Tag Archives: Iran

August 9—which was worse: Nagasaki, Dresden, or Auschwitz? In Memory of the Victims of Nagasaki, August 9, and the Sharon Tate Murders, 1969, with thoughts about the Warren Commission and its members, including Gerald Rudolph Ford

On a certain level, I think it is a nearly inexcusable miscarriage of justice that so many “High Command” and “Middle Level Command” Nazis were hanged for their war crimes in and relating to World War II, while no one has ever been punished for the bombings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki or Dresden in 1945.  

Today, on August 9, 2013, the 68th anniversary of the “Fat Boy” Plutonium Bomb being used against Madame Butterfly’s hometown…. I think it is incumbent on all of us to reflect that maybe the U.S. was not so great and morally superior to Nazi Germany, and maybe the War, and the Myth of “the Good War” are just that, all mythological.   The aftermath of Roosevelt’s corporate-communist reforms in America has been the complete subversion of the constitution and the advent of Globalism.   (As I have often argued, the concept of “corporate-communism” is consistent with, and I submit actually arose from, the concept of “Industrial Armies” as articulated in the Communist Manifesto of 1848—what is a vast corporation BUT an Industrial Army?  This, again, is why I say that, at least from the standpoint of economics, there is NO SUCH THING as Fascism, only different propagandistic “spins” on communism).

Harry S. Truman, who ordered the Bombs Dropped, and Eisenhower, who led the allied troops to conquer and subjugate Germany, set Roosevelt’s corporate-commonist system into stone over the next 15 years.  The only President who might have attacked the International Banks and preserved the Constitution was gunned down in a hale of bullets fired when I was three and a half years old in the nearest thing I have to a hometown (though I wasn’t born there) of Dallas, Texas.    His successor (LBJ) was a classic corrupt politician who would do and did anything for power and position, whose first act in office was to abolish silver currency (because that’s the logical first step when your predecessor is assassinated, right?).  LBJ’s second was to form a Commission to cover up and forever confuse the truth about the crime of assassination itself.  The membership of which commission included future President Gerald R. Ford and future Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter.  

Also prominent on the Warren Commission was Allen Welsh Dulles, the former head of the CIA and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).  Aside from having a brother (John Foster) who was Eisenhower’s Secretary of State and a senior partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, Allen Dulles is perhaps best known for his involvement in the planning the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq in 1953, a decisive factor in shaping the world map along Orwellian “1984” lines 31 years ahead of schedule.  Dulles also subverted democracy in Guatemala and for all  his services they named a large airport near Washington in Virginia was later named after him (and his brother).  No person on the Warren Commission had more distinguished credentials in subverting democracy and falsifying history than Dulles, except perhaps Chief Justice Earl Warren, who had presided first over the erection and operation of Japanese Nisei Concentration Camps in California during the years 1942-1945 and then over the equally brutal, cynical and manipulative Civil Rights Revolution in the 1950s-1960s.

Yea, verily, I say unto you—no I will merely ask you: was the United States ever morally superior to Nazi Germany during World War II or after?   Was Allen Dulles REALLY not a war criminal?  Was Harry Truman and were all those involved in dropping the two bombs (August 6 and 9, 1945) not really and truly war criminals?  I think the argument can be made that “war is hell” and that Truman and Dulles were NOT War Criminals—but if they were not, than the descendants of all those Nazis Hanged by the Nuremberg and other tribunals are entitled to sue (with full waiver of statutes of limitation) for wrongful death and malicious prosecution.  

Whether the Nazis wanted to or not, they never incinerated between 70-75,000 human beings in a single second, but that is what happened in Nagasaki on this day, August 9, 1945.  And another 75,000 were burned, injured, but who cares about them, right?

Is it time to stop claiming that we were morally superior?   I am not exactly defending the Nazis here.  I highly value Democratic Process, I highly value Freedom of Speech, and especially the absolutely rigid and unwavering tolerance  of dissenting ideas.  (As oxymoronic as it sounds, anything less than rigid and unwavering tolerance of dissenting ideas is simply intolerable—and here I  include SO many degradations of and derogations and deviations from true, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech in the rapidly evolving American-New World Order framed by G.W. Bush and B.H. Obama.  I value a lot of things that the Nazis obviously repressed very severely.  No, I could never be or ever have been a brownshirt (nor a Maoist Redshirt), but that’s in part because I just dislike power and would never want to help anyone acquire a lot of it if that person was involved in book-burning and mass arrests leading to mass murder of dissidents.  There are merely all the same reasons I could never support Obama.

BUT I do think that the Nazis may have been, on the whole, more open and honest about their goals while the Western Governments have specialized more in deceit and deception.  I do think that the West may have decided to back the Communists of Russia rather than the Nazis because the Nazis saw some of the corruption of the International Banking System which both the West and the Soviets actually valued.  

Goebbels was even more honest about trying to use lies as a propaganda tool.  These days, they just call propaganda, “the CBS Morning and Evening News” in the USA—and my former Law Professor Cass Sunstein is the Propaganda Czar for Obama… he was the lone (admitted, open, “out of the closet”) liberal at the University of Chicago Law School when I attended there.  I do not see Sunstein as in any sense superior to Goebbels.  Goebbels gave better speeches than Sunstein gave lectures in class… that’s for sure.

In 1969, a deranged sicko by the name of Charles Manson desecrated the Nazi Swastika, took even that much maligned “twisted cross” in vain and tattooed it on his forehead, and hoped to start a race war in the USA—or so they say.  I wonder whether it was just a planned show to freak the American people out, like so much that happens on TV, I mean, on TV news…  It is another major miscarriage of justice to think that such great minds as Hermann Goering and Arthur Seyss-Inquart were executed at Nuremberg but Charles Manson and all the members of his “family” were allowed to live after what they did to Roman Polanski’s Dallas-Texas born wife Sharon Tate on August 9, 1969, and that Manson has managed to maintain his celebrity status throughout his years in California prisons.

