Mistakes Happen


Concealing the Truth

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.

- Buddha

Robert Fisk has argued that the war is not against terror, it's against America's enemies.  [He says] ... the "war on terrorism" is nothing of the kind.  There are no plans to attack Tamil Tiger suicide bombers, ETA killers, Real IRA murderers or Kurdish KDP guerrillas.  Indeed, the US spent a lot of time supporting terrorists in Latin America, not to mention those they bombed in Afghanistan.

Why not a war against famine and death?

Source: Taken from an article in the Independent which appeared at nzherald.co.nz in their "World News" subsection 27 October 2001

When I posted this article, my son Cody sent me this email:

An interesting list of terrorist organisations.  A lot of people wouldn't have mentioned the KDP.  I don't think I would have.  I don't think they're still operative, and even when they were, they were fighting the Turkish security services, a bunch of violent thugs who made the KDP look like angels.

Also, the author did NOT mention any of the many Balkan groups.  There's always a fine line between terrorists and freedom fighters, but it's interesting to see how the author chose to draw it.  Turkey is a member of NATO, and would very much like to join the EU.  I guess any internal enemies of Turkey MUST be enemies of us all.  Even if the enemies in question are only really concerned with being allowed to speak Kurdish in private, and not being tortured very often.  On the other hand, most of the Balkan countries aren't allies, and so their internal enemies aren't our problem.  Yet he talks about the US backing Latin American terrorists, but doesn't mention the huge aid and support given to the Balkan groups during the Balkan war (which is naturally now a disaster, since the groups in question are disappointed by the lack of independence and are now attacking the peacekeepers).  Double standards?  Helping the enemies of countries you like is bad, helping the enemies of countries you don't is good?

On the other hand, bonus points for him even knowing of the Tamil Tigers.  Then again, last I checked, they weren't really a terrorist organisation.  What they ARE is a large, well trained, well equipped army, and they control a decent-sized chunk of Sri Lanka.  Aren't terrorists supposed to use bombs against civilians, not artillery against army bases?  And while the army controls most of the island, they don't even HAVE heavy artillery, and casualties are running about even on the GOOD days.

And he didn't specifically mention Columbia at all.  Not surprising.  The US is backing the Columbian government with military aid, but since the thrust of his argument partly rests on the idea of the US backing terrorists, mentioning the armies currently wandering around Columbia would be counterproductive.  Again, I'm not sure whether or not I'd call them terrorists.  One of them completely controls a area the size of Switzerland, and all the groups are very well funded from drug smuggling.  A lot of countries would love to have armies as large and as well equipped as the main guerilla groups.

And then there's the lack of any mention of Middle-Eastern groups.  Perhaps his choices were random - or more likely he had is own agenda.  I would be fairly surprised if the author weren't European (or, if not, had lived in Europe).  The Tamils had (until a few months ago) their adminstrative headquarters in London.  Real IRA and ETA are both based in Europe.  And Turkey, home of the KDP, may end up inside the EU.  Plus, Europe has never had a very large pro-Israel lobby.  Notice the lack of mention of Israeli enemies, which in the context makes the article pro-Palestinian...

Panic and Indignity: The Currency of Revenge

by Alexander Cockburn

The traditional valuation of one white American to members of the brown races usually runs about 500 to one.

[By the way, the bombing of German cities by the Allies in World War II yielded a total of 250,000 civilian deaths.  Less well known is the fact that for every two German deaths thus achieved by bombs, there was one dead or captured Allied airman: 125,000 in all.]

One familiar way extricating oneself from confrontation an unsuitable foe is to substitute a more satisfactory one.  Though it's highly likely Iran was the sponsor of the downing of Panam Flight 103 in revenge for the downing of the Iranian Airbus by the US carrier Vincennes (whose crew was subsequently decorated for its conduct in shooting down a planeload of civilians), the US preferred to identify Qaddafi's Libya as the culprit, a more easily negotiable target for revenge.  Bush's entourage have been talking in Mao-like terms about "protracted war," or a "war in the shadows" with the inference that America's revenge will be exacted for years to come in the back alleys of the world, cold steel between the ribs of each Muslim terrorist on a moonless night.  The purely nominal ban against US Government-sponsored assassination will be lifted, as will the supposed inhibition against the CIA hiring unsavory characters (meaning drug smugglers, many of them also trained in the flying schools of southern Florida).

The war in the shadows will by definition be shadowy (hence poor provender for the appetite for revenge), at least until some CIA-backed revenge bombing surfaces into public view like the attempted bombing of Sheik Fadlallah outside a Beirut mosque, sponsored by CIA chief William Casey, which missed the Sheik but which killed over a hundred bystanders, including many children.  The war in the shadows will naturally provoke counterattacks from groups intent on discomfiting America.  This is recognised, rather comfortably so, by America's military men, quoted in the Washington Post: "Every war has two sides, and the US public needs to expect reprisals," warned James Bodner, a former Pentagon official. "Future attacks against us will be planned, and some may occur."

As in no other American conflict, civilians are on the front line.  That's especially worrisome because the public infrastructure of the United States - especially its airports and border controls - wasn't designed with a long military campaign in mind.  "The safest place to be in this kind of warfare may be in uniform," noted retired Army Colonel Johnny Brooks.  A moment's reflection instructs us that none of this is likely to yield the results sought in the short term (revenge) or in the long-term (victory over terrorism).

Source: taken from antiwar.com">antiwar.com "Left Coast" column 20 September 2001; original copyright © 2001 Alexander Cockburn

About this article, my son had this comment:

As to the Cockburn article I wonder where he got his figure of 500 to 1?  According to Kipling, the figure is five score to one.  The last verse of "The Grave of the Hundred Head" is:

Then a silence came to the river,
A hush fell over the shore,
And Bohs that were brave departed,
And Sniders squibbed no more;
For the Burmans said
That a white man's head
Must be paid for with heads five-score.

Perhaps inflation?

On Yahoo I read where US police can now secretly search a person's house without telling the homeowner for up to 3 months.  During one of these so-called "sneak and peek" searches, authorities secretly implant a hidden "key-logger'' device.  The FBI acknowledged making 5 such secret searches before it installed its snooping device in a recent gambling investigation.

The HUGE amount of money the US is spending on this war comes from - where?  In a few years, an unprecedented number of "baby boomers" will retire.  From whence will come the money to keep them housed and fed?  The infrastructure for the system of highways, interstates, overpasses and bridges is crumbling and billions is necessary for their maintenance if they are to remain safe.  The money will come from - where?  The sale of oil?

Oil, Intimidation, Rage - Why We Are Really at War

by Anatole Kaletsky

Now that the war has started, every sane human being must surely hope it will end in a matter of weeks, if not days - with the unconditional surrender of Baghdad and the capture or death of President Saddam Hussein.  Luckily, this is a very likely outcome.  Why, then, does this war command less popular support than almost any military conflict in history?  During the 12 months of phony war, we heard several plausible answers: sympathy for Iraqi civilians who will die in the allied bombing; the "illegality" of war under the UN Charter; loathing of an arrogant, ignorant and bullying American President.  All these explanations for the anti-war movement contain a measure of truth, but they miss the heart of the matter.

Iraqi civilians will inevitably be killed in the coming weeks; but these deaths will be far outnumbered by the tens of thousands butchered by Saddam in his reign of terror.  This war may not have been approved by the UN; but neither were the invasions of Bosnia and Kosovo.  Yet those "illegal" interventions enjoyed strong popular support.  As for President Bush, while he is certainly disliked in most of the world (and with good reason), very few people, even in Arab countries, genuinely believe him to be worse than Saddam.  To get closer to the truth, we must focus not on the probable consequences of this war, which will almost certainly be benign for the Iraqi people, but on America’s motives.  "The end justifies the means" has been the slogan of warmongers since the beginning of time, while pacifists always insist that no political objectives can justify loss of life.  The oddity in this case is that the standard dichotomy between means and ends has been reversed.

Today, unusually, the war party emphasises means, rather than ends.  To people like me, who support this war for pragmatic, humanitarian reasons, disarmament and regime change are just means - to justify a brief, one-sided conflict which will liberate 25 million people.  On the other hand, the anti-war movement must now look for deeper arguments beyond the simple desire to save lives or preserve world peace.  Saddam is a genocidal butcher, whose removal will almost certainly save far more lives than it destroys.  The argument that attacking Iraq will undermine the institutions required to maintain world peace is even weaker.  International law would have been immeasurably strengthened by UN support for Washington, since this would have provided the UN system with the one essential characteristic of an effective government it has always lacked: access to unchallenged coercive power.  It was this insight that motivated Tony Blair, a genuine UN idealist, all along.

Why, then, are human rights activists rejecting the chance to save millions from a bloody tyrant?  And why are idealistic internationalists turning away from that opportunity to construct a genuine world government?  The peace movement is driven mainly by fury about America’s "real" objectives - the belief that Mr Bush is pursuing an agenda very different from the official purpose of this war.  And even though I back this war for pragmatic, humanitarian and institutional reasons, I fully agree with peaceniks about the question of Mr Bush’s motives.  Mr Bush, and certainly the neo-conservative ideologues who surround him, do have a vast agenda which goes far beyond disarmament or even regime change in Iraq.  It is the contradiction between Washington’s not-so-hidden agenda and its publicly stated objectives that explains the power of the anti-war movement - and accounts for the agonies of Tony Blair.

What, then, are America’s unstated objectives in this war? One is undoubtedly oil, but not in the simplistic sense of vulgar peaceniks.  America is not going to "steal" Iraq’s oil or sell it to Exxon on the cheap.  On the contrary, the US occupation will ensure that the Iraqi Treasury gets a much better price by repudiating the sweetheart contracts Saddam offered Russian and French oil companies in exchange for bribes and support.  Whether or not these contracts are transferred to US companies, they will be let on openmarket terms, just like oil contracts in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or Norway.  But, even though America will be scrupulously fair in its commercial policy, the US invasion will be motivated partly by Iraq’s oil.  What matters to the US is not whether it can get more oil into the hands of Exxon or BP, instead of Total.  It is whether Iraqi oil output is boosted in the next few years from three to ten million barrels a day, about the same as Saudi Arabia.

If Iraq could match Saudi output (it is the only country in the world with enough oil reserves to do so) the economic and geopolitical benefits would be immense.  Iraqi production in the hands of a stable pro-Western regime could neutralise the power of Opec and protect the world economy from the oil shocks that have triggered each of the past four recessions.  Iraqi oil could also disarm the Arab "oil weapon" that has threatened Western interests since 1973.  This is an admirable objective which I totally support, although Americans delude themselves if they think that they can break their dependence on Middle Eastern oil without curbing their excessive energy use.

A second unstated objective is simply to demonstrate military power.  Even before September 11, key members of the Bush Administration were convinced that America should demonstrate its immense military might - and its ability to use it.  This, they believed, would help to preserve global order by intimidating potential enemies such as China, Russia and North Korea.  By putting \America on a war footing, they also hoped to recreate some of the social order and respect for authority that prevailed in the 1950s - to exorcise the demons of the 1960s, the counter-culture, the defeat in Vietnam and the "moral pollution" of Bill Clinton, all of which they saw as symptoms of the same national malaise.  September 11 played into their hands, creating the enemy and the McCarthy-style hysteria they were seeking.

But a big military victory was also essential for its demonstration effect.  The neo-conservative view is that America’s enemies believed it to be weak and ineffectual, lacking the courage and patience to use its military power.  Even the victory in the Gulf War was negated by the Clinton Administration’s ineffectual meddling with Somalia, Central America and North Korea.  A decisive military victory in Iraq is seen as a crucial component in the war against terror because of its capacity to "shock and awe" America’s foes, wherever they are.  This shock-and-awe argument may well have some merit, but a third American objective in Iraq makes me almost literally sick.  Some Americans still believe that they are entitled to some kind of national catharsis after September 11.  What is worse, this irrational, self indulgent rage is shared and encouraged by many right-wing politicians and commentators.

Christopher Caldwell, a senior editor on the neo-conservative Weekly Standard, explained America’s fury with France, without a trace of irony in yesterday’s Financial Times: "Americans assumed that the world was as panicked, infuriated and viscerally terrified by September 11 as they were.  They were not.  The Europeans are nowhere near to understanding the event’s impact on the American psyche.  The French assumed that if they themselves did not feel terrified by the arrival of terrorism in New York, anyone who did was overreacting."  When Europeans read comments like this, which closely reflect off-the-record comments by many US officials, their suspicion of American motives becomes easier to understand.  And I haven’t even mentioned the final item on Washington’s not-so-secret agenda: to ensure that Mr Bush is re-elected in November 2004.

But luckily for the world, Americans are as capable as any other nation of seeing through their politicians’ motives.  If history is any guide, the 2004 election will not be won in the battlefields of Iraq but on Main Street and Wall Street.  And the damage done to the US economy by the Bush Administration will be hard to put right in 18 months.  As the war begins, I can therefore share an aspiration with the anti-war lobby.  Let us hope that Saddam is gone by the end of next month - and George W Bush by the end of next year.

Source: timesonline.co.uk Opinion 20 March 2003

I lifted the following from eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/caspian.html (the website of the US Department of Energy) on the subject of oil pipelines and the Caspian Sea.  I will leave the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.

Although there is no lack of export option proposals, questions remain as to where all these exports should go.


The TRACECA Program (Transport System Europe-Caucasus-Asia, informally known as the Great Silk Road) was launched at a European Union (EU) conference in 1993.  The EU conference brought together trade and transport ministers from the Central Asian and Caucasian republics to initiate a transport corridor on an West-East axis from Europe, across the Black Sea, through the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to Central Asia.  In September 1998, twelve countries (including Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan,Romania, Turkey, and Uzbekistan) signed a multilateral agreement known as the Baku Declaration to develop the transport corridor through closer economic integration of member countries, rehabilitation and development of new transportation infrastructure, and by fostering stability and trust in the region.  In addition, the EU has sponsored the INOGATE program, which appraises oil and gas exports routes from Central Asia and the Caspian, and routes for shipping energy to Europe.  INOGATE is run through the EU's TACIS program.


However, there is some question as to whether Europe is the right destination for Caspian oil and gas.  Oil demand over the next 10-15 years in Europe is expected to grow by little more than 1 million bbl/d.  Oil exports eastward, on the other hand, could serve Asian markets, where demand for oil is expected to grow by 10 million bbl/d over the next 10 - 15 years.  To feed this Asian demand, though, would necessitate building the world's longest pipelines.  Geographical considerations would force these pipelines to head north of the impassable mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan across the vast, desolate Kazakh steppe, thereby adding even more length (and cost) to any eastward pipelines.


An additional way for Caspian region exporters to supply Asian demand would be to pipe oil and gas south.  This would mean sending oil and gas through either Afghanistan or Iran.  The Afghanistan option, which Turkmenistan has been promoting, would entail building oil and gas pipelines across war-torn Afghan territory to reach markets in Pakistan and possibly India.  The Iranian route for gas would pipe Caspian region gas (from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan) to Iran's southern coast, then eastward to Pakistan, while the oil route would take oil to the Persian Gulf, then load it onto tankers for further trans-shipment.  However, any significant investment in Iran would be problematic under the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, which imposes sanctions on non-US companies investing in the Iranian oil and gas sectors.  US companies already are prohibited from conducting business with Iran under US law.

North or Northwest?

For its part, Russia itself has proposed multiple pipeline routes that utilize Russian export pipelines that transport oil to new export outlets being developed on the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas.  Russia is set to complete its Baltic Sea port at Primorsk later this year, and the country is working with Croatia to connect the Adria pipeline with the southern Druzhba pipeline.  Reversing the flows in the Adria pipeline and tying it to the southern Druzhba route would allow oil exports from the Caspian to run via Russia's pipeline system, across Ukraine and Hungary, and then terminate at the Croatian deep-sea Adriatic port of Omisalj.  In addition, Russia already has the most extensive natural gas network in the region, and the system's capacity could be increased to allow for additional Caspian region gas exports via Russia.

However, there are political and security questions as to whether the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union should rely on Russia (or any other country) as their sole export outlet, and Caspian region producers have expressed their desire to diversify their export options.  In addition, most of the existing Russian oil export pipelines terminate at the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, requiring tankers to transit the Black Sea and pass through the Bosporus Straits in order to gain access to the Mediterranean and world markets.  Turkey has raised concerns about the ability of the Bosporus Straits, already a major chokepoint for oil tankers, to handle additional tanker traffic.  Already, Turkey has stated its environmental concerns about a possible collision (and ensuing oil spill) in the Straits as a result of increased tanker traffic from the launch of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium's (CPC) Tengiz-Novorossiisk pipeline in March 2001.  The first tanker with CPC oil is not scheduled to be loaded at Novorossiisk until August 6, 2001, but already there are a number of options under consideration for oil transiting the Black Sea to bypass the Bosporus Straits

Regional Conflict

In almost any direction, Caspian region export pipelines may be subject to regional conflict, an additional complication in determining final routes.  The Uzbek government is dealing with the threat of rising Islamic fundamentalism in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan remains scarred by over 20 years of war, the Azerbaijan-Armenia war over the Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in Azerbaijan has yet to be resolved, separatist conflicts in Abkhazia and Ossetia in Georgia flared in the mid-1990's, and Russia's war with Chechnya has devastated the region around Grozny in southern Russia.

The link under "Regional Conflict" above is an especially important one to follow; read the 2nd, 3rd and 4th paragraphs regarding the Afghanistan Civil War.

For articles on bioterrorism, patriotism enforcers, airport security, children in war, McCarthyism, humanitarian killing, Voice of America, pipelines, truth, lessons, anthrax, hatred and pain click the "Up" button below to take you to the Index page for this War on Terrorism section.

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