Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Indian state Kerala aims to break Microsoft dominance


The communist-run Kerala state said yesterday it aimed to break US software giant Microsoft’s dominance in schools, two weeks after rattling investors by banning Coke and Pepsi sales.

Kerala Education Minister M A Baby said his government would promote the use of open source Linux operating systems along with Microsoft in high schools in Kerala, India’s most literate state which has a population of 31.8mn.

"We are against monopolies of multinational companies in any sectors," he said.

"So we would like to provide equal opportunity for both Linux and Windows-Microsoft operating system in the school curriculum." But "ideologically I support Linux and Free and Open Operating Systems for IT enabled-education in schools," he added.

Baby’s statement came two weeks after the southern state alarmed international investors by banning sales of US soft drinks Coke and Pepsi after an environmental group said their locally bottled beverages contained high pesticide levels.

Five other Indian states imposed partial bans on sales of the cola products following the environmental group’s allegations. The US soft drink firms dismissed the charges as unfounded but sales of their products have fallen.

The Kerala government launched a program to provide computer-enabled education to high school students in 2002 that it dubbed "IT @ School."

The project has now been rolled out in all 2,724 high schools across the state.

The education minister said there was no truth to Indian media reports that the government was seeking to ban the use of Microsoft Windows in high schools.

"We won’t act undemocratically. We are giving options to the students and teachers. They can decide on what tool they want to use," he said. There was no immediate response available from Microsoft

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

DVD - The Sentinel

The Sentinel DVD


Loaded With Special Features Including An Alternate Ending, The Intense Non-Stop Action Thriller Explodes Onto DVD August 29 From Fox Home Entertainment

CENTURY CITY, Calif. – Proving that nothing is as it seems in the high stakes game of political intrigue, a legendary but disgraced Secret Service agent is under the gun to uncover a terrorist plot to infiltrate the White House in THE SENTINEL, an explosive action-thriller arriving on DVD August 29 from Fox Home Entertainment. Hailed as “engrossing…thoroughly entertaining” (WCBS-TV) and boasting an all-star cast that includes Oscar® winner Michael Douglas (Best Actor, Wall Street, 1988), Kiefer Sutherland (“24”), Eva Longoria (“Desperate Housewives”) and Oscar®-winner Kim Basinger (Best Supporting Actress, L.A. Confidential, 1998), THE SENTINEL puts the life of the President on the line in an intense game of cat-and-mouse… where the only thing standing between the terrorist threat and national security is a disavowed agent wanted for attempted murder and treason. THE SENTINEL DVD features even more thrills and action, taking audiences deeper than ever before into the inner workings and dangers of political protection with an alternate ending, deleted scenes, director and writer audio commentary, featurettes and more. THE SENTINEL DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $29.98 U.S./$43.48 Canada.

DVD Special Features:
The Sentinel DVD is available in 2 separate skus, Widescreen and Full Screen, on dual-layered discs and presented in English Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound and Spanish and French Dolby Surround with subtitles available in English and Spanish. Bonus features include:

• Alternate Ending
• Four Deleted scenes
• Audio commentary by director Clark Johnson and writer George Nolfi
• The Secret Service: Building On A Tradition Of Excellence featurette
• In The President’s Shadow: Protecting The President featurette
• 2 Theatrical trailers

Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria and Kim Basinger head up “the perfect cast” (CBS-TV, Sacramento) in this gripping suspense thriller that delivers “nonstop action around every turn!” (NBC-TV, Houston). There’s never been a traitor in the United States Secret Service...until now. And the evidence points to Pete Garrison (Douglas), one of the most trusted agents on the force. Now on the run, with two relentless federal investigators (Sutherland and Longoria) hot on his heels, Garrison must fight to clear his name and thwart an attempt on the President’s life before it’s too late!

Triniman's perspective...

I was intrigued by the trailers for this film, but as its release date neared, there wasn't the expected hype or level of promotion that you would associate with promising film.

The Sentinel appears to ride the coattails of Kiefer Sutherland, who is one of the biggest television stars due to the success of the amazing Fox show, "24." Here, teamed with actors Michael Douglas, Kim Basinger and the lovely Eva Longoria, also of a hit television show, "Desperate Housewives," and having the story penned by an actual Secret Service agent, how could things go wrong? Too easily, unfortunately, as you discover who the bad guy is.

