http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0102-01.htm
 
 
Published on Thursday, January 2, 2003 by the International Herald Tribune
America's Role: Let's Stick to the Facts
by William Pfaff
 

PARIS --  A nation with the power and ambition of today's United States owes it to itself, and to the world, to know facts. Knowing what actually happened, rather than myths about what happened, would seem essential to avoiding error about what may happen in the future.

First are facts about U.S. history, as applied to policy choices. A policy paper issued by the influential American Enterprise Institute recently compared President George W. Bush's opportunity in going to war with Iraq with Abraham Lincoln's opportunity in the Civil War.

What began for Lincoln as a simple military intervention to restore the Union became, the paper argued, a great undertaking to emancipate slaves and guarantee their liberty as freedmen. It concluded that Bush must today do the same thing: liberate the Iraqis and (paraphrasing what Bush has already promised) stabilize and democratize "the greater Islamic world."

Under Lincoln's successors, the slaves emancipated during the American Civil War were driven from state government assemblies and deprived of the vote by intimidation, property-qualification laws and poll taxes.

By the turn of the century, a system of racial segregation and invidious discrimination was in place in the United States that lasted until a century after Lincoln's death.

Lyndon Johnson's civil rights legislation in the 1960s came as close as America has yet come - which is not that close - to accomplishing for American society itself what the Bush administration now claims to offer "the greater Islamic world."

A senior White House official was quoted last week in The Washington Post as saying that the United States has assumed "an almost imperial role" today because its responsibilities are the same as when America was "standing between Nazi Germany and a takeover of all Europe."

Britain, not the United States, stood between the Nazis and the takeover of all Europe. The United States did nothing substantial to oppose the Nazis until 1942. Churchill pleaded for help, but an isolationist Congress denied it.

Jews fleeing Germany were refused American refuge. The U.S. government rejected a French government appeal for help in June 1940. The French republic collapsed and the Battle of Britain began. A handful of American volunteers went to join the Royal Air Force's Eagle Squadron.

The only practical aid for Britain that President Franklin Roosevelt was able to get from an isolationist Congress was to exchange 50 obsolete destroyers for 99-year leases on British bases in the Western Hemisphere. Lend-lease was a system of war supplies delivered on credit, which Congress demanded be eventually repaid (and much was, which is one reason the British Empire came to an end after 1945). Even after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States did not immediately declare war on Germany. It did so three days later, after Germany had declared war on the United States.

Look back a century. In January 1903, the world was at peace and Britain was the sole superpower. It was the greatest empire ever known. Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty in 1903 would have looked with contempt at the feeble "rogue states" that preoccupy Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Britain had not only the capacity to wage simultaneous naval wars against its two greatest rivals, France and Germany, but could have fought the combined navies of the United States, Germany, and Russia.

The Boer War had been settled the previous May, after nearly 6,000 British casualties and 16,000 losses to disease, as against Boer losses of 4,000. (This was the British Empire's Vietnam war - an intimation of decline.)

The great-power peace of 1903 was to end in 1904, when Japan, with its five battleships, went to war with Russia and sank virtually the entire Russian fleet. The first Russian revolution followed.

Also in 1903, the Russian Social Democratic Party split into Menshevik and Bolshevik factions, the latter led by Lenin.

Thirty-six years later, Lenin's Russia joined Nazi Germany to divide and conquer Europe, followed by Nazi Germany's attempt to destroy Soviet Russia. Two years after that, in a campaign lasting five months, Japanese naval air power drove all the great powers out of the western Pacific - ending colonialism by doing so, and bringing the United States into the world crisis.

Four years later the United States, essentially unharmed, more powerful than it was before the war, picked up the pieces. The United States is where it is today because of what other nations did to ruin themselves. Being the world's sole superpower is not a permanent appointment.

Copyright ) 2003 the International Herald Tribune

 

http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0104-01.htm

Published on Saturday, January 4, 2003 by the Independent/UK
The Double Standards, Dubious Morality and Duplicity of This Fight Against Terror
Meanwhile, we are ploughing on to war in Iraq, which has oil, but avoiding war in Korea, which does not have oil
by Robert Fisk

 

I think I'm getting the picture. North Korea breaks all its nuclear agreements with the United States, throws out UN inspectors and sets off to make a bomb a year, and President Bush says it's "a diplomatic issue". Iraq hands over a 12,000-page account of its weapons production and allows UN inspectors to roam all over the country, and – after they've found not a jam-jar of dangerous chemicals in 230 raids – President Bush announces that Iraq is a threat to America, has not disarmed and may have to be invaded. So that's it, then.

How, readers keep asking me in the most eloquent of letters, does he get away with it? Indeed, how does Tony Blair get away with it? Not long ago in the House of Commons, our dear Prime Minister was announcing in his usual schoolmasterly tones – the ones used on particularly inattentive or dim boys in class – that Saddam's factories of mass destruction were "up [pause] and running [pause] now." But the Dear Leader in Pyongyang does have factories that are "up [pause] and running [pause] now". And Tony Blair is silent.

Why do we tolerate this? Why do Americans? Over the past few days, there has been just the smallest of hints that the American media – the biggest and most culpable backer of the White House's campaign of mendacity – has been, ever so timidly, asking a few questions. Months after The Independent first began to draw its readers' attention to Donald Rumsfeld's chummy personal visits to Saddam in Baghdad at the height of Iraq's use of poison gas against Iran in 1983, The Washington Post has at last decided to tell its own readers a bit of what was going on. The reporter Michael Dobbs includes the usual weasel clauses ("opinions differ among Middle East experts... whether Washington could have done more to stop the flow to Baghdad of technology for building weapons of mass destruction"), but the thrust is there: we created the monster and Mr Rumsfeld played his part in doing so.

But no American – or British – newspaper has dared to investigate another, almost equally dangerous, relationship that the present US administration is forging behind our backs: with the military-supported regime in Algeria. For 10 years now, one of the world's dirtiest wars has been fought out in this country, supposedly between "Islamists" and "security forces", in which almost 200,000 people – mostly civilians – have been killed. But over the past five years there has been growing evidence that elements of those same security forces were involved in some of the bloodiest massacres, including the throat-cutting of babies. The Independent has published the most detailed reports of Algerian police torture and of the extrajudicial executions of women as well as men. Yet the US, as part of its obscene "war on terror", has cozied up to the Algerian regime. It is helping to re-arm Algeria's army and promised more assistance. William Burns, the US Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East, announced that Washington "has much to learn from Algeria on ways to fight terrorism".

And of course, he's right. The Algerian security forces can instruct the Americans on how to make a male or female prisoner believe that they are going to suffocate. The method – US personnel can find the experts in this particular torture technique working in the basement of the Chbteau Neuf police station in central Algiers – is to cover the trussed-up victim's mouth with a rag and then soak it with cleaning fluid. The prisoner slowly suffocates. There's also, of course, the usual nail-pulling and the usual wires attached to penises and vaginas and – I'll always remember the eye-witness description – the rape of an old woman in a police station, from which she emerged, covered in blood, urging other prisoners to resist.

Some of the witnesses to these abominations were Algerian police officers who had sought sanctuary in London. But rest assured, Mr Burns is right, America has much to learn from the Algerians. Already, for example – don't ask why this never reached the newspapers – the Algerian army chief of staff has been warmly welcomed at Nato's southern command headquarters at Naples.

And the Americans are learning. A national security official attached to the CIA divulged last month that when it came to prisoners, "our guys may kick them around a little in the adrenaline of the immediate aftermath (sic)." Another US "national security" official announced that "pain control in wounded patients is a very subjective thing". But let's be fair. The Americans may have learnt this wickedness from the Algerians. They could just as well have learned it from the Taliban.

Meanwhile, inside the US, the profiling of Muslims goes on apace. On 17 November, thousands of Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans, Afghans, Bahrainis, Eritreans, Lebanese, Moroccans, Omanis, Qataris, Somalis, Tunisians, Yemenis and Emiratis turned up at federal offices to be finger-printed. The New York Times – the most chicken of all the American papers in covering the post-9/11 story – revealed (only in paragraph five of its report, of course) that "over the past week, agency officials... have handcuffed and detained hundreds of men who showed up to be finger-printed. In some cases the men had expired student or work visas; in other cases, the men could not provide adequate documentation of their immigration status."

In Los Angeles, the cops ran out of plastic handcuffs as they herded men off to the lockup. Of the 1,000 men arrested without trial or charges after 11 September, many were native-born Americans.

Indeed, many Americans don't even know what the chilling acronym of the "US Patriot Act" even stands for. "Patriot" is not a reference to patriotism. The name stands for the "United and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act". America's $200m (#125m) "Total Awareness Program" will permit the US government to monitor citizens' e-mail and internet activity and collect data on the movement of all Americans. And although we have not been told about this by our journalists, the US administration is now pestering European governments for the contents of their own citizens' data files. The most recent – and most preposterous – of these claims came in a US demand for access to the computer records of the French national airline, Air France, so that it could "profile" thousands of its passengers. All this is beyond the wildest dreams of Saddam and the Dear Leader Kim.

The new rules even worm their way into academia. Take the friendly little university of Purdue in Indiana, where I lectured a few weeks ago. With federal funds, it's now setting up an "Institute for Homeland Security", whose 18 "experts" will include executives from Boeing and Hewlett-Packard and US Defense and State Department officials, to organize"research programs" around "critical mission areas". What, I wonder, are these areas to be? Surely nothing to do with injustice in the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict or the presence of thousands of US troops on Arab lands. After all, it was Richard Perle, the most sinister of George Bush's pro-Israeli advisers, who stated last year that "terrorism must be decontextualized".

Meanwhile, we are – on that very basis – ploughing on to war in Iraq, which has oil, but avoiding war in Korea, which does not have oil. And our leaders are getting away with it. In doing so, we are threatening the innocent, torturing our prisoners and "learning" from men who should be in the dock for war crimes. This, then, is our true memorial to the men and women so cruelly murdered in the crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001.

) 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

 

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0104-05.htm

Published on Saturday, January 4, 2003 by the Guardian/UK
Anxious Ally Sees Bush's Hand Behind the Confrontation
by Jonathan Watts in Tokyo

 

Not for the first time since George Bush became president the United States is finding it a lot harder to deal with its friends than its enemies.

On this occasion the conundrum is in north-east Asia, where Washington's efforts to punish North Korea for its nuclear transgressions have so far served only to alienate one of its staunchest allies, South Korea.

The plans for a diplomatic solution floated by Seoul yesterday in advance of the meeting in Washington on Monday are in sharp contrast with the hardline policy favored by the US.

Mr Bush now faces a dilemma: ignore the South Korean plan and risk a wider rift with Seoul or accept the compromise and face a domestic backlash for backing away from a state he has described as part of an axis of evil.

Pyongyang's reopening of the Yongbyon reactor means it will have enough plutonium to make several bombs within a few months. Mr Bush will look foolish if his stance against proliferation accelerates the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a "rogue regime".

In Seoul, this is increasingly seen as a problem of the US president's own making. Before Mr Bush came to power, the South Korean president Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" for luring Pyongyang out of its isolation seemed to be working. In 2000 the US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, visited Pyongyang as a prelude to a possible summit between Bill Clinton and Kim Jung-il, but just before he left office Mr Clinton declined the invitation to go to Pyongyang, partly because of uncertainties about his host's intentions and partly because he suspected that Mr Bush was likely to freeze US policy toward Korea.

That suspicion was confirmed within days when Mr Bush publicly expressed skepticism about "whether or not we can verify an agreement in a country that doesn't enjoy the freedoms that our two countries understand".

In the succeeding two years the diplomatic thaw had been replaced by a chilling rerun of the nuclear confrontation that took the region to the brink of war in 1994, when the residents of Seoul were so terrified of the North that they stripped shop shelves bare of bottled water, toilet paper and other essentials.

This time, however, most South Koreans do not believe they will be attacked by their brothers and sisters in the North and blame the US for stirring up trouble.

They are not the only ones. Many in the state department were shocked last January when Mr Bush used his state of the union address to dump the North alongside Iraq and Iran in the "axis of evil".

"That speech left a bad taste in the mouth of the Washington foreign policy elites, who made it clear that the phrase should not be used again," a White House adviser said.

Nevertheless Washington has raised its demands of the North, from Mr Clinton's focus on it scrapping nuclear weapons and missiles to Mr Bush's insistence on a reduction in its million-strong army.

Given that Pyongyang pursues a "military first" policy, this is tantamount to a call for a change of regime. Mr Bush would clearly not be sad to see the end of the North Korean leader, a man whom he said he "loathes".

This dramatization and personalization has alarmed Japan, which is usually content to follow the US. Officials in Tokyo say concern about America's intentions was among the reasons why the prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, met Mr Kim in Pyongyang in September.

Two weeks later Washington said the North had admitted to its undersecretary of state James Kelly, when he visited Pyongyang, that it had a uranium enrichment program.

The timing and wording of that report has prompted the suspicion in the region that the current crisis was manufactured by Washington to regain the initiative when Seoul and Tokyo were moving closer to Pyongyang.

Seoul and Beijing have even doubted whether the North actually confessed to an illicit program.

Rather than an admission, they say, the North's representative at the talks may have simply made a show of defiance in response to the confrontational stance of Mr Kelly, who upset his hosts by dispensing with the diplomatic niceties.

"There is still some ambiguity," an official of the unification ministry in Seoul said.

"Taking into account the cultural context, this may have been an emotional rather than a political statement."

The furore that followed seemed to be out of proportion to the crime. The CIA reported several years ago that North Korea probably had two nuclear weapons made with plutonium from the Yongbyon plant before it closed down in 1994.

So questions are now being asked about the fuss surrounding a possible uranium program. that is technically more difficult and will take several years to reach fruition, if ever.

"Officials in Seoul are asking why the state department revealed North Korea's supposed nuclear admission when it did," said Michael Yoo, an analyst with the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry in Tokyo.

"It is felt that the ability of the North Koreans to make a bomb has been exaggerated so that Bush can keep tensions on the boil until the next presidential election, just in case an attack on Iraq is not possible for some time."

Until this week South Korean ministers have largely kept such reservations to themselves to maintain a unified front with Washington and Tokyo. The final straw appears to have been last month's seizure of a North Korean ship carrying missiles to Yemen, by Spanish forces at the behest of the US.

This produced tension as the South Korean presidential election campaign reached its climax. A cabinet source has told the Guardian that Kim Dae-jung's government demanded a meeting with the US to complain about this attempt to influence the election in favor of the pro-American candidate Lee Hoi-chang.

Mr Lee lost the campaign, during which tens of thousands demonstrated outside the US ambassador's residence in Seoul.

A diplomatic compromise that will return the peninsula to the position it was in last summer and scrap the uranium enrichment program. - in whatever form it exists - is still the most likely outcome of the dispute unless Mr Bush insists on a reduction of the North's army, which would strengthen the hand of hardliners in Pyongyang.

If that happens the 50th anniversary year of the US-South Korea security alliance could prove to be its worst. And the US could lose a friend before ridding itself of an enemy.

) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003