Proliferation Treaty) the Iranian electoral system is, at least people can and do vote. The same cannot be said of Saudi Arabia, apparently the West's ally in the region, with its total disregard for human rights and lack of any progress towards democracy or a more equal society for men and women.

He also said that an attack against Iran would prevent the NPT from becoming irrelevant, even though there are “imperfections” (i.e: non-compliance) in the system. He said something along the lines of “I would hate to lose that imperfect instrument in the pursuit of the perfect instrument”. In other words: it is ok for the UK, the US, France, Israel, India, Russia and others to violate the terms and the spirit of the NPT, but not for Iran. Some hypothetical, yet-to-happen, imperfection is punished by war; current imperfections are ignored. To say this smacks of double standards would be an understatement.

We are told that Iran, according to Mr Clawson, is an “irrational player”, behaving according to an “apocalyptic theocratic view” of the world. At this point I almost choked on my chocolate bar. Is it not the President of the United States who had claimed that God had given him permission to go to war in order to prevent the threat of an Iraqi attack against the West? To me that sounds pretty much like an irrational player with a theocratic apocalyptic view of the world.

No nation has behaved more irrationally in the Middle East than the US. Supporting and arming some dictatorships; going to war against others; and doing both with some, as in Iraq. Yet, Mr Clawson, and the US political establishment, either Democrats or Republicans, are in complete denial about the havoc, mayhem and suffering US foreign policy has created around the world, especially in the Middle East.

The last point put forward by Mr Clawson is beyond surreal. He argues that an US-led attack against Iran would unite Iranians in blaming their own government for developing nuclear weapons and thus provoking a crisis. This popular rebellion would result in the Iranian regime engaging (i.e: yielding to US foreign policy) with the West. For someone who claims to be an expert in the Middle East, this is surely a joke.

But the warmongering lunatic goes on: according to him, an attack against Iran should not mean a land invasion of the country, but rather targeted, high-precision attacks against military objectives. Have we not heard this before? Yes, we have. As recently as 2003, when the US-UK coalition targeted attacks against Iraqi military infrastructure resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and the destruction of hospitals. I also remember a certain aspirin factory in Sudan that was targeted with a combination of intelligence and high-precision weaponry.

Mr Clawson also argued that not only Iran’s population would rebel against their elected leadership following a US attack, but also that Iran’s neighbours would rise to the challenge and support US action too. This is the world of fantasy inhabited by the neocon revolutionaries in the US.

This last point was absolutely demolished by all panellists. One by one, audience members and panellists reduced Mr Clawsonlightweight argument”(quote from a former correspondent of the FT in Tehran) to what they are: absolute warmongering shite. The only voice of support came from, wait for it... an US Embassy employee.
Priceless if it was not so depressing.

What is scary about this man and his ilk is their level of delusion; their disregard for the facts about the Middle East, and the loss of human life; their arrogant ignorance of the damage US foreign policy has caused in the region in the last 40 years, 20 years or even since the ill-conceived invasion of Iraq. As with the Iraqi non-existent weapons of mass destruction, an enemy is created and the threat is hyped up in the friendly press, and thus war is justified. Their irrational minds see no flaw in this perverse logic, despite its disastrous consequences in Iraq, or in Iran decades ago.

War is still another option in the US foreign policy toolkit and the neocons have not learnt anything. And now they want to start another war against Iran. History will not be kind to these despicable people.

And the question for us in Britain is: what will PM Gordon Brown do? Will he be America’s lap dog like former PM Blair, or will he have an “ethical foreign policy”, as New Labour promised in 1997? I am not sure I want to know.

Next week, Hecklers will hopefully be less frightening and distressing. Tax specialist Richard Murphy argues at the free market Institute of Economic Affairs that Britain should stop trying to woo the foreign super rich with tax breaks.