Michael Douglas is one of the producers, but he looks woefully out of place as an agent, even a retiring one. He's 62 years-old and it really shows! Douglas should have played a different role or not been in the film at all. He does maintain his powerful stage prescence, the trait that made him perfect as Gordon Gecko in Wallstreet. Kim Basinger at 53 years of age, remains an absolutely stunning beauty, eclipsing Longoria, in my opinion, but I never bought the romance between her and one of the agents (no spoiler.)

I'm not sure I would have used Kiefer Sutherland as an agent. He plays a character almost identical to the his "24" role and that's not a strength.

The Sentinel has the makings of a great thriller in the same vein as the remade Manchurian Candidate and No Way Out (also a remade film), but the ending ruined it for me. There are shades of The Fugitive with our hero on the run, yet cleverly sneaking around to make contact with someone important.

There are plenty of films inferior to this one, but it's also not a landmark thriller, either.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

WATCHING LEBANON - Washington’s interests in Israel’s war.

Issue of 2006-08-21
Posted 2006-08-14

In the days after Hezbollah crossed from Lebanon into Israel, on July 12th, to kidnap two soldiers, triggering an Israeli air attack on Lebanon and a full-scale war, the Bush Administration seemed strangely passive. “It’s a moment of clarification,” President George W. Bush said at the G-8 summit, in St. Petersburg, on July 16th. “It’s now become clear why we don’t have peace in the Middle East.” He described the relationship between Hezbollah and its supporters in Iran and Syria as one of the “root causes of instability,” and subsequently said that it was up to those countries to end the crisis. Two days later, despite calls from several governments for the United States to take the lead in negotiations to end the fighting, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that a ceasefire should be put off until “the conditions are conducive.”

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The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

Israeli military and intelligence experts I spoke to emphasized that the country’s immediate security issues were reason enough to confront Hezbollah, regardless of what the Bush Administration wanted. Shabtai Shavit, a national-security adviser to the Knesset who headed the Mossad, Israel’s foreign-intelligence service, from 1989 to 1996, told me, “We do what we think is best for us, and if it happens to meet America’s requirements, that’s just part of a relationship between two friends. Hezbollah is armed to the teeth and trained in the most advanced technology of guerrilla warfare. It was just a matter of time. We had to address it.”

Hezbollah is seen by Israelis as a profound threat—a terrorist organization, operating on their border, with a military arsenal that, with help from Iran and Syria, has grown stronger since the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon ended, in 2000. Hezbollah’s leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has said he does not believe that Israel is a “legal state.” Israeli intelligence estimated at the outset of the air war that Hezbollah had roughly five hundred medium-range Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets and a few dozen long-range Zelzal rockets; the Zelzals, with a range of about two hundred kilometres, could reach Tel Aviv. (One rocket hit Haifa the day after the kidnappings.) It also has more than twelve thousand shorter-range rockets. Since the conflict began, more than three thousand of these have been fired at Israel.

According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of both the Israeli and the U.S. governments, Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah—and shared it with Bush Administration officials—well before the July 12th kidnappings. “It’s not that the Israelis had a trap that Hezbollah walked into,” he said, “but there was a strong feeling in the White House that sooner or later the Israelis were going to do it.”

The Middle East expert said that the Administration had several reasons for supporting the Israeli bombing campaign. Within the State Department, it was seen as a way to strengthen the Lebanese government so that it could assert its authority over the south of the country, much of which is controlled by Hezbollah. He went on, “The White House was more focussed on stripping Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel. Bush wanted both. Bush was going after Iran, as part of the Axis of Evil, and its nuclear sites, and he was interested in going after Hezbollah as part of his interest in democratization, with Lebanon as one of the crown jewels of Middle East democracy.”

Administration officials denied that they knew of Israel’s plan for the air war. The White House did not respond to a detailed list of questions. In response to a separate request, a National Security Council spokesman said, “Prior to Hezbollah’s attack on Israel, the Israeli government gave no official in Washington any reason to believe that Israel was planning to attack. Even after the July 12th attack, we did not know what the Israeli plans were.” A Pentagon spokesman said, “The United States government remains committed to a diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program,” and denied the story, as did a State Department spokesman.

The United States and Israel have shared intelligence and enjoyed close military coöperation for decades, but early this spring, according to a former senior intelligence official, high-level planners from the U.S. Air Force—under pressure from the White House to develop a war plan for a decisive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities—began consulting with their counterparts in the Israeli Air Force.

