Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hypocrisy of Dawn Media Group, Hameed Haroon & Remembering Zamir Niazi

Zamir Niazi (1932-2004) was a renowned Pakistani journalist, famous for his commitment to the freedom of the press in Pakistan. Noted books by Late. Zamir Niazi are The Press in Chains in 1986 and The Press Under Siege (1992) and the Web of Censorship (1994). Zamir Niazi's services for freedom of expression eulogized By Jonaid Iqbal 30 June 2004 Wednesday 11 Jamadi-ul-Awwal 1425 , THE HISTORY MAN: Zamir Niazi’s torch —Ihsan Aslam Wednesday, June 16, 2004 , Zamir Niazi passes away By Our Staff Reporter 12 June 2004 Saturday 23 Rabi-us-Saani 1425 , The nuclear explosions of 1998 pushed him into editing ‘Zameen ka Nauha’ (Elegy for the Earth), an Urdu anthology of anti-nuclear poems and essays, published on the second anniversary of Pakistan’s tests (Scherezade, Karachi, 2000). Our ’Zamir’ Beena Sarwar June 14, 2004

‘Zamir’ in Urdu means ‘conscience’, and that is what Zamir Niazi, that great chronicler of media freedoms and censorships, was to so many of us – our conscience. It seems that Dawn Media Group, Hameed Haroon and its Management and some of the members of the Editorial Staff lack Zamir i.e. conscience in English.

Zubeida Mustafa, Senior Correspondent Daily Dawn - Karachi

Shamelessly the Senior most Correspondent/Cloumnist Ms. Zubeida Mustafa [Remembering Zamir Niazi By Zubeida Mustafa Wednesday, 24 Jun, 2009] has written while eulogizing Late. Zamir Niazi


ZAMIR Niazi, that indomitable champion of press freedom and honesty in journalism, died five years ago in June. His deep interest in the print media — its performance, its role as the disseminator of news, its relationship with the powers that be and the treatment it received from the rulers — prompted him to keep a close eye on the press. The theme of Mr Minto’s talk was ‘The space for civil rights between the state and the terrorists’. He spoke what we expected him to say — a full-blast critique from the left of the political and economic system in Pakistan. He lamented the absence of democracy in the country that had robbed the people of their fundamental rights. There was the traditional denunciation of feudalism, the establishment, the military and the religious extremists. In the debate on socialism, Michael Albert, co-editor of ZNet, has a point when he suggests that movements should foreshadow a future that is self-managing, classless and polycultural. “Seeking transformed economic institutions requires that we begin to create such institutions in the present but also that we fight for. [Remembering Zamir Niazi By Zubeida Mustafa Wednesday, 24 Jun, 2009]


One is amazed at the hypocrisy of this English Speaking Class of Pakistan and they also think that they are Secular and Liberal too! The only word which is appropriate is hypocrite and that too of highest degree because for those who belonged to the Perverted Jamat-e-Islami and other Deviant Mullah Clans of Pakistan at least we know about them as to from where they are coming but about this Club of Hameed Haroon and Co. you cannot predict.

Now read as to how this Dawn Media Group and Hameed Haroon violate the so-called Cherished Prinicples which were upheld by Late. Zamir Niazi and praised by the very Senior Editorial Staff/Management of Dawn Media Group under the very nose of Mr Hameed Haroon.

NOTE: Please keep in mind the Services of Late. Zamir Niazi for the Press Freedom and article by Ms. Zuebida Mustafa above while reading the text below that the launching ceremony of the DAWN NEWS TV channel was presided by a Military Dictator General Pervez Musharraf. The same Daily Dawn in September, 2000 and in 2001 raised hell against General Pervez Musharraf's Martial Law Regime. [Read More in the text below]

* November 16, 2001

Army officer in Islamabad assaulted Dawn reporter Faraz Hashmi after their cars bumped on the road. The police refused to register a case on Hashmi's request and the attack, which left him injured, came just days after he put an uncomfortable question to President Pervez Musharraf in a press conference, which visibly infuriated the president.

Daily Dawn was allegedly founded by the Founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Hameed Haroon is Chief Executive Officer of The Dawn Media Group (DMG), Pakistan’s leading media conglomerate. The Group comprises Pakistan Herald Publications (Pvt.) Limited, the printers and publishers of DAWN newspaper and three leading magazines, Herald (current affairs) Spider (Information Technology) and Aurora (marketing and advertising); DawnNews Pakistan’s first and to-date only English language news channel; City FM89 radio and DAWN.COM-arguably Pakistan’s most visited news web portal. [Couurtesy: Wikipedia]

As per News update 25 May 2007 [AAJ NEWS 2100 HOURS].

General Pervez Musharraf [1999 - 2008]

On 25 May 2007 the DAWN NEWS CHANNEL's test transmission was commenced and guess what the opening ceremony was addressed by Generalissimo Generalissimus Il Presidente Mr Parvez Musharraf. Whereas the so-called Beacon of the Press Freedom i.e. Pakistan Herald Publication Limited or to be precise Daily Dawn [DATED 25 MAY 2007] says:

"“In our endeavour to establish DawnNews we are enormously helped by our legacy – The legacy of DAWN, that was founded by the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah on 14th August 1947 in Karachi, the same day our nation was born. We believe that by facilitating access to information of the highest quality and with a defined commitment to clarity and accuracy, we can enable Pakistan’s young generations to assume their place as informed citizens of the world.”

But Jinnah had never dreamt of Controlled and Guided Democracy by Military Dictator as well as he never dreamt of that a Military Dictator would be addressing a forum founded by a Lawyer of Impeccable Character i.e. Mohammad Ali Jinnah

The most amazing thing is this that after all these years of boastful claims of Freedom of Press and leaseholding of Basic Human Rights, on 27 March, 2009, Mr Hameed Haroon at the behest of Editor Dawn Mr Abbas Nasir and Part TIME EXECUTIVE RATHER Hatchet Man of DAWN NEWS CHANNEL, sacked more than 70 employees in the name of reorganizing [Read Retrenchments and Iron Kick] the Dawn News Channel and this step is itself tantamount to Financial Murder and this is the step for which Hameed Haroon and Pseudo Leftists of Saadat-e-Amroha in Dawn Editorial Board hounded the several Civilian Government of 90s. Following is the list and names of Working Journalists/Technicians who have been summarily dismissed:

Read more details as to how Dawn Media Group/Hameed Haroon honour the Press Freedom and Cherished Prinicples of Late. Zamir Niazi in Letter and Spirit!

1 - The Dawn Media Group & Violation of Journalist's Rights - 1

2 - The Dawn Media Group & Violation of Journalist's Rights - 2

3 - The Dawn Media Group & Violation of Journalist's Rights - 3

4 - The Dawn Media Group & Violation of Journalist's Rights - 4

5 - Daily Dawn, Hameed Haroon, Hamid Mir & Nuclear Bombs

6 - The Dawn Media Group & Violation of Labour Laws

7 - The Dawn Media Group & 7th Wage Board Award

8 - The Dawn Media Group & Insecure Jobs of Journalists

9 - Dawn News TV sacked 80 Employees & Sacked KESC Workers.
10 - The Dawn Media Group & Abuse of Labour Rights

11 - The Dawn Media Group & Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists

12 - The Dawn Media Group & Manufacturing Consent - 1

13 - The Dawn Media Group & Manufacturing Consent - 2

14 - The Dawn Media Group & Plight of Journalists.

15 - The Dawn Media Group & Working Conditions of Pakistani Journalists - 1

16 - The Dawn Media Group & Working Conditions of Pakistani Journalists - 2


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Preparing the Battlefield by Seymour M. Hersh.

Annals of National Security

Seymour (Sy) Myron Hersh (born April 8, 1937) is an American Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters. [Courtesy Wikipedia/The New Yorker

Seymour Hersh: The secret war in Iran

Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran. by Seymour M. Hersh July 7, 2008

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.

Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.

“The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.” The Finding provided for a whole new range of activities in southern Iran and in the areas, in the east, where Baluchi political opposition is strong, he said.

Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and “there was a significant amount of high-level discussion” about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.

The request for funding came in the same period in which the Administration was coming to terms with a National Intelligence Estimate, released in December, that concluded that Iran had halted its work on nuclear weapons in 2003. The Administration downplayed the significance of the N.I.E., and, while saying that it was committed to diplomacy, continued to emphasize that urgent action was essential to counter the Iranian nuclear threat. President Bush questioned the N.I.E.’s conclusions, and senior national-security officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, made similar statements. (So did Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee.) Meanwhile, the Administration also revived charges that the Iranian leadership has been involved in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq: both directly, by dispatching commando units into Iraq, and indirectly, by supplying materials used for roadside bombs and other lethal goods. (There have been questions about the accuracy of the claims; the Times, among others, has reported that “significant uncertainties remain about the extent of that involvement.”)

Military and civilian leaders in the Pentagon share the White House’s concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but there is disagreement about whether a military strike is the right solution. Some Pentagon officials believe, as they have let Congress and the media know, that bombing Iran is not a viable response to the nuclear-proliferation issue, and that more diplomacy is necessary.

A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.” Gates’s comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates’s answer, the senator told me, was “Let’s just say that I’m here speaking for myself.” (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator’s characterization.)

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose chairman is Admiral Mike Mullen, were “pushing back very hard” against White House pressure to undertake a military strike against Iran, the person familiar with the Finding told me. Similarly, a Pentagon consultant who is involved in the war on terror said that “at least ten senior flag and general officers, including combatant commanders”—the four-star officers who direct military operations around the world—“have weighed in on that issue.”

The most outspoken of those officers is Admiral William Fallon, who until recently was the head of U.S. Central Command, and thus in charge of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In March, Fallon resigned under pressure, after giving a series of interviews stating his reservations about an armed attack on Iran. For example, late last year he told the Financial Times that the “real objective” of U.S. policy was to change the Iranians’ behavior, and that “attacking them as a means to get to that spot strikes me as being not the first choice.”

Admiral Fallon acknowledged, when I spoke to him in June, that he had heard that there were people in the White House who were upset by his public statements. “Too many people believe you have to be either for or against the Iranians,” he told me. “Let’s get serious. Eighty million people live there, and everyone’s an individual. The idea that they’re only one way or another is nonsense.”

When it came to the Iraq war, Fallon said, “Did I bitch about some of the things that were being proposed? You bet. Some of them were very stupid.”

