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Friday, November 23, 2007

Chomsky - Russian Invasion

Controversial speakers make waves on campuses
By SHERI SHEFA, Staff Reporter
Thursday, 22 November 2007
TORONTO — Jewish campus groups have had their hands full this month trying to advocate for Israel in the face of anti-Israel events and speakers at York University and the University of Toronto.
Rafi Yablonsky, the president of Hasbara Fellowships at York, centre, speaks to students about Chomsky's anti-Israel views.
On Nov. 9, three students arranged to have Noam Chomsky, a professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an outspoken critic of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, appear via video conference at York. Three days later, the group Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) held a demonstration at U of T, and on Nov. 29, Norman Finkelstein, known for promoting anti-Israel views and for authoring books such as The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering, will speak at U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

Rebecca Woods Baum, Israel affairs director at Hillel of Greater Toronto, said in an e-mail to The CJN that Hillel looked into the lecture given by Chomsky, who is Jewish, and found that he would be talking about current global issues.

“There was no specific mention of Israel, and while there may be certain opinions of Chomsky’s that we may disagree with, we found that this was not being billed as an anti-Israel lecture.”

Ben Feferman, senior campus co-ordinator for Hasbara Fellowships, said that even though Chomsky’s lecture wasn’t about Israel, he wanted to speak out against a person that holds views as offensive as his.

“When we heard, we said we have to do something because of his anti-American views, his anti-Israel views and his support of Holocaust deniers so we went forth with the idea to protest.”

After York’s administration denied Feferman’s request to hold a rally in the school’s Vari Hall rotunda because of excessive noise and the potential for confrontations, his group was given permission to hold a tabling campaign to distribute information.

“We had two methods,” said Rafi Yablonsky, 21, the president of Hasbara Fellowships at York and a business management student. “We had a method for those who wanted to come by and talk. We had flyers about what Chomsky has said and what he supports. For those who were walking by, we had two huge posters.”

The first poster depicted Chomsky sitting with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in May 2006. It read, “Partners in Hate.” The other poster presented a quote by Chomsky that said, “I see no anti-Semitic implications in the denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even the denial of the Holocaust.”

Yablonsky said his experience was that he was able to have open discussion with those who support Chomsky, but there were others who would scream accusations about Israel and walk away.

“The most heated point was when we got swarmed by a bunch of Hezbollah-supporting people, calling Israel the real terrorist, calling the United States the real terrorist… It was a little intimidating,” Feferman said.

Orna Hollander, executive director of Betar Canada, a Zionist student group, said November has been a challenging month for Israel advocacy.

On Nov. 12, SAIA set up an anti-Israel display at U of T, while the group Zionists at U of T, formerly known as Betar, handed out information to counter the one-sidedness of the event.

Hollander said that although U of T’s administration had decided to shut the display down because SAIA isn’t a recognized campus group and didn’t bother to go through proper procedures to set up its display, SAIA ignored the order and went ahead with its event anyway.

As for the Finkelstein lecture, titled “Israel and Palestine: Roots of conflict, prospects for peace,” Baum questioned Finkelstein’s credibility as a scholar, as he was recently denied tenure at Chicago’s DePaul University, had his only course cancelled and has since left the school.

“Many issues related to Finkelstein’s work have been raised regarding factual inaccuracies, omissions and selective mention of facts. He has been accused of relying heavily on anti-Israel sources, often ignoring any evidence to the contrary, even by critics of Israel,” she said.

But Baum said that rather than call more attention to the event, Hillel is trying to focus on “positive programming that strives toward a better understanding and dialogue about the situation in Israel.”

Meanwhile, Hollander and Feferman are working together to make sure that students will have access to information from both sides of the conflict.

“If we choose not to be there, there really isn’t anyone giving out our information in what we believe,” Hollander said.

Finkelstein – who, despite having parents who are Holocaust survivors, has accused Jews of exploiting the Holocaust for political gain – was invited to speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the Canadian Palestinian Educational Exchange, a group that advocates for Palestinian refugees.

Hollander said it’s important to defend Israel against one-sided accusations.

“A lot of times on campus, if someone is talking about Palestinian refugees, and all you’re talking about is the wonderful innovations about Israel, it is really not dealing with the subject matter.”

She said that Betar and Hasbara are in the process of booking tables at OISE, where the lecture is scheduled to take place, but even if they can’t book tables, they still plan to be present to hand out information.

She said she also plans to have students at the Finkelstein lecture to monitor what is said and to ask questions that challenge his claims.

Feferman said he is not calling on OISE to cancel the event, because he values free speech.

“There is value to these people coming, for others to see that there are crazy people who, in 2007, are questioning whether six million people died in the Holocaust… I think we need to be aware of it.”



By: Nikolai Lanine and Media Lens


The writer Simon Louvish once told the story of a group of Soviets touring the United States before the age of glasnost. After reading the newspapers and watching TV, they were amazed to find that, on the big issues, all the opinions were the same. "In our country," they said, "to get that result we have a dictatorship, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here you have none of that. So what's your secret? How do you do it?" (Quoted, John Pilger, Tell Me No Lies, Random House, 2004, p.9)

It's a good question, one being asked by Nikolai Lanine who served with the Soviet Army during its 1979-1989 occupation of Afghanistan, but who now lives and works as a peace activist in Canada. Lanine has spent several years trawling through Soviet-era newspaper archives comparing the
propaganda of that time with modern Western media performance.

If the claims of modern professional journalism are to be believed, the similarities should be few and far between. Soviet-era media such as Pravda (meaning, ironically, “The Truth”) are a byword for state-controlled mendacity in the West. Thus Simon Jenkins commented in the Times in the 1980s: “There is a smack of Pravda about this pious self-censorship.” (Jenkins, ‘A new name on the tin mug of scandal,’ The Times, March 19, 1989)

Doris Lessing, recent winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, wrote in 1992:

“Even five, six years ago, Izvestia, Pravda and a thousand other Communist papers were written in a language that seemed designed to fill up as much space as possible without actually saying anything. Because, of course, it was dangerous to take up positions that might have to be defended. Now all these newspapers have rediscovered the use of language. But the heritage of dead and empty language these days is to be found in academia, and particularly in some areas of sociology and psychology.” (Lessing, ‘Questions you should never ask a writer,’ New York Times, October 13, 2007. Originally published June 26, 1992)

This standard Western association of thought control with totalitarian societies is a red herring. In fact, thought control is far more characteristic of ‘democratic’ societies - where state violence is no longer an option, propaganda comes into its own.

After all, it is a remarkable fact that our society never discusses the possibility that a corporate media system monitoring a society dominated by large corporations might be something other than free, open and honest. Consider Lessing’s analysis in the light of these comments from media analyst Danny Schechter:

“We are bombarded with information, although if you look closely, most of it has a similar grammar, a similar focus and similar sources, all revolving around institutions and topics that most viewers admit in survey after survey they don’t really understand.” (Schechter, The More You Watch The Less You Know, Seven Stories Press, 1997, p.43)

Verbiage “designed to fill up as much space as possible without actually saying anything”, in other words, because it is “dangerous to take up positions that might have to be defended”.

How “dangerous”? David Barsamian recently asked Noam Chomsky why one regular New York Times commentator refused to recognise blindingly obvious truths embarrassing to US power. Chomsky responded:

“If he wrote that, then he wouldn‘t be writing for the New York Times. There is a certain discipline that you have to meet. In a well-run society, you don’t say things you know. You say things that are required for service to power.” (Chomsky, What We Say Goes, Penguin, 2007, p.2)

We are very grateful to Nikolai Lanine for agreeing to co-author this piece and for his hard work over several months in making it possible. All quotations from the Soviet press archives were translated from the original by him. We are also grateful to Noam Chomsky who originally put us in touch with Nikolai.



By: Nikolai Lanine and Media Lens


The writer Simon Louvish once told the story of a group of Soviets touring the United States before the age of glasnost. After reading the newspapers and watching TV, they were amazed to find that, on the big issues, all the opinions were the same. "In our country," they said, "to get that result we have a dictatorship, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here you have none of that. So what's your secret? How do you do it?" (Quoted, John Pilger, Tell Me No Lies, Random House, 2004, p.9)

It's a good question, one being asked by Nikolai Lanine who served with the Soviet Army during its 1979-1989 occupation of Afghanistan, but who now lives and works as a peace activist in Canada. Lanine has spent several years trawling through Soviet-era newspaper archives comparing the
propaganda of that time with modern Western media performance.

If the claims of modern professional journalism are to be believed, the similarities should be few and far between. Soviet-era media such as Pravda (meaning, ironically, “The Truth”) are a byword for state-controlled mendacity in the West. Thus Simon Jenkins commented in the Times in the 1980s: “There is a smack of Pravda about this pious self-censorship.” (Jenkins, ‘A new name on the tin mug of scandal,’ The Times, March 19, 1989)

Doris Lessing, recent winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, wrote in 1992:

“Even five, six years ago, Izvestia, Pravda and a thousand other Communist papers were written in a language that seemed designed to fill up as much space as possible without actually saying anything. Because, of course, it was dangerous to take up positions that might have to be defended. Now all these newspapers have rediscovered the use of language. But the heritage of dead and empty language these days is to be found in academia, and particularly in some areas of sociology and psychology.” (Lessing, ‘Questions you should never ask a writer,’ New York Times, October 13, 2007. Originally published June 26, 1992)

This standard Western association of thought control with totalitarian societies is a red herring. In fact, thought control is far more characteristic of ‘democratic’ societies - where state violence is no longer an option, propaganda comes into its own.

After all, it is a remarkable fact that our society never discusses the possibility that a corporate media system monitoring a society dominated by large corporations might be something other than free, open and honest. Consider Lessing’s analysis in the light of these comments from media analyst Danny Schechter:

“We are bombarded with information, although if you look closely, most of it has a similar grammar, a similar focus and similar sources, all revolving around institutions and topics that most viewers admit in survey after survey they don’t really understand.” (Schechter, The More You Watch The Less You Know, Seven Stories Press, 1997, p.43)

Verbiage “designed to fill up as much space as possible without actually saying anything”, in other words, because it is “dangerous to take up positions that might have to be defended”.

How “dangerous”? David Barsamian recently asked Noam Chomsky why one regular New York Times commentator refused to recognise blindingly obvious truths embarrassing to US power. Chomsky responded:

“If he wrote that, then he wouldn‘t be writing for the New York Times. There is a certain discipline that you have to meet. In a well-run society, you don’t say things you know. You say things that are required for service to power.” (Chomsky, What We Say Goes, Penguin, 2007, p.2)

We are very grateful to Nikolai Lanine for agreeing to co-author this piece and for his hard work over several months in making it possible. All quotations from the Soviet press archives were translated from the original by him. We are also grateful to Noam Chomsky who originally put us in touch with Nikolai.

A Humanitarian War of Self-Defence

Inspired by the success of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, US-backed Afghan militants – including future founders of the Taliban movement – stepped up their attacks on Afghan government forces in the late 1970s.

