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News, 13-19/5/01 (2)

News, 13-19/5/01  (2)


*  For Bush, the Sanctions Conundrum
*  Iraq threatens to stop oil sales to Jordan, Turkey
*  Britain Urges Lifting Iraq Sanctions

A Dawn Anthology. Four articles from the Pakistani paper, not generally
immediately relevant to Iraq but interesting on US policy in general:
*  US-India strategic alliance [India¹s surprising support for the American
National Missile Defense proposal]
*  Poor Afghans, defiant Taliban [article which, without actually supporting
the Taliban, expresses admiration for their spirited opposition to US
*  Bush's indefensible missile plan [on the absurdities of the NMD.  Reminds
us of the paranoia about Soviet nuclear attack in the US in the early days
of the Cold War, which in turn reminds me of the Œparanoia¹ attributed to
Enver Hoxha about the possibility of a US attack on Albania - now fully
occupied by the US to their heart¹s content]
*  America's most shameful secret [astonishing story I didn¹t know about the
Israeli attack on an American spy ship, the USS Liberty, in the early days
of the 1967 Arab Israeli war]
*  Nonsense About Missile Defense [more on the absurdities of the NMD, from
Thomas Friedman who however blandly states that in the event of any real
imminent threat from a Œrogue state¹, ³we would preempt¹. Isn¹t that what
the Japanese did at Pearl Harbour?]


*  For Bush, the Sanctions Conundrum
by Reginald Dale
International Herald Tribune, May 15, 2001

WASHINGTON: After displeasing much of the world with his brusque repudiation
of the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, President George W. Bush is facing
another economic and foreign policy challenge that could further damage his
administration's international standing.

Mr. Bush must decide soon whether to support renewal of the controversial
legislation providing sanctions against foreign companies investing in oil
and gas production in Libya and Iran, which expires in August.

The five-year-old measure has enraged many of America's allies, especially
in Europe, who see it as a U.S. attempt to assert extraterritorial
jurisdiction over activities that are perfectly proper under the laws of
their own countries. Renewal of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act has started its
way through Congress and probably will pass unless Mr. Bush strongly opposes
it. So far, the administration has not taken a position, partly because of
internal dissent, partly because key personnel are not yet in place and
partly because Mr. Bush does not want to look like a puppet of Big Oil.

If Mr. Bush decides to support renewal, he again will be telling European
allies that their views are unimportant, and he will be telling them on the
eve of a visit to Europe next month that is intended to repair strained
trans-Atlantic relations. He will provide the rest of the world with further
evidence of U.S. unilateralism.

He will enrage U.S. oil companies, which are banned from doing business in
Libya and Iran under domestic U.S. sanctions, and he will miss a big
opportunity to increase oil and gas supplies to avert a looming energy

The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act is only one part of a broader sanctions
package. It was intended to level the playing field for U.S. oil companies
by extending to foreign companies the bans on U.S. corporations doing
business with Libya and Iran.

President Bill Clinton, however, waived sanctions against non-American
corporations, allowing them to sign lucrative contracts that American
companies were barred from signing by their own government.

The latest instance is a report that Wintershall, a German energy company,
is seeking permission from Libya to drill in oil fields owned by the Oasis
group, a consortium of the U.S companies Conoco, Amerada Hess and Marathon.
In Iran, Royal Dutch Shell and Japanese companies are jockeying to exploit
the giant Azadegan oil and gas field, from which U.S corporations are
banned. Foreign companies have invested more than $10 billion in Iranian
energy projects over the past five years, and sources say they plan to
double that amount in the next five to 10 years,

Security experts say the exclusion of U.S. companies from Iran and Libya
also prevents U.S. covert operations from being carried out under the cover
of oil industry operations.

If Mr. Bush opposes the Iran-Libya sanctions, on the other hand, he will
anger the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is leading the
campaign for renewal, and congressional leaders ranging from Senator Edward
Kennedy of Massachusetts on the left to Senator Jesse Helms of North
Carolina on the right, both of whom argue that the moral high ground is more
important than corporate profits.

Those who advocate sanctions maintain that European policies of engagement
have not stopped Iran from supporting terrorism and developing weapons of
mass destruction or persuaded Libya to offer compensation for the Lockerbie
bombing. But neither, of course, have U.S. sanctions.

According to congressional sources, at least 45 of the 100 senators support
renewal of the sanctions, and the measure has what they call wide but not
deep support in the House of Representatives. If Mr. Bush were to fight the
measure, he probably could stymie current efforts to rush it through.

But he should not stop there. Allowing the Iran-Libya act to die would not
end the discrimination against U.S. oil companies that is the result of U.S.
sanctions. Mr. Bush should propose amending the whole sanctions package to
focus more sharply on weapons and terrorism-related materials, just as
Secretary of State Colin Powell is recommending against Iraq, so the oil
companies can go about their business. And he should take these steps before
next month's meetings with European leaders. While Mr. Bush was right, if
undiplomatic, in rejecting the unworkable Kyoto Treaty, he would be
undiplomatic and wrong to prolong this damaging unilateral sanctions fiasco.

*  Iraq threatens to stop oil sales to Jordan, Turkey
Times of India, 17th May

BAGHDAD: Iraq has threatened to halt oil exports to Jordan and Turkey if
they cooperate with a new U.S. plan for "smart sanctions" -- a tighter arms
embargo coupled with relaxed controls on civilian goods imports.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz was quoted by Iraqi television as
saying that Baghdad would have to stop deliveries to the two countries if
their oil purchases were brought under the United Nations oil-for-food

Both countries import Iraqi oil outside the terms of the humanitarian deal,
an exception to Gulf War sanctions, paying cash directly to Baghdad
government instead of through a U.N. escrow account.

Iraq exports oil to Turkey through trucks that cross the border between the
two neighbours and via a pipeline that supplies about 40 percent of Iraq's
2.2 million barrels per day of U.N.-monitored oil sales.

Iraq has supplied Jordan with all its crude oil and petroelum products needs
since 1990. The oil sales to Jordan are exempted by the U.N. from sanctions.

Iraq delivers to Jordan annually 4.8 million tonnes of crude oil and
products, about 95,000 barrels a day worth around $600 million, under
undisclosed concessionary terms, easing the burden of Jordan's deficit
ridden budget.

"Half of Iraq's oil exports to Jordan is free of charge...while the rest is
sold at discounted prices," Aziz said.

Iraq sells some oil to Turkey under oil-for-food but trucks extra volumes

"If revenues of oil sales go to the escrow account, why should we sell oil
at discounted prices or give it out free of charge?" Aziz asked.

Aziz made no mention of Syria which also buys Iraqi oil out side the U.N.
arrangements. Neither country has admitted the trade.

According to the new U.S. sanctions plan, Iraq's illicit oil exports through
Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Iran would be brought under the U.N. system which
means depositing revenues of these sales under the U.N. escrow account.

*  Britain Urges Lifting Iraq Sanctions

UNITED NATIONS (Associated Press, 17th May) ‹ In a major policy shift
expected to get U.S. backing, Britain has proposed lifting U.N. sanctions on
civilian goods entering Iraq but toughening enforcement of the decade-old
arms embargo against Saddam Hussein's government.

The British proposal, which is being incorporated into a Security Council
resolution, was developed in consultation with Washington and is part of a
broader review of Iraq policy by both countries, a British official said

If approved by the powerful Security Council, the British proposal would
mark the first significant easing of sanctions that have been in place since
the Iraqi army invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Britain said it got a positive response to the proposal from the three other
council members with veto power, France, Russia and China, as well as from
Iraq's neighbors.

The United States and Britain seek to prevent Iraq from reviving its
weapons-building programs while ensuring that sanctions don't hurt Iraqi
citizens, the British official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday that talks
were still going on in capitals and at the United Nations.

``The goal of this process is to control effectively Iraq's ability to buy
weapons, to control Iraq's ability to threaten its neighbors ... with
weapons of mass destruction,'' Boucher said in Washington.

``So on the one hand, you will have a set of controls that do that. On the
other hand, we will smooth out the process and enable civilian goods to
reach the Iraqi people,'' he said.

The British plan would allow all goods to enter Iraq except those on a U.N.
list of military related items, and it would allow the resumption of all
commercial and cargo flights in and out of the country as long as they are
inspected at the departure points, the British official said.

At the same time, the proposal seeks to restrict Iraq's ability to rebuild
its military arsenal by tightening border controls and cracking down on
Baghdad's efforts to get control of its oil money through smuggling and
illegal surcharges, the official said.

``We're effectively ending sanctions on civilian imports into Iraq and
replacing them with a very tightly focused control regime,'' the British
official said. ``We're allowing everything civilian. We are allowing nothing

Under the British plan, the United Nations will continue to maintain strict
control over the billions of dollars Iraq earns annually from oil sales and
will pay all suppliers of humanitarian goods to Iraq.

The Security Council initiated a program in 1996 to help Iraqis cope with
sanctions by allowing oil sales as long as the money was strictly controlled
by the United Nations and went primarily for food, medicine, humanitarian
supplies and oil spare parts.

But there were delays in deliveries under the oil-for-food program because
goods entering Iraq had to go through a U.N. approval process. More than $3
billion in contracts were held up ‹ mainly by the United States but also by
Britain ‹ because of suspicions that the items could have a military

Under the British proposal, Iraq will be able to import any goods unless
they are on a U.N. list of items that must be reviewed because of possible
military use. No ``holds'' on contracts will be allowed, so the committee
monitoring sanctions against Iraq will either have to approve these items or
reject them, the official said.

