Antiwar Group Releases Candidate Comparison Including Third Party Candidates

The antiwar group United for Peace and Justice has released a new voter guide comparing five candidates for president on foreign policy and war related issues.

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As part of its ongoing effort to keep the antiwar movement visible during the 2008 elections, United for Peace and Justice has produced a new voter’s guide that offers a side-by-side comparison of the five most serious candidates for president on issues of war and peace. Unlike previous guides, this one includes Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney and independent candidate Ralph Nader, as well as Libertarian candidate Bob Barr.

The comparison:

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Obama and the Israel/Palestine Question

On Wednesday, The Grand Rapids Press ran an Associated Press article about Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama’s trip to the Middle East. In the article, the Press accepts many standard–and flawed–assumptions about US foreign policy as it relates to Israel and Palestine.

On Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Press ran an AP story about Democratic Party Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama’s visit to Israel. The story began with the sentence, “Is there anything new a presidential candidate can say about the absence of peace in the fragile Middle East?” This sentence is a perfect example of how the mainstream news media in this country have internalized the values of the government. It is saying is that US presidents have said and done everything possible to bring about a peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestine.

Nasser Aruri’s book Dishonest Broker: The Role of the US in Palestine and Israel dispels the notion that the US has done everything possible to bring about peace in the Middle East. Aruri documents that the US has provided more military aid to Israel than any other country since the mid-1970s and has vetoed dozens of United Nations votes that called for an immediate withdraw of Israel from Palestinian lands. But, the idea that the US provides diplomatic support to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is almost unheard of in US mainstream media, including in The Grand Rapids Press. A study documenting its exclusion in The Press was documented in a 2003 study by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID).

Senator Barrack Obama perpetuates the notion that the United States is an honest broker of peace between Israel and Palestine when he says, “It is unrealistic to expect that a US president alone can suddenly snap his fingers and bring about peace in this region.” What this statement suggests is that the US does not really have much influence when it comes to the relationship between Israel and Palestine. However, if you look at where the Democratic presidential candidate visited while in Israel and Palestine, you get an idea of whom he supports in this conflict. Arab-American media critic Ali Abunimah wrote of the Senator’s trip:

“Every aspect of Obama’s visit to Palestine-Israel this week has seemed designed to further appease pro-Israel groups. Typically for an American aspirant to high office, he visited the Israeli Holocaust memorial and the Western Wall. He met the full spectrum of Israeli Jewish (though not Israeli Arab) political leaders. He travelled to the Israeli Jewish town of Sderot, which until last month’s ceasefire, frequently experienced rockets from the Gaza Strip. At every step, Obama warmly professed his support for Israel and condemned Palestinian violence.

Other than a cursory 45-minute visit to occupied Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians got little. According to an Abbas aide, Obama provided assurances that he would be “a constructive partner in the peace process.” Some observers took comfort in his promise that he would get engaged “starting from the minute I’m sworn into office”. Obama remained silent on the issue of Jerusalem, after boldly promising the “undivided” city to Israel as its capital in a speech to AIPAC last month, and then appearing to backtrack amid a wave of outrage across the Arab world. But Obama missed the opportunity to visit Palestinian refugee camps, schools and even shopping malls to witness first-hand the devastation caused by the Israeli army and settlers, or to see how Palestinians cope under what many call “apartheid”. This year alone, almost 500 Palestinians, including over 70 children, have been killed by the Israeli army – exceeding the total for 2007 and dwarfing the two-dozen Israelis killed in conflict-related violence. Obama said nothing about Israel’s relentless expansion of colonies on occupied land. Nor did he follow the courageous lead of former President Jimmy Carter and meet with the democratically elected Hamas leaders, even though Israel negotiated a ceasefire with them. That such steps are inconceivable shows how off-balance is the US debate on Palestine.”

With McCain already committed to supporting Israel, it appears that no matter who wins the election in November, the US will continue its nearly four decade support of an illegal occupation.

Strategic or Tactical Differences Between McCain and Obama?

On issues of foreign policy, the two major party candidates–Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama–are often portrayed as being polar opposites. However, in many respects, their differences may be more strategic than tactical.

On Sunday, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story from the Boston Globe with the headline “Candidates divided on Afghanistan strategy.” The article makes the claim that presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain have “competing visions on how to wage the war on terrorism.” The reporter substantiates this claim with the view that Obama wants to shift the focus of the war on terrorism to Afghanistan and McCain believes that the US must hold its ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. The article is problematic on many levels.

First, the article states that Obama’s “opposition to the Iraq war is a campaign centerpiece.” As we have stated in previous postings, Senator Obama is not against the US occupation of Iraq. He has voted for every funding bill for the war and states that he will maintain a substantial US military presence in Iraq, despite all the rhetoric about withdrawing troops. Second, with the focus of the story on the US military campaign in Afghanistan, the reporter presents a false comparison on the two candidates on what to do about the Taliban. Obama believes that the US has “relied too heavily on forces from NATO” while McCain thinks, “NATO and Pakistan must do more in Afghanistan until the US can draw down its commitment in Iraq.” The only real difference between the two candidates, therefore, is a tactical difference, not strategic.

Both candidates do not question the original intent of the US military invasion/occupation of Afghanistan. Both candidates do not question the human rights abuses that the US military has engaged in by detaining, torturing and killing civilians. There are no independent or Afghani perspectives in this story, which makes it even more difficult to see that the candidate differences are tactical, not strategic. For instance, Michael Scheuer, former CIA chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station, made this statement at a recent conference at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC: “Afghanistan is lost for the United States and its allies.” In a recent posting on CounterPunch.org, Mike Whiteney cites an Afghani perspective that is rarely heard in the US:

“According to Afghan Parliament member, Malalai Joya: ‘Every month dozens of women commit self-immolation to end their desolation. The American war on terror is a mockery and so is the US support of the present government in Afghanistan, which is dominated by Northern Alliance terrorists. Far more civilians have been killed by the US military in Afghanistan than were killed in the US in the tragedy of September 11. More Afghan civilians have been killed by the US than were ever killed by the Taliban. The US should withdrawal as soon as possible. We need liberation not occupation.'”

When other perspectives are presented, the rhetoric that candidates use appears to be less substantial. If the reporter would have provided the public with contextual information, that too would help to clarify the so-called differences of the candidates. For example, there is no mention of how the US military presence in Afghanistan has caused weapons proliferation that is resulting in more violence according to a recent report by Amnesty International. The article also does not say anything about the fact that the status of women has not improved in Afghanistan, even though that was a major talking point of the Bush administration.

In November of 2007, the Senlis Council produced a report that detailed the current situation in Afghanistan. The report states:

“In the past year, the Afghan communities have witnessed an increase in violence with US-led military forces embarking on an unprecedented number of aerial bombings due to a lack of political will to deploy sufficient troops on the ground. This has led to a growing number of civilian casualties, fuelling public frustration about the lack of protection and widespread resentment towards international troops and the Afghan Government.”