No, evenness of justice “equality under the law” is definitely no great triumph of the American way either (remembering that it was Justice Robert Jackson who led the prosecutions at Nuremberg).

And by some astounding coincidence, one of the aforementioned members of the Warren Commission, Gerald Rudolph Ford, became President on this day in 1974, an event which I recall watching from the gigantic old black-and-white TV we used to have out in Lago Vista, upon the resignation and departure from Washington of Richard M. Nixon.

Argo, Iran, and the September 1-6 New Horizon International Independent Film Festival & Conference in Tehran

Three weeks ago, on September 29, 2012, I attended a lecture by Mark Weber at the Institute for Historical Review headquartered in Newport Beach, Orange County, California.  It was a major eye-opener for me, and I would encourage anyone and everyone interested in international politics to listen to what Mark Weber had to say:  http://www.ihr.org/audio/MWIran092912.mp3.  

As a matter of fact, as I told Mark Weber after his speech, I think this presentation should be required listening in every college, high school, and army and navy recruitment center in the USA…..especially the latter.

Weber’s address focused on the questions of whether Iran poses a threat of nuclear or convention aggression in the West Asian arena, whether Iran has or plans to acquire or develop nuclear weapons, and whether the Israeli Prime Minister’s recent “saber rattling” against Iran rests on any rational basis.  

Weber answered summarily and categorically “no” to each of these questions, and as background discussed his recent visit to Tehran to speak at the conference held in conjunction with the First Independent International Filmmakers Festival “New Horizon” sponsored by: http://indfilmfest.com/ujcke3, held from September 1-September 6 of this year.

Apparently very few Americans were in attendance, owing doubtless to Iran’s reputation in this country as part of what our penultimate President W. Bush called “Axis of Evil” along with current member North Korea and (former?) member Libya.

Weber’s portrayal of Iran was certainly not of an evil nation or of a people anxious for war or “jihad” against the West, but Iran has had the dubious distinction of straddling all world conflicts as the largest truly “non-aligned” nation in Asia, throughout the 20th and now 21st centuries.  Iran stayed out of World Wars I and was only drawn into World War II, “kicking and screaming” by a joint British-Soviet invasion to secure the oilfields of the country, and Iran declared war on Germany in 1943 and thus became eligible for membership in the newly envisioned but then only just barely nascent United Nations.

What happened after World War II in Iran was one of the least known but most decisive events in shaping the Cold-War and Post-Cold War environments in Europe.

To wit, in 1951, a Democratic-Social reformer  Prime Minister of Iran Mohammed Mosaddeq (also “Massaddegh”), appointed by the Shah, persuaded the Iranian parliament to nationalize the British-owned oil industry, in what became known in the international press as the Abadan Crisis.

The Shah owed his crown to British power and his wealth to British Oil, but he did little or nothing to stop or restrain Mossaddegh. Despite British pressure, including an economic blockade, the nationalization and seizure of all British Oil Interests continued. Mossadegh (the 60th Prime Minister of Iran) left office briefly 1952 but was quickly re-appointed by the shah as the 62nd prime minister, due to a popular uprising in Mossadegh’s support. The Shah himself went briefly into exile in August 1953 after a failed military coup by Imperial Guard Colonel Nematollah Nassiri.  

Then  on August 19, 1953, a successful coup was organized by the American (CIA) with the active support of the British (MI6) (known as Operation Ajax).   The nominal leader of this coup was headed by a retired army general Fazlollah Zahedi.   The coup included a propaganda campaign of disinformation and outright lies designed to turn the population against Mossaddegh, finally forced Mossaddegh from office.

These events of sixty years ago have lingered bitterly in the memory of Iranians of all classes until the present time. Mossadegh was arrested and tried for treason. Found guilty, his sentence reduced to house arrest on his family estate while his foreign minister, Hossein Fatemi, was executed. Zahedi succeeded him as prime minister.  The new British and American supported regime suppressed all opposition to the Shah, specifically the National Front and Communist Tudeh Party.

Last year on this blog I described Josh Tickell’s movie “The Big Fix” as the best documentary ever produced in the United States.  It covered the history of Mossadegh’s deposition by the British oil interests as one of the key starting points for understanding British Petroleum’s complete indifference to democracy and human life seen throughout the 2010 “Deep Horizon” Oil spill and its aftermath off the coast of Louisiana.  

Earlier this year, other pundits proclaimed Dinesh D’Souza’s “Obama 2016″ as the greatest documentary of all time, but D’Souza would clearly NOT have felt at home at the International Filmmaker’s conference in Tehran because of his vociferous support of Israel, and his criticism of Obama for taking a “soft” stance against Iran and the “threat” it poses.

All this brings up a very interesting point, ONLY radicals (of both the right and left) ever have anything good to say about Iran and/or anything bad to say about Israel.  Dinesh D’Souza singled out Dr. Edward Said (Ph.D. 1964, Harvard GSAS) as one of Obama’s personal “Founding Fathers.” Ironically enough Said was a nearly exact contemporary and sometime classmate (in English Literature) together with my late father.  According to Dinesh D’Souza, Said influenced Obama against Israel and shaped his thinking about the Post-Colonial World.  

Again, readers of this Blog know that I despise Barack Hussein Obama with the bloodiest of purple passions, but I cannot say a single bad thing about Edward Said, no do I think that Said was a socialist or anti-American in any of the ways Obama quite clearly is. Indeed, it is somewhat ironic to me that Dinesh D’Souza would attack Said, since they are both Christians born in populations which are overwhelmingly “something else”).

Quite aside from the fact that my father had known him in graduate school, and always spoke highly of him, I attended at least two dozen lectures by Said over the course of about 30 years from New Orleans 70118 to Cambridge 02138 and from New Haven 06511 to Chicago 60637.  I was never once less than overwhelmed by his erudition and articulate presentation of the relationship between the Arab-Islamic and Anglo-Christian worlds.  Said was born Jerusalem to Palestinian Christian parents (his mother hailed from Jesus’ town of Nazareth), and Said advocated justice for the non-Jewish Palestinian Arabs, both Christian and Muslim.  

