UN urges Israel to allow nuclear inspection

Resolution marks a surprise victory for Arab states

UN urges Israel to allow nuclear inspection


The resolution calls on IAEA chief Mohamed al-Baradei to work on the issue of Israel’s atomic sites (File)
VIENNA (Agencies)The U.N. nuclear assembly voted on Friday to urge Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and place all atomic sites under U.N. inspections, in a surprise victory for Arab states.

The resolution, passed narrowly for the first time in nearly two decades, expresses concern about “Israeli nuclear capabilities” and calls on International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed al-Baradei to work on the issue.

(The resolution is)very good news and a triumph for the oppressed nation of Palestine

Tehran ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh

Initially, Western states tried to stop the resolution from going to a vote, arguing it would be counterproductive to single out Israel, particularly after a resolution had been passed the day before calling on all states in the Middle East to foreswear nuclear weapons.

But the adjournment motion was defeated and voting went ahead, with a total 49 countries in favour, 45 against and 16 abstentions.

It is the first time since 1991 that such a resolution has been adopted.

Israel’s arch-enemy Iran had spoken in favour of the resolution, describing Israel’s nuclear capabilities as “a potential threat to the peace and security of the world.”

It also undermined the integrity and credibility of the non-proliferation regime and the NPT, argued Tehran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh.

After the vote, Soltanieh described the resolution as “very good news and a triumph for the oppressed nation of Palestine.”

Russia and China also backed the resolution.

Israel will not cooperate in any matter with this resolution which is only aiming at reinforcing political hostilities and lines of division in the Middle East region

David Danieli, deputy director, Israeli atomic energy commission

Israel refuses cooperation

Israel is one of only three countries worldwide along with India and Pakistan outside the nuclear NPT and is widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, though it has never confirmed or denied it.

“The delegation of Israel deplores this resolution,” David Danieli, deputy director of Israel’s atomic energy commission, told the chamber after the vote.

“Israel will not cooperate in any matter with this resolution which is only aiming at reinforcing political hostilities and lines of division in the Middle East region.”

The measure was last voted on in 1991 when it passed by 39-31 with 13 abstentions when IAEA membership was much smaller.

Since then there has only been presidential summaries of debate on this item or motions for adjournment or no action that carried the floor.

Diplomats pointed to the increased number of abstentions — from countries ranging from India to Argentina and Nigeria as an important factor in the resolution’s adoption.