The Democratic leadership’s agreement to commit hundreds of millions of dollars for more secret operations in Iran was remarkable, given the general concerns of officials like Gates, Fallon, and many others. “The oversight process has not kept pace—it’s been coöpted” by the Administration, the person familiar with the contents of the Finding said. “The process is broken, and this is dangerous stuff we’re authorizing.”

Senior Democrats in Congress told me that they had concerns about the possibility that their understanding of what the new operations entail differs from the White House’s. One issue has to do with a reference in the Finding, the person familiar with it recalled, to potential defensive lethal action by U.S. operatives in Iran. (In early May, the journalist Andrew Cockburn published elements of the Finding in Counterpunch, a newsletter and online magazine.)

The language was inserted into the Finding at the urging of the C.I.A., a former senior intelligence official said. The covert operations set forth in the Finding essentially run parallel to those of a secret military task force, now operating in Iran, that is under the control of JSOC. Under the Bush Administration’s interpretation of the law, clandestine military activities, unlike covert C.I.A. operations, do not need to be depicted in a Finding, because the President has a constitutional right to command combat forces in the field without congressional interference. But the borders between operations are not always clear: in Iran, C.I.A. agents and regional assets have the language skills and the local knowledge to make contacts for the JSOC operatives, and have been working with them to direct personnel, matériel, and money into Iran from an obscure base in western Afghanistan. As a result, Congress has been given only a partial view of how the money it authorized may be used. One of JSOC’s task-force missions, the pursuit of “high-value targets,” was not directly addressed in the Finding. There is a growing realization among some legislators that the Bush Administration, in recent years, has conflated what is an intelligence operation and what is a military one in order to avoid fully informing Congress about what it is doing.

“This is a big deal,” the person familiar with the Finding said. “The C.I.A. needed the Finding to do its traditional stuff, but the Finding does not apply to JSOC. The President signed an Executive Order after September 11th giving the Pentagon license to do things that it had never been able to do before without notifying Congress. The claim was that the military was ‘preparing the battle space,’ and by using that term they were able to circumvent congressional oversight. Everything is justified in terms of fighting the global war on terror.” He added, “The Administration has been fuzzing the lines; there used to be a shade of gray”—between operations that had to be briefed to the senior congressional leadership and those which did not—“but now it’s a shade of mush.”

“The agency says we’re not going to get in the position of helping to kill people without a Finding,” the former senior intelligence official told me. He was referring to the legal threat confronting some agency operatives for their involvement in the rendition and alleged torture of suspects in the war on terror. “This drove the military people up the wall,” he said. As far as the C.I.A. was concerned, the former senior intelligence official said, “the over-all authorization includes killing, but it’s not as though that’s what they’re setting out to do. It’s about gathering information, enlisting support.” The Finding sent to Congress was a compromise, providing legal cover for the C.I.A. while referring to the use of lethal force in ambiguous terms.

The defensive-lethal language led some Democrats, according to congressional sources familiar with their views, to call in the director of the C.I.A., Air Force General Michael V. Hayden, for a special briefing. Hayden reassured the legislators that the language did nothing more than provide authority for Special Forces operatives on the ground in Iran to shoot their way out if they faced capture or harm.

The legislators were far from convinced. One congressman subsequently wrote a personal letter to President Bush insisting that “no lethal action, period” had been authorized within Iran’s borders. As of June, he had received no answer.

Members of Congress have expressed skepticism in the past about the information provided by the White House. On March 15, 2005, David Obey, then the ranking Democrat on the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee, announced that he was putting aside an amendment that he had intended to offer that day, and that would have cut off all funding for national-intelligence programs unless the President agreed to keep Congress fully informed about clandestine military activities undertaken in the war on terror. He had changed his mind, he said, because the White House promised better coöperation. “The Executive Branch understands that we are not trying to dictate what they do,” he said in a floor speech at the time. “We are simply trying to see to it that what they do is consistent with American values and will not get the country in trouble.”

Obey declined to comment on the specifics of the operations in Iran, but he did tell me that the White House reneged on its promise to consult more fully with Congress. He said, “I suspect there’s something going on, but I don’t know what to believe. Cheney has always wanted to go after Iran, and if he had more time he’d find a way to do it. We still don’t get enough information from the agencies, and I have very little confidence that they give us information on the edge.”

None of the four Democrats in the Gang of Eight—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, and House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes—would comment on the Finding, with some noting that it was highly classified. An aide to one member of the Democratic leadership responded, on his behalf, by pointing to the limitations of the Gang of Eight process. The notification of a Finding, the aide said, “is just that—notification, and not a sign-off on activities. Proper oversight of ongoing intelligence activities is done by fully briefing the members of the intelligence committee.” However, Congress does have the means to challenge the White House once it has been sent a Finding. It has the power to withhold funding for any government operation. The members of the House and Senate Democratic leadership who have access to the Finding can also, if they choose to do so, and if they have shared concerns, come up with ways to exert their influence on Administration policy. (A spokesman for the C.I.A. said, “As a rule, we don’t comment one way or the other on allegations of covert activities or purported findings.” The White House also declined to comment.)

A member of the House Appropriations Committee acknowledged that, even with a Democratic victory in November, “it will take another year before we get the intelligence activities under control.” He went on, “We control the money and they can’t do anything without the money. Money is what it’s all about. But I’m very leery of this Administration.” He added, “This Administration has been so secretive.”

One irony of Admiral Fallon’s departure is that he was, in many areas, in agreement with President Bush on the threat posed by Iran. They had a good working relationship, Fallon told me, and, when he ran CENTCOM, were in regular communication. On March 4th, a week before his resignation, Fallon testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that he was “encouraged” about the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Regarding the role played by Iran’s leaders, he said, “They’ve been absolutely unhelpful, very damaging, and I absolutely don’t condone any of their activities. And I have yet to see anything since I’ve been in this job in the way of a public action by Iran that’s been at all helpful in this region.”

Fallon made it clear in our conversations that he considered it inappropriate to comment publicly about the President, the Vice-President, or Special Operations. But he said he had heard that people in the White House had been “struggling” with his views on Iran. “When I arrived at CENTCOM, the Iranians were funding every entity inside Iraq. It was in their interest to get us out, and so they decided to kill as many Americans as they could. And why not? They didn’t know who’d come out ahead, but they wanted us out. I decided that I couldn’t resolve the situation in Iraq without the neighborhood. To get this problem in Iraq solved, we had to somehow involve Iran and Syria. I had to work the neighborhood.”

Fallon told me that his focus had been not on the Iranian nuclear issue, or on regime change there, but on “putting out the fires in Iraq.” There were constant discussions in Washington and in the field about how to engage Iran and, on the subject of the bombing option, Fallon said, he believed that “it would happen only if the Iranians did something stupid.”

Fallon’s early retirement, however, appears to have been provoked not only by his negative comments about bombing Iran but also by his strong belief in the chain of command and his insistence on being informed about Special Operations in his area of responsibility. One of Fallon’s defenders is retired Marine General John J. (Jack) Sheehan, whose last assignment was as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command, where Fallon was a deputy. Last year, Sheehan rejected a White House offer to become the President’s “czar” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “One of the reasons the White House selected Fallon for CENTCOM was that he’s known to be a strategic thinker and had demonstrated those skills in the Pacific,” Sheehan told me. (Fallon served as commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific from 2005 to 2007.) “He was charged with coming up with an over-all coherent strategy for Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and, by law, the combatant commander is responsible for all military operations within his A.O.”—area of operations. “That was not happening,” Sheehan said. “When Fallon tried to make sense of all the overt and covert activity conducted by the military in his area of responsibility, a small group in the White House leadership shut him out.”

The law cited by Sheehan is the 1986 Defense Reorganization Act, known as Goldwater-Nichols, which defined the chain of command: from the President to the Secretary of Defense, through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and on to the various combatant commanders, who were put in charge of all aspects of military operations, including joint training and logistics. That authority, the act stated, was not to be shared with other echelons of command. But the Bush Administration, as part of its global war on terror, instituted new policies that undercut regional commanders-in-chief; for example, it gave Special Operations teams, at military commands around the world, the highest priority in terms of securing support and equipment. The degradation of the traditional chain of command in the past few years has been a point of tension between the White House and the uniformed military.

“The coherence of military strategy is being eroded because of undue civilian influence and direction of nonconventional military operations,” Sheehan said. “If you have small groups planning and conducting military operations outside the knowledge and control of the combatant commander, by default you can’t have a coherent military strategy. You end up with a disaster, like the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.”

Admiral Fallon, who is known as Fox, was aware that he would face special difficulties as the first Navy officer to lead CENTCOM, which had always been headed by a ground commander, one of his military colleagues told me. He was also aware that the Special Operations community would be a concern. “Fox said that there’s a lot of strange stuff going on in Special Ops, and I told him he had to figure out what they were really doing,” Fallon’s colleague said. “The Special Ops guys eventually figured out they needed Fox, and so they began to talk to him. Fox would have won his fight with Special Ops but for Cheney.”

The Pentagon consultant said, “Fallon went down because, in his own way, he was trying to prevent a war with Iran, and you have to admire him for that.”

In recent months, according to the Iranian media, there has been a surge in violence in Iran; it is impossible at this early stage, however, to credit JSOC or C.I.A. activities, or to assess their impact on the Iranian leadership. The Iranian press reports are being carefully monitored by retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, who has taught strategy at the National War College and now conducts war games centered on Iran for the federal government, think tanks, and universities. The Iranian press “is very open in describing the killings going on inside the country,” Gardiner said. It is, he said, “a controlled press, which makes it more important that it publishes these things. We begin to see inside the government.” He added, “Hardly a day goes by now we don’t see a clash somewhere. There were three or four incidents over a recent weekend, and the Iranians are even naming the Revolutionary Guard officers who have been killed.”

