Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

January 12, 2008

The Other Strait of Hormuz Incident

Filed under: history, politics — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 1:59 pm

Glenn Greenwald examined the recent Strait of Hormuz incident, in which three small boats were maneuvering aggressively along with “spooky” audio over an equivalent of a bad CB band. The U.S. military released video of the incident and is embedded below.

While I understand the fact that no one wants to be the example that serves as the warning to others, those boats would have been obliterated in a matter of seconds. The main fear from the U.S. military point of view is that they were some form of suicide-bomb boats.

The most similar incident is listed in the update. The USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988, supposedly mistaking it for an F-14 fighter. This is against the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war which ended in a stalemate. The war ended August 20th, 1988. Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down July 3rd of the same year.

The U.S. was backing Iraq at the time and providing material aid. Although, the U.S. had also sold arms to Iran in order to covertly back the Contras in Nicaragua.

For this “accident,” the crew and officers were awarded ribbons and medals.

For all incidents of this type, the perpetrators are quick to forget and the victims will remember it quite vividly. When combined with other incidents such as Operation Ajax or backing Saddam Hussein after he had invaded their country, we start to understand some reasons for Iranian mistrust.

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December 11, 2007

Christopher Hitchens: Abolish the CIA

Filed under: impeachment, politics — Tags: , , , — codesmithy @ 9:08 am

One of Serious war cheerleaders is at it again. In a classic case of “shoot the messenger,” Christopher Hitchens declares it is time to “Abolish the CIA.” Hitchens seems particularly upset that the NIE defuses his case for war with Iran. Eventhough the NIE was based on the consensus of 16 different intelligence agencies, Hitchens thinks the CIA deserves special blames. Hitchens asserts the plausibility of claims that Bush only heard about it NIE a few days before the rest of us. However, there is that inescapable fact that Bush’s language about Iran has changed over the course of the year. If Bush was completely unaware of the contents of the report, and if it truly were a bombshell, why would the rhetoric morph?

Hitchens further declares that we know Iran is a duplicitous regime capable of rank deception. Their dual use centrifuges could be used to produce a bomb! Yes, we are aware of that fact Mr. Hitchens, but the report said the best Iran could do would be enough highly-enriched uranium is by late 2009. The fact of the matter is the nuclear non-proliferation treaty gives Iran the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Iran has cooperated with the IAEA. If one is going to go on spouting how evil Iran is for supporting terrorist organizations, then one also needs to explain why it was OK for the U.S. to sell weapons to Iran to fund the contras in Nicaragua? Are they more evil now then they were in the 1980’s?

Iran knows it is suicide to use the bomb. Israel would wipe them off the map. They want one for the same reason everybody else wants one, deterrence. Hitchens point about Japan is already moot because North Korea can already hit Japan with a nuclear weapon. What the NIE really proves is that Iran will actually give up nuclear weapons for security guarantees, which is the same thing they wanted all along.

Why, then, have our intelligence agencies helped to give the lying Iranian theocracy the appearance of a clean bill, while simultaneously and publicly (and with barely concealed relish) embarrassing the president and crippling his policy?

That relish that Hitchens speaks of is his imagination.   The CIA got slammed for the case of Iraq WMD’s and 9/11 intelligence failures.  Both times, people have laid blame at the feet of the CIA.  The fact of the matter is the intelligence at the President’s disposal was good.  On 9/11, he failed to act on it properly.  For Iraq, his administration was able to cook the intelligence.  It was known as the 1% doctrine, and political hacks were specifically put in the Pentagon to rewrite the Intel to support the preconceived policy.  In this case, the CIA and other intelligence agencies said: no more.  It isn’t their fault Bush was left out on a limb.

In a bizarre charge, Hitchens then turns on the destruction of the interrogation tapes as further proof the agency needs to be abolished.  As if, they didn’t do it to protect this President and his patent law-breaking.

