Archive for January, 2011

Avi Shlaim on the Neoconservative Middle East War Agenda

Avi Shlaim on the Neoconservative Middle East War Agenda

Thursday, January 20, 2011 7:52 PM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”


The following is my essay “Avi Shlaim on the Neoconservative Middle East War Agenda,” which can be found on the following websites (among others):

Avi Shlaim on the Neoconservative Middle East War Agenda 

Passionate Attachment:

Pulse Media: 

Avi Shlaim on the Neoconservative Middle East War Agenda

by Stephen J. Sniegoski

A friend, Phil Collier, an avid student of and sometime writer on Middle East affairs (and  a National Master in chess), recently  informed  me that Avi Shlaim, in his recent book, Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations, had one chapter, “Palestine and Iraq,” that presents a thesis almost identical to what I have written in The Transparent Cabal.  This naturally encouraged me to obtain the book, and Collier’s description turns out to be correct.
Now this similarity is quite significant since what I have written on the neocons regarding their strong influence on U.S. Middle East policy and their connection to Israel is taboo in the American mainstream, with even numerous antiwar individuals (especially those with higher status) and publications shying away from my work. But unlike me, Shlaim, a professor of international relations at Oxford,  is a recognized scholar, with such notable books on Israel and its neighbors as The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (2001).  And he is also Jewish and an Israeli citizen, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces (possessing dual British and Israeli citizenship), which shelters him from charges of anti-Semitism.  Undoubtedly because of  his credentials,  his works cannot be ignored, and this book was honored as a Kirkus Best Book for 2009.   
Now, in his  ten-page  chapter on this subject, Shlaim could only present a much-abbreviated version of the major themes that I elaborate on at length in my 447 page book.  The following are some poignant examples from Shlaim’s work, with my commentary drawing comparisons to The Transparent Cabal.
“The basic premise behind George W. Bush’s policy towards the Middle East reflected this strong pro-Israeli bias,” Shlaim opines. “The premise was that the key issue in Middle East politics was not Palestine, but Iraq.” (p. 297)  This is the essence of my thesis, but it is something many establishment people, including those who have been antiwar, ardently deny when they claim that the elimination of Saddam  not only harmed  Israeli interests by empowering Iran, but that this result was clearly foreseen by  Israelis and supporters of Israel prior to the attack on Iraq and that the government of Israel thus allegedly opposed the war.  The Transparent Cabal, of course, shows that the entire neocon war agenda in the Middle East was directed to advancing Israel’s security by weakening its enemies and that Israeli leaders did, in fact, promote the war on Iraq.  Of course, in the United States, any  claim that American Jews promote Israeli interests, no matter how well adduced, invariably elicits accusations of anti-Semitism.
“American proponents of the war on Iraq promised that action against Iraq would form part of a broader engagement with the problems of the Middle East,” Shlaim notes.  “The road to Jerusalem, they argued, went through Baghdad.  Cutting off Saddam Hussein’s support for Palestinian terrorism was, according to them, an essential first step in the quest for a settlement.” (p. 297)  Later he observes:  “One of the main arguments for regime change in Baghdad was to put an end to Iraqi support for Palestinian militants and for what was seen as Palestinian intransigence in the peace process with Israel.” (p. 300)
As I point out in The Transparent Cabal, the neocons maintained that it was the removal of not only Saddam, but most “non-democratic” regimes in the Middle East, which was necessary to bring about a  peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue.  However, the “peace” the neocons had in mind was one dictated by Israel. Elimination of the Middle Eastern “non-democratic” regimes would facilitate this development because it was just these regimes  that provided moral and material support to the Palestinian resistance, portrayed by the neocons as “Palestinian intransigence.”  Without outside support, the isolated and dispirited Palestinians would ultimately be forced to accede to whatever type of peaceful solution Israel offered, which would create nothing like a viable, Palestinian state, but which would serve to remove Israel’s Palestinian problem and thus help to secure the Jewish nature of the state of Israel. 