The current six-month phase of the oil-for-food program expires June 3, and
the British want their proposal incorporated into the extension of the
program. The official said a draft resolution will be circulated to Security
Council members next week.

Iraq has campaigned for an end to the sanctions, saying the embargoes have
perpetuated the suffering of Iraqis‹ a claim that has received sympathy in
many quarters. The British proposal is in part a response to this growing
criticism, Western diplomats said.

Iraq has eroded sanctions in the last year ‹ resuming commercial and
diplomatic ties with many countries, getting more than a dozen countries to
start commercial flights to Baghdad, reopening a long-closed oil pipeline to
Syria and illegally imposing a surcharge on its oil customers.

The sanctions can't be lifted until U.N. weapons inspectors certify that
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed, but for nearly 2 1/2
years Baghdad has barred inspectors from the country.

Iraq's neighbors ‹ Turkey, Syria and Jordan ‹ have expressed concern about
the impact of Iraqi sanctions on their economies.


A DAWN ANTHOLOGY (the next four articles all share the same source and URL):

by M.H. Askari

In a complete reversal of its earlier mistrust of the United States
vis-a-vis its strategic interests in South Asia, India is all set for a
supportive role for America's controversial National Missile Defence system
(NMD) which Washington plans to launch soon. As against this, Pakistan has
made it clear that it is opposed to any action that would trigger a fresh
nuclear and missile race in the world.

President George W. Bush outlined the objectives of the NMD system while
addressing the National Defence College in Washington recently. The system
will give the US the capacity to intercept any incoming missile and destroy
it. Many nations, including some of America's key allies, are opposed to it,
believing that the system could lead to further nuclear proliferation and
even a deadly missile race.

During his visit to New Delhi last week for consultations with Indian
officials, US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage sparked speculation
that the US and India could be on the point of entering into a strategic
alliance over the NMD system, with the shared aim of "containing" China. If
that happens, India would presumably be under no more pressure from the US
and the West with regard to its own stockpile of nuclear arms. This would
also given New Delhi a nuclear edge over Pakistan.

Reports in leading Indian newspapers suggest that Prime Minister Vajpayee is
inclined to lend support to the President Bush's NMD programme. It has been
officially said that this could mean the "beginning of a new relationship
between New Delhi and Washington" having far-reaching political and
strategic implications, particularly in the Asian context.

Mr Armitage has hinted that the US would provide a 'nuclear shield' (an
expression that has now replaced 'nuclear umbrella' of the sixties) and
could make it unnecessary for India to pursue its own nuclear and missile
development programme. Incidentally, after his visit to New Delhi, Mr
Armitage was also due to travel to Seoul to win similar support for the NMD
from South Korea. The aim obviously is to keep China in check, with India
being inducted to present a counterweight to Beijing's expanding role as a
major political and economic power. The arrangements between Washington and
New Delhi may be finalised and sealed during a proposed visit to India by
president Bush later this year.

During the cold war years Pakistan and India were on opposite sides and
India often expressed concern about Pakistan's proximity to the US in the
context of the security of the region. If New Delhi enters into a
partnership with Washington over the NMD, the situation would be reversed.

According to Washington's claims, the NMD is designed to neutralize an
accidental or clandestine missile attack by any of what are described as
"rogue states" like Iraq, Iran, and North Korea by American security
specialists. Following Mr Armitage's visit to India, there have been hints
at including Pakistan among the so-called "rogue states"

India's persistent demand for global nuclear disarmament would have to be
abandoned once it enters into the proposed strategic relationship with the
US. Many Indian observers believe that even while paying lips service to
global disarmament, India was in fact getting ready to carry out its own
nuclear tests which it eventually did on May 11 and 13, 1998. In a letter to
then-US President Clinton soon thereafter, Prime Minister Vajpayee explained
India's crossing of the nuclear threshold by citing Pakistan and China as
two of India's principal adversaries having some sort of clandestine nuclear
collaboration between them. Foreign Minister L.K. Advani launched a
vitriolic attack on Pakistan while the then defence minister, George
Fernandes, termed China India's "enemy nuclear one". President Clinton was
clearly taken by surprise and imposed certain sanctions against India. These
were also imposed on Pakistan when it followed suit with a series of nuclear
explosions of its own on May 28 and 30, 1998. While there is speculation
that the US may lift the sanctions against India, there is no indication
that a similar move is being considered with regard to Pakistan.

Protagonists of the anti-nuclear lobby in India are bound to be disturbed by
the latest developments. They hold Mr Vajpayee's Sangh parivar mindset
responsible for India opting for nuclear arms in 1998 and now cosying up to
Washington for a strategic partnership. Going nuclear was on the manifesto
of the BJP and Mr Vajpayee had to carry out his party's mandate when he came
to power. The BJP was the only party in the last India elections to have
promised to induct the country into the nuclear orbit.