“The big question for our Air Force was how to hit a series of hard targets in Iran successfully,” the former senior intelligence official said. “Who is the closest ally of the U.S. Air Force in its planning? It’s not Congo—it’s Israel. Everybody knows that Iranian engineers have been advising Hezbollah on tunnels and underground gun emplacements. And so the Air Force went to the Israelis with some new tactics and said to them, ‘Let’s concentrate on the bombing and share what we have on Iran and what you have on Lebanon.’ ” The discussions reached the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he said.

“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”

A Pentagon consultant said that the Bush White House “has been agitating for some time to find a reason for a preëmptive blow against Hezbollah.” He added, “It was our intent to have Hezbollah diminished, and now we have someone else doing it.” (As this article went to press, the United Nations Security Council passed a ceasefire resolution, although it was unclear if it would change the situation on the ground.)

According to Richard Armitage, who served as Deputy Secretary of State in Bush’s first term—and who, in 2002, said that Hezbollah “may be the A team of terrorists”—Israel’s campaign in Lebanon, which has faced unexpected difficulties and widespread criticism, may, in the end, serve as a warning to the White House about Iran. “If the most dominant military force in the region—the Israel Defense Forces—can’t pacify a country like Lebanon, with a population of four million, you should think carefully about taking that template to Iran, with strategic depth and a population of seventy million,” Armitage said. “The only thing that the bombing has achieved so far is to unite the population against the Israelis.”

Several current and former officials involved in the Middle East told me that Israel viewed the soldiers’ kidnapping as the opportune moment to begin its planned military campaign against Hezbollah. “Hezbollah, like clockwork, was instigating something small every month or two,” the U.S. government consultant with ties to Israel said. Two weeks earlier, in late June, members of Hamas, the Palestinian group, had tunnelled under the barrier separating southern Gaza from Israel and captured an Israeli soldier. Hamas also had lobbed a series of rockets at Israeli towns near the border with Gaza. In response, Israel had initiated an extensive bombing campaign and reoccupied parts of Gaza.

The Pentagon consultant noted that there had also been cross-border incidents involving Israel and Hezbollah, in both directions, for some time. “They’ve been sniping at each other,” he said. “Either side could have pointed to some incident and said ‘We have to go to war with these guys’—because they were already at war.”

David Siegel, the spokesman at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said that the Israeli Air Force had not been seeking a reason to attack Hezbollah. “We did not plan the campaign. That decision was forced on us.” There were ongoing alerts that Hezbollah “was pressing to go on the attack,” Siegel said. “Hezbollah attacks every two or three months,” but the kidnapping of the soldiers raised the stakes.

In interviews, several Israeli academics, journalists, and retired military and intelligence officers all made one point: they believed that the Israeli leadership, and not Washington, had decided that it would go to war with Hezbollah. Opinion polls showed that a broad spectrum of Israelis supported that choice. “The neocons in Washington may be happy, but Israel did not need to be pushed, because Israel has been wanting to get rid of Hezbollah,” Yossi Melman, a journalist for the newspaper Ha’aretz, who has written several books about the Israeli intelligence community, said. “By provoking Israel, Hezbollah provided that opportunity.”

“We were facing a dilemma,” an Israeli official said. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “had to decide whether to go for a local response, which we always do, or for a comprehensive response—to really take on Hezbollah once and for all.” Olmert made his decision, the official said, only after a series of Israeli rescue efforts failed.

The U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel told me, however, that, from Israel’s perspective, the decision to take strong action had become inevitable weeks earlier, after the Israeli Army’s signals intelligence group, known as Unit 8200, picked up bellicose intercepts in late spring and early summer, involving Hamas, Hezbollah, and Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader now living in Damascus.

One intercept was of a meeting in late May of the Hamas political and military leadership, with Meshal participating by telephone. “Hamas believed the call from Damascus was scrambled, but Israel had broken the code,” the consultant said. For almost a year before its victory in the Palestinian elections in January, Hamas had curtailed its terrorist activities. In the late May intercepted conversation, the consultant told me, the Hamas leadership said that “they got no benefit from it, and were losing standing among the Palestinian population.” The conclusion, he said, was “ ‘Let’s go back into the terror business and then try and wrestle concessions from the Israeli government.’ ” The consultant told me that the U.S. and Israel agreed that if the Hamas leadership did so, and if Nasrallah backed them up, there should be “a full-scale response.” In the next several weeks, when Hamas began digging the tunnel into Israel, the consultant said, Unit 8200 “picked up signals intelligence involving Hamas, Syria, and Hezbollah, saying, in essence, that they wanted Hezbollah to ‘warm up’ the north.” In one intercept, the consultant said, Nasrallah referred to Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz “as seeming to be weak,” in comparison with the former Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak, who had extensive military experience, and said “he thought Israel would respond in a small-scale, local way, as they had in the past.”

