Interview with Greg Felton, author of "Enemies by Design: Inventing the War on Terrorism," on the latest twists in America’s Iraq crisis

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JL:
Greg, you’re a historian of U.S. policy in the Middle East. What light is shed on the scandal at Abu Ghraib by the background research you’ve done?

GF:
This torture scandal has been simmering under the surface for a couple of months. I’m not too surprised, for two reasons. First, we have the same military intelligence units in Iraq that committed similar atrocities in Afghanistan. Second, the allegations of Israeli involvement are consistent with past Israeli practice. For instance, Israel broadcasts pornography into the Occupied Territories to humiliate Palestinians who are overwhelmingly Muslim. Both Israel and the U.S. know the Arabs are very conservative regarding sex, and U.S. training manuals for interrogators highlighted this fact.

JL:
In the torture pictures from Abu Ghraib, it seems to me that it’s really America that was caught with its pants down in front of the whole world. How could we be so humiliated when we are supposed to be exporting our high human rights standards to iraq?

GF:
The U.S. is not exporting democracy, human rights or anything of the sort. All the U.S. wants is a compliant régime in Baghdad that is friendly to Israel. Saddam Hussein was the only Arab leader that publicly stood up for the Palestinians, and this angered Israel. For this reason, Israel and the Pentagon Likudniks engineered the attack on Iraq.

JL:
How would you summarize the evidence of Israeli involvement in the torture scandal?

GF:
There is no definitive proof but General Taguba’s report strongly implicates John Israel, Steven Stephanowicz and Adel L. Nakhla all three of whom are with the Mossad and under contract to Titan and CACI corporation. They are training CIA and Military Intelligence officers in interrogation techniques.

They are in Iraq, they gave training on interrogation tactics at a Ft. Bragg. There is John Borger’s recent article in The Guardian,* Seymour Hersh’s piece.**

JL:
How to reconcile this with the idea that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and that the U.S. is over there to bring democracy to Iraq?

GF:
Neither assumption is accurate. Israel is not a democracy; it’s an ethnocentric garrison state. Dr. Ilan Pappé of Haifa University says Israel practices the same master-race bigotry as Hitler’s Germany, and we would hardly call the Third Reich a democracy. Moreover, the U.S. can’t impose something Western ways on a non-Western people. The U.S. is not there for Iraq’s own good. The sole purpose was to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Any talk about Iraqi freedom or Iraqi democracy was only to sell the war to the American and world public. The last thing the U.S. wants is a democracy in Iraq, because in a democracy, workers are paid better, and the U.S. wants cheap oil.

JL:
Also a real Arab democracy would presumably be more strongly opposed to Israel a democracy can’t be manipulated so easily like a puppet regime.

GF:
Yes, Iraq was the strongest anti-Israeli country. So the war was for Israel. The Zionists want to impoverish the Palestinians, so they had to get rid of Hussein to remove his support for Palestine, and replace him with a client regime – they had selected Chalabi.

JL:
So now Iraq is so deep in its own problems it can’t help the Palestinians–”this gives Sharon a free hand in Rafah?

GF:
–” Indirectly, yes.

JL:
OK, but the USA does stand for human rights. How can we or the rest of the world reconcile that with this degrading torture?

GF:
The USA only has an instrumental interest in promoting human rights. It has intervened in other countries 73 times in the 20th century…

JL:
For or against human rights?

GF:
Against. The USA has always acted as an imperial power –” any alliance with human rights is matter of convenience.

JL:
But doesn’t the US have a great humanist tradition that its people believe in?

GF: The US began with some of the highest ideals of any country, but soon let them slip.

JL:
what is going on – Gen. Zinni, our envoy or honest broker to the Mideast peace process a while back, now blames neo-cons for starting a war for Israel? Pentagon drawing the long knives for the neo-cons? (General Zinni: ‘Neo-cons have Hijacked U.S. Foreign Policy,’ http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/052404A.shtml)

GF:
Zinni is partly right. The neo-cons are responsible for the mess, but the U.S. was never an honest broker. This is a myth that has been perpetuated since the 1970s. If anything, the neo-cons have highlighted the true nature of U.S. attitudes to the Arabs. Clinton was a softer, Labour Zionist, and was able to shift the blame for the failure of the Oslo Accords onto Arafat, despite the fact that Israel was entirely to blame. The neo-cons and Sharon are much too blatant. It’s a question of support for Labor Zionism or Likud Zionism –” Labor is cruel with finesse; Likud is overtly brutal.

JL:
If we act like this while we keep believing our own propagnda, it will go worse for us.

GF:
The sheer magnitude of US brutality at Abu Ghraib raises questions how the US could do this. When the answers are in, they will be damning for the Christian-Jewish Zionists –” they will show how it was possible to create a climate where Arabs were treated with such contempt.

This is the degeneration of the U.S. republic into a fascist state. A scapegoats is very imoprtant in a fascist state, because it lets it claim moral superiority. A threat to order can justify the abrogation of civil rights, extraordinary security laws. Since 9/11 the US quickly degenerated to a police state. George W Bush needed dictatorial powers to launch his wars in the Middle East –” like the Reichstag fire in Germany –” the comparison may sound unfair, but it is apt.

Don’t forget Hitler idolized Henry Ford, and there were very close links between American plutocrats and the fascists. I don’t go into a lot of detail on Sept. 11 in the book, but the U.S. was definitely looking for an excuse to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq.

JL:
OK. Now, what is this Chalabi character up to.

GF:
There is no doubt he was the conduit for phony reports about WMDs, and there is no doubt that the Pentagon wanted to believe his stories. There was no effort to evaluate what he passed off as intelligence. The State Department and the Pentagon military had the brains to see he was nothing more a self-aggrandizing con artist. But the civilian hierarchy –” Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith–”were keen on Chalabi since he was saying what they wanted to hear. They needed an excuse to invade no matter how thin or ludicrous. Any allegation could be made and it could be justified, and the Pentagon punished those who disagreed.

JL:
Chalabi’s Petra bank embezzlement in Jordan–”didn’t that set off alarms?

GF:
No. They didn’t care about that.

JL:
OK. He was out for himself. And he has connections all over, you mentioned JINSA and PNAC. How about Iran?

GF:
Chalabi’s a Shi’ite Muslim, and had Iranian connections, but so what? None of this was news. Any talk of Iran being behind the phony intelligence is preposterous. Shiites and Sunnis disagree mainly on matters of religion, not politics.

JL:
If not Iran, then who? Israel?

GF:
Who calls the shots in Washington DC? Israel. If Israel wants something done, it gets done. Chalabi and Israel are on the same page, and now that the U.S. is wallowing in another quagmire, Chalabi has been made the fall guy.

JL:
The raid on his house is a charade?

GF:
The administration wants to implicate him. It makes the U.S. look as if it’s doing something to address the “intelligence failures,” when in fact all it’s doing is trying to cover its won ass. It’s all public relations.

JL:
Now, you say all this is in Israel’s interest. Short-term I agree, but how about long-term? Do you foresee a decisive swinging of the pendulum away from support for Israel by the American public coming out of this crisis, or will it bring the two countries closer together as hatred for America intensifies in the Arab world?

GF:
Kerry is no different from Bush on the Middle East, and the Democrats mostly get the Jewish vote anyway. Maybe we will see a return to Labor Zionism.

JL:
Well, this escalation against the Middle East can backfire on the US and Israel. There was this report from the Institute for Strategic Studies in London that said by fighting in Iraq we are losing the war on terror? ***

GF:
It’s backfiring completely. Kerry is coming in like Nixon to get the US out of Vietnam. He hasn’t said it, but getting out of Iraq ought to be his first priority. People like Sen. Hollings blame Israel for this and he is right. Of course he was roundly savaged by the Zionist lobby, but he is telling the truth, and if enough people come out and say this and enough people read my book, Americans will know their republic no longer exists. It has been hijacked by a foreign power. This has been going on since the 1980s to a significant degree, but now it’s so blatant it can’t be denied. If there is a full investigation of Abu Ghraib, 9/11, the mismanagement of the U.S. economy, it will become obvious that America’s enemies are within its own borders–”the Zionist lobby, the Christian lobby and the neo-cons..

JL:
They’re inside our borders because they can monitor every phone call in the US. Even this one.

GF:
Right, you’ve heard of a company called Amdocs. Americans nurture their images and their myth of America from WWII and the postwar era, but that America died on the rice paddies of Vietnam. A political vacuum formed in the mid 1970s, and into the vacuum stepped the Christian zealots. The country gradually became theocratized, and today one could hardly call it a republic. The U.S. is a peculiar country because it began with the highest ideals of constitutional justice and devolved from there. Suffice to say, the Constitution no longer applies.

JL:
Do you see any parallel between the horrific events in Iraq and in Rafah in the Gaza strip now?

GF:
Yes. Collective punishment has been Israeli policy for decades, but it has increased since Bush’s election. Clinton was more critical and made the Israelis at least pay lip service to the notion of peace. With Bush as Israel’s puppet, there is no restraint on Sharon, and war criminality against the Palestinians has accelerated. The U.S. in Iraq is becoming more and more like Israel. How else do you explain a paragon of human rights bombing the town of Falluja and killing 600 civilians just because four Gis died in a convoy?

JL:
Didn’t we do things like that in Vietnam, too?

GF:
Yes, but we prosecuted Lt. Calley for war crimes, and now the USA is trying to get a free pass for war crimes. It no longer recognizes international law. Calley may have been a rogue element, but there is no excuse for meting out collective punishment in violation of international law.

JL:
Yes, a war on terrorism is not recognized by the laws of war. So, how do we get out of this mess?

GF:
First, The U.S. has to admit that the attack was morally wrong, and take immediate steps to punish those responsible. That likely won’t happen until after the election. In essence, we need to have a Nuremberg-style war-crimes tribunal with the entire PNAC-junta in the dock, including Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Second, the US must cede complete political and military authority to the UN and the surrounding Muslim states, so that Iraq can form an independent government. Third, the U.S. must pay billions of dollars in reparations to the new Iraqi government to help it rebuild what the U.S. destroyed. Fourth, no Western or Israeli company should be allowed to profit from the attack.

As it stands now, Bush’s presidential directive 13303 exempts companies like Bechtel and Halliburton from anti-profiteering legislation. This directive must be repealed. The U.S. has lost all credibility and can only begin to repair the damage it has done by making honest efforts at contrition and reparation.

JL:
Well, turnabout is fair play, isn’t it. Thank you for your time.

Notes:

* http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1102940,00.html

** http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?031215fa_fact

*** http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/052704K.shtml

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