Two of the BJP's bitter critics, Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik in a joint
study of South Asia's nuclear environment, have pointed out that, according
to the Sangh philosophy (in which the BJP's manifesto is rooted), Prime
Minister Vajpayee was obliged to make a demonstration of India's nuclear
prowess. The escalation in India's overt ambitions to become a global power
and the dominant nation in the region, could well be the motive behind
India's decision to enter into a strategic alliance with the US over the
proposed NMD system.

However, the BJP's declining popularity could obstruct the pursuit of its
bloated nuclear ambitions. It has lost in the five crucial state elections
and could suffer a similar setback in Uttar Pradesh where elections are due
soon. The setback suffered by the BJP could make a difference to some of the
more ambitious items on the ruling party's political and strategic agenda.

While the full picture of the new strategic framework envisaged by the US in
the context of its NMD programme is still not clear, India may have been
lured into offering its support to the NMD in the hope of gaining a
permanent seat in the UN Security Council. There are indications that India
and the US will make a series of high-level contacts in the coming weeks.
New Delhi certainly believes that the talks with Mr Armitage have opened "an
entirely new perspective on the US engagements with India".

Pakistan's concerns at the developments in the region may, to a certain
extent, have been assuaged by the presence of the Chinese Prime Minister in
Pakistan at about the same time that Mr Armitage was visiting New Delhi.
Although some early reports quoted Prime Minister Zhu Rongji as saying that
Pakistan's defence is its own internal concerns, a spokesperson of the
Chinese foreign ministry, while briefing the press in Islamabad, reiterated
China's firm commitment to close friendship with Pakistan. The spokesperson
conformed that although the focus of the talks between Premier Zhu and the
Pakistan officials was on economic matters, defence co-operation is an
element of China's abiding ties with Pakistan and Beijing would want this to
be developed further. The Chinese spokesperson did not feel unduly concerned
about the massive military exercise 'Purna Vijay' conducted by the Indian
army close to Pakistan's eastern border and expressed the hope that
"whatever India was doing should be good for peace and stability".

by Hafizur Rahman

BOTH by temperament and belief I am an incurable democrat. When the fate of
Pakistan is being debated in private discussions, I assert the view that if
democracy had been given a chance we would not have lagged behind India
(having achieved freedom the same day) in having successful parliamentary
governments during the last 54 years. I have no patience with people who
hold that democracy failed in Pakistan. How can a student be said to have
failed in a paper in which he didn't take the exam?

And it is not only the army that ousted democracy on four occasions and
introduced its own autocracy in its place sometimes bad, sometimes good,
mostly indifferent-- our politicians also did their best to sabotage it
before October 1958. Mr Liaquat Ali Khan was a most respected prime
minister, and is deemed in history books as the only leader worthy of
wearing the mantle of the Quaid-i-Azam. Couldn't he have obliged the
Constituent Assembly to complete work on the Constitution within two or
three years if he were so minded? Had he done that I would have rated him
with Mr Jinnah. Some of those who followed were outright tools of the
democracy-killing governors-general, Ghulam Muhammad and Iskander Mirza, and
did what they were told to do.

To revert to my opening paragraph about my firm commitment to democracy that
is the one reason why I am against all other systems claiming to represent
the interests of the people, even if they are apparently dedicated to the
good of the toiling masses, if they do not guarantee human rights and the
four freedoms. That is why I object to so many things in the Taliban of
Afghanistan, for they take a very narrow view of religion, of
administration, of the social needs of their people and of culture; in fact
of life as it should be lived. But there is one thing in them that I admire
ungrudgingly, and that is their "To hell with you!" attitude towards the
great superpower.

It is nothing short of a miracle that without money, without oil to sell,
without defence forces worth the name, without diplomatic clout of any kind,
with only Pakistan as a friend (whose own concept of self-reliance is built
upon international aid), an impoverished, disturbed, divided country should
display such a resolute spirit of independence and self respect. We
wiseacres call it needless bravado, foolhardiness, ignorance, closing one's
eyes to ground realities, living in the cloister, going back centuries, and
yet what wouldn't I give to elicit the same awe and respect for my country
in the comity of nations.

Apart from Iran, after the Ayatollahs took over there, no country, big or
small (except for Iraq, in a different way) has had the guts to adopt that
attitude towards the United States. And look how desperate the latter is now
to normalize its relationship with Iran. It has taken ten years to learn
that there can be a viable, strong, democratic country even if it does not
fit into the pattern that the US and the western world has in mind for a
state, the pattern taught by books and scholars looking at the world through
the wrong end of the telescope.