Earlier this summer, before the Hezbollah kidnappings, the U.S. government consultant said, several Israeli officials visited Washington, separately, “to get a green light for the bombing operation and to find out how much the United States would bear.” The consultant added, “Israel began with Cheney. It wanted to be sure that it had his support and the support of his office and the Middle East desk of the National Security Council.” After that, “persuading Bush was never a problem, and Condi Rice was on board,” the consultant said.

The initial plan, as outlined by the Israelis, called for a major bombing campaign in response to the next Hezbollah provocation, according to the Middle East expert with knowledge of U.S. and Israeli thinking. Israel believed that, by targeting Lebanon’s infrastructure, including highways, fuel depots, and even the civilian runways at the main Beirut airport, it could persuade Lebanon’s large Christian and Sunni populations to turn against Hezbollah, according to the former senior intelligence official. The airport, highways, and bridges, among other things, have been hit in the bombing campaign. The Israeli Air Force had flown almost nine thousand missions as of last week. (David Siegel, the Israeli spokesman, said that Israel had targeted only sites connected to Hezbollah; the bombing of bridges and roads was meant to prevent the transport of weapons.)

The Israeli plan, according to the former senior intelligence official, was “the mirror image of what the United States has been planning for Iran.” (The initial U.S. Air Force proposals for an air attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity, which included the option of intense bombing of civilian infrastructure targets inside Iran, have been resisted by the top leadership of the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps, according to current and former officials. They argue that the Air Force plan will not work and will inevitably lead, as in the Israeli war with Hezbollah, to the insertion of troops on the ground.)

Uzi Arad, who served for more than two decades in the Mossad, told me that to the best of his knowledge the contacts between the Israeli and U.S. governments were routine, and that, “in all my meetings and conversations with government officials, never once did I hear anyone refer to prior coördination with the United States.” He was troubled by one issue—the speed with which the Olmert government went to war. “For the life of me, I’ve never seen a decision to go to war taken so speedily,” he said. “We usually go through long analyses.”

The key military planner was Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, the I.D.F. chief of staff, who, during a career in the Israeli Air Force, worked on contingency planning for an air war with Iran. Olmert, a former mayor of Jerusalem, and Peretz, a former labor leader, could not match his experience and expertise.

In the early discussions with American officials, I was told by the Middle East expert and the government consultant, the Israelis repeatedly pointed to the war in Kosovo as an example of what Israel would try to achieve. The NATO forces commanded by U.S. Army General Wesley Clark methodically bombed and strafed not only military targets but tunnels, bridges, and roads, in Kosovo and elsewhere in Serbia, for seventy-eight days before forcing Serbian forces to withdraw from Kosovo. “Israel studied the Kosovo war as its role model,” the government consultant said. “The Israelis told Condi Rice, ‘You did it in about seventy days, but we need half of that—thirty-five days.’ ”

There are, of course, vast differences between Lebanon and Kosovo. Clark, who retired from the military in 2000 and unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for the Presidency in 2004, took issue with the analogy: “If it’s true that the Israeli campaign is based on the American approach in Kosovo, then it missed the point. Ours was to use force to obtain a diplomatic objective—it was not about killing people.” Clark noted in a 2001 book, “Waging Modern War,” that it was the threat of a possible ground invasion as well as the bombing that forced the Serbs to end the war. He told me, “In my experience, air campaigns have to be backed, ultimately, by the will and capability to finish the job on the ground.”

Kosovo has been cited publicly by Israeli officials and journalists since the war began. On August 6th, Prime Minister Olmert, responding to European condemnation of the deaths of Lebanese civilians, said, “Where do they get the right to preach to Israel? European countries attacked Kosovo and killed ten thousand civilians. Ten thousand! And none of these countries had to suffer before that from a single rocket. I’m not saying it was wrong to intervene in Kosovo. But please: don’t preach to us about the treatment of civilians.” (Human Rights Watch estimated the number of civilians killed in the NATO bombing to be five hundred; the Yugoslav government put the number between twelve hundred and five thousand.)

Cheney’s office supported the Israeli plan, as did Elliott Abrams, a deputy national-security adviser, according to several former and current officials. (A spokesman for the N.S.C. denied that Abrams had done so.) They believed that Israel should move quickly in its air war against Hezbollah. A former intelligence officer said, “We told Israel, ‘Look, if you guys have to go, we’re behind you all the way. But we think it should be sooner rather than later—the longer you wait, the less time we have to evaluate and plan for Iran before Bush gets out of office.’ ”

Cheney’s point, the former senior intelligence official said, was “What if the Israelis execute their part of this first, and it’s really successful? It’d be great. We can learn what to do in Iran by watching what the Israelis do in Lebanon.”

