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I listened to BBC this evening coming from work, the movie is interesting, made like documentary “kind of real”, but touchy and sad. It shows the true and brutal reality of an ugly war.

War turns humans to animals and animals to beasts and beasts to monsters. An unconditional support of soldiers and giving them the heroic values and not questioning their action gives space to those monsters and beasts to act as will.

The story is so sad and so shocking and the cover up so ugly that is worth to be documented and remembered for future generations who will only see Rambo version of this war.

I am looking forward to see it, even thought I am sure I may not be able to watch the whole thing, war always brings so many bad memories.

Really hope that the movie finds a distributer in the US. People needs to see this, and think about what THEY have done. The crime committed by those individuals is the crime committed by every war supporter anywhere in this world.
The video (found on this site)has nothing to do with the article, it is just a sad song with compiled images of the sadness of the war Direct Link To Video To View, Rate and Comment If You So Wish!

Source

A new film about the real-life rape and killing of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl by U.S. soldiers who also murdered her family stunned the Venice festival, with shocking images that left some viewers in tears.

“Redacted,” by U.S. director Brian De Palma, is one of at least eight American films on the war in Iraq due for release in the next few months and the first of two movies on the conflict screening in Venice’s main competition.

Inspired by one of the most serious crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, it is a harrowing indictment of the conflict and spares the audience no brutality to get its message across.

De Palma, 66, whose “Casualties of War” in 1989 told a similar tale of abuse by American soldiers in Vietnam, makes no secret of the goal he is hoping to achieve with the film’s images, all based on real material he found on the Internet.

“The movie is an attempt to bring the reality of what is happening in Iraq to the American people,” he told reporters after a press screening.

“The pictures are what will stop the war. One only hopes that these images will get the public incensed enough to motivate their Congressmen to vote against this war,” he said.

Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi was gang raped, killed and burnt by American soldiers in Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, in March 2006. Her parents and younger daughter were also killed.

Five soldiers have since been charged with the attack. Four of them have been given sentences of between 5 and 110 years.

“IT’S ALL ON THE INTERNET”

Halfway between documentary and fiction, “Redacted” draws on soldiers’ home-made war videos, blogs and journals and footage posted on YouTube, reflecting changes in the way the media cover the war.

“In Vietnam, when we saw the images and the sorrow of the people we were traumatizing and killing, we saw the soldiers wounded and brought back in body bags. We see none of that in this war,” De Palma said.

“It’s all out there on the Internet, you can find it if you look for it, but it’s not in the major media. The media is now really part of the corporate establishment,” he said.

The film’s title refers to how, according to De Palma, mainstream American newspapers and television channels are failing to tell the true story of the war by keeping the most graphic images of the conflict away from public opinion.

“When I went out to find the pictures, I said (to the media) give me the pictures you can’t publish,” he said, adding that because of legal dangers he too had to “edit” the material.

“Everything that is in the movie is based on something I found that actually happened. But once I had put it in the script I would get a note from a lawyer saying you can’t use that because it’s real and we may get sued,” De Palma said.

“So I was forced to fictionalize things that were actually real.”

The film, shot in Jordan with a little known cast, ends with a series of photographs of Iraqi civilians killed and their faces blacked out for legal reasons.

“I think that’s terrible because now we have not even given the dignity of faces to this suffering people,” De Palma said.

“The great irony about Redacted is that it was redacted.”

Distributor Magnolia has planned a limited U.S. release for later this year, and the film may be easier to sell to European audiences rather than to the American public.

“This is a harrowing experience you put the audience through. It is not something you want to go to on a delightful Saturday evening but this message must be put forward and hopefully the public will respond,” De Palma said.

From the same source as the above video:

And Ava Has Another New Flash At Her Site:

“For Their Sake”

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Noam Chomsky : Cold War II 

These are exciting days in Washington, as the government directs its energies to the demanding task of “containing Iran” in what Washington Post correspondent Robin Wright, joining others, calls “Cold War II.”[1]

During Cold War I, the task was to contain two awesome forces.  The lesser and more moderate force was “an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever cost.” Hence “if the United States is to survive,” it will have to adopt a “repugnant philosophy” and reject “acceptable norms of human conduct” and the “long-standing American concepts of `fair play’” that had been exhibited with such searing clarity in the conquest of the national territory, the Philippines, Haiti and other beneficiaries of “the idealistic new world bent on ending inhumanity,” as the newspaper of record describes our noble mission.[2] The judgments about the nature of the super-Hitler and the necessary response are those of General Jimmy Doolittle, in a critical assessment of the CIA commissioned by President Eisenhower in 1954.  They are quite consistent with those of the Truman administration liberals, the “wise men” who were “present at the creation,” notoriously in NSC 68 but in fact quite consistently.

 

In the face of the Kremlin’s unbridled aggression in every corner of the world, it is perhaps understandable that the US resisted in defense of human values with a savage display of torture, terror, subversion and violence while doing “everything in its power to alter or abolish any regime not openly allied with America,” as Tim Weiner summarizes the doctrine of the Eisenhower administration in his recent history of the CIA.[3]  And just as the Truman liberals easily matched their successors in fevered rhetoric about the implacable enemy and its campaign to rule the world, so did John F. Kennedy, who bitterly condemned the “monolithic and ruthless conspiracy,” and dismissed the proposal of its leader (Khrushchev) for sharp mutual cuts in offensive weaponry, then reacted to his unilateral implementation of these proposals with a huge military build-up.  The Kennedy brothers also quickly surpassed Eisenhower in violence and terror, as they “unleashed covert action with an unprecedented intensity” (Wiener), doubling Eisenhower’s annual record of major CIA covert operations, with horrendous consequences worldwide, even a close brush with terminal nuclear war.[4]

 

But at least it was possible to deal with Russia, unlike the fiercer enemy, China.  The more thoughtful scholars recognized that Russia was poised uneasily between civilization and barbarism.  As Henry Kissinger later explained in his academic essays, only the West has undergone the Newtonian revolution and is therefore “deeply committed to the notion that the real world is external to the observer,” while the rest still believe “that the real world is almost completely internal to the observer,” the “basic division” that is “the deepest problem of the contemporary international order.” But Russia, unlike third word peasants who think that rain and sun are inside their heads, was perhaps coming to the realization that the world is not just a dream, Kissinger felt.

 

Not so the still more savage and bloodthirsty enemy, China, which for liberal Democrat intellectuals at various times rampaged as a “a Slavic Manchukuo,” a blind puppet of its Kremlin master, or a monster utterly unconstrained as it pursued its crazed campaign to crush the world in its tentacles, or whatever else circumstances demanded.  The remarkable tale of doctrinal fanaticism from the 1940s to the ‘70s, which makes contemporary rhetoric seem rather moderate, is reviewed by James Peck in his highly revealing study of the national security culture, Washington’s China.

 

In later years, there were attempts to mimic the valiant deeds of the defenders of virtue from the two villainous global conquerors and their loyal slaves – for example, when the Gipper strapped on his cowboy boots and declared a National Emergency because Nicaraguan hordes were only two days from Harlingen Texas, though as he courageously informed the press, despite the tremendous odds “I refuse to give up. I remember a man named Winston Churchill who said, `Never give in. Never, never, never.’ So we won’t.” With consequences that need not be reviewed.

 

Even with the best of efforts, however, the attempts never were able to recapture the glorious days of Cold War I.  But now, at last, those heights might be within reach, as another implacable enemy bent on world conquest has arisen, which we must contain before it destroys us all: Iran.

 

Perhaps it’s a lift to the spirits to be able to recover those heady Cold War days when at least there was a legitimate force to contain, however dubious the pretexts and disgraceful the means.  But it is instructive to take a closer look at the contours of Cold War II as they are being designed by “the former Kremlinologists now running U.S. foreign policy, such as Rice and Gates” (Wright).