Whether D’Souza has justly grouped Said with Obama or not, the perception of most “mainstream” conservatives (and centrist liberals) in the United States is that only radicals of the left or right could possibly say anything bad about Israel or anything good about Iran.  Despite admiring Edward Said almost as much as D’Souza claims Obama does, I am generally of a radical right-wing persuasion, if any at all.

Among the radical rightists who have supported Iran are David Duke of Louisiana, whose commentaries on the (in many ways inspiring, and technically irreproachable) movie The 300 (about the Spartan resistance at Thermopylae—a name which means “Hot Springs” in Greek) show how certain pro-Israeli propagandists were preparing to turn the American population against Iran by massive disinformation equivalent to the old American & British Campaigns against Mossaddegh.  See especially: http://www.davidduke.com/?p=2381 “The Movie 300: Neocon Racial Propaganda for War.”

Now I cannot sympathize in the least with David Duke’s obsessive antisemitism, but (again ironically), Duke in all his commentaries on Iran directly echoes Edward Said in his judgment that American perceptions of Iran rest on media disinformation and politically motivated mischaracterizations intended to dehumanize the people of Iran.  

I am probably the only person on planet earth to see a major analytical parallel between David Duke’s racial politics and Edward Said’s post-Colonial, post-modern deconstruction of American popular culture perceptions of Iran. But my analysis fits in with the routine conundrum it is to say that ONLY the radical left-and-right wingers oppose Israel.  

The late William F. Buckley once (back in the 1970s I think, during or shortly after the Henry Kissinger era) satirically commented that so central was Israel to American National Defense Policy that it would make sense to admit Israel as the 51st state of the Union.  Buckley noted in support of this proposal that the 4500 air miles from Washington D.C. to Honolulu are only approximately 1000 miles less than the distance from Washington to Tel Aviv…. and that Guam remains a recognized U.S. Territory at 9,000 miles from Washington….

Mark Weber highlighted, as has Representative Ron Paul, that Israel remains to this day the center of U.S. Foreign Policy—more critical in so many ways than the U.K., Germany, or Japan—

Men of my father’s and grandfather’s generation read the poetry of the East as part of a “Gentleman’s education” (only partly as Colonialists in Said’s interpretation, but also as men seeking deeper understanding of the wisdom of the world, especially in conjunction with the mysticism of their beloved Scottish Rite Freemasonry.

As Mark Weber emphasized, most modern American perceptions divorce the people of Iran from their deep historical traditions of literate civilization, which has produced some of the most distinctive poetry and philosophy of both the pre-Islamic (e.g. Zoroastrian Zend-Avesta) and Islamic (e.g. Ferdowsi’s “Book of Kings” or Shahnama followed by the Sufi [“Sophy”] poets Rumi [The Masnavi and Divan-e Shams], Sadi, Hafiz Shirazi, and Al-Ghazali [e.g. “Alchemy of Happiness”] not to mention Scheherazade’s Thousand and one Nights which I, like countless generations of schoolboys before me, grew up reading in awe and fascination of the “mysterious orient”).

The concept of “mysterious east, land of snake charmers and flying carpets” got at least passing message in Ben Affleck’s new movie Argo which I finally got to see last night (October 19)—delayed by my going on two weeks in Fresno—but Peyton and I finally discovered that they DO have cinemas here…. and we desperately needed a break from the Medical Marijuana/Federal vs. State power constitutional controversies we’ve been working on.  

Argo is an excellent movie, whether you remember just how ashamed you were to be traveling abroad during America’s most disgraceful 444 days in history from November 4 1979-January 20 1981, or whether you’re of the modern (born, like my own son Charlie, in 1992 or after) generation for whom even the name of President Jimmy Carter conjures up nothing more than a little bit of a vague and fuzzy memory that he might or might not have been the first peanut farming Navy Officer from Georgia ever to become President…. and the first (and last) U.S. President to be born in the DEEP South (which does not include Texas) since before the War Between the States of 1861-65.

I remember the Iranian Revolution distinctly and I remember thinking it was a very bad thing.  The Shah had favored the modernization and Westernization of Iran—women could wear dresses without veils and things like that.  

The outrages of the Oil-Based Political Economy became intolerable in 1973—but not only did the American people accept that status quo without revolution, they did not seek to punish the oil companies for their price-gouging and irrational profiteering and the wild fluctuations in the price of oil (with a steady and inexorable upward trend) that has become a permanent feature of our lives…..

In any event, Argo did not “trash” the Islamic Revolutionary Iranians but it portrayed them very much as I remember them from the “mainstream media” in 1979-1981.  They were definitely America’s enemies.  At Chichén Itzá on my archaeological project, one of my student assistants Rafael “Rach” Cobos Palma used to go around with a towel on his head (before “towel-head” was considered a politically incorrect racist epithet) chanting “Death to America” and periodically trying to rattle me by reporting fictitious news items that the price of oil had doubled or tripled and the dollar had accordingly collapsed…. He thought this was the funniest thing on earth since back in those days I was working in Mexico on that extremely advantageous dollar-to-peso exchange rate that prevailed throughout the 1980s.  

Argo was basically historically truthful in all details, so far as I can tell anyhow.  The cast and script were both beyond reproach, from Affleck’s heroic role as Anthony Mendez to John Goodman’s predictably brilliant and humorous performance as John Chambers [Clea Helen D’etienne DuVall has certainly had a fascinating career since she played Marcie Ross the invisible girl in the First Season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer—Episode 11 “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”.]

In any event—Argo reminded me of the first time I bitterly reflected on Iran as a true humiliation to the United States.  We (our UK and US governments and the American and British oil cartels whcih control our governments) created the Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi as an absolute monarch.  He had started out, during his early post-war years as a young King, apparently in favor of Mossaddegh and Constitutional Democracy) and supported him blindly, ignoring the unhappiness of the vast majority of the people of Iran.  