If the US military presence in Afghanistan is making the situation worse and both McCain and Obama want to maintain or increase US troop numbers, how does that make their policy proposals different? The way the article is framed leads you to believe that the “Candidates divided on Afghanistan strategy,” but a closer investigation reveals that there are only tactical differences. Both of the major party candidates are committed to maintaining US political and economic dominance in the region.

Antiwar Group Releases Voters Guide

A voters guide released by the national antiwar group United for Peace and Justice offers an easy to use breakdown of the positions of major party candidates on war related issues, but completely ignores third party candidates that offer a true alternative foreign policy.

The national antiwar group United for Peace and Justice has released an easy to reproduce one page voters guide on the positions of major party candidates on policies towards Iraq and Iran. While it does not offer a detailed analysis of the candidates’ positions, it does make for a useful outreach piece for antiwar groups.

The guide:

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Unfortunately, like much of the left in the United States, the guide is focused on only the major party candidates running for president. As such, it excludes Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney and independent candidate Ralph Nader, both of whom oppose the Iraq War and have plans for the complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. While it correctly identifies that none of the major party candidates will shift US policy away from militarism, it fails to offer an alternative to voters.

Major News Media Presents Obama and McCain as Having Drastically Different Foreign Policy Positions

On Friday, the Grand Rapids Press ran an Associated Press story titled, “Obama criticizes McCain for ‘naive’ foreign policy.” The article quoted Senator Barack Obama saying, “He blamed Bush for policies that enhance the strength of terrorist groups such as Hamas and the fact that al-Qaida’s leadership is stronger than ever because we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan.” The AP reporter cites Obama later in the story as well as Senator John McCain, in a back-and-forth style story on US foreign policy.

This article typifies how issues are covered in a presidential race, particularly foreign policy where claims are made from candidates, with no verification by the reporter, and no non-partisan perspectives provided. For example, in this AP article both President Bush and McCain claim that Obama is not a strong enough supporter of Israel. The fact is that Obama has won the support of the Israel Lobby and has taken a strong stance in support of Israel, even rejecting his minister’s critical comments about Israel during his so-called speech on race in Philadelphia. In that speech, Obama refered to Israel as a “stalwart ally” and blamed the violence in the Middle East on “the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”

Another issue that is raised in the article is Senator Obama’s statement that he is in favor of a bipartisan approach to foreign policy that will engage countries with whom the US is in conflict. Obama says that “former Presidents Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan” all accomplished this. Unfortunately for readers, the AP reporter never questions this claim and continues to present the Democratic position and the Republican position on foreign policy as polar opposites. Here is where an independent, non-partisan perspective would be useful since it would provide the public with a different way of viewing US foreign policy. Noam Chomsky, Bill Blum, and other analysts would argue that US foreign policy is fundamentally the same from administration to administration, with the only differences being tactical differences.

It will be extremely important between now and the November election for the public to have a clear understanding of the major candidate’s positions, particularly on foreign policy. The US is nearing its seventh year of a military occupation of Afghanistan and is beginning its sixth year of occupying Iraq. How the US media frames the so-called differences between Senator Obama and Senator McCain could be key in determining how people vote. Mediamouse.org feels it is important to not only critique the mainstream media’s coverage on these issues, but to provide independent analysis of the candidate’s positions on major issues, such as the US occupation of Iraq. From time to time, we will also highlight other sources for non-partisan, independent analysis of the candidate’s positions on international issues. One such source is Foreign Policy in Focus.

The Candidates and Iran

When it comes to foreign policy, Iraq has dominated the headlines in the 2008 presidential election, despite the fact that in many cases, the major party candidates do not offer a significant departure from existing policy. While Republican Senator John McCain supports an indefinite occupation of Iraq and a more aggressive policy, the Democratic Party candidates–Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama–have not offered a policy that is much different. Their policy is one of indefinite occupation by a smaller force. This has led some–including Noam Chomsky–to state that they do not believe Iraq will be a significant issue in the campaign.

However, if Iraq is not receiving an appropriate amount of attention, US policy towards Iran is receiving less attention. In an article for Foreign Policy in Focus, Frankie Sturm recently argued that Iran is a critical issue for US foreign policy both in terms of possible military action with Iran and policy in the Middle East. Strum’s article is reprinted below:

Although Iraq and the economy tend to dominate the headlines, Iran is never far from the news cycle – or from the speeches of the leading U.S. presidential candidates. In a recent trip to the Middle East, John McCain reiterated his concern about “Iranian influence and assistance to Hezbollah as well as Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons.” Iran also received the attention of President Bush when he insisted last month that Iran is developing nuclear weapons in order to “destroy people.” Implausible and unsubstantiated as this claim might be, it represents a popular thread of argument in the Iran debate.

But Iran figures in other ways in the 2008 presidential election. It is not only a matter of war and peace. The candidates’ approach to Iran reveals what U.S. engagement with the Middle East might look like in the years to come.

Similarity of Approach

Although there are significant differences between the presidential contenders, they all share certain concerns and assumptions about Iran. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain have all openly stated that Iran cannot, under any circumstances, be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons. To that end, each candidate maintains that the military option, though not preferred, remains “on the table.”

This unity is the result of a fundamental mistrust the candidates share toward the Iranian regime. For Obama, Iran is a “radical theocracy” that sponsors terrorism and “regional aggression.” According to John McCain’s website, Iran is a “dictatorship” that has “aided and abetted the violence in Iraq” and trained “the most violent Shia militias.” Hillary Clinton is largely in agreement with these statements, arguing that “Iran poses a long-term strategic challenge to the United States, our NATO allies, and Israel.” Consequently, Iran is not to be trusted with nuclear weapons.

Beyond this shared stance on Iran’s nuclear program, the three candidates also succumb to a certain sin of omission. None of them has acknowledged Iran’s legitimate security interests. While foreign policy experts across the ideological spectrum agree that Iran is guilty of bad behavior, many have also pointed out that Iran faces serious national security threats of its own. The United States, which has threatened to overthrow Iran’s government, has 160,000 troops in neighboring Iraq and is part of a 40,000-troop NATO force in neighboring Afghanistan. Iran shares a border with American ally Turkey, and the U.S. Navy is present in force in the Persian Gulf. In short, Iran is boxed in by a massively stronger power that has repeatedly threatened it. Furthermore, Iran also feels threatened by Israeli nuclear weapons, for which it has no effective defense.

By not publicly recognizing these issues, Obama, Clinton, and McCain fail to provide a solid explanation for Iranian behavior. How does one distinguish deterrence or self-defense from “Islamofascism” or a bid for regional hegemony? Since sponsorship of terrorism or the pursuit of nuclear weapons could be used for either hegemony or deterrence, Iran’s motivations are notoriously difficult to read. Nevertheless, a president must make those tough calls. The use or non-use of military force will rely on how the president understands Iran’s motives and actions. The candidates have failed to publicly demonstrate such an understanding.