People blame the CIA for the various overthrows of foreign governments.  But, it isn’t just the CIA.  The President is always deeply involved in the big operations the CIA carries out.  For example, blaming the CIA for the overthrow of Guatemala or Iran without also blaming Eisenhower is the height of hypocrisy.  The political leaders set the policy, not the agency.  The lawbreaking is the fault of the man in charge.

Hitchens is more than happy to throw the CIA under the bus, again, because it gets in the way of his new war.  Just like he would spend time blasting them if Bush did attack Iran and the intelligence proved to be faulty.  In Hitchens’ world, it can never be that the glorious Bush is to blame.  It is clear Hitchens wants to kill more Muslims and he won’t allow pesky things such as facts get in the way.

Abolishing the CIA still might be a good idea, but not because they are currently preventing Hitchens’ genocidal agenda.  It is because the power is abused, just as Bush has abused it repeatedly.  Before any abolishing of the CIA takes place, one would need to impeach Bush first, then we can decide which agencies are too tempting for future Presidents to abuse.

December 6, 2007

The National Intelligence Estimate Blowback

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 10:27 am

A newly released National Intelligence Estimate undermines one of Bush’s arguments for keeping all options on the table with respect to Iran.  It states:

We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program (1) ; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. We judge with high confidence that the halt, and Tehran’s announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment program and sign an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work.

1 For the purposes of this Estimate, by “nuclear weapons program” we mean Iran’s nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work; we do not mean Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.

I would suggest reading the whole report from the link provided. However, I’ll summarize it: it is basically the consensus of the intelligence community that Iran does respond to diplomatic pressure, and that is the best route to deal with their potential nuclear weapons programs. Secondly, there is no need to rush because it is unlikely Iran will be able to produce the highly-enriched uranium they would need before late 2009, and it is most likely going to be later.

Why was this report released when it seems to deflate Bush’s rush to war? He probably couldn’t help it. Government is naturally very porous. The Iraq war is very unpopular. The intelligence community got slammed as a scape goat for the Iraq war and 9/11. People within the government know what is going on. If an opponent to the administration’s policy on Iran in the government had the report, they would leak it to the press. The political calculation that Bush made was to fess up now, rather than be caught by it later. The essential conclusions of the report aren’t new, the IAEA has been saying the same thing for over a year.

Time tells us “Why the Pentagon Is Happy about the NIE

The latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was the final factor in a military equation that now appears to guarantee that there will be no war with Iran during the Bush Administration.

Although, there are apparently still some die-hards still pushing for sanctions.

I still don’t think that the U.S. is off-the-hook with respect to Iran. As Seymour Hersh explains in his interview with Wolf Blitzer.

There is still the possibility of Israel attacking Iran unilaterally, or with U.S. support covertly.

The one thing that I always find mind-bending is the acting as if nuclear weapons are the sole reason for attacking Iran. The important unstated reasons are still in play. Iran doesn’t take orders from Washington. It supports groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. It is still sitting on top of a lot of oil that U.S. companies are not profiting from. So, it should be obvious that Bush would try to continue to pressure Iran, telling them to “come clean.” As if proving a negative statement is even possible. In this case, absence of evidence must be taken as evidence of absence.

In all, I don’t think the showdown with Iran is over. But, if an attack on Iran is going to happen, it will probably come from Israel with some behind-the-scenes endorsement or backing by the U.S.

November 27, 2007

The Long-Term U.S. Presence In Iraq

Filed under: history, politics — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 8:21 am

The AP has a story that the “Iraqis may offer US deal to stay longer.”

Iraq’s government, seeking protection against foreign threats and internal coups, will offer the U.S. a long-term troop presence in Iraq in return for U.S. security guarantees as part of a strategic partnership, two Iraqi officials said Monday.

As is typical, it is hard to properly parse what is going on in the Western press.

Al Jazerra has their take on the agreement which is a bit more informative.

Basically, Al-Maliki has promised to be client state of the U.S. in exchange for security guarantees. In all honesty, I don’t know what Al-Maliki could really do. Bush has Ahmed Chalabi waiting in the wings. It isn’t like Al-Maliki is in any position to kick the United States out.

The “encouragement” of investment from U.S. companies has been the idea all along. As Naomi Klein put it in her book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” Iraq has been subjected to an anti-Marshall plan. No local economy has been built up. Infrastructure is still a mess. Projects that have been lavishly paid for literally have human feces running down the walls. Now, factories and natural resources are going to be sold off to American companies at bargain basement prices. The looting that took place in the aftermath of the war is nothing compared to the professional looting and long-term subjugation that is about to take place. The Iraqi people deserve better. Make no mistake, this has been the plan all along.  How do I know? Because we’ve done it before, and for the same reasons. Amy Goodman and Democracy Now look at the U.S.-backed 1953 coup d’etat in Iran.

Parts 2, 3, and 4.

November 23, 2007

Chomsky on Iran

The Real News has an interview with Noam Chomsky about Iran.

The narrative Chomsky gives of U.S. involvement in Iran starting from the aftermath of World War 2 and the disintegration of the British Empire to the present day should be canon for any meaningful discussion of Iran.

The key events are

  1. Mohammed Mosaddeq, prime minister of Iran announces plans to nationalize Iran’s oil fields
  2. Operation Ajax – CIA backs 1953 coup d’etat to install the Shah
  3. Iranian Revolution of 1979, the oppressive regime of the Shah is replaced with an Islamic theocracy
  4. 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War – Saddam Hussein attacks Iran out of fear of the Islamic revolution spreading to Iraq (United States backs Hussein)
  5. 1990-1991 Gulf War – Iraq invades Kuwait, U.S. wages war to maintain balance of power in the region
  6. 2003 Iraq War – U.S. invades Iraq under the pretext of fighting global terrorism and failure of Hussein’s regime to relinquish its stockpile of Weapons of Mass Destruction (the massive stockpiles of WMDs still have not been found)

The mainstream media seems either ignorant or uninterested in this uncelebrated history of U.S. involvement in the region. No matter how banal or irrelevant our media or U.S. elites may find it, Iranians probably feel differently.

On another note, Glenn Greenwald does a good job tearing into Joe Klein. Klein is not stuck in the 80’s however. Klein is doing what he probably has always done. Defending and encouraging Democratic capitulation on foreign policy and security matters on behalf of the Washington consensus. The fact the Washington consensus has fallen way outside the favor of average American citizen makes no difference. Joe Klein will lie or bullshit his way to defending it. This further proves Joe Klein is a lying, formulaic hack, as was also demonstrated with the “Primary Colors” incident.

“For God’s sake,” said Mr. Klein, a Newsweek magazine columnist, “definitely, I didn’t write [Primary Colors].”

For God’s sake Joe, you did! Further proving that either lying or being consistently, demonstrably wrong is not sufficient grounds for ejection from the pundit class.

One could make a career proving Chomsky right about his ideas on political discourse in America.

As a final note, we should examine what “liberal” pundits tell the politicians we elect to capitulate on.

This is part of Amnesty International’s unsubscribe-me campaign. From the website:

The Directors approached the making of the film in a way that has never been done before, choosing to show the reality of Stress Positions in as authentic a way as possible. They filmed a person being put into Stress Positions over a 6 hour period. There is no acting on the part of the “prisoner” – his pain and anguish is for real.