Fearful of the “threat to the security of [the Soviet] southern boarders”(Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, Secrets of the Afghan War, 1991, p.48) and concerned that the conflict might spread to neighbouring Soviet republics - and so risk radicalising their dominantly Muslim populations (accounting for more than 20% of the Soviet population) - the Soviet government invaded. The invasion was a straightforward act of aggression, an attempt to crush a perceived threat to Soviet security and power.

Inevitably, the Soviet government portrayed its invasion as an act of humanitarian intervention initiated at the “request of the [Afghan] government”. (Pravda, April 27, 1980) The aim was “to prevent the establishment of... a terrorist regime and to protect the Afghan people from genocide”, and also to provide “aid in stabilising the situation and the repulsion of possible external aggression”. (Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, p.48)

Once the “terrorists” had been defeated, Afghanistan would be left to become “a stable, friendly country”. The invasion, then, was in the best interests of the Afghan people - the focus of the Soviet government’s benevolent concern.

The Soviet media presented the invasion essentially as a peacekeeping operation intended to prevent enemy atrocities. Krasnaya Zvezda [Red Star], a major Soviet military newspaper, reported in May 1985:

"Since the establishment of this [Soviet] base, [the Mujahadeen]'s predatory extortions, violence, [and] reprisals have stopped; and poor peasants are [now] working the land peacefully." (Krasnaya Zvezda, May 1, 1985)

The same paper noted:

“Before the arrival of the Soviet soldiers here, [the area] was literally swarming with [insurgents]... [who] were ruthlessly killing... everyone, who was desperately longing for a new life... However, Soviet soldiers arrived, and life in the district has started normalising." (Krasnaya Zvezda, October 27, 1985)

Voenni Vestnik [Military Bulletin] took it for granted that "...[Soviet] paratroopers are protecting peaceful [Afghan] citizens". (Voenni Vestnik #4, 1983)

This, of course, was a reversal of the truth that the Soviet superpower was killing large numbers of civilians and causing great suffering to the population.

Pravda insisted that the Afghan army had conducted military operations “at the demand of the local population” and because of “the danger to lives and property of citizens” posed by the resistance. (Pravda, February 7, 1988)

Military personnel constantly echoed government claims that intervention was required “to help the hapless Afghan people to defend their freedom, their future”. (Krasnaya Zvezda, January 5, 1988)

The invasion was also portrayed as an act of self-defence to prevent a “neighboring country with a shared Soviet-Afghan border... [from turning] into a bridgehead for... [Western] aggression against the Soviet state”. (Izvestiya, January 1, 1980) Soviet intervention was also a response to unprovoked violence by Islamic fundamentalists (described as “freedom fighters“ in the West), who, it was claimed, planned to export their fundamentalist struggle across the region “’under the green banner of Jihad’, to the territory of the Soviet Central-Asian republics”. (Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, p.45) The Soviet public were told they faced a stark choice: either fight the menace abroad, or do nothing and later face a much greater threat on home soil that would, geopolitically, “put the USSR in a very difficult situation”. (Sovetskaya Rossia [Soviet Russia], February 11, 1993)

This theme was endlessly stressed by the Soviet media system - Soviet forces were “not only defending Afghan villages. They keep the peace on the borders of [our] homeland”. (Pravda, April 2, 1987) The goal was "peace and security in the region, and also the security of the southern border of the USSR". (Mezhdunarodnyi Ezhegodnik, 1981, p.224) The unquestioned assumption was that Soviet forces had no option but to act “pre-emptively” in “self-defence”.

Reading Soviet propaganda on these themes inevitably recalls Tony Blair’s famous assertion:

"What does the whole of our history teach us, I mean British history in particular? That if when you're faced with a threat you decide to avoid confronting it short term, then all that happens is that in the longer term you have to confront it and confront it an even more deadly form." (ITN News at 6:30, January 31, 2003)

To this day, many former Soviet military and media commentators continue to reinforce similar claims. Former top Soviet military adviser in Afghanistan, General Mahmut Gareev, writes in his book "My Last War" (1996) that the "situation in Afghanistan was of great importance" for the security of the Soviet state (p.363). The "high political, military and strategic interests of the USSR demanded certain actions and decisions". (p.36) The Soviet leadership was "aware that events in the south of the country were exceptionally important and had great significance for the security of the Soviet state. It was impossible not to react". (p.35-36)

After the 1979 invasion, the Afghan insurgency repeatedly launched attacks on border areas, including rocket strikes on Soviet towns. Ignoring the fact that these attacks were a +response+ to Soviet aggression, the Soviet media described them as “provocative criminal acts against the Soviet territory”. (Izvestiya, April 20, 1987)

For Democracy And Human Rights - America And Britain Attack

In near-identical fashion, the British and American governments have presented their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as acts of self-defence which also happen to be in the best interests of the Afghan and Iraqi populations.

In 2001, the then UK defence secretary Geoff Hoon insisted that, in Afghanistan, Britain “was acting in self-defence against Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qa'ida network”. (Ben Russell, ‘Parliament - terrorism debate,’ The Independent, November 2, 2001)

As with the Soviet media, the self-defensive, humanitarian intent behind both invasions are staples of much US-UK media reporting. On the April 12, 2005 edition of the BBC's Newsnight programme, diplomatic editor Mark Urban discussed the significance of a lessening of Iraqi attacks on US forces since January:

“It is indeed the first real evidence that President Bush's grand design of toppling a dictator and forcing a democracy into the heart of the Middle East could work.” (Urban, Newsnight, BBC2, April 12, 2005)

When George Bush declared: "we are not conquerors; we're liberators”, he could have been quoting one of the top Soviet generals in Afghanistan, who said:

“We didn't set ourselves the task of conquering anyone: we wanted to stabilise the situation.” (Varennikov, CNN Interview, 1998)

In April 2002, Rory Carroll wrote in the Guardian:

“Whoever is trying to destabilise Afghanistan is doing a good job. The broken cities and scorched hills so recently liberated are rediscovering fear and uncertainty.” (Carroll, 'Blood-drenched warlord's return,' The Observer, April 14, 2002)

The point being that, for Carroll, as for George Bush, Afghanistan really had been “liberated” by the world’s superpower.

The New York Times wrote in September 2007:

”Military statistics show that U.S. forces have made some headway at protecting the Iraqi population, but there are questions over whether the gains can be sustained.” (Michael R. Gordon, ‘Assessing the “surge”,’ New York Times, September 8, 2007)

Even in reporting that a large proportion of world opinion wants to see the US leave Iraq, the BBC managed to boost the claimed humanitarian intent:

“Some 39% of people in 22 countries said troops should leave now, and 28% backed a gradual pull-out. Just 23% wanted them to stay until Iraq was safe.” (Most people 'want Iraq pull-out,', September 7, 2007)

The idea that Iraq might not be safe +until+ US-UK troops leave, is unthinkable to many Western journalists, as it was to Soviet journalists.

In some cases, Western reporting perhaps even surpassed Soviet propaganda. As US tanks entered Baghdad on April 9, 2003, ITN's John Irvine declared:

"A war of three weeks has brought an end to decades of Iraqi misery." (ITN Evening News, April 9, 2003)

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States were in response to decades of US-UK violence, and support for violence, in the Middle East. For what it’s worth, Osama bin Laden specifically cited Western oppression in Palestine, Western sanctions against Iraq, and US bases in Saudi Arabia, as reasons for the attacks. And yet, as in the Soviet case, US-UK aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq was justified as a response to attacks that were “unprovoked”. Blair even cited the 9/11 attacks as evidence to this effect on the grounds that the attacks had taken place long before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In both the West and the USSR, the occupations were, and are, presented as fundamentally well-intentioned acts motivated by rational fears and humanitarian aspirations.

In Accordance With International Law

According to the Soviet government, the 1979 invasion was justified by international law (Pravda, December 31, 1979; Gareev, 1996, p.40) and was "in complete accordance with... the 1978 Soviet-Afghan Treaty". (Izvestiya, January 1, 1980) The Soviet state had to honour its obligations "to provide armed support to the Afghan national army". (Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, p.47)

In 1988, Izvestiya quoted general Boris Gromov, the commander of Soviet troops in Afghanistan:

"We came to Afghanistan at the end of 1979 at the request of the lawful government [of Afghanistan] and in accordance with the agreement between our countries based on the... Charter of the United Nations." (Izvestiya, July 2, 1988)

Soviet journalists consistently supported these claims. Pravda and Izvestiya wrote in 1980 that Soviet forces were in Afghanistan "at the request of the [Afghan] government with the only goal to protect the friendly Afghan people” (Pravda, March 16, 1980) and “to help [this] neighbouring country... to repel external aggression". (Izvestiya, January 3, 1980)

Such views were frequently expressed by Soviet elites and mainstream journalists. The 1980 issue of International Annual: Politics and Economics, published by the Soviet Academy of Science, observed that the Afghan government “repeatedly asked the USSR" to provide "military aid". The "Soviet government granted the [Afghan] request, and the limited contingent of Soviet troops was sent into the country," Mezhdunarodnyi Ezhegodnik noted (1980, p.208). Such actions were entirely in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter and Article 4 of the [Soviet-Afghan] Treaty of December 5, 1978, Ezhegodnik added. (1981, p.224)

Soviet leaders and commentators criticised and debated, not the fundamental +illegality+ of the invasion, but the merit of the +strategies+ for achieving its goals.

Soviet Chief of General Staff Ogarkov argued in 1979 (before the invasion), that the decision to send troops to Afghanistan was “inexpedient” because the initial invasion force of 75,000 was insufficient to the task, which was to “stabilise the situation in Afghanistan.” It was “impossible to achieve this goal with such a [small] force”, he claimed. (Quoted, Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, 1991, p.59). General Gareev, a top Soviet advisor to the Afghan armed forces, argued in his memoirs that “from the military point of view, it was perhaps more advisable to conduct a more massive and powerful invasion of Afghanistan”. (Gareev, 1996, pp.45-46)

In the 1980s, the invasion was seen by many Russians as a “mistake” rather than a crime. The attack was deemed legal and well-intentioned, but poorly executed and at excessive cost to the +Soviets+ - a view that is commonly held to this day. Apart from extremely rare exceptions describing Soviet “participation in the Afghan war” as “criminal” (Trud [Labour] newspaper, January 22, 1992), the invasion has almost never been described as an act of Soviet aggression.

When the US and UK governments talk of their “just cause” in Afghanistan they are essentially repeating the Soviet newspaper Izvestiya which quoted an Afghan official declaring that the Soviet and Afghan soldiers were fighting “for a just cause and happy new life for all Afghan people”. (Izvestiya, January 14, 1986)

Similarly, and almost exactly echoing Izvestiya, an Observer editorial commented in October 2006:

"The UK has responsibilities to the elected democratic government of Iraq, under a UN mandate. Britain must honour its commitments to its partners in Baghdad and in Washington." (Leader, ‘Blair should heed the general's reality check,’ The Observer, October 15, 2006)

While the manifest illegality of the 2003 Iraq invasion is presented by newspapers like the Observer as a kind of initial teething problem rendered irrelevant by a subsequent “UN mandate“, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan takes a different view:

“The Security Council’s mandate was for us to help the Iraqi people. I don’t think one can say that the Security Council sanctioned the occupation of Iraq, it merely noted the occupation of Iraq and asked the UN to help the Iraqi people...“ (Mark Disney, On The Edge, August 2007)

The only US/UK responsibility under international law is to leave.