Reza Pahlevi ended his life and career envisioned by many of his people as a blood-sucking vampire.  But the US supported the Shah and, as Argo clearly showed, our intelligence did not anticipate, perceive, or recognize any threat to his rule as late as a month before he fell in 1978.  Our country was then humiliated by the Revolutionary Guard of the nascent Islamic Republic over and over again, not least when Ross Perot sent in a private paramilitary team which literally crashed and burned….

When I first heard that Ronald Reagan might have authorized or encouraged Oliver North to purchase Iranian weapons for the Contras of Iran, my first reaction was that Reagan was aiding and abetting the enemies of the United States and should be impeached for treason—and how could Reagan have done it when he knew all about the hostage crisis and how the Iranians had made us look like mental and moral midgets….McDonald’s munching morons whose only values were comfort and pleasure obtainable with the least possible effort….in thought or work.

Mark Weber’s perspective on Ahmadinejad marks the most major, thoughtful counterposition to the mainstream media views, which were (to the extent they were reasonable) formed and shaped by the Iranian Islamic Revolution and the Hostage Crisis, in which the Iranian actors played the parts of the most-grotesquely brutal haters of America.  As bad as the American role in the Shah’s rise and evolution as a tyrant may have been, there was not a single member of the embassy staff who could possibly have been held responsible.  The Iranians, as shown in Argo were just formulaically bullying their prize captive Americans as spies….and threatening them all with kangaroo trials and public executions…..

So Iran has suffered from its status as a Non-Aligned nation with significant oil wealth—it was reduced to a quasi-Colonial status right at the end of the Colonial Period, in the early 1950s—and was the first example of a nation colonized primarily for Oil—Oil at any cost, oil above all other human values.   

Mark Weber of the Institute of Historical Review gave a wonderful presentation—he is mostly conceived as a right-winger, although a much more academically respectable right-winger than “Dr.” David Duke with his degree from a rather obscure “Management” school (MAUP) in the Ukraine… 

Equally respectable and more directly politically active than Duke, currently, with less seemingly preposterous baggage, was another American in attendance at the New Horizon Independent Film-Fest in Tehran, Merlin Miller.  Merlin Miller is the Presidential candidate of the newly formed American Third Position “AP3” Party, which just came into existence in or about January 2010, formed and chaired by William D. Johnson, a Nippono-philic Los Angeles lawyer  currently running for Congress in Michigan’s “open” 11th Congressional District.  Merlin Miller has apparently only achieved ballot access in 3 states for the November election and California is not one of them.

What does it say about the United States that the only Americans of any note willing to attend a film festival in Iran are two solid right-wingers (Weber & Miller) and apparently several black film-makers and artists from the extreme left of Detroit and Miami?  Apparently, “core” Hollywood and Beverly Hills media figures were all but totally absent and unrepresented. 

And at this conference in Tehran, I get the impression that very little was said about the American popular conception of Iran—even a relatively positive perspective as formed in Josh Tickell’s 2011 The Big Fix, the mostly neutral but historically accurate portrayal in 2012’s Argo or the negative (but not particularly highlighted) view of Iran suggested in D’Souza’s Obama 2016.

Cultural exchange combined with political dialogue would, in my opinion, produce positive results between Iran and the US—and the American People MUST somehow become educated.  Mark Weber reports and I have independently confirmed that certain polls have shown that 71% of the U.S. population believe that Iran now possesses Nuclear Weapons.  

After the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” lies that roped us into Iraq—into COLONIZING Iraq—the American public DESERVE to hear Mark Weber and Merlin Miller speaking out about their recent first hand experience with the Iranian people and in particular with President Ahmadinejad. 

Maybe next year, if the dollar goes into tripled-digit hyperinflation (e.g. like Zimbabwe today, Argentina in the 1980s, Germany in the 1920s, they’ll make Obama the first man in history to receive two Nobel Prizes in consecutive years by giving him the Nobel Prize in Economics….

It does seem strangely bizarre that Obama’s own supporters on the Democratic left (such as Salon.com’s editor in chief Joan Walsh) are struggling to defend Obama’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize while apologizing “even as we acknowledge disappointment with Obama on State Secrets, Torture, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (you know, minor issues relating to world peace like those which constitute, well….just about everything he’s touched in the past nine months, see http://www.salon.com/opinion/walsh// for October 10, 2009), the rest of the Country is reeling from the sensation that this is all just a really bad joke, including my favorite commentator on civil rights and civil liberties, the author of How would a Patriot Act?.  The key quote from the article below is, in my opinion:

[Obama has] worked tirelessly to protect his country not only from accountability — but also transparency — for the last eight years of war crimes, almost certainly violating America’s treaty obligations in the process.  And he is currently presiding over an expansion of the legal black hole at Bagram while aggressively demanding the right to abduct people from around the world, ship them there, and then imprison them indefinitely with no rights of any kind.

All put together it makes me want to cry for my beloved but hopelessly insecure homeland, the United States of America, home of the zombie-like sleepwalkers and cowards who are letting this all happen (i.e., what seems like at least 75% of the population and maybe more)!  But seriously, what Obama is doing on the foreign front to protect the Bush legacy is nowhere nearly as sinister and corrupt as what he’s doing at home—pushing his domestic socialist agenda in cooperation with the corporate-financial giants, i.e. the international Banks, such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase just to name the top-three leading culprits, whose disregard for the fundamental elements of common law contract and property law is rapidly turning this country into a nation of homeless vagabonds….one foreclosure at a time, 70 foreclosures per morning and afternoon per session per county court, all across the United States, from sea to shining sea!

