You kind of summed up what you wanted to say when
you wrote: “Running throughout this whole letter of response is the theme
that the U.S. government and the U.S. media is the problem – some how we
manipulated everything.” Well, at the risk of disappointing you, I really
think it is true. You yourself admitted that earlier when you wrote: “True
we stick our necks way out every time someone has a problem.” The
following are some recent examples. Serbs and Albanians are fighting in
Kosovo; the U.S. sends Richard Holbrooke. India and Pakistan join the A-club;
the U.S. sends Strobe Talbot. North Korea develops nuclear weapons; the
U.S. dispatches an envoy. Ocalan, the Kurdish leader, flees to Italy; the
U.S. declares that it supports Turkey’s request for his extradition etc.
I am not denying the right of the U.S. to intervene and look after its interests, I am simply stating a fact: U.S. interventions can be noticed everywhere and all the time. This, by definition, is a problem because U.S. interests do not coincide with the interests of the peoples or states subject to these interventions. While the U.S. have the right to intervene, I think we also have the right to pass a judgment on these interventions.
Having referred to Kosovo and Ocalan, let me draw a parallel between the Albanian minority in Kosovo and the Kurdish minority in Turkey and watch the U.S. reaction. While Kosovo is the home of 2 million ethnic Albanians, 12 million Kurds live in Turkish Kurdistan. The Kosovars are not denied the right to keep their language and culture. The Kurds, on the other hand, are denied the right to their own language and cultural identity. The Kosovars are fighting for independence, so do the Kurds. While the conflict in Kosovo is rather recent, the conflict in South East Turkey is as old as World War I. During the past 14 years, an average of 2,000 Kurdish lives a year have been claimed. While the U.S. is totally silent about the Kurdish problem in Turkey (a silence that I interpret as a support for Turkey), it wants to impose a solution, by force if necessary, with the help of its NATO allies, to the Kosovo problem. Is this not a double standard? It depends on how you look at it. From a moral standpoint, it definitely is. But if the criterion is self-interest then it is not. Turkey is a NATO ally; it consolidated its military cooperation with Israel; its army generals are actually running the country to the liking of the U.S. Never mind if it is a fake democracy; if it oppresses another people; if it doesn’t respect human rights. The U.S. needs Turkey as an ally in the region; it needs its air bases; and it needs its listening posts.
I would like to emphasize at this point that, contrary to what you might think, I am not trying to pick on the U.S. or singling it out. After all, the U.S. is not Burkina Faso to be accused of being obsessed with that country. The U.S. is the only superpower in the world, has global interests and commands attention. Gone are the days when Great Britain was the superpower and under the microscope while the U.S. was the “good guy.”
As you pointed out “the problems Iraq has had in the 1900’s … didn’t start with the United States intervention.” Absolutely, but this doesn’t absolve the United States from what it is doing now. Remember, back then, at the Paris Peace Conference convened after World War I, Woodrow Wilson stood for “peace without victory” and “a world safe for democracy.” He wanted to change the rules that govern relations between nations and put an end to old rivalries. His Fourteen Points are, in this regard, an important historic document. He tried hard to change those rules. Unfortunately he had to confront tough allies, Britain and France, whose main concern was to collect the spoils of war, but to satisfy the President of the United States made a cosmetic change to their title. Instead of calling themselves “colonial” powers, from now on they will be called “mandatory” powers, as if this change of terminology necessary means a change of substance. Those days of Woodrow Wilson are gone. We are not dealing anymore with a Wilsonian United States.
Your perception of U.S. interventions is different than mine. Justifying, I believe, U.S. interventions you wrote: “we’ve been asked time and time again for help.” The examples you give include “the terrible natural disasters of recent months in Honduras or WWII.” It would really be a shame if the United States, as the most powerful and, probably in absolute terms, the richest country on earth, does not help in cases of natural disasters.
As for WWII, and for that matter WWI, I beg to differ. The U.S. joined those two wars two years after they have started and only when it came to the conclusion that its interests are at stake. It joined WWI after the Zimmermann Telegram, and WWII after Pearl Harbor. At the risk of repeating myself, I am not blaming the U.S. for looking after its interests and I am not criticizing it. I am just stating that the motive is interest, a fact that people sometimes try to gloss over.
You had a long tirade about Saddam Hussein and how cruel he was toward his own people. I have no quarrel with you about how bad Saddam Hussein is. I called him a dictator. You called him a “mad man.” How about calling him an evil man. You took me to task for calling him a dictator and said “I simply can’t accept that as an excuse for Saddam’s behavior.” It seems to me that it is when you call someone a “mad man” that you can excuse his behavior. Calling him a dictator, however, is holding him accountable for everything he does. Whatever the case, I share your indignation and revulsion toward Saddam Hussein, but you have to remember that Reagan and Bush forged unusually warm relations with this “criminal” during the Iraq-Iran war. In the Columbus Town Hall Meeting televised on February 18, 1998, Albright and Cohen accused Saddam Hussein of committing the ultimate atrocity: “Saddam was guilty of using weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors as well as his own people.” How disingenuous they were! This gassing of the Kurds at Halabja occurred in March 1988. Not only were there no passionate calls for military strike at that time but a year later Bush authorized for his friend Saddam new loans to achieve the “goal of increasing U.S. exports.”
Furthermore, in a report aired in the U.S. by ITN
on February 13, 1998, it was disclosed that “14 consignments of biological
material were exported to Iraq between 1985 and 1989.” These exports “backed
by the State Department were licensed by the U.S. Department of Commerce.”