The Pentagon consultant told me that intelligence about Hezbollah and Iran is being mishandled by the White House the same way intelligence had been when, in 2002 and early 2003, the Administration was making the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. “The big complaint now in the intelligence community is that all of the important stuff is being sent directly to the top—at the insistence of the White House—and not being analyzed at all, or scarcely,” he said. “It’s an awful policy and violates all of the N.S.A.’s strictures, and if you complain about it you’re out,” he said. “Cheney had a strong hand in this.”

The long-term Administration goal was to help set up a Sunni Arab coalition—including countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt—that would join the United States and Europe to pressure the ruling Shiite mullahs in Iran. “But the thought behind that plan was that Israel would defeat Hezbollah, not lose to it,” the consultant with close ties to Israel said. Some officials in Cheney’s office and at the N.S.C. had become convinced, on the basis of private talks, that those nations would moderate their public criticism of Israel and blame Hezbollah for creating the crisis that led to war. Although they did so at first, they shifted their position in the wake of public protests in their countries about the Israeli bombing. The White House was clearly disappointed when, late last month, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, came to Washington and, at a meeting with Bush, called for the President to intervene immediately to end the war. The Washington Post reported that Washington had hoped to enlist moderate Arab states “in an effort to pressure Syria and Iran to rein in Hezbollah, but the Saudi move . . . seemed to cloud that initiative.”

The surprising strength of Hezbollah’s resistance, and its continuing ability to fire rockets into northern Israel in the face of the constant Israeli bombing, the Middle East expert told me, “is a massive setback for those in the White House who want to use force in Iran. And those who argue that the bombing will create internal dissent and revolt in Iran are also set back.”

Nonetheless, some officers serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff remain deeply concerned that the Administration will have a far more positive assessment of the air campaign than they should, the former senior intelligence official said. “There is no way that Rumsfeld and Cheney will draw the right conclusion about this,” he said. “When the smoke clears, they’ll say it was a success, and they’ll draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran.”

In the White House, especially in the Vice-President’s office, many officials believe that the military campaign against Hezbollah is working and should be carried forward. At the same time, the government consultant said, some policymakers in the Administration have concluded that the cost of the bombing to Lebanese society is too high. “They are telling Israel that it’s time to wind down the attacks on infrastructure.”

Similar divisions are emerging in Israel. David Siegel, the Israeli spokesman, said that his country’s leadership believed, as of early August, that the air war had been successful, and had destroyed more than seventy per cent of Hezbollah’s medium- and long-range-missile launching capacity. “The problem is short-range missiles, without launchers, that can be shot from civilian areas and homes,” Siegel told me. “The only way to resolve this is ground operations—which is why Israel would be forced to expand ground operations if the latest round of diplomacy doesn’t work.” Last week, however, there was evidence that the Israeli government was troubled by the progress of the war. In an unusual move, Major General Moshe Kaplinsky, Halutz’s deputy, was put in charge of the operation, supplanting Major General Udi Adam. The worry in Israel is that Nasrallah might escalate the crisis by firing missiles at Tel Aviv. “There is a big debate over how much damage Israel should inflict to prevent it,” the consultant said. “If Nasrallah hits Tel Aviv, what should Israel do? Its goal is to deter more attacks by telling Nasrallah that it will destroy his country if he doesn’t stop, and to remind the Arab world that Israel can set it back twenty years. We’re no longer playing by the same rules.”

A European intelligence officer told me, “The Israelis have been caught in a psychological trap. In earlier years, they had the belief that they could solve their problems with toughness. But now, with Islamic martyrdom, things have changed, and they need different answers. How do you scare people who love martyrdom?” The problem with trying to eliminate Hezbollah, the intelligence officer said, is the group’s ties to the Shiite population in southern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and Beirut’s southern suburbs, where it operates schools, hospitals, a radio station, and various charities.

A high-level American military planner told me, “We have a lot of vulnerability in the region, and we’ve talked about some of the effects of an Iranian or Hezbollah attack on the Saudi regime and on the oil infrastructure.” There is special concern inside the Pentagon, he added, about the oil-producing nations north of the Strait of Hormuz. “We have to anticipate the unintended consequences,” he told me. “Will we be able to absorb a barrel of oil at one hundred dollars? There is this almost comical thinking that you can do it all from the air, even when you’re up against an irregular enemy with a dug-in capability. You’re not going to be successful unless you have a ground presence, but the political leadership never considers the worst case. These guys only want to hear the best case.”