I am not a student of political science and I never write on international
affairs. But I have a theory. Why isn't the world accepting the Taliban? Not
because they are fundamentalist Muslims or old-fashioned and orthodox (so is
America's pet baby, Saudi Arabia) but because they don't fit into
established concepts. If they are able to end the civil war and unite
Afghanistan, it will still take the US-controlled world a decade to digest
their unique personality. Countries like Iran and the Taliban-ruled
Afghanistan are freaks for that world. Maybe after ten years Afghanistan can
make its presence felt as Iran is doing now stalking the western world in
amama and jubba instead of a European suit, and teaching the Grand Master a
few lessons in diplomacy and international relations. Surprisingly some of
the smaller countries of Europe courting Iran have more political sense.

Our educated elites also think like the Americans. They sneer at some of
their traits but can't do without the mental luxuries that country offers.
In their view that is the only true progress. Can you recall how they were
contemptuous of the Irani maulvis a few years ago? What do mullahs know
about running a country, they said. Just because they hadn't studied the
right books and didn't read Time and Newsweek. These intellectuals won't
admit that they had to eat their words long ago. For Pakistan they talk
about the need for national self esteem, but I have yet to see one of them
praising the Taliban for that very attribute, their one commendable quality.

I wonder what our Solomons, our armchair pundits say about the Osama bin
Laden affair. Probably, how utterly senseless to sacrifice the welfare of a
whole nation for a whim based on antediluvian notions of hospitality. None
of them will think why the US has so far failed to provide to the Taliban
the evidence that they want. But then, how can the greatest power in history
be expected to comply with an inane demand from a piddling country? "When we
say he is guilty of terrorism that is enough." Maybe Osama is guilty, but I
can't help admiring the Taliban's stand.

Our elites must be saying: "What a fuss for one man." From the Pakistani
point of view they are right. For example, if the US were to ask us to
surrender our symbol of national honour, Sattar Edhi, for alleged complicity
in terrorism, we would gladly hand him over and say: "Take him by all means,
but on your way please ask the IMF to hurry up with the first tranche of our
latest loan."

The thing is we have no time for the principles behind the Taliban's refusal
to give up Osama. We want our government to leave the Taliban alone, for
what do we get from them? They are only in the way of our sucking up to the
Americans. Suppose China were to leave us in the lurch for the same reason -
what does it get from Pakistan? What then?

Poor Afghans! All the world says so, for they are really suffering. But no
one seriously tries to stop the fighting in Afghanistan. And look at the
European Union, that novice in diplomacy, making Ahmed Shah Masood address
their parliament. What a farce! Actually why should anyone support Masood
and the National Alliance? Why should it be their concern who rules
Afghanistan? If Masood had been a real hero of the anti-Soviet war, he would
have turned into a patriot and sacrificed his personal ambition for the sake
of national unity. After all, the Taliban are not foreigners. But it seems
that he is a Tajik first and an Afghan afterward. Poor Afghans!

by Mahir Ali

IN THE early years of the cold war, the United States of America countered
what it perceived as the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack not only by
sparing no expense in building up its own arsenals but also by instilling a
bunker mentality among its populace. Fall-out shelters were all the rage,
and schoolchildren were regularly subjected to comprehensive drills on what
to do in the event of Armageddon. A great deal has changed in the
intervening half century, but not the mentality responsible for
state-sponsored mass psychosis, achieved by combining paranoia with a false
sense of security.

The US, apparently eager to extend its protective embrace to all its allies,
now has a rather different sort of shelter in mind. Its grandiose National
Missile Defence (NMD) plan envisages a nuclear "shield" that would intercept
and destroy any incoming offensive missiles. Sounds vaguely familiar,
doesn't it? The concept is clearly a direct descendant of the Reagan
administration's Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) - which attracted the
Star Wars tag along with a great deal of derision. At the time, a large
number of leading scientists dismissed it as an expensive fantasy: an
engaging theory that simply would not work in practice. The few tests
conducted on SDI technology proved the sceptics right.

Now the offspring of Ronald Reagan's vice-president is determined to sell
the world the Son of Star Wars. Not because the existence of the US, or even
its sole-superpower status, would be at risk without the NMD. Nor because a
scientific consensus has emerged on the viability of the project; scientists
remain deeply divided on the matter. George W. Bush wants to involve
America's allies in the dangerous charade simply because he is in a strong
position to obtain their assent, and, if necessary, gain access to their

Let us not for a moment forget that NMD is not just a military but also an
industrial initiative. It is believed that the missile defence programme
would cost upwards of $100 billion. That is certainly not peanuts, even for
the world's richest country, particularly after the new administration has
been so very generous with tax cuts to the rich. The Bush regime will
presumably be fairly comfortable with the idea of cuts in welfare and
education to feed the Son of Star Wars. Even so, it is by no means unlikely
that contributions will also be solicited from allies for the privilege of
signing up to the scheme.

