Israelpolitik, the Neocons and the Long Shadow of the Iraq War—A Review of Muhammad Idrees Ahmad’s book ‘The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War’

This essay first appeared in The Drouth (‘The Thirst’), a quarterly magazine published in Glasgow (Issue 50, Winter 2014/2015). I wrote it in December 2014.

The Road to Iraq book coverThe Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War
By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
Edinburgh University Press
£19.99

Reviewed by Danny Postel

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:

  • ISIS emerged from the ashes of al Qaeda in Iraq, which formed in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. Without the 2003 invasion, there would be no ISIS as we know it—and the region’s political landscape would look very different.
  • 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.

The central question Ahmad attempts to answer is: Why did the 2003 Iraq War happen? In one of the book’s most valuable sections, felicitously titled ‘Black Gold and Red Herrings’, he goes through several prevalent explanations/theories and takes them apart one by one: Continue reading “Israelpolitik, the Neocons and the Long Shadow of the Iraq War—A Review of Muhammad Idrees Ahmad’s book ‘The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War’”

Let’s Talk About Genocide: The Case of Palestine

declaration made by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 96 (I) dated 11 December 1946 that genocide is a crime under international law

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.  

Though still contentious in some circles even within the Palestine solidarity movement, I’d like to join Ali Abunimah, Ilan Pape and others [1,2] and put forth that Israel, typical of a colonialist entity, isn’t only guilty of war crimes, discrimination, and employing an apartheid system on the Palestinian people, but is actually committing genocide. Before the reader rules me out as another “extremist” and clicks on, I’d like to remind you that all these terms are legal terms. And though I’m by no means a legal expert, I intend to argue the legal points in this article, in hopes of not only proving that Israel is in fact committing the crime of genocide, but that legal professionals would refine these arguments and take them where they belong- International Criminal Court.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Genocide: The Case of Palestine”

Collective Punishment and the Value of Israeli vs. Palestinian Lives

The following post was written by my colleague and friend Mohamad Elmasry, a Visiting Scholar at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies whose MA thesis examined American newspaper coverage of death in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In the aftermath of the tragic killings of three Israeli teenagers, Gaza has been bombed (yet again). More than 30 targets were hit last evening. Israel is good at collective punishment. We know this.

The murder of the three Israeli teens is quite awful. What is also awful is that these three kids will get more news coverage than the hundreds of Palestinian kids killed by Israel in the last several years. Numerous academic research studies all say the same thing: western reportage favors and humanizes the Israeli perspective, while delegitimizing and condemning the Palestinian perspective. The research also shows that Israeli deaths are covered more prominently than Palestinian deaths. For western media, Israeli lives are worth more than Palestinian lives. It’s that simple, really.

Palestinians do not have a military, and — after having been robbed of their land, slaughtered, and kicked out of their homes in 1948 — have been illegally occupied for nearly half a century. For many years, the US and Israel have been virtually the only countries in the world to vote against the UN resolution for “peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine,” which would require Israel to end its illegal occupation. The vote is usually something like 160 to 5 (with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia always voting with the US. and Israel, and the rest of the world voting in the other direction). In November 2012, the vote was 163 to 6. Israel and the US have also systematically obstructed peace negotiations, as has been meticulously documented by Norman Finkelstein and other leading scholars.

The occupation is utterly brutal (one need only consult any of the countless independent eyewitness accounts, or, alternatively, the human rights reports). Palestinians can do nothing without the permission of the Israeli Defense Forces, are not allowed freedom of movement, do not have control over their own resources, and have to put up with the regular home demolitions that make room for illegal Israeli settlements. Over the years, many thousands of Palestinians have been killed — including more than 1,300 children between 2000 and 2011 alone — and many thousands more imprisoned while defending themselves against IDF atrocities.

