The U.S. Aggression Process and
From Guatemala (1950-1954) to
by Edward S. Herman and David
www.zmag.org, November 25, 2007
We are living in a very dangerous period
in which a predatory superpower has embarked on a series of aggressive
wars in rapid succession-three on two different continents during
the past decade alone. Not only have these wars violated the
UN Charter, and constituted what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert
Jackson declared at Nuremberg to be "the supreme international
crime;" not only has it gotten away with its wars, despite
their increasingly destructive and murderous nature; but in waging
them, the United States has been able to enlist leaders of the
"international community" and United Nations in support
of its assaults on distant lands. As the world's preeminent
multilateral organization, the central purpose of which was purportedly
to save humankind from the scourge of war, and to ensure that
armed force not be used except for the common defense, we find
the UN's role here to be troubling indeed.
This superpower's wars are opposed by
a majority of the world's population, and often even by a majority
of the heavily propagandized citizens of its own country. But
popular opinion and voter preferences, even when manifested in
national elections, as in November 2006, do not determine policy
in the United States. Freed at last from any deterrent of the
kind the Soviet Union exercised until its demise, and the kind
posed for a more abbreviated period by the civil protests that
confronted it on its own streets between 1965 and 1974, the U.S.
program of "power projection" proceeds apace. Now it
sets its sights on Iran, likely to produce a much wider war and
one that quite possibly could involve the use of nuclear weapons.
U.S. wars of aggression are certainly
not new, nor is its leaders' brazen disregard for international
law. Greece, Guatemala, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam,
Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Panama-these do not exhaust the list
of U.S. victims since World War II. What is more, the assumption
that international law does not apply to the United States is
longstanding. The "propriety of the Cuba quarantine is not
a legal issue," former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson
explained in reference to Kennedy's naval blockade of Cuba during
the 1962 missile crisis. "The power, position and prestige
of the United States had been challenged by another state; and
law simply does not deal with such questions of ultimate power."
For Acheson, any U.S. action to counter alleged threats trumps
international law, and law cannot be allowed to interfere with
the exercise of the "pre-eminent power" of this country.
The belief that although law should apply to others, it never
applies to the United States, was internalized long before Acheson's
day; and it reaches straight through to the present, widely accepted
abroad because the scale of U.S. power permits its leaders to
ignore the law with complete impunity.
But the aggression pace and scale has
been stepped up in recent years, based on a number of factors:
The collapse of the containing power, the vested interests in
U.S. power projection in the Middle East-the Israeli lobby, oil
interests, the military-industrial-complex-and the ideology and
politics of a militarized capitalist state.
The aggression process has always involved
demonization of the target, with the establishment media regularly
carrying out their propaganda service in ways that match anything
achievable in a totalitarian state. In the case of the joint
U.S-proxy army attack on Guatemala in 1954, the New York Times
swallowed and disseminated the lie that the Reds had taken over
that country (e.g., Sidney Gruson, "How Communists Won Control
of Guatemala," March 1, 1953), just as the paper swallowed
and disseminated the official line in 2002-3 that Saddam Hussein
possessed weapons of mass destruction. Equally important in both
cases was the suppressed context: In the case of Guatemala, the
vested interests of United Fruit Company in the ouster of the
elected government, the ties of high U.S. officials to that company
(including Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles),
and the fact that Guatemala was virtually unarmed and posed not
the slightest threat to the security of the United States or Guatemala's
small neighbors. In the case of Iraq, major suppressions included
the facts that the United States had actually supplied Saddam
with "weapons of mass destruction" when he was attacking
Iran, and that he failed to use such weapons during the 1991 Persian
Gulf War because he recognized that the United States could retaliate
in kind with overwhelming force-the disclosure of which would
weaken the case that his possession of such weapons in 2002-3
posed any threat to this country or Israel, except that of self-defense.
The aggression process not only depends
on the domestic media following the official line, marginalizing
dissent, and causing the public to believe in the mythical threat
posed by the target, it also requires neutralization of any international
response that might protect the prospective victim. In the case
of Guatemala, its leaders did appeal to the UN in June 1954 for
protection against an already-in-process U.S.-organized attack.
But with the U.S.'s (and United Fruit investor and former spokesperson)
Henry Cabot Lodge president of the Security Council, and the United
States exerting intense pressure on its voting members and Secretary-General
Dag Hammarskjold, the Security Council refused to consider Guatemala's
case. Hammarskjold, who felt that the issue was precisely what
the UN was formed to deal with, considered the U.S. effort "the
most serious blow so far aimed at the Organization."
The decade-long U.S. effort at "regime
change" in Nicaragua during the 1980s involved a boycott,
the mining of Nicaragua's harbors, and sponsorship and active
support of a terrorist army on its borders, in violation not only
of the UN Charter but also the Organization of American States
Charter and the Rio Treaty, the latter two quite clear on the
illegality of the cross-border use of military force, "directly
or indirectly, for any reason whatsoever" (OAS), and with
proper authorization or "self defense" the only bases
for an exception (Rio). Nicaragua brought these violations to
the UN and World Court, but the United States vetoed a Security
Council condemnation and ignored several adverse World Court decisions
against its "unlawful use of force." The Reagan administration
could get away with this in part because the establishment media
accepted its aggression and violation of international law, encapsulated
in the New York Times's editorial that dismissed the World
Court as a "hostile forum" ("America's Guilt-or
Default," July 1, 1986)-a lie, but demonstrating that the
editors' principles do not extend to universality of application
and that they will apologize for blatant illegality and even aggression
by their own state.