Glenn Greenwald

FRIDAY OCT. 9, 2009 07:10 EDT

(updated below – Update II)

When I saw this morning’s top New York Times headline — “Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize” — I had the same immediate reaction which I’m certain many others had:  this was some kind of bizarre Onion gag that got accidentally transposed onto the wrong website, that it was just some sort of strange joke someone was playing.  Upon further reflection, that isn’t all that far from the reaction I still have.  And I say that despite my belief that — as critical as I’ve been of the Obama presidency regarding civil liberties and Terrorism — foreign affairs is actually one area where he’s shown genuine potential for some constructive “change” and has, on occasion, merited real praise for taking steps in the general “peace” direction which this Prize is meant to honor.

Obama has changed the tone America uses to speak to the world generally and the Muslim world specifically.  His speech in Cairo, his first-week interview on al-Arabiya, and the extraordinarily conciliatory holiday video he sent to Iran are all substantial illustrations of that.  His willingness to sit down and negotiate with Iran — rather than threaten and berate them — has already produced tangible results.  He has at least preliminarily broken from Bush’s full-scale subservience to Israel and has applied steadfast pressure on the Israelis to cease settlement activities, even though it’s subjected him to the sorts of domestic political risks and vicious smears that have made prior Presidents afraid to do so.  His decision to use his first full day in office to issue Executive Orders to close Guantanamo, ostensibly ban torture, and bar CIA black sites was an important symbol offered to the world (even though it’s been followed by actions that make those commitments little more than empty symbols).  He refused to reflexively support the right-wing, civil-liberty-crushing coup leaders in Honduras merely because they were “pro-American” and “anti-Chavez,” thus siding with the vast bulk of Latin America’s governments — a move George Bush, or John McCain, never would have made.  And as a result of all of that, the U.S. — in a worldwide survey released just this week — rose from seventh to first on the list of “most admired countries.”

All that said, these changes are completely preliminary, which is to be expected given that he’s only been in office nine months.  For that reason, while Obama’s popularity has surged in Western Europe, the changes in the Muslim world in terms of how the U.S. is perceived have been small to nonexistent.  As Der Spiegel put it in the wake of a worldwide survey in July:  “while Europe’s ardor for Obama appears fervent, he has actually made little progress in the regions where the US faces its biggest foreign policy problems.”  People who live in regions that have long been devastated by American weaponry don’t have the luxury of being dazzled by pretty words and speeches.  They apparently — and rationally — won’t believe that America will actually change from a war-making nation into a peace-making one until there are tangible signs that this is happening.  It’s because that has so plainly not yet occurred that the Nobel Committee has made a mockery out of their own award.

But far more important than the lack of actual accomplishments are some of the policies over which Obama has presided that are the very opposite of peace.  Already this year, he not only escalated the American war in Afghanistan, but has ordered air raids that have produced things like this:

That was from a May airstrike in which over 100 Afghan civilians were killed by American jets — one of many similar incidents this year, including one only a week ago that killed 9 Afghan civilians.  How can someone responsible for that, and who has only escalated that war, possibly be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the very same year that he did that?  Does that picture above look like the work of a Nobel Peace laureate?  Does this, from the May airstrike?

Beyond Afghanistan, Obama continues to preside over another war — in Iraq:  remember that? — where no meaningful withdrawal has occurred.  He uttered not a peep of opposition to the Israeli massacre of Gazan civilians at the beginning of this year (using American weapons), one which a U.N. investigator just found constituted war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.  The changed tone to Iran notwithstanding, his administration frequently emphasizes that it is preserving the option to bomb that country, too — which could be a third war against a Muslim country fought simultaneously under his watch.  He’s worked tirelessly to protect his country not only from accountability — but also transparency — for the last eight years of war crimes, almost certainly violating America’s treaty obligations in the process.  And he is currently presiding over an expansion of the legal black hole at Bagram while aggressively demanding the right to abduct people from around the world, ship them there, and then imprison them indefinitely with no rights of any kind.

It’s certainly true that Obama inherited, not started, these conflicts.  And it’s possible that he could bring about their end, along with an overall change in how America interacts with the world in terms of actions, not just words.  If he does that, he would deserve immense credit — perhaps even a Nobel Peace Prize.  But he hasn’t done any of that.  And it’s at least as possible that he’ll do the opposite:  that he’ll continue to escalate the 8-year occupation of Afghanistan, preside over more conflict in Iraq, end up in a dangerous confrontation with Iran, and continue to preserve many of the core Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies that created such a stain on America’s image and character around the world.

Through no fault of his own, Obama presides over a massive war-making state that spends on its military close to what the rest of the world spends combined.  The U.S. accounts for almost 70% of worldwide arms sales.  We’re currently occupying and waging wars in two separate Muslim countries and making clear we reserve the “right” to attack a third.  Someone who made meaningful changes to those realities would truly be a man of peace.  It’s unreasonable to expect that Obama would magically transform all of this in nine months, and he certainly hasn’t.  Instead, he presides over it and is continuing much of it.  One can reasonably debate how much blame he merits for all of that, but there are simply no meaningful “peace” accomplishment in his record — at least not yet — and there’s plenty of the opposite.  That’s what makes this Prize so painfully and self-evidently ludicrous.

UPDATE:  Remember how, during the Bush years, the GOP would disgustingly try to equate liberals with Terrorists by pointing out that they happened to have the same view on a particular matter (The Left opposes the war in Iraq, just like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah do! or bin Laden’s criticisms of Bush sound just like Michael Moore’s! ).  It looks like the Democratic Party haslearned and adopted that tactic perfectly (“‘The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists – the Taliban and Hamas this morning – in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize,’ DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse told POLITICO”; Republicans are “put[ting] politics above patriotism,” he added).

Apparently, according to the DNC, if you criticize this Prize, then you’re an unpatriotic America-hater — just like the Terrorists, because they’re also criticizing the award.  Karl Rove should be proud.  Maybe the DNC should also send out Joe Lieberman’s 2005 warning that “in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.”  Hamas also thinks that Israeli settlements should be frozen — a position Obama shares.  So, by the DNC’s Rovian reasoning, doesn’t this mean that Obama “has thrown in his lot with the terrorists”?