October 25, 2007

American’s Self-Absorbtion or Why We Are Going To Attack Iran

Filed under: impeachment, politics — Tags: — codesmithy @ 9:07 am

Hello, and welcome to Cassandra’s hell. If you are reading this, rest assured, I’m probably not talking about you. I’m talking to you about the 41% of Americans who can’t name one GOP hopeful. Look, I haven’t watched a single debate, only pieces of them posted on various websites. I hardly watch any television. That said, I can name 7 Democratic candidates (Biden, Dodd, Gravel, Kucinich, Edwards, Obama and Clinton) and I know there is at least one other who I can’t name but would recognize (Richardson). I can name as many Republican candidates (Paul, Brownback, Huckabee, Thompson, McCain, Giuliani and Romney) and I know there is at least one other that I can’t name but would recognize (Tancredo). I mean, how do you go anywhere on the Internet without meeting at least one rabid Ron Paul supporter? Do they not know McCain is running again? The guy from Law and Order is running? America’s mayor, Mr.-9/11-himself-and-will-remind-you-every-other-breath Giuliani is running? The mormon even?

There is no excuse for this. What it means is that there is about 40% of Americans are flat-out not paying attention to anything outside of maybe their own lives. These 40% of Americans don’t know what the President means by diplomacy. The President’s notion of diplomacy is the same as his idea of bi-partisanship. The common theme is the President says: give me what I want or else. Democrats typically give him what he wants. Iran, quite simply, will not. So they will get the else which in this case is an air-strike. He will paint himself into that corner, so it will either be attacking Iran or a loss in credibility. This President will choose to attack. The same way he did with Iraq. Arguing with the President about it is pointless. It will be just like trying to convince him to withdrawal from Iraq. He’ll ask: why are you against freedom? For Iran: you don’t want them to develop nuclear capabilities? You don’t want World War 3 do you? The irony is, this President will start World War 3 for the sake of preventing it. You will never hear this directly from the mainstream media. They’ll just report that the President said that any planned strike on Iran is a “baseless rumor.” It is not a baseless rumor, there is lots of evidence for it. But it requires people to have been paying attention for the past six years. And that my friends, is exactly what this poll proves is not happening.

The Democrats are feckless to stop this. Their approach to hold an investigation but it doesn’t matter what the investigation finds. The administration is never candid. And in some instances won’t even answer the subpoena to testify. What is the point! It doesn’t matter what these investigations find, because any evidence or obstruction or wrong-doing never results in a conviction from the Democrats to actually hold the administration accountable. They only have one constitutional recourse that means anything, and that is impeachment. Something that Democratic leadership says is “off the table.”

If conflict with Iran is to be avoided at this point, three things need to happen.

  1. Democrats need to stand up, just like Dodd did against telecom amnesty
  2. Congress needs to pass a law that says unequivocally that the President is not authorized to use force against Iran before getting approval from Congress
  3. This language needs to be tied to Iraq and Afghanistan war funding either as an amendment or passed before any additional war funding is approved, including the additional $46 billion the President just asked for

The power of the purse is the only leverage the narrowly controlled Democratic Congress has, they must not be afraid to use it. Democrats will take a lot of heat in the beltway for this. But, they need to take a stand. An attack on Iran could cause a broader conflict that would spiral out of control, such as Turkey invading the northern part of Iraq. However, in order for the Democrats to actually do what is right, it might require waking 40% of Americans who haven’t been paying attention up.

October 3, 2007

Robert Fisk

Filed under: politics — Tags: — codesmithy @ 10:03 am

Robert Fisk is a correspondent for the Independent, a newspaper in the UK. He has covered the Middle East for a number of years. He’s won numerous awards, although I imagine his critics would cite them as examples of self-loathing, anti-Americanism institutions such as Amnesty International. Fisk is a center of some controversy. In fact, some Internet jargon is termed after him.

Eric S. Raymond has this in his jargon file:

fisking: n. [blogosphere; very common] A point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or (especially) news story. A really stylish fisking is witty, logical, sarcastic and ruthlessly factual; flaming or handwaving is considered poor form. Named after Robert Fisk, a British journalist who was a frequent (and deserving) early target of such treatment.