U.S. Aggression After the Soviet Collapse
The collapse of the Soviet bloc in late
1989 was greeted in the West by the U.S. invasion of Panama, which
received the New York Times's immediate approval-although
the Times did acknowledge that it "fueled enduring
Latin suspicions about Washington's selective respect for sovereignty,"
and expressed the concern that this kind of precedent might be
used by less worthy powers to achieve the same effect ("Why
the Invasion Was Justified," December 21, 1989).
But it is with Iraq (1990-), Yugoslavia
(1991-1995; and 1999-), Afghanistan (2001-), and Iraq again (2003-)
that we move into the definitive post-Soviet era, when the international
community becomes a more active participant in the aggression
process, and the global aggressor is either appeased, abetted-or
In the case of Yugoslavia, the U.S.-led
NATO bombing war of 1999, assaulting Serbia and Kosovo, was preceded
four years earlier by gradually escalating bombing attacks in
Bosnia to support Bosnian Muslim and Croat forces, all in violation
of the spirit of the UN Charter, but approved by UN secretary-generals
and the Security Council. Also notable was the Security Council's
1993 creation of an ad hoc Tribunal supposedly to bring
"justice" as well as peace to Yugoslavia, but in reality
a political and public relations arm of NATO, that functioned
to prevent peace in pursuit of U.S. and NATO aims there.
It also provided a legal and public relations cover for NATO's
own crimes, most notoriously in its bringing an indictment against
Slobodan Milosevic in May 1999, just as NATO was coming under
attack for extending its bombing to Serb civilian facilities.
This diversionary PR operation was quickly used by the U.S. Secretary
of State and her spokesperson to justify NATO war crimes. It
goes almost without saying that the UN Security Council failed
to question the U.S.-NATO bombing war against Yugoslavia, although
it was in violation of the UN Charter and followed a peace conference
in France designed to fail and permit the U.S.-NATO attack to
The war on Afghanistan was launched by
the U.S. and U.K. purportedly as an international police action
and a reprisal raid against al-Qaeda targets in the aftermath
of 9/11, but it also removed the Taliban regime in Kabul and carried
the war to the Taliban's allies in Pakistan and elsewhere around
the world. From the outset, Washington defined Afghanistan as
a theater in its new global "War on Terror," a Cold-War-like
framework projected to stretch indefinitely into the future, and
useful to the warrior states for disguising their actions in
this era of global warlordism. Although the war never received
Security Council authorization, it has been prosecuted with UN
support from the very start. In the week that preceded this war,
the UN joined the cause with a "counter-terrorism" resolution
and a hastily organized conference "to fight the scourge
of terrorism" (Kofi Annan), with terrorism elevated to a
"threat to international peace and security, as well as a
crime against humanity" (General Assembly President Han Seung-soo
of South Korea). Four days before the war, in clear anticipation
of the event, Annan even reappointed Lakhdar Brahimi his Special
Representative to Afghanistan; Brahimi's assignment was to "initiate
preparations for the development of plans for the rehabilitation
of that shattered country"-not one word warning about
the war or taking issue with its illegality. Within the Council
itself, a Counter-Terrorism Committee was established; it is now
a permanent feature of Council activities. Sentiments to the
effect that "armed non-State networks" such as al-Qaeda
"pose a universal threat to the membership of the United
Nations and the United Nations itself" are now commonplace;
and efforts to combat such non-state actors have been placed
at the top of the UN's agenda ever since.
Before the end of 2001, the invading military
forces had gotten the United Nations to sponsor the Bonn Agreement
through which they installed an Interim Authority in Kabul, with
Hamid Karzai as its chairman; now six years later, Karzai is the
president, having won elections staged by the UN in October 2004.
But as with any country in a state of perpetual war, real power
within Afghanistan resides with the 40,000-strong International
Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO-bloc's second out-of-area
operation in the past decade, the first having been Kosovo. The
occupation has failed to dismantle the power of the warlords,
with whom the United States collaborated in the initial war effort;
it has failed to do any substantial rebuilding of this "shattered
country;" and its military focus and civilian-costly methods
of warfare have caused substantial losses of life and helped the
resurgence of the Taliban. Still, the UN has stood firm as a
supporter of the occupation; and as with Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq,
treats Afghanistan like a laboratory for neocolonial nation-building,
helping the occupiers at every turn "to deny the power which
they wield and to evade accountability for its exercise."
The aggression process involving Iraq
that began in 1990 was simplified at that time by the fact that
Iraq had committed an act of aggression itself in invading and
taking over Kuwait in early August of that year. This gave the
United States the opportunity to mobilize the UN and international
community to oppose an aggression which it disapproved. (Although
poor Saddam Hussein might have been misled by the earlier U.S.