Washington appears to have few qualms about the fact that going ahead with
NMD will require the abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of
1972, on which all reductions in weaponry have hitherto been based. With
Russia and China thus far unwilling to share official American enthusiasm
for the project, it would be logical to presume that NMD will lead to a
resurgence in the arms race. Filling the world with missiles would appear to
be a strange way of making it a safer place, but that's not a contradiction
a second generation cold warriors would recognize.

On top of all this, there is the question of who the US hopes to fortify
itself against. As is now officially recognized, Russia is no longer an
enemy, let alone a threat. China remains a treasured trading partner despite
the recent flap over a spy plane, which is yet to be resolved. There are
bound to be doubts in Washington about Beijing's - and even Moscow's -
intentions, but these have not been formally cited as part of the
justification for NMD. The declared enemy in this context is the "states of
concern" (a promotion, presumably, from their previous status as 'rogue
states') such as North Korea, Iraq and Libya. (Pakistan, nuclear-armed and
prone to instability, but a reasonably faithful ally in the past under most
regimes, teeters on the borderline.)

The first cold war and the profligate expenditure on arms that accompanied
it were based on a vastly exaggerated projection of the Sino-Soviet threat.
The Gulf War was preceded by grossly - and deliberately - misleading
estimates of the strength of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard. The trend
continues. Despite establishing contact with the rest of the world, North
Korea remains a mystery wrapped inside an enigma for most westerners, and it
has developed a reputation for missile manufacture - albeit mostly for
export, it would seem. Saddam and Colonel Muammar Qadhafi remain
unpredictable, the latter almost endearingly so; the Iraqi leader,
meanwhile, continues to preside over his nation's destiny primarily because
the US was unable in 1991 to decide what or whom to replace him with, and
chose instead to victimize indefinitely the people of Iraq.

Notwithstanding concerns about these states, it is extremely difficult to
imagine Saddam, Colonel Qadhafi or Kim Jong-il - given, needless to say, the
requisite technological capability - lobbing a bunch of missiles in the
general direction of the United States or any of its allies, such as Israel.
That would be tantamount to a death-wish, given that massive retaliation is
the American norm. In other words, the existing military strength of the US,
with its enormous capacity for overkill, and its allies already serves as a
more than sufficient deterrent against precipitate acts of desperation. The
proposed NMD would be a supplementary measure rather than a replacement for
existing "safeguards". That is to say, even if it were to work exactly as
the Bush men suggest it will, it would provide protection against absolutely
nothing. (Let's not forget that the last time the US was faced with
aggression on its own soil was about 60 years ago, when the Japanese bombed
Pearl Harbour.) Which would, of course, guarantee its success.

It does not necessarily follow that the people of the United States will be
any more secure than they are today. Would NMD provide any sort of safeguard
against acts of violence by the likes of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma
bomber whose execution is more likely to act as a trigger than as a
deterrent for like-minded individuals? Or against terrorists from anywhere
releasing, say, a deadly virus in the New York subway? Would it prevent a
determined bunch from assembling a crude nuclear device and threatening to
detonate it in the heart of Washington? In all of these potential scenarios,
which are considerably more realistic than a missile attack from abroad, the
answer can only be: decidedly not.

Of late, emissaries from the White House have been travelling all over the
world, purportedly for consultations about NMD. It would be more accurate to
describe their mission as one of disseminating information rather than
gathering opinions. The Bush administration is not interested in expressions
of dissent, and so far it hasn't encountered many. Not from governments, at
any rate, although there have been scattered popular protests. Europe has
thus far displayed little resistance in the face of American virility; even
President Vladimir Put in is reported to be less opposed to the idea than
Russian generals. This attitude is probably attributable to the perception
that resistance would, by and large, be futile.

On the other hand, there is growing evidence of domestic opposition emerging
among Democratic legislators less beholden to military-industrial interests
than Mr Bush and his coterie - particularly Dick Cheney, the most powerful
vice-president in American history. Senator Dick Durbin, for example, has
described President Bush's position as "an invitation to an arms race. It
would violate existing arms control treaties and ask us to defend our nation
with a technology that some of our nation's best scientists do not believe
is reliable." To his credit, Senator Durbin even voted against a similar
plan when it was proposed by the Clinton administration three years ago. But
with Bill Clinton now out of the way, other Democrats too are beginning to
find fault with the plan. Effective opposition to NMD remains a remote
prospect, but criticism from within the legislative mainstream is not
without significance.

The passage of time will probably make it clear even to the meanest
intelligence that NMD will not in any degree advance the cause of peace, and
may in fact do quite the reverse by encouraging nuclear proliferation. It
would be a humongous [sic - PB. tremendous?] disservice to the American
people by a president they didn't even elect, even more serious than his
decision to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming - which,
although a fudge dictated chiefly by American interests that failed to
adequately address the issue, but nonetheless constituted a small step in
the right direction. If Mr Bush and Mr Cheney's actions in their first 100
or so days in the White House are anything to go by, their regime will be
even more reactionary and prone to massive acts of folly than the Reagan
administration. Is that cause for surprise?

by Eric S. Margolis

On the fourth day of the 1967 Arab Israeli War, the intelligence ship USS
Liberty was steaming slowly in international waters, 14 miles off the Sinai
Peninsula. Israeli armoured forces were racing deep into Sinai in hot
pursuit of the retreating Egyptian army.