There is evidence that the Iranians were expecting the war against Hezbollah. Vali Nasr, an expert on Shiite Muslims and Iran, who is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and also teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School, in Monterey, California, said, “Every negative American move against Hezbollah was seen by Iran as part of a larger campaign against it. And Iran began to prepare for the showdown by supplying more sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah—anti-ship and anti-tank missiles—and training its fighters in their use. And now Hezbollah is testing Iran’s new weapons. Iran sees the Bush Administration as trying to marginalize its regional role, so it fomented trouble.”

Nasr, an Iranian-American who recently published a study of the Sunni-Shiite divide, entitled “The Shia Revival,” also said that the Iranian leadership believes that Washington’s ultimate political goal is to get some international force to act as a buffer—to physically separate Syria and Lebanon in an effort to isolate and disarm Hezbollah, whose main supply route is through Syria. “Military action cannot bring about the desired political result,” Nasr said. The popularity of Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a virulent critic of Israel, is greatest in his own country. If the U.S. were to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, Nasr said, “you may end up turning Ahmadinejad into another Nasrallah—the rock star of the Arab street.”

Donald Rumsfeld, who is one of the Bush Administration’s most outspoken, and powerful, officials, has said very little publicly about the crisis in Lebanon. His relative quiet, compared to his aggressive visibility in the run-up to the Iraq war, has prompted a debate in Washington about where he stands on the issue.

Some current and former intelligence officials who were interviewed for this article believe that Rumsfeld disagrees with Bush and Cheney about the American role in the war between Israel and Hezbollah. The U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said that “there was a feeling that Rumsfeld was jaded in his approach to the Israeli war.” He added, “Air power and the use of a few Special Forces had worked in Afghanistan, and he tried to do it again in Iraq. It was the same idea, but it didn’t work. He thought that Hezbollah was too dug in and the Israeli attack plan would not work, and the last thing he wanted was another war on his shift that would put the American forces in Iraq in greater jeopardy.”

A Western diplomat said that he understood that Rumsfeld did not know all the intricacies of the war plan. “He is angry and worried about his troops” in Iraq, the diplomat said. Rumsfeld served in the White House during the last year of the war in Vietnam, from which American troops withdrew in 1975, “and he did not want to see something like this having an impact in Iraq.” Rumsfeld’s concern, the diplomat added, was that an expansion of the war into Iran could put the American troops in Iraq at greater risk of attacks by pro-Iranian Shiite militias.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on August 3rd, Rumsfeld was less than enthusiastic about the war’s implications for the American troops in Iraq. Asked whether the Administration was mindful of the war’s impact on Iraq, he testified that, in his meetings with Bush and Condoleezza Rice, “there is a sensitivity to the desire to not have our country or our interests or our forces put at greater risk as a result of what’s taking place between Israel and Hezbollah. . . . There are a variety of risks that we face in that region, and it’s a difficult and delicate situation.”

The Pentagon consultant dismissed talk of a split at the top of the Administration, however, and said simply, “Rummy is on the team. He’d love to see Hezbollah degraded, but he also is a voice for less bombing and more innovative Israeli ground operations.” The former senior intelligence official similarly depicted Rumsfeld as being “delighted that Israel is our stalking horse.”

There are also questions about the status of Condoleezza Rice. Her initial support for the Israeli air war against Hezbollah has reportedly been tempered by dismay at the effects of the attacks on Lebanon. The Pentagon consultant said that in early August she began privately “agitating” inside the Administration for permission to begin direct diplomatic talks with Syria—so far, without much success. Last week, the Times reported that Rice had directed an Embassy official in Damascus to meet with the Syrian foreign minister, though the meeting apparently yielded no results. The Times also reported that Rice viewed herself as “trying to be not only a peacemaker abroad but also a mediator among contending parties” within the Administration. The article pointed to a divide between career diplomats in the State Department and “conservatives in the government,” including Cheney and Abrams, “who were pushing for strong American support for Israel.”

The Western diplomat told me his embassy believes that Abrams has emerged as a key policymaker on Iran, and on the current Hezbollah-Israeli crisis, and that Rice’s role has been relatively diminished. Rice did not want to make her most recent diplomatic trip to the Middle East, the diplomat said. “She only wanted to go if she thought there was a real chance to get a ceasefire.”

