Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Wolfowitz won't talk about war planning

By Jon Sawyer
Washington Bureau Chief
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
June 22, 2005

Blog editor's note: The item that follows makes it almost impossible for me not to quote Santayana--so I will: "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it."

WASHINGTON - World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, a prime architect of the Iraq
war during his service as deputy defense secretary, said Tuesday that he hasn't
read any of the recently disclosed British government memos that refer to his
role and that of other senior administration officials in the run-up to war
during 2002.

At a breakfast meeting with reporters, Wolfowitz said he hasn't read the memos
because he doesn't want to be "distracted" by "history" from his new job as
head of the world's leading development bank. He returned this weekend from a
tour of four African nations.

"There's a lot I could say about what you're asking about, if I were willing to
get distracted from the main subject," Wolfowitz said. "But I really think
there's a price paid with the people I've just spent time with, people who are
struggling with very real problems, to keep going back in history.

"There will be a time and place to talk about history," he added, "but I really
don't believe it's now."

The so-called "Downing Street memos," first published by the Times of London,
reflect high-level British views that President George W. Bush and his top
aides decided on war much earlier than they have acknowledged. They include a
statement by Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain's spy service, reporting on
a visit to Washington in July 2002, eight months before the war began.

To read the full text, see STLToday.com

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Ignorance on Iran May Lead to an Unwise Attack

By William O. Beeman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
24 June 2005

Blog editor's note: Beeman, who is a professor of anthropology and Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University and a significant Iran scholar, offers a particularly timely analysis, given the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's new president. Ahmadinejad is routinely described in the Western press as a "hardliner," which roughly translates as no friend of the U.S.

Tehran - The United States may still attack Iran, and for all the wrong reasons.

Two recent analyses, both appearing a day before the final runoff to determine the Iranian presidency (June 23, 2005) reveal how this may happen, and what the logic behind such an attack may be.

The first analysis, by former United Nations nuclear arms inspector Scott Ritter, distributed through the Al Jazeera website, claims that the United States' assault on Iran has already begun. Ritter asserts that the terrorist organization Mujaheddin-e Khalg (known as the MEK or MKO in the West) is operating as a strike force under CIA direction, and that the United States is preparing to stage military attacks from Azerbaijan.

The second analysis appears in the Boston Globe, by Ray Takeyh, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who claims that the "counter reform" movement has led to the successful candidacy of former mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the first round of presidential elections in Iran - and possibly in the runoff as well - is entirely the doing of Iranian chief jurisprudent Ali Khamene'i. Takeyh's analysis echoes an infamous paper issued by the Committee on the Present Danger - an organization of ex-Cold Warriors that has retooled itself as an anti-terrorist organization. The paper, issued December 20, 2004 was entitled "Iran: A New Approach" and was authored by Mark Palmer and George Schultz. The main point of the paper was to paint Khamene'i as a Saddam-style dictator.

Both of these analyses have inherent flaws, but taken together they spell something quite ominous. I'm not quite ready to believe Ritter's pronouncement that the attack is already underway, despite the fact that Seymour Hersh predicted that it would happen about now in "The Coming Wars," in The New Yorker on January 24 and 31 of this year. However, I do believe that Ritter is reporting on a movement that significant elements in the Bush administration want to happen, and for which they may have laid the groundwork.

To read the full text, see Truthout.org

Monday, June 20, 2005

Mark Danner on Smoking Signposts to Nowhere:
The Downing Street Memo and the Press

Blog editor's note: The paragraphs below were written by Tom Engelehardt, who produces the invaluable TomDispatch, to introduce a timely analysis by the equally invaluable Mark Danner of how the press has responded to criticism of its tepid, muted, practically non-existent coverage of the Downing Street Memos.

Imagine that the Pentagon Papers or the Watergate scandal had broken out all over the press -- no, not in the New York Times or the Washington Post, but in newspapers in Australia or Canada. And that, facing their own terrible record of reportage, of years of being cowed by the Nixon administration, major American papers had decided that this was not a story worthy of being covered. Imagine that, initially, they dismissed the revelatory documents and information that came out of the heart of administration policy-making; then almost willfully misread them, insisting that evidence of Pentagon planning for escalation in Vietnam or of Nixon administration planning to destroy its opponents was at best ambiguous or even nonexistent; finally, when they found that the documents wouldn't go away, they acknowledged them more formally with a tired ho-hum, a knowing nod on editorial pages or in news stories. Actually, they claimed, these documents didn't add up to much because they had run stories just like this back then themselves. Yawn.

This is, of course, something like the crude pattern that coverage in the American press has followed on the Downing Street memo, then memos. As of late last week, four of our five major papers (the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and USA Today) hadn't even commented on them in their editorial pages. In my hometown paper, the New York Times, complete lack of interest was followed last Monday by a page 11 David Sanger piece (Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn't Made) that focused on the second of the Downing Street memos, a briefing paper for Tony Blair's "inner circle," and began: "A memorandum written by Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet office in late July 2002 explicitly states that the Bush administration had made ‘no political decisions' to invade Iraq, but that American military planning for the possibility was advanced."

To read the full text, see TomDispatch.com

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The ambiguous arsenal
Recent reports warn that China is aggressively building up its nuclear forces. Don't believe the hype.

By Jeffrey Lewis
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
May/June 2005 pp. 52-59 (vol. 61, no. 03)

f you read the Washington Times, in addition to believing that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are hidden somewhere in Syria, you might believe that "China's aggressive strategic nuclear-modernization program" was proceeding apace. If munching on freedom fries at a Heritage Foundation luncheon is your thing, you might worry that "even marginal improvements to [China's intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)] derived from U.S. technical know-how" threaten the United States.

So, it may come as a shock to learn that China's nuclear arsenal is about the same size it was a decade ago, and that the missile that prompted the Washington Times article has been under development since the mid-1980s. Perhaps your anxiety about "marginal improvements" to China's missile force would recede as you learned that China's 18 ICBMs, sitting unfueled in their silos, their nuclear warheads in storage, are essentially the same as they were the day China began deploying them in 1981. In fact, contrary to reports you might have recently read that Chinese nukes number in the hundreds--if not the thousands--the true size of the country's operationally deployed arsenal is probably about 80 nuclear weapons.

To read the full text, see Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists