I was reluctant to review this book. With all the dramatic developments in the Middle East today—the ISIS crisis, the siege of Kobanê, the deepening nightmare in Syria, the escalating repression in Egypt, the fate of Tunisia’s democratic transition, the sectarianization of regional conflicts driven by the Saudi-Iranian rivalry—delving back into the 2003 invasion of Iraq seemed rather less than urgent. It’s hard enough just to keep up with the events unfolding day-to-day in the region. Reading—let alone reviewing—a detailed study of the internal processes that led to the United States toppling Saddam Hussein over a decade ago seemed remote, if not indeed a distraction.
But I’m glad I set these reservations aside and took the assignment. This forcefully argued and meticulously researched (with no fewer than 1,152 footnotes, many of which are full-blown paragraphs) book turns out to be enormously relevant to the present moment, on at least three fronts:
The US Senate report on CIA torture has brought back into focus the rogues gallery of the Bush-Cheney administration—the same cast of characters who engineered the 2003 Iraq invasion. This book shines a heat lamp on that dark chapter and many of its protagonists.
There is talk of a neoconservative comeback in Washington. This thoroughly discredited but zombie-like group are now angling for the ear of Hillary Clinton, who might be the next US president. Ahmad’s book provides a marvelously illuminating anatomy of the neocons, which has lessons that apply directly to this movement’s potentially ominous next chapter.
Janine R. Wedel writes about power, influence, and governing through the unique lens of a social anthropologist. A professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University and senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, Wedel is the first anthropologist to win the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.
Her book Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market (Basic Books 2009) was named Book of the Month by The Huffington Post in January 2010.
Today, [Creative Community for Peace] say, there is not a single musical act, from Justin Timberlake to the Rolling Stones to Alicia Keys, that they have not approached and coached in advance of their performance in Israel. ~Times of Israel
It’s no surprise that the genocidal Times of Israel is so eager to push anti-BDS initiatives. It’s also no surprise that one of Israel’s most well connected, elite whitewashing team, Creative Community for Peace [CCfP], is doing exactly what it vowed to do- whitewash genocide. However one might wonder about some of the names on the below statement that CCfP has published:
The same neocons who persuaded George W. Bush and crew to, in Ron Paul’s inimitable words, “lie their way into invading Iraq” in 2003, are beating the drums of war more loudly these days to attack Iran. It is remarkable how many of these war-mongers are former draft dodgers who wanted other Americans to fight the war in Vietnam.
With the exception of Ron Paul, who actually knows the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, the Republican presidential contenders have declared their belligerency toward Iranian officials who they accuse of moving toward nuclear weapons.
The Iranian regime disputes that charge, claiming they are developing the technology for nuclear power and nuclear medicine.
The inspection teams of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) that monitor compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran belongs, have entered Iran numerous times and, while remaining suspicious, have not been able to find that country on the direct road to the Bomb.
While many western and some Arab countries in the Gulf region have condemned Iran’s alleged nuclear arms quest, Israel maintains some 200 ready nuclear weapons and has refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty, thereby avoiding the IAEA inspectors.
The following is an excerpt from my latest article for Al Jazeera in which I discuss how the Israel lobby has taken over Republican front-runner Mitt Romney’s Middle East policy through its man with a shady past:
[Walid Phares] is a one-time member of the notorious Lebanese Forces – the sectarian Christian militia which played a leading role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre (though there is no evidence that he personally played a part). It is an experience he now wisely leaves out of his resume. Nor does he include his association with Etienne Saqr, the head of the Guardians of the Cedars, an outfit the Congressional Research Service described as “[a]n extremist Maronite militia and terrorist organisation”. Saqr played a prominent role in Phares’ World Lebanese Organisation long after he was exiled to Israeli-occupied south Lebanon for his crimes against the Lebanese and Palestinian people.
But it is not this association with the Lebanese Forces and Etienne Saqr that grants Phares his expert’s cache. He is an Arab with bona fide academic credentials who validates proponents of military intervention in the Middle East the same way that Ahmed Chalabi once did. Indeed, both once shared the same publicist, Benador Associates, a neoconservative favourite. Phares can make the aspirations of the Arabs and Iranians sound remarkably consonant with the interests of Tel Aviv. For someone who wrote papers for Israeli think tanks urging continued occupation of Southern Lebanon (“the only place in the world where Christian and Jewish blood is shed together for the defence of two Judeo-Christian nations”) this might not be too big an imaginative leap. But his capacity to divine the real yearnings of the Middle East’s Muslims is perhaps less certain.