Important Differences

In spite of these similarities, the differences between Obama, Clinton, and McCain can help us determine how willing and able each candidate will be to pursue a diplomatic course before opting for military action. Of the three, Obama is the most committed to a negotiated settlement with Iran. He has unequivocally stated that he would engage the Iranian regime “without preconditions,” offering a pledge not to invade and possible membership for Iran in the World Trade Organization. Since Iran will not stop enriching uranium as a prerequisite to talks, this is the only way to engage Iran on the nuclear issue. Obama also stands out because he, unlike Clinton and McCain, is more circumspect on whether he believes Iran actually intends to build nuclear weapons.

For example, in the latter half of 2007 each candidate published an essay on foreign policy in Foreign Affairs magazine. While McCain and Clinton openly charge that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, Obama does not. He recognizes that Iran is enriching uranium and he is clear about his opposition to an Iranian bomb, but in very careful language he avoids saying that Iran wants nuclear weapons. On his website, Obama claims that Iran “has sought” nuclear weapons – notice the past tense – but doesn’t say that Iran is currently doing so.

Obama’s discretion on the nuclear weapons issue may indicate that he recognizes more nuance in Iran’s motivation and actions than he lets on. While he, like Clinton and McCain, has not publicly acknowledged the security threats facing Iran, at least one of his advisors has. Joe Cirincione, an Obama foreign policy advisor with expertise in nuclear weapons policy and national security, has articulated an understanding of the threat environment facing Iran and how nuclear weapons could undermine Iranian security. Although ignored by the mainstream media, this line of argument is of monumental importance.

With 70 million people, vast oil wealth, and a mountainous topography, Iran does not face any serious military threat from countries in the region (unless they are supported by the U.S. military). However, other countries in the region could develop nuclear weapons if Iran obtains them first. Since no amount of conventional strength could protect Iran from a neighboring nuclear bomb, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran could actually decrease Iran’s security. A president who does not understand the relationship between Iran’s security challenges and its nuclear program will have a difficult time engaging the Iranian regime in productive negotiations. By keeping advisors like Cirincione on hand and not assuming that Iran ultimately desires nuclear weapons, Obama shows that he might have that understanding after all, public rhetoric notwithstanding.

For all of Hillary Clinton’s criticism of Obama regarding his supposed naïveté in foreign affairs, she has a remarkably similar position. In 2007 she said that “I would engage in negotiations with Iran, with no conditions, because we don’t really understand how Iran works.” She also believes that Iran might respond to a “carefully calibrated package of incentives.” In a speech made from the Senate floor in February 2007, Clinton declared that the president cannot take military action against Iran without congressional authorization. However, several months later she voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that designated the Revolutionary Guard of Iran as a terrorist organization. Clinton immediately found herself under fire from Senate colleagues Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Barack Obama, as well as others who worried that the amendment would allow the White House to claim authority to attack Iran.

Such episodes, in addition to her authorization of the Iraq war, show that Hillary Clinton has a history of acting tough or making war without a consideration of the consequences. Particularly troubling about the juxtaposition of this approach with her willingness to pursue diplomatic means is that the difference between Clinton the dove and Clinton the hawk seems to be largely contingent on the latest opinion polls. When it was politically expedient for her to support the Iraq war and Kyl-Lieberman, she did so. When the war in Iraq became unpopular, she became an opponent of the war. Similarly, when the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, she moderated her Iran rhetoric, largely by ceasing to talk about the country.

One of Clinton’s closest foreign policy advisors, Richard Holbrooke, has shown a similar tendency. An advocate of regime change in Iraq, Holbrooke has also compared Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler, claiming that Iran is “an enormous threat to the United States, the stability in the region, and to the state of Israel.” Then, after the NIE, Holbrooke wrote in the Huffington Post that he had consistently opposed military action against Iran, even before the NIE. Still, in 2008 he has continued to argue that all options must remain “on the table.” Prudence may dictate that there is a time for diplomacy and a time for military action, but public opinion is not always the best way to decide between the two. In fact, it may not be a guide at all considering how much the presidential bully pulpit influences public opinion in matters of foreign policy. Unfortunately, Clinton’s past on Iran leaves it impossible to know when military action would take a back seat to diplomacy and vice versa.

The differences between Obama and Clinton are dwarfed by the gap between the Democratic and Republican positions on Iran. John McCain proposes isolation only, with no call for providing Iran incentives to change its behavior. If sanctions and isolation do not work, he is willing to act militarily. With the price of oil hovering around $100 a barrel, the United States bogged down in Iraq, and China and Russia reluctant to punish Iran for uranium enrichment, Iran will feel confident that it can weather whatever storm of sanctions the United States might put together. In this scenario, if he stays true to his word, the military option will be the only choice John McCain has left.

October Surprise?

Iran will continue to be an important foreign policy theme in the 2008 election. Nevertheless, it is likely to be overshadowed by the economy and Iraq. The U.S. public is accustomed to hearing bad things about Iran, so unless something out of the ordinary occurs – such as a military strike authorized by the Bush administration – it is hard to imagine Iran trumping voters’ concerns over Iraq and possible recession.

In the event that an Iranian October surprise does take place, it is difficult to predict how it would affect the election. If there is overt aggression on Iran’s part, the tough-talking John McCain will almost certainly benefit. However, an unprovoked attack on Iran might discredit Republican militarism, thereby giving the Democratic candidate a boost. What remains certain, though, is that Iran awaits the next American president. And while the identity of that person is not yet clear, the policy choices Americans will have to choose from are.

Frankie Sturm, a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org), is a free-lance writer based on Washington, DC. His pieces on American politics and foreign affairs have appeared in the Peoria Journal Star, the Topeka Capital-Journal, and MinutemanMedia.org.

Why is Iraq Missing from the 2008 Presidential Race?

Noam Chomsky, a well-known author on US foreign policy, recently delivered a talk in Massachusetts exploring how the Iraq War has largely disappeared as an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. A transcript of Chomsky’s speech is printed below:

“Not very long ago, as you all recall, it was taken for granted that the Iraq war would be the central issue in the 2008 election, as it was in the midterm election two years ago. However, it’s virtually disappeared off the radar screen, which has solicited some puzzlement among the punditry.

Actually, the reason is not very obscure. It was cogently explained forty years ago, when the US invasion of South Vietnam was in its fourth year and the surge of that day was about to add another 100,000 troops to the 175,000 already there, while South Vietnam was being bombed to shreds at triple the level of the bombing of the north and the war was expanding to the rest of Indochina. However, the war was not going very well, so the former hawks were shifting towards doubts, among them the distinguished historian Arthur Schlesinger, maybe the most distinguished historian of his generation, a Kennedy adviser, who–when he and Kennedy, other Kennedy liberals were beginning to–reluctantly beginning to shift from a dedication to victory to a more dovish position.