Closely echoing Soviet performance, the US-UK media essentially never challenge the fundamental and obvious illegality of both invasions, focusing also on “mistakes”. Reviewing the situation in Iraq, Timothy Garton Ash wrote in the Guardian:

“... the question being asked here [Washington], even by staunch Republicans who share the president's goals, is: why has the Bush administration been so incompetent?” (Garton Ash, ‘Iraq's government has failed, but America's isn't doing so well either,’ The Guardian, September 6, 2007)

For Garton Ash, as for most Guardian commentators, the key issue is “incompetence”, not the supreme criminality that is the waging of a war of aggression.

On August 20, 2007, the New York Times website linked to an article titled, ‘The Good War, Still to Be Won,’ with the synopsis: “We will never know just how much better the fight in Afghanistan might be going if it had been managed more competently over the past six years.” (New York Times, August 20, 2007)

This closely echoes Soviet media performance on the 1979 invasion, where there was also close to zero recognition of the illegality of the invasion, as described reflexively in the Western media at the time. Ironically, contemporary US-UK media are closely matching the Soviet propaganda they ridiculed in the 1970s and 1980s.

To their credit, the Soviet media did at least, on occasion, +mention+ the issue of international law. In their book, The Record Of The Paper, Howard Friel and Richard Falk note that in the seventy editorials on Iraq that appeared in the New York Times from September 11, 2001, to March 21, 2003, the words ‘UN Charter’ and ‘international law’ never appeared. (Friel and Falk, The Record Of The Paper: How The New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy, Verso, 2004, p.15)

We asked Hugh Sykes, a BBC journalist reporting from Baghdad, for his opinion on the issue of legality in relation to the invasion of Iraq. Sykes replied:

“The Americans et al always say they are here 'at the invitation of the democratically elected Iraqi government'.

“It certainly WAS an illegal occupation before the elections in 2005, but is it still illegal?

“I tend not to put phrases like that into reports because I think I should stick to reporting events and providing analysis when asked.” (Email to Media Lens, September 9, 2007)

Imagine a comparable comment from a BBC journalist in the 1980s:

‘The Soviets et al always say they are here 'at the invitation of the democratically elected Afghan government'. It certainly WAS an illegal occupation before... but is it still illegal?’

In fact, of course, Western reporters were never in doubt about the truth of the Soviet invasion. When we conducted a search of newspaper archives, we found, for example, dozens of media references in the 1980s to the Soviet “puppet government” in Kabul. The New York Times commented in 1988:

“Soviet troop withdrawal will leave behind a puppet Government whose ministries are laced with Soviet ‘'advisers.’” (A.M. Rosenthal, ‘The great game goes on,’ New York Times, February 12, 1988)

In February 1990, Tony Allen-Mills reported for the Independent:

“Many former freedom fighters have made their peace with the puppet government left behind by the departing Soviet army.” (Allen-Mills, Out of Kabul: ‘Why pride must not come before a Najibullah fall,’ The Independent, February 19, 1990)

By contrast, the same newspaper reported of the Taliban in June 2006:

“Their focus is the ‘puppet’ government of Mr Karzai and its complicity in what is portrayed as the Western military persecution of ordinary Afghans.” (Tom Coghlan, ‘Karzai questions Nato campaign as Taliban takes to hi-tech propaganda,’ The Independent, June 23, 2006)

Readers will search long and hard before they find an example of a news reporter describing the current Afghan government as a “puppet government” without the use of inverted commas.

As for the idea that BBC journalists avoid controversial “phrases” and merely “stick to reporting events“, the day after Sykes’ reply the BBC website observed:

“The surge was designed to allow space for political reconciliation...” (‘US surge “failure” says Iraq poll, BBC online, September 10, 2007;

It is not, in fact, less controversial to suggest that the massive increase in US violence “was designed to allow space for political reconciliation”, than it is to argue that the invasion was illegal.

MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

November 22, 2007


By: Nikolai Lanine and Media Lens

Blaming ‘External Interference’

A striking feature of Soviet media performance on Afghanistan was its focus on “external interference” - primarily US in origin - and the role of this interference in fuelling the war.

In 1988, Pravda reported that Afghan president Najibula had criticised this ”interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan”. (Pravda, February 9, 1988) The newspaper failed to mention that the Soviet Union was itself guilty of illegal external “interference“. Instead, journalists blamed the West for ”pouring oil onto the fire of the Afghan conflict”. (Pravda, February 22, 1987) Ignoring the fact that much of the fighting in Afghanistan was in +response+ to the Soviet occupation, the media were also heavily critical of Iran and Pakistan.

Iran was criticised for “supporting the armed Islamic opposition” and for “sending its political emissaries and agents into the territory of Afghanistan”. (Spolnikov, 1990, pp.104-105) Russian journalist Andrei Greshnov, who worked as a TASS correspondent in Afghanistan for eight years in the 1980s, describes in his book “Afghanistan: Hostages of Time” (2006) how for several years, starting in the early 1980s, he was tasked with collecting information on Iranian Shia infiltration across the Afghan border near Herat. Iranian influence was very tangible in Western Afghanistan and widely confirmed by the testimony of Soviet soldiers interviewed (by Lanine) over the last 20 years.

We wonder how the Western media would have reacted if, in response to claims that Tehran had supported the Afghan insurgency and resisted their illegal invasion, Soviet officials had proposed bombing Iran. One can only guess at the level of Western outrage and horror at such a clear example of Soviet aggression, if an attack +had+ taken place. Presumably the press would never have tired of reminding us that the Soviets’ real goal in the region was control of oil.

The Soviet press also directed fierce criticism at Pakistan for training and aiding Afghan jihadis, and for providing “the bridgehead for an undeclared war against [Afghanistan]”. (Izvestiya, February 19, 1986) Readers were left with the impression that “external interference” and “terrorism” were the +only+ reasons for the continuing bloodshed, with Soviet troops acting in self-defence to bring “stability” to Afghanistan. In most reporting, the Soviet role in sustaining the conflict was not even a consideration.

The Soviet media heavily emphasised that weapons captured by Soviet and Afghan troops “were manufactured in the USA, UK, Italy, Iran, Pakistan”. (Izvestiya, July 7, 1987) These arms were “arriving from Iran [and] Pakistan” (Komsomolskaya Pravda, March 4, 1987), and “exploding and shooting in Afghanistan, killing children, women, soldiers...”. (Komsomolskaya Pravda, January 14, 1986)

Closely echoing Soviet government propaganda, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on October 25, 2007:

"Unfortunately the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security by... supporting Shia militants in Iraq and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.” (‘US imposes new sanctions on Iran,’ BBC website, October 25, 2007)

As in the Soviet case, the US-UK media have heavily boosted the US-UK governments’ emphasis on “external interference“. A June 17, 2007, New York Times report observed:

"American forces have begun a wide offensive against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia on the outskirts of Baghdad." (Thom Shanker and Michael Gordon, 'GIs in Iraq open major offensive against al Qaeda,' New York Times, June 17, 2007)

The BBC's Andrew North emphasised the same alleged enemy:

"10,000 US and Iraqi troops are taking part in an operation against al-Qaeda." (North, 'US launches major Iraq offensive,' BBC Online, June 19, 2007;

Occasional glimpses of truth defy the rhetoric. The Iraq Study Group Report, published in December 2006, concluded:

"Most attacks on Americans still come from the Sunni Arab insurgency... Al Qaeda is responsible for a small portion of the violence in Iraq, but that includes some of the more spectacular acts." (The Iraq Study Group Report, December 6, 2006;

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British army, said of Iraq in September, 2007:

"By motivation... our opponents are Iraqi nationalists, and are most concerned with their own needs - the majority are not bad people." (Richard Norton-Taylor, ‘Embrace returning troops, pleads army chief,’ The Guardian, September 22, 2007)

This was a remarkable comment - it is hard to recall any journalist ever contradicting government demonisation of the Iraqi resistance so completely. A more typical description was provided by senior ITN correspondent James Mates in June 2004, when he reviled the "determined and brutal terrorists" threatening Iraq, which was "now sovereign". (ITN, 18:30 News, June 28, 2004) There is indeed hideous terrorism in Iraq, but British journalists generally find it simpler, more convenient, to include all insurgents in this category.

Reflexive demonisation of Iran is also, of course, a constant focus of media reporting. A New York Times article observed:

“U.S. Says Iranian Arms Seized in Afghanistan" (New York Times, April 18, 2007). These “new signs of interference by Iran have raised concerns about the obstacles to a stable and democratic postwar Iraq”. (‘U.S. warns Iran against interference,” The Sun, Baltimore, April 24, 2003)

In similar vein, the Observer reported in August:

“The conflict in Helmand has morphed way beyond that of crushing the Taliban. The nightmare scenario has unfolded: the Helmand valley has mutated into a geopolitical battleground for jihadists, a blooding ground for budding martyrs from across the globe.

“Convoys of Toyota Land Cruisers carrying holy warriors stream daily from Pakistan's porous border to target British teenagers.” (Mark Townsend, ‘Afghan Conflict: 'It's bleak and ferocious, but is it still winnable?', The Observer, August 19, 2007)

An Independent leader commented:

“There must be an acceptance also that the Taliban will never be utterly defeated until they are denied a safe haven in the western provinces of Pakistan.” (Leader, ‘Politicians must accept the reality on the ground,’ The Independent, August 14, 2007)

The point is not that external support for the resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq exists, as it certainly existed for insurgents fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. The point is that, in contemporary Western media, as in the Soviet case, the non-Western source of “external interference” is reflexively condemned as illegitimate, while the legitimacy of US-UK “external interference” is simply assumed.

Patriotism And ‘Backing Our Troops’

In their speeches, Soviet officials regularly affirmed the military’s “deep belief in the noble cause of helping the friendly nation” of Afghanistan (Pravda, 15 May 1988), stressing that Soviet advisors were working “shoulder to shoulder with... Afghans”. (Zhitnuhin, & Likoshin, 1990, p.169)

One Soviet journalist claimed of Soviet political advisors:

"They went to Afghanistan with a sincere belief in the high purpose of their mission. For most of them this belief grew into a conviction." (Zhitnuhin, & Likoshin, p.171)

The steady supply of media stories lauding the motivation and heroism of the troops on the ground reflected the high status of the military in Soviet society. The writings of most “embedded” journalists who spent time with troops were full of admiration and respect for all ranks from privates to generals. Even Gennady Bocharov, whose book on Afghanistan is full of harsh criticism of the Soviet system, presents a sympathetic account of Soviet soldiers, and also of Gromov, the commander of the Soviet occupation. Bocharov describes Gromov as a “charming general” with “more compassion than any priest” who, nonetheless, “as a regular army man... carried out his inhuman mission in Afghanistan with precision and efficiency”. (Bocharov, 1990, p.142)

Similar sentiments expressed towards front-line troops are found throughout Greshnov’s book and provide a striking contrast to his harsh critique of the Soviet military leadership. He describes how, on one occasion, his bonding with Soviet troops left him speechless with emotion.