Missile Defense And Washington’s Foolish Eurasia Strategy

Missile Defense And Washington’s
Foolish Eurasia Strategy

By F. William Engdahl
Author of Full Spectrum Dominance:
Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order
9-17-9
Eight months into the Obama Presidency the outlines of Administration foreign policy are becoming very clear and what is emerging is a foreign policy establishment flying blind on automatic pilot, evidently unable to make the fundamental policy changes required of its new geopolitical and economic position in the world since the collapse of the Greenspan “revolution in finance” September 2008. For the first time since it emerged as the world’s dominant power after 1945 the US policy establishment is unable to combine its military “stick” with any economic “carrot.” The Obama effort marks the end of an era of geopolitics. Latest reports that Obama has decided to cancel US plans for an anti-nuclear missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic suggest that a major internal battle is underway among US policy elites over what has clearly been a failed US foreign policy strategy.
Nowhere has the deficit in creative new strategic thinking been evident than in Washington policy towards the three pivot powers of the Eurasian continent-China, Russia and Iran. The recent calculated affront to Russia by Vice President Joe Biden was typical of the impotence of recent US foreign policy to regain American advantage across the strategic expanse of Eurasia-the undisputed “key” to world hegemony.
White the Obama Administration has made big fanfare about a so-called “reset” of US-Russian relations, it is clear the reset intended is back to the disastrous (for Russia) Yeltsin era of chaos and collapse of Russian state power in the early 1990’s. What is ignored are the clear strategic-based reasons for the dramatic deterioration in US-Russian relations-Washington and Washington-led NATO have posed an existential challenge to the very survival of Russia as a nation by Washington’s series of power coups or “color revolutions,” most clearly the 2003-2004 revolutions in Ukraine and in Georgia which placed pro-NATO de facto puppet regimes in power on Moscow’s most strategic periphery.
The strategic significance of “missile defense”
Adding to the appearance as seen from Moscow that US intent is to ultimately destroy Russia was the US insistence, until now endorsed by Obama, to place highly offensive missile and radar installations into Poland and the Czech Republic, the mis-named US “ballistic missile defense.” As former US military experts have put it, missile defense is the key to nuclear first strike. Whether or not Obama definitively cancels the missile defense plans will be a decisive indication if serious US rethinking is possible or not.
Rather than take steps to reduce the danger of nuclear pre-emptive war by miscalculation, a danger which the Bush-Rumsfeld missile defense policy has created with Russia, the Obama foreign policy has been drafted by an outmoded Clinton-era policy group whose calculations are based on a triumphal US sole superpower able to dictate terms to Russia and the rest of the world.
This was most clear in the ill-conceived Biden interview with the neo-conservative Wall Street Journal at end of July during a visit to Georgia and Ukraine. He proclaimed that Russia had “a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they’re in a situation where the world is changing before them and they’re clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.” It might as well have been describing the United States but for the population base.
Vice President Biden’s recent Ukraine trip where he denigrated Russia was clearly a strategic blunder
The comments of the US Vice President, clearly approved beforehand by the White House, are read in Moscow as a US policy affirmation of crushing what remains of Russia. Even if there were some truth in the Biden coment, it far from defines the reality of Eurasian geopolitics today.
The fact that after Obama’s July meeting with Medvedev and Putin, Obama sent Biden on the provocative tour of Ukraine and Georgia made clear to Russia what Washington policy offers: nothing but negative consequences for Russia. Obama policy towards Russia was clearly nothing fundamentally different from Bush policy. As seen then in Moscow, it was a bankrupt US strategic policy, one on “automatic pilot.”
That policy, it was clear, would produce significant reactions globally that Washington was and is ill-prepared to counter, further underscoring the impotence of the United States as the global superpower. By declaring openly that Russia is not taken seriously by Washington, Biden and the Obama Administration revealed an arrogance not backed by strength in their own economic power. Russia has significant options to undercut America’s geopolitical strategy of divide-and-rule over Eurasia. Key are Russian relations with Iran, Afghanistan and China.
Washington strategy backfires
Obama strategy has been to re-establish US influence in parts of Eurasia that suffered dramatic decline during the fiasco of the Bush-Cheney era. This was evident in Obama plans to significantly pour more troops into Afghanistan. It was evident in covert US Administration support for regime change and destabilization of the Ahmedinejad government after the Iranian elections. There the goal was to weaken Iran influence in the Middle East as well as its close ties to China and Russia.
Were Washington truly able to rethink fundamentals of its geopolitical power projection it would take very different steps under the cover of the Obama regime change.
Rather than continuing the confrontation with Russia in its own security sphere of Georgia or Ukraine, it would have to consider making concessions to Russian security concerns by negotiating an end to the US missile defense as Obama suggested in the campaign debates. The fact that the Czech press suggests that has just been decided, indicates a desperate internal attempt within the US power establishment to rethink fundamentals of America’s global strength. Cancelling missile defense and easing of NATO support in Ukraine and Georgia would open the door to urgently needed Russian cooperation for a US policy with Iran and Afghanistan.
By being confrontational with Russia, Obama’s Administration had foolishly compounded its problems across Eurasia and beyond. Ironically, the US Government has just released its latest threat review. The US 2009 National Intelligence Strategy (NIS), a four-year blueprint for the intelligence services, cites Russia, China, Iran and North Korea as countries that “have the ability to challenge US interests,” not only in traditional ways, such as military force and espionage, but also in “emerging” ways, in particular cyber operations. It noted, “Russiamay continue to seek avenues for reasserting power and influence in ways that complicate US interests.”
The Obama Biden policy of denigration and confrontation, if continued, no matter how weak Russia might appear economically, would certainly make that challenge to US influence a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The fact that Ahmadinejad personally went to the Yekaterinburg, Russia annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in July amid the height of the US-led destabilization of his country, to talk with Russian and Chinese leaders, indicates the effect of Washington’s bankrupt foreign policy. Iran is the key factor to help politically stabilize Iraq where some 60% of the population is Shi’ite as in Iran. Russia could play a key role in stabilizing Iran where Russian technology is building the Bushehr nuclear power complex. As well, a less confrontational US policy might win cooperation of Iran in neutralizing problems in Afghanistan.
Significantly, only days after the Biden remarks about Russia, Russian newsmedia reported that Iran would receive an advanced Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft system by the year’s end that could help fend off any pre-emptive strikes against its nuclear facilities. The first deliveries are to begin this month and be completed within 12 months.
The announcement so destabilized the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu that the Prime Minister just made a rush trip to Moscow to try to stop the sale.
Russia’s decision to sell advanced anti-aircraft defenses to Iran may have led to US scrapping of the Polish-Czech missile defense
Moscow has been diplomatically and militarily able to create a serious weakening of US influence in Africa and as well in Latin America. President Dmitry Medvedev visited four African countries in June ­ Egypt, Namibia, Nigeria and Angola.
As well, Moscow has just agreed with Venezuelan President Hugh Chavez to provide $2.5 billion line of credit to purchase Russian armoured vehicles and surface-to-air missiles.
Chavez also said he expects arrival of some ”little rockets” from Russia, which he said have a range of up to 300 kilometres and were strictly for defence purposes. Chavez cited recent Colombian government decision to permit the US military access to seven military bases on its soil as justification. ”With these rockets, it is going to be very difficult for them to come and bomb us. If that happens, they should know that we will soon have these systems installed”
Far from being an irrelevant player, as Biden and Obama were earlier prepared to declare, Russia is a decisive strategic factor in what is a growing move across the world to lessen dependence on the United States as “sole superpower.” The evident decision by Washington now to rethink its missile defense provocation of Russia indicates some in the Administration realize the US military bluff has been called. Now it remains to be seen if Washington is also willing to roll back its demand that Ukraine and Georgia join NATO. Were that to happen, it could signal a major US shift in strategic policy.