Earlier this year, a militant Ahwazi group claimed to have assassinated a Revolutionary Guard colonel, and the Iranian government acknowledged that an explosion in a cultural center in Shiraz, in the southern part of the country, which killed at least twelve people and injured more than two hundred, had been a terrorist act and not, as it earlier insisted, an accident. It could not be learned whether there has been American involvement in any specific incident in Iran, but, according to Gardiner, the Iranians have begun publicly blaming the U.S., Great Britain, and, more recently, the C.I.A. for some incidents. The agency was involved in a coup in Iran in 1953, and its support for the unpopular regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi—who was overthrown in 1979—was condemned for years by the ruling mullahs in Tehran, to great effect. “This is the ultimate for the Iranians—to blame the C.I.A.,” Gardiner said. “This is new, and it’s an escalation—a ratcheting up of tensions. It rallies support for the regime and shows the people that there is a continuing threat from the ‘Great Satan.’ ” In Gardiner’s view, the violence, rather than weakening Iran’s religious government, may generate support for it.

Many of the activities may be being carried out by dissidents in Iran, and not by Americans in the field. One problem with “passing money” (to use the term of the person familiar with the Finding) in a covert setting is that it is hard to control where the money goes and whom it benefits. Nonetheless, the former senior intelligence official said, “We’ve got exposure, because of the transfer of our weapons and our communications gear. The Iranians will be able to make the argument that the opposition was inspired by the Americans. How many times have we tried this without asking the right questions? Is the risk worth it?” One possible consequence of these operations would be a violent Iranian crackdown on one of the dissident groups, which could give the Bush Administration a reason to intervene.

A strategy of using ethnic minorities to undermine Iran is flawed, according to Vali Nasr, who teaches international politics at Tufts University and is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Just because Lebanon, Iraq, and Pakistan have ethnic problems, it does not mean that Iran is suffering from the same issue,” Nasr told me. “Iran is an old country—like France and Germany—and its citizens are just as nationalistic. The U.S. is overestimating ethnic tension in Iran.” The minority groups that the U.S. is reaching out to are either well integrated or small and marginal, without much influence on the government or much ability to present a political challenge, Nasr said. “You can always find some activist groups that will go and kill a policeman, but working with the minorities will backfire, and alienate the majority of the population.”

The Administration may have been willing to rely on dissident organizations in Iran even when there was reason to believe that the groups had operated against American interests in the past. The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. “The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda,” Baer told me. “These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers—in this case, it’s Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we’re once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties.” Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.

One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. “This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists,” Nasr told me. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.” The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support.

The C.I.A. and Special Operations communities also have long-standing ties to two other dissident groups in Iran: the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, known in the West as the M.E.K., and a Kurdish separatist group, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK.

The M.E.K. has been on the State Department’s terrorist list for more than a decade, yet in recent years the group has received arms and intelligence, directly or indirectly, from the United States. Some of the newly authorized covert funds, the Pentagon consultant told me, may well end up in M.E.K. coffers. “The new task force will work with the M.E.K. The Administration is desperate for results.” He added, “The M.E.K. has no C.P.A. auditing the books, and its leaders are thought to have been lining their pockets for years. If people only knew what the M.E.K. is getting, and how much is going to its bank accounts—and yet it is almost useless for the purposes the Administration intends.”

The Kurdish party, PJAK, which has also been reported to be covertly supported by the United States, has been operating against Iran from bases in northern Iraq for at least three years. (Iran, like Iraq and Turkey, has a Kurdish minority, and PJAK and other groups have sought self-rule in territory that is now part of each of those countries.) In recent weeks, according to Sam Gardiner, the military strategist, there has been a marked increase in the number of PJAK armed engagements with Iranians and terrorist attacks on Iranian targets. In early June, the news agency Fars reported that a dozen PJAK members and four Iranian border guards were killed in a clash near the Iraq border; a similar attack in May killed three Revolutionary Guards and nine PJAK fighters. PJAK has also subjected Turkey, a member of NATO, to repeated terrorist attacks, and reports of American support for the group have been a source of friction between the two governments.

Gardiner also mentioned a trip that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, made to Tehran in June. After his return, Maliki announced that his government would ban any contact between foreigners and the M.E.K.—a slap at the U.S.’s dealings with the group. Maliki declared that Iraq was not willing to be a staging ground for covert operations against other countries. This was a sign, Gardiner said, of “Maliki’s increasingly choosing the interests of Iraq over the interests of the United States.” In terms of U.S. allegations of Iranian involvement in the killing of American soldiers, he said, “Maliki was unwilling to play the blame-Iran game.” Gardiner added that Pakistan had just agreed to turn over a Jundallah leader to the Iranian government. America’s covert operations, he said, “seem to be harming relations with the governments of both Iraq and Pakistan and could well be strengthening the connection between Tehran and Baghdad.”

The White House’s reliance on questionable operatives, and on plans involving possible lethal action inside Iran, has created anger as well as anxiety within the Special Operations and intelligence communities. JSOC’s operations in Iran are believed to be modelled on a program that has, with some success, used surrogates to target the Taliban leadership in the tribal territories of Waziristan, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But the situations in Waziristan and Iran are not comparable.

In Waziristan, “the program works because it’s small and smart guys are running it,” the former senior intelligence official told me. “It’s being executed by professionals. The N.S.A., the C.I.A., and the D.I.A.”—the Defense Intelligence Agency—“are right in there with the Special Forces and Pakistani intelligence, and they’re dealing with serious bad guys.” He added, “We have to be really careful in calling in the missiles. We have to hit certain houses at certain times. The people on the ground are watching through binoculars a few hundred yards away and calling specific locations, in latitude and longitude. We keep the Predator loitering until the targets go into a house, and we have to make sure our guys are far enough away so they don’t get hit.” One of the most prominent victims of the program, the former official said, was Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior Al Qaeda* commander, who was killed on January 31st, reportedly in a missile strike that also killed eleven other people.

A dispatch published on March 26th by the Washington Post reported on the increasing number of successful strikes against Taliban and other insurgent units in Pakistan’s tribal areas. A follow-up article noted that, in response, the Taliban had killed “dozens of people” suspected of providing information to the United States and its allies on the whereabouts of Taliban leaders. Many of the victims were thought to be American spies, and their executions—a beheading, in one case—were videotaped and distributed by DVD as a warning to others.

It is not simple to replicate the program in Iran. “Everybody’s arguing about the high-value-target list,” the former senior intelligence official said. “The Special Ops guys are pissed off because Cheney’s office set up priorities for categories of targets, and now he’s getting impatient and applying pressure for results. But it takes a long time to get the right guys in place.”

The Pentagon consultant told me, “We’ve had wonderful results in the Horn of Africa with the use of surrogates and false flags—basic counterintelligence and counter-insurgency tactics. And we’re beginning to tie them in knots in Afghanistan. But the White House is going to kill the program if they use it to go after Iran. It’s one thing to engage in selective strikes and assassinations in Waziristan and another in Iran. The White House believes that one size fits all, but the legal issues surrounding extrajudicial killings in Waziristan are less of a problem because Al Qaeda and the Taliban cross the border into Afghanistan and back again, often with U.S. and NATO forces in hot pursuit. The situation is not nearly as clear in the Iranian case. All the considerations—judicial, strategic, and political—are different in Iran.”

He added, “There is huge opposition inside the intelligence community to the idea of waging a covert war inside Iran, and using Baluchis and Ahwazis as surrogates. The leaders of our Special Operations community all have remarkable physical courage, but they are less likely to voice their opposition to policy. Iran is not Waziristan.”

A Gallup poll taken last November, before the N.I.E. was made public, found that seventy-three per cent of those surveyed thought that the United States should use economic action and diplomacy to stop Iran’s nuclear program, while only eighteen per cent favored direct military action. Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to endorse a military strike. Weariness with the war in Iraq has undoubtedly affected the public’s tolerance for an attack on Iran. This mood could change quickly, however. The potential for escalation became clear in early January, when five Iranian patrol boats, believed to be under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, made a series of aggressive moves toward three Navy warships sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. Initial reports of the incident made public by the Pentagon press office said that the Iranians had transmitted threats, over ship-to-ship radio, to “explode” the American ships. At a White House news conference, the President, on the day he left for an eight-day trip to the Middle East, called the incident “provocative” and “dangerous,” and there was, very briefly, a sense of crisis and of outrage at Iran. “TWO MINUTES FROM WAR” was the headline in one British newspaper.

The crisis was quickly defused by Vice-Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, the commander of U.S. naval forces in the region. No warning shots were fired, the Admiral told the Pentagon press corps on January 7th, via teleconference from his headquarters, in Bahrain. “Yes, it’s more serious than we have seen, but, to put it in context, we do interact with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their Navy regularly,” Cosgriff said. “I didn’t get the sense from the reports I was receiving that there was a sense of being afraid of these five boats.”

Admiral Cosgriff’s caution was well founded: within a week, the Pentagon acknowledged that it could not positively identify the Iranian boats as the source of the ominous radio transmission, and press reports suggested that it had instead come from a prankster long known for sending fake messages in the region. Nonetheless, Cosgriff’s demeanor angered Cheney, according to the former senior intelligence official. But a lesson was learned in the incident: The public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking why the U.S. didn’t do more. The former official said that, a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office. “The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,” he said.

In June, President Bush went on a farewell tour of Europe. He had tea with Queen Elizabeth II and dinner with Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni, the President and First Lady of France. The serious business was conducted out of sight, and involved a series of meetings on a new diplomatic effort to persuade the Iranians to halt their uranium-enrichment program. (Iran argues that its enrichment program is for civilian purposes and is legal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.) Secretary of State Rice had been involved with developing a new package of incentives. But the Administration’s essential negotiating position seemed unchanged: talks could not take place until Iran halted the program. The Iranians have repeatedly and categorically rejected that precondition, leaving the diplomatic situation in a stalemate; they have not yet formally responded to the new incentives.

The continuing impasse alarms many observers. Joschka Fischer, the former German Foreign Minister, recently wrote in a syndicated column that it may not “be possible to freeze the Iranian nuclear program for the duration of the negotiations to avoid a military confrontation before they are completed. Should this newest attempt fail, things will soon get serious. Deadly serious.” When I spoke to him last week, Fischer, who has extensive contacts in the diplomatic community, said that the latest European approach includes a new element: the willingness of the U.S. and the Europeans to accept something less than a complete cessation of enrichment as an intermediate step. “The proposal says that the Iranians must stop manufacturing new centrifuges and the other side will stop all further sanction activities in the U.N. Security Council,” Fischer said, although Iran would still have to freeze its enrichment activities when formal negotiations begin. “This could be acceptable to the Iranians—if they have good will.”

The big question, Fischer added, is in Washington. “I think the Americans are deeply divided on the issue of what to do about Iran,” he said. “Some officials are concerned about the fallout from a military attack and others think an attack is unavoidable. I know the Europeans, but I have no idea where the Americans will end up on this issue.”

There is another complication: American Presidential politics. Barack Obama has said that, if elected, he would begin talks with Iran with no “self-defeating” preconditions (although only after diplomatic groundwork had been laid). That position has been vigorously criticized by John McCain. The Washington Post recently quoted Randy Scheunemann, the McCain campaign’s national-security director, as stating that McCain supports the White House’s position, and that the program be suspended before talks begin. What Obama is proposing, Scheunemann said, “is unilateral cowboy summitry.”

Scheunemann, who is known as a neoconservative, is also the McCain campaign’s most important channel of communication with the White House. He is a friend of David Addington, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. I have heard differing accounts of Scheunemann’s influence with McCain; though some close to the McCain campaign talk about him as a possible national-security adviser, others say he is someone who isn’t taken seriously while “telling Cheney and others what they want to hear,” as a senior McCain adviser put it.

It is not known whether McCain, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been formally briefed on the operations in Iran. At the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in June, Obama repeated his plea for “tough and principled diplomacy.” But he also said, along with McCain, that he would keep the threat of military action against Iran on the table. ♦

*Correction, August 7, 2008: Abu Laith al-Libi was a senior Al Qaeda commander, not a senior Taliban commander, as originally stated.

Source: The New Yorker


Maududi’s Children by Nadeem F. Paracha

Nadeem F Paracha, Columnist for Daily Dawn and Chowk.

Maududi’s Children: How the intellectuality of Political Islam turned into the brutality of faithful fascism: Nadeem F. Paracha’s-children/

Late. Abul Ala Maududi - Founder Ameer of Jamat-e-Islam [1903 - 1979)

In Pakistan even the traditional Muslim practice of reasoning in matters of religion – originally introduced by the 9th century Mutazilites – is at times treated like some kind of an abomination to be feared, discouraged and repressed.

It is easy to accuse the proverbial mullah for this. And it is equally easy to blame him for being anti-intellectual and regressive.

However, over the years the conventional mullah has already lost a lot of face and respect. But this seemingly anti-mullah trend didn’t always mean the opening up of society to a more enlightening and pluralistic alternative.

On the contrary, the gap created by the conventional mullah’s gradual downfall was filled by religious scholars who only seemed to have intellectualized, modernized and politicized obscurantism. [1]

In Pakistan, Islamic scholars like Abul Ala Maududi and the far more moderate, Professor Fazalur Rahman Malik, were some of the first to occupy this gap.

Their tirades against the conventional mullah were welcomed by the more ‘educated Muslims.’ [2]

Working as the head of the Central Institute of Islamic Research formed by the Ayub Khan dictatorship in 1961, Prof. Fazalur Rahman laboured hard to find that elusive middle-ground between Pakistan’s colonial secular heritage and its somewhat ambiguous ‘Islamic Republic-ism.’

Maududi’s elaborate treatises however, concentrated more on undermining the constructive role being played by the less puritanical Islamic sects in Pakistan. [3]

And even though both Maududi and Fazalur Rahman were staunchly anti-left in equal degrees, Maududi soon turned his intellectual weaponry against Rahman as well after the later published his short but highly acclaimed book ‘Islam’ in 1968.

Maududi and his Jamat Islami accused Rahman for undermining the importance of the hadith and for claiming that not all text of the Qu’ran was eternal and (thus), it should be understood allegorically. [4]

Maududi’s staunch stance against the non-puritanical strains of Islam was a counterproductive move. Because in an ethnical, sectarian and religiously pluralistic society like Pakistan, the factions that Maududi challenged were/are comparatively moderate in essence: Barelvi-ism, Sufism and the Hanaifi school of jurisprudence – which is the most liberal of the four schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam – are still at the forefront of faith in Pakistan, boasting a large following. [5]; [6]; [7]; [8]

Many believe they are the very reasons that help keep tensions between religions, and religious sects in the country at a bare minimum. At the root of this is the pluralism-friendly factor emerging from these strains’ historical make-up generated from a healthy cultural fusion between distinct peoples in the subcontinent. [9]

That’s why a ‘progressive Muslim’ in a country like Pakistan must be more pragmatic than either idealistic or political. He may be aesthetically and theologically opposed and repulsed by the more ‘superstitious’ strains of the faith, but he must understand that ironically, the large number of adherents that such strains have in Pakistan, they remain to be the social engine behind the consensual need in the society at large to keep matters like sectarianism and inter-Islamic polarisation in the country largely de-politicised. [10]

But Maududi not only shunned these ‘superstitious’ strains, his alternative of a more ‘unembellished’ and concrete version of Islam was also highly political and compartmentalized. [11]

This meant that not only were the more ‘blemished’ strains of Islam challenged by him, modern western philosophical and political ensembles like democracy, liberalism, socialism and especially Marxism too were rejected.

Maududi’s alternative was an ‘all-encompassing Islam.’ He purposed a single, exclusive version of the religion; a version that discouraged any previous interpretation of the Qu’ran and the Islamic Law (Sharia) that his own analysis did not approve of. And though he was skeptical of all modern secular concepts of ideology, paradoxically, he wasn’t all that allergic to the notions of modern state politics. [12]; [13]; [14].

Calling for the imposition of this politicized and puritanical version of Islam in a socially pluralistic and religiously sectarian society like Pakistan was not only Utopian, it was also dangerous.

Not surprisingly, ever since the late 1960s, Maududi’s philosophy has off and on found itself being used to encourage self-righteous coercion, political intrigues and violence – as seen in Jamat Islami’s role in the 1953 and 1974 anti-Ahmadiyya violence (for which Maududi was imprisoned); the role of the party in supporting (and taking part) in the Pakistani Army’s controversial actions in the former East Pakistan; and the role of the party’s student wing, the Islami Jamiat-e-Taleba (IJT), which was accused (in the 1980s) of introducing the violent ‘Kalashnikov Culture’ on the country’s campuses. [15]; [16].

Worst of all, Maududi-ism (as it is sometimes called), was also exploited by dictators (General Zia-ul-Haq), ulema and, of course, the Jamat Islami, as a way to deflect, deflate and denounce any other form of Islamic reformism. It actually eschewed tolerance. [17]

A number of politico-religious forces in Pakistan, as well as many television anchormen, print journalists and publications, are both directly and indirectly influenced by Maududi.

That’s why one is not surprised to watch most of them dutifully derailing any idea that looks inwards at the present state of Islam as a cause for the violence perpetuated in its name.

These gentlemen and publications continue to offer hyperbolic Maududist tracts pointing at ‘western powers’ and faith-based ‘distortions’ for all the ills befalling religion and society in Pakistan.

Outdated Maududist thoughts are being aired in a reality where Communism, Cold War tussles, ‘secret societies,’ and ‘distorted sects’ are not the ‘problem’ anymore. On the contrary, most of the present crises are clearly stemming from a violent, psychopathic and totalitarian version of the faith. Thus, the socio-political disconnect in these gentlemen’s otherwise widely published and televised arguments is now starker than ever.

The fact is, Maududism in the post-9/11 Pakistan stands to be little more than an outdated relic of the Cold War, offering what now sound like rhetorical and hyperbolic clichés.

What’s more, Maududi’s ideas are also being used to make a veneered defense of the actions of anarchic militants in the North (as heard from politicians like JI’s Munawar Hussain and Qazi Hussain Ahmed; PTI’s Imran Khan, and even from some PML-N leaders who were once part of JI’s student-wing, the IJT. [18]

It is interesting to imagine how Maududi himself would have reacted in the current scenario. However, there is no doubt that the way his thoughts and ideas have evolved, they have been at least one reason why the current trends of reformism in Islam have failed to find any valid expression in Pakistan.

The backlash

The present-day reformist inclinations in Islam include two variations. One is being led by staunch secularists and the other by ‘progressive Muslims.’

Both may disagree with one another but their aim and goal seem to be common: To expunge Islam as we know it from laws and exegeses that, though man-made, have been handed down through the centuries as being ‘divine’ and thus unalterable. [19]

One of the many examples in this context is the law of stoning adulterous men and women that is practiced in some Islamic societies as ‘God’s law,’ but it is actually not found in the Qu’ran – (the law was formed in the 8th century from a hadith whose credibility many scholars have questioned). [20]

Another is the literalist way the hudd or Hudood laws have been interpreted. Even though most Islamic countries (through the process of ijtihad/collective consensus), have avoided enacting ‘Hudood Laws’ due to these laws’ incompatibility with changing times and circumstances, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (until 2007) were the only two countries having these laws as part of their respective legal cannons.

Nevertheless, the Hudood Ordinances (enacted by the Zia dictatorship in 1979 in Pakistan), were finally scrapped by the Musharraf regime in 2007.

This was one of the foremost acts by the state of Pakistan directly challenging the ‘Islamisation’ milieu left behind by Zia who had been a staunch ‘Maududist.’ [21]

Yet another example suggesting a gradual backlash against the Maududist politico-theological model was the recent unprecedented verdict by the Federal Shariat Court that declared drinking alcohol as a comparatively minor crime in Islam, and changed the punishment (of drunkenness) from 80 lashes (from a whip) to light strokes from a stick (made from a date tree leave). [22]

Alcohol had always remained a largely tolerated indulgence in Muslim societies across the centuries. Many scholars maintain that though the Qu’ran has ‘advised’ Muslims to stay away from wine (as opposed to forbidding it like it does pork, carrion meat, blood and idolatry), it does not prescribe any punishment for its usage. [23].

In Pakistan too, alcohol was freely sold and consumed until 1977, when first (under pressure from the Jamat Islami), the secular government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto banned its sale, and then the reactionary dictatorship of Gen. Zia turned its consumption and sale (by Muslims) as a crime punishable under his controversial Hudood Ordinances.

Ironically, Zia’s ban on alcohol gave birth to a thriving bootlegging mafia- even though cities like Karachi have licensed liquor stores that have successfully checked the bootleggers’ influence in this city.

Zia’s ban on alcohol also triggered the widespread usage of addictive drugs like heroin.

For example, until 1979, Pakistan literally had just a single reported case of heroin addiction. But by 1985, it had the second largest population of heroin addicts! [24]

Though no Pakistani has been flogged for the offence of consuming and selling alcohol ever since 1981, the Shariat Court’s verdict must have come as a blow to the architects of Zia’s Islamisation process that was largely based on Maududi’s politico-religious thesis of an ‘Islamic state.’ A state whose blueprint, many Islamic scholars opposed to Maududi-ism maintain, does not exist in the Qu’ran and is only a generation of Maududi’s imagination.

Waiting for reason

There are a number of progressive Muslim scholars, especially in Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia, Algeria and Indonesia, who seem to be making deeper inroads in the 21st century Islamic reformist psyche. In Pakistan Javed Ahmed Ghamdi, the London-based Ziauddin Sardar and respected intellectual, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy can be named.

In their work on Islam they have taken a scientific and a strictly academic approach, and are not immune to openly question the historicity of the Laws of Islam that have been handed down to us from the 8th century onwards; or a history and versions of the Shariah that started to appear almost two centuries after the demise of the Prophet.

To them the Muslims need to have an interpretative relationship with the Holy text. According to Sardar, for example, we have been relying on an age-old interpretation of the Qu’ran, one that is ice-capped in history. The context of this interpretation is of the 8th and 9th century Muslim societies. It needs to be radically updated through ijtihad.

Most current Islamic reformists are also concerned about the retrogressive tendency in some recent so-called modern Islamists to determine ‘scientific miracles in the Qu’ran.’

According to Dr. Hoodbhoy, by doing this they undermine all the hard work undertaken by early Islamic scientists and philosophers and that this practice in a way also suggests that present-day Muslims should stop getting their hands dirty in labs and universities, thinking they know everything. [25]; [26].

Respected Muslim scholars like Prof. Sardar, and monumental Algerian scholar, Muhamad Arkun, have been particularly harsh on French writer, Maurice Bucaille’s controversial book, The Bible, Qu’ran & Science and how this book (financed by the Saudi government), has given birth to a navel-gazing cottage industry of half-baked ‘experts’ distracting Muslims from learning real science. They say the Qu’ran encourages the acquiring of science, instead of creating a pseudoscience by reading wrongly into the meanings of certain surahs of the Holy Book. [27]

Turkish pseudo-scientist Harun Yahya (Adnan Oktar) – who has recently gained fresh new following among Pakistani TV news anchors like Shahid Masood and so-called ‘security analysts’ and TV personalities like Zaid Hamid – too has come under the hammer of neo-Islamic rationalists and secularists alike.

The rationalists have accused Yahya of encouraging Muslims to shun secular sciences as if this act of shunning was ordained by God. [28]

Interestingly, unknown to most of his Pakistani followers, Yahya has been a constant receptor of police arrests for various drug and sex related scandals. [29].

Many critics of this trend have described such men as ‘Islamic quacks’ who are discouraging a rational and scientific mindset in present-day Muslims.

Today’s reformists also insist that there never was just one correct way to be a Muslim. As Sardar suggests, the propagation by any group of the single correct way is a totalitarian act. It will eschew plurality, democracy and tolerance, leading the ummah towards a totalitarian situation.

That’s why to modern Islamic scholars like Muhammad Arkun, it is of vital importance that Islamic history and law be critiqued and thoroughly explored in the light of reason and current times. [30]; [31].

According to Arkun, it is only then that reason in Islam can be liberated from man-made dogmatic constructs – constructs that have played the foremost role in derailing Islam from its early philosophical and rational path, landing its fate in the clutches of biased power politics and, eventually, in the gun barrels of the fascistic and irrational mutations of the faith (such as the Taleban and Al-Qaeda).


[1] The Forgotten Swamp – Navigating Political Islam: Guilain Denoeux


[2] Islam & Modernity: Fazalur Rahman Malik


[3] Encyclopedia of the Middle-East: (Entry)


[4] Revisiting Fazalur Rahman’s Ordeal: (Non-Skeptical Essays)


[5] Islamic Extremism in Pakistan: Khaled Ahmed


[6] Hanafi Madhub: Shaikh Siddiqui


[7] Berelvi Islam: (Entry)



[8] Maududi & Islamic Revivalism (Pages : 122-125) : Syd Vali Reza Nasr


[9] The Sufi Movement & Pakistan : (Entry)


[10] Pakistan’s Pluralist Traditions: Lisa Curtis


[11] Syed Abul Ala Maududi : Prof. Ziauddin Sardar


[12] Tajeed O Aya-e-Deen: Abul Ala Maududi


[13] How Islam sees itself: Warren Larson


[14] Radical Islam’s Missing Link: John Shaffer


[15] Munir Report on 1953 Riots: Javaid Aslam.


[16] The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution (Pages: : Syed Vali Reza


[17] Towards a Fundamentalist State: Bjarne Skov


[18] Split on the Taliban: Dr. Hassan Askari (Daily Times)


[19] Rethinking Islam: Prof. Ziauddin Sardar


[20] FAQ about stoning: (Entry)


[21] Musharraf Signs Bill: (Dawn).


[22] A Good Decision: (Daily Times Editorial)


[23] Islam, Its Laws & Society (Page:38): Jamila Hussain


[24] Heroin, Taliban & Pakistan: B. Raman


[25] Science and Islamic Philosophy: Ziauddin Sardar


[26] A Review of Pervez Hoodbhoy’s Islam & Science: Dr. Ahmed Shafaar


[27] Weird Science: Ziauddin Sardar


[28] Harun Yahya & Islamic Creationism: Francois Tremblay


[29] Police cracks down on obscure sect: (Turkish Hurriyat)


[30] Islam-To Subvert or Reform: Muhammad Arkun


[31] Philosophers of Arab: (Entry)


Monday, June 22, 2009

Target Iran: Scott Ritter, Seymour M. Hersh & Amy Goodman

Target Iran: Former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter and Investigative Journalist Seymour Hersh on White House Plans for Regime Change December 21, 2006

Scott Ritter - (born July 15, 1961) is noted for his role as a chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, and later for his criticism of United States foreign policy in the Middle East. Profile:

Amy Goodman interviews Scott Ritter - Part 1 (2)

Amy Goodman interviews Scott Ritter - Part 2 (2)

The Pentagon has announced plans to move additional warships and strike aircraft into the Persian Gulf region to be within striking range of Iran. We air an in-depth discussion between two of the leading critical voices on the Bush administration’s policy in Iran: former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, author of “Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change”, and Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist for The New Yorker magazine. [includes rush transcript]

Seymour (Sy) Myron Hersh (born April 8, 1937) is an American Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters. [Courtesy Wikipedia/The New Yorker

Seymour Hersh and Scott Ritter on Iran 1 - 3

Seymour Hersh and Scott Ritter on Iran 2 - 3

Seymour hersh and Scott Ritter on Iran 3 - 3

We turn now to the latest on Iran—the New York Times is reporting the United States and Britain will soon move additional warships and strike aircraft into the Persian Gulf region to be within striking range of Iran. Senior U.S. officers told the paper that the increase in naval power should not be viewed as preparations for any offensive strike against Iran. But they acknowledged that the ability to hit Iran would be increased.

The aircraft carrier Eisenhower and its strike group entered the Persian Gulf on Dec. 11. Another aircraft carrier, the Stennis, is expected to depart for the Gulf within the next month. The military said it is also taking steps to prevent Iran from blocking oil shipments from the Gulf.

Well today on Democracy Now we present an in-depth discussion between two figures who have critical of the Bush administration’s policy on Iran. Scott Ritter is a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. He recently wrote the book “Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change.” Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist for The New Yorker magazine. In October, Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh held a public conversation in New York about Scott Ritter’s new book.

Scott Ritter. Former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. His new book is “Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change.”

Seymour Hersh. Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist for The New Yorker magazine.

Amy Goodman (born April 13, 1957) is a United States broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist and author.

AMY GOODMAN: Today on a Democracy Now!, we present an in-depth discussion between two figures who have been very critical of the Bush administration’s policy on Iran. Scott Ritter is a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. He recently wrote the book, Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change. Seymour Hersh is the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist for the New Yorker magazine. In October, Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh held a public conversation in New York about Scott Ritter’s new book. Seymour Hersh began the conversation.

SEYMOUR HERSH: So, Scott, in your book you write at some point—you list a—you have an account of some of the things that are going on today inside Iran. You say Israel and the United States were carrying out—this is on page 147, etc.—were carrying out a full-court press to try and identify and locate secret nuclear facilities inside Iran. Israel made heavy use of its connections to the Iraqi Kurdistan and to Azerbaijan to set up covert intelligence cells inside Iran, whose work was allegedly supplemented with specially trained commandos entering Iran disguised as local villagers.

The United States was conducting similar operations using Iranian opposition forces, in particular the MEK—that’s the Mujahideen cult, which is a terrorist group, defined by us as an at-one-time anti-Saddam, now anti-Iran group that works very closely still with us, despite its being listed as a terrorist group.

And you describe using opposition forces inside Iran and the MEK to conduct cross-border operations under the supervision of the CIA. The US has also made use of its considerable technical intelligence-collection capabilities, focusing the attention of imagery and electronic eavesdropping satellites, etc., for operating along Iran’s periphery. The problem was that neither the Israelis nor the United States could detect any activity whatsoever that could point to a definitive location on the ground where secret nuclear weapons activity was taking place.

A couple of questions. Says who? I haven’t read this in the New York Times. You don’t source it. What’s the source? And what do you know? And how do you know this?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, as I mentioned in the back, where I talk about sources, most of that information is readily available in the press—not the American press. You’re not going to read about it in the New York Times, you’re not going to read about it in the Washington Post, you probably won’t read about it in most mainstream English-language newspapers. But, you know, we used to have an organization in the CIA called FBIS, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, that would translate the newspapers of the various nations around the world to give you literally a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on in that country.

So if you read the Azeri press, for instance, you’ll find out that the Israeli Mossad has upped its efforts to build a station in Azerbaijan. And the Azeri press will delve into that more. Why does the Mossad want to build a station operating? There’s a couple reasons. One, the Mossad is working with the Azeri population. You know, there is a Jewish minority in Azerbaijan that has emigrated to Israel. And so, there’s a number of Azeri Israelis that the Israeli government now is bringing back to Azerbaijan to work on this issue. This is spelled out in the Azeri press, so if you want to get some good insights, read the Azeri press. Read the Turkish press. The Turkish press will also talk about what’s going on in Iran and Azerbaijan. This will give you the leads.

And then, because I’m not an active in-service intelligence officer anymore, I will take these leads and call friends who are active serving intelligence officers. And while they’re not going to divulge classified information, I’ll say, “Hey, I read something, where certain activities are taking place. Can you comment on this news?” We’ll sit down over some beers, and they’ll comment. And then you dig even further. And I’ll tell you that I wrote the book before I went to Iran. But when I got to Iran and I talked to Revolutionary Guard commanders, what surprised me is that they knew all this. The Iranians were very cognizant of what was going on in the Azeri section of Iran, in the Kurdish section. They could quote, you know, chapter and verse about what the CIA is up to, what the Israelis are up to.

But, you know, again, the bottom line is, why don’t I footnote this? For probably the same reason why a lot of people don’t footnote things, because if I commit to a specific piece of information coming from a specific written source, that means that another piece of information that I don’t commit to a specific written source, where did that come from? Well, maybe it came from a human source. Now, I’ve just made it easier in this day and age for those who don’t want factual information to get in the hands of the average American citizen, those who want to keep American foreign policy and national security policy secret from the Americans they are supposed to be protecting. They’ll go after these people, and you know they go after these people. And I’m going to do everything I can to ensure that I don’t facilitate harm coming to those who have the courage to assist me in trying to get facts out to people so they can know more about this problem we call Iran.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Why doesn’t my colleagues in the American press do better with this story?

SCOTT RITTER: One of the big problems is—and here goes the grenade—Israel. The second you mention the word “Israel,” the nation Israel, the concept Israel, many in the American press become very defensive. We’re not allowed to be highly critical of the state of Israel. And the other thing we’re not allowed to do is discuss the notion that Israel and the notion of Israeli interests may in fact be dictating what America is doing, that what we’re doing in the Middle East may not be to the benefit of America’s national security, but to Israel’s national security. But, see, we don’t want to talk about that, because one of the great success stories out there is the pro-Israeli lobby that has successfully enabled themselves to blend the two together, so that when we speak of Israeli interests, they say, “No, we’re speaking of American interests.”

It’s interesting that AIPAC and other elements of the Israeli lobby don’t have to register as agents of a foreign government. It would be nice if they did, because then we’d know when they’re advocating on behalf of Israel or they’re advocating on behalf of the United States of America.

I would challenge the New York Times to sit down and do a critical story on Israel, on the role of Israel’s influence, the role that Israel plays in influencing American foreign policy. There’s nothing wrong with Israel trying to influence American foreign policy. Let me make that clear. The British seek to influence our foreign policy. The French seek to influence our foreign policy. The Saudis seek to influence our foreign policy. The difference is, when they do this and they bring American citizens into play, these Americans, once they take the money of a foreign government and they advocate on behalf of that foreign government, they register themselves as an agent of that government, so we know where they’re coming from. That’s all I ask the Israelis to do. Let us know where you’re coming from, because stop confusing the American public that Israel’s interests are necessarily America’s interests.

I have to tell you right now, Israel has a viable, valid concern about Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. If I were an Israeli, I would be extremely concerned about Hezbollah, and I would want to do everything possible to nullify that organization. As an American, I will tell you, Hezbollah does not threaten the national security of the United States of America one iota. So we should not be talking about using American military forces to deal with the Hezbollah issue. That is an Israeli problem. And yet, you’ll see the New York Times, the Washington Post and other media outlets confusing the issue. They want us to believe that Hezbollah is an American problem. It isn’t, ladies and gentleman. Hezbollah was created three years after Israel invaded Lebanon, not three years after the United States invaded Lebanon. And Hezbollah’s sole purpose was to liberate southern Lebanon from Israeli occupation. I’m not here to condone or sing high praises in virtue for Hezbollah. But I’m here to tell you right now, Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization that threatens the security of the United States of America.

AMY GOODMAN: Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, in conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh. We’ll be back with them in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to the conversation at the Ethical Culture Society between Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh. Scott Ritter is author of the book, Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change. Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist with the New Yorker magazine. This is Seymour Hersh.

SEYMOUR HERSH: So, in your book, speaking of Israel, it’s sort of interesting reading through it. Let’s see. Essentially, you describe Israel as viewing Iran—the notion of an Iranian nuclear weapon as an existential threat. You describe how Israel collects intelligence—we could also call it “spies”—on the International Atomic Energy Agency. This is all sort of revelatory stuff, in a way—not the first part, but certainly this, that Israel has penetrated and worked very closely with people inside the IAEA, has apartments, safe houses in Vienna, where it does business and basically operates politically inside the IAEA.

Three, you describe in great detail—again, I think in more detail than has ever been made public—how much the Israelis have worked very closely with the MEK, the cult, this terrorist group that’s now pretty much in play again—we’ll get to that in a minute—in not only in terms of supporting it and urging us, the United States, to support it, but also much of the intelligence, most of the main things that were learned in this administration about the Iranian nuclear weapons programs, were announced by MEK officials over the years, particularly in August of 2002. There was a major announcement of the underground facilities, a place that many of you now know, Natans. And the extent of digging inside Iran was made public by the MEK. And you write in your book repeatedly how Israel was the source for that intelligence and basically was using the MEK to proselytize and propagandize in America. You also describe, as we said earlier, extremely active operations by Israel inside Iran, running agents, etc., collecting intelligence.

So, tell us about you and Israel. Are you anti-Semitic? Are you anti-Israel? I know you served there. Tell us about it.

SCOTT RITTER: Well, first of all, I am not anti-Semitic, and I’m definitely not anti-Israeli.

SEYMOUR HERSH: You’re certainly not a self-hating Jew, let’s make that clear.

SCOTT RITTER: No, I could be a self-hating goyim, but… Unless there’s something in my past we haven’t uncovered yet.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Like some senators, right?

SCOTT RITTER: But it’s irrelevant. The bottom line is I consider myself to be a friend of the state of Israel. I consider myself to be a true friend of the Israeli people. But I define friendship as someone who takes care of a friend, who just doesn’t use or exploit a friend. And, you know, there’s that old adage: friends don’t let friends drive drunk. We used to use that in the anti-drug campaign, the anti-alcohol campaign. That’s how I view my friendship with Israel. And when I see a friend preparing to drive drunk or doing something that’s going to be harmful to them, or to me, I’ll say, “No,” I’ll say, “Stop.” So my criticism of Israel is not from some, you know, Jewish-hating anti-Semitic foundation of myself. No.

As I point out to people, I spent a couple weeks in 1991 working with people to stop Iraqi ballistic missiles from landing on Israeli soil. A lot of good Americans lost their lives in that effort, and we took it seriously. I spent four years in Israel working with the Israeli government on the issue of Iraq. I was very close with Israeli intelligence, very close with the Israeli government, and I have a lot of sympathies for them. I know how they work. I know who the players are.

And I will say this: if I were Israeli, I’d be doing exactly what they’re doing. Alright? They have a legitimate concern here. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a small little country. And if a nuclear device goes off inside that small little country, Israel ceases to exist as a viable nation-state. They can’t afford any room for error. There is no margin of error here.

That’s why Israel has taken the position that not only will they not tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapons program, they will not tolerate nuclear technology that is usable in a nuclear weapons program, in this case, enrichment technology that Iran is permitted to have under Article 4 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel says no. If Iran can enrich to levels that are usable in a nuclear reactor, that same technology can be used to enrich to levels usable in a nuclear device. Therefore, the Israeli position is “not one spinning rotor,” meaning not one centrifuge allowed to operate inside Iran. That’s a zero-tolerance policy.

Now, Iran’s a big country that carried out a covert program. You know, let’s mention this, too. When the MEK gave the briefing in August of 2002 using what many people have said is Israeli information, guess what? They were right. Let’s not forget that. They didn’t come out and spew garbage. This was not Ahmed Chalabi making stuff up. This is the MEK representative saying there is a facility in Natans involved in the enrichment of uranium, that is being kept secret from the world. And they were right. So let’s give a little tip of the hat to the Israeli intelligence community for getting it right.

But there’s a difference between getting the intelligence right and getting the policy right. And I will tell you right now that the Israelis have the policy wrong, because they have created a system of analysis that deviates from the lessons learned from the Yom Kippur War. At the end of the Yom Kippur War, they basically said there will be no more “konseptsia,” meaning we’re going to have a concept of what the enemy thinks. We’re going to conceive what the enemy thinks, project what the enemy thinks.

And they got it wrong. They projected that the Egyptians would never attack on the dates that people talked about. Next thing you know, you’ve got the Third Egyptian Army rolling across the Sinai, and the Israelis got serious problems. They said, “It will be fact-based analysis from now on, and we will double-check and we will triple-check.” One of the more interesting Israelis I’ve met was the Doubting Thomas. He’s the guy—he’s a colonel. All information that went to the director of military intelligence came through him, all assessments. He sat down and picked them apart. And basically, if you made an assertion, he said, “How do you know this?” If you said x, he said, “Why isn’t it y?” And you had to answer him. You had to come back and explain this, and only then did the analysis get to the director of military intelligence, who is the head of national assessments in Israel. He then takes it to the prime minister. So, imagine that, being the head of state, getting quality intelligence from your intelligence community that’s been double-checked, triple-checked, questioned, so there’s no room for error.

But an interesting thing happened in the aftermath of the Gulf War. Some personalities took over. One, in particular, I write about in the book: Amos Gilad, then a brigadier general. I think he left as a major general. But Amos Gilad brought back into fruition the notion of konseptsia. You see, he conceived the notion of a nexus combining Iran with Hezbollah with Hamas. And he said Israel is at threat. This whole thing is lumped together, and we have to deal with it all. And the head that has to be cut off, if we’re going to succeed, is Iran. Iran is the threat. Iran is the problem. Iran must be dealt with. And he started slanting the intelligence assessments that were being presented to the director of military intelligence, this time on what I’ll call faith-based analysis, his gut feeling, his belief, but not the facts. This isn’t sound factually based analysis. This is a deviation. And unfortunately, the politicians bought off on it.

And again, because we have yet, today, to be able to separate in the American policy formulation that involves Israel, separate Israeli interests from American interests, the Israeli government has been very successful in using the pro-Israeli lobby to make sure that the Israeli concerns, the Israeli point of view, becomes the American point of view. And that’s what’s happening here.

But, yes, Israel has agents operating inside Iran. They better have agents operating inside Iran. I wish we had more agents operating inside Iran, so we knew more what’s going on. Can you blame Israel, because they care about nuclear weapons, for trying to get close to the International Atomic Energy Agency? We do it. Why is the world surprised that Israel is going to do it? When you have inspectors that go into a nation that you have deemed hostile, you want to know what they know. You also want to help guide them. Israel did this in Iraq. And I have to say it was very honorable, what they did. They didn’t go in to corrupt the inspection process. They went in to improve, to enhance the inspection process.

But with Iraq, it was fact-based analysis. That’s why, at the end of the day, the Israeli government was willing to accept that Iran had been virtually disarmed, that almost all the WMD had been accounted for. In 1998, that was the assessment. Thanks to Amos Gilad, by 2003 Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction had been reborn, and he didn’t have to explain how they had been reborn. It was konseptsia. It was a gut feeling. They were there because Saddam’s bad.

The same thing is happening with Iran today, because all of this intelligence that’s being done has uncovered a nuclear enrichment program, not a nuclear weapons program. But the Israelis have already concluded, thanks to Amos Gilad and his konseptsia, that a nuclear weapons program exists. Therefore, if you’re not finding evidence of it, it means you’re not looking in the right places. So then you begin to speculate. How many people here remember underground facilities in Iraq, Saddam’s tunnels, everything buried? Well, there weren’t, were there?

Well, guess what. The Israelis talk about tunnels in Iran. And there are tunnels in Iran. The Iranians have been working with the North Koreans for the last couple decades to perfect deep tunneling techniques, and they are boring in the ground. You saw all those little Hezbollah tunnels in South Lebanon that were so effective against the Israelis? They were dug by the Iranians with North Korean assistance. That comes from the Iranians themselves. And they’re doing the same thing in Iran today. And the Israelis are detecting this deep tunneling activity, and they’re sending elements in to do reconnaissance on that, but they’re not finding any evidence of nuclear-related activity, because there isn’t any going on.

But again, thanks to konseptsia, Gilad, and the way the Israelis now do their assessments, they immediately equate deep tunneling and a nuclear enrichment program to mean that there’s a secret underground nuclear weapons program. Faith-based analysis has trumped fact-based analysis, and because of the pressure put on American policymakers by the Israeli lobby, our own government has now embraced this point of view. And this is very dangerous, ladies and gentleman, because if we accept at face-value, without question, the notion of a nuclear weapons program in Iran, that means the debate’s over. It’s over, because if Iran has a nuclear weapons program that operates in violation of international law, it’s very easy for American policymakers to talk about the imperative to confront this.

And if you can’t confront it successfully diplomatically, that leaves only the military option on the table. And right now, that’s the direction we’re heading, because the debate’s over, apparently, about whether or not Iran has a nuclear weapons program, even though the IAEA has come out and said there’s no evidence whatsoever to sustain the Bush administration’s allegations that such a weapons program exists. Note, I didn’t say that the IAEA said there is no such weapons program—they can’t prove that.

But note that the Bush administration has taken this and now changed course, like they did with Iraq. Saddam said, “We don’t have any weapons. The inspectors aren’t finding any weapons. Keep looking.” Why? Because the onus isn’t on the inspectors to find the weapons. The onus is on Iraq to prove that none exist. But how can you prove a negative? The same thing is in play today with Iran. We have told the Iranians it is their responsibility to prove to the international community beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no nuclear weapons program in Iran. How can you prove a negative?

But that’s not the point, because it’s not about a nuclear weapons program. It’s about regime change and the Bush administration using the perception of threat from a nuclear weapons program to achieve their ultimate objective of regional transformation, which is, again, a policy born more in Tel Aviv than Washington, D.C.

SEYMOUR HERSH: OK. Digression. One of the things you and I used to talk about was, when Scott was an inspector from ‘91 to ’98, he got in a lot of trouble, an awful lot of trouble, with his government, because he would take highly classified information to Israel to be analyzed first, remember? Particularly some of the overhead stuff, U-2 stuff. And that caused you a lot of investigations, a lot of problems in terms of—just of loyalty issues. But still, the fact is you thought so highly of Israel. I remember you telling me years ago that they could understand what was going on from satellite photographs in six or seven hours. If you gave it to the American system, we were dealing in a week, and you would get a bad analysis. No, that’s just—you had a lot of faith in their intelligence capability.

So, what the hell is going on there? Is it as simple as that? Is it just as simple as a few people at the top playing Ahmed Chalabi? Or is it—what happened? Why aren’t they calling it the way, if you’re right, they should?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, again, I think it comes down to—you know, the Bush administration likes to talk a lot about the nexus, the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.

I’ll talk about the nexus between the neoconservatives in Washington, D.C., and the right wing of the Likud Party in Israel. These elements, these political elements have been working hand-in-glove for many, many years. And now that the neoconservatives in Washington, D.C., have seized power, have gained power, attained power, now that they’re in power, the right wing in Israel has to play this game. They have to deal with the cards that they’ve been dealt. And so, they’re not going to stand up to the United States. You’re not going to sit there and try and encourage the United States to make a move on Iran using fact-based information.

You’ve got to understand there are certain buttons you need to push in Washington, D.C., to get American politicians to move in a certain direction. And you’ve got to keep it simple. And the simplest thing is to say that there is a nuclear weapons program in Iran. And then, you’ve got to push some more buttons, because you don’t want to treat that in isolation. You want complicate it further: that nuclear weapons program is in the hands of a nation that is a state-sponsor of terror—Iran. And the terrorist organizations that they sponsor are inclusive of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Liberation Organization Fatah wing. This is all part of the same problem, you see.

And in doing so, Israel now complicates America’s overall policy posture vis-a-vis the Middle East, because now it becomes very difficult to treat the Palestinian situation in isolation. It becomes very difficult to treat the Hezbollah situation in isolation or to treat Iran in isolation. Israel has lumped it all together, because they know how to play the American political game, I think, better than we know how to play the American political game. So this is about domestic politics trumping intelligence and sound analytical processes.

AMY GOODMAN: Scott Ritter is the author of Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change. Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist with the New Yorker magazine. His book is called Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. They’re speaking at the Ethical Culture Society in New York. […] We’ll come back to Ritter and Hersh in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to our conversation between Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh and Scott Ritter. This is Seymour Hersh.

SEYMOUR HERSH: I think a lot about the neocons, and what’s interesting about the neocons and their influence, as you say, is that if you look at it, in the last few years, they’ve really lost a lot of the intellectual leadership from direct policy input. Wolfowitz is gone. Richard Perle certainly was no longer head of the Defense Policy Board. He’s on the outside. Douglas Feith, who was an undersecretary of defense and very important to Rumsfeld, is gone. So with some of their more important acolytes out of the way, why are we still talking about the neocons? What is it about us that enables them to keep on going, even though many of their leaders—nobody would define either Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld as neocons before 2001. They were just realist conservatives. How have we gotten to—what’s your guess about it? I mean, I don’t have an answer. Do you have an answer?

SCOTT RITTER: I don’t have a definitive answer, but I would say this. If you want to attribute anything to the empowerment of the neoconservatives, attribute eight years of Clinton presidency. You see, the neoconservatives had thrived under the presidency of Ronal Reagan, because we had an evil empire back then, you see? You had an enemy, a focal point. And so, they could sit there and talk about global hegemony, talk about global domination, and no one would hold them to task, because it was widely recognized that we were engaged in a global struggle with another global superpower.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the neoconservative thinkers, these global hegemonists, said, “We can’t allow any power or group of powers to step into that vacuum.” This is 1991, 1992. In fact, in 1992, under the direction of Dick Cheney, who was at that time the Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby helped author a vision statement, a policy statement for the Defense Department, that talked about how we divide the world into spheres of strategic influence and how we will intervene unilaterally, prevent preemptively, militarily, if required, to dominate these regions, and that’s what we need to do with the fall of the Soviet Union.

There was a little hiccup along the way of that becoming policy, called an election, where George Herbert Walker Bush, the heir to Ronald Reagan, got defeated, and Bill Clinton came in. And when Clinton came in, all these neoconservative ideologues, who had been shaping and influencing policy for 12 years, were no longer in power. And what they did is they all went off to roost in various neoconservative or conservative or right-leaning think tanks, and they festered for eight years, perfecting this poison that became their policy. And then, when George Bush—George Walker Bush—got elected, they came in and assumed power, but they had eight years to basically put a spit shine on their vision of how the world would look.

And they didn’t have an easy time early on. There was a lot of hiccups. If you remember, in the summer of 2001, how critical people were of the Bush administration, of Donald Rumsfeld, of these neoconservative thinkers, because their ideology wasn’t melding with the post-Clinton reality.

Thanks to September 11, 2001, 19 criminals who hijacked four airplanes and flew them into three buildings and a farm field, all that changed. The neoconservatives were successfully able to exploit the ignorance-based fear of the American public to sell them a bill of goods about the world we live in. And as a result, they had a seamless transition from an ideology that America should reject at face value, and it now has become the official policy of the United States of America, the national security policy or strategy of the United States of America, first promulgated in September 2002, most recently updated in June 2006. This policy is almost word for word the same doctrine that Wolfowitz penned in 1992, that the Project for a New American Centry put out in 1997. And it is now that which defines how America interfaces with the rest of the world.

SEYMOUR HERSH: But, Scott, answer the question. If they fester, why are they festering? Why do they continue to have this influence? You’ve mentioned another one that’s gone: Libby—when so many of the intellectual gurus of that group—I mean, certainly Wolfowitz, Libby was very important, too. Why, given the collapse of policy in Iraq, which is becoming increasingly obvious to everyone, why are we still there? Why is this country still basically—the policies of the country still neoconservative? What has been festered? What has been inculcated in us? What’s going on?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, again, the reason why I talked about the festering is to point out that they had 12 years of being in power, followed by eight years of being able to take their policy to think tanks and work on it. So that’s 20 years that the neoconservatives were able to develop and perfect its ideology.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Yeah, but we’ve got a constitution. We’ve got a congress. We’ve got a press. We’ve got a bureaucracy. What’s going on?