support of his aggression against Iran, and by U.S. Ambassador
April Glaspie's reassuring him one week before his Kuwait adventure
that the United States had "no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts,
like your border disagreement with Kuwait.") But with
the actual Iraq aggression the United States quickly got UN and
international support for ousting Saddam from Kuwait. Even here,
however, there is solid evidence that the United States would
not let Saddam escape via a negotiated settlement, but instead
forced a war, which means that even in their "legitimate"
case this country's leaders acted in violation of the UN Charter,
which calls for all states to "bring about by peaceful means,
and in conformity with the principles of justice and international
law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes"
(Article I). There were also serious law violations in both the
slaughter of helpless Iraqi soldiers, the use of illegal weaponry,
and the deliberate destruction of Iraq's civilian infrastructure,
including water and sanitation facilities, knowing that this would
take a heavy civilian toll (and would be in violation of the laws
Following the end of the Persian Gulf
War in late February 1991, the UN, under U.S.-U.K. pressure, installed
a very severe sanctions regime that greatly limited Iraq's imports
and its export of oil. This prevented or greatly hindered the
repair of the damaged water and sanitation facilities as well
as its electrical plants and grid, irrigation systems, factories,
schools and hospitals. This resulted in huge casualties, mainly
from disease, poor nutrition and limited health care, especially
among children, whose estimated 500,000 deaths from the "sanctions
of mass destruction," was a price in human lives that Madeleine
Albright famously declared on national TV in 1996 to have been
"worth it." All of this was done under UN authority,
although the U.S. and U.K. were the aggressive sponsors of these
With the Bush administration having decided
to "go massive" after the events of 9/11, to "sweep
it all up, things related and not" (Donald Rumsfeld),
and to invade and occupy Iraq as well as Afghanistan, it faced
the small problem that what it intended to do would be a major
violation of the UN Charter, as Iraq had neither attacked nor
threatened the United States, so any non-risible self-defense
justification was out. The U.S. and U.K., while still making extremely
implausible claims about an Iraq threat ("mushroom clouds"
over American cities, hidden WMD programs, chemical and biological
weapons 45-minutes from launch) and providing a stream of
false claims about Iraq's weapons programs, eventually fell back
on Iraq's resistance to UN inspections. An attack on Iraq would
be based on and justified by Iraq's defiance of UN authority!
After all, we cannot dispense with the rule of law!
It is well known that the Bush administration
only bothered with resort to the UN under British urging and in
the interest of giving an aura of legitimacy to an attack already
planned and one that had nothing to do with Iraq's "non-compliance."
The UN cooperated in this make-believe scenario with intensified
inspections that found nothing but refused to stop looking, to
the great annoyance of U.S. officials, whose 160,000 troops and
naval armada were already positioned for an invasion and wanted
the inspectors and Security Council to sanction war. When they
couldn't get this, they went to war anyway, once again in violation
of the UN Charter. Once again also they were helped along by the
establishment U.S. and U.K. media, whose members across the board
quickly joined the war bandwagon, passing along WMD claims on
a daily basis that were untrue or misleading, essentially blacking
out dissident views and facts, mini-demonizing the French for
their failure to get on board the bandwagon and Hans Blix and
the inspectors for failing to produce evidence that didn't exist.
Two months before the war, aggression-hawks
Kenneth Pollack and Martin Indyk were given space in the New
York Times to lament the UN "inspections trap" that
they alleged the Washington regime then found itself "firmly
stuck in," and counseled that, instead of relying on a "futile
hunt for a 'smoking gun'," the world should simply accept
that "Every inspection of an Iraqi site that finds nothing
reinforces the misimpression that Iraq has complied." ("How
Bush Can Avoid the Inspections Trap," January 27, 2003.)
The day before the U.S. launched its war, Princeton University's
advocate for U.S. lawlessness Anne-Marie Slaughter invoked the
precedent of the 1999 war over Kosovo, also launched without Security
Council authorization, and noted that Washington's imminent war
over Iraq "could be called 'illegal but legitimate',"
just as the Independent International Commission on Kosovo had
found with respect to Kosovo. ("Good Reasons for Going Around
the U.N.," New York Times, March 18, 2003.) The same
day, the Times itself editorialized that, "For Mr.
Hussein, getting rid of weapons of mass destruction is no longer
an option.Mr. Hussein must be disarmed." ("War in the
Ruins of Diplomacy," March 18, 2003.) This is war propaganda
service that would be hard to surpass.
The UN of course never condemned the United
States and Britain for this invasion in violation of the UN Charter,
even though it was soon recognized in the mainstream to have been
based on lies. Not only was there no condemnation, the UN Security
Council quickly voted to validate the occupation and gave the
aggressor the Security Council's approval to stay in Iraq and
try to bring stability to the victimized country. The UN even
created the Assistance Mission for Iraq to help U.S. management
there, resulting in the bombing death of the Secretary-General's
Special Representative for Iraq, Sergio Viera de Mello, and 22
others, as the Iraqi resistance did not view the UN as a neutral
party. Subsequently, the UN has done nothing to condemn or
attempt to bring to a conclusion an invasion-occupation that has
virtually destroyed Iraq, killed perhaps a million civilians,
and driven in excess of 4 million Iraqis from their homes.
The contrast with the UN's treatment of Yugoslavia and the U.S.-NATO
targeting there of Serbia, could hardly be more dramatic.
The Iran Aggression Process
The current round of threatening Iran
dates back to the summer of 2002, a year that opened with Bush
labeling Iraq, Iran, and North Korea the "axis of evil, arming
to threaten the peace of the world." Already hot on the
trail of the apocryphal Iraqi WMD, and proclaiming its new national
security doctrine of "preemption" (i.e., aggression
by another name), the White House started floating allegations
about a clandestine Iranian nuclear weapons program, and coupled
these with statements of opposition to the "unelected people
who are the real rulers of Iran," a stance that Iran's President
Mohammad Khatami immediately assailed as " war-mongering"
and "open interference" in Iran's affairs.