UPDATE II:  On Democracy Now, Naomi Klein calls Obama’s award “disappointing, cheapening of the Nobel Prize,” and adds:  “I think it’s quite insulting. I don’t know what kind of political game they’re playing, but I don’t think that the committee has ever been as political as this or as delusional as this, frankly.”  On Daily Kos, Michael Moore writes ironically:  “Congratulations President Obama on the Nobel Peace Prize — Now Please Earn it!”  Mairead Maguire, the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, says she’s “very disappointed” with this award, noting:  “President Obama has yet to prove that he will move seriously on the Middle East, that he will end the war in Afghanistan and many other issues.”   And my Salon colleague, Alex Koppelman, adds several thoughts about the efforts by the DNC and some Democratic groups to explicitly equate opposition to the Prize with “casting one’s lot with terrorists.”

Attack Iran Again? How many times has the U.S. already attacked Iran?

 

The Shoot-Down of Iran Air Flight 655

by Sasan Fayazmanesh
by Sasan Fayazmanesh

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DIGG THIS

In a daily press briefing on July 2, 2008, the following set of questions and answers took place between an unidentified reporter and Department of State Spokesman Sean McCormack:

QUESTION: Tomorrow marks the 20 years since the U.S. Navy warship Vincennes gunned down the IR655 civilian airliner, killing all 300 people on board, 71 of whom were children. And while the United States Government settled the incident in the International Court of Justice in 1996 at $61.1 million in compensation to the families, they, till this day, refuse to apologize –

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: – as requested by the Iranian Government. And actually, officials in the Iranian Government said today that they’re planning on a commemoration tomorrow and it would, you know, show a sign of diplomatic reconciliation if the United States apologized for this incident.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you think it sends a positive message if, on the 20th anniversary of this incident, the United States Government apologized for (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, to be honest with you, I’ll have to look back and see the history of what we have said about this – about the issue. I honestly don’t know. Look, nobody wants to see – everybody mourns innocent life lost. But in terms of our official U.S. Government response to it, I can’t – I have to confess to you, I don’t know the history of it. I’d be happy to post you an answer over to your question.

QUESTION: Well, do you think it show – do you think it would show a positive message as – in the midst of all this war talk –

MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, you know, you’ve asked the question. I’ve been trying to be – I’ve tried to be very up front with you. I don’t know the history. There’s obviously a long history to this issue. Let me understand the history to that issue before I provide you a response.
Yeah.

Mm-hmm. Could this be true? Could the spokesman for the State Department not know anything about the role that the US played in the Iran-Iraq war in general and Iranian Air Flight 655 in particular? Is it possible that the entire US Department of State is ignorant of that history? Is it conceivable that the current US policy towards Iran is being made by a host of ignoramuses? This is, indeed, a frightening prospect. At a time when the world is continuously rattled by the prospect of a US-Israeli attack on Iran and the resulting uncertainty in the oil market, escalating energy prices, possibility of a worldwide economic stagnation and spiraling inflation, it is terrifying to think that those who are beating the war drums are suffering from historical amnesia. The frightening prospect is not helped at all by the correction that appeared on the website of the US Department of State shortly after the above set of questions and answers took place. The correction read:

Iran Air Flight 655 (Taken Question)

Question: Does the State Department have anything to say on the 20th anniversary of the accidental downing of an Iran Air flight?

Answer: The accidental shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 was a terrible human tragedy, and U.S. officials at the time expressed our deep regret over the tragic loss of life. We would certainly renew our expression of sympathy and condolences to the families of the deceased who perished in the tragedy.

The “terrible human tragedy” was not exactly “accidental,” at least not from the perspective of many Iranians. Nor did the United States “at the time” express its “deep regret over the tragic loss of life.” Since even after some research the US policy makers could not get their facts straight, it might be helpful to refresh their memories about Iran Air Flight 655.

The shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by the cruiser U.S.S. Vincennes marked the end of an eight-year-war between Iran and Iraq, a war that in all probability started with the help of the US government and was certainly prolonged by the US and Israel as part of the policy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq. As I have explained elsewhere, in the eight-year war the Reagan Administration tried to prevent Iran from winning the war against Saddam Hussein by providing him with intelligence, extension of credit and, indirectly, weapons (for a full discussion see The United States and Iran: Sanctions, Wars and the Policy of Dual Containment). The US also established full diplomatic relations with Hussein’s government, lifted trade sanctions against Iraq, and imposed economic sanctions against Iran. In addition, the US closed its eyes to the use of chemical weapons by Iraq in the war, and, indeed, supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical compounds that had multiple uses, including making poison gas.

In 1984 the US policy of helping Saddam Hussein in the war took on a new dimension. The United States started to escort the tankers carrying Iraq’s and its allies’ oil, particularly those of Kuwait, safely through the Persian Gulf but allowed Iraq to hit at will tankers carrying Iranian oil. Soon afterwards, the US also offered to re-flag Iraqi allies’ tankers. This situation continued until early 1986, when Iranian forces started to score military victories by capturing the Iraqi Faw peninsula. Iraq increased the intensity of its tanker war on Iran and Iran retaliated. Kuwait asked the UN Security Council in late 1986 for protection of its tankers in the Gulf. Shortly afterwards, the US started to re-flag Kuwaiti tankers with the American flag. This was the beginning of the US directly entering an undeclared war against Iran at the behest of Saddam Hussein.

In the undeclared war that followed the US started to attack Iranian ships. For example, The Washington Post reported on September 23, 1987, that two days earlier American helicopters had attacked an Iranian vessel on the pretext that it was laying mines. As a result of the attack, the report went on to say, a number of Iranian sailors were killed, injured, or missing. A day after the attack, according to the same report, US Navy commandos boarded and captured the Iranian ship, and then fired warning shots at an Iranian hovercraft that came toward the disabled vessel. A few days later, the US Navy blew up and sank the ship (Sunday Mail, September 27, 1987). The US actions were viewed not only by Iran but also by the US Congress as something akin to declaration of war against Iran by the Reagan Administration. On September 25, 1987, the COURIER-MAIL reported that the “Iranian President, Mr Khamenei, said yesterday he feared United States actions in the Persian Gulf would lead to an American invasion of his country.” The report further quoted Khamenei as saying that the “presence of the US in the Gulf is a sign of war. . . . All these battleships and the great armada there are not for defence, they are for invasion.” On September 23, 1987, The Washington Post reported that the US Congress had asked “for constraints on U.S. tanker-escort operations” and that some were considering invoking the “1973 War Powers Resolution,” which requires congressional approval for sustained US combat operations.

