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[casi] 2 articles from The Jordan Times

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Powell is flawless - inside a media bubble

By Norman Solomon       THERE'S no doubt about it: Colin Powell is a great
performer, as he showed yet again at the UN Security Council the other day. On
television, he exudes confidence and authoritative judgement. But Powell owes
much of his touted credibility to the fact that he is functioning inside a
media bubble that protects him from direct challenge.

Powell doesn't face basic questions like:

— You cite Iraq's violations of UN Security Council resolutions to justify the
US launching an all-out war. But you're well aware that American allies like
Turkey and Israel continue to violate dozens of Security Council resolutions.
Why couldn't other nations claim the right to militarily “enforce” the
Security Council's resolutions against countries that they'd prefer to bomb?

— You insist that Iraq poses a grave threat to the other nations of the Middle
East. But, with the exception of Israel, no country in the region has made
such a claim or expressed any enthusiasm for a war on Iraq. If Iraq is a
serious threat to the region, why doesn't the region feel threatened?

— You say that the Iraqi regime is committed to aggression. Yet Iraq hasn't
attacked any country for more than 12 years. And just eight days before Iraq's
invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, the US envoy to Baghdad gave what appeared
to be a green light for the invasion when she met with Saddam Hussein. An
Iraqi transcript of the meeting quotes Ambassador April Glaspie as saying: “We
have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.
Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasise the instruction
... that Kuwait is not associated with America.” Mr Powell, why don't you ever
mention such information?

— Washington tilted in favour of Iraq during its war with Iran in the 1980s.
Like other US officials, you emphasise that Saddam Hussein “gassed his own
people” and used chemical weapons against Iran, but you don't talk about the
intelligence data and other forms of assistance that the United States
provided to help Iraq do those things. If the history of Baghdad's evil deeds
is relevant, why aren't facts about US complicity also relevant?

— When you warn that the UN Security Council “places itself in danger of
irrelevance” if it fails to endorse a US-led war on Iraq, aren't you really
proclaiming that the United Nations is “relevant” only to the extent that it
does what the US government wants?

If Powell faced such questions on a regular basis, his media halo would begin
to tarnish. Instead, floating inside a media bubble, he moves from high-level
meetings to speeches to news conferences where tough questions are rare. And
when Powell appears as a guest on American media outlets, he doesn't need to
worry that he'll encounter interviewers who'll challenge his basic

Tacit erasure of inconvenient history — including his own — is integral to the
warm relationship between Powell and US news media. There's a lot to erase.
For instance, in January 1986, serving as a top aide to Pentagon chief Caspar
Weinberger, he supervised the transfer of 4,508 TOW missiles to the CIA, and
then sought to hide the transaction from Congress and the public. No wonder;
almost half of those missiles had become part of the Iran-Contra scandal's
arms-for-hostages deal.

As President Reagan's national security adviser, Powell worked diligently on
behalf of the Contra guerrillas who were killing civilians in Nicaragua. In
December 1989, Powell — at that point the head of the joint chiefs-of-staff —
was a key player behind the invasion of Panama.

The Gulf War catapulted Powell to the apex of American political stardom in
early 1991. When he was asked about the Iraqi death toll from that war, Powell
said that such numbers didn't interest him.

At the UN on Feb. 5, in typical fashion, Powell presented himself as an
implacable foe of terrorism — much as he did on Sept. 11, 2001, when he
denounced “people who feel that with the destruction of buildings, with the
murder of people, they can somehow achieve a political purpose”. While aptly
condemning the despicable hijackers who murdered thousands of people that day,
Powell was also using words that could be applied to a long line of top
officials in Washington. Including himself.

At this point, it seems that only a miracle could prevent the Bush
administration from going ahead with its plans for a horrific attack on Iraq,
sure to kill many thousands of civilians. The US leaders will demonstrate
their evident belief that, in Powell's apt words, “with the destruction of
buildings, with the murder of people, they can somehow achieve a political
purpose”. To the extent that the media bubble around them stays airtight,
Powell and his colleagues are likely to bask in national acclaim.

The writer has a syndicated column on media and politics. He contributed this
article to The Jordan Times.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003[1] (available online for
one week only)


'The axis of evil'

By Hasan Abu Nimah       WE LIVE in a world that has never lived without a
natural or man-made catastrophe in one or other of its corners. We have come
to accept that some of these disasters are simply inevitable. But that is not
the case when a superpower decrees that we must have a war for the most
unconvincing, fabricated reasons, for an openly imperialistic ideology, for
power and greed, and for distraction from other, glaring, failures. These
reasons, and nothing more, lie behind the US drive for an attack on Iraq,
supported primarily by the United Kingdom and Israel.

The irony is that more and more people in the world, especially in the Middle
East, are starting to see these three countries acting together as the true
“axis of evil”. Haaretz confirmed that Israel's “military and political
leadership yearns for war in Iraq”. (“Enthusiastic Israeli army awaits war in
Iraq”, Haaretz, Feb. 17, 2003)

Israel's leadership hopes that the destruction of Iraq will lead to the total
subjugation and defeat of Syria, Lebanon and Iran. Israel also hopes to
benefit from deep divisions about Iraq among the United States and its
European allies. According to the Israeli newspaper: “There is also excitement
in the Israeli army's planning department over the stand-off between the US
and its NATO allies. A paper distributed to the army's upper echelons even
spoke of an opportunity to remove the pro-Palestinian Europeans from the
Middle East. A senior source said Saturday that the US will punish the
Europeans for their back-stabbing on the road to Baghdad, and will no longer
ask them for input regarding Israeli concessions.”

This zeal for war and destruction is supposed to lead to an outcome where a
defeated Arab world and a marginalised Europe cannot stand in the way of
Israel, backed by an increasingly extremist and isolated United States,
imposing any settlement it wants on the Palestinians. At best, what the
Palestinians can hope for is direct Israeli rule with all their civil and
national rights cancelled. This will be Israel's “generous” alternative to
what many in Israel's leadership really want, which is the total ethnic
cleansing of the Palestinians.

Looking back, this is no more than an attempt to achieve what was tried — but
failed — more subtly after the 1991 Gulf War. The main difference is that the
first war was widely seen as justified by Iraq's clear transgression of
invading and occupying Kuwait. What followed was essentially not different
from what is planned this time. The 1991 war created “convenient”
circumstances for an Arab-Israeli settlement. The PLO was severely weakened
politically and hard hit financially, as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians
working in Gulf states were expelled and governments cut off their assistance
to the leadership. The PLO was not even accepted as a direct participant in
the October 1991 Madrid conference, and the talks which followed in

With Israel's position thus strengthened, and unlimited American diplomatic
support (except for token and temporary US resistance to aid for Israel's
colony-building on Palestinian land), Israel did not respond to any of the
far-reaching Palestinian compromises offered for peace, including full
recognition of Israel in advance and full acceptance of the two-state
solution. Rather, Israel took advantage of the weakness and desperation of the
PLO and, behind the backs of the Washington negotiators, hatched the secret
Oslo agreement which must go down in history as one of the worst deals ever
made. This disaster simply laundered, with full PLO approval, all of Israel
illegal war gains, at the expense of the Palestinian people. Negotiations were
dragged on indefinitely in order to allow Israel the necessary time to achieve
de facto annexation of all of the conquered territory.

By imposing, by brute force, a scandalously unjust and humiliating deal on the
Palestinians, entirely denying their political and national rights, and by
reducing the PLO to nothing more than a South Lebanon army-like police force
for the Israeli occupation, Israel laid the grounds for the present Intifada
and did not achieve the “peace” of the strong that it hopes for.

The warmongers in Washington and Tel Aviv believe that this time round they
can get it right, having failed twelve years ago, by going all the way. Once
they impose “total defeat” on the Palestinians and Arabs, they believe a
golden age will open for Israel, which will face no obstacles before it. This
will not happen.

It is quite possible that an attack on Iraq will destroy that country and
produce immense political pressure on Syria, Lebanon and Iran. It is also
possible that Israel, while world attention is focused on Iraq, will further
intensify its campaign of war crimes against the Palestinians. It is even
possible that by raising the level of atrocities even higher, Israel will
claim to have imposed some sort of order on the situation, to have “defeated”
the Palestinians. None of this will succeed. Israel, instead, will be
guaranteed only more unrest, more determined resistance, more bloodshed and
more horror.

The planned war against Iraq is an idea of a small group of ultra-pro-Israeli
hawks who hatched it in the mid-1990s when they were advising the Israeli
government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Today, this same small group has hijacked
American policy at the Pentagon. This group, that gathered around figures like
Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, is not concerned with Iraqi “weapons of mass
destruction”, human rights or terrorism. Their concern is the pure pursuit of
power. For this group, there is no difference between American interests and
the interests of Israel as defined by the most extreme elements. They have an
obsession with the Arab and Muslim world that borders on hatred.

While it is easy to trace the growing influence of this group on an American
establishment that has always allowed Israel to set the agenda for US policy
in the Middle East, the UK's slavish commitment to this group is more
puzzling. The British people are clearly concerned about how their prime
minister seems to have transformed himself into America's deputy secretary of
state in pursuit of an agenda that holds nothing positive for Britain. The UK
always calculated that by forging a “special relationship” with the United
States, it would gain influence both in America and in Europe. Prime Minister
Tony Blair's foolish policies have done the opposite. The Americans simply
take British support for granted, while Britain's position in Europe is worse
even than it was under Thatcher. And for what? Blair claims that the UK is in
danger from global terror. Maybe so, but many of his people answer that his
dangerous policies are exposing the country to such terror rather than dealing
effectively with any threat.

The voices of the tens of millions who marched for peace all over the world
are sending a loud message to the United States, Britain and Israel, the three
pillars of this new axis, if not of “evil”, then at least of raw, dangerous
power and colonialism. These are voices of truth and reason. They are voices
which bridge the gulf of misunderstanding, fear and suspicion between the West
and the rest of the world, that figures like Bush, Blair and Sharon are
fuelling. Let us hope that the millions who came out will act as an urgently
needed check on the forces who relish war and use words like “justice” and
“peace” only to mock them.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003[2] (available online for
one week only)

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