Bush’s strongest supporter in Europe continues to be British Prime Minister Tony Blair, but many in Blair’s own Foreign Office, as a former diplomat said, believe that he has “gone out on a particular limb on this”—especially by accepting Bush’s refusal to seek an immediate and total ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. “Blair stands alone on this,” the former diplomat said. “He knows he’s a lame duck who’s on the way out, but he buys it”—the Bush policy. “He drinks the White House Kool-Aid as much as anybody in Washington.” The crisis will really start at the end of August, the diplomat added, “when the Iranians”—under a United Nations deadline to stop uranium enrichment—“will say no.”

Even those who continue to support Israel’s war against Hezbollah agree that it is failing to achieve one of its main goals—to rally the Lebanese against Hezbollah. “Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for ninety years, and yet air forces all over the world keep on doing it,” John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School, told me. Arquilla has been campaigning for more than a decade, with growing success, to change the way America fights terrorism. “The warfare of today is not mass on mass,” he said. “You have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focussed on bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more aggressive on the ground. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

America's One-Eyed View of War: Stars, Stripes, and the Star of David

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Published on Tuesday, August 15, 2006 by the Independent / UK

There are two sides to every conflict - unless you rely on the US media for information about the battle in Lebanon. Viewers have been fed a diet of partisan coverage which treats Israel as the good guys and their Hizbollah enemy as the incarnation of evil.
by Andrew Gumbel and Donald Macintyre.

If these were normal times, the American view of the conflict in Lebanon might look something like the street scenes that have electrified the suburbs of Detroit for the past four weeks.

In Dearborn, home to the Ford Motor Company and also the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the country, up to 1000 people have turned out day after day to express their outrage at the Israeli military campaign and mourn the loss of civilian life in Lebanon. At one protest in late July, 15,000 people - almost half of the local Arab American population - showed up in a sea of Lebanese flags, along with anti-Israeli and anti-Bush slogans.

A few miles to the north, in the heavily Jewish suburb of Southfield, meanwhile, the Congregation Shaarey Zedek synagogue has played host to passionate counter-protests in which the US and Israeli national anthems are played back to back and demonstrators have asserted that it is Israel's survival, not Lebanon's, that is at stake here.

Such is the normal exercise of free speech in an open society, one might think. But these are not normal times. The Detroit protests have been tinged with paranoia and justifiable fear on both sides. Several Jewish institutions in the area, including two community centres and several synagogues, have hired private security guards in response to an incident in Seattle at the end of July, in which a mentally unstable 30-year-old Muslim walked into a Jewish Federation building and opened fire, killing one person and injuring five others.

On the Arab American side, many have expressed reluctance to stand up and be counted among the protesters for fear of being tinged by association with Hizbollah, which is on the United States' list of terrorist organisations. (As a result, the voices heard during the protests tend to be the more extreme ones.) They don't like to discuss their political views in any public forum, following the revelation a few months ago that the National Security Agency was wiretapping phone calls and e-mail exchanges as part of the Bush administration's war on terror.

They are even afraid to donate money to help the civilian victims of the war in Lebanon because of the intense scrutiny Islamic and Arab charities have been subjected to since the 9/11 attacks. The Bush administration has denounced 40 charities worldwide as financiers of terrorism, and arrested and deported dozens of people associated with them. Consequently, while Jewish charities such as the United Jewish Communities are busy raising $300m to help families affected by the Katyusha rockets raining down on northern Israel, donations to the Lebanese victims have come in at no more than a trickle.

Outside Detroit and a handful of other cities with sizeable Arab American populations, it is hard to detect that there are two sides to the conflict at all. The Dearborn protests have received almost no attention nationally, and when they have it has usually been to denounce the participants as extremists and apologists for terrorism - either because they have voiced support for Hizbollah or because they have carried banners in which the Star of David at the centre of the Israeli flag has been replaced by a swastika.

The media, more generally, has left little doubt in the minds of a majority of American news consumers that the Israelis are the good guys, the aggrieved victims, while Hizbollah is an incarnation of the same evil responsible for bringing down the World Trade Centre, a heartless and faceless organisation whose destruction is so important it can justify all the damage Israel is inflicting on Lebanon and its civilians.

The point is not that this viewpoint is necessarily wrong. The point - and this is what distinguishes the US from every other Western country in its attitude to the conflict - is that it is presented as a foregone conclusion. Not only is there next to no debate, but debate itself is considered unnecessary and suspect.