Engaging Iran at the behest of Saddam Hussein continued throughout the rest of 1987 and 1988. For example, on October 9, 1987, the Guardian reported the sinking of three Iranian gunboats by the US on the pretext that they had “hostile intent,” and on April 19, 1988, The Washington Post reported the sinking or crippling of six more Iranian ships by the US. Also in this period the US started to attack Iranian oil platforms. For example, according to the COURIER-MAIL of October 21, 1987, the US attacked two Iranian oil platforms two days earlier “in response to that country’s missile attacks on tankers flying the US flag.” According to the same source, “Mr Reagan was asked if the attack meant the two nations were at war,” and he responded by saying “No, we’re not going to have a war with Iran, they’re not that stupid.” Similarly, the Journal of Commerce reported on April 19, 1988 that a day earlier the US Navy destroyed two offshore Iranian oil platforms. In this same period (1987–8) the US also started to engage the Iranian air force. For example, according to the Financial Times of September 23, 1987, on August 8 of the same year “a carrier-borne F-14 Tomcat fighter unleashed two missiles at an Iranian jet spotted on its radar which had flown too close for comfort to an unarmed US surveillance aircraft.” Similarly, the Journal of Commerce reported on April 19, 1988, that a “U.S. warship fired missiles at two approaching Iranian jet fighters, but the fighters reversed course.”

By early 1988 it was clear that Iran could not win a war against the combined forces of Saddam Hussein and the US. Even the gains by Iranian forces in the eight-year war were now being lost. The coordinated and jointly planned actions between the US and Iraq in April of 1988, for example, resulted in Saddam Hussein’s government retaking the Faw peninsula. On April 19, 1988, The Washington Post reported the US attack on Iranian ships and oil platform. It also reported that, according to Iran, the retaking of Faw by the Iraqi forces was supported by US helicopters.

The time had come for Iran to take the bullet and accept a humiliating ceasefire offered by the US-dominated United Nations, the same institution that after eight years of war, and despite all evidence to the contrary, could not still determine which party was guilty of starting it.

The last major event that brought about the final capitulation of Iran occurred on July 3, 1988. On that day the American warship Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 passengers on board. True to its pattern of denying any role in the Iran-Iraq war, at first the United States government tried to deny culpability in the downing of the civilian airliner. On July 3 AP reported that the “Pentagon said U.S. Navy forces in the gulf sank two Iranian patrol boats and downed an F-14 fighter jet in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday during an exchange of fire.” The report also said that, according to Iran, the US shot down not an F-14 but a civilian airliner killing all passengers on board. “U.S. Navy officials in the gulf,” the report went on say, “denied the Iranian claim.”

Many similar reports were made by foreign journalists, particularly the Japan Economic Newswire, which also reported on July 3, 1988 that the “U.S. Defense Department issued a statement on the crash of an Iran air airbus Sunday and denied U.S. involvement in the incident as claimed by Iran.” However, once the charred bodies of passengers of the Iran Air Flight 655 were shown floating in the ocean, the US admitted that the plane brought down was not an F-14 but a civilian airliner. In what The New York Times of July 4, 1988, titled the “Quotation of the Day,” Admiral William J. Crowe Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated: “After receiving further data and evaluating information available from the Persian Gulf, we believe that the cruiser U.S.S. Vincennes, while actively engaged with threatening Iranian surface units and protecting itself from what was concluded to be a hostile aircraft, shot down an Iranian airliner over the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. Government deeply regrets this incident.”

Subsequently, the US claimed that the “Iranian airliner, in some ways, was not acting like a passenger plane . . . It was heading directly for the ship, appeared to be descending (as though it might be 40 The United States and Iran attacking) and was about four miles outside the usual commercial air corridor” (The Washington Post, July 4, 1988). The Pentagon further asserted that USS Vincennes was in international waters, i.e. outside the territorial waters of Iran, and that the passenger plane was emitting a military electronic code.

Slowly but surely, all the above claims were proved to be false. Vincennes was not in international waters, but in Iran’s territorial waters. The Iranian Airbus was not heading for the ship or even descending but ascending. The plane was not four miles outside of the usual commercial air corridor, but well within it. Moreover, Flight 655 was not emitting any military signals but regular transponder signals, which identified it as a commercial aircraft.

All these contradictions resurfaced four years later, when on July 1, 1992, the ABC News program Nightline broadcast a piece, investigated jointly with Newsweek magazine, entitled “The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War.” Newsweek magazine itself published on July 13, 1992, a separate article by John Barry and Roger Charles which appeared under the title “Sea of Lies.” Both pieces showed the contradictions in the US claims, four years earlier, concerning the downing of the Iranian civilian plane.

Indeed, with regard to the answers provided by the US government to the questions “Where, precisely, was the Vincennes at the time of the shoot-down?” and “What was she doing there?” ABC’s Nightline stated that the “official response to those two questions has been a tissue of lies, fabrications, half-truths and omissions.” For example, on the issue of the exact position of USS Vincennes when it shot the Iranian airliner, the following exchange between Ted Koppel of Nightline and Admiral William J. Crowe Jr. took place:

TED KOPPEL: But if I were to ask you today, was the Vincennes in international waters at the time that she shot down the Airbus –

WILLIAM J. CROWE JR.: Yes, she was.

TED KOPPEL: In international waters?

WILLIAM J. CROWE JR.: No, no, no. She was in Iran’s territorial waters.