These ties were naturally reflected in reporting by most journalists that depicted fighting men as brave and selfless, in many cases justifiably. But, more generally, the media’s emphasis on the heroism of individual soldiers helped bury the hidden, deeper truths, namely: the illegality and appalling destructiveness of the invasion.

Western journalism is of course similarly full of patriotic praise for troops under fire. As US tanks arrived in Baghdad and US troops prepared to topple a statue of Saddam Hussein, ITN's veteran correspondent, Mike Nicholson, was positively gleeful:

"They've covered his face in the Stars and Stripes! This gets better by the minute... Ha ha, better by the minute." (Tonight with Trevor McDonald, ITV, April 11, 2003)

Nicholson was describing the completion of an appalling act of aggression, a war that had been launched illegally. And as we commented at the time, even the troops draping the US flag over the face of Saddam Hussein’s statue quickly understood that this was a deeply offensive and foolish act.

Thus, also, the BBC's version of events in Iraq:

"You can marvel at the Americans' can-do spirit... in the [US] sergeant's case the will to carry on comes from a sense of responsibility towards the people of Iraq." (Mark Urban, '"Can-do" spirit of US troops in Baghdad,' Newsnight, May 17, 2007)

Another BBC journalist, Paul Wood, recently described his “journey through Iraq's Sunni heartland with the soldiers of the 101st Airborne". Wood concluded his article with these comments on the US forces:

"They must win here if they are to leave Iraq.

"Even if things are turning around, their local allies remain uncertain, the population divided, the casualties, although reduced, keep coming.

"There is much still to do." (Wood, ‘Voyage into Iraq's Sunni centre,’ BBC website, October 26, 2007;

Despite all the deceptions, false pretexts, evident illegality, and evident motive of control of oil, Wood presented the occupation as a peacekeeping operation. This is indistinguishable from the performance of the totalitarian Soviet press in the 1980s.

Timothy Richard, a former soldier with Iowa Army National Guard, who refused to deploy to Iraq and became a war resister, writes:

“The problem with the media’s perception in the US, is what I’ve come to call the ‘cult of the soldier’.” (Email to Lanine, August 10, 2007)

Richard says that the media followed the government’s lead in creating the slogan “Support our Troops”, so that even opponents of the war felt obliged to conform.

Soviet critics of the Afghan war were also accused of a shameful lack of patriotism and a failure to support the troops. Thus, in 1988, Izvestiya quoted general Gromov’s reference to “irresponsible” comments by people who “doubt the heroic deeds” of Soviet soldiers: “Nobody, not a single person in our country, has the right to ruin the faith of young people in the sanctity of the military biography that wasn’t lived in vain.” (Izvestiya, July 2, 1988)

Invisible Civilian Casualties

The Soviet media completely suppressed the devastating consequences of the occupation for the civilian population of Afghanistan. On occasions when the cost of the war was discussed, it focused on the cost to the Soviet Union. It is estimated that 1.5 million Afghans (Bradsher, 1999) and 15,000 Soviets (The New York Times, February 16, 1989) died during the nine years of fighting. But the Soviet media had little interest in Afghan casualties. Aside from a tiny number of dissidents, few voiced concern for a civilian population that bore the brunt of the suffering.

Even during Gorbachev's semi-liberal reforms of the late 1980s, discussion of Afghan suffering was strictly prohibited. Andrei Greshnov describes how he repeatedly wrote about Afghan civilian casualties in the monthly classified reports submitted by all TASS journalists to the Soviet leadership in Moscow (it was of course important for decision makers to know the truth of the situation on the ground). Greshnov recalls:

“The government +knew+ the truth about the situation in Afghanistan, including about civilian casualties – I personally wrote about it. But such information was never allowed to reach the general public through the mainstream Soviet press.” (Phone interview with Lanine, August 8, 2007)

By contrast, Western journalists are largely unconstrained by state controls. And yet, in early January 2002, American writer Edward Herman estimated that media coverage afforded to the death of Nathan Chapman - the first and, at that point, sole US combat casualty of the invasion of Afghanistan - had exceeded coverage afforded to +all+ Afghan victims of bombing and starvation. CNN Chair Walter Isaacson is reported to have declared that it “seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan“. (Howard Kurtz, ‘CNN chief orders “balance” in war news,’ Washington Post, October 31, 2001)

The US-UK bombing of Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001. On September 19, 2001, the Guardian had reported forty deaths per day in Maslakh refugee camp to the west of Herat in Afghanistan, “many because they arrive too weak to survive after trying to hold out in their villages“ as the threat of bombing shut down all aid convoys. By January 2002, Maslakh contained 350,000 people, making it the largest refugee camp in the world at that time. Aid agencies reported that 100 people were dying every day in the camp.

Occasional references to this disaster did appear. Between September 2001 and January 2002, the Guardian and Observer mentioned Maslakh a total of five times - an average of once per month. A Lexis-Nexis database search in May 2005 showed that Maslakh had been mentioned 21 times over the previous four years in all UK national newspapers.

On October 29, 2004, the prestigious scientific journal, The Lancet, published a report by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, and Columbia University, New York: 'Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey.' (

The authors estimated that almost 100,000 more Iraqi civilians had died than would have been expected had the invasion not occurred. The report was met with instant (and as it turns out, fraudulent) government dismissals, and a low-key, sceptical response, or outright silence, in the media. There was no horror, no outrage.

Our media search in November 2004, showed that the Lancet report had at that time not been mentioned at all by the Observer, the Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Star, the Sun and many others. The Express devoted 71 words to the report. A similar reception awaited the October 2006 Lancet study, which reported 655,000 excess deaths since the 2003 invasion.

This, however, does represent a difference from, and improvement over, Soviet media performance, which suppressed almost all discussion of civilian casualties. The Western media +does+ discuss casualties, but it consistently and heavily downplays the true cost of US-UK violence. As with the Soviet media, the concern is invariably for the cost to ‘us’. Also, the suffering is inevitably portrayed as unavoidable - alternative action would have resulted in far worse suffering, we are told - or the result of ‘mistakes’ rooted in benevolent intentions.

A further difference is that the Western media system is to an important extent responsive to media activism - rational criticism +does+ have an impact. However limited, this represents a valuable avenue for improving media performance.

The Cost of Leaving

In the 1980s, the continued presence of Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan was justified on the grounds that leaving would result in an even bloodier civil war. In his speech, published in Izvestiya on February 10, 1988, Gorbachev asked:

"Are military clashes going to intensify after the withdrawal of Soviet troops? It is hardly necessary to prophesy, but... such a development can be prevented if those who are now fighting against their brothers will take a responsible position and try, in practice, to join peaceful reconstruction."

The Soviet leadership claimed that they would leave Afghanistan only on the condition that “external interference stops”(Pravda, January 7,1988) and that “the faster the pace of establishing peace on Afghan soil, the easier it will be for Soviet troops to leave”. (Izvestiya, February 10, 1988)

Again, the official position was echoed uncritically by the Soviet media. Writing of planned negotiations in Geneva on the future of Afghanistan, Pravda's commentator Ovchinnikov stressed that "the cessation of external interference" in Afghanistan was a precondition that would "allow Soviet troops to withdraw". He accused the US administration of avoiding positive solutions and stressed that the problem was "not the date of the beginning of the Soviet troops' withdrawal but the date of the stopping of American aid to [the mujahideen]". Ovchinnikov literally repeated the official line that Soviet soldiers "will leave Afghanistan with a sense of duty accomplished when external interference stops". (Pravda, January 11, 1988)

The journal Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn commented:

"It is professed that as soon as we leave [Afghanistan], there will be a slaughter, slaughter, slaughter. My experience in Afghanistan indicates that, probably, there will be a civil war, [and] there will be fighting. This is an internecine war. When I was flying out of Afghanistan last year, I thought that after our withdrawal some part of NDPA would be wiped out by the vengeful Islamic movement." (Prohanov, Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn [International Affairs] #7, 1988)

In similar vein, the Financial Times wrote in April: "this grim situation could easily get worse - if the Americans pulled out too quickly, or set a deadline for withdrawal that simply encouraged their foes to wait them out Iraq could tip into a full-scale civil war". (Leader, ‘No easy way out of Iraq Congress should not set an arbitrary deadline for withdrawal,’ Financial Times, April 11, 2007)

By contrast, Moskovskie Novosti argued that the rationale for staying had not been the whole story:

"The withdrawal of the Soviet troops raised a lot of defence problems for Afghanistan, but also opened the road for the solution of political problems." (Moskovskie Novosti, May 21, 1989)

The 2004 BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares, featured a 1987 debate between a Soviet journalist and commentator Vladimir Pozner (mistakenly identified in the documentary as a "Soviet spokesman in the US"), and American intellectuals, including Richard Perle, then Assistant Secretary of Defense. Pozner commented:

"I believe that we can get out [of Afghanistan], provided that no more aid is given to what people here call ‘freedom fighters‘, and we call ‘counter-revolutionaries‘. I believe that’s possible, provided that the United States is also interested in the same.”

Perle responded:

"Well, it’s not very complicated. They arrived in a matter of days, on Christmas Eve in 1979; they could be home by Christmas Eve, if they decided to leave Afghanistan and let the Afghans decide their own future. If you leave, the problem of support to the mujaheddin solves itself.” (

Not quite the American position with regards to its own occupations today.

Soviet And Western Media - Similarities And Differences

Western reviews of Soviet media performance generally patronise Soviet journalists as submissive, eager functionaries of a state propaganda machine. These analyses fail to take into account the extreme difficulty of reporting honestly from within a totalitarian system. Unlike Western journalists, Soviet reporters were extremely vulnerable and essentially powerless. In a society where everyone was “merely a cog in a gigantic state-party machine,” Bocharov writes, “journalists played the part of rivets. If the body of the machine vibrated, then every rivet had to vibrate with it. And not individually, but together”. (Bocharov, p.56)

Why did Russian journalists who had extensively covered the victims of US aggression in Vietnam just a few years earlier not try to expose the truth of Afghan suffering?

The fact is that some +did+ try. This is made clear in the writings of Soviet journalists, two of whom (Andrei Greshnov and Sergei Bukovsky) Lanine recently interviewed by phone and email. For these journalists to even ask awkward questions was to place their careers in jeopardy. Those who were openly critical faced far more serious consequences.

Radio Moscow news announcer Vladimir Danchev famously called Soviet troops in Afghanistan "invaders" and “occupiers”, and even called on Afghans to continue their resistance. Danchev was quickly taken off air, investigated by the KGB, and forced to undergo psychiatric treatment (relatively mild punishment that reflected international awareness of Danchev‘s plight. See: New York Times, May 27 and December 15, 1983).