“The influence of the Likud and of its friends in Washington could be detected across the entire spectrum of American policy towards the Middle East,” writes Shlaim.  “Particularly striking was the ideological convergence between some of the leading neoconservatives in the Bush Administration – such as Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith—and the hardliners in Ariel Sharon’s inner circle.” (p. 298)

I go to great lengths in The Transparent Cabal to highlight the link between the neocons and the hardline Likudniks. In fact, I show that the neocons’ very plan to reconfigure the Middle East paralleled the Likudnik goal of destabilizing and fragmenting Israel’s enemies, which was best articulated by Oded Yinon in the early 1980s.
In illustrating the neocons’ identification with Israeli interests, Shlaim underscores the significance of the neocons’ “A Clean Break” paper, writing: “In 1996, a group of six Jewish Americans, led by Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, wrote a paper for incoming Israeli prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu.  Entitled ‘A Clean Break’, the paper proposed, in essence, an abrupt reversal of the foreign policies of the Clinton Administration towards the Middle East.” (p. 298)  After mentioning the major goals  of the plan, including the removal of Saddam’s regime, Shlaim declares: “Thus, five years before the attack on the twin towers, the idea of regime change in Baghdad was already on the agenda of some of Israel’s most fervent Republican supporters in Washington.” (p. 299)  Regarding the connection of that policy to actual American interests, Shlaim opines that “While the authors’ devotion to Israel’s interests was crystal-clear, their implicit identification of those interests with American interests was much more open to question.” (p. 299) Shlaim accepts the obvious  fact that the neocons were influential in shaping Bush policy: “The Bush Administration’s entire policy towards the Middle East was similarly supportive of Israel’s short-term strategic interests.” (p. 299)
It should be noted here that Shlaim, in accord with what I write in  The Transparent Cabal,  makes three taboo points that often lead to charges of anti-Semitism when he observes that the neocons are Jewish, that they are devoted to Israel, and that they were influential enough to shape U.S. Middle East  policy in the interests of Israel.
Shlaim correctly points out  that the neocons’ Middle East war agenda transcended Iraq: “While Iraq was the main target, the neocons also advocated that America exert relentless pressure on Syria and on Iran.” (p. 300)  In The Transparent Cabal, I show that the neocons only regarded Iraq as the momentary “main target”—it was to be the first step in their plan to reconfigure the Middle East.
Shlaim refers to  Israeli support for the broader neocon Middle East war agenda, which would also primarily benefit that country, not the United States:   “Washington’s policy of confrontation and regime change was fervently supported in Tel Aviv.  Here too the benefit to Israel is much more evident than the benefit to America.   And here too, the US agenda towards the region appears to incorporate a right-wing Likud agenda.” (p. 300)
While fundamentally similar, Shlaim’s analysis does differ with The Transparent Cabal in a few respects. For example, he depicts the noted Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis as a crucial influence on the neocons, maintaining that he provided “the intellectual underpinning for this policy [the neocon plan of democratizing the Middle East by war].” (P. 299)  While aware that Lewis expressed this Middle East democratization argument, I am not aware that the neocons actually derived this view from him.  To obtain expert opinion on this issue, I contacted Paul Gottfried, probably the foremost historian of neoconservatism, and he also was not aware of any evidence for Shlaim’s claim. Since Lewis is a well-known scholar, some neocons undoubtedly believed that publicizing their connection to him would enhance the credibility of their democratization argument, but whether they actually derived this view from him needs to be proven. 
A more significant difference between Shlaim’s argument and that of The Transparent Cabal  revolves around an assessment of the results of the neocon policy.  While Shlaim holds that the  neocons were attuned to the views of the hardline Likudniks and sought to advance what they considered to be Israel’s security interests,  he seems to drift away from this position in looking at the policy’s results.  Instead, he seems to take the neocon rhetoric on democracy at face value and judges the results by both this standard and how the results affected Israel’s security, as he (a left-wing Zionist, not a hardline Likudnik) sees  it.  “The war on Iraq has not gone according to plan,” Shlaim asserts.  “Saddam Hussein and his henchman have been removed from power but the goals of democracy, security and stability have proved persistently elusive. Today the shadow of civil war hangs over Iraq.” (p. 305)
In contrast to Shlaim’s view of Israel’s security, the neocons explicitly sought regional instability to allegedly achieve democracy, as I show in The Transparent Cabal.  And the hardline Likudnik position was to destabilize and fragment Israel’s enemies to enhance Israeli security.  The neocons similarly advocated such an approach in their “Clean Break” agenda, which did not emphasize democratization.  In short, from the perspective of the neocons and the hardline Likudniks, the instability and the “shadow of civil war” resulting from the US invasion of Iraq were neither surprising nor unwelcome.  Thus the neocons’ plans failed only to the extent that the US has not, or at least not yet, moved on to attack and destabilize Iran and other enemies of Israel.

It is certainly pleasing to see themes that I present emerging  in the mainstream, but I am miffed that my much longer account remains largely ignored. It would be great if  books such as Shlaim’s would serve to open the door to wider publicity for The Transparent Cabal, which would not simply be of personal benefit but would also provide mainstream readers with the most complete account currently existing of the neoconservative involvement in the war on Iraq and overall U.S. Middle East policy, and thus serve as a guide to analyzing current U.S. policy.  However, since Shlaim’s theme is buried among 29 other short chapters, its impact will likely be negligible.  And the overall blackout of these crucial themes will likely continue. 

Amazon Link for The Transparent Cabal:

Stephen J. Sniegoski

‘Israel first’ Joe Lieberman all for the Iraq war (which comes as no surprise since it was for Israel!)

‘Israel first’ Joe Lieberman all for the Iraq war (which comes as no surprise since it was for Israel!):


Serving Up Palestine One Slice at a Time

Serving Up Palestine One Slice at a Time

Posted By Philip Giraldi On January 19, 2011 @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized | 10 Comments

As of last week, 110 countries in the United Nations have extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine.  All recognize Palestine as including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, essentially the borders as they existed prior to the June 1967 Six Day War.  Nearly every country in Latin America, Asia, and Africa has recognized Palestinian statehood and there are indications that many European nations will soon follow suit.  Which leaves the United States, yet again, on the wrong side of history.  In fact, Washington has gone in completely the opposite direction, insisting that there cannot be any Palestinian state until negotiations are completed between the two parties involved, meaning that Israel shall have a veto on any such development and will postpone it until some time in the next century.

In fact, the United States is completely in lock step with Israel on the prospects for a Palestinian state.  The White House and State Department have condemned every move to obtain independent recognition of statehood.  The US position is summed up by House Resolution 1765, drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “Supporting a negotiated solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state, and for other purposes,” which had 54 co-sponsors.  It declares that “any attempt to establish Palestinian statehood outside the negotiating process will invoke the strongest congressional opposition” and condemns any attempt to “establish or seek recognition of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.”  It urges the Palestinians to “cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiation process” to “resume direct negotiations with Israel immediately,” and to “support the Obama Administration’s opposition to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.” 

And to make sure that the 110 countries who have signed on to the statehood agenda get the message, HR 1765 calls on the White House to “lead a diplomatic effort to persuade other nations to oppose a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state” and “affirm that the United States would deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state…”  If it sounds a bit like George Bush’s famous dictum, “you are either with us or against us,” it should.

Make no mistake, Israel does not want a Palestinian state because it would require the resolution of certain “core issues.” These would include the actual sovereignty of a Palestinian nation, access to Jerusalem, fixing the borders, and the sharing of limited water resources, most which now go to feed the illegal Israeli settlements which Washington has officially condemned but done nothing about for forty years.  Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is content to let the entire negotiation process drag on until there is nothing to negotiate.  Israel has already sliced up the West Bank with its Jewish only roads and settlements and will soon encircle East Jerusalem with housing developments being built on land illegally annexed.  The only thing the Palestinians have going for them is their birth rate:  they will soon constitute a majority in the pre-1947 mandate Palestine west of the Jordan River.

A settlement in the Middle East is strongly in the US national interest as the Israeli repression of the Palestinians has been a recruiting tool for militants worldwide, most of whom wind up blaming Washington.  It is reasonable to assume that the Obama Administration would like to have the whole festering Israel-Palestine mess go away, but, like the review of options on Afghanistan, our man in the White House is only listening to one side of the argument, and that side as always only offers the Israeli perspective.  According to Laura Rozen over at Politico, there are currently two task forces working with the White House and National Security Council on “options.”  But before anyone gets too excited by the unusual display of activity, it should be noted that the two groups are headed by Steven Hadley working with Sandy Berger and by Martin Indyk. Both groups are reporting to Dennis Ross, who recently went to Israel to “seek more clarity from Israeli leaders on their security requirements.”  Indyk and Ross are well known as Israel-firsters and Berger is best remembered for having stuffed classified documents from the National Archive into his trousers.  Hadley, who worked for W, is best recalled for nothing in particular but he is along for the ride to show that the effort is bipartisan.  Obama would love to have some kind of two state solution and the Ross-Indyk-Hadley-Bergers would sorely love to deliver one, but on Israel’s terms.  Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is reportedly part of the negotiating process, possibly the first time that an Ambassador of a foreign country has been allowed to sit in and influence the policy of the US relating to his own country, but why should anyone be surprised by that?

It is interesting to note that George Mitchell, the Administration’s designated rainmaker for Israel-Palestinian rapprochement, is nowhere in sight, leaving the task to those best equipped to appease Israel and its lobby.  And what they are trying to do is calculate what the absolute minimum might be that the Palestinians can accept to label a state while leaving the largest part of the pie to the Israelis, together with absolute control over a client nation of helots that they can then abuse at will.  That way it will look like there has been a two state solution, Obama will bask in glory long enough to get reelected and everyone that matters in Washington will be happy.

I know there are readers out there who must believe that there is actually a secret, underground State Department, possibly concealed somewhere in the Department of Agriculture, that is actually going around the world and doing what is best for America and its people.  Alas, it is not true and what we are seeing is what we are getting.  Consider how Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Pakistan last week to threaten its already shaky government into invading Waziristan to kill the militants who have been hiding there.  Joe suggested that American soldiers might do the job if the Paks are not up to it.  It is difficult to imagine what Biden thought to accomplish by his performance, but a good outcome from all the saber rattling is hard to imagine.  Much like Hillary Clinton going around last week and calling on Arab countries to liberalize their political systems.  Sure Hillary, just like the Palestinians did when they elected Hamas in a free and fair election and Washington and Tel Aviv decided that the result was not quite acceptable.  What happens when the Muslim Brotherhood wins an election in Egypt?  What will happen if parties unacceptable to Washington rise to the top in the current unrest in Lebanon and Tunisia?  It would all amount to much ado about nothing except that the consequences are deadly serious with American soldiers and local folks dying in their thousands because the Clintons, Obamas, and Bushes find it hard to admit that they have made a mistake.  Whether Obama or Palin is elected in 2012 almost seems irrelevant.  Six more years of this and we will be finished as a nation, bankrupt and despised everywhere, our only legacy a network of seven hundred-plus military bases falling into ruin worldwide, meant to give us peace and prosperity but delivering on neither.

Read more by Philip Giraldi

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Is Ron Paul Really An Anti-Semite or the only one with the balls to tell us the truth!?

Is Ron Paul Really An Anti-Semite or the only one with the balls to tell us the truth!?

Excellent segment with Ron Paul about Afghan and Iraq quagmires:  

Asking WHY is NOT “anti-Semitic” Ben Stein Plays the Anti-Semitism Card

Calling someone anti-Semitic is a ‘Trick’ according to former Israeli government official (see youtube linked via following URL):

Former CIA Bin Laden unit head Michael Scheuer slams Israel lobby on C-SPAN’s ‘Washington Journal’:

M.Scheuer’s Osama Bin Laden – video

Osama Bin Laden
10.12.21 video:

Record $14 trillion-plus debt weighs on Congress

Chalmers Johnson sadly seemed to have it correct in his ‘Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic’ book when the  Chinese hold a trillion dollars of our debt  as Israel continues to receive billions of Chinese borrowed (printed-out by the Federal Reserve!) US taxpayer dollars while US states go broke!:

Record $14 trillion-plus debt weighs on Congress

By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Tom Raum, Associated Press 6 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The United States just passed a dubious milestone: Government debt surged to an all-time high, topping $14 trillion — $45,300 for each and everyone in the country.

That means Congress soon will have to lift the legal debt limit to give the nearly maxed-out government an even higher credit limit or dramatically cut spending to stay within the current cap. Either way, a fight is ahead on Capitol Hill, inflamed by the passions of tea party activists and deficit hawks.

Already, both sides are blaming each other for an approaching economic train wreck as Washington wrestles over how to keep the government in business and avoid default on global financial obligations.

Bills increasing the debt limit are among the most unpopular to come before Congress, serving as pawns for decades in high-stakes bargaining games. Every time until now, the ending has been the same: We go to the brink before raising the ceiling.

All bets may be off, however, in this charged political environment, despite some signs the partisan rhetoric is softening after the Arizona shootings.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says failure to increase borrowing authority would be “a catastrophe,” perhaps rivaling the financial meltdown of 2008-2009.

Congressional Republicans, flexing muscle after November’s victories, say the election results show that people are weary of big government and deficit spending, and that it’s time to draw the line against more borrowing.

Defeating a new debt limit increase has become a priority for the tea party movement and other small-government conservatives.

So far, the new GOP majority has proved accommodating. Republicans are moving to make good on their promise to cut $100 billion from domestic spending this year. They adopted a rules change by House Speaker John Boehner that should make it easier to block a debt-limit increase.

The national debt is the accumulation of years of deficit spending going back to the days of George Washington. The debt usually advances in times of war and retreats in peace.

Remarkably, nearly half of today’s national debt was run up in just the past six years. It soared from $7.6 trillion in January 2005 as President George W. Bush began his second term to $10.6 trillion the day Obama was inaugurated and to $14.02 trillion now. The period has seen two major wars and the deepest economic downturn since the 1930s.

With a $1.7 trillion deficit in budget year 2010 alone, and the government on track to spend $1.3 trillion more this year than it takes in, annual budget deficits are adding roughly $4 billion a day to the national debt. Put another way, the government is borrowing 41 cents for every dollar it spends.

In a letter to Congress, Geithner said the current statutory debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion, set just last year, may be reached by the end of March — and hit no later than May 16. He warned that holding it hostage to skirmishes over spending could lead the country to default on its obligations, “an event that has no precedent in American history.”

Debt-level brinkmanship doesn’t wear a party label.

Here’s what then-Sen. Barack Obama said on the Senate floor in 2006: “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance the government’s reckless fiscal policies.”

It was a blast by the freshman lawmaker against a Bush request to raise the debt limit to $8.96 trillion.

Bush won on a 52-48 party-line vote. Not a single Senate Democrat voted to raise the limit, opposition that’s now complicating White House efforts to rally bipartisan support for a higher ceiling.

Democrats have use doomsday rhetoric about a looming government shutdown and comparing the U.S. plight to financial crises in Greece and Portugal. It’s all a bit of a stretch.

“We can’t do as the Gingrich crowd did a few years ago, close the government,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., referring to government shutdowns in 1995 when Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich was House speaker.

But those shutdowns had nothing to do with the debt limit. They were caused by failure of Congress to appropriate funds to keep federal agencies running.

And there are many temporary ways around the debt limit.

Hitting it does not automatically mean a default on existing debt. It only stops the government from new borrowing, forcing it to rely on other ways to finance its activities.

In a 1995 debt-limit crisis, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin borrowed $60 billion from federal pension funds to keep the government going. It wasn’t popular, but it helped get the job done. A decade earlier, James Baker, President Ronald Reagan’s treasury secretary, delayed payments to the Civil Service and Social Security trust funds and used other bookkeeping tricks to keep money in the federal till.

Baker and Rubin “found money in pockets no one knew existed before,” said former congressional budget analyst Stanley Collender.

Collender, author of “Guide to the Federal Budget,” cites a slew of other things the government can do to delay a crisis. They include leasing out government-owned properties, “the federal equivalent of renting out a room in your home,” or slowing down payments to government contractors.

Now partner-director of Qorvis Communications, a Washington consulting firm, Collender said such stopgap measures buy the White House time to resist GOP pressure for concessions.

“My guess is they can go months after the debt ceiling is not raised and still be able to come up with the cash they need. But at some point, it will catch up,” and raising the debt limit will become an imperative, he suggested.

Republican leaders seem to acknowledge as much, but first want to force big concessions. “Do I want to see this nation default? No. But I want to make sure we get substantial spending cuts and controls in exchange for raising the debt ceiling,” said the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Clearly, the tea party types in Congress will be given an up-and-down vote on raising the debt limit before any final deal is struck, even if the measure ultimately passes.

“At some point you run out of accounting gimmicks and resources. Eventually the government is going to have to start shutting down certain operations,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics.

“If we get into a heated, protracted debate over the debt ceiling, global investors are going to grow nervous, and start driving up interest rates. It will all become negatively self-re-enforcing,” said Zandi. “No good will come of it.”

The overall national debt rose above $14 trillion for the first time the last week in December. The part subject to the debt limit stood at $13.95 trillion on Friday and was expected to break above $14 trillion within days.



Treasury background on national debt:

Daily debt totals:

Frequently asked questions about the debt:

Government Accountability Office report:



America’s aid to Israel, Why?

America’s aid to Israel, Why?

Gabrielle Giffords, Tom Hurndall and Palestinian Children: Shot in the Head

Gabrielle Giffords, Tom Hurndall and Palestinian Children: Shot in the Head

A Look on the Wild Side (Phil Giraldi on Afghan quagmire)

A Look on the Wild Side

Posted By Philip Giraldi On January 12, 2011 @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized | 19 Comments

I have been hearing about the National Geographic documentary Restrepo for some time, though I only had a chance to view it last week.  The ninety-minute film and a book based on the documentary describe the experiences of a platoon of US Army soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Infantry in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan from May 2007 until July 2008.  The various military and intelligence focused websites that I peruse on a daily basis have been discussing Restrepo from a number of points of view.  Some criticized both the tactics and strategies employed by the army command, noting the futility of posting small units deep in enemy controlled territory. Other sites more frequently visited by Vietnam era veterans criticized the soldiers themselves, noting that they were a far different breed than the citizen soldiers doing their duty but yearning to get out of the army back in the sixties and seventies.  They find it hard to relate to the new breed.  For some, today’s soldiers are volunteers who suffer from a “lack of introspection.”  The troops see themselves as professionals with the shooting and killing part of a job that has to be done, though it is interesting to note how traumatized several of them became after their tour of duty, as reported in the documentary.

Restrepo was filmed by a team of two who spent a year with the soldiers on Forward Operating Base Restrepo, a vulnerable army outpost occupying a high point in the Korengal Valley, close to the Pakistani border.  Sebastian Junger, who wrote The Perfect Storm, authored the book that came out of the experience and was also involved in the filming.  Restrepo is shown at intervals on the National Geographic Channel on cable and satellite and is also available on DVD.  I have noted that it is now on Red Box at $1 a pop for a rental. 

Restrepo has no plot or story line.  Though it seemed to me that it is careful not to take any position on Afghanistan or on the war itself that conclusion might be the result of careful and deliberately ambiguous editing.  I note, for example, that many of the laudatory comments on the book and film on Amazon are essentially pro-war, people saying “look at our brave warriors and all they have been enduring for our freedom.”  A serving Army office whom I know had a different take, “Those poor bastards.” I also took away a radically different conclusion and for me, the lack of an apparent agenda is part of the film’s power. 

As the soldiers were operating in Taliban controlled territory, the filming only involves the US army troops themselves with hardly a glimpse of the enemy.  There is precious little of Afghanistan and the Afghans in the film and one knowledgeable critic who had served in Afghanistan commented that he was concerned by the “lack of outreach to the population.”   The soldiers are there to make it difficult for the Taliban to use the valley to move men and equipment out of Pakistan and that is all they are there to do.  One commenter describes their role as “kinetic.” The villagers are in the way, part of the landscape and not to be taken seriously.

The Restrepo platoon is commanded by a captain, an engaged and well meaning sort who is deadly earnest about his mission but completely clueless about the war he finds himself in the middle of.  There are a number of scenes that might be considered black comedy in which the overwrought captain is enduring the obligatory weekly meeting or “shura” with local tribal elders.  The tribesmen are served fruit juices in foil packs with plastic straws attached and cannot figure out how they are supposed to work.  When challenged by the Afghans, the captain tends to fall back on bromides about the American presence in their village and when frustrated he says “I don’t give a f*ck.”  In another scene, the captain brings in his colonel to explain the situation to the local tribesmen, expecting that the introduction of a higher rank will have a positive impact.  But the colonel is every bit as tone deaf as the captain and he comes out with a series of bumper sticker slogans to explain how the US forces are there to help whether the Afghans like it or not.  As neither officer speaks nary a word of the local lingo and are reliant on a translator whose English appears to be a bit sketchy, one wonders how all of the palaver and obscenities are actually rendered in Pashto.  And one wonders what the local elders go home thinking.

The huge chasm between the American invaders and the stolid Afghan tribesmen is one of the real messages of the film.  In physical appearance, demeanor, and sense of mission it is hardly possible that there has ever been a situation in which an army sent ostensibly to help a country and its government has so little in common with those who are reportedly being helped.  The Afghans without a doubt just want the foreigners to leave.  In one encounter, three village elders show up and ask for compensation for one of their cows that had wandered into the base barbed wire, become entangled, and had been killed and later eaten by the American soldiers. The captain refuses to pay them anything and suggests instead that he might give them a comparable quantity of rice and sugar.  They left, clearly unhappy, three more Afghans who might have been resigned to the American presence if they had been treated fairly but who will henceforth be enemies.

And the nitty-gritty collateral damage downside of the American presence is rarely seen, but when it is visible it is horrifying.  In one truly shocking scene a night raid by the American soldiers results in the deaths and wounding of a number of apparently innocent villagers, including children and infants.  The scenes of a wounded or dead little girl and of a bleeding infant are hard to forget.  The soldiers are clearly upset by what has happened, but their captain views it as an unavoidable consequence of their mission.  In another scene, the soldiers blast away at an Afghan man running on a hillside, hitting him with an explosive round that blows his body apart.  They have a good laugh over the carnage and it was not clear to me why they shot him at all except that he was there and running.

Ironically, Forward Operating Base Restrepo was abandoned in the spring of 2010, together with other exposed outposts similar in nature, demonstrating perhaps that it should not have been there in the first place and also making it clear that the US Army, with all its resources, cannot successfully occupy Afghanistan.  Fifty American soldiers had died in trying to hold the Korengal Valley.  The number of dead Afghans is not known, or at least is not reported by the filmmakers.  Clearly, the presence of American soldiers might have made logistical problems for the Taliban but it also turned more Afghans into enemies as a result of the complete cultural insensitivity and ignorance of the US troops.  This is what I took away from the film and this is why I think that Restrepo, by virtue of its dispassionate presentation of a terrible reality, demonstrates that the United States will never succeed at anything in Afghanistan and that continued presence there will only guarantee more killing and instability.  That makes it one of the best antiwar films that I have ever seen, a complete indictment of a failed and ruinous policy without having to hammer the pulpit to get its message across.  One wonders if Barack Obama has seen it and, if so, what he thought of it.

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Must see: Press TV on J’lem Shepherd Hotel demolition

Must see: Press TV on J’lem Shepherd Hotel demolition


AIPAC Challenged In Court Over Espionage/Gov’t Doc Theft- IRmep

AIPAC Challenged In Court Over Espionage/Gov’t Doc Theft- IRmep

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 1:15 PM
From: “IRmep”
Washington, DC.  On January 10, 2011, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was challenged in the District of Columbia Superior Court over its past receipt, duplication and redistribution of US government classified documents.

AIPAC, defending itself from plaintiff and former employee Steven J. Rosen’s $20 million defamation suit, attempted to minimize its role as the target of an FBI investigation conducted between 1984 and 1987.  At issue was whether AIPAC’s past receipt, use, and duplication of a US government classified report secretly delivered by the Israeli embassy constituted wrongdoing.  The classified document, Probable Economic Effect of Providing Duty Free Treatment for U.S. Imports from Israel, Investigation No. 332-180 was a compilation of “business confidential” information the International Trade Commission and US Trade Representative solicited from US industry and worker groups.  The report was part of the advice and consent deliberative process over whether the US should enter into a bilateral trade agreement with Israel.

On January 3, 2011, AIPAC filed statements in court about the “USTR document obtained by AIPAC in 1984” claiming “..following an FBI investigation of the matter, AIPAC was cleared of any wrongdoing and the document that framed the basis of the investigation contained no classified national defense information.”  AIPAC then filed a copy of an August 13, 1984 FBI Washington Field Office investigation summary, first obtained by author Grant F. Smith under the Freedom of Information Act in 2009, to substantiate its claims.

Smith, author of the 2009 book “Spy Trade” disputed AIPAC’s claims in a 52 page legal brief filed yesterday.  “The Defendant fails to mention that the investigation of AIPAC…grew in intensity for another two and a half years…as a theft of government property investigation since it involved AIPAC’s possession of US government information classified at the level of ‘confidential.'”  Smith’s full filing, available at substantiates growing claims that AIPAC is still liable for hundreds of millions in economic damages suffered by 74 organizations that provided the confidential business information circulated by AIPAC.  According to Smith, “The Defendant describes AIPAC’s possession of..[the classified report] and the FBI investigation as ‘ancient’ and ‘irrelevant to this action.’  Nothing could be further from the truth.  To the contrary, the negative consequences of AIPAC’s possession of this particular classified document grow more obvious and disturbing every year.”

Israel Lobby Archive:  (recent court filings and exhibits marked “new”).

Antiwar Radio:         Discussion of case.

PR Newswire release:,1611377.html

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