Do All US Terror Attacks Involve FBI Agents?

By JIM FITZGERALD, Associated Press Writer Jim Fitzgerald, Associated Press Writer Thu Sep 17, 7:24 pm ET

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Four ex-convicts accused of plotting to bomb synagogues and shoot down military planes apparently will claim they were lured into the conspiracy with gifts including cash and fried chicken.

Defense lawyers demanded Thursday in federal court that prosecutors turn over evidence of any payments, promises or other inducements offered by an informant who infiltrated the group.

The four men are accused of plotting to destroy two synagogues in the heavily Jewish Riverdale section of the Bronx and to shoot down planes at an Air National Guard base about 50 miles north of New York City. Because the FBI was in on the plot, the bombs and missiles the men obtained were useless, prosecutors say.

The men have pleaded not guilty and are being held without bail. One of them is a petty criminal who spent a day in 2002 snatching purses and shooting at people with an airgun, while three have histories of drug convictions.

Theodore Green, attorney for defendant David Williams, 28, mentioned the entrapment defense, which generally claims that a person was enticed to do something illegal that he would not otherwise have done.

Among the enticements the defense lawyers said they had already heard about were checks of up to $25,000, gifts to the men’s families and “some kind of charge account” at a Crown fried chicken store in Newburgh, where the four men live.

“My client could go there and not pay,” said lawyer Marilyn Reader, who is defending Laguerre Payen, 27.

Susanne Brody, the lawyer for Onta Williams, 32, said that when viewing government surveillance video, there was hardly a scene “where you don’t see eating going on.” The informant paid for those meals, she asserted, and the defense wants documentation.

Green said the defense also wants to know whether the informant was acting on his own or following orders when he offered gifts — and who gave the orders. He also demanded to know “what instructions were given the cooperating witness about entrapment and any limits imposed on him.”

The defense also is seeking information about any conversations the informant had “advocating violence or holding extremist views,” Green said.

Prosecutor David Leibowitz said he had already turned over all recorded evidence of inducements, but Green said the defense also wants the government to share any knowledge, recorded or not, of other offers.

Leibowitz said he would inquire about “whether there was a Crown Chicken relationship.”

Two of the defendants, Payen and James Cromitie, 55, had spent time at a mosque in Newburgh. Green said the defense had information that the informant had approached “one or more other mosques in the Hudson Valley trying to get membership lists.”

Judge Colleen McMahon said the defense could file motions if it disagreed with the prosecution about what evidence has to be turned over. She scheduled another status conference for Dec. 4 and said jury selection would begin June 14.

About a dozen supporters of the defendants were in the courtroom, most of them friends or relatives of David Williams, who is not related to Onta Williams.

Alicia McWilliams, David Williams’ aunt, said the four men could not have organized a sophisticated plot without direction.

“They couldn’t do a barbecue,” she said.

Jamie Rubin, Cruise Missile Liberal, Calls for Hypnotizing Americans About Afghan War


Jamie Rubin, Cruise Missile Liberal, Calls for Hypnotizing Americans About Afghan War

Jeremy Scahill

September 17, 2009

Rubin joins a chorus of discredited neocons and out of touch Democrats in selling Obama’s war.

By Jeremy Scahill

Jamie Rubin, one of the leading Democratic Party hawks, was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Wednesday to discuss Afghanistan policy. Rubin, who served as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s top deputy in the 1990s, was a major figure in shaping and refining Clinton’s “military humanism” doctrine. He was a passionate advocate for war against Iraq, which Clinton waged militarily and economically throughout the 1990s; he was a central player in the US-led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and, significantly, US support for the Kosovo Liberation Army, which a senior US official, Richard Gelbard, had labeled “without any questions, a terrorist group.”