Other Soviet journalists had little choice but to stick to the official line. In the 1980s, multiple layers of censorship strictly blocked all attempts to discuss Afghan civilian casualties. Bocharov describes (1990) how we was forbidden even from mentioning +Soviet+ casualties (p.53) - to refer to the deaths of Afghan civilians was unthinkable. Articles by Soviet journalists from Afghanistan “were edited mercilessly”, Bocharov writes:

“The final touches would be applied in Moscow” by the civilian and military censorship. (pp.51-52)

In an email to Lanine (July 22, 2007), Bukovsky recalled how, in 1988, he published an article exposing the role of senior military incompetence in the deaths of Special Forces soldiers. Such courageous expressions of defiance were so unusual that Bukovsky was convinced he would be arrested along with the senior military censor, who Bukovsky describes as a "decent officer" who “fought hard with” him “for every word” in the published article. After the piece was published on July 14, 1988, Bukovsky and his censor expected officials to arrive and arrest them.

The arrest never happened, but the military censor was officially reprimanded and fell out of favour with his superiors. Bukovsky was interrogated by military counter-intelligence and his loyalty challenged. He was also strongly criticised for quoting a Soviet officer to the effect that Afghan insurgents "never leave their dead and wounded behind" - a comment that contradicted the official depiction of the Mujahadeen as "foul, blood-thirsty rogues". "I was [literally] spat at" for writing that, Bukovsky recalls.

The relationship of the Western media to centres of power is very different. By comparison with Soviet media workers who, Bocharov emphasises, “wrote what they were +ordered+ to [italics added]”, Western journalists have much greater freedom. And yet, crucially, the outcomes of media coverage on major themes - the illegality of launching wars of aggression, the fraudulence of alleged humanitarian motives, and the costs to civilian populations - are much the same. In both cases, a misinformed population was, and is, bombarded with "necessary illusions."

Western media have presented the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan from within strikingly similar frameworks to those provided by the Soviet government and media:

‘We’ (US-UK and the USSR) are acting in self-defence, out of good intentions, at the request of foreign governments and/or to spread democracy, while our enemies commit acts of aggression against us and the people we are trying to help.

‘Our’ goal is stability and peace - our enemies strive to intimidate through terror.

‘We’ act according to international law - our enemies are criminal, murderous, morally indefensible and guilty of “external interference“.

‘Our’ attempts to promote ‘values’ abroad are noble because inherently superior - our enemies’ values are medieval, irrational or non-existent.

The most revealing similarity is that the Western media fail, just as the Soviet media failed, to ask the most crucial questions:

By what legal and moral +right+ did we invade in the first place?

Without exploring these fundamental issues, and without incorporating honest answers in frameworks of reporting, the media neglect their most important task - the task described by the courageous Israeli journalist Amira Hass: “to monitor power”.

Like the Soviet media, Western professional journalists adopt and echo government statements as their own, as self-evidently true, without subjecting them to rational analysis and challenge. As a result, they allow themselves to become the mouthpieces of state power. It is fundamentally the same role performed by the media under Soviet totalitarianism.

The consequences for the victims of Soviet and US-UK state power are also fundamentally the same.

Selected Bibliography

In Russian

Gareev, M.A. (1996). Moya Poslednyaya Voina (Afganistan bez Sovetskih Voisk). [My Last War (Afghanistan Without Soviet Troops)]. Moscow: Insan.

Greshnov, A. (2006). Afganistan: Zalozhniki Vremeni [Afghanistan: Hostages of Time], Moskva: Tovarishestvo Nauchnih Izdanii KMK.

Gromov, B.V. (1994). Ogranichenny Kontingent [The Limited Contingent]. Moscow: "Progress" Publishing Group.

Lyahovsky, A.A., & Zabrodin, V.M. (1991). Taini Afganskoi Voini [Secrets of the Afghan War]. Moscow: Planeta.

Spolnikov, V.N. (1990, c1989). Afganistan. Islamskaya Opozitsiya: Istoki i Tsel. [Afghanistan: Islamic Opposition [and its] Origins and Goals], Moscow: Nauka.

Zhitnuhin, A.P. & Likoshin, S.A. (ed.) (1990). Zvezda nad Gorodom Kabulom. [The Star over Kabul-city], Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya [Young Guards]. (Chapter "The light on the summit" about Soviet advisers who worked in Afghanistan with Democratic Organization of Afghan Youth, p.169-)

In English

BBC Broadcast (2004). The Power of Nightmares. Part II: The Phantom Victory. Retrieved from

Bocharov, G. (1990). Russian Roulette: Afghanistan Through Russian Eyes. NY: A Cornelia & Michel Bessie Book.

Bradsher, H.S. (1999). Afghan Communism and Soviet Intervention. Oxford [Oxfordshire]; New York: Oxford University Press.

Varennikov, V. (1998). CNN Interview for 1998 CNN’s “Cold War” series, Episode 20: Soldiers of God.

====== and now for something completely different ==========


Two Hundred Years War, II

By Steve Kramer

Part 2: Reality versus the dream world

In the first part of this article, we saw how the Arabs have failed to come to grips with the Jewish state in their midst. Since the late 19th-century the Arabs have fought the Jews and have failed to make peace with Israel, with two chilly exceptions, when opportunities presented themselves. Both the Arabs and Western powers continue to pressure Israel to make concrete "confidence-building measures" in exchange for vacuous promises from the Palestinians, which they have previously made and ignored on numerous occasions.

I maintain that efforts at peacemaking are futile in the present climate. Gaza is run by Hamas, an Islamist terrorist organization, which trumpets its mission to annihilate Israel. The West Bank is very tenuously controlled by Fatah, a relatively weak, secular terrorist organization, which quietly works to annihilate Israel. If and when Hamas takes over the West Bank, Iran will have clients to the north, south, and east of Israel. As if this isn't enough, moderate Palestinians have no power and fear to stick their heads up. All Palestinian children, not to mention all Arab children, are brainwashed with antisemitic/Zionist propaganda at home, in school, and in the Muslim media. Perhaps most dangerous of all is the revisionist history spouted by Iran's president Ahmadinejad, who is being given ample opportunities to poison people all over the world against Israel and Jews in general.

The revisionist, post-Zionist vision of history is being propagated by our enemies, including Jews like Noam Chomsky. An American professor of linguistics at MIT, Chomsky is one of the worst perpetrators of anti-Zionist and anti-American drivel. His political ideology empowers the "victim states" (Arabs and others) and vilifies the "postcolonial aggressor-states" (America and Israel). Chomsky's historical revisionism turns the Palestinians into victims of the Jews. His theory: After WWII, Europeans atoning for the Holocaust allowed the Jews to emigrate to Palestine, displacing the Arabs. Chomsky is held in such high regard by Iran's Ahmadinejad that he has been touting Chomsky's most recent book. Professors like former President Carter and Walt and Mearsheimer, utilize aspects of Chomsky's theories to delegitimize Israel in their "scholarly" books.

The United Nations has been a willing accomplice to this revisionist canard by creating UNRWA, the refugee organization whose permanent task is to support the Palestinian refugees from the 1947-1948 war, their children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren. Ironically, the UN, instrumental in the rebirth of modern Israel, has taken on the mission to destroy Israel's legitimacy. The UN hosts numerous conferences and missions, inviting member states and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to denigrate Israel and blame it for all the troubles of the Middle East.

Several demands of the Palestinians "for peace" are totally unrealistic. The "right of return" of Palestinians to both a Palestinian state and to our Jewish state is suicidal for Israel. It's just an additional way of eradicating Israel. The persistent requirement for a corridor across Israel connecting Gaza and the West Bank is a diversionary tactic meant to accelerate Israel's elimination. Angola, Russia, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Croatia, East Timor, and the United States (Alaska!) are viable and noncontiguous - that is, separated by the sovereign soil of a foreign state. Pakistan once was divided into East and West sectors separated by India but the eastern sector revolted and became Bangladesh. Territorial contiguity is not a prerequisite for statehood. [Justus Reid Weiner, 20 June 2007,]. Giving control to the Arabs of Israel's holiest site, the Temple Mount, is inconceivable. It shouldn't be forgotten how in 1948 Jordan razed the synagogues of the Old City and used their building blocks as pavers for their urinals. Nor can the Arabs demand all the territory they turned down in 1947, as if the War of Independence and the Six-Day War had never occurred.

Geostrategist Arnon Soffer, head of research at Israel's National Defense College, rejects the optimistic dream of peace with the Palestinians in the near future. Interviewed in the 11 Oct. issue of the Jerusalem Post, Soffer said, "We are living in a 100-year period of terrorism and we have another 100 years of terrorism ahead of us." Soffer blames the materialistic "intellectuals" of Tel Aviv for creating the "state of Tel Aviv". This false idea of a self-sufficient enclave (the Gush Dan in Hebrew) has sapped Israel of its fundamental purpose, which Soffer believes is exemplified by Jerusalem. While Tel Avivians who are indifferent to Zionism are "having a big party, a stock market orgy", Jerusalem has lost 220,000 Jews due to a lack of development funds that have mostly gone to greater Tel Aviv. Soffer believes that greater Tel Aviv must be cut off from further state funding so that development can be intensified in greater Jerusalem first and then in the Negev. I would add the Galilee to his list.

Soffer equates Fatah and Hamas in their determination to destroy Israel. He includes Israeli-Arabs, Arabs in general, and all Muslims in the same category. Because of Israel's dangerous neighborhood, Soffer is intent on Israel retaking and expanding the Philadelphi corridor in Gaza adjacent to Egypt and retaining the Jordan Valley adjacent to Jordan. In addition, he calls it "an unbelievable victory" that all but 60,000 Israeli settlers are living within the anti-terrorist barrier. To Soffer, Israeli Jews "are an island in a sea of Middle Eastern countries ... we have to fortify ourselves with a fence. Then, whoever tries to cross it gets a bullet to the head."

In my opinion, the Two-State solution is impractical, but not impossible. Both Gaza and the West Bank, or a combination, could be an independent entity if the Palestinians could learn to live with the Jewish State. Compare the two areas to Singapore, which is nearly twice as large as Gaza but only one-eighth the size of the West Bank. Although Gaza is often mistakenly called "one of the most densely populated places on earth," Singapore's population is three times more dense. The West Bank and Gaza, like Singapore, are surrounded by trading partners. But the Palestinians seem to be too inept to capitalize on this fact. If they were to switch their emphasis from the destruction of Israel to building their own state, miracles could happen.

In conclusion, Israelis have the tough job of convincing our Western allies that forcing us to compromise our security by capitulating to Arab demands will blow up in their faces. Israel is the front line of the war against the jihadists. We can carry our own weight, but only if the West doesn't handicap us by tying our hands behind our backs.

======== FALSE FLAG STATE TERROR ==========

Turkey’s Generals Speak out on Counter-Terrorism Strategies

By Andrew Mcgregor

Turkish journalist Fikret Bila has just released an important work based on interviews with a number of retired Turkish military commanders. Komutanlar Cephesi (The Commanders’ Position) examines the generals’ views on Turkey’s past and present security efforts. Excerpts from interviews with five retired generals were first published by the Turkish newspaper Milliyet in the week of November 5-9, and later reprinted in an English translation in the Turkish Daily News, November 12-16. With tensions along the Turkish-Iraqi border at their peak, the generals’ comments provide useful insights on Turkish military policy in the region.