Although, it should be noted that Eric S. Raymond is an adherent of anti-idiotarianism.

anti-idiotarianism: n. [very common] Opposition to idiots of all political stripes. First coined in the blog named Little Green Footballs as part of a post expressing disgust with inane responses to post-9/11 Islamic terrorism. Anti-idiotarian wrath has focused on Islamic terrorists and their sympathizers in the Western political left, but also routinely excoriated right-wing politicians backing repressive ’anti-terror‘ legislation and Christian religious figures who (in the blogosphere’s view of the matter) have descended nearly to the level of jihad themselves.

Here is a link to “An Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto” for those that need more information. Although, it seems to be revised since last I read it to be critical of the political right. Previously, it was mostly aimed at the left who were sympathizing with obviously implacable Islamo-fascists.

The great thing about “anti-idiotarian” is that people who disagree are quite naturally idiots. There is nothing quite like an ideology that has a central premise that all those that disagree are idiots. Usually, I reserve the right to change my mind when confronted with superior evidence. In fact, I think that is a mark of intelligence and wisdom, of not being an “idiot.” Therefore, I assert that being “anti-idiotarian” is, in fact, a paradox. The logical conclusions of this are left as an exercise for the reader.

Regardless, Robert Fisk does have a great deal of experience in the region. However, Ethan Bronner made the most unusual criticism of Robert Fisk’s book “The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.”

The West’s sins of ignorance and aggression in the Middle East are real. Fisk lays them out in depressing detail, quoting American military men on “Eye-rack” and “Ay-rabs” and making clear that the failings of the Iraqi occupation were utterly predictable. But his many legitimate points are sometimes warped by his perspective.

A perspective he has gained after living in Beirut for 30 years and covering the Middle East extensively.

Fisk’s perspective is presumably assailed because he doesn’t give both sides of a story equal weight. Or maybe it isn’t sympathetic enough to Israeli expansionism or American exceptionalism. However, any sense of morality and justice demands sympathy for the victims, not perpetrators, and fundamental equality among actors. Maybe what he doesn’t get, to bastardize a phrase from “Animal Farm,” is that all men are equal, but some men are more equal than others.

Here is Robert Fisk on “Democracy Now” with Amy Goodman.

and here are parts (2, 3 and 4).

Part 4, Fisk talks about Iran. In his opinion, they will retaliate if attacked. It will not be like bombing Iraq or Yugoslavia. Iran has the capability of providing a response indirectly through organizations they support. They are most likely to employ asymmetric warfare. As Karl Rove suggested, they may try to turn oil into a weapon. Force countries, like China, to use their vast stores of reserve currency against the U.S. to keep their economies going. An economic fight, I don’t think the United States is in a good position to win.

October 1, 2007

Seymour Hersh: Shifting Targets

Filed under: politics — Tags: — codesmithy @ 10:15 am

Seymour Hersh wrote a piece for the New Yorker called “Shifting Targets.” Rawstory has a summary along with video of Hersh on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.

Seymour Hersh talking about bombing Iran is nothing new. Here is a clip of him on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart which according to this took place in late 2004. To be fair, Hersh did imply that we’d attack Iran that summer. With that in mind, Hersh is not completely discredited because obviously Iran continues to be talked about, but the time-lines he presents tend to be accelerated.

Predicting anything is difficult, especially the future. The only hope one has is to try to capture the zeitgeist of the age and try to predict where the winds will carry us. I can’t know Bush will attack Iran. Only Bush knows, and even he may not know it yet. However, there is a lot of time between now and when he leaves office. But, he is clearly, publicly, mulling it over. Based on past evidence, it is clear that Bush sometimes makes up his mind before announcing so, and is frequently not open to other options on the table. Based on recent congressional performance, it is tough to believe that the current Congress would effectively oppose military action on Iran. In fact, they might even be supportive of military actions in Iran. For example, Joe Lieberman seems to be openly advocating the policy.