Also, at the end of the Gulf War, Washington’s reaction to the uprisings
of the Kurds in the north and the Shi?a in the south is worth noting.
Saddam Hussein crushed them under the eyes of General Schwartzkopf who
even refused to permit rebelling military officers access to captured Iraqi
arms. It is safe to say that at no time was the U.S. serious about removing
Saddam Hussein, since his presence serves its interests in the region.
If, for one reason or another, removal were to take place, the U.S. hopes
that a “suitable” officer can overthrow him, since the U.S., as a matter
of policy, favors military dictatorships in order to maintain stability.
Then the U.S. will have the best of both worlds: an iron-fisted junta without
Saddam Hussein. These facts that are carefully ignored by the media must
be stated if we want to get a full picture of the situation.
I would like to start this segment by quoting from an interview that the Progressive magazine (July 1998) had with Robert Fisk, a British journalist who has spent the last 23 years in the Middle East and is currently Beirut correspondent for The Independent. Spending all those years in one area, something highly unusual for American correspondents, he was asked “why you’ve spent some twenty-three years there.” His reply was that “unlike in America, where your correspondents only do three years and move on, we don’t have that tradition in Britain. We believe that if a correspondent is doing his job and gets to know the story, he’s more qualified the longer he’s there.” The interviewer commented that “There’s a saying among U.S. editors that they don’t want people to ‘go native.’” Fisk shot back: “Yeah, well, I’ve heard this comment. This is usually used about journalists when they start to understand the story and tell the truth.”
This is exactly the problem. The media is reluctant to give us the whole truth. For instance, it is very hard for the average person to understand the complexities of the situation in Iraq within the overall context of the Middle East if the media overlooks the fact that Saddam Hussein’s worst crimes were committed when he was a favored U.S. ally and trading partner, and that immediately after he was driven from Kuwait, the U.S. watched quietly while he turned to slaughter the Iraqi rebellion. Mentioning these facts will cause the public to doubt the official version based on demonizing Saddam Hussein and equating him with Hitler. Questions will be asked about the real motives and the reason for imposing sanctions and enforcing an embargo. The general public will then be informed like the handful of people who asked the hard questions (that the media consistently avoids to ask) in the Columbus Town Hall Meeting, to the consternation of the top three foreign policy makers in the Clinton administration.
The problem is that if you solely rely on the mainstream media as your source of information you will remain uninformed or more exactly inadequately informed, if not misinformed. Diversification of sources, the alternative media, the specialized publications are the three possible ways one can follow to look for information. In this regard, I really don’t know what to make of your statement “We get information that much of the rest of the world doesn’t get but we don’t get if from the much maligned media - we get it from our family members that work in these oil fields.” Even if I go along with you on this point because you are from Texas you have to admit that the scope of things we need to know goes beyond the oil fields, and I don’t think that members of any family can realistically be considered a serious steady source of information.
I didn’t bring up the subject of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Since you brought it up and wondered “how many other people would have had to die if the war had continued” I have to tell you that the answer is zero people. Japan was militarily defeated long before Hiroshima. It had been trying for months, if not for years, to surrender; and the U.S. had consistently rebuffed these overtures, for the sole purpose of testing the bomb on a live target, exactly as it is testing now its new weapons on live targets in Iraq.
Please don’t blame the Iraqi people for not overthrowing Saddam Hussein, who “remains in power because the people let him remain in power.” I have to strongly disagree with you on this. The people would love to see him gone but you have to remember that we are dealing here with a police state. What am I to make of your tone when you wrote: “knowing what I know of the terrorist tactics that these people know how to implement,” overthrowing Saddam Hussein should not be a difficult task? I hope by this you are not making a sweeping generalization about the Iraqi people. That you are “totally against the U.S. going in and doing their dirty work for them” is understandable. But then I have to ask you this question: were you equally against the U.S. sending half a million of its soldiers in the desert of Saudi Arabia to do the dirty work for the Kuwaitis? Were you against the Vietnam war, the Korean war, the U.S. military interventions in Granada (1983, Reagan), Nicaragua (Reagan) and Panama (1989, Bush)?
When I wrote, in December, that UNSCOM was becoming a spying agency I didn’t expect that what I have said will be so quickly corroborated by the latest developments. I am surprised that you missed this bombshell that exploded on January 6 in the Boston Globe and the Washington Post, because this is what your question “Are you suggesting espionage here?” implies. The Boston Globe’s article starts as follows: “U.S. intelligence agencies, working under the cover of the United Nations, carried out an ambitious spying operation designed to penetrate Iraq’s intelligence apparatus and track the movement of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, according to US and UN sources.” Since then, it has been an uphill battle for UNSCOM and its chairman, Richard Butler, to get rid of this stigma.
You’ve indicated that you didn’t see the connection between the inability of Iraq to build a tank, something that I have suggested, and its ability “to lob a missile or a bomb,” something that you have suggested. The answer is that there is no connection. When I suggested that Iraq cannot build a tank it was in the context of a comparison wrongly being made, in my opinion, between Iraq and Nazi Germany. While the former was and still is a third world country lacking an industrial base, the latter was a full-fledge industrial nation that was able to sustain a world war for four years.
I am sorry if you felt “uneasy” with the answers I gave in my previous letter. It is my hope that you will feel more comfortable with these answers. It is difficult to accept the fact that politicians are not in the business of telling the truth to the people. On the contrary, they are in the business of making the people believe that they speak the truth. Your statement “We are the U.S. government” sounds and really is a patriotic statement. Sadly, it is somewhat unrealistic in today’s world.
February 6, 1999