Liberty, a World War II freighter, had been converted into an intelligence
vessel by the top secret US National Security Agency, and packed with the
latest signals and electronic interception equipment. The ship bristled with
antennas and electronic 'ears' including TRSSCOMM, a system that delivered
real-time intercepts to Washington by bouncing a stream of microwaves off
the moon.

Liberty had been rushed to Sinai to monitor communications of the
belligerents in the Third Arab Israeli War: Israel and her foes, Egypt,
Syria, and Jordan.

At 0800 hrs, June 8,1967, eight Israeli recon flights flew over Liberty,
which was flying a large American flag. At 1400 hrs, waves of low-flying
Israeli Mystere and Mirage-III fighter bombers repeatedly attacked the
American vessel with rockets, napalm, and cannon. The air attacks lasted 20
minutes, concentrating on the ship's electronic antennas and dishes. The
Liberty was left afire, listing sharply. Eight of her crew lay dead, a
hundred seriously wounded, including the captain, Commander William

At 1424 hrs, three Israeli torpedo boats attacked, raking the burning
Liberty with 20mm and 40mm shells. At 1431 hrs an Israeli torpedo hit the
Liberty midship, precisely where the signals intelligence systems were
located. Twenty-five more Americans died.

Israeli gunboats circled the wounded Liberty, firing at crewmen trying to
fight the fires. At 1515, the crew were ordered to abandon ship. The Israeli
warships closed and poured machine-gun fire into the crowded life rafts,
sinking two. As American sailors were being massacred in cold blood, a
rescue mission by US Sixth Fleet carrier aircraft was mysteriously aborted
on orders from the White House.

An hour after the attack, Israeli warships and planes returned. Commander
McGonagle gave the order: 'prepare to repel borders'. But the Israelis,
probably fearful of intervention by the US Sixth Fleet, departed. Liberty
was left shattered but still defiant, her flag flying.

The Israeli attacks killed 34 US seamen and wounded 171 out of a crew of
297, the worst loss of American naval personnel from hostile action since
World War II.

Less than an hour after the attack, Israel told Washington its forces had
committed a 'tragic error'. Later, Israel claimed it had mistaken Liberty
for an ancient Egyptian horse transport. US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk,
and Joint Chiefs of Staff head, Admiral Thomas Moorer, insisted the Israeli
attack was deliberate and designed to sink Liberty. So did three CIA
reports; one asserted Israel's Defence Minister, Gen. Moshe Dayan, had
personally ordered the attack.

In contrast to American outrage over North Korea's assault on the
intelligence ship Pueblo, Iraq's mistaken missile strike on the USS Stark,
last fall's bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, and the recent US-China air
incident, the savaging of Liberty was quickly hushed up by President Lyndon
Johnson and Defence Secretary Robert McNamara.

The White House and Congress immediately accepted Israel's explanation and
let the matter drop. Israel later paid a token reparation of US $6 million.
There were reports that two Israeli pilots who had refused to attack Liberty
were jailed for 18 years.

Surviving Liberty crew members would not be silenced. They kept demanding an
open inquiry and tried to tell their story of deliberate attack to the
media. Israel's government worked behind the scenes to thwart these efforts,
going so far as having American pro-Israel groups accuse Liberty's survivors
of being 'anti-Semites' and 'Israel-haters'. Major TV networks cancelled
interviews with the crew. A book about the Liberty incident by crewman James
Ennes was dropped from distribution. The Israel lobby branded him 'an Arab

The attack on Liberty was fading into obscurity until last week, when
intelligence expert James Bamford came out with 'Body of Secrets', his
latest book about the National Security Agency. In a stunning revelation,
Bamford writes that unknown to Israel, a US Navy EC-121 intelligence
aircraft was flying high overhead the Liberty, electronically recorded the
attack. The US aircraft crew provides evidence that the Israeli pilots knew
full well that they were attacking a US Navy ship flying the American flag.

Why did Israel try to sink a naval vessel of its benefactor and ally? Most
likely because Liberty's intercepts flatly contradicted Israel's claim, made
at the war's beginning on June 5, that Egypt had attacked Israel, and that
Israel's massive air assault on three Arab nations was in retaliation. In
fact, Israel began the war by a devastating, Pearl-Harbour style surprise
attack that caught the Arabs in bed and destroyed their entire air forces.