SCOTT RITTER: Because on September 11th, the United States of America suffered its worst defeat, not at the hands of terrorists, but at the hands of the neoconservatives, who basically allowed the terrorists to win by turning America on itself. We have a congress, but Congress only counts when it functions. And when Congress refuses to carry out appropriate oversight, when Congress refuses to hold the President accountable for policy decisions, when Congress stands by idly while we violate international law and indeed the Constitution of the United States, invading a sovereign state without just cause, allowing the torturing of individuals to occur by American service members, when Congress sits by and tolerates warrantless wiretappings, they don’t function as a legitimate branch of government.

SEYMOUR HERSH: OK, but let’s just go back. We all agree on Congress. But the fact is that when Olmert was here in May, the prime minister of Israel, and gave a speech about Iran to a joint session of Congress, the big applause lines, the standing o’s came when he criticized Iran and raised the specter—the same language you were talking about—this existential language, this threat, and that was a standing ovation. The fact of the matter is that no matter how you describe it, no matter how we perceive it, if the President orders a military attack on Iran, Congress will rubberstamp it. There’s no question about that, in my view. I don’t know what you think. And I guess, heuristically, if you will, what’s your guess? We want to do a lot of questions, because there may be somebody here who disagrees with what Scott’s saying. It takes an awful lot of courage, but anyway.

SCOTT RITTER: I try not to be controversial.

SEYMOUR HERSH: But, so, what’s your guess? What happens? October surprise next year? What do you think? What do you think? What’s in line for us?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, first of all, let’s start with what you’re talking about: the standing ovation that Olmert gets. Why? Why would he get this standing ovation? Because the United States of America has been preconditioned since 1979 to accept at face value anything negative said about the Islamic Republic of Iran. Now, there’s a lot of negative things that can be said about the Islamic Republic of Iran. But unfortunately, by allowing ourselves to create this filter that says we don’t recognize anything positive, only the negative, we create the conditions where we don’t question negative date. And therefore, when people say Iran is a threat, we agree. And this has been going on since 1979. So the American public, and indeed the American Congress, is preconditioned for war, for confrontation with Iran. That’s why we can have a policy that transitions from dual containment under the Clinton administration to regime change under the Bush administration, without any significant debate taking place whatsoever.

And because this condition exists, there will be war with Iran, unless a little miracle occurs, called the Democrats winning Congress, creating enough friction to stop the war, in the November elections. But even if that occurs, as you pointed out, there is no separation between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party on the issue of Iran. Everybody sits there and says. “Wait a minute, we’re losing the war in Iraq, and there’s 65% of the population that’s turned against this war. Certainly we’re not going to go to war with Iran.”

Again, I mean to correct the American public here. 65% of the American public aren’t antiwar. They’re just anti-losing. You see, if we were winning the war in Iraq, they’d all be for it. If we had brought democracy, they’d be cheering the President. It wouldn’t matter that we violated international law. It wouldn’t even matter that we lied about weapons of mass destruction. We’d be winning. God bless America. Ain’t we good? USA, USA! But we’re losing, so they’re against Iraq.

But what happens when you get your butt kicked in one game? You’re looking for the next game, where you can win. And right now, we’re looking for Iran for a victory. We’re going to go to war with Iran. When? Not in October, I’ll tell you that.

There’s a couple things that have to happen before we go to war with Iran. There has to be a serious diplomatic offensive to secure the military basing required to support the aerial forces necessary for sustained bombardment and the logistic apparatus that goes along with that—the fuel, the bombs, the support personnel, the maintenance. We haven’t done that. We’re doing it. There has to be political preparation here at home. The Bush administration is not a dictatorship yet. They still have to go to Congress, and they still have to get a degree of congressional approval for military operations against Iran. Not that much, though. I mean, everybody is aware that after 9/11, Congress pretty much gave the Bush administration a blank check to wage war anyway they saw fit, so long as it dealt with the global war on terror. And the President—

SEYMOUR HERSH: Be specific. The October 2002 resolution was not just limited to Iraq, you’re exactly right.

SCOTT RITTER: No, it’s a global war on terror.

SEYMOUR HERSH: It gave him the right to—he’s got a blank check. He does have that.

SCOTT RITTER: A blank check to do it.

SEYMOUR HERSH: That’s literally correct.

SCOTT RITTER: Now, he has to be smart about this. Yes, he can wage war, but he needs to ensure that Congress continues to fund the war. So that’s why he will go to Congress. He will make the case for Iran. But, as I said, Congress is already preprogrammed to nod their head yes and stamp anything he signs.

The most important thing is the American military, getting the American military positioned. The easy thing is getting the air forces positioned, the naval force and air forces that will do the bombardment. The hard thing is getting the American military leadership to go along with that, and that might be the one little glimmer of hope that’s out there, because if we can get a Democratic-controlled congress that is not afraid to exercise its oversight responsibility and holds hearings, where it brings in military professionals and liberates them to speak critically of bad policy, which is the duty and responsibility of every general officer.

There’s a gross dereliction of duty taking place today in the United States, where our general officers remain mute while they are on active duty. Suddenly, when they retire, they get great courage. They can speak out. But you know what? It’s too late. Too many of your men have died. You should have spoke out sooner. And hopefully with a Democratic congress, the generals will speak out. Look at the standards set by the British military. The British chief of staff has come out and finally spoke truth to power by saying, “Mr. Blair, your war is not only not winnable, but it’s destroying the British army. And if we want to have an army in five to ten years, we have to change our policy.” Maybe American general’s will follow that precedent.

SEYMOUR HERSH: I’ve had some smart Arabs I know, who are not anti-American, per se, but increasingly, of course, getting that way, say to me that one other—there’s another—they had another vestige of hope, which was that after the disaster in Lebanon—and the Israelis are sort of now, their position is we suffered a technical knockout, it wasn’t a complete knockout. They’re finding a little grace in it. But some of the bright Arabs I know said maybe the Israelis will move to the center. Maybe that’ll, one way, will save us. “Save us,” being the world, in their view. Certainly the oil world in the Middle East, from continued war. And they said, perhaps—giving up on the notion that America would move, but maybe the Israeli population would move to the center. No sign yet of it. I don’t see it.

SCOTT RITTER: Well, there is a significant—I mean, that’s one of the things that strikes me when I travel to Israel. It’s like anything, traveling to Iran, you suddenly have this veil lifted, because, of course, you’re not going to get a true picture from the American media about what Iran is, and most Americans, I don’t think, have a genuine picture of what Israel is, unless you’ve gone to Israel, traveled to Israel, met the Israelis. It’s a very diverse society. It’s not homogeneous at all, especially politically. You know, you sit three Israelis around a table, you get seven different opinions. And that’s the truth. These people love politics. They’re concerned. They’re engaged. And there is a viable powerful moderate and progressive element within Israel.

The battle with Hezbollah this past summer, this conflict in South Lebanon that bled over into northern Israel, could go either way. On the one hand, there are elements that are seeking to exploit the fear factor, the fact that thousands of Hezbollah rockets landed on Israel, to say, “Never again, never again. We must redouble our efforts to confront.” But taking a look at how enfeebled the Israeli military was in its response, how Hezbollah was actually empowered, the Israelis might actually come to realize the lesson we’re learning in Iraq, which is you cannot militarily defeat an organization that has as its roots the legitimate concerns of an indigenous population. And I’m not here to condone Hezbollah or sing its virtues, but I will tell you this, Hezbollah is an organization of Southern Lebanese Shia. That belong in South Lebanon. They’re in South Lebanon. And Israel may have learned a hard lesson, that you just can’t bomb these people into submission, so they might move to the center.

SEYMOUR HERSH: [inaudible] is standing. We want to do one more question. Let me ask him one more question. One last question, which is, OK, briefly, we go to war. We begin a massive bombing campaign. Take your pick. Odds are it’s going to be systematic, at least three days of intense bombing, decapitation probably, which—that is one of the things you do when you begin a bombing attack, like we did against Saddam twice and like the Israelis did against Hezbollah when they targeted Nasrallah. And I think we and the Israelis are now 0-for-8, almost as bad as Shrummy and his elections. But anyway, so the question then is—we go to war—tell us what happens next, in your view.

SCOTT RITTER: Well, it’s, you know—it’s almost impossible to be 100% correct, but I’ll give you my best analysis. The Iranians will use the weapon that is the most effective weapon, because the key for Iran—you know, Iran can’t afford, if this—remember, the regime wants to stay in power, so they can’t afford a strategy that gets the American people to recognize three years in that, oops, we made a mistake. I mean, if that was Saddam’s strategy, it failed for him, because he’s out of power. Yeah, we realize we made a mistake now in Iraq, but the regime is gone. So the Iranians realize that they have to inflict pain upfront. The pain is not going to be inflicted militarily, because we’re not going to commit numbers of ground forces on the ground that can cause that pain. The pain will come economically.

Our oil-based economy is operating on the margins, as we speak. We only have 1.0% to 1.5% excess production capacity. If you take the Iranian oil off the market, which is the first thing the Iranians will do, we automatically drop to around minus-4%, which means there ain’t enough oil out there to support the globe’s thirst for oil, especially America’s thirst for oil. And we’re not the only ones drinking it? You think for a second the Chinese and the Indians, the world’s two largest developing economies, are going to say, “Hey, Uncle Sam, we’ll put everything on hold, so we can divert oil resources, so you can feed your oil addiction, because you attacked Iran”?

And it’s not just Iranian oil that will go off the market. Why do you think we sent minesweepers up there? We’ve got to keep the Straits of Hormuz open. The Iranians will shut it down that quick. They’ll also shut down oil production in the western oil fields of Saudi Arabia. They’ll shut down Kuwaiti oil production. They’ll shut down oil production in the United Arab Emirates. They’ll shut down whatever remaining oil production there is in Iraq. They’ll launch a massive attack using their Shia proxies in Iraq against American forces. That will cause bloodshed.

The bottom line is, within two days of our decision to initiate an attack on Iran, every single one of you is going to be feeling the consequences of that in your pocketbook. And it’s only going to get worse. This is not something that only I recognize. Ask Dick Lugar what information he’s getting from big business, who are saying, “We can’t afford to go to war with Iran.”

SEYMOUR HERSH: Final question: given all this, are we going to do it?

SCOTT RITTER: Yes, we’re going to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh. Ritter’s latest book is called Target Iran: The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change. Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist with the New Yorker magazine. His latest book is called a Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. They were speaking at the New York Society for Ethical Culture at an event sponsored by the Nation Institute. Again, the latest news, the Pentagon has disclosed plans to send more warships and aircraft into the Persian Gulf within striking distance of Iran.