Sunday, April 4, 2010

ElBaradei: Iraq War Killed "A Million Innocent Civilians" Businessweek: End Israel's Allowance

Former IAEA Chief: Iraq War Killed "A Million Innocent Civilians"

By Patrick Martin
"WSWS": April 03, 2010

The former head of the UN's chief nuclear agency, Mohammed
ElBaradei, said in an interview with the British newspaper Guardian
Wednesday that those who launched the war in Iraq were responsible for
killing a million innocent people and could be held accountable under
international law. He was clearly referring to US President George Bush,
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and their top military and security

It was his first interview with an international publication since ElBaradei
returned to his native Egypt, after a decade heading the International
Atomic Energy Agency, where he won the Nobel Peace Prize, in large measure
because of his opposition to the efforts by the Bush administration to use
concocted charges about "weapons of mass destruction" as an all-purpose
pretext for military intervention throughout the Middle East.

"I would hope that the lessons of Iraq, both in London and in the US have
started to sink in," he told the Guardian. "Sure, there are dictators, but
are you ready every time you want to get rid of a dictator to sacrifice a
million innocent civilians? All the indications coming out of [the Chilcot
inquiry in Britain] are that Iraq was not really about weapons of mass
destruction but rather about regime change, and I keep asking the same
question?where do you find this regime change in international law? And if
it is a violation of international law, who is accountable for that?"

This suggestion that Bush and Blair were guilty of war crimes, coming from a
high-ranking former UN official, would ordinarily be considered major news.
The Guardian interview was reported by the main British and French news
agencies, Reuters and AFP, but the entire American corporate media gave it
zero coverage. Not a single major American newspaper or television network
mentioned it.

The discussion of the violation of international law in launching the Iraq
war came in the course of a longer discussion of the bankruptcy of
US-British foreign policy in the Muslim world. ElBaradei criticized the
longstanding support of Washington for dictators like Mubarak. "The idea
that the only alternative to authoritarian regimes is Bin Laden and Co. is a
fake one, yet continuation of current policies will make that prophecy come

He warned of "increasing radicalization" in the Arab world: "People feel
repressed by their own governments, they feel unfairly treated by the
outside world, they wake up in the morning and who do they see?
They see people being shot and killed, all Muslims from Afghanistan, Iraq,
Somalia, Sudan, Darfur."

"Western policy towards this part of the world has been a total failure, in
my view," he said. "It has not been based on dialogue, understanding,
supporting civil society and empowering people, but rather it's been based
on supporting authoritarian systems as long as the oil keeps pumping."

ElBaradei warned of the hypocrisy and double standard of Western policy.
"The West talks a lot about elections in Iran, for example, but at least
there were elections," he said. "Yet where are the elections in the Arab
world? If the West doesn't talk about that, then how can it have any

ElBaradei is now reportedly considering a presidential bid against
81-year-old President Hosni Mubarak, whose fifth six-year term expires next
year. He clearly hopes that Western pressure will compel Mubarak to permit a
more robust opposition campaign than during the last presidential election,
when the largest opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, was barred from
standing a candidate, and Ayman Nour, the bourgeois liberal candidate who
finished second, was jailed for alleged petition fraud.

Speaking to a British newspaper, ElBaradei was in essence warning his old
patrons, the major European powers, of the counterproductive character of
Western policy, particularly that of the United States. "When you see that
the most popular people in the Middle East are Ahmadinejad and Hassan
Nasrallah [leader of Hezbollah], that should send you a message: that your
policy is not reaching out to the people," he said.

He also took note of the extreme social tension in Egypt, where the vast
majority of the population lives in crushing poverty. The Guardian account
reads: "In Egypt the rich live in ghettoes," he said, waving his hand at the
beautifully manicured garden, complete with pool. "The gap in social justice
here is simply indescribable."

In addition to the US media blackout of the interview, the Guardian engaged
in apparent self-censorship. The initial article appeared at 6:01 GMT on the
Guardian web site, including the implicit reference to Bush and Blair
violating international law. It is here.

Just over two hours later, that article had been replaced by a longer
profile of ElBaradei, containing additional comments about the political
situation in Egypt. But the reference to the Chilcot inquiry and the killing
of one million innocent people had been excised. The revised article is

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*End Israel's U.S. Allowance So Both Can Gain*

Celestine Bohlen
Businessweek: March 30, 2010

The crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations isn't going away. If anything, it keeps
getting worse, precisely because it has exposed and crystallized a gap
between the goals, expectations and even the national interests of these old

The basic relationship may still be "rock solid," as U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton put it recently, but it is being tugged in opposite
directions. Maybe now is the time to take money out of the equation.