The 24-hour cable news stations are the worst offenders. Rupert Murdoch's Fox News has had reporters running around northern Israel chronicling every rocket attack and every Israeli mobilisation, but has shown little or no interest in anything happening on the other side of the border. It is a rarity on any of the cable channels to see any Arab being tapped for expert opinion on the conflict. A startling amount of airtime, meanwhile, is given to the likes of Michael D Evans, an end-of-the-world Biblical "prophet" with no credentials in the complexities of Middle Eastern politics. He has shown up on MSNBC and Fox under the label "Middle East analyst". Fox's default analyst, on this and many other issues, has been the right-wing provocateur and best-selling author Ann Coulter, whose main credential is to have opined, days after 9/11, that what America should do to the Middle East is "invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity".

Often, the coverage has been hysterical and distasteful. In the days following the Israeli bombing of Qana, several pro-Israeli bloggers started spreading a hoax story that Hizbollah had engineered the event, or stage-managed it by placing dead babies in the rubble for the purpose of misleading reporters. Oliver North, the Reagan-era orchestrator of the Iran-Contra affair who is now a right-wing television and radio host, and Michelle Malkin, a sharp-tongued Bush administration cheerleader who runs her own weblog, appeared on Fox News to give credence to the hoax - before the Israeli army came forward to take responsibility and brought the matter to at least a partial close.

As the conflict has gone on, the media interpretation of it has only hardened. Essentially, the line touted by cable news hosts and their correspondents - closely adhering to the line adopted by the Bush administration and its neoconservative supporters - is that Hizbollah is part of a giant anti-Israeli and anti-American terror network that also includes Hamas, al-Qa'ida, the governments of Syria and Iran, and the insurgents in Iraq. Little effort is made to distinguish between these groups, or explain what their goals might be. The conflict is presented as a straight fight between good and evil, in which US interests and Israeli interests intersect almost completely. Anyone who suggests otherwise is likely to be pounced on and ripped to shreds.

When John Dingell, a Democratic congressman from Michigan with a large Arab American population in his constituency, gave an interview suggesting it was wrong for the US to take sides instead of pushing for an end to violence, he was quickly - and loudly - accused of being a Hizbollah apologist. Newt Gingrich, the Republican former House speaker, accused him of failing to draw any moral distinction between Hizbollah and Israel. Rush Limbaugh, the popular conservative talk-show host, piled into him, as did the conservative newspaper The Washington Times. The Times was later forced to admit it had quoted Dingell out of context and reprinted his full words, including: " I condemn Hizbollah, as does everyone else, for the violence."

The hysteria has extended into the realm of domestic politics, especially since this is a congressional election year. Republican have sought to depict last week's primary defeat of the Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, one of the loudest cheerleaders for the Iraq war, as some sort of wacko extremist anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli stand that risks undermining national security. Vice-President Dick Cheney said Lieberman's defeat would encourage "al-Qa'ida types" to think they can break the will of Americans. The fact that the man who beat Lieberman, Ned Lamont, is an old-fashioned East Coast Wasp who was a registered Republican for much of his life is something Mr Cheney chose to overlook.

Part of the Republican strategy this year is to attack any media that either attacks them or has the temerity to report facts that contradict the official party line. Thus, when Reuters was forced to withdraw a photograph of Beirut under bombardment because one of its stringers had doctored the image to increase the black smoke, it was a chance to rip into the news agency over its efforts to be even-handed. In a typical riposte, Michelle Malkin denounced Reuters as "a news service that seems to have made its mark rubber-stamping pro-Hizbollah propaganda".

She was not the only one to take that view. Mainstream, even liberal, publications have echoed her line. Tim Rutten, the Los Angeles Times liberal media critic, denounced the "obscenely anti-Israeli tenor of most of the European and world press" in his most recent column.

It is not just the US media which tilts in a pro-Israeli direction. Congress, too, is remarkably unified in its support for the Israeli government, and politicians more generally understand that to criticise Israel is to risk jeopardising their future careers. When Antonio Villaraigosa, the up-and-coming Democratic Mayor of Los Angeles, was first invited to comment on the Middle East crisis, he sounded a note so pro-Israeli that he was forced to apologise to local Muslim and Arab community leaders. There is far less public debate of Israeli policy in the US, in fact, than there is in Israel itself.

This is less a reflection of American Jewish opinion - which is more diverse than is suggested in the media - than it is a commentary on the power of pro-Israeli lobby groups like Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which bankrolls pro-Israeli congressional candidates. That, in turn, is frustrating to liberal