During the Cold War extremists like James Burnham, who declared themselves reformed Communists, pushed extremely hawkish policies which historians agree merely prolonged the Cold War by at least two decades. In a similar vein, a gaggle of self-styled ‘ex-extremists’ is today shaping security policy in both domestic and international spheres through alliances with the neoconservative right. In an excellent piece of reportage, Anderson Cooper, Kathleen Johnson and Drew Griffin of CNN recently exposed Walid Shoebat, one stalwart of this industry. Richard Silverstein who runs the excellent Tikun Olam began exposing Shoebat in 2007. Meanwhile in the UK, ex-extremist Maajid Nawaz of the controversial Quilliam Foundation, is being feted by forums like TED! A disgrace, indeed.
The BBC recently gave Douglas Murray of the neoconservative Center for Social Cohesion a platform to spew his xenophobic bile, but to its dismay, Murray’s lies were quickly demolished by News Statesmen editor Mehdi Hasan in the subsequent debate.
PULSE is proud to present this excerpt from Brain-Dead or Alive, the new novel created by Tom Clancy’s Op-Center, written in collaboration with Gen. Tony Zinni (Ret.), Gen. Charles Horner (Ret.), Gen. Fred Franks (Ret.), and Chase Madar.
It was a dark and stormy night in McLean, Virginia.
Former CIA director and ex-president Vernon Manley Babbitt sat at his dining-room table flanked by his most trusted compadres, who in many adventures past had defended the American way of life against nuclear terrorists, Islamic fanatics, and unarmed folk singers. Their next mission might be the most dangerous yet.
V. Manley Babbitt and his secret team called themselves the BFD, and their existence was so classified no one knew what the initials stood for. The BFD was licensed to do anything, from waterboarding the president’s mother to parking in handicapped spots, and with the safety of millions at stake, they often did. Babbitt surveyed his companions, tried and true, around the table.
First there was X, a man without an identity. Nobody knew X’s real name. Was it maybe just X? That kind of head-fake would have been vintage X! No one even knew what X looked like, not even X’s wife, because he always wore a brown paper bag on his head. He had ex-Special Ops written all over him, but not on the paper bag, which usually bore the logo of the retail chain where his wife had done the previous day’s shopping.
This is as good as talk radio gets. Our friend, the great Phil Weiss on Radio Open Source with Chris Lydon to discuss the implications of the Arab revolt and the changing discourse in the American Jewish community.
Author’s Prologue: I write this article as the bottoms-up Egyptian democratic revolution has just brought down what had seemed until very recently to be the solid regime of Hosni Mubarak. It was an amazing accomplishment achieved by the power of the whole people—something that is often sloganized but never realized. And the fact that this was accomplished without violence on the part of the revolutionaries is equally amazing. While one can only admire the courage and tenacity of the Egyptian people and take pleasure in their jubilation, it is also necessary to look at the ongoing realities, with the recognition that the process is only beginning, and that there are intelligent minds, cold, calculating, and totally unsympathetic to the aspirations of the common people of the Middle East, who are already developing sophisticated strategies to thwart its fruition.
Despite the usual mantra about Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East, it is quite apparent that the Jewish exclusivist state has been, and in fact must be, opposed to democracy in the Middle East. The fact that it is a state based on Jewish exclusivity means that it must treat the Palestinians in an undemocratic manner in both the occupied territories and in Israel itself, because the Palestinians pose an existential threat to the Jewish state by virtue of their very existence.
Moreover, the negative reaction of Israel and its devotees to the revolution for democracy in Egypt illustrates that Israel’s detrimental effect on democracy goes far beyond the boundaries of historic Palestine. Israeli leaders are terrified that this democratic revolution might bring about a radical change in Egypt’s foreign policy, since Mubarak had acquiesced to and actually in some ways facilitated Israel’s regional hegemony, which the general public neither in Egypt nor anywhere else in the Middle East would voluntarily support.