It is doubtful that any action Iran would take could do much to dissuade the Lieberman’s of this world not to attack. Iran will not stop its nuclear enrichment program. It will not stop giving material aid to Shia militias. It still has vast reserves of oil underneath its territory.

Iran’s nuclear enrichment program is a strategic end. It changes the terms of the political equation and how the U.S. must deal with the country significantly. The lesson from Iraq and North Korea is stark. Non-nuclear powers get the stick, nuclear powers get the carrot. Even though America doesn’t openly state the policy, I don’t think there is any doubt which side (carrot or stick) countries want to be on. Iran is acutely aware of American interference in their country even if most Americans are ignorant. The only real option for their government to protect itself from American interference for now and in the future is develop nuclear technology. It is very likely that they are taking a longer term view of the situation. Yes, halting enrichment might solve immediate stand-off for now, but might there are no guarantees when the next neo-conservative arrives in office, or even the current one. The only rational self-interested thing to do is build the infrastructure for developing nuclear weapons under peaceful guises (with the possibility of dirty bombs), and when threats do come, be able to rapidly weaponize that infrastructure. From an Iranian perspective, long-term security is not guaranteed until Iran can prove it has the means to build a nuclear weapon in a short time-frame.

Iran is unlikely to stop providing material aid to Shi’ite militias either. Those weapons will be used to kill U.S. soldiers. The International Crises Group provides an explanation in Hersh’s article.

A June, 2007, report by the International Crisis Group found, however, that Basra’s renewed instability was mainly the result of “the systematic abuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias.” The report added that leading Iraqi politicians and officials “routinely invoke the threat of outside interference”—from bordering Iran—“to justify their behavior or evade responsibility for their failures.”

In spite of blame, it is unlikely Iranians will stop supporting Shi’ite militias. The pacts that the U.S. has drawn up to Sunni tribal leaders leave Shi’ites in a bind. Hitchens is right when he argues that Shi’ites and Sunnis do not form cohesive blocks. So, in one sense, it is incorrect to view the country solely across those lines. But, it is a legitimate concern that radicalized Sunni elements will have power and weapons in a post-U.S. Iraq. It is unlikely Iran would leave the Shi’ite militias undefended. However, after those weapons are given away, it is impossible to control how they are actually used. As with any occupation, there are legitimate reasons for resentment and people with weapons at their disposal will use them against us. However, even if Iran were to stop aid today, it is unlikely to appease the hawks in America calling for war.

The final aspect is oil, and that geo-political reality is constant. Iran has oil, the U.S. needs oil. Economic realities tend be to strong undercurrents in conflicts. There is no doubt that Bush would see it in U.S. interest to have a situation that they are trying to establish in Iraq: privatized oil production run by U.S. corporations.

I don’t know if people actually believe that simply bombing Iran will topple the regime. Hersh quotes a European official in his article:

The European official continued, “A major air strike against Iran could well lead to a rallying around the flag there, but a very careful targeting of terrorist training camps might not.” His view, he said, was that “once the Iranians get a bloody nose they rethink things.” For example, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Ali Larijani, two of Iran’s most influential political figures, “might go to the Supreme Leader and say, ‘The hard-line policies have got us into this mess. We must change our approach for the sake of the regime.’ ”

The European official is wrong. He loses credibility in almost every utterance, if anyone likens military action to a “bloody nose” it is clear they a distorted view of war and military action. If one looks at the events of Pearl Harbor would he say that increased or decreased U.S. willingness to go to war, a war that was known to be incredibly bloody. What makes him think Iran would react any differently? There is little doubt in my mind that Iran will rally behind its government much like the United States would if we were attacked. Even if it happened again, under a very unpopular Bush administration. Nationalism is not something America has a monopoly on.

My one hope is that there seems to be some internal resistance to striking Iran. However, knowing the power structure, I don’t have faith that it will be sufficient to stop a strike.

The war fever definitely seems to be on the rise.

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