The current U.S. preparation for an attack
on Iran has many of the characteristics of earlier U.S. aggressions,
and the responses of the UN, international community, humanitarian
interventionists, and mass media have also been similar. The
first striking similarity is the extent to which claims and tactics
used earlier but eventually acknowledged to have been based on
falsehoods designed to mislead and manipulate have been recycled
yet again, with only marginal challenge as to their motive and
accuracy. Another is how a double-standard can be applied so
effectively that it passes almost without challenge: One standard
for the U.S. target (Iran), the Security Council demanding that
it surrender its "inalienable" right under the Non-Proliferation
Treaty to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes; another standard
for the United States and any country that has U.S. approval
(the nuclear-weapon states of Israel, India, and Pakistan, for
example; Saddam Hussein's weapons programs in the 1980s, when
he was serving U.S. interests; and even Iran's nuclear energy
program in the late 1970s, when controlled by the U.S.-client
dictator Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.).
A third notable feature of the aggression
process developing in regard to Iran is that another major violation
of the UN Charter by the United States, another "supreme
international crime," is not only taken as legally and politically
unchallengeable by the UN and international community, but is
also sanctioned and even given positive aid. It is true that
Secretary-General Kofi Annan did plaintively point out on more
than one occasion that the 2003 Iraq invasion was illegal-"not
in conformity with the Charter," in the milquetoast phrase
he preferred when dealing with U.S. crimes-but he didn't suggest
doing anything about it. In his first official statement after
the start of the war, Annan expressed regret that "if we
had persevered a little longer, Iraq could yet have been disarmed
peacefully," thus repeating the disinformation that had
been used by the states that launched their war in violation of
the Charter under which he served.
Kofi Annan was very accommodating to U.S.
demands, but his successor, Ban Ki-moon, is even more cooperative
with the Supreme International Criminal. Not only has he failed
to say a word about the U.S. threat to attack Iran, but with the
United States now between its third (Iraq) and prospective fourth
(Iran) supreme international crime, Ki-moon nevertheless has gone
out of his way to claim that the "UN and the US have a shared
objective of promoting human rights, democracy and freedom and
peace and security," and to call for "a strong partnership
between the United Nations and the United States." Like
his predecessor, Ki-moon recognizes who is the boss, and shows
no qualms over using his office to help the boss implement his
UN Charter violations.
The Security Council also is cooperating
with the U.S. process. Mainly it has done this by going along
with the U.S. allegation that Iran's nuclear program poses a threat
to international peace and security, rather than recognizing
that in threatening to take military action against Iran if it
does not comply with U.S. demands, it is the U.S. that poses the
grave threat, not Iran-a threat that would be actionable under
Chapter VII of the Charter, were the Security Council able to
live up to its legitimate functions and powers. This, too, is
a rerun of the Security Council's effort in late 2002 and early
2003, leading to the invasion of Iraq, when the Council went along
with the United States' alleged concern about Iraq's noncompliance
with the Council's disarmament resolutions, and patiently voted
for an "enhanced inspections regime" instead of calling
the supreme international criminal's bluff and denouncing its
plans for the already decided-upon invasion. Going along
with these pressures and demands fed into the U.S. war-propaganda
in 2002, just as it does the same today in the run-up to the planned
attack on Iran.
Also helpful to the U.S. aggression process
today is the work of the IAEA and Mohamed ElBaradei, which closely
parallels the earlier efforts of the United Nations Monitoring,
Verification and Inspection Commission and its chairman, Hans
Blix. The mere existence of an inspections program, and the fact
that it can be dragged out for years-on-and-off for a total of
eight years in Iraq, and since 2002 in Iran-permits the United
States to create the impression that there really is a grave threat
and to distract attention from the real threats that it poses,
including its own contribution to the spread of nuclear weapons.
The inspections regimes have provided the United States with platforms
to spread false allegations against Iraq and Iran, the two states
that it declared its main targets in early 2002. Just as it was
impossible for Blix's UNMOVIC to refute the U.S.-U.K. allegation
that Iraq was "in material breach" of its disarmament
obligations, so, no matter how many times ElBaradei's inspectors
"verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in
Iran," they will never be able to refute the Alice-in-Wonderland
allegation that they still cannot "provide credible assurances
about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities,"
and that a clandestine nuclear weapon program must be hidden somewhere.
In Iraq's case, the United States made
grandiose allegations before the Security Council that were soon
thereafter proven false-but with no effect on its status within
the UN, or on its right eventually to lead the Multinational Force
there, or the believability of its sequel allegations against
Iran.. The United States denounces first Blix and now ElBaradei
for unwarranted foot-dragging and appeasement of the targeted
states. And of course the establishment media cooperate in this
process by treating hyperbolic allegations about the targeted
states as no different than real news about them, refusing to
give context and expose the real U.S. agenda, and failing to note
that Iran's case today is following the same script that in Iraq
turned out to be false.
Among the aggression process's many modalities,
which combine the suppression of critical facts with the repetition
of falsehoods, we note here the following:
1. That only rarely is mention made
of the striking and ominous parallels between the utterly discredited
U.S. and U.K. mobilization campaign in 2002-2003 to rid Iraq of
its nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, and the ongoing U.S.
and Israeli mobilization campaign from 2002 onward alleging that
Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
2. That no mention is made that the
U.S. and Israeli threats to attack Iran are themselves violations
of the UN Charter's prohibition on the threat or use of force,
and that even the UN and the international community are guilty
of turning a blind-eye to the illegality of these threats.