With at least two divisions of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) deployed along the Iraqi frontier, cross-border operations were naturally a topic of discussion for the generals. General Doğan Güreş (Chief of General Staff, 1990-1994) emphasized the need for secrecy in mounting successful cross-border operations, especially against the highly mobile PKK. In 1992 Güreş was able to bring 50,000 men up to the Iraqi border in relative secrecy. The efforts of Turkish military engineers in the following campaign allowed the TSK to insert armored units along PKK escape routes in mountainous areas, enabling the Turkish Armed Forces to deal a devastating blow to the Kurdish insurgents, which resulted in the ceasefire of 1993. General Ismail Hakkı Karadayı (Chief of General Staff, 1994-1998) also points out the value of surprise in making cross-border raids of the type made on northern Iraq during his command in 1995-1996. According to Karadayı, only an offensive posture is suitable in dealing with terrorism (Turkish Daily News, November 14).

General Hilmi Özkök (Chief of General Staff, 2002-2006) suggests that large-scale cross-border operations have a political value but cannot be regarded as the solution to the PKK problem. PKK bases lay deep within Iraq and the guerrillas receive support from the local population. Target selection presents another difficulty; Özkök notes that the PKK “do not have war operation centers, officers’ clubs, dormitories or training centers for us to hit and paralyze them” (Turkish Daily News, November 15). A further problem is presented by the rapid growth of communications and international news networks that make it increasingly difficult to mount surprise attacks. PKK leaders can learn of impending offensives simply by turning on the TV. Last Sunday’s TV announcement by Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani that the Turkish army has “definite plans” to launch a limited operation against PKK bases in northern Iraq seemed to punctuate the general’s remarks (Al-Sharqiyah TV, November 17).

The development of asymmetric war techniques has also changed the tactical landscape. General Özkök described the growth of battlefield technology such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as going hand-in-hand with the development of asymmetrical warfare. Large-scale operations are no longer the preferred method for dealing with modern insurgencies, according to Özkök. General Güreş noted the importance of smaller units like the Turkish Special Forces, which are able to fight and operate in the mountains like a “Turkish PKK.”

General Aytaç Yalman (Commander in Chief of the Gendarmerie, 2000-2002; Commander of the Turkish Land Forces, 2002-2004) pointed out that Turkey’s powerful military gave it considerable weight in dealing with neighbors that sympathize with the PKK, like Syria. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was expelled from Syria in 1998 after it became clear that Yalman’s Second Army was prepared to cross into Syria. The Syrians hastened to sign and implement the one-sided Adana Agreement, in which Syria agreed to list the PKK as a terrorist organization and expel its leaders. Though Öcalan was not handed over to Turkey at the time, the loss of government protection and sponsorship led to Öcalan’s flight to several countries and eventual apprehension and deportation from Kenya to Turkey several months later. General Yalman credits U.S. intervention for ensuring Öcalan’s extradition as part of an effort to promote the standing of Iraqi Kurdish leaders Massoud Barzani and Jalal al-Talabani (Turkish Daily News, November 12). The U.S. goal, according to Yalman, was to eliminate Öcalan as a rival to Barzani and al-Talabani for the leadership of the region’s Kurds, while at the same time making the two Iraqi Kurdish leaders important clients and allies in the struggle against Saddam Hussein.

The Turkish military would also arm the Iraqi Kurds when it was deemed necessary, as in 1992, when Kurdish peshmerga militia attacks on the PKK began to falter. By 1995, however, General Karadayı decided not to involve peshmerga units in a massive raid by 35,000 Turkish troops. Helping Barzani and al-Talabani with arms and diplomatic assistance was a strategic mistake that only contributed to their goal of creating a Kurdish state, says General Özkök, who also acknowledges that the alternative could have been even worse.

General Güreş displayed the military’s suspicions of U.S. intentions towards Turkish territorial integrity through a reference to “maps depicting a divided Turkey” (Turkish Daily News, November 13). Güreş was alluding to a U.S.-produced map of a “new Middle East’ displayed at a NATO military college in 2006. Present Turkish Chief of General Staff Yaşar Büyükanıt received an official apology for the map, which showed a new Kurdish nation incorporating most of southeastern Turkey (Today’s Zaman, September 29, 2006).

General Karadayı also points to international support for Kurdish “separatism” as a complicating factor in the struggle against the PKK (Turkish Daily News, November 14). Because of this, even successful TSK operations against the PKK must be accompanied by political and diplomatic efforts to combat terrorism. Karadayı points to his own success in having British authorities ban a Kurdish television station by asking what the British reaction would be if Turkey allowed the IRA to broadcast from Turkish territory.

The war against Kurdish separatism was carried out with intense severity during the rule of General Kenan Evren. A Korean War veteran, Evren was for many years the commander of “Counter-Guerrilla,” the Turkish branch of NATO’s secret and highly-controversial “stay-behind” army in Europe, known as “Operation Gladio.” In 1980 General Evren led a military coup and later became president of Turkey from 1982 to 1989. The general still regards Turkey’s failure to hang PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan as a major mistake: “If he had been hung after the final verdict was issued, there wouldn't be any trouble. But of course, a few protests would have taken place on his death anniversary. But he wouldn't have been able to issue directives from prison.” After his arrest, Öcalan claimed that “it was the ‘Gladio’ arm of NATO, in fact, which imprisoned me” (Statement of Abdullah Öcalan on his abduction from Kenya, November 26, 1999 [1]).

Administrative aspects of Turkish counter-terrorist efforts also received the generals’ attention. In 1983 the Turkish government passed the State of Emergency Law, creating a civil-military structure to deal with national emergencies such as national disasters or insurrection. Before that time the military had generally been given a free hand to deal with crisis situations. The new law also provided for the designation of State of Emergency Regions (OHAL) with civil administrators to replace martial law. General Özkök criticized the use of OHAL, claiming that it was a mistake that had a negative impact on the war on terror and “caused chaos in the chain of authority” (Turkish Daily News, November 15). General Karadayı was also known for having little respect for OHAL structures, often overriding the authority of local governors. Security regimes have recently been re-imposed on the Iraqi border region and some districts of southeastern Turkey.

One aspect that comes through in the interviews is a general acknowledgement that successful counter-terrorism efforts must now have a political, diplomatic and social dimension, in addition to the exercise of military force. General Özkök sees improved educational facilities and economic innovations like micro-credit as the path to reduced tensions in Kurdish southeastern Turkey. With Turkey on a war footing along the Iraqi frontier, the reflections of the retired TSK commanders provide a historical dimension to the debate over how Turkey should deal with the PKK threat.

1. Öcalan’s statement can be accessed at



Chomsky Takes Aim At American Empire

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 11:38 PM -- By PRATEEK KUMAR

The distinguished MIT linguist Noam Chomsky delivered a broad-ranging indictment of the global economic system and American foreign policy in a discussion yesterday at a freshman seminar on capitalism and 20th-century history.

Railing against the "exploitation of natural resources, which has defined the relationship between the West and the Third World," Chomsky condemned what he perceived as the "hypocrisy" of western nations.

"In the late 19th century, West Africa and Japan were at the same level of state and economic development," Chomsky told the Freshman Seminar 47v, "Understanding Twentieth-Century Capitalism Through History."

"But Japan was not conquered, and that led to the differences we see today," he added to students from the seminar and others who crowded into the Emerson Hall classroom.

Chomsky pointed to Congo and Somalia as African countries that have been particularly affected by Western imperialism.

"The great advantage of Western Europe was savagery and warfare," Chomsky said when questioned by an undergraduate about why Europe rose to power in the modern era. "People the world over were astonished at the brutality of Western Europe."

Asserting that the U.S. had high tariff levels up through the 1950s, Chomsky attacked today's global economic system for having served to transfer wealth from developing nations to the developed world.

He argued that the West had grown rich by relying on tariffs and industrial policy, and that whatever economic growth the developing world had seen following World War II had resulted from their use of similar protectionist trade policies.

"When these measures were banned during the neoliberal period of the 1970s, growth rates in the developing world decreased dramatically," Chomsky said.

He said that if African nations want to achieve higher rates of economic growth, they should "look to the East Asian Tigers in the 70s and 80s, who expanded economically by violating the [World Trade Organization] rules."

Chomsky also criticized American foreign policy, saying that the U.S. intervenes abroad because it is convinced of its own righteousness.

"There's a hidden assumption that if we do something, it's good because we're a benign superpower," he said, saying this form of thinking dates to the presidency of Woodrow Wilson.

But the future of American foreign policy is unclear, Chomsky said in an interview after the speech.

"We can be a constructive force in the world, but only if we choose to be," he said.

"Americans will decide what the role of America is in the coming century."

Listeners said they respected Chomsky's intellect, even if they did not agree with his all of his views.

"I wanted to bring in someone with a critical view of the United States in global affairs," said Max A. Likin, the leader of the seminar and a Lecturer on History and Literature. "[SNIP] empires have a way of acting unilaterally and changing the rules when it suits them."



Monday, November 12, 2007


"Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007."

Kucinich showed up to vote against it. One of 6 to actually stand up for the Constitution.

There is now a petition that you can sign in opposition to H.R. 1955:

A little-noticed anti-terrorism bill quietly making its through Congress is raising fears of a new affront on activism and constitutional rights. The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act was passed in an overwhelming 400 to six House vote last month. Critics say it could herald a new government crackdown on dissident activity under the guise of fighting terrorism.

Here come the thought police
By Ralph E. Shaffer and R. William Robinson

With overwhelming bipartisan support, Rep. Jane Harman's "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act" passed the House 404-6 late last month and now rests in Sen. Joe Lieberman's Homeland Security Committee. Swift Senate passage appears certain. Not since the "Patriot Act" of 2001 has any bill so threatened our constitutionally guaranteed rights. The historian Henry Steele Commager, denouncing President John Adams' suppression of free speech in the 1790s, argued that the Bill of Rights was not written to protect government from dissenters but to provide a legal means for citizens to oppose a government they didn't trust. Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence not only proclaimed the right to dissent but declared it a people's duty, under certain conditions, to alter or abolish their government,0,2384977.story

Kurt Nimmo
November 22, 2007

According to Jessica Lee of Indypendent and Kamau Karl Franklin of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act was penned with plenty of help from the RAND Corporation.

Rep. Jane Harman, Democrat from California, has had a lengthy relationship with the Rand Corporation, Lee tells Democracy Now, although she was unable to determine if RAND wrote the bill. On the 12th anniversary of the OKC bombing, Rep. Harman, as chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment, introduced the bill in the House of Representatives

On November 6, CSPAN aired a hearing of the Homeland Security Subcommittee's "Terrorism and the Internet" which stated purpose was to attempt to identify and focus on the use of the internet by "home grown terrorist recruiters." The hearing was chaired by California democrat Jane Harman, sponsor of the infamous HR 1955, "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007", and ranking Republican, Rep. Dave Reichert.