Israel was also preparing to attack Syria to seize its strategic Golan
Heights. Washington warned Israel not to invade Syria, which had remained
inactive while Israel fought Egypt. Bamford says Israel's offensive against
Syria was abruptly postponed when Liberty appeared off the Sinai, then
launched once it was knocked out of action. Israel's claim that Syria had
attacked it could have been disproved by Liberty.

Most significant, Liberty's intercepts may have shown that Israel seized
upon sharply rising Arab-Israeli tensions in May-June 1967 to launch a
long-planned war to invade and annex the West Bank, Jerusalem, Golan and the

Far more shocking was Washington's response. Writes Bamford: "Despite the
overwhelming evidence that Israel attacked the ship and killed American
servicemen deliberately, the Johnson Administration and Congress covered up
the entire incident." Why?

Domestic politics. Johnson, a man never noted for high moral values,
preferred to cover up the attack rather than anger a key constituency and
major financial backer of the Democratic Party. Congress was even less eager
to touch this 'third rail' issue.

Commander McGonagle was quietly awarded the Medal of Honour for his and his
men's heroism - not in the White House, as is usual but in an obscure
ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard. Crew members' graves were inscribed,
'died in the Eastern Mediterranean...' as if they had been killed by
disease, rather than hostile action.

A member of President Johnson's staff believed there was a more complex
reason for the cover-up: Johnson offered Jewish liberals unconditional
backing of Israel, and a cover-up of the Liberty attack, in exchange for the
liberals toning down their strident criticism of his policies in the-then
raging Vietnam War.

Israel, which claims it fought a war of self-defence in 1967 and had no
prior territorial ambitions, will be much displeased by Bamford's
revelations. Those who believe Israel illegally occupies the West Bank and
Golan will be emboldened.

Much more important, the US government's long, disgraceful cover-up of the
premeditated attack on Liberty has now burst into the open and demands
full-scale investigation. After 34 years, the voices of Liberty's dead and
wounded seamen must finally be heard.

by Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times, May 16, 2001

WASHINGTON: The Bush team's explanation for why America has to build a
national missile defense shield gets more interesting by the week.

President George W. Bush argued in a speech that a missile shield was
necessary because classic deterrence - anyone who fires a missile at the
United States will be destroyed by return mail - cannot deter crazy rogue
states like Iraq, North Korea or Iran.

Then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld explained that even if the missile
shield that the Bush team proposes spending billions to build does not work
perfectly, it will still be worth deploying. Potential enemies will still be
deterred because they will never know for sure whether the missile they fire
will be able to get through the imperfect shields or not. "They need not be
100 percent perfect," to have a deterrent effect on future adversaries, said
Mr. Rumsfeld. This has been called the "scarecrow" defense.

I get it! The Bush Doctrine says rogue states are so crazy that they would
launch a missile even knowing that it would mean their certain destruction
in return. But if you build a scarecrow missile shield that doesn't fully
work, these rogue states are so rational that they would never launch one of
their missiles against it, because they would realize that there was a
chance it might not penetrate.

In short, America's perfect missiles that will destroy any rogue state with
100 percent accuracy won't deter them, but its imperfect missile shield,
which may have as many holes as a Swiss cheese, will deter them. In fact, it
is absurd that a system that has kept the peace for 50 years - classic
deterrence, reinforced by arms control - is so hated by the Republican
right. The notion that rogue leaders are so crazy that they cannot be
deterred is itself crazy. Do you think Kim Jong II, Moammar Gadhafi, Saddam
Hussein or the Iranian mullahs have managed to stay in power as long as they
have by behaving like suicidal fanatics?

I don't think so. They use terrorists, secret agents and third parties to
hit the United States indirectly in its weakest spots, like an American bar
in Berlin or a little U.S. embassy in Africa. And they always operate in
ways that make it very difficult to trace back to them. Because they are
anything but crazy. They want their regimes to survive.

If they are so crazy and hell-bent on attacking America, why aren't they
doing it now, when there is no missile shield, and all they have to do is
drive a truck bomb across the Mexican border or release a bio-weapon in
Washington? What deters them today is what will always deter them - the
certainty that if they attack with weapons of mass destruction their regimes
will be destroyed.

In other words, what is protecting America right now from the most likely
rogue threat, which is not a missile but a car bomb or a bio-weapon, is
classic deterrence. What a $100 billion missile shield offers is protection
from the least likely threat. "If we really thought there was an imminent
threat of missile attack from one of these rogues," notes Michael
Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert, "we would not wait to
be attacked. We would not wait to see if our missile shield actually worked.
We would preempt. In other words, in precisely the circumstance in which the
advocates say a missile shield is needed, any rational president would act
as if we didn't have one."

There are circumstances in which deploying missile defense could make sense
- if you had a system that actually worked, particularly theater missile
defenses; if it were backed by allies, as well as by the Russians and
Chinese, so they wouldn't sell more missiles to rogues and increase the
threats; and if it were not so expensive as to undercut other defense
programs that do work.
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