And Schlesinger explained the reasons. He explained that–I’ll quote him now–“Of course, we all pray that the hawks are right in thinking that the surge of that day will work. And if it does, we may all be saluting the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government in winning a victory in a land that we have turned,” he said, “to wreck and ruin. But the surge probably won’t work, at an acceptable cost to us, so perhaps strategy should be rethought.”

Well, the reasoning and the underlying attitudes carry over with almost no change to the critical commentary on the US invasion of Iraq today. And it is a land of wreck and ruin. You’ve already heard a few words; I don’t have to review the facts. The highly regarded British polling agency, Oxford Research Bureau, has just updated its estimate of deaths. Their new estimate a couple of days ago is 1.3 million. That’s excluding two of the most violent provinces, Karbala and Anbar. On the side, it’s kind of intriguing to observe the ferocity of the debate over the actual number of deaths. There’s an assumption on the part of the hawks that if we only killed a couple hundred thousand people, it would be OK, so we shouldn’t accept the higher estimates. You can go along with that if you like.

Uncontroversially, there are over two million displaced within Iraq. Thanks to the generosity of Jordan and Syria, the millions of refugees who have fled the wreckage of Iraq aren’t totally wiped out. That includes most of the professional classes. But that welcome is fading, because Jordan and Syria receive no support from the perpetrators of the crimes in Washington and London, and therefore they cannot accept that huge burden for very long. It’s going to leave those two-and-a-half million refugees who fled in even more desperate straits.

The sectarian warfare that was created by the invasion never–nothing like that had ever existed before. That has devastated the country, as you know. Much of the country has been subjected to quite brutal ethnic cleansing and left in the hands of warlords and militias. That’s the primary thrust of the current counterinsurgency strategy that’s developed by the revered “Lord Petraeus,” I guess we should describe him, considering the way he’s treated. He won his fame by pacifying Mosul a couple of years ago. It’s now the scene of some of the most extreme violence in the country.

One of the most dedicated and informed journalists who has been immersed in the ongoing tragedy, Nir Rosen, has just written an epitaph entitled “The Death of Iraq” in the very mainstream and quite important journal Current History. He writes that “Iraq has been killed, never to rise again. The American occupation has been more disastrous than that of the Mongols, who sacked Baghdad in the thirteenth century,” which has been the perception of many Iraqis, as well. “Only fools talk of ‘solutions’ now,” he went on. “There is no solution. The only hope is that perhaps the damage can be contained.”

But Iraq is, in fact, the marginal issue, and the reasons are the traditional ones, the traditional reasoning and attitudes of the liberal doves who all pray now, as they did forty years ago, that the hawks will be right and that the US will win a victory in this land of wreck and ruin. And they’re either encouraged or silenced by the good news about Iraq.

And there is good news. The US occupying army in Iraq–euphemistically it’s called the Multi-National Force-Iraq, because they have, I think, three polls there somewhere–that the occupying army carries out extensive studies of popular attitudes. It’s an important part of counterinsurgency or any form of domination. You want to know what your subjects are thinking. And it released a report last December. It was a study of focus groups, and it was uncharacteristically upbeat. The report concluded–I’ll quote it–that the survey of focus groups “provides very strong evidence” that national reconciliation is possible and anticipated, contrary to what’s being claimed. The survey found that a sense of “optimistic possibility permeated all focus groups…and far more commonalities than differences are found among these seemingly diverse groups of Iraqis” from all over the country and all walks of life. This discovery of “shared beliefs” among Iraqis throughout the country is “good news, according to a military analysis of the results,” Karen de Young reported in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago.

Well, the “shared beliefs” are identified in the report. I’ll quote de Young: “Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the US military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of [what they call] ‘occupying forces’ as the key to national reconciliation.” So those are the “shared beliefs.” According to the Iraqis then, there’s hope of national reconciliation if the invaders, who are responsible for the internal violence and the other atrocities, if they withdraw and leave Iraq to Iraqis. That’s pretty much the same as what’s been found in earlier polls, so it’s not all that surprising. Well, that’s the good news: “shared beliefs.”

The report didn’t mention some other good news, so I’ll add it. Iraqis, it appears, accept the highest values of Americans. That ought to be good news. Specifically, they accept the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal that sentenced Nazi war criminals to hanging for such crimes as supporting aggression and preemptive war. It was the main charge against von Ribbentrop, for example, whose position was–in the Nazi regime was that of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. The Tribunal defined aggression very straightforwardly: aggression, in its words, is the “invasion of its armed forces” by one state “of the territory of another state.” That’s simple. Obviously, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan are textbook examples of aggression. And the Tribunal, as I’m sure you know, went on to characterize aggression as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself all the accumulated evil of the whole.” So everything that follows from the aggression is part of the evil of the aggression.

Well, the good news from the US military survey of focus groups is that Iraqis do accept the Nuremberg principles. They understand that sectarian violence and the other postwar horrors are contained within the supreme international crime committed by the invaders. I think they were not asked whether their acceptance of American values extends to the conclusion of Justice Robert Jackson, chief prosecutor for the United States at Nuremberg. He forcefully insisted that the Tribunal would be mere farce if we do not apply the principles to ourselves.

Well, needless to say, US opinion, shared with the West generally, flatly rejects the lofty American values that were professed at Nuremberg, indeed regards them as bordering on obscene, as you could quickly discover if you try experimenting by suggesting that these values should be observed, as Iraqis insist. It’s an interesting illustration of the reality, some of the reality, that lies behind the famous “clash of civilizations.” Maybe not exactly the way we like to look at it.

There was a poll a few days ago, a really major poll, just released, which found that 75 percent of Americans believe that US foreign policy is driving the dissatisfaction with America abroad, and more than 60 percent believe that dislike of American values and of the American people are also to blame. Dissatisfaction is a kind of an understatement. The United States has become increasingly the most feared and often hated country in the world. Well, that perception is in fact incorrect. It’s fed by propaganda. There’s very little dislike of Americans in the world, shown by repeated polls, and the dissatisfaction–that is, the hatred and the anger–they come from acceptance of American values, not a rejection of them, and recognition that they’re rejected by the US government and by US elites, which does lead to hatred and anger.

There’s other “good news” that’s been reported by General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker that was during the extravaganza that was staged last September 11th. September 11th, you might ask why the timing? Well, a cynic might imagine that the timing was intended to insinuate the Bush-Cheney claims of links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. They can’t come out and say it straight out, so therefore you sort of insinuate it by devices like this. It’s intended to indicate, as they used to say outright but are now too embarrassed to say, except maybe Cheney, that by committing the supreme international crime, they were defending the world against terror, which, in fact, increased sevenfold as a result of the invasion, according to a recent analysis by terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank.

Petraeus and Crocker provided figures to explain the good news. The figures they provided on September 11th showed that the Iraqi government was greatly accelerating spending on reconstruction, which is good news indeed and remained so until it was investigated by the Government Accountability Office, which found that the actual figure was one-sixth of what Petraeus and Crocker reported and, in fact, a 50 percent decline from the previous year.

Well, more good news is the decline in sectarian violence, that’s attributable in part to the murderous ethnic cleansing that Iraqis blame on the invasion. The result of it is there are simply fewer people to kill, so sectarian violence declines. It’s also attributable to the new counterinsurgency doctrine, Washington’s decision to support the tribal groups that had already organized to drive out Iraqi al-Qaeda, to an increase in US troops, and to the decision of the Sadr’s Mahdi army to consolidate its gains to stop direct fighting. And politically, that’s what the press calls “halting aggression” by the Mahdi army. Notice that only Iraqis can commit aggression in Iraq, or Iranians, of course, but no one else.

Well, it’s possible that Petraeus’s strategy may approach the success of the Russians in Chechnya, where–I’ll quote the New York Times a couple of weeks ago–Chechnya, the fighting is now “limited and sporadic, and Grozny is in the midst of a building boom” after having been reduced to rubble by the Russian attack. Well, maybe some day Baghdad and Fallujah also will enjoy, to continue the quote, “electricity restored in many neighborhoods, new businesses opening and the city’s main streets repaved,” as in booming Grozny. Possible, but dubious, in the light of the likely consequence of creating warlord armies that may be the seeds of even greater sectarian violence, adding to the “accumulated evil” of the aggression. Well, if Russians share the beliefs and attitudes of elite liberal intellectuals in the West, then they must be praising Putin’s “wisdom and statesmanship” for his achievements in Chechnya, formerly that they had turned into a land of wreck and ruin and are now rebuilding. Great achievement.

A few days ago, the New York Times–the military and Iraq expert of the New York Times, Michael Gordon, wrote a comprehensive review, first-page comprehensive review, of the options for Iraq that are being faced by the candidates. And he went through them in detail, described the pluses and minuses and so on, interviewing political leaders, the candidates, experts, etc. There was one voice missing: Iraqis. Their preference is not rejected; rather, it’s not mentioned. And it seems that there was no notice of that fact, which makes sense, because it’s typical. It makes sense on the tacit assumption that underlies almost all discourse on international affairs. The tacit assumption, without which none of it makes any sense, is that we own the world. So, what does it matter what others think? They’re “unpeople,” nice term invented by British diplomatic historian [Mark] Curtis, based on a series of outstanding volumes on Britain’s crimes of empire–outstanding work, therefore deeply hidden. So there are the “unpeople” out there, and then there are the owners–that’s us–and we don’t have to listen to the “unpeople.”

Last month, Panama declared a Day of Mourning to commemorate the US invasion–that’s under George Bush no. 1–that killed thousands of poor Panamanians when the US bombed the El Chorillo slums and other poor areas, so Panamanian human rights organizations claim. We don’t actually know, because we never count our crimes. Victors don’t do that; only the defeated. It aroused no interest here; there’s barely a mention of the Day of Mourning. And there’s also no interest in the fact that Bush 1’s invasion of Panama was a clear case of aggression, to which the Nuremberg principles apply, and it was apparently more deadly, in fact possibly much more deadly, than Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, happened a few months later. But it makes sense that there would be no interest in that, because we own the world, and Saddam didn’t, so the acts are quite different.

It’s also of no interest that, at that time of the time of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, the greatest fear in Washington was that Saddam would imitate what the United States had just done in Panama, namely install a client government and then leave. That’s the main reason why Washington blocked diplomacy in quite interesting ways, with almost complete media cooperation. There’s actually one exception in the US media. But none of this gets any commentary. However, it does merit a lead story a few days later, when the Panamanian National Assembly was opened by President Pedro Gonzalez, who’s charged by Washington with killing two American soldiers during a protest against President Bush no.1, against his visit two years after the invasion. The charges were dismissed by Panamanian courts, but they’re upheld by the owner of the world, so he can’t travel, and that got a story.

Well, to take just one last illustration of the depth of the imperial mentality, New York Times correspondent Elaine Sciolino, veteran correspondent, writes that “Iran’s intransigence [about nuclear enrichment] appears to be defeating attempts by the rest of the world to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.” Well, the phrase “the rest of the world” is an interesting one. The rest of the world happens to exclude the vast majority of the world, namely the non-aligned movement, which forcefully endorses Iran’s right to enrich uranium in accordance with the rights granted by its being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But they’re not part of the world, even though they’re the large majority, because they don’t reflexively accept US orders, and commentary like that is unremarkable and unnoticed. You’re part of the world if you do what we say, obviously. Otherwise, you’re “unpeople.”

Well, we might, since we’re on Iran, might tarry for a moment and ask whether there’s any solution to the US-Iran confrontation over nuclear weapons, which is extremely dangerous. Here’s one idea. First point, Iran should be permitted to develop nuclear energy, but not nuclear weapons, as the Non-Proliferation Treaty determines.

Second point is that there should be a nuclear weapons-free zone in the entire region, Iran to Israel, including any US forces that are present there. Actually, though it’s never reported, the United States is committed to that position. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, it appealed to a UN resolution, Resolution 687, which called upon Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. That was the flimsy legal principle invoked to justify the invasion. And if you look at Resolution 687, you discover that one of its provisions is that the US and other powers must work to develop a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, including that entire region. So we’re committed to it, and that’s the second element of this proposal.

The third element of the proposal is that the United States should accept the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a position which happens to be supported by 82 percent of Americans, namely that it should accept the requirement, in fact the legal requirement, as the World Court determined, to move to make good-faith efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether.

And a fourth proposal is that the US should turn to diplomacy, and it should end any threats against Iran. The threats are themselves crimes. They’re in violation of the UN Charter, which bars the threat or use of force.

Well, of course, these four proposals–again, Iran should have nuclear energy, but not nuclear weapons; there should be a weapons-free zone throughout the region; the US should accept the Non-Proliferation Treaty; there should be a turn to diplomacy and an end to threats–these are almost unmentionable in the United States. Not a single candidate would endorse any part of them, and they’re never discussed, and so on.

However, the proposals are not original. They happen to be the position of the overwhelming majority of the American population. And interestingly, that’s also true in Iran; roughly the same overwhelming majority accepts all of these proposals. But that’s–the results come from the world’s most prestigious polling agency, but not reported, as far as I could discover, and certainly not considered. If they were ever mentioned, they would be dismissed with the phrase “politically impossible,” which is probably correct. It’s only the position of the large majority of the population, kind of like national healthcare, but not of the people that count. So there are plenty of “unpeople” here, too–in fact, the large majority. Americans share this property of being “unpeople” with most of the rest of the world. In fact, if the United States and Iran were functioning, not merely formal, democracies, then this dangerous crisis might be readily resolved by a functioning democracy–I mean, one in which public opinion plays some role in determining policy, rather than being excluded–in fact, unmentioned, because, after all, they’re “unpeople.”

Well, while we’re on Iran, I guess I might as well turn to the third member of the famous Axis of Evil: North Korea. There is an official story–read it right now–is that the official story is this, that after having been compelled to accept an agreement on dismantling its nuclear weapons and the facilities, after having been compelled to agree to that, North Korea is again trying to evade its commitments in its usual devious way. So the New York Times headline on this ten days ago reads “The United States Sees Stalling by North Korea on Nuclear Pact.” And the article then details the charges of how North Korea is not going through with its responsibility. It’s not releasing information that it’s promised to release. If you read the story to the last paragraph–and that’s always a good idea; that’s where the interesting news usually is when you read a news story–but if you manage to get to the last paragraph, you discover that it’s the United States that has backed down on the pledges made in the agreement. The United States had promised to provide a million tons of fuel and–

What do I do? I couldn’t see you. I’m sorry.

MODERATOR: Ten minutes.

NOAM CHOMSKY: I should hurry up? Yeah, OK. Alright, just start screaming at me if I go on too long.

The US just refused to supply it. It’s refused only–it’s supplied only 85 percent of the fuel that it promised, and it was supposed to improve diplomatic relations, of course not doing that. Well, that’s quite normal.

If you want to find out what’s going on in the US-North Korea nuclear standoff, it’s better–you have to go to the specialist literature, which is uniform on it, nothing hidden, and in fact sort of sneaks out into small print in the press reports, as I mentioned. What you find is that North–I mean, North Korea may be the most hideous state in the world, but that’s not the point here. Its position has been pretty pragmatic. It’s kind of tit-for-tat. The United States gets more aggressive, they get more aggressive. The United States moves towards diplomacy and negotiations, they do the same.

So when President Bush came in, there was an agreement–it was called the Framework Agreement that had been established in 1994–and neither the US nor North Korea was quite living up to it. But it was more or less functioning. At that time, North Korea, under the Framework Agreement, had stopped any testing of long-range missiles. It had maybe one or two bombs worth of plutonium, and it was verifiably not making more. Now, that was when George Bush entered the scene. And now it has eight to ten bombs, long-range missiles, and it’s developing plutonium.

And there’s a reason. The Bush regime immediately moved to a very aggressive stance. The Axis of Evil speech was one example. Intelligence was released claiming that North Korea was carrying out–was cheating, had clandestine programs. It’s rather interesting that these intelligence reports, five years later, have been quietly rescinded as probably inadequate. The reason presumably is that if an agreement is reached, there will be inspectors in North Korea, and they’ll find that this intelligence had as much validity as the claims about Iraq, so they’re being withdrawn. Well, North Korea responded to all of this by ratcheting up its missile and weapons development.

In September 2005, under pressure, the United States did agree to negotiations, and there was an outcome. September 2005, North Korea agreed to abandon–quoting– “all nuclear weapons and existing weapons programs” and to allow international inspection. That would be in return for international aid, mainly from the United States, and a non-aggression pledge from the US and an agreement that the two sides–I’m quoting–would “respect each other’s sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize relations.”

Well, the United States, the Bush administration, had an instant reaction. It instantly renewed the threat of force. It froze North Korean funds in foreign banks. It disbanded the consortium that was supposed meet to provide North Korea with a light-water reactor. So North Korea returned to its weapons and missile development, carried out a weapons test, and confrontation escalated. Well, again, under international pressure and with its foreign policy collapsing, Washington returned to negotiations. That led to an agreement, which Washington is now scuttling.

There’s an earlier history, an interesting one. You recall a couple of weeks ago, there was a mysterious Israeli bombing in northern Syria, never explained, but it a sort of hinted that this had something to do with Syria building nuclear facilities with the help of North Korea. Pretty unlikely, but whether it’s true or not, there’s an interesting background, which wasn’t mentioned. In 1993, Israel and North Korea were on the verge of an agreement, in which Israel would recognize North Korea and in return North Korea would agree to terminate any weapons-related–missile, nuclear, other–any weapons-related activity in the Middle East. That would have been an enormous boon to Israel’s security. But the owner of the world stepped in. Clinton ordered them to refuse. Of course, you have to listen to the master’s voice. So that ended that. And it may be that there are North Korean activities in the Middle East that we don’t know about.

Well, let me finally return to the first member of the Axis of Evil: Iraq. Washington does have expectations, and they’re explicit. There are outlined in a Declaration of Principles that was agreed upon, if you can call it that, between the United States and the US-backed, US-installed Iraqi government, a government under military occupation. The two of them issued the Declaration of Principles. It allows US forces to remain indefinitely in Iraq in order to “deter foreign aggression”–well, the only aggression in sight is from the United States, but that’s not aggression, by definition–and also to facilitate and encourage “the flow of foreign investments [to] Iraq, especially American investments.” I’m quoting. That’s an unusually brazen expression of imperial will.

In fact, it was heightened a few days ago, when George Bush issued another one of his signing statements declaring that he will reject crucial provisions of congressional legislation that he had just signed, including the provision that forbids spending taxpayer money–I’m quoting–“to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of [United States} Armed Forces in Iraq” or “to exercise [United States] control of the oil resources of Iraq.” OK? Shortly after, the New York Times reported that Washington “insists”–if you own the world, you insist–“insists that the Baghdad government give the United States broad authority to conduct combat operations,” a demand that “faces a potential buzz saw of opposition from Iraq, with its…deep sensitivities about being seen as a dependent state.” It’s supposed to be more third world irrationality.

So, in brief, the United States is now insisting that Iraq must agree to allow permanent US military installations, provide the United–grant the United States the right to conduct combat operations freely, and to guarantee US control over the oil resources of Iraq. OK? It’s all very explicit, on the table. It’s kind of interesting that these reports do not elicit any reflection on the reasons why the United States invaded Iraq. You’ve heard those reasons offered, but they were dismissed with ridicule. Now they’re openly conceded to be accurate, but not eliciting any retraction or even any reflection.

Well, there’s a lot more to say about good news, but I was told to shut up, so I will just say that thinking about these things really does give some insight into the famous “clash of civilizations” and its actual substance, topics that really ought to be foremost in our minds, I believe. Thanks.”

Presidential Candidates Silent on Military Spending

One issue that has not really been addressed in any of the presidential debates nor the media coverage of the elections is the US military budget. William Hartung, director of the Arms Trade Resource Center, addresses this issue in an article he wrote for Foreign Policy in Focus. Hartung writes:

“One issue that will not be discussed in tonight’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is our nation’s burgeoning military budget. Earlier this month, the Bush administration announced a proposed military budget of $614 billion, not counting the full cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This represents the highest level of spending since World War II, even though our most dangerous adversary is a dispersed terrorist network measured in the tens of thousands, not a nuclear-armed Soviet Union whose armed forces were measured in the millions.

If Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen have their way, these massive levels of spending will continue even after the end of the war in Iraq, with a “floor” on military spending of 4% of our Gross Domestic Product.