 

The task of containment is to establish “a bulwark against Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East,” Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper explain in the New York Times (July 31).  To contain Iran’s influence we must surround Iran with US and NATO ground forces, along with massive naval deployments in the Persian Gulf and of course incomparable air power and weapons of mass destruction.  And we must provide a huge flow of arms to what Condoleezza Rice calls “the forces of moderation and reform” in the region, the brutal tyrannies of Egypt and Saudi Arabia and, with particular munificence, Israel, by now virtually an adjunct of the militarized high-tech US economy.  All to contain Iran’s influence.  A daunting challenge indeed.

 

And daunting it is.  In Iraq, Iranian support is welcomed by much of the majority Shi’ite population.  In an August visit to Teheran, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad and other senior officials, and thanked Tehran for its “positive and constructive” role in improving security in Iraq, eliciting a sharp reprimand from President Bush, who “declares Teheran a regional peril and asserts the Iraqi leader must understand,” to quote the headline of the Los Angeles Times report on al-Maliki’s intellectual deficiencies.  A few days before, also greatly to Bush’s discomfiture, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Washington’s favorite, described Iran as “a helper and a solution” in his country.[5]  Similar problems abound beyond Iran’s immediate neighbors.  In Lebanon, according to polls, most Lebanese see Iranian-backed Hezbollah “as a legitimate force defending their country from Israel,” Wright reports.  And in Palestine, Iranian-backed Hamas won a free election, eliciting savage punishment of the Palestinian population by the US and Israel for the crime of voting “the wrong way,” another episode in “democracy promotion.”

 

But no matter.  The aim of US militancy and the arms flow to the moderates is to counter “what everyone in the region believes is a flexing of muscles by a more aggressive Iran,” according to an unnamed senior U.S. government official – “everyone” being the technical term used to refer to Washington and its more loyal clients.[6]  Iran‘s aggression consists in its being welcomed by many within the region, and allegedly supporting resistance to the US occupation of neighboring Iraq.

 

It’s likely, though little discussed, that a prime concern about Iran’s influence is to the East, where in mid-August “Russia and China today host Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a summit of a Central Asian security club designed to counter U.S. influence in the region,” the business press reports.[7] The “security club” is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which has been slowly taking shape in recent years.  Its membership includes not only the two giants Russia and China, but also the energy-rich Central Asian states Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.  Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan was a guest of honor at the August meeting. “In another unwelcome development for the Americans, Turkmenistan‘s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov also accepted an invitation to attend the summit,” another step its improvement of relations with Russia, particularly in energy, reversing a long-standing policy of isolation from Russia.  “Russia in May secured a deal to build a new pipeline to import more gas from Turkmenistan, bolstering its dominant hold on supplies to Europe and heading off a competing U.S.-backed plan that would bypass Russian territory.”[8]

 

Along with Iran, there are three other official observer states: India, Pakistan and Mongolia. Washington’s request for similar status was denied.  In 2005 the SCO called for a timetable for termination of any US military presence in Central Asia.  The participants at the August meeting flew to the Urals to attend the first joint Russia-China military exercises on Russian soil.

 

Association of Iran with the SCO extends its inroads into the Middle East, where China has been increasing trade and other relations with the jewel in the crown, Saudi Arabia.  There is an oppressed Shi’ite population in Saudi Arabia that is also susceptible to Iran’s influence – and happens to sit on most of Saudi oil.  About 40% of Middle East oil is reported to be heading East, not West.[9] As the flow Eastward increases, US control declines over this lever of world domination, a “stupendous source of strategic power,” as the State Department described Saudi oil 60 years ago.

 

In Cold War I, the Kremlin had imposed an iron curtain and built the Berlin Wall to contain Western influence.  In Cold War II, Wright reports, the former Kremlinologists framing policy are imposing a “green curtain” to bar Iranian influence.   In short, government-media doctrine is that the Iranian threat is rather similar to the Western threat that the Kremlin sought to contain, and the US is eagerly taking on the Kremlin’s role in the thrilling “new Cold War.”

 

All of this is presented without noticeable concern.  Nevertheless, the recognition that the US government is modeling itself on Stalin and his successors in the new Cold War must be arousing at least some flickers of embarrassment.  Perhaps that is how we can explain the ferocious Washington Post editorial announcing that Iran has escalated its aggressiveness to a Hot War: “the Revolutionary Guard, a radical state within Iran‘s Islamic state, is waging war against the United States and trying to kill as many American soldiers as possible.” The US must therefore “fight back,” the editors thunder, finding quite “puzzling…the murmurs of disapproval from European diplomats and others who say they favor using diplomacy and economic pressure, rather than military action, to rein in Iran,” even in the face of its outright aggression.  The evidence that Iran is waging war against the US is now conclusive.  After all, it comes from an administration that has never deceived the American people, even improving on the famous stellar honesty of its predecessors.

 

Suppose that for once Washington’s charges happen to be true, and Iran really is providing Shi’ite militias with roadside bombs that kill American forces, perhaps even making use of the some of the advanced weaponry lavishly provided to the Revolutionary Guard by Ronald Reagan in order to fund the illegal war against Nicaragua, under the pretext of arms for hostages (the number of hostages tripled during these endeavors).[10]  If the charges are true, then Iran could properly be charged with a minuscule fraction of the iniquity of the Reagan administration, which provided Stinger missiles and other high-tech military aid to the “insurgents” seeking to disrupt Soviet efforts to bring stability and justice to Afghanistan, as they saw it.  Perhaps Iran is even guilty of some of the crimes of the Roosevelt administration, which assisted terrorist partisans attacking peaceful and sovereign Vichy France in 1940-41, and had thus declared war on Germany even before Pearl Harbor.

 

One can pursue these questions further.  The CIA station chief in Pakistan in 1981, Howard Hart, reports that “I was the first chief of station ever sent abroad with this wonderful order: `Go kill Soviet soldiers’.  Imagine! I loved it.” Of course “the mission was not to liberate Afghanistan,” Tim Wiener writes in his history of the CIA, repeating the obvious.  But “it was a noble goal,” he writes.  Killing Russians with no concern for the fate of Afghans is a “noble goal.” But support for resistance to a US invasion and occupation would be a vile act and declaration of war.

 

Without irony, the Bush administration and the media charge that Iran is “meddling” in Iraq, otherwise presumably free from foreign interference. The evidence is partly technical. Do the serial numbers on the Improvised Explosive Devices really trace back to Iran? If so, does the leadership of Iran know about the IEDs, or only the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.  Settling the debate, the White House plans to brand the Revolutionary Guard as a “specially designated global terrorist” force, an unprecedented action against a national military branch, authorizing Washington to undertake a wide range of punitive actions. Watching in disbelief, much of the world asks whether the US military, invading and occupying Iran’s neighbors, might better merit this charge — or its Israeli client, now about to receive a huge increase in military aid to commemorate 40 years of harsh occupation and illegal settlement, and its fifth invasion of Lebanon a year ago.

 

It is instructive that Washington’s propaganda framework is reflexively accepted, apparently without notice, in US and other Western commentary and reporting, apart from the marginal fringe of what is called ‘the loony left.” What is considered “criticism” is skepticism as to whether all of Washington’s charges about Iranian aggression in Iraq are true.  It might be an interesting research project to see how closely the propaganda of Russia, Nazi Germany, and other aggressors and occupiers matched the standards of today’s liberal press and commentators..

 

The comparisons are of course unfair.  Unlike German and Russian occupiers, American forces are in Iraq by right, on the principle, too obvious even to enunciate, that the US owns the world.  Therefore, as a matter of elementary logic, the US cannot invade and occupy another country.  The US can only defend and liberate others.  No other category exists.  Predecessors, including the most monstrous, have commonly sworn by the same principle, but again there is an obvious difference: they were Wrong, and we are Right.  QED.

 

Another comparison comes to mind, which is studiously ignored when we are sternly admonished of the ominous consequences that might follow withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.  The preferred analogy is Indochina, highlighted in a shameful speech by the President on August 22.  That analogy can perhaps pass muster among those who have succeeded in effacing from their minds the record of US actions in Indochina, including the destruction of much of Vietnam and the murderous bombing of Laos and Cambodia as the US began its withdrawal from the wreckage of South Vietnam.  In Cambodia, the bombing was in accord with Kissinger’s genocidal orders: “anything that flies on anything that moves” – actions that drove “an enraged populace into the arms of an insurgency [the Khmer Rouge] that had enjoyed relatively little support before the Kissinger-Nixon bombing was inaugurated,” as Cambodia specialists Owen Taylor and Ben Kiernan observe in a highly important study that passed virtually without notice, in which they reveal that the bombing was five times the incredible level reported earlier, greater than all allied bombing in World War II.  Completely suppressing all relevant facts, it is then possible for the President and many commentators to present Khmer Rouge crimes as a justification for continuing to devastate Iraq.

 

But although the grotesque Indochina analogy receives much attention, the obvious analogy is ignored: the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan, which, as Soviet analysts predicted, led to shocking violence and destruction as the country was taken over by Reagan’s favorites, who amused themselves by such acts as throwing acid in the faces of women in Kabul they regarded as too liberated, and then virtually destroyed the city and much else, creating such havoc and terror that the population actually welcomed the Taliban.  That analogy could indeed be invoked without utter absurdity by advocates of  “staying the course,” but evidently it is best forgotten.

 

Under the heading “Secretary Rice’s Mideast mission: contain Iran,” the press reports Rice’s warning that Iran is “the single most important single-country challenge to…US interests in the Middle East.” That is a reasonable judgment.  Given the long-standing principle that Washington must do “everything in its power to alter or abolish any regime not openly allied with America,” Iran does pose a unique challenge, and it is natural that the task of containing Iranian influence should be a high priority.

 

As elsewhere, Bush administration rhetoric is relatively mild in this case.  For the Kennedy administration, “Latin America was the most dangerous area in the world” when there was a threat that the progressive Cheddi Jagan might win a free election in British Guiana, overturned by CIA shenanigans that handed the country over to the thuggish racist Forbes Burnham.[11] A few years earlier, Iraq was “the most dangerous place in the world” (CIA director Allen Dulles) after General Abdel Karim Qassim broke the Anglo-American condominium over Middle East oil, overthrowing the pro-US monarchy, which had been heavily infiltrated by the CIA.[12]  A primary concern was that Qassim might join Nasser, then the supreme Middle East devil, in using the incomparable energy resources of the Middle East for the domestic.  The issue for Washington was not so much access as control.  At the time and for many years after, Washington was purposely exhausting domestic oil resources in the interests of “national security,” meaning security for the profits of Texas oil men, like the failed entrepreneur who now sits in the Oval Office.  But as high-level planner George Kennan had explained well before, we cannot relax our guard when there is any interference with “protection of our resources” (which accidentally happen to be somewhere else).

 

Unquestionably, Iran’s government merits harsh condemnation, though it has not engaged in worldwide terror, subversion, and aggression, following the US model – which extends to today’s Iran as well, if ABC news is correct in reporting that the US is supporting Pakistan-based Jundullah, which is carrying out terrorist acts inside Iran.[13]  The sole act of aggression attributed to Iran is the conquest of two small islands in the Gulf – under Washington’s close ally the Shah.  In addition to internal repression – heightened, as Iranian dissidents regularly protest, by US militancy — the prospect that Iran might develop nuclear weapons also is deeply troubling.  Though Iran has every right to develop nuclear energy, no one – including the majority of Iranians – wants it to have nuclear weapons.  That would add to the threat to survival posed much more seriously by its near neighbors Pakistan, India, and Israel, all nuclear armed with the blessing of the US, which most of the world regards as the leading threat to world peace, for evident reasons.

 

Iran rejects US control of the Middle East, challenging fundamental policy doctrine, but it hardly poses a military threat. On the contrary, it has been the victim of outside powers for years: in recent memory, when the US and Britain overthrew its parliamentary government and installed a brutal tyrant in 1953, and when the US supported Saddam Hussein’s murderous invasion, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Iranians, many with chemical weapons, without the “international community” lifting a finger – something that Iranians do not forget as easily as the perpetrators.  And then under severe sanctions as a punishment for disobedience.

 

Israel regards Iran as a threat. Israel seeks to dominate the region with no interference, and Iran might be some slight counterbalance, while also supporting domestic forces that do not bend to Israel’s will. It may, however, be useful to bear in mind that Hamas has accepted the international consensus on a two-state settlement on the international border, and Hezbollah, along with Iran, has made clear that it would accept any outcome approved by Palestinians, leaving the US and Israel isolated in their traditional rejectionism.[14]

 

But Iran is hardly a military threat to Israel. And whatever threat there might be could be overcome if the US would accept the view of the great majority of its own citizens and of Iranians and permit the Middle East to become a nuclear-weapons free zone, including Iran and Israel, and US forces deployed there.  One may also recall that UN Security Council Resolution 687 of 3 April 1991, to which Washington appeals when convenient, calls for “establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery.”

 

It is widely recognized that use of military force in Iran would risk blowing up the entire region, with untold consequences beyond. We know from polls that in the surrounding countries, where the Iranian government is hardly popular — Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan — nevertheless large majorities prefer even a nuclear-armed Iran to any form of military action against it.

 

The rhetoric about Iran has escalated to the point where both political parties and practically the whole US press accept it as legitimate and, in fact, honorable, that “all options are on the table,” to quote Hillary Clinton and everybody else, possibly even nuclear weapons. “All options on the table” means that Washington threatens war.

 

The UN Charter outlaws “the threat or use of force.” The United States, which has chosen to become an outlaw state, disregards international laws and norms. We’re allowed to threaten anybody we want — and to attack anyone we choose.

 

Washington‘s feverish new Cold War “containment” policy has spread to Europe. Washington intends to install a “missile defense system” in the Czech Republic and Poland, marketed to Europe as a shield against Iranian missiles. Even if Iran had nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, the chances of its using them to attack Europe are perhaps on a par with the chances of Europe’s being hit by an asteroid, so perhaps Europe would do as well to invest in an asteroid defense system. Furthermore, if Iran were to indicate the slightest intention of aiming a missile at Europe or Israel, the country would be vaporized.

 

Of course, Russian planners are gravely upset by the shield proposal.  We can imagine how the US would respond if a Russian anti-missile system were erected in Canada.  The Russians have good reason to regard an anti-missile system as part of a first-strike weapon against them.  It is generally understood that such a system could never block a first strike, but it could conceivably impede a retaliatory strike. On all sides, “missile defense” is therefore understood to be a first-strike weapon, eliminating a deterrent to attack.  And a small initial installation in Eastern Europe could easily be a base for later expansion.  Even more obviously, the only military function of such a system with regard to Iran, the declared aim, would be to bar an Iranian deterrent to US or Israel aggression.

 

Not surprisingly, in reaction to the “missile defense” plans, Russia has resorted to its own dangerous gestures, including the recent decision to renew long-range patrols by nuclear-capable bombers after a 15-year hiatus, in one recent case near the US military base on Guam.  These actions reflect Russia’s anger “over what it has called American and NATO aggressiveness, including plans for a missile-defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland, analysts said” (Andrew Kramer, NYT).[15]

 

The shield ratchets the threat of war a few notches higher, in the Middle East and elsewhere, with incalculable consequences, and the potential for a terminal nuclear war. The immediate fear is that by accident or design, Washington’s war planners or their Israeli surrogate might decide to escalate their Cold War II into a hot one – in this case a real hot war.

 

 

 



[1] Wright, WP, July 29 07

[2] Correspondent Michael Wines, NYT, June 13, 1999.  Doolittle report, Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: the History of the CIA, Doubleday 2007

[3] Ibid., 77.

[4] Ibid., 180.

[5] Paul Richter, LAT, Aug. 10, 2007.  Karzai, CNN, Aug. 5, 2007.

[6] Robin Wright, “U.S. Plans New Arms Sales to Gulf Allies,” WP, July 28, 2007.

[7] Henry Meyer, Bloomberg, Aug. 16, 2007.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Hiro

[10] Weiner

[11] Schmitz, Weiner.

[12] Weiner.  Failed States.

[13] Brian Ross and Christopher Isham, “ABC News Exclusive: The Secret War Against Iran,” April 3, 2007; Ross and Richard Esposito, ABC, “Bush Authorizes New Covert Action Against Iran,” May 22, 2007.

[14] On Iran, see Gilbert Achcar, Noam Chomsky, and Stephen Shalom, Perilous Power (Paradigm, 2007), and Ervand Abrahamian, in David Barsamian, ed., Targeting Iran (City Lights, 2007).  On Hamas, among many similar statements see the article by Hamas’s most militant leader, Khalid Mish’al, “Our unity can now pave the way for peace and justice,” Guardian, February 13, 2007.  Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly taken the same position.  See among others Irene Gendzier, Assaf Kfoury, and Fawwaz Traboulsi, eds., Inside Lebanon (Monthly Review, 2007).

[15] Kramer, “Recalling Cold War, Russia Resumes Long-Range Sorties,” Aug. 18,  2007.

Defusing Nuclear Hysteria
Charles Peña

Even as the International Atomic Energy Agency is meeting with Iranian officials to discuss increasing the openness of Iran’s nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains defiant about Tehran’s right to pursue such a program – including uranium enrichment, which would give Iran a de facto nuclear weapon capability.

This raises the specter of one of the greatest fears in the post-Sept. 11 world: nuclear terrorism.

Indeed, this was the prospect brandished by President Bush to help gain public support for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein. “If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year,” he said. “And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists.”

But how likely is it that a regime with ties to terrorist groups would give them a nuclear weapon?

The conventional wisdom is that if a regime such as Iran acquired a nuclear weapon it could give that weapon to a terrorist group it supports (such as Hezbollah) and that the group would use the weapon against a common foe of the group and the regime (presumably the United States.)

This is the logic of the enemy of my friend is my enemy, which is emotionally appealing and based on the assumption that regimes and terrorist groups hate us for who we are.

But it is deeply flawed.

First and foremost, there is no history of hostile regimes supplying terrorist groups with chemical or biological weapons they have access to, let alone a nuclear weapon.

Saddam was known to support anti-Israeli Palestinian terrorist groups (including Hamas) for years, but he never gave chemical or biological weapons to those groups to use against Israel, a country he hated as much as he hated the United States. The same is true for the mullahs in Tehran.

It is also important to understand that terrorist groups aided by hostile regimes are not completely controlled by those regimes. There is an assumption that a terrorist group would use a nuclear weapon to attack the United States – and that this is the only plausible scenario.

But a nuclear weapon would also give the terrorist group the ability to topple the regime that supplied it, and the regime would have no way to prevent that from happening once the weapon was out of its control.

Moreover, it would be logistically easier for the terrorists to attack the regime that supplied it – rather than trying to clandestinely transfer the weapon to a foreign target like the United States.

Two other factors would affect a regime’s decision to transfer a nuclear weapon to terrorists. First, the cost to develop such weapons is significant – several billions of dollars. One has to question whether any regime would make that kind of investment simply to give a weapon away.

Second, once a weapon is in the hands of terrorists, they could use it against any target of their choosing. If that target is not the one approved by the regime, nuclear forensics could be used to trace the weapon back to its source (even without nuclear forensics, the list of suspects will be relatively short).

As a result, the regime would have to worry that a terrorist group would commit an act that would endanger its own survival – especially if U.S. policy is to reserve the right to retaliate against the suspect regime using its vastly superior nuclear arsenal.

Indeed, if deterring U.S.-imposed regime change is one of the primary incentives for certain countries to pursue nuclear weapons, giving them away to terrorists would be counterproductive and more likely to invite the very action the regime seeks to avert.

Overall, a regime would have to have suicidal tendencies to engage in such risky behavior – yet while individual fanatics may sometimes be willing to commit suicide for a cause, prominent political leaders rarely display that characteristic.

So while the logic of the enemy of my friend is my enemy has popular appeal, the reality is that there are clear and significant disincentives for any regime to simply give away a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group.

Thus, although we must be concerned about the prospect of nuclear terrorism, we should also not be mesmerized by rhetoric of smoking guns in the form of mushroom clouds and live in dire fear of it.

World facing ‘arsenic timebomb’
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Farmer. Image: AFP
About 50 million people are affected in Bangladesh
About 140 million people, mainly in developing countries, are being poisoned by arsenic in their drinking water, researchers believe.

Speaking at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) annual meeting in London, scientists said this will lead to higher rates of cancer in the future.

South and East Asia account for more than half of the known cases globally.

Eating large amounts of rice grown in affected areas could also be a health risk, scientists said.

“It’s a global problem, present in 70 countries, probably more,” said Peter Ravenscroft, a research associate in geography with Cambridge University.

“If you work on drinking water standards used in Europe and North America, then you see that about 140 million people around the world are above those levels and at risk.”

Testing time

Arsenic consumption leads to higher rates of some cancers, including tumours of the lung, bladder and skin, and other lung conditions. Some of these effects show up decades after the first exposure.

I don’t know of one government agency which has given this the priority it deserves
Allan Smith
“In the long term, one in every 10 people with high concentrations of arsenic in their water will die from it,” observed Allan Smith from the University of California at Berkeley.

“This is the highest known increase in mortality from any environmental exposure.”

The international response, he said, is not what the scale of the problem merits.

“I don’t know of one government agency which has given this the priority it deserves,” he commented.

The first signs that arsenic-contaminated water might be a major health issue emerged in the 1980s, with the documentation of poisoned communities in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal.

Plates of rice. Image: AFP
Rice plants absorb arsenic from the soil as they grow
In order to avoid drinking surface water, which can be contaminated with bacteria causing diarrhoea and other diseases, aid agencies had been promoting the digging of wells, not suspecting that well water would emerge with elevated levels of arsenic.

The metal is present naturally in soil, and leaches into groundwater, with bacteria thought to play a role.

Since then, large-scale contamination has been found in other Asian countries such as China, Cambodia and Vietnam, in South America and Africa.

It is less of a problem in North America and Europe where most water is provided by utilities. However, some private wells in the UK may not be tested and could present a problem, Mr Ravenscroft said.

Problems abroad

Once the threat has been identified, there are remedies, such as as digging deeper wells, purification, and identifying safe surface water supplies.

As a matter of priority, scientists at the RGS meeting said, governments should test all wells in order to assess the threat to communities.

“Africa, for example, is probably affected less than other continents, but so little is known that we would recommend widespread testing,” said Peter Ravenscroft.

His Cambridge team has developed computer models aimed at predicting which regions might have the highest risks, taking into account factors such as geology and climate.

Sign at lake. Image: Getty
Arsenic contamination can be a problem in parts of the US
“We have assessments of the Ganges and Brahmaputra river basins, for example, and then we look for similar basins elsewhere.

“There are similar areas in Indonesia and the Philippines, and very little evidence of tests; yet where there has been some testing, in (the Indonesian province of) Aceh for example, signs of arsenic turned up.”

Asian countries use water for agriculture as well as drinking, and this too can be a source of arsenic poisoning.

Rice is usually grown in paddy fields, often flooded with water from the same wells. Arsenic is drawn up into the grains which are used for food.

Andrew Meharg from Aberdeen University has shown that arsenic transfers from soil to rice about 10 times more efficiently than to other grain crops.

This is clearly a problem in countries such as Bangladesh where rice is the staple food, and Professor Meharg believes it could be an issue even in the UK among communities which eat rice frequently.

“The average (British) person eats about 10g to 16g of rice per day, but members of the UK Bangladeshi community for example might eat 300g per day,” he said.

The UK’s Food Standards Agency is currently assessing whether this level of consumption carries any risk.