3. That no mention is made that the
U.S.-led aggressions-occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq mean
that Iran is now surrounded on its eastern and western borders
by massive and hostile military forces that can launch devastating
strikes on Iran at any time. So that to focus at this juncture
on any kind of threat-real or counterfactual-to peace and security
posed by Iran is simply incongruous with reality.
4. That no mention is made of Iran's
inherent right of self-defense against the very real threats posed
by the United States and Israel, both the closest of allies and
nuclear weapons powers. As the Israeli military analyst Martin
Van Creveld noted, "The world has witnessed how the United
States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all.
Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would
be crazy." ("Is Israel planning to attack Iran?"
International Herald Tribune, August 24, 2004.) This sentiment
appears virtually nowhere in the establishment U.S. media, which
also give little credence to the Iranian leadership's repeated
protest that they do not intend to produce nuclear weapons.
5. That no mention is made that Israel
was the first state outside the Permanent Five to develop nuclear
weapons, a capability that it possesses to this day; and that
Israel remains the only state in the Middle East never to have
acceded to the NPT and international inspections.
6. That no mention is made that Security
Council Resolution 687 (April 3, 1991), which imposed disarmament
requirements on Iraq, also recalled the longstanding "objective
of the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region
of the Middle East;" and that this objective, which enjoys
very broad support throughout the region, has been ignored by
Israel, the United States, and Security Council.
7. That no mention is made that Iran
also has long advocated a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle
East, as well as extending IAEA safeguards to all states in the
region; and that every year the UN General Assembly votes by overwhelming
margins to adopt resolutions to this effect, but that at the same
time they are rejected by the United States and Israel.
8. That no mention is made that under
the NPT, Iran-like every other non-nuclear-weapons-possessing
party to the treaty-enjoys the "inalienable rightto develop
research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes
without discrimination" (Art. IV.1), and that the IAEA has
produced no evidence that Iran is working on nuclear weapons.
9. That no mention is made that under
the NPT, the United States-like every other nuclear-weapons-possessing
party to the treaty-agrees to "pursue negotiations in good
faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear
arms raceand to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general
and complete disarmament under strict and effective international
control" (Art. VI). By continuing to improve its nuclear
weapons, and to make their design more practicable, it is the
United States that stands in serious violation of the NPT.
10. That no mention is made that at
the last NPT Review Conference, held in New York City in May 2005,
recognition of the urgency to implement this disarmament article
figured prominently among the vast majority of participants-but
not with the United States. Instead, the conference ended
in "the most acute failure in the history of the NPT"
(former U.S. weapons negotiator Thomas Graham), unable to produce
even a final statement on substantive issues. Led by the U.S.
refusal, the conference was unable to admit any topic related
to disarmament, "[turning] the world of nuclear proliferation
into the Wild West, with complete disrespect for the rule of law"
(Abolition 2000 founder Alice Slater).
11. That no challenge is raised in the
UN or international community contesting the fact that the United
States has taken it upon itself to decide which states may develop
nuclear programs, and which may not. Iran could build nuclear
power plants under the Shah, Pakistan can develop and keep nuclear
weapons under Pervez Musharraf (or a likely successor-client of
the U.S.), Egypt can develop nuclear power under Hosni Mubarak,
Israel and India can develop and keep nuclear weapons over four
decades-but neither the Islamic Republic of Iran, Libya, nor North
Korea can. Not only is this unilateralism and politicization
of the right of access to nuclear energy not challenged by the
UN or the establishment media, it isn't even noticed.
12. One basis for these politicized
choices is the usual demonization process, so that a target like
Iran cannot be allowed to come close to developing nuclear energy
for any purpose because its leaders are portrayed as religious
fanatics who might use a single nuclear device to bring about
some mad end even though this would entail national suicide. These
fears are not based on an examination of the performance of Iran's
leaders, who in their diplomatic relations with other states and
UN representatives clearly behave as realistic geopoliticians.
Nor is any comparison ever made with the religious beliefs of
"End Times" evangelicals in the United States and their
influence on U.S. leaders and policy.
13. That the Iranian target can be accused
of other crimes, with minimal evidence and context, like interference
in Iraq's internal affairs by sending aid to the resistance.
This allegation is very convenient, as it is impossible for Iran
to refute beyond simple denial, the establishment media don't
require hard evidence to report it, and it scapegoats Iran for
the failures of the aggression-occupation-so attacking Iran will
be part of the effort to "liberate" the Iraqis! Note
also that when the United States aids insurgents opposing an occupation,
as in the case of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation,
no question is raised about the legitimacy of such interference;
but then, only the United States has aggression rights. Thus,
only the United States can legitimately aid factions in the conflict
over Iraq. It aids all of the factions, according to momentary
strategic convenience. And it attacks anybody inside Iraq that
it wants to attack.
14. That very little attention is given
to the fact that the U.S. supports the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization
(MEK) and related groups such as the National Council of Resistance
of Iran, whose members appear to move freely among the Western
capitals, despite the U.S. Department of State's formal designation
of these groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations at least since
1997. With U.S. aid and approval since the U.S. invasion
of Iraq in 2003, the MEK has continued its longstanding campaign
of cross-border bombings and assassinations against Iran-causing
much bloodshed among Iranians.
15. That by highlighting the abuses
of dissidents inside Iran, a prospective U.S. attack on Iran is
made all-the-more palatable. When the lie about going to war
to disarm Iraq no longer could be sustained, the selling-point
shifted to the "liberation" of Iraqis from the dictatorship
in Baghdad. Similarly, Western intellectuals and human rights
organizations have featured the detentions and trials of different
Iranian figures, combining cost-free denunciations of Iran's leadership
with public displays of solidarity towards the dissidents. This
has been an important mechanism by which a segment of the intellectual
community, including the humanitarian interventionists and devotees
of "democracy promotion," serve the imperial state
while convincing themselves that they are simply aiding in the
global liberation process. It has been noted, however, that this
segment seems reluctant to push hard for democracy in states
allied with and supported by the empire (e.g., Egypt, Saudi Arabia,
Turkey, Indonesia, Israel, etc., or in the United States itself).
They also spend much more effort in expressing concern over the
condition of the dissidents in target countries than they do over
the supreme international crimes to which they may be contributing.
Imagine that Adolf Hitler, having invaded
and occupied Czechoslovakia and making clear plans to attack Poland,
was able to get France, Britain and the Soviet Union to agree
with him that Poland's buildup of its border forces posed a threat
to Germany and should be subject to sanctions till it reduced
those forces. A League of Nations Disarmament Commission was
formed that focused on Polish weaponry on its border with Germany,
expressing "concern" over Poland's possible secrecy
in the placement of some of those weapons. Meanwhile, the head
of the League met with Hitler, expressed admiration for his revitalization
of Germany, and expressed the hope that the League and Germany
could forge a "stronger partnership" for the years ahead.
The famed appeasement of Nazi Germany never went this far in
the late 1930s, so that it never matched the current scene of
UN and international community appeasement plus literal collaboration
with the Supreme International Criminal of our day, who is threatening
another major cross-border attack despite being bogged down in
a quagmire in an aggression begun in 2003.
Like the League, the United Nations is
never more than the cumulative actions of its members. The collapse
of the Soviet bloc and Soviet Union itself (1989-1991) was greeted
by much optimism at the time: Finally, the UN would live up to
its historic mission of protecting the world's peace and security.
But what this rhetoric really meant was that the flourishing
Western bloc was freer than ever to use the UN to promote its
agenda. This proved true in the 1990s, as the number and scope
of Western-inspired UN operations expanded greatly. And when
in March 1999, the U.S.-led NATO bloc could not gain Russia's
assent in the Security Council for its war on Yugoslavia, NATO
went ahead with its war anyway, and brought in the UN after the
Post-9/11, the United States and its allies
have used the UN even more effectively to promote selective campaigns
of "counter-terrorism" and "counter-proliferation,"
and to push aside aggression and disarmament. At the same time
that U.S. wars approach a lethality not seen since Southeast Asia
40 years ago, UN agencies are dispatched with mandates to pick
up the pieces caused by their destructiveness, but never to counter
At an October 17 news conference, a reporter
asked George Bush whether he "definitively believe[s] Iran
wants to build a nuclear weapon?" "Yeah," Bush
replied, "I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge,
in order to make a nuclear weapon.So I've told people that if
you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you
ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge
necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Notice that Bush's mobilization for World
War III is not in response to Iran's actual use or even acquisition
of a nuclear weapon, but simply to prevent Iran from having the
knowledge of how to build one-knowledge that can be found in every
peaceful use of nuclear energy the world over. Note also the transference
of responsibility for the planned war from the serial aggressor
onto the target, an Orwellian gambit hardly commented upon in
the West. Bush's extreme position was announced only weeks after
an Israeli bombing raid in northern Syria that may have been executed
to destroy surface-to-air missile defense systems of the same
class that Iran is also known to operate, as well as test the
system's vulnerabilities. And a vote by three-quarters of the
U.S. Senate-including 30 of the Senate's 50 Democrats-expressing
its sense that Iran poses a "threat to the security of the
region," and calling on the White House to designate Iran's
military a "foreign terrorist organization," just eight
days before Bush did in fact designate Iran's military an FTO,
adding to the sanctions it already imposes on Iran.
It is thus quite possible that the U.S.
leaders are about to embark on their fourth aggression in a desperate
hope of reviving public support for a beleaguered presidency and
it reactionary program. In this case, however, the aggression
would likely trigger a much wider war, even involving nuclear
arms, a breakdown in the global flow of oil, economic chaos as
well as mass war deaths and destruction, and a rapid spread of
authoritarian rule (reaching the United States). But the breakdown
in the rule of law as manifested in the UN and great power acceptance
of, and even collaboration with, the serial aggressions of the
United States, and the inability of democratic processes in the
United States to constrain the war party, make this tragic outcome
unnervingly more probable.
---- Endnotes ----
 Although adopted by the UN Security
Council, we regard resolutions such as 1244 (June 10, 1999), 1378
(November 14, 2001), and 1483 (May 22, 2003), 1500 (August 14,
2003), and 1546 (June 8, 2004), as extra-constitutional actions
on the Council's part, and therefore as usurpations of the Council's
functions and powers under the UN Charter, which are established
as the maintenance of international peace and security, not the
ex post facto legitimation of its grave breaches. Yet,
each of these resolutions assumed the conquest of sovereign states
(Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, respectively) by other states
led in each case by the United States.
 In September 2007, the Program on
International Policy Attitudes asked both U.S. and Russian citizens
whether they would favor or oppose all countries agreeing to eliminate
all of their nuclear weapons, if there were a "well-established
international system for verifying that all countries are complying."
Sixty-three percent of Russians said they would favor this, and
73% of Americans did likewise. More than two-thirds of both countries'
citizens (67% Russians, 69% Americans) favor the goal of eliminating
all nuclear weapons. Perhaps most impressive of all, no fewer
than 79% of Americans and 66% of Russians believe that each of
their respective countries should "do more to work with the
other nuclear powers toward eliminating their nuclear weapons."
As PIPA observes, "Most approve of this objective, even though
they are unaware that their country has already agreed to pursue
it under the Non-Proliferation Treaty." Steven Kull et
al., Americans and Russians on the Future of Nuclear Weapons
and Disarmament, November 9, 2007, pp. 16-18.
 Dean Acheson's remark is quoted in
Louis Henkin, How Nations Behave: Law and Foreign Policy
(Columbia University Press, 1968), pp. 265-266.
 Dag Hammarskjold's remark is quoted
in Piero Gleijeses, Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution
and the United States, 1949-1954 (Princeton University Press,
1991), p. 331.
 See Michael Mandel, How America
Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes
Against Humanity (Pluto Press, 2004), pp. 117-146.
 Referring to the peace conference
in France, former State Department official George Kenney reported
shortly after NATO's 1999 war that a "senior State Department
official had bragged that the United States 'deliberately set
the bar higher that the Serbs could accept'. The Serbs needed,
according to the official, a little bombing to see reason."
(George Kenney, "Rolling Thunder: the Rerun," The
Nation, June 14, 1999.)
 See Noam Chomsky, "Cold War II,"
Z Magazine, October, 2007.
 "Presidential Address to the
Nation [about Afghanistan]," White House, October 7, 2001;
UN Security Council Resolution 1373, September 28, 2001; Kofi
Annan, October 5, 2001; and the Statement by the President of
the General Assembly Han Seung-soo (GA/SM/274/), October 8, 2001.-Here
we note the contrast between the "scourge of terrorism"
and the UN Charter's "scourge of war," the latter having
been pushed aside in the name of "counter-terrorism."
 Kofi Annan (S/2001/934), October 3,
 See the website for the Counter-Terrorism
Committee, UN Security Council. Also see A more secure world:
Our shared responsibility, Report of the Secretary-General's
High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, December,
2004, par. 146; and the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (A/RES/60/288),
UN General Assembly, September 8, 2006.
 David Chandler, Empire in Denial:
The Politics of State-Building (Pluto Press, 2006), p. 1.
 Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April
Glaspie's comment first surfaced in September 1990, when a transcript
of her July 25, 1990 meeting with Saddam Hussein was produced
by the Iraqi government, and released to the public. (See, e.g.,
"Excerpts From Iraqi Document on Meeting With U.S. Envoy,"
New York Times, September 23, 1990.) Later asked by Senator
Alan Cranston in testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations
Committee whether she actually said what the Iraqi transcript
reported, Glaspie conceded "Yes." (Federal News Service
transcript, March 20, 1991.)
 See, e.g., John Mueller and Karl
Mueller, "Sanctions of Mass Destruction," Foreign
Affairs, May/June, 1999; Thomas J. Nagy, "The Secret
Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's
Water Supply," The Progressive, September, 2001; and
Joy Gordon, "Economic Sanctions as a Weapon of Mass Destruction,"
Harper's Magazine, November, 2002.
 See David Martin, "Notes from
an aide to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says Iraq was considered
an attack target as far back as 9/11 despite no evidence of involvement,"
CBS Evening News, September 4, 2002.
 "His WMD programme is active,
detailed and growing," British Prime Minister Tony Blair
stated when releasing what later came to be known as his "dodgy
dossier" on Iraq's WMD. "The policy of containment
is not working. The WMD programme is not shut down. It is up
and running.Our case is simply this: not that we take military
action, come what may; but that the case for ensuring Iraqi disarmament
(as the UN has stipulated) is overwhelming. I defy anyone on the
basis of this evidence to say that is an unreasonable demand for
the international community to make." ("Prime Minister's
Iraq Statement to Parliament," 10 Downing Street, September
 Addressing the "mystery"
behind the missing WMDs, Kenneth Pollack was still counseling
three months after the start of the war: "The fact that the
sites we suspected of containing hidden weapons before the war
turned out to have nothing in them is not very significant....[T]he
failure to find weapons of mass destruction in no way invalidates
the prewar intelligence data indicating that Iraq had the clandestine
capacity to build them." ("Saddam's Bombs? We'll Find
Them," New York Times, June 20, 2003.)
 To repeat what we said above (see
n. 1): Unless the Security Council has the power to create facts
as well as laws, resolutions such as 1483 (May 22, 2003), 1500
(August 14, 2003), and 1546 (June 8, 2004) must be regarded as
usurpations of the Council's legitimate functions and powers under
the UN Charter. Rather than demanding that the illegal occupying
U.S. military power surrender its prize back to the people of
Iraq or to an international authority, they put the occupier in
charge of a country it had conquered by force.
 The August 19, 2003 bombing attack
on the UN compound in Baghdad followed a Security Council resolution
(1500) and statements by the Secretary-General and the head of
the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq that were supportive of U.S.
Coalition Provisional Authority, headed by Paul Bremer, and of
the Governing Council of Iraq, whose members had been appointed
by Bremer. See, e.g., Salim Lone, "Not Too Late for the
U.N.," Washington Post, November 19, 2003; and Salim
Lone, "The new US tactics won't work," The Guardian,
November 20, 2003.