We Americans give Israel several billion dollars per year in aid. Most of us (Americans) do not know the first thing about the conflict and are too consumed with our busy lives (i.e. sporting events, television shows, movies, etc.) to give a damn what our government does with our tax dollars. To add insult to injury, our national media reportage of the conflict is dreadful, and, occasionally balanced reporting notwithstanding, overwhelmingly projects Palestinians as the aggressors and Israelis as the victims. Many studies have confirmed this basic finding. See the studies cited below, among numerous others.

REFERENCES

Ackerman, S., (2001). “Al-Aqsa Intifada and the U.S. Media.”Journal of Palestine Studies, v30 i2 p61.

Dunsky, M., (2001). “Missing: The Bias Implicit in the Absent.” Arab Studies Quarterly, v23 i3 p1.

Elmasry M. H., (2009) “Death in the Middle East: An Analysis of How the New York Times and Chicago Tribune framed killings in the second Palestinian Intifada.” Journal of Middle East Media 5(1).

Friel, H. & Falk, R. (2007). Israel-Palestine On Record: How the New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East. London-New York: Verso.

Ross, S. D. (2003). “Framing of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in thirteen months of New York Times editorials surrounding the attack of September 11, 2001.” Conflict & Communication online, vol. 2, No. 2.

Viser, M. (2003). “Attempted Objectivity: An Analysis of the New York Times and Ha’aretz and Their Portrayals of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, Vol. 8 Issue 4, p114.

 

Mohamad Elmasry is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver and an incoming Assistant Professor in the Department of Communications at the University of North Alabama. Previously he was Assistant Professor and Graduate Director in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at The American University in Cairo (AUC). His work has appeared in the Journal of Middle East Media, the International Communication Gazette, the Journal of Arab and Muslim Media Research, International Journal of Communication, Global Media Journal, Political Violence @ a Glance, Al Jazeera English, openDemocracy, The Immanent Frame and Jadaliyya, among other publications.

US-Israel Trade: Espionage, Theft and Secrets

http://vimeo.com/22314781
On April 6, Grant F. Smith presented a comprehensive review of the US-Israel Free Trade Agreement to the Finance and Economics Council at the University of Rochester. Using a slide show of declassified documents and charts, Smith revealed how secret agreements and a joint Israeli embassy/AIPAC covert operation undermined US industries and the trade negotiating process.

New quantitative analysis and disclosures reveal the US-Israel trade agreement is actually a $10 billion/year foreign aid program. Smith also discusses how major omissions in Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s 2009 Council on Foreign Relations book Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle undermine their two major findings: that perpetual conflict gives Israel a comparative advantage and that the US should reinstate conscription in order to match Israel’s entrepreneurial output.

In their own words

On the excellent ‘Promised Land’ blog, Noam Sheizaf draws attention to an IDF slideshow which lists “the principles of Israeli policy” towards the Gaza Strip, particularly with regards to restrictions on freedom of movement. One objective is listed as “separating/differentiating Judea and Samaria [West Bank] from Gaza”. Sheizaf notes that this “is the first time an Israeli official document publicly declares that the current policy objective is to create two separate political entities in the Palestinian territories”.

This is an example of how Zionist lobby spin can often be challenged using the words of Israeli officials. Last month, Netanyahu’s testimony before the Turkel Commission included the admission that, in the words of Gaza Gateway, “Israel’s decisions on what to allow or prohibit into Gaza were based not on concern for the welfare of the population in Gaza but rather about Israel’s image in the international media”. So much for ‘security’.

Then just a week ago, the same Commission heard testimony from Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, who said that “Israel declared economic warfare against the Gaza Strip and prevented the entry of goods – including certain kinds of food and other civilian items – that posed no security threat, with the goal of disrupting civilian life in the Gaza Strip”.

Finally, remember that in a 2007 legal case, the Israeli government’s State Attorney’s Office argued [PDF] that “harming the economy itself is a legitimate means of warfare and a relevant consideration even when deciding on allowing in relief consignments”.