Rubin is a famed cruise missile liberal who has seldom seen a war he didn’t like. It is no surprise that he would be hitting the cable shows to support the war in Afghanistan at a time when public opinion is increasingly against US involvement. Democratic lawmakers are finally questioning the Obama administration’s escalation there. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence and hardly a radical anti-war voice, said Sunday: “I believe the mission should be time limited, that there should be no, ‘Well, we’ll let you know in a year and a half, depending on how we do.’ I think the Congress is entitled to know, after Iraq, exactly how long are we going to be in Afghanistan.” On Sunday, Senator Richard Durbin, one of Obama’s closest friends, said, “I think at this point sending additional troops would not be the right thing to do.” And it is not just powerful Democrats asking questions. Prominent conservative George Will recently wrote in the Washington Post that it is “time to get out of Afghanistan.” While Congress is not even considering cutting off funds (only 30 House Democrats voted against war funding last round and only Senator Russ Feingold (and independent Bernie Sanders) in the Senate), the tide is changing ever so slowly.

Rubin is predictably finding himself on the side of a band of discredited neoconservatives led by William Kristol who have launched a campaign to support the US war in Afghanistan. He is not alone among Democrats. Howard Dean recently got along swimmingly with Newt Gingrich and Chris Wallace on FOX News discussing his support for the war in Afghanistan and the Center for American Progress has issued pro-war reports and done events with neoconservatives. Rubin, who is married to CNN’s Christianne Amanpour, is currently an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International Politics and Public Affairs. Rubin remains an informal advisor to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

On Morning Joe, Rubin laid out what can only be described as a crude plan to hypnotize Americans into believing falsehoods about the Afghan war. “We need to really really put to bed the issue that I think is behind everybody here, which is that this is another Vietnam,” Rubin said. “And I think that Vietnam is a terribly debilitating analogy for our country. Every time something is difficult, we say, “Uh, it’s Vietnam.’ Afghanistan and Vietnam have nothing to do with each other. The whole world is on our side in Afghanistan. The whole world was clearly not on our side in Vietnam. The people in Afghanistan prefer an outcome that is not the Taliban, while in Vietnam as you know, the situation was different. So, let’s take that analogy, throw it out the window, and deal with the facts on the ground.”

Perhaps Rubin may want to listen to Nir Rosen, the great war correspondent who actually knows from first-hand experience about those facts.

Among the many problems with Rubin’s statement is the glaring lie that the “whole world is on our side.” Quite the contrary. NATO countries are facing growing calls for disengagement from what is increasingly viewed as an American quagmire. Canadians are weary of their nation’s involvement. Remember what Rep. John Murtha said recently? “The Europeans aren’t doing a damn thing” to support the Afghan war. Perhaps Rubin missed this comment by Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House and a member of his own party: “I don’t think there is a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan in the country or in Congress.”

Moreover, Rubin’s illogical connection of support for the US occupation and a rejection of the Taliban is dishonest acrobatics.

President Obama, Rubin says, “has to begin to build this case for what I would call resetting the clock. The reason why so many Americans are discouraged and feeling like additional troops are unwise is because they believe the clock started eight years ago when we first when into Afghanistan.”

Is Rubin serious? This sounds like someone trying to trick a kid into eating vegetables. His silliness then continued:

I think if the president, along with his generals, and the key diplomats like Richard Holbrooke can begin to lay the groundwork for a resetting of the clock and saying that it’s really now for the first time that we’ve devoted the diplomatic, military and political resources to focus on Afghanistan, to get the mission completed and that the clock should be reset for a realistic period of time—several years with a substantial military forces are going to be needed if we are going to accomplish this mission. And, anything short of that I think will be the kind of muddling through that we did in Afghanistan and in Iraq in the first five years and I think that’s the worst outcome.

Right, because a discredited US-backed election rife with fraud, escalating US troop deaths and a widening of Taliban control doesn’t look anything like muddling. Returning to the theme of hypnotism, Rubin said:

The fundamental question that the Congress is going to face and I think administration officials are struggling with is: Is Iraq a reasonable analogy now? Will the surge that worked in Iraq, is there an analogous situation in Afghanistan? If we have top level effort, if the president focuses on it, if we have additional surge of military forces, if we reset the objectives—because we lowered the objectives in Iraq, where we began working with Sunni warlords that previously we weren’t prepared to work with. So if we lower the objectives and increase the resources, I believe that we can achieve this mission.