 See, e.g., Gilbert Burnham et
al., "Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional
cluster sample survey," The Lancet, Vol. 368, No.
9544, October 14, 2006 (as posted by the Center for International
Studies at MIT); Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq,
Oxfam International, July 30, 2007; and "Iraq Refugees: A
lot of talk, little action," Refugees International, November
14, 2007. Also see the webpage devoted to "The Iraq Situation"
by the UN High-Commissioner for Refugees.
 "President Delivers State of
the Union Address," January 29, 2002; "Statement by
the President [on Iran]," July 12, 2002; "Iran: Khatami
Says U.S. 'War-Mongers' Threaten World," BBC Monitoring International
Reports, July 14, 2002; and Dana Priest, "Iran's Emerging
Nuclear Plant Poses Test for U.S.," Washington Post,
July 29, 2002.
 Kofi Annan, March 10, 2003.
 Kofi Annan, March 20, 2003.
 Ban Ki-moon, January 16, 2007.
 Through the present date, the Security
Council's actions with respect to Iran's nuclear program have
included one Presidential Statement (S/PRST/2006/15, March 29,
2006), and three resolutions: 1696 (July 31, 2006), 1737 (December
23, 2006), and 1747 (March 24, 2007). The first resolution demanded
that Iran cease uranium enrichment; the latter two imposed various
economic and materiel sanctions on Iran for its not having ceased
to enrich uranium.
 See UN Security Council Resolution
1441, November 8, 2002, par. 2.
 See Implementation of the NPT
Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council
resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747 (2007) in the Islamic Republic
of Iran (GOV/2007/58), IAEA, November 15, 2007, par. 39, par.
43.-As the IAEA's current Alice-in-Wonderland report concludes
(par. 43): "Confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature
of Iran's nuclear programme requires that the Agency be able to
provide assurances not only regarding declared nuclear material,
but, equally importantly, regarding the absence of undeclared
nuclear material and activities in Iran. Although the Agency
has no concrete information, other than that addressed through
the work plan, about possible current undeclared nuclear material
and activities in Iran, the Agency is not in a position to provide
credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material
and activities in Iran without full implementation of the Additional
Protocol." In short: Never. The allegations are
structured so as to be impervious to refutation-or, crucially,
until such time as it is too late to make a difference.
 See Colin L. Powell, "Remarks
to the United Nations Security Council," U.S. Department
of State, February 5, 2003. To the best of our knowledge, no
high representative of the Nazi state ever appeared in a comparable
forum, ca. 1937-1939, and laid out Berlin's casus belli
for defending Western Civilization and Aryan blood. When we take
into account the status of the speaker (a U.S. Secretary of State),
the venue where he delivered his remarks (the UN Security Council),
the gravity of the moment (the threat of war by the world's pre-eminent
superpower), and, last but not least, the fact that upwards of
100 percent of his substantive assertions were falsehoods, surely
this single event ranks at the historic pinnacle of charades.
 Under UN Security Council Resolution
1546 (June 8, 2004), the Council not only legitimated the U.S.
military occupation, but it placed the United States in charge
of the so-called Multinational Force for Iraq.
 For the official documents of the
NPT Review Conference in New York City, United Nations, May, 2005.
And for the single most important collection of conference documents,
see the Final Document of the 2005 Review Conference of the Parties
to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: Part
II - Documents issued at the Conference (NPT/CONF.2005/57(PartII)),
New York, 2005.
 See the 1996 Patterns of Global
Terrorism Report, Appendix B, "Background Information
on Terrorist Groups," U.S. Department of State, 1997.
 See, e.g., Seymour Hersh, "The
Coming Wars," New Yorker, January 24/31, 2005; and
Seymour Hersh, "The Iran Plans," New Yorker,
April 17, 2006. Also Seymour Hersh, "Shifting Targets: The
Administration's plan for Iran," New Yorker, October
 For the most highly publicized example
of this phenomenon in 2007, see the open letter, "Release
Haleh Esfandiari," New York Review of Books, June
28, 2007; also see the "Free Haleh!" campaign sponsored
by the American Islamic Congress and many others. The Director
of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East Program in Washington
D.C., Esfandiari was charged with espionage and endangering the
security of Iran. Eventually released by Iranian authorities
in September, she returned to the United States. We believe that
the effects of these highly selective campaigns to demonize the
leadership of a targeted state extend to discouraging opposition
from coalescing around the threatened war. In the realm of test-marketing
for a U.S. attack on Iran and how best to get Western intellectuals
to remain silent about it, so-called "solidarity" campaigns
have proven particularly salable. (See Laura Rozen, "Focus
Grouping War with Iran," Mother Jones, November 19,
 "Press Conference by the President,"
October 17, 2007.
 See "Advanced Russian Air Defense
Missile Cannot Protect Syrian and Iranian Skies," DEBKAfile,
September 7, 2007; U.S. Senate Roll Call Vote 00349, September
26, 2007; and "Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals
for Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism,"
U.S. Department of State, October 25, 2007.
 For some current assessments of the
dangerous trends within this heavily militarized capitalist state,
see Gregory Meyerson and Michael Joseph Roberto, "It Could
Happen Here," Monthly Review, October, 2006; Chris
Hedges, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War
On America (Free Press, 2007); Darius Rejali, Torture and
Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2007); and Charlie
Savage, Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and
the Subversion of American Democracy (Little, Brown and Company,