Not only have the major presidential candidates been largely silent on these record expenditures, but they want to increase them. Barack Obama has said we will probably need to “bump up” the military budget in a new administration, and both he and Hillary Clinton have committed themselves to increasing the size of the armed forces by tens of thousands of troops. On the Republican side of the aisle, John McCain and Mike Huckabee are looking to spend even more than their Democratic counterparts.”

In looking on the websites of the four main candidates still in the race from both the Republican and Democratic Parties, only Mike Huckabee clearly states that he would increase US military spending:

“Having a sizeable standing army actually makes it less likely that we’ll have to use it. So I will increase the defense budget. We have to be ready to fight both conventional and unconventional wars against both state and non-state enemies. Right now we spend about 3.9% of our GDP on defense, while we spent about 6% in 1986 under President Reagan. I would return to that 6% level. I believe we can do this without raising taxes. I will limit increases in other discretionary spending and rely on the normal increase in federal tax revenue that is generated annually as Americans’ incomes rise.”

John McCain talks about the need to reform military spending, but doesn’t mention the budget specifically. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama address the military budget on their campaign websites.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of the last campaign finance reporting, Hillary Clinton leads all candidates in donations from the defense industry, followed by John McCain and Barack Obama.

Clinton and Obama on Cuba

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Monday’s announcement that Fidel Castro was stepping down as Cuba’s president drew a quick response from both President Bush, who declined to life the US embargo against Cuba, as well as the Democratic Party candidates for president. Senator Clinton said “The United States must pursue an active policy that does everything possible to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and opportunity in Cuba,” while Senator Obama said Castro’s decision “…should mark the end of a dark era in Cuba’s history … Fidel Castro’s stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba.”

Both statements were vague and fairly typical of the kind of rhetoric that one sees in political campaigns in the United States. However, journalist John Nichols of The Nation wrote an article comparing the candidates’ records on Cuba. The candidates differ on to key areas:

  • Clinton has voted to fund TV Marti. TV Marti is a propaganda initiative that beams US-produced television programming into Cuba, who in turn jams the signal. Obama has voted twice to cut off funding for the program.
  • Obama has said that he wishes to ease U.S.-Cuba travel restrictions. In an August 2007 editorial in the Miami Herald, he argued “Cuban-American connections to family in Cuba are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grassroots democracy on the island.” He said that he will “…grant Cuban-Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island.” In contrast, Clinton has not expressed a similar willingness to examine US-Cuba relations.

Keep Your Charity, We Want Justice: International Aid and the Role of “Humanitarian” Assistance

Reprinted from The FUNdamentalist (March 1994)

In November, the Grand Rapids Press ran an article entitled “`Time for Healing,’ North Says of Americans’ Role in Vietnam.” Speaking at the Amway Grand Plaza, North promoted his newest mission and his newest book. The article state that “North contends it is time to lower barriers and build bridges in that battered nation of Indochina where 58,000 Americans were killed and a half million others wounded.” Wait a minute. It seems that the article conveniently failed to include the several million Southeast Asians who were killed and wounded during the USA war, as well as the incredible eco-cide that was wrought by USA bombers (the word eco-cide was coined during the USA war in Southeast Asia to describe the incredible ecological destruction done).

North’s newest book, “One More Mission,” published by Zondervan, is his latest attempt at justifying the intentionality of the USA military in the war in Southeast Asia. In fact, half the book is devoted to North’s feeble attempt to articulate USA foreign policy as well as taking occasional opportunities to plead innocent in the Iran/Contra scandal. The latter half of the book does deal with his return to Vietnam, but solely for the purpose of denouncing Communism, praising the “persecuted” Christian community, and defending the need for more free (for some) enterprising in the country. The book jacket has other endorsements from mental giants like Cal Thomas and Rush Limbaugh. The end of the book includes a message, “How Can You Help?” These two pages are a pitch for International Aid, a “humanitarian” group that facilitated some of North’s trip to Vietnam.

International Aid (IA) located in Spring Lake, Michigan, was an outgrowth of an old World Vision project that used the warehouse that IA now occupies. In September of 1980g, IA officially became a separate entity. IA literature states that they have 5 main program areas; Development, Medical, Emergency Relief, Domestic, and Mission assistance. This means providing food, clothing, medical supplies, training, educational material, and personal care items for missionaries abroad. IA’s 1992g Annual Report states that “The US efforts complement IA’s global work. We have partnered with many US agencies and provided supplies that give hope to needy families, encouraging them to regain self-worth.” Having researched the relationship between USA agencies and Private Volunteer Organizations (PVOs), I was immediately curious about the connections that IA has. The fact that they endorsed a book by Ollie North is enough to make any sane person think twice, but I decided to investigate further.

According to Deb Preusch and Tom Barry’s book, The Soft War: The Uses and Abuses of US Economic Aid in Central America, “The phenomenon of private groups aiding counterinsurgency and counterrevolutionary campaigns supported by the US government is not a new one. Many of the leading figures and organizations involved in Central America played a similar role during the Vietnam War. Groups active in Central America like World Medical Relief, Air Commandos Association, and Project Hope were also active in Southeast Asia (pg. 89).” IA is currently involved in places like Bosnia, Somalia, and some Eastern European countries. IN order to understand their role in these places, it seems necessary to critique their past involvement in other countries. I will use Central America as a focal point.

IA states that they often provide “humanitarian assistance” to other USA PVOs working overseas. A report done by the Resource Center, base in New Mexico, says that “IA is primarily a warehousing and transportation operation, providing services to rightwing evangelical groups and occasional paramilitary groups.” The IA brochure entitled “Those we serve” lists literally hundreds of groups that do overseas work. It is impossible to investigate all of them, so I will choose to focus on two main groups and some brief information on connections to other groups.

World Vision

Started in the 1950s by Bob Pierce, World Vision has become the largest evangelical relief and development agency. Their 1987g budget was “over $145 million, with more than 20% coming from the US Agency for International Development (AID).” (Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right). IN 1982g the National Catholic Reporter investigated allegations that World Vision sometimes makes its fundraising objectives a higher priority than the needs of hungry people. Apparently World Vision aired a television documentary entitled “Crisis in the Horn of Africa” which, according to relief workers in Somalia, was “almost fraudulent” because World Vision was continuing fundraising appeals for emergency food aid months after Somalia’s food crisis had been alleviated.

In a 1979g issue of Christian Century, World Vision was charged with “having collected field data for the CIA in Vietnam.” This is quite possible since World Vision played a major role in the administration of refugee camps in the area.

Beginning in 1981g, World Vision was involved in an administrative role with the Salvadoran refugee camps in Honduras. Two of the other refugee agencies—CDEN and Caritas—objected to incursions by the Honduran army into the camps, but World Vision has remained silent about repeated human rights violations. Refugees testified that World Vision staff provided the army with regular intelligence reports and obligated them to attend evangelical services. Elements of World Vision collaborated with the most conservative faction of CEDEN to install conservative leadership of the pre-1982g CEDEN. So distrusted was World Vision that 19 Honduran organizations called on the government to throw the organization out of the country.

Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT)

Started in 1917g, the Wycliffe Bible Translators (also know as the Summer Institute of Linguistics) was formed for the purpose of translating the Christian bible into indigenous languages. Over the years, WBT’s close working relationship with USA government officials and allied foreign leaders has the missionaries a reputation as “assets” of the CIA. This is the case with their work in the Philippines in the 1950g’s and Vietnam in the 1960g’s. WBT was given grant money from US AID to train rural villagers to read and write. To practice their reading skills the CIA gave the new literates booklets on how to use M-16 rifles and blow up bridges.

In 1978g, WBT prepared a dictionary for the Tzotzil people of Mayan Indian ancestry. “Anthropologists noted that WBT’s Tzotzil/Spanish dictionary eliminated the Spanish and indigenous words for ideological concepts that threaten the status quo; class, community, conquer, exploitation, oppression, repression, revolution, revolutionary, rebellion, most of which do exist in the native language (Diamond).” This kind of ideological manipulation and cultural interference has led many Latin Americans to call for the expulsion of WBT from their countries. In 1979g, a commission from Mexico’s College of Ethnology and Social Anthropology had presented the government with a reported that concluded that WBT is “a covert political and ideological institution used by the US government as an instrument of control, regulation, penetration, espionage, and repression. The WBT supports the expansion of capitalism in areas rich in nature resources, opening these areas to the capital markets and turning the population into a docile and cheap labor force (Diamond).” The area that the Mexican committee speaks of is Chiapas, the site of the present uprising of Mexican Campesinos/as known as Zapatistas.

In Guatemala, during the Rios Montt regime, WBT re-entered the Ixil Triangle. While their work involved bible translation into indigenous languages, they also served to propagate a vigorously anti-communist ideology. According to WBT’s Helen Elliot “Rios Montt heard that we knew the language and helicoptered us into Nebaj, and then we started distributing blankets, food, and tin roofing as well as setting up schools.” She said WBT served as “a bridge between the military and the people” (Preusch & Barry). In 1986g, WBT signed a contract with AID for its Integrated Rural Development Program for the Mayan People. Among other things, the project translated government and military documents into Indigenous languages. It is well-known and documented that these “model villages,” established under Rios Montt’s regime, were nothing short of concentration camps. Montt had the support of many evangelical groups, like WBT, to implement his genocidal policies. A member of Montt’s own church, El Verbo, says this of the Indigenous, “The Army doesn’t massacre the Indians. It massacres demons, and the Indians are demon possessed; they are communists” (Diamond).

Other Connections

According to the Resource Center study, International Aid provided supplies to Operation Blessing, a project of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Operation Blessing is said to have a close relationship with the Navy’s Operation Handclasp, a project designed to enhance the image of the Navy. CBN also was notorious for supporting the Nicaraguan terrorist forces known as the Contras throughout the 1980g’s.

Another Michigan based organization that works with International Aid is World Medical Relief (WMR), based in Detroit. WMR was a CIA conduit in its secret war against Laos. The key player in this connection was Harry Aderhodt, a retired Air Force officer, who was head of the Air Commando Association. The Air Commandos have been known to supply weapons to the Contras and the Salvadoran military. The Resource Center’s report quotes an Air Commando newsletter in regards to International Aid, “they have been responsive to our every request.” It should be mentioned that Harry Aderhodt is the editor of Soldier of Fortune magazine.

Marantha Campus Ministries – This organization has worked heavily in Guatemala and El Salvador. During the 1980g’s they organized 70 pro-Contra demonstrations on USA campuses before a key Congressional vote.

Gospel Crusade – Between 1985g and 1987g this group transported over 100 tons of “humanitarian” supplies to the Contras. Gospel Crusade worked closely with FDN military leader Enrique Bermudez, a top ranking Somocista National Guardsman, who has been implicated as a conspirator in the 1980g assassination of El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero.

End Time Handmaidens – This organization worked with the mercenary group RENAMO in Mozambique.

Church of the Rock – Based in Texas, this group works with Paralife Ministries. Paralife has been known to provide ideological training to Salvadoran soldiers, encouraging them to massacre their own people. On one mission, Paralife evangelist John Stern toured eight military bases and spoke to over 3,700 soldiers. He told them that “killing for the joy of it was wrong, but killing because it was necessary to fight against an anti-Christ system, communism, was not only right but a duty of every Christian” (Diamond).

In early January I went to International Aid’s office in Spring Lake to talk with them about their activities and connections. I spoke with Dr. Jack Henderson who has traveled extensively with International Aid and is part of their executive staff. I told him that I had noticed a billboard they were running in Grand Rapids for aid to Bosnia. At that point International Aid had sent 21 containers of supplies to the war-torn former Yugoslavia. When I asked him about endorsing North’s book and his recent trip to Vietnam, he replied, “North is one of the most compassionate men I’ve ever met.” He also said that he had no problem endorsing a man involved in the illegal activities that led to the Iran/Contra scandal.

I asked Dr. Henderson about some of the allegations made from the Resource Center study of their organization. He told me that they did work with Air Commando “just once, but not anymore.” He also stated that the other allegations were “not accurate” as far as the other agencies mentioned earlier are concerned. I asked him if International Aid had any particular political position and he said “no, we have no particular political bent.” When asked about accountability to the groups they gave supplies to, I got no answer. It should be noted that the resource Center study also has a quote from the Christian reformed Church, “We believe that support of the contras is immoral, and are deeply disturbed by reports that International Aid, soliciting donations as ‘an interdenominational relief and mission service organization,’ serves groups terrorizing civilians and our own CRC relief projects in Nicaragua.”

International Aid also has quite a list of corporate donors. Among them are Meijers, Spartan Stores, Baker Book House, Eli Lilly & Co., K-Mart, Dow Corning Corp., Gerbers, and Amway. In fact, Amway is the largest donor. Apparently Amway provides a lot of cleaning and personal care items to International Aid in support of missionaries overseas. Amway’s connections go a little deeper, however. The vice president of communications for Amway is Nan Van Andel, the daughter of Amway co-founder Jay Van Andel. Recently, Nan was given the position of Chairman (sic) of the Board for International Aid.

The title for International Aid’s 1992g Annual Report is “enabling those who serve.” The question should be asked, who is International Aid enabling and what are they serving? Is their real goal to provide relief, training, and development assistance, or are they cooperating with USA counterinsurgency campaigns and pacification programs which subvert democracy and make people dependent? From all the research I have done, the latter seems to be the case. But don’t take my word for it, investigate for yourself. You can contact International Aid @ 17011 Hickory, Spring Lake, MI, 49456. Maybe you can get a copy of North’s newest book, like I did, for your library. I think I’ll put mine next to the Chomsky books.