In other words, do what the Bush folks did with their carnival of ever evolving justifications for these wars. Moreover, Rubin never did mention what “mission” he believes “we can achieve.” Unless, of course, the mission is to hypnotize people into believing that Afghanistan has nothing in common with Vietnam.



:: Article nr. 58042 sent on 17-sep-2009 20:32 ECT
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Link: rebelreports.com/post/189393917/jamie-rubin-cruise-missile-liberal-calls-for

“The World Is Not Going To Take This Much Longer”

IDF brutes invade Bil’in, night-time raid, injuring those present SEE FILM

WRITTEN BY HAITHAM AL KATIB

bilin_palestine_protest_13j7ipc1.jpg

September 17, 2009

Shortly after  1:30 am, Israeli forces invaded Bil’in again. They raided the house of Abdullah Mahmoud Aburahma in an attempt to arrest him. However, he was not home at the time. Palestinian and international activists intervened by jumping over the wall into the garden since the soldiers had shut the gate closed. Some international activists were threatened with arrest unless they move back. The soldiers had sealed off the house while operating inside. They forced open two doors breaking the locks and destroying the doors. They trashed several rooms and beat Mohammed Khatib who had come to the rescue of Abdullah’s family. He was taken to hospital in Ramallah for treatment and returned to the village later.

Military reinforcement arrived in five Jeeps. Outside the house, one Palestinian activist, Emad Burnat, who was filming, was pushed to the ground. One soldier also broke his camera. Hamde Aburahma and other Palestinian journalists were threatened with arrest unless they stop filming. They hit Ashraf Aburahma, another activist, with the gun injuring his right hand.

The house of Abdullah’s brother, Khaled Aburahma, was raided as well, which traumatized his children that were pulled brutally out of their sleep. The invading forces said that until they find Abdullah, the entire neighborhood was theirs. They searched every room and trashed one room downstairs next to the store. They stole Palestinian flags, banners and posters used during demonstrations, and then left the house.

The invading forces exited the village around 3 am without any victims.

Abdullah Aburahma called all the Human Rights organizations worldwide to help stop the night raids in Bil’in, and to support the demonstrations against the occupation which is a legal activity.

more about “IDF brutes invade Bil’in, night-time …“, posted with vodpod


Using Mercenaries to Wage Unpopular Wars

Nato forces rely on illegal Afghan militias, report says
Troops in Afghanistan said to use private armies for detention and interrogation

Julian Borger

September 17, 2009

Nato forces in Afghanistan are increasingly reliant on illegal militias, often run by warlords responsible for human rights abuses and drug trafficking, according to an independent report published tomorrow.

New York University’s Centre on International Co-operation (CIC) reports that the use of private security companies and militias is growing exponentially and accounts for up to a fifth of the funds spent on Afghan reconstruction.

The CIC report, called The Public Cost of Private Security in Afghanistan, says many of the troop contingents in Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) use private militias not only to guard their camps and secure convoys, but also for “black ops”, including detention and interrogation.

The militias function entirely outside Afghan law, which bans unlicensed armed groups, nor is there any legal basis for their employment in the “status of forces agreement” with the Kabul government, the CIC says in its report.

“The absence of effective oversight of the private security sector in Afghanistan undermines the credibility and safety of the government and the international stabilisation effort,” the report argues.

“Many of these private security providers serve as ready-made militias that compete with state authority and are frequently run by former military commanders responsible for human rights abuses or involved in the illegal narcotics and black market economies.”

“Financing armed, alternative power structures fulfils security needs in the short term at the cost of consolidating government authority in the long term,” the CIC report says. It gives examples of private paramilitary groups hired by US, Australian, Canadian and German forces, and refers to an incident in June in which 41 militia fighters hired by US special forces in Kandahar killed the provincial police chief and five other police officers in a gun battle to free a militia member who had been arrested earlier the same day.

Jake Sherman, one of the report’s authors, said today: “The Kandahar incident shows these groups are being employed by US special forces, and we know they are engaged in black ops.”

“I know these guys go out with them on the operations. They provide the human intelligence about the environment in which the international military are operating. But the [international forces] don’t necessarily know who they are aligned with – which political and tribal groups.”

He argued that once Nato leaves, the militias are likely to return to drug trafficking and other black market activities, better trained and better armed. “Once they are set up and armed, they are never disarmed,” Sherman said. “They become new threats to the state.”

A Nato spokesman said today it was impossible to comment on a report that had not yet been fully read and analysed.


:: Article nr. 58051 sent on 18-sep-2009 00:17 ECT
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Link: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/16/nato-forces-afghan-militias

Is America Hooked on War?

Is America Hooked on War?

The question is: What kind of country do we actually live in when the so-called U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) lists 16 intelligence services ranging from Air Force Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency to the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency? What could "intelligence" mean once spread over 16 sizeable, bureaucratic, often competing outfits with a cumulative 2009 budget estimated at more than $55 billion (a startling percentage of which is controlled by the Pentagon)? What exactly is so intelligent about all that? And why does no one think it even mildly strange or in any way out of the ordinary? – Tom Engelhardt



September 17, 2009

By Tom Engelhardt

"War is peace" was one of the memorable slogans on the facade of the Ministry of Truth, Minitrue in "Newspeak," the language invented by George Orwell in 1948 for his dystopian novel 1984. Some 60 years later, a quarter-century after Orwell’s imagined future bit the dust, the phrase is, in a number of ways, eerily applicable to the United States.

Last week, for instance, a New York Times front-page story by Eric Schmitt and David Sanger was headlined "Obama Is Facing Doubts in Party on Afghanistan, Troop Buildup at Issue." It offered a modern version of journalistic Newspeak.

"Doubts," of course, imply dissent, and in fact just the week before there had been a major break in Washington’s ranks, though not among Democrats. The conservative columnist George Will wrote a piece offering blunt advice to the Obama administration, summed up in its headline: "Time to Get Out of Afghanistan." In our age of political and audience fragmentation and polarization, think of this as the Afghan version of Vietnam’s Cronkite moment.

The Times report on those Democratic doubts, on the other hand, represented a more typical Washington moment. Ignored, for instance, was Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold’s end-of-August call for the president to develop an Afghan withdrawal timetable. The focus of the piece was instead an upcoming speech by Michigan Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He was, Schmitt and Sanger reported, planning to push back against well-placed leaks (in the Times, among other places) indicating that war commander General Stanley McChrystal was urging the president to commit 15,000 to 45,000 more American troops to the Afghan War.

Here, according to the two reporters, was the gist of Levin’s message about what everyone agrees is a "deteriorating" U.S. position: "[H]e was against sending more American combat troops to Afghanistan until the United States speeded up the training and equipping of more Afghan security forces."

Think of this as the line in the sand within the Democratic Party, and be assured that the debates within the halls of power over McChrystal’s troop requests and Levin’s proposal are likely to be fierce this fall. Thought about for a moment, however, both positions can be summed up with the same word: More.

The essence of this "debate" comes down to: More of them versus more of us (and keep in mind that more of them — an expanded training program for the Afghan National Army — actually means more of "us" in the form of extra trainers and advisors). In other words, however contentious the disputes in Washington, however dismally the public now views the war, however much the president’s war coalition might threaten to crack open, the only choices will be between more and more.

No alternatives are likely to get a real hearing. Few alternative policy proposals even exist because alternatives that don’t fit with "more" have ceased to be part of Washington’s war culture. No serious thought, effort, or investment goes into them. Clearly referring to Will’s column, one of the unnamed "senior officials" who swarm through our major newspapers made the administration’s position clear, saying sardonically, according to the Washington Post, "I don’t anticipate that the briefing books for the [administration] principals on these debates over the next weeks and months will be filled with submissions from opinion columnists… I do anticipate they will be filled with vigorous discussion… of how successful we’ve been to date."

State of War

Because the United States does not look like a militarized country, it’s hard for Americans to grasp that Washington is a war capital, that the United States is a war state, that it garrisons much of the planet, and that the norm for us is to be at war somewhere at any moment. Similarly, we’ve become used to the idea that, when various forms of force (or threats of force) don’t work, our response, as in Afghanistan, is to recalibrate and apply some alternate version of the same under a new or rebranded name — the hot one now being "counterinsurgency" or COIN — in a marginally different manner. When it comes to war, as well as preparations for war, more is now generally the order of the day.

This wasn’t always the case. The early Republic that the most hawkish conservatives love to cite was a land whose leaders looked with suspicion on the very idea of a standing army. They would have viewed our hundreds of global garrisons, our vast network of spies, agents, Special Forces teams, surveillance operatives, interrogators, rent-a-guns, and mercenary corporations, as well as our staggering Pentagon budget and the constant future-war gaming and planning that accompanies it, with genuine horror.

The question is: What kind of country do we actually live in when the so-called U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) lists 16 intelligence services ranging from Air Force Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency to the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency? What could "intelligence" mean once spread over 16 sizeable, bureaucratic, often competing outfits with a cumulative 2009 budget estimated at more than $55 billion (a startling percentage of which is controlled by the Pentagon)? What exactly is so intelligent about all that? And why does no one think it even mildly strange or in any way out of the ordinary?

What does it mean when the most military-obsessed administration in our history, which, year after year, submitted ever more bloated Pentagon budgets to Congress, is succeeded by one headed by a president who ran, at least partially, on an antiwar platform, and who has now submitted an even larger Pentagon budget? What does this tell you about Washington and about the viability of non-militarized alternatives to the path George W. Bush took? What does it mean when the new administration, surveying nearly eight years and two wars’ worth of disasters, decides to expand the U.S. Armed Forces rather than shrink the U.S. global mission?

What kind of a world do we inhabit when, with an official unemployment rate of 9.7% and an underemployment rate of 16.8%, the American taxpayer is financing the building of a three-story, exceedingly permanent-looking $17 million troop barracks at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan? This, in turn, is part of a taxpayer-funded $220 million upgrade of the base that includes new "water treatment plants, headquarters buildings, fuel farms, and power generating plants." And what about the U.S. air base built at Balad, north of Baghdad, that now has 15 bus routes, two fire stations, two water treatment plants, two sewage treatment plants, two power plants, a water bottling plant, and the requisite set of fast-food outlets, PXes, and so on, as well as air traffic levels sometimes compared to those at Chicago’s O’Hare International?

What kind of American world are we living in when a plan to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq involves the removal of more than 1.5 million pieces of equipment? Or in which the possibility of withdrawal leads the Pentagon to issue nearly billion-dollar contracts (new ones!) to increase the number of private security contractors in that country?

What do you make of a world in which the U.S. has robot assassins in the skies over its war zones, 24/7, and the "pilots" who control them from thousands of miles away are ready on a moment’s notice to launch missiles — "Hellfire" missiles at that — into Pashtun peasant villages in the wild, mountainous borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan? What does it mean when American pilots can be at war "in" Afghanistan, 9 to 5, by remote control, while their bodies remain at a base outside Las Vegas and then can head home past a sign that warns them to drive carefully because this is "the most dangerous part of your day"?

What does it mean when, for our security and future safety, the Pentagon funds the wildest ideas imaginable for developing high-tech weapons systems, many of which sound as if they came straight out of the pages of sci-fi novels? Take, for example, Boeing’s advanced coordinated system of hand-held drones, robots, sensors, and other battlefield surveillance equipment slated for seven Army brigades within the next two years at a cost of $2 billion and for the full Army by 2025; or the Next Generation Bomber, an advanced "platform" slated for 2018; or a truly futuristic bomber, "a suborbital semi-spacecraft able to move at hypersonic speed along the edge of the atmosphere," for 2035? What does it mean about our world when those people in our government peering deepest into a blue-skies future are planning ways to send armed "platforms" up into those skies and kill more than a quarter century from now?

And do you ever wonder about this: If such weaponry is being endlessly developed for our safety and security, and that of our children and grandchildren, why is it that one of our most successful businesses involves the sale of the same weaponry to other countries? Few Americans are comfortable thinking about this, which may explain why global-arms-trade pieces don’t tend to make it onto the front pages of our newspapers. Recently, the Times Pentagon correspondent Thom Shanker, for instance, wrote a piece on the subject which appeared inside the paper on a quiet Labor Day. "Despite Slump, U.S. Role as Top Arms Supplier Grows" was the headline. Perhaps Shanker, too, felt uncomfortable with his subject, because he included the following generic description: "In the highly competitive global arms market, nations vie for both profit and political influence through weapons sales, in particular to developing nations…" The figures he cited from a new congressional study of that "highly competitive" market told a different story: The U.S., with $37.8 billion in arms sales (up $12.4 billion from 2007), controlled 68.4% of the global arms market in 2008. Highly competitively speaking, Italy came "a distant second" with $3.7 billion. In sales to "developing nations," the U.S. inked $29.6 billion in weapons agreements or 70.1% of the market. Russia was a vanishingly distant second at $3.3 billion or 7.8% of the market. In other words, with 70% of the market, the U.S. actually has what, in any other field, would qualify as a monopoly position — in this case, in things that go boom in the night. With the American car industry in a ditch, it seems that this (along with Hollywood films that go boom in the night) is what we now do best, as befits a war, if not warrior, state. Is that an American accomplishment you’re comfortable with?

On the day I’m writing this piece, "Names of the Dead," a feature which appears almost daily in my hometown newspaper, records the death of an Army private from DeKalb, Illinois, in Afghanistan. Among the spare facts offered: he was 20 years old, which means he was probably born not long before the First Gulf War was launched in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush. If you include that war, which never really ended — low-level U.S. military actions against Saddam Hussein’s regime continued until the invasion of 2003 — as well as U.S. actions in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia, not to speak of the steady warfare underway since November 2001, in his short life, there was hardly a moment in which the U.S. wasn’t engaged in military operations somewhere on the planet (invariably thousands of miles from home). If that private left a one-year-old baby behind in the States, and you believe the statements of various military officials, that child could pass her tenth birthday before the war in which her father died comes to an end. Given the record of these last years, and the present military talk about being better prepared for "the next war," she could reach 2025, the age when she, too, might join the military without ever spending a warless day. Is that the future you had in mind?

Consider this: War is now the American way, even if peace is what most Americans experience while their proxies fight in distant lands. Any serious alternative to war, which means our "security," is increasingly inconceivable. In Orwellian terms then, war is indeed peace in the United States and peace, war.

American Newspeak

Newspeak, as Orwell imagined it, was an ever more constricted form of English that would, sooner or later, make "all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended," he wrote in an appendix to his novel, "that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought… should be literally unthinkable."

When it comes to war (and peace), we live in a world of American Newspeak in which alternatives to a state of war are not only ever more unacceptable, but ever harder to imagine. If war is now our permanent situation, in good Orwellian fashion it has also been sundered from a set of words that once accompanied it.

It lacks, for instance, "victory." After all, when was the last time the U.S. actually won a war (unless you include our "victories" over small countries incapable of defending themselves like the tiny Caribbean Island of Grenada in 1983 or powerless Panama in 1989)? The smashing "victory" over Saddam Hussein in the First Gulf War only led to a stop-and-start conflict now almost two decades old that has proved a catastrophe. Keep heading backward through the Vietnam and Korean Wars and the last time the U.S. military was truly victorious was in 1945.

But achieving victory no longer seems to matter. War American-style is now conceptually unending, as are preparations for it. When George W. Bush proclaimed a Global War on Terror (aka World War IV), conceived as a "generational struggle" like the Cold War, he caught a certain American reality. In a sense, the ongoing war system can’t absorb victory. Any such endpoint might indeed prove to be a kind of defeat.

No longer has war anything to do with the taking of territory either, or even with direct conquest. War is increasingly a state of being, not a process with a beginning, an end, and an actual geography.

Similarly drained of its traditional meaning has been the word "security" — though it has moved from a state of being (secure) to an eternal, immensely profitable process whose endpoint is unachievable. If we ever decided we were either secure enough, or more willing to live without the unreachable idea of total security, the American way of war and the national security state would lose much of their meaning. In other words, in our world, security is insecurity.

As for "peace," war’s companion and theoretical opposite, though still used in official speeches, it, too, has been emptied of meaning and all but discredited. Appropriately enough, diplomacy, that part of government which classically would have been associated with peace, or at least with the pursuit of the goals of war by other means, has been dwarfed by, subordinated to, or even subsumed by the Pentagon. In recent years, the U.S. military with its vast funds has taken over, or encroached upon, a range of activities that once would have been left to an underfunded State Department, especially humanitarian aid operations, foreign aid, and what’s now called nation-building. (On this subject, check out Stephen Glain’s recent essay, "The American Leviathan" in the Nation magazine.)

Diplomacy itself has been militarized and, like our country, is now hidden behind massive fortifications, and has been placed under Lord-of-the-Flies-style guard. The State Department’s embassies are now bunkers and military-style headquarters for the prosecution of war policies; its officials, when enough of them can be found, are now sent out into the provinces in war zones to do "civilian" things.

And peace itself? Simply put, there’s no money in it. Of the nearly trillion dollars the U.S. invests in war and war-related activities, nothing goes to peace. No money, no effort, no thought. The very idea that there might be peaceful alternatives to endless war is so discredited that it’s left to utopians, bleeding hearts, and feathered doves. As in Orwell’s Newspeak, while "peace" remains with us, it’s largely been shorn of its possibilities. No longer the opposite of war, it’s just a rhetorical flourish embedded, like one of our reporters, in Warspeak.

What a world might be like in which we began not just to withdraw our troops from one war to fight another, but to seriously scale down the American global mission, close those hundreds of bases — recently, there were almost 300 of them, macro to micro, in Iraq alone — and bring our military home is beyond imagining. To discuss such obviously absurd possibilities makes you an apostate to America’s true religion and addiction, which is force. However much it might seem that most of us are peaceably watching our TV sets or computer screens or iPhones, we Americans are also — always — marching as to war. We may not all bother to attend the church of our new religion, but we all tithe. We all partake. In this sense, we live peaceably in a state of war.
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Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. He also edited The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), an alternative history of the mad Bush years.

Copyright 2009 Tom Engelhardt