Imminent Crises: Paths Toward Solutions March 8, 2006
At Binghamton University
Professor Herbert Bix: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Herbert Bix. Before the evening lecture begins, I wish to say first of all, thank you to Peter Mileur, Dean of Harpur College of Art and Sciences. Thank you to the sponsoring organizations: the Binghamton Political Initiative, the Students for Peace and Justice, the Latin American Students Association, the Caribbean Students Association, the Black Student Union, the Fernand Braudel Center and the Women Center.
If you are opposed to the methods in the current paths of US foreign policy and if you want to change them, there are many things that can be done. Two simple ways of not keeping silent: to sign the petition that is being passed down the rows as I speak. And two weeks from today on March 19th, join the afternoon rallies against illegal wars and occupations at the Memorial Bridge at the Federal Building on Henry Street in Binghamton.
Now it is a great honor for Binghamton University and a joy for me personally to welcome Noam Chomsky, who needs no introduction. Let us applaud him for all the work he’s done for peace and justice over 45 years and for bringing the light of reason to so many world issues. Thank you.
Chomsky: Thanks. Herb’s timing was very good. It was exactly enough time to get me wired up. So you should be able to hear I hope.
The selection of issues that should rank high on the agenda of concern is naturally a subjective matter, but there are at least two that demand high priority because they are literally matters of survival.
One of them is the threat of the nuclear war and the second is environmental disaster both of which are very real.
One of the many respected strategic analysts warning of the increasing threat of nuclear war is a former NATO planner Michael MccGwire. Writing in Britain’s leading journal “International Affairs,” he warns that under current US policies, “a nuclear exchange is ultimately inevitable.” And unless these policies are sharply changed, “we’re virtually certain to see a return to nuclear arms racing, involving intercontinental ballistic systems and space-based assets reactivating the danger of inadvertent nuclear war,” with the probability that “will be extremely high.” Comparing the two crises that literally threaten survival, MccGwire has this to say “By comparison with global warming, the cost of eliminating nuclear weapons would be small. But the catastrophic results of global nuclear war would greatly exceed those of progressive climate change, because the effects would be instantaneous and could not be mitigated. The irony of the situation is that it is in our power to eliminate the threat of global nuclear war, but climate change cannot be evaded.”
Well, he’s right on both counts that means are available and are well-known to eliminate the threat of instantaneous nuclear destruction and while the timing of climate change can be debated, there’s no escaping the fact, unless maybe you’re in the White House, that the longer we delay in confronting it, the worse it’s likely to be.
These considerations bring up a third crisis. Namely the government of the world’s leading power is increasing the likelihood of the two threats to survival. And it’s important to stress government because the population does not agree, not very surprisingly.
So just take one example, the standard observation which you all read, that the United States is almost alone in rejecting the Kyoto Protocols is correct only if the phrase "United States" excludes its population, which strongly favors the Kyoto pact. In fact the support is so strong that the majority of Bush voters believe that he, too, favors US participation in the treaty because it is such an obvious thing to believe.
More generally, this is just one illustration of the fact that voters were seriously deluded about the positions of the political parties in the last election. In fact only 10% even knew what the stand was, 10% of the voters, and that’s not because of lack of interest or mental deficiency but because elections are designed that way purposely. Issues like these and there are many of them bring up the fourth crisis that should be of particular concern to us.
That is the very visible decline of functioning of democracy. More generally, the ominous drift of the world’s dominant power towards becoming a failed state. That’s a fashionable term. It’s conventionally applied to states that are regarded as enemies or portrayed as potential threats to our security or as needing our intervention to rescue the population, often by demolishing them in the process.
A primary characteristic of failed states is their inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence. They are furthermore what are sometimes called “outlaw states” which regard themselves as beyond the reach of international law in norms of civilized behavior. And if they have democratic forms, they suffer from what’s called the democratic deficit, which deprives the formal democratic institutions of any real substance. It’s not hard to recognize those characteristics are painfully nearby. And more important, all of this is surely under our control, if we’re not content to observe passively and obediently. I’ll return to some simple steps at the end.
But the first step, transparently, is awareness and understanding. Without that we can’t proceed.
So to begin with the most serious and imminent crises, apart from specialist circles, very little attention is paid to the threat of nuclear war and more importantly, to our own world and escalating the threat. Now of course we can’t say the threat is unknown. We’ve just passed the 50th anniversary of an appeal to the people of the world by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, extraordinary appeal. They posed the choice that in their words is “Stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race or shall mankind renounce war?”
Well, war has certainly not been renounced in the last half century quite the contrary. By now the world’s hegemonic power accords itself officially the right to wage war at will under a doctrine of what’s called “anticipatory self-defense” with unstated bounds. As we all know, the doctrine is now being applied in Iraq and is being threatened in Iran.
The US is backed in that stance by “the spear carrier for the pax-Americana.” That's MccGwire’s term for Blair’s Britain in the journal of Royal Institute of International Affairs. For the warrior and the spear carrier, international law, treaties, rules of world’s order are double-edged. They’re sternly imposed on others with much self-righteous posturing, but they’re dismissed as irrelevant for themselves. Throughout history, that stance has been familiar among states that have or at least believe they have unchallengeable power. The consequences are also well known, but historical analogies don’t have much force, because the stakes now are so much higher, literally survival of the species.
MccGwire is not alone, he’s joined by many others in fact most specialists, in warning of the virtual inevitability of nuclear war.
One of them is Kennedy/Johnson Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who recalled that the world “came within a hair’s breath of nuclear disaster during missile crisis of 1962” and he goes on to say that the threat is once again severe. According to McNamara now, he warns of “Apocalypse soon,” unless there’s a sharp change in current US nuclear weapons policy which is “immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary and dreadfully dangerous,” creating “unacceptable risks to other nations and to our own.” Both the risk of “accidental or inadvertent nuclear launch” which is “unacceptably high” and is terminal, and of nuclear attack by terrorists. He endorsed the judgment of Clinton’s defense secretary William Perry, that “there’s greater than 50% probability of nuclear strike on US targets within a decade.” That’s referring to a dirty bomb, not the ultimate disaster.
The threats are well understood and they’re being consciously enhanced. The Iraq invasion is only the most glaring example. Harvard University strategic analyst Graham Allison reports what he calls “the consensus in the national security community” of which he’s been a part, that “a dirty bomb” attack is “inevitable” and an attack with nuclear weapon, a terminal attack, highly likely if fissionable materials which are the essential ingredient are not retrieved and if their further production is not terminated. I’ll come back to the crucial question of controlling production. On retrieving fissionable materials, there has been some success since the early 1990s. That’s under the initiatives of senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar. But Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest put to the side their programs to avert inevitable nuclear terror just as they sideline the war on terror generally, so that they could devote their energies to driving the country to war and then their efforts to contain somehow the catastrophe that they created in Iraq.
In the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the ultimate in respectability and not given to hyperbole, two well-known strategic analysts warn that the Bush administration, military programs and its general aggressive stance carry in their words “an appreciable risk of ultimate doom.” The reasons are straightforward. “Pursuit of total security by one state entails the insecurity of others and they are almost certain to react. They’ll make use of the terrifying technology that’s being developed in Rumsfeld’s transformation of military,” which “will assuredly diffuse to the rest of the world” and in the context of “competition and intimidation,” the familiar action-reaction cycle creates “rising danger, potentially unmanageable one,” hence, transformation as currently being practiced carries “an appreciable risk of ultimate doom.”
The authors expressed the hope that the threat that the US government is posing to its own population and to the world will be countered by a coalition of peace-loving states led by China.
We’ve come to a pretty pass when thoughts like that are expressed at the heart of the establishment. What they imply about the state of American democracy is no less startling. So the authors don’t even consider the possibility that the American people could have anything to do about this. We’d have to wait for China to do it.
They bring up China because, as they point out, of all the nuclear states it “has maintained by far the most restrained pattern of military deployment.” Furthermore, China for some years has been leading the efforts at the United Nations to overcome the unilateral US refusal to reserve space for peaceful purposes. The Clinton administration refused to join the rest of the world, apart from Israel, in a renewal and extension of the outer space treaty of 1967 and they also immobilized the UN disarmament commission by barring any moves towards prevention of an arms race and outer space. And they gave the reasons explicitly, we should all know them.
Clinton’s Space Command called for “dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment much in the way armies and navies did in earlier years,” but now with a sole hegemon which must develop “space-based strike weapons, enabling the application of precision force from, to and through space.” US intelligence and the space command agreed in the Clinton years that such measures will be needed because “globalization of the world economy” will lead to ”widening economic divide” along with “deepening economic stagnation, political instability, and cultural alienation.” Hence unrest and violence among the “have-nots” much of it directed against the United States. The US therefore must be ready for “precision strike from space as a counter to the worldwide proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” by unruly elements. That’s a likely consequence of the recommended military programs just as a “widening divide, deepening economic stagnation” and so on are the anticipated consequences of the specific form of international integration that is misleadingly called globalization and free trade in the doctrinal system.
The space program falls within the framework of the officially announced Clinton Doctrine that the US is entitled to resort to “unilateral use of military power” to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources.” Notice that taken literally, that’s far more extreme than anything that comes out of the Bush administration. Clinton’s strategic command added to that that Washington should portray itself as “irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked” including the threat of first strike with nuclear weapons against non nuclear states. Furthermore, “nuclear weapons always cast a shadow over any crisis or conflict” that extends the reach of conventional power. That strategic doctrine is not new and it’s shared across the narrow political spectrum.
Though President Carter’s defense secretary Harold Brown had called on Congress to fund strategic nuclear capabilities because with them, “our other forces become meaningful instruments of military and political power” available for use throughout the Third World, he used such means only against defenseless targets of course.