Israel will get $2.7 billion in military aid from the U.S. this year -- or
18 percent of Israel's military budget. By 2013, that will lock into an
annual level of $3.15 billion for five years. It also has almost $4 billion
outstanding in available U.S. loan guarantees, left over from $9 billion
extended at former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's request in 2003.

That makes Israel the largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world, if you
don't count Iraq and Afghanistan. It also benefits from some of the easiest
terms: Unlike other recipients, which must buy 100 percent American, Israel
can spend about one quarter of its U.S. military aid at home, which amounts
to a significant boost to its defense industry.

The problem with this kind of largess is that it muddies the picture, both
for Israel and the U.S. The best thing for the relationship would be for the
U.S. to cut Israel's allowance.

U.S. Pressure

Under that scenario, Israel could pay less heed to U.S. pressure and do what
it thinks it must for its own national security. Many would argue that Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing that anyway. The difference would be
that the U.S. wouldn't be there to help pay for it.

Housing blocks for Jews in East Jerusalem? Pursuit of terrorists in the Gaza
Strip, even in southern Lebanon? A security fence that rings the whole
country? If this strategy makes Israel feel more secure, maybe it should
just pursue it and not complain about "restraints" imposed by the U.S.

Then Israel could start thinking seriously about what its defensible borders
should look like, perhaps even question the logic and the cost of tying up
its military protecting unsustainable settlements in the West Bank.

Once freed from its reputation as a stalking horse for the U.S., Israel
could explore deeper relations with more moderate Arab states as a
counterweight to Iran.

Stubborn Opposition

The advantages for the U.S. are obvious: It would save money at a time when
the federal debt is zooming out of sight. The sums aren't great -- a drop
compared with the $1.4 trillion budget deficit in fiscal 2009 -- but it
would take some of the sting out of Israel's stubborn opposition to U.S.

Severing the financial links could also correct the perception that the
U.S., as Israel's patron, can't be an honest broker in the Middle East.

That assumption, widely held in the Arab world, was put on the record by
General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. military's Central Command, when he
told the U.S. Congress that the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict
"foments anti- American sentiment due to a perception of U.S. favoritism
toward Israel."

Similar words have been used by James L. Jones, the U.S. national security
adviser, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The message is clear: Failure to reach a peace agreement with the
Palestinians isn't just about Israel anymore. It's about U.S.
national-security interests.

Pay for Opinion

Obviously, there can be no peace without Israel's participation. But at the
moment, it seems no amount of U.S. hectoring is going to sway Netanyahu and
his Cabinet. If that's their considered opinion, let them have it -- and pay
for it.

It wouldn't be the first time the U.S. withheld aid from Israel. This
happened several times in the 1990s, and again in 2003, when Israel built
settlements in the West Bank, regarded as illegal by the U.S. and much of
the international community.

By law, U.S. loan guarantees can't be used to finance settlement
construction. In the cases where the U.S. invoked that clause, the loan
guarantees were reduced by an amount equal to the cost of the disputed

These sanctions had zero effect: Israel went ahead with its settlements
anyway. When a new threat to withhold $1 billion in remaining loan
guarantees was hinted at last January by George Mitchell, the U.S. special
envoy to the Middle East, Israeli Finance Minster Yuval Steinitz just
shrugged, and said his country doesn't really need the money anyway.

Obama's Patience

Cutting Israel's aid may have been a meaningless gesture in the past, but
this time might be different. U.S. President Barack Obama isn't the only one
who is rapidly losing patience with Netanyahu's insistence on stoking
tensions with new building projects in East Jerusalem.

Figuring out where to cut in a way that would have political impact would be
a tricky business. As a key ally in the region, Israel deserves U.S.
military support, more, say, than neighboring Egypt, which gets $1.5 billion
in military and economic aid, in spite of its repressive regime.

No one in the U.S. wants to see Israel made vulnerable. By the same token,
the U.S. shouldn't sign blank checks for policies that could be at odds with
its own interests.

Back in 2007, when U.S. President George W. Bush pushed through a 10-year
military aid agreement with Israel, Nicholas Burns, then undersecretary of
state, said the U.S. considered the cumulative $30 billion in assistance to
Israel "to be an investment in peace -- in long-term peace."

Now may be a good time to check the return on that investment.

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