TED KOPPEL: Let me ask you again. Where was the Vincennes at the time that she
shot down the Airbus?

WILLIAM J. CROWE JR.: She was in Iran’s territorial waters.

After showing more such contradictions in the official US account of the incident, the program concentrated on the second question: “What was USS Vincennes doing in Iran’s territorial waters?” The answer given by Nightline was that Vincennes, as well as other US naval forces in the Persian Gulf, was there as part of an “undeclared,” “covert,” or “secret war” against Iran. In this war USS Vincennes had entered Iran’s territorial waters provoking the Iranian navy to engage in a fight when it shot down Iran Air Flight 655.

“Sea of Lies” told the same story but in greater detail. It recounted how the “trigger happy” captain of USS Vincennes, Will Rogers III, had invaded the territorial waters of Iran looking for a fight under the pretext of rescuing a Liberian tanker, the Stoval, which in reality did not exist. Then, after creating a tense situation, the inevitable happened: it shot down a civilian airliner. What followed was a campaign of lies and fabrications at the highest levels of US government to “cover up” what had actually happened and the place of this incident within the broader US war against Iran. “The top Pentagon brass,” write John Barry and Roger Charles, “understood from the beginning that if the whole truth about the Vincennes came out, it would mean months of humiliating headlines. So the U.S. Navy did what all navies do after terrible blunders at sea: it told lies and handed out medals.”

If one knows the history of the US’s role in the Iran-Iraq war, then the USS Vincennes affair does not come as a big surprise. In the absence of such knowledge, however, the Nightline and the subsequent Newsweek magazine reports appeared to be revelations. Many newspapers wrote about what had been reported. The Washington Post of July 1, 1992, for example, called “Public War, Secret War” a “provocative report” with an “entirely different take on the story.” It further said that ABC News and Newsweek reporter John Barry and Nightline anchor Ted Koppel made “the persuasive – though not conclusive – case that the United States not only provoked the incident but also lied to cover it up.” But, The Washington Post went on to say, once the report claimed that the US was engaged in a “‘secret war’ against Iran on behalf of its erstwhile ally in the region, Iraq,” then it moved onto “shakier ground.” Obviously The Washington Post had no clue as to how deep, long, and extensive the “secret war” of the US against Iran was.

Even some US Congressmen appeared to be surprised by the reporting. For example, according to The Washington Post of July 7, 1992, following the Nightline and Newsweek reports, Senator Sam Nunn, then Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote to Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney to request “an expeditious inquiry into these serious allegations.” Needless to say, nothing came out of these inquiries. The New York Times reported on July 22, 1992, that Admiral Crowe appeared before the House Armed Services Committee, and delivered a 27-page response to the report, denying that “American military had cooperated with the Iraqi military as part of a secret war against the Iranians. ‘The accusations of a cover-up are preposterous and unfounded,’ Admiral Crowe said.” However, he “acknowledged that the Vincennes was in Iranian waters when she shot the airliner but asserted that the location did not have an important bearing on the investigation,” the report said.

From the perspective of many Iranians, who knew full well the US’s role in the Iran-Iraq war, the Vincennes affair was, even if an accident, the epitome of an undeclared war against Iran. Some Iranians even went beyond that and, as The Washington Post reported on July 4, 1988, accused the US of “deliberately shooting down an Iranian civilian airliner.” In turn, they asked for revenge. Yet, as stated earlier, the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 marked the end of the Iran-Iraq war, since it had now become clear that Iran was engaged in a direct war with the US, a war that Iran could not possibly win. Almost two weeks after the downing of the civilian airliner by the USS Vincennes Iran accepted UN Resolution 598, calling for a ceasefire. On July 21, 1988, The Washington Post reported that “Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the supreme leader of Iran, took personal responsibility today for the decision to accept a cease-fire with Iraq and, in words with the ring of defeat, called it worse than swallowing poison.” The actual quotation was: “Making this decision was deadlier than swallowing poison. I submit myself to God’s will and drank this drink for His satisfaction” (The New York Times, July 21, 1988).

Such history appears to be unknown to the US policy makers. It also appears to have been forgotten by the American news media. Indeed, not a single newspaper in the US mentioned the 20th anniversary of the downing of Iran Air Flight 655. Yet, people in Iran remembered it well. On July 2, 2006, Mehr News Agency commemorated the event with the headline: “U.S. downing of Flight 655 was state-sponsored terrorism.” It pointed out just about all the facts discussed above. It mentioned how the U.S. Navy’s guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes “shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf on July 3, 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew members, including 66 children.” It also mentioned how the “U.S. government refused to apologize for the incident, which was the seventh deadliest plane crash in aviation history, claiming that the crew had mistaken the Iranian Airbus A300 for an attacking F-14 Tomcat fighter.” It pointed out that “Iran condemned the incident as an international crime caused by the U.S. Navy’s ‘negligence and reckless behavior’.” It stated the “fact that the United States awarded the Commendation Medal to Vincennes air-warfare coordinator Lieutenant Commander Scott Lustig was an admission that the attack was deliberate.” It quoted an Iranian to say that this “event shows that the organizations responsible for maintaining global security not only refuse to defend the oppressed nations, they also cover up the major powers’ crimes.” Finally, it quoted another Iranian to say: “History will never forget the United States’ crimes against humanity.”

Twenty years after the downing of the Iranian civilian airliner the United States is once again on the verge of war with Iran, this time not in the company of Saddam Hussein and associates but in the presence of Ehud Olmert and friends. It is said that those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. Let us hope that the US policy makers, who seem to be suffering from a severe case of historical amnesia, don’t repeat the kind of tragic history that is associated with Iran Air Flight 655.

This article originally appeared on CounterPunch.

 

July 16, 2008

Sasan Fayazmanesh [send him mail] is chair of the Department of Economics at California State University, Fresno. He is the author of The United States and Iran (Routledge, 2008).

Copyright © 2008 Sasan Fayazmanesh