This event generated quite an uproar in the 9/11 Truth and civil liberties communities because of testimony by panelists conflating two very distinct and unconnected groups -- the 9/11 truth movement with jihadi terrorists. What generated the most buzz -- and condemnation -- was a powerpoint demonstration from Mark Weitzman of the Simon Weisenthal Center, whose powerpoint presentation titled "Internet: Incubator of 9/11 Conspiracies and Disinformation" showed a video of building 7 collapsing as well as a screenshot of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth's website in between websites which featured bomb-making techniques and a terrorist's training manual.
For anyone who has visited you will see that Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth is as far from a terrorists' recruitment website as you can get. Just click on the "About Us" button and you will read this copy:
"We are a non-partisan association of Architects, Engineers, and affiliates, who are dedicated to exposing the falsehoods and to revealing truths about the 'collapses' of the WTC high-rises on 9/11/01.
We call upon Congress for a truly independent investigation with subpoena power. We believe that there may be sufficient evidence to conclude that the World Trade Center buildings #1 (North Tower), #2 (South Tower), and #7 (the 47 story high-rise across Vessey St.) were destroyed not by jet impact and fires but by controlled demolition with explosives.
We believe that this website, as well as the other referenced sites, contains the information necessary to demonstrate to all with an open mind that this is the case, and that such an investigation is warranted and overdue. We believe that the available relevant evidence casts grave doubt on the government's official story of these 'collapses'.
Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth are encouraged to take an active role by reporting the results of their research on 9/11 by means of lectures, articles, and methods of disseminating the truth about the 9/11 WTC building 'collapses'."
Then there is a picture of Richard Gage, AIA, founder of AE 9/11 Truth and his professional biography. Scary, huh?...


Bringing the War on Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How to
`Disrupt' Radical Movements

author: Jessica Lee

Bringing the War on Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How to
'Disrupt' Radical Movements in the United States
From the November 21, 2007 issue - Jessica Lee

Under the guise of a bill that calls for the study of "homegrown
terrorism," Congress is apparently trying to broaden the definition of
terrorism to encompass both First Amendment political activity and
traditional forms of protest such as nonviolent civil disobedience,
according to civil liberties advocates, scholars and historians.

The proposed law, The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism
Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1955), was passed by the House of
Representative in a 404-6 vote Oct. 23. (The Senate is currently
considering a companion bill, S. 1959.) The act would establish a
"National Commission on the prevention of violent radicalization and
ideologically based violence" and a university-based "Center for
Excellence" to "examine and report upon the facts and causes of
violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based
violence in the United States" in order to develop policy for
"prevention, disruption and mitigation."

Many observers fear that the proposed law will be used against
U.S.-based groups engaged in legal but unpopular political activism,
ranging from political Islamists to animal-rights and environmental
campaigners to radical right-wing organizations. There is concern,
too, that the bill will undermine academic integrity and is the latest
salvo in a decade-long government grab for power at the expense of
civil liberties.

David Price, a professor of anthropology at St. Martin's University
who studies government surveillance and harassment of dissident
scholars, says the bill "is a shot over the bow of environmental
activists, animal-rights activists, anti-globalization activists and
scholars who are working in the Middle East who have views that go
against the administration. " Price says some right-wing outfits such
as gun clubs are also threatened because "[they] would be looked at
with suspicion under the bill."

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), which has been
organizing against post-Sept. 11 legislative attacks on First
Amendment rights, is critical of the bill. "When you first look at
this bill, it might seem harmless because it is about the development
of a commission to do a study," explained Hope Marston, a regional
organizer with BORDC.

"However, when you realize the focus of the study is 'homegrown
terrorism,' it raises red flags," Marston said. "When you consider
that the government has wiretapped our phone calls and emails, spied
on religious and political groups and has done extensive data mining
of our daily records, it is worrisome of what might be done with the
study. I am concerned that there appears to be an inclination to study
religious and political groups to ultimately try to find subversion.
This would violate our First Amendment rights to free speech and
freedoms of religion and association. "

One pressing concern is definitions contained in the bill. For
example, "violent radicalization" is defined as "the process of
adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of
facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political,
religious, or social change."

Alejandro Queral, executive director of the Northwest Constitutional
Rights Center, asks, "What is an extremist belief system? Who defines
this? These are broad definitions that encompass so much. ... It is
criminalizing thought and ideology."

For her part, Marston takes issue with the definition of homegrown
terrorism. "It is about the 'use, planned use, or threatened use, of
force or violence to intimidate or coerce the government.' This is
often the language that refers to political activity."

Congressional sponsors of the bill claim it is limited in scope.

"Though not a silver bullet, the legislation will help the nation
develop a better understanding of the forces that lead to homegrown
terrorism, and the steps we can take to stop it," said Rep. Jane
Harman (D-Calif.) Oct. 23, who co-authored the bill. "Free speech,
espousing even very radical beliefs, is protected by our Constitution
— but violent behavior is not."

The bill's purpose goes beyond academic inquiry, however. In a press
release dated Nov. 6, Harman stated: "the National Commission [will]
propose to both Congress and [Department of Homeland Security
Secretary Michael] Chertoff initiatives to intercede before
radicalized individuals turn violent." (Harman's office refused three
separate requests by The Indypendent for comment.)

Some assert this would allow law enforcement agencies to target
radicals in general. Price says, "This bill is trying to bridge the
gap between those with radical dissenting views and those who engage
in violent acts. It's a form of prior restraint."

Price explains how this may work, citing an example in his home town
of Olympia, Wash., where a peaceful blockade took place in early
November at the Port of Olympia to prevent the shipment of war
materials between the United States and Iraq. He says, "It will be
these types of things that will start getting defined as terrorism,
including Quakers and indigenous rights' campaigns."

Kamau Franklin, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights
(CCR), is also concerned at the targeting of peaceful protests. He
says the "Commission' s broad mandate can lead to the ability to turn
civil disobedience, a form of protest that is centuries old, into a
terrorist act." It's possible, he says, "that someone who would have
been charged with disorderly conduct or obstruction of governmental
administration may soon be charged with a federal terrorist statute."

"My biggest fear is that they [the commission] will call for some new
criminal penalties and federal crimes," says Franklin. "Activists are
nervous about how the broad definitions could be used for
criminalizing civil disobedience and squashing the momentum of the left."

The bill provides a list of Congressional findings, including a
failure to understand the development and promotion of "violent
radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence,"
which is argued to pose a threat to domestic security. The Internet
was highlighted as a tool in "providing access to broad and constant
streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens."

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would cost $22
million over four years.


Although the legislation is vague, a chief target appears to be
Islamic militants living in the United States. Harman, in her Nov. 6
press release, says the bill is needed to combat violent
radicalization and cites four cases as examples of such — all of them
involving Muslim Americans allegedly engaged in terrorist activity.
The bill's language also states that proposed appointees to the
National Commission should have "expertise and experience" in a long
list of disciplines such as "world religions." But the only religion
named is Islam.

The bill appears to be influenced by the government-affiliat ed RAND
Corporation, whose website includes a letter from Harman noting, "RAND
... and I have worked closely for many years." Harman, who chairs the
House Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism
Risk Assessment, introduced H.R. 1955 on April 19, 2007.

Two weeks prior to this, Brian Michael Jenkins of RAND delivered
testimony on "Jihadist Radicalization and Recruitment" to Harman's
subcommittee. Jenkins claimed "radicalization and recruiting are
taking place in the United States," and listed a number of
high-profile cases in which Muslim Americans have been arrested on
terrorism-related charges.

In his testimony, Jenkins admitted convictions in these cases — in
Lackawanna, N.Y., Northern Virginia, New York City, Portland, Ore.,
and elsewhere — relied on charges being "interpreted broadly" by the

There has been significant criticism of how government officials have
hyped many of these cases as mass terror attacks thwarted in the nick
of time despite a lack of any actual plans or means to commit a
violent act on the part of the defendants. It's also been noted that
in numerous instances the government employed informants who goaded
the suspects into committing the illegal acts for which they were

In June, Jenkins was back before Harman's subcommittee discussing the
role of the National Commission. According to the Congressional
Quarterly website, Jenkins said, "[Homegrown terrorism] is the
principal threat that we face as a country and it will likely be the
principal threat that we face for decades." The website stated,
"Unless a way of intervening in the radicalization process can be
found, 'we are condemned to stepping on cockroaches one at a time,' he

At the end of his second round of testimony, Jenkins undercut the
claims that there is any real danger requiring the creation of the
National Commission and Center for Excellence. He said, "Judging by
the terrorist conspiracies uncovered since 9/11, violent
radicalization has yielded very few recruits. Indeed, the level of
terrorist activities in the United States was much higher in the 1970s
that it is today." (Repeated inquiries by The Indypendent to the RAND
Corporation to interview Jenkins or other staff analysts were turned
down by the media relations department, which claimed they were all
unavailable for the rest of the year.)

This has the Arab-American community worried. "When you look at the
creation of the Commission, it is scary, especially when people [on
the national commission] will be appointed by the White House," said
Kareem Shora, executive director of the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). He pointed to the recess
appointment, despite widespread criticism, of Daniel Pipes to the U.S.
Institute of Peace in 2003, who, Shora said, "propagated hate against

Shora is worried H.R. 1955 will unfairly target Muslims, even though
he says they have been largely helpful in terrorist investigations
since Sept. 11. Despite the assistance, he says civil rights abuses
continue to occur, including "voluntary interviews," the Absconder
Apprehension Initiative and the Special Registration Program.


The passage of the H.R. 1955 coincided with a furor over the Los
Angeles Police Department's plan to "map" Muslim communities in the
city. Appearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security
on Oct. 30, Michael Downing, the assistant commanding officer of
LAPD's Counter-terrorism/ Criminal Intelligence Bureau, said the
project "will lay out the geographic locations of the many different
Muslim population groups around Los Angeles [and] take a deeper look
at their history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic breakdown,
socio-economic status and social interactions. "

Shora says, "Looking at a community based on religious affiliation
alone ... is unconstitutional. The ADC added in a press release that
singling "out individuals for investigation, surveillance, and data
collection based solely on religion ... would violate equal protection
and burden the free exercise of religion."

Following the outcry, the LAPD announced Nov. 15 that it was dropping
the mapping plan. Opposition came from many quarters, including
scholars, because the LAPD envisioned using academics in the mapping
program. It reportedly intended "to have the data assembled by the
University of Southern California's Center for Risk and Economic
Analysis." Recruiting academics for counterterrorism efforts is also
at the heart of H.R. 1955, which proposes a university-based Center of

Roberto Gonzalez, an anthropologist who co-authored a recent article
with David Price criticizing the Pentagon's use of scholars in the
Iraq and Afghanistan wars, says the prospect of creating a Center "is
a bad idea because it is likely to compromise the intellectual
integrity of the academy." H.R. 1955 advocates for the use of
"cultural anthropologists, " which concerns Price that they would "be
doing secretive work for the state."

Chip Berlet, senior analyst at the Boston-based Political Research
Associates, argues the government is trying to establish a Center to
get around legal prohibitions on gathering data specifically based on
race and religion. He explains that there is already extensive
research being done on the roots of political violence by scores of
academics around the country but many of their findings do not fit
into the government's agenda. To Berlet, the proposed Center is
nothing more than "a slush fund for politically connected hacks."


Islamic militants are not the only threat on the government's radar.

"A chief problem is radical forms of Islam, but we're not only
studying radical Islam," Harman told In These Times, a Chicago-based
newsmagazine. "We're studying the phenomenon of people with radical
beliefs who turn into people who would use violence."