It’s worth remembering that while Bush and company are extreme in their reactionary statist radicalism, they’re at the extreme of a dangerously narrow spectrum of the political class. That’s why all these things are kept quiet, there’s nothing the population are supposed to learn about, though technically they are public.
The threats are becoming much more serious as the Bush planners extend Clinton’s doctrine of control of space for military purposes to “ownership” of space which “may mean instant engagement anywhere in the world.” They emphasize these phrases so that their meaning will be clearly understood. That purpose is to put any part of the world at risk of instant destruction, thanks to sophisticated global surveillance and lethal offensive weaponry in space. Right now, the US is responsible for 95% of the total world spending for militarization of space and it’s only to be expected that potential target will react, increasing the danger to everyone. And that’s in fact already happening. As was expected, Russia reacted to Bush’s vast increase in offensive military capacity by sharply increasing its own capacities aimed at the United States. China is following suit expanding offensive capacities to preserve its deterrent, it's very small now but it’ll grow.
China’s so far reluctant reaction will have a ripple effect in India first, and then Pakistan in response to India then beyond. Both US and Chinese analysts recognize that almost in the same words that current US plans are likely to set off an arm race in space. That includes what’s euphemistically called “missile defense,” which is understood on all sides to be a first-strike weapon. The program of missile defense is commonly criticized as a colossal waste of money because it won’t work. That’s the good news. It’s far more dangerous if there is any sign that it might work. Adversaries have to make a worst case analysis and if there is any sign it might work, they will react by developing means to overwhelm or bypass it, which are a lot more easy than constructing it. And that will greatly increase the threat to survival. In fact it’s already happening.
In the current issue, in March issue of the bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which is a sort of standard monitor on these things, they report that “Emerging US anti-ballistic missile defense system has provoked direct Russian response, including advanced missiles and new more sophisticated warheads” so exactly as was predicted several years ago, the authors also point out.
Senator Nunn, as I said has been a lead of the conservative senator, been a lead of these anti-war efforts for a long time, he wrote recently that “the chances of an accidental, mistaken or unauthorized nuclear attack might be increasing.” Because of current policy choices, “we’re running an unnecessary risk of Armageddon of our own making.” Like the others, Nunn is referring to the sharp expansion of US military programs which tilt the strategic balance in ways that make “Russia more likely to launch upon warning of an attack, without waiting to see if the warning is accurate.” That’s no joke. The threats are enhanced by the fact that “the Russian early warning system is in serious disrepair and more likely to give a false warning of incoming missiles.”
And US systems are very dangerous, US reliance on “the high-alert, hair-trigger nuclear pasture allows missiles to be launched within minutes” forcing “our leaders to decide almost instantly whether to launch nuclear weapons once they have the computer warning of an attack robs them of the time mainly to gather data, exchange information, gain perspective and discover an error and avoid a catastrophic mistake.”
And we know in own systems, that there are hundreds of such errors just caught on time. The anticipated Bush-Russian reaction to Bush administration aggressive militarism, Nunn says, increases the risk of an “Armageddon of our making” well beyond even the current intolerable level.
These dangers are being consciously escalated by the threat and use of violence, which, just as predicted, is stimulating nuclear proliferation and is also stimulating the jihadi terrorism which traces back to Reagan administration programs to organize, arm and train radical Islamists, not for defense of Afghanistan as it was proclaimed, but for the usual and ugly reasons of state with grim consequences for the tormented people of Afghanistan and for Pakistanis and for the world.
As the Reaganites cheerfully tolerated Pakistan’s slide toward radical Islamic extremism under the rule of Zia ul-Huq, who is one of the many brutal dictators supported by the current incumbents in Washington and their mentors then and today, we may recall that one of them has the familiar name Saddam Hussein. And they were also Reagan and associates that looked away politely while their Pakistani ally was developing nuclear weapons, annually endorsing the pretense that Pakistan was not doing so. And as we should know they were also helping their friend, Saddam Hussein, to do the same. That continued long after Saddam’s worst atrocities and also long after the war, the end of the war with Iran. And we also know the reasons at least if we want to, because they were kind enough to tell us interesting reasons all worth remembering.
MccGwire reminds us of something that is barely known. So “remind” isn’t quite right. The fact is that in 1986, recognizing what he calls “the dreadful logic” of nuclear weapons, Mikhail Gorbachev called for their total elimination. That proposal foundered on Reagan’s militarization of space programs, what are called "Star Wars." NATO doctrine at that time--MccGwire points out as I said he was one of the planners--was “explicitly premised on the credible threat of first use of nuclear weapons and that continues to be policy today.”
Russia kept to the same doctrine until 1994, when it reversed its stand adopting no-first-use policy and calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. That was a very hopeful step. But Washington’s reaction and our inaction, which is worth remembering, quickly brought these quite hopeful prospects to an end. Russia reverted to NATO doctrine and abandoned its call for abolition of nuclear weapons. That was in response to Clinton’s expansion of NATO in violation of Washington’s “categorical assurance” to Gorbachev that if he “would agree to a reunited Germany remaining in NATO, then the NATO alliance would not expand eastward to absorb former members of the Warsaw Pact.” That was the assurance violated by Clinton.
In the light of recent history, not to speak of strategic truisms, Clinton’s violation of these firm pledges posed a very serious threat to Russia, serious security threat. Clinton’s violation of these assurances also explains why NATO rejected Russian proposals for nuclear-weapons-free-zone including central Europe from the Arctic to the Black Sea. That would have interfered with Clinton’s plans to extend NATO eastward in violation of the firm commitment not to do so. All of this, of course, enhanced the likelihood of “Apocalypse soon,” which is rarely a high priority for planners.
Actually the low priority assigned to national security is so abundantly illustrated that it takes real effort to miss it. So take the war in Iraq. It was undertaken with the expectation that it would probably increase terror and nuclear proliferation. Now, US and other intelligence agencies and analysts confirm that that’s exactly what happened. So take just one of many examples, last May the CIA reported “Iraq has become a magnet for Islamic militants similar to Soviet-occupied Afghanistan two decades ago and Bosnia in the 1990s.” and also that “Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in al Qaeda’s early days because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.” The invasion of Iraq also had the predicted effect of “greatly strengthening the popular appeal of anti-democratic radicals such as those of al Qaeda and other jihadi salafis” throughout extremist Islamic fundamentalists throughout the Muslim world.
Terrorism specialist Peter Bergen says that “President Bush is right that Iraq is a main front in the war on terrorism but this is a front that we created.” As “the Iraq war has expanded the terrorists’ ranks, the year 2003 saw the highest incidence of significant terrorist attacks in two decades and in 2004, astonishingly that number tripled.” In response to Donald Rumsfeld’s search for what he calls “metrics to know if we’re winning or losing the war on terror,” Bergen suggests that “an exponentially rising number of terrorist attacks is one metric that seems relevant.” In fact it is very relevant since it was anticipated.
Sometimes the threat is accelerated in quite remarkable ways. So it’s common to say that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq after exhaustive search. But that’s not quite accurate. There were WMD facilities found in Iraq, namely those that were provided to Saddam in the 1980s by the US and Britain and others. The storage sites had been secured by UN inspectors who were dismantling the weapons. But the inspectors were dismissed by the invading armies and the sites were left unguarded. The inspectors did continue to carry out their work using satellite imagery. They discovered massive looting of these installations in over a hundred sites. Sophisticated careful massive looting that included-- they knew it was there--that included equipment for producing missiles, bio-toxins, other materials usable for chemical and biological weapons, high-precision equipment, capable of making parts for nuclear and chemical weapons. Where they went, we preferred not to guess.
The ironies are almost inexpressible and they should be front-page headlines everyday in the newspaper. The official justification for the US-UK invasion was to prevent the use of WMD that did not exist. The invasion provided the terrorists who had been mobilized by the United States and its allies with the means to develop WMD, weapons of mass destruction, namely the equipment that they had provided Saddam, caring nothing about the terrible crimes, they later invoked to whip up support for the invasion. It’s as if Iran were now making nuclear weapons using fissionable material provided by the United States to Iran, which may indeed be happening.
That brings us to another imminent crisis: Iran’s nuclear programs. That’s a serious problem. No sane person wants Iran to develop nuclear weapons. There are constructive steps that can be taken to prevent that. But first, again we have to pay some attention to what is in fact happening.
Those who hold the clubs typically take the position that history is bunk, old-fashioned, irrelevant. We don’t have to waste time on it. The victims don’t have the luxury nor do those who want to understand the world, instead of just having a blind faith in their “Dear Leaders,” to borrow the North-Korean expression, which applies all too aptly, I’m afraid.
Let’s have a quick look at a little recent and current history that Iranians know very well and rightly regard as highly pertinent, though it’s swept under the rug here.
To begin with, Iranians remember very well that the policies that Washington is now condemning are the very same policies that the US advocated before the 1979 overthrow of the Shah. That is the tyrant who was imposed by the US-UK military coup in 1953 that destroyed parliamentary democracy in Iran.
Today the standard claim is that Iran has no need for nuclear power; so it must be pursuing a secret weapons program. So Henry Kissinger explains that “for an oil producer such as Iran, nuclear energy is a wasteful use of resources.” That’s now. When the Shah was in charge, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger held that “introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran’s economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.” And the US acted to assist these efforts with Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld also playing significant roles.
US universities were arranging to train Iranian nuclear engineers doubtless with Washington’s approval, probably Washington’s initiative: my own university, MIT, for example, where that was done over enormous student opposition when the news leaked.
Kissinger was asked about his reversal and he responded with his usual engaging frankness. He said, well, then “they were an allied country.” So therefore they had a genuine need for nuclear energy pre-1979, but today they are an enemy so of course they have no such need. Iranians may not be impressed by the logic.
Washington’s charges about an Iranian nuclear weapons program may, for once, be accurate. Many analysts have observed that it would be remarkable if they were not accurate, even though we have no evidence for it. Well as I mentioned, it was anticipated that the US-British invasion of Iraq would increase not only terror but also nuclear proliferation. And it’s now widely agreed that both predictions were confirmed.
Reviewing these conclusions, one of Israel’s leading military historians Martin van Creveld writes that after the invasion of Iraq, “Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy.” The reasons are straightforward. Washington has gone out of its way to instruct Iran on the need for a powerful deterrent, not only by invading Iraq but also by strengthening the offensive forces of its Israeli client, which already is a regional superpower, already has hundreds of nuclear weapons as well as air and armored forces that are larger and technologically more advanced than any NATO power outside the US, small country but as an offshoot to the United States, that can happen and it does.
And for several years Israel has been receiving the biggest shipment in its history of advanced US jet bombers very publicly advertised as capable of bombing Iran and also equipped with unspecified “special weaponry,” --a term that's meant for the ears of Iranian intelligence--and deep-penetration bombs.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been criticized rightly for outrageous statements. But I’ll just try to imagine what the reaction would be if he would go on to announce that Iran is preparing to bomb the United States and Israel and taking very credible steps to do so. Well, the country will be won away. But the imperial mentality that’s been instilled by centuries of history ensures that western leaders are exempt from many such strictures and are free to act as they like when dealing with the lower orders, that’s just extinctive so requires no comment.
It’s agreed on all sides that Iran’s current activities, at least as far as they are known, fall within its legal rights as a sign of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is the central part of a thin thread on which survival hangs. Article 4 of the NPT grants non-nuclear states the right to produce fuel for reactors. Washington demands that Article 4 should be revised and restricted. And in fact a good case can be made for that.
The Article 4 option made sense in 1970, when the NPT came into force. But with contemporary technology, producing fuel for reactors is just a step away from nuclear weapons. So restriction of Article 4 is perfectly sensible. However, any such provision of Article 4 would have to ensure unimpeded access, that’s the treaty says, for non-military use. That’s part of the NPT bargain.
Actually reasonable proposals for that was put forth by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, last year’s Nobel peace laureate. His proposal was that all production and processing of weapon-usable material should be restricted “exclusively to facilities under multinational control” accompanied "above all, by an assurance that legitimate would-be users could get their supplies. "That should be the first step," he proposed, "toward fully implementing the 1993 UN Security Council resolution calling for what’s called “a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty,” (FISSBAN) which “could cap and make public all inventories of fissile material still available.”
ElBaradei’s proposal which was quite reasonable was dead in the water. The US political leadership, surely in its current stance, would never agree to abrogate its unique exemption from international law and treaty obligations. So Washington’s call for restricting Article 4 is regarded by much of the world quite rationally as the cynical intention to convert the NPT to “a convenient instrument of US foreign policy.” (MaccGwire)
To my knowledge, there’s the only country that has officially accepted ElBaradei’s proposal, namely Iran. On February 16th, Iranian spokesman and top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani stated that “should a credible international system for providing nuclear fuel be in place, the Islamic Republic of Iran would be ready to procure its nuclear fuel from that system.” That would terminate the crisis and be a great advance forward and preserving the species.
Does Iran really mean it? There’s only one way to find out. But that path can’t be taken as long as the facts are suppressed, I doubt any of you heard them, including Washington’s flat rejection of ElBraradei’s proposal in fact any proposal that would limit its unique authority to do whatever it likes.
Article 4 is one of two paired Articles of the NPT. The other is Article 6, which obliges the nuclear powers to make “good faith efforts” to eliminate nuclear weapons. That’s a binding legal obligation as the World Court determined a decade ago. None of the nuclear powers have lived up to their commitments but the US is far in the lead in rejecting them and is alone in officially rejecting.
There’s a regular five-year review of the NPT. The last one was last May, it was a total disaster. There was a press coverage but it kept to Washington’s agenda blaming the failure on Iran. In the real world, the primary reason for the collapse of conference was Washington’s rejection of all serious prior commitments--that was explicit--and its announcement that it is exempt from Article 6. Let’s not speak of its open plans to develop new nuclear weapons, apparently underway. If that’s not abrogated, that stand essentially terminates the NPT with awesome consequences for proliferation.
Another central part of the NPT compact was the commitment of the nuclear powers to act and implement additional treaties. It includes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was rejected by the Republican Senate in 1999 and declared off the agenda by Bush. The ABM treaty, which Bush rescinded, and most important, a verifiable FISSBAN, which would prevent any further additions of nuclear bomb material to the vast amount already existing.
In July 2004, Washington announced its opposition to a verifiable FISSBAN on the grounds that effective verification “would compromise core national security interests.” Nevertheless in November 2004, the UN Committee on Disarmament voted on a verifiable FISSBAN. The vote was 147 to 1, with two abstentions: Israel, which is reflexive, and Britain, which is more interesting. The British Ambassador explained that Britain supports a verifiable FISSBAN, but had to abstain because this version “had divided the international community,” namely 147 to 1. That gives us some insight into the ranking of survival of the species among the priorities of the leadership of the hegemonic power and its spear carrier and their information systems, too. This is probably maybe the most important vote in history of the UN. As far as I can determine, it was not even reported outside of specialist journals and the whole matter is unknown to the only people who can do something about it, namely the general public.
A few days later the General Assembly again called upon all states “to contribute actively to the objective of the peaceful use of outer space and of the prevention of an arms race in outer space and to refrain from actions contrary to that objective.” The resolution passed 178 to 0, with 4 abstentions: the United States, Israel, Haiti, and Palau. The vote again reveals priorities as does the coverage in the United States so far as I can determine, zero. These are very good ways to march on following our leaders to “an Armageddon of our own making.”
Let’s go back to Iran. Several years ago, the European Union and Iran as you know reached an agreement on Iran’s uranium enrich programs. That we know, but not what the agreement was. Here’s an account of it by one of the most respected specialists on this topics, Selig Harrison, writing in world’s leading business journal, the London Financial Times.
He writes that “the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the European Union were based upon a bargain that the European Union, held back by the United States, has failed to honor." Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment efforts temporarily. The EU promised to put forward proposals for economic incentives and security guaranties. The language of the joint declaration was "unambiguous," he says. Here’s what it was. “A mutually acceptable agreement" would not only provide "objective guaranties" that Iran’s nuclear program is “exclusively for peaceful purposes” but would “equally provide firm commitments by the EU on security issues.”
Everyone understands the meaning of the phrase “security issues.” It refers to the very credible US-Israeli threats and preparations to attack Iran, which is no joke for a country that’s been tortured by the global superpower for 50 years, including Washington’s support for Saddam Hussein’s murderous war against Iran. The superpower that now occupies the country on Iran’s border, that’s not to speak of the regional superpower, that’s its client state.
Iran lived up to its side of the bargain. But the EU, under US pressure, rejected its commitments and refused to discuss "security issues." Iran then abandoned the bargain as well. That’s where we are now, not quite the way it’s portrayed. The background was extended by British physicist Norman Dombey, who has long been active in efforts to implement Russell-Einstein’s plea. He reviews the same picture. And he adds that the United States turned down Iran’s offer to discuss security matters including the nuclear program in May 2003.
And as he points out, the Bush administration followed the same course with North Korea when he took office in January 2001. It refused to confirm that it was bound by the no-hostile-intent statement of earlier agreements then went on to issue serious threats. And it abandoned the promised fuel oil shipments and the reactor project. North Korea withdrew from the NPT, locked out the inspectors, started up its plutonium producing reactor processing plant and later announced it possessed nuclear weapons. All as anticipated.
It is clear enough how to reduce these grim prospects, in both cases in fact: a call off the threats that is practically urging Iran to develop nuclear weapons, join with the rest of the world, most of it in taking steps to reintegrate Iran into the, within the global economy, accept the FISSBAN treaty which leading specialists here regard as “the most fundamental nuclear arms proposal.”--that’s Princeton physicist in Arms Control specialist Frank von Hippel--and then move on to the legal obligation to close down the nuclear arsenals. In fact even steps in those directions would mitigate the upcoming crises.
We’re not asked why Washington’s so intent on punishing Iran that is even willing to increase nuclear proliferation and the threat of nuclear war. Actually that should come no surprise to anyone familiar with the record of internal planning and history.
So why did the United States insist on bombing Serbia in 1999? Well, there’s a standard claim that the goals were humanitarian. That was once exploded even by a rich documentary record provided by official western sources. But by now the real reasons have been provided by high officials of the Clinton Administration who were in charge of the enterprise. “It was Yugoslavia’s resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform, not the plight of Kosovar Albanians, that explains NATO’s war.” In brief, Serbia was not following orders. That’s familiar too.
So why has the United States been torturing Cubans for over 45 years? The internal record from the early 1960s, this is quite explicit. The reason was that what they called Cuba’s “successful defiance of US policies going back 150 years.” That means going back to the Monroe Doctrine--no Russians but the Monroe Doctrine--which declared that the United States has to be the ruler of the hemisphere. Then you don’t tolerate successful defiance of that. If you don’t understand why, just ask your favorite Mafia Don he’ll explain it to you. Iran falls into the very same pattern. So it’s a familiar one.
Another factor accelerating the threat of terror and nuclear war is the US-Israeli rejection of the broad international consensus on a diplomatic settlement of the Israel-Arab conflict. It’s now been going on for 30 years, the rejection. The first US veto of the Security Council resolution calling for a two-state settlement on the international border was in January 1976. And the record continues. And it continues as we meet with ongoing US-Israeli programs to take over the “valuable lands” and resources in the West Bank, leaving unviable cantons which are virtually separated from one another and from whatever fragment of it will be left, of Arab East Jerusalem, which is the center of Palestinian’s cultural, educational, commercial life and institutions.
All of these are now to be imprisoned within Israel with US backing as always. As Israel proceeds--it’s now official, it’s already being clear but it’s now official--that Israel will proceed to take over the Jordan Valley and gradually expels its inhabitants leaving the cantons imprisoned basically. Just take a look at the map and you’ll see what all this means. There’s a lot more to say about that and about the Hamas victory, but time is pretty short, that would take us too far out field, so maybe we’ll return to it.
The critical question today is of course Iraq. There has been a lot of talk about exit strategies. But none of that can be taken seriously unless it faces some fundamental issues. They are sort of kept out of sight for doctrinal reasons but surely dominate the thinking of policy planners. We hear plenty of impressive rhetoric about Washington’s dedication to a sovereign and democratic Iraq. But a moment of thoughts suffices to show that any such outcome would be a nightmare to Washington planners. That’s why the occupying authorities fought so hard to prevent elections. When they couldn’t prevent them, turned at once to trying to subvert them. We should remember and be impressed by the fact that the elections took place at all was a real triumph of non-violent popular resistance that the occupying armies couldn’t handle.
The reasons are pretty obvious. Just consider the policies that a sovereign and moderately democratic Iraq will be likely to adopt. Iraqis may have no great love for Iran but they would prefer friendly relations with their powerful neighbor to antagonism and conflict.
Furthermore, the Shiite religious and political leadership has very close traditional links with Iran and these are now expanding. Shiite success in Iraq is already invigorating the pressures for freedom and rights among the bitterly oppressed Shiite populations right across the border in Saudi Arabia. These tendencies will only increase if Iraq gains some major sovereignty, which that happens to be a region where most of Saudi oil is.
So the outcome, to think it through, could well be a Shiite-dominated alliance comprising the major oil producing regions of Iraq, which are enormous: Iran and the major oil regions in Saudi Arabia all independent of Washington and controlling the bulk of world energy resources. That could mean that the United States would lose control over the world’s major energy supplies. These have long been recognized to be (from the documents in the 1940s,) “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” A “strategic power” means what’s called “critical leverage” over industrial rivals. That’s Zbignew Brzezinski’s observation recently in referring to the hopeful benefits of the invasion of Iraq.
That outcome is Washington’s ultimate nightmare, almost, could get worse. It’s not unlikely that an independent bloc of this kind might develop major energy projects jointly with China and India, perhaps even aligning with the Asian Energy Security Grid, the Shanghai corporation organization, those are based in China and Russia, perhaps will incorporate India, which has been developing joint projects with China aimed at Asian integration and independence.
Bush’s visit to India over the last couple of days, is one of the many efforts to impede these clear tendencies which are likely to continue anyway. It’s likely, almost certain, that South Korea and Southeast Asian countries will also join, Japan is a kind of uncertain but it might. The prospect that Europe and Asia might move towards greater independence has seriously troubled US planners ever since World War Two. Those concerns have considerably increased in the last several decades as what's called “the tripolar world” has continued to evolve three major centers: North America, Europe, mainly Northeast Asia.
In addition now, there are for the first time quite important South-South interactions mainly Brazil, South Africa and India. There is also rapidly growing European Union engagement with China, which are perhaps now, or very soon each other’s largest trading partners. Loss of “the critical leverage” would be a serious blow to plans for global dominance that trace right back to the beginning of World War Two.
US intelligence has projected that the United States would control Middle East oil for the traditional reasons but the United States itself would rely mainly on what it called “more stable Atlantic Basin” resources that means West Africa and Western Hemisphere. Control of Middle East oil is now far from a sure thing, and these expectations are also threatened by very important developments of Western Hemisphere, which in fact are being accelerated by Bush administration’s policies which have left the United States remarkably isolated in the global arena.
The Bush Administration even succeeded in alienating Canada. That’s a really impressive feat, takes genius to do that. The reason is Washington’s brazen rejection of NAFTA decisions favoring Canada. The US government just told them to get lost. Well, that may accelerate establishment of closer Canada-China relations, in fact that’s what Canadian officials have been saying in reaction. A Canadian official has said that Canada may shift a significant portion of its trade, particularly oil exports from the United States to China. In a further blow to Washington’s energy policies, the leading oil exporter in the hemisphere, Venezuela, has forged probably the closest relations with China of any Latin American country and it’s planning to sell increasing amounts of oil to China. That’s part of its effort to reduce its dependence on the very openly hostile US government.
In fact Latin America as a whole is increasing trade and other relations with China, there are some setbacks but likely expansion. That’s particularly true for the major raw material exporters, Brazil and Chile.
Meanwhile, for the first time, since the Spanish Conquest, Latin America is moving towards closer integration, independent of Washington. Venezuela just joined the South American Customs Union: Mercosur. That’s a move described by Argentine President Kirchner as “a milestone” in the development of this trading bloc and it’s welcomed as opening “a new chapter in our integration” by Brazilian president Lula da Silva.
There was a meeting in Uruguay convened to mark Venezuela’s formal entry into Mercosur. Venezuelan president Chavez said that “We cannot allow this to be purely an economic project, one for the elites and for the transnational companies.” That's not a very oblique reference to the US-sponsored “Free Trade Agreement for the Americas,” which is highly unpopular in Latin America. Venezuela also supplied Argentina with oil to help stave off energy crisis and it bought part of Argentina’s debt. That’s one element of a very important region-wide effort to free the countries from the controls of the IMF after two decades of disastrous effects of conformity to the rules imposed by the US-dominated international financial institutions.
“The IMF has acted towards our country as a promoter and a vehicle of policies that cause poverty and pain among the Argentine people,” President Kirchner said in announcing his decision to pay almost $1 trillion to rid itself of the IMF forever with the help of Venezuela. Radically violating IMF rules, Argentina did enjoy a substantial economic recovery from the disaster left by IMF policies.
Steps towards regional integration advanced further with the elections of Evo Morales last December. He was the first president coming from the indigenous majority. Morales moved quickly to reach a series of energy accords with Venezuela. Its gas reserves are second only to Venezuela in South America. And Morales too committed himself to reversing the neoliberal policies that Bolivia had pursued rigorously for 25 years leaving the country with a lower per capita income than at the outset.
Much of the region from Venezuela to Argentina has left-centered governments. The indigenous populations have, for the first time, become very active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador, both major energy producers where they either want oil or gas to be domestically controlled, or in some cases, oppose production altogether.
Many indigenous people apparently don’t see any reason why their lives and societies and culture should be disrupted or destroyed so that New Yorkers can sit in their SUVs in traffic jams. In fact some are even calling for an Indian nation in South America.
This internal economic integration that is underway is reversing the patterns that trace right back to the Spanish Conquests. Ever since then, Latin American elites and economies have been linked to the imperial powers but not to one another. Washington’s traditional mechanisms of control, namely violence and economic strangulation, they’re losing their effectiveness. For many reasons, the system of global dominance is fragile, even apart from the damage that’s been inflicted on it by Bush planners.
Looking back over the actual record of policy, extricating itself from its rhetorical frame, we find the guiding principles are clear and simple enough. Abroad, democracy is fine but only when it takes a form that does not risk popular interference with the primary interests of power and wealth. And at home, much the same doctrine prevails. There’s no time to go into that critical matter but I’d like to end with just a couple of words about the topic because it provides some useful and simple ideas as to how to approach and deal with very grave problems that confront all of us. So here are a couple of suggestions.
1. Accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court.
2. Accept the Kyoto protocols and carry them forward.
3. Very important, let the UN take the lead in international crises.
4. Relying on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting the grave threats of terror.
5. Keep to the conventional interpretation of the UN Charter, meaning use of force is legitimate only “when ordered by the Security Council or when the country is under imminent threat of an attack until the Security Council can act.”
6. Give up the veto to the Security Council, and have a “decent respect for the opinions of mankind” as the Declaration of Independence advises, even if power centers disagree.
7. Cut back sharply on military spending and sharply increase social spending meaning health, education, renewable energy and so on.
These are actually very conservative suggestions for quite a simple reason. They are the opinions of the majority of the population, in almost all cases the overwhelming majority of the population. They are the overwhelming majority also wants to rescind Bush’s tax cuts for anyone with incomes over $200,000, which means practically all of them.
In all these cases and plenty of others, public opinion is in radical opposition to public policy. And both political parties are well to the right of the general population.
Few people are even aware of these facts for a simple reason. The regular in-depth public opinion studies by the most prestigious institutions are scarcely reported or not reported at all. When they reveal such facts as these as they regularly do, that records are highly instructive. These are far from only constructive suggestions one can think of, but they are a pretty good start.
There are also some simple truths that can be quite useful. One of them is to take democracy seriously and another is to pay attention to fact and elementary moral principles, another is to refuse to accept the self-serving contention of the powerful that what happened in the past can be forgotten because we’re undergone a miraculous change of course, something which happens every few years as easily demonstrated.
And other simple truths they don’t answer every problem by any means but they do carry us a long way towards developing more specific and detailed answers as they’re constantly done. And more important, they open the way to implementing them. These are opportunities that are readily within our grasp in a society that is as free as ours, if we can free ourselves from the shackles of doctrine and illusion. Thank you.