In 2004, the FBI named "eco-terrorism, " a broad term that includes
property destruction, the top domestic threat. The July 2007 National
Intelligence Estimate found that "special interest groups" were also
likely to cause small-scale violent attacks.

These "special interest groups" were outlined in a 2005 RAND report,
"Trends in Terrorism." One chapter was devoted to a non-Muslim
"homegrown terrorist" threat — anti-globalists. "Anti-globalists
directly challenge the intrinsic qualities of capitalism, charging
that in the insatiable quest for growth and profit, the philosophy is
serving to destroy the world's ecology, indigenous cultures and
individual welfare," stated the report. The report identifies
rightwing movements such as neo-Nazis as threats and states there
should be a focus on anarchist and radical environmental groups,
citing anarchists involved in civil disobedience during the 2004
National Republican Contention in New York City and millions of
dollars in property damage by the Earth Liberation Front in the last


Observers say using vaguely defined terms is part of a historical
pattern of sweeping government repression that includes the post-
World War II "Red Scare" and the FBI's counter-intellegenc e program,
nicknamed Cointelpro. They are also concerned that H.R. 1955 will
foster a legislative momentum on criminalizing a broad range of
dissident voices.

Jules Boykoff, an assistant professor of politics and government at
Pacific University and author of Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of
Dissent in the United States, said he was alarmed that "violence" was
not defined. He noted the definition of "ideologically based violence"
is the "means to use, planned use, or threatened use of force or
violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual's
political, religious, or social beliefs."

"It is a circular definition, what does that mean?" asked Boykoff,
while reading the bill aloud. "What does violence mean? We do not need
laws like this because we already have plenty of laws on the books
that make it a crime to blow up or set fire to buildings. It is called

Boykoff commented that the bill used the terms "extremism" and
"radicalism" interchangeably. "The word 'radical' shares the
etymological root to the word 'radish,' which means to get to the root
of the problem. So, if the government wants to get at the actual root
of terrorism, then let's really talk about it. We need to talk about
the economic roots, the vast inequalities in wealth between the rich
and poor." Boykoff says historically the government has used "radical"
as a way of dismissing groups as "extremists, " however, and uses the
two words as synonyms.

Hope Marston of the BORDC is nervous about the definition of homegrown
terrorism, which is "about the 'use, planned use, or threatened use,
of force or violence' to intimidate or coerce the government." She
says, "The definition does not make clear what force is."

Bron Taylor, a professor at University of Florida who studies radical
religion and environmental movements, questioned the government's
interpretation of violence. He spent years as an ethnographic
researcher exploring the propensity of individuals within the radical
environmental movement to turn to violence, a word he says defines as
harm to sentient beings, not property destruction.

"There are all sorts of things that activists do that involve little
or no risk of hurting people, but their actions get labeled as
violent, or even worse, as acts of terrorism," Taylor said. "For
example, if 10 activists push themselves into a congressperson' s
regional office, make noise, pull out files and make a scene, is that
an act of terrorism? It is quite possible that the act could scare the
hell out of the secretary and office workers because they don't know
these people or what they intend to do? But is that terrorism? Some
people would like to frame it that way."

"In any political dispute, whoever succeeds in defining the terms is
likely to prevail in the debate," Taylor said. "That is why scholars
and the media need to be scrupulous in the ways they use and define
terms deployed by the partisans in these disputes. They should strive
to come up with terms that are as descriptive, accurate and as neutral
as possible."


The legislation authorizes a 10-member National Commission (the Senate
bill calls for 12 members) appointed by the President, the secretary
of homeland security, congressional leaders and the chairpersons of
both the Senate and House committees on Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs.

After convening, the Commission is to submit reports at six-month
intervals for 18 months to the President and Congress, stating its
findings, conclusions, and legislative recommendations "for immediate
and long-term countermeasures ... to prevent violent radicalization,
homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence."

Kamau Franklin of CCR says he finds the timing of the legislation
disturbing coming a year before the presidential elections and about
eight months prior to the Democratic and Republication National
Conventions — both which of have increasingly been the site of
large-scale protests and civil disobedience.

More disturbing are the similarities to Cointelpro, which was
investigated by a U.S. Senate select committee on intelligence
activities (commonly known as the Church Committee), which convened in
1975. The Church Committee found that from 1956 to 1971, "the Bureau
conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at
preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and
association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous
groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the
national security and deter violence."

Hope Marston says, "In the 1970s when we learned of the violation in
rights that the government had been doing for 40 years, there was
public outrage. Because these erosions of the Bill of Rights have
happened during 'the war on terror,' we aren't supposed to protest
anything the government does because they are 'protecting us.' That
feeling has made the government's actions more dangerous."


The Senate version of the bill finds that the domestic threats "cannot
be easily prevented through traditional Federal intelligence or law
enforcement efforts, and requires the incorporation of State and local

"That's about joint terrorism task force making," Franklin said. "It's
a way to create a federal slush fund so local police departments can
get their hands on it. This happened in the 1960s."

Marston agreed. "This sounds like part of the same continuum we've
experienced in the last seven years, which is the effort to deputize
local law enforcement to work with the FBI and national agencies
without local accountability, as we have seen with the establishment
of joint-terrorism task forces across the country," Marston said. "On
9/11, there were only a few joint-terrorism task forces, now there are
more than 100 in existence. ... When you talk about working with local
law enforcement to possibly spy on groups and individuals to try to
find the so-called 'needle in the haystack,' this definitely poses a
threat to local autonomy."

Although Cointelpro was partially dismantled in the 1970s and the
FBI's power to conduct domestic intelligence curbed, many safeguards
have been overturned in the last 30 years, according to David Cole and
Jim Dempsey, authors of Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing
Civil Liberties in the Name of National Security. Legislation such as
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and the 2001
USA Patriot Act "radically transformed the landscape of government
power, and did so in ways that virtually guarantee repetition of some
of law enforcement' s worst abuses of the past," the authors wrote.

In the last few years, many states have passed versions of the Patriot
Act, while Congress has placed further checks on civil liberties with
the Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act (2006), the Animal
Enterprise Terrorism Act (2006) and the Protect America Now Act
(2007), which amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of
1978 and legalized the Bush administration' s warrantless wiretapping


H.R. 1955 gives Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael
Chertoff the power to establish a "Center of Excellence," a
university-based research program to "bring together leading experts
and researchers to conduct multidisciplinary research and education
for homeland security solutions." The Department currently has eight
Centers at academic institutions across the country, strengthening
what many see as a growing military-security- academic complex.

Rep. Harman, in an Oct. 23 press release, stated that, the Center
would "examine the social, criminal, political, psychological and
economic roots of domestic terrorism."

"I do not have a lot of concerns with this legislation, " said Jim
Dempsey, policy director at the Center for Democracy and Technology.
"Violent radicalization is an issue that deserves to be studied and
understood. I am more comfortable with this bill's approach, which is
to treat the issue as a matter for broad study using largely open
sources, than I would be with an approach that directed the FBI, DHS
or the CIA to examine the issue," Dempsey said. Dempsey was the
assistant counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and
Constitutional Rights from 1985-1994, the former Deputy Director for
the Center for National Security Studies and co-authored with David
Cole, Terrorism and the Constitution.

"I do have some concern that the Commission and the Center will focus
on Muslims and will contribute to a climate of apprehension, " Dempsey
continued. "But I still think the bill is probably a good idea, if its
concepts are in a true spirit of inquiry."

Taylor agrees, but is leery that Washington politicians will hold
power over commission and Center. "As an academic, I like the idea of
creating Centers of Excellence in general because they bring together
excellent scholars," Taylor said. "But this is not something that the
government should have a great deal of control over, because it is so
ideologically charged. We've had plenty of examples of
administrations, this one in particular, that likes to manipulate and
downplay scientific findings that run at variance with their
ideological and political objectives."

"The bill itself, no matter how well drafted, does not guarantee a
balanced outcome," noted Dempsey. "To ensure balance, human rights
activists will have to get involved in the work of the Commission and
the Center."

"If they really want to know why we have terrorism, they are going to
need to explore counter-narratives, " explained Boykoff. "When the
Sept. 11 attacks occurred, one narrative to explain the situation was
that there is 'an external enemy out there who hates America.' Other
narratives, such as that perhaps U.S. foreign policy might be fueling
acrimonious feelings towards the U.S., were not considered. I am
skeptical that the Center for Excellence would be open to these other
narratives, but rather would be regurgitating the standard narrative."

It is unclear how researchers would gather the information.

"If you are trying to understand in the broadest sense what turns
people to violence in a variety of political causes, it is not
something you can do easily, and it must be studied in a serious way,"
said Taylor, who has began studying the radical environmental movement
since 1989. "It is exceptionally hard to study these groups. They tend
to be suspicious of new comers and outsiders, rightfully so. They
aren't fond of academic institutions or academics because they tend to
view most of what goes on at institutions of higher education as being
subservient to interests of global capital," he said.

With his research experience, Taylor believes that it is absurd to
think the Commission could produce a significant report in 18 months.

"To find out what makes people tick, you actually have to engage with
them as a human being, and that is a long process that takes patience
and trust building."

Anthropologist Price is also worried. "My concern is that
anthropologists would again be doing secretive work for the state.
This bill is going to be interpreted so narrowly. It is calling for an
ideological litmus test," Price said. "The military believes there are
ways to get around this questions legally, but ethically, it is a big
deal. There are ethical codes of conduct in anthropology, sociology,
psychology, in the social sciences in general, that they very basic
precautions are taken."


For U.S. historian Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the
United States, H.R. 1955 can be added to a long list of government
policies that have been passed to target dissent in the United States.

"This is the most recent of a long series of laws passed in times of
foreign policy tensions, starting with the Alien and Sedition Acts of
1798, which sent people to jail for criticizing the Adams
administration, " Zinn said in an email to The Indypendent. "During
World War I, the Espionage Act and Sedition Act sent close to a
thousand people to jail for speaking out against the war. On the eve
of World War II, the Smith Act was passed, harmless enough title, but
it enabled the jailing of radicals — first Trotskyists during the war
and Communist party leaders after the war, for organizing literature,
etc., interpreted as "conspiring to overthrow the government by force
and violence."

"In all cases, the environment was one in which the government was
involved in a war or Cold War or near-war situation and wanted to
suppress criticism of its policies," Zinn said.

Regardless, Zinn remains optimistic. "We should keep in mind that an
act of repression by the state is a recognition of the potential of
social movements and therefore we need to persist, through the
repression, in order to bring about social change," Zinn said. "We can
learn to expect the repression, and not to be intimidated. "

Hope Marston remains hopeful. "The work we have been doing at BORDC is
mobilizing people in the grassroots across the political spectrum, she
said. "It is not just a Leftist effort to protect the Bill of Rights.
We have worked with libertarians and republicans. We have helped get
412 resolution passed on the state and local level against the erosion
of the Bill of rights."

Shortly after this article went to press, the Los Angeles Police
Department announced they scrapped their plan to "map the muslim
community" after meeting behind closed doors with leaders in the
Arab-American communities.

There is now a petition that you can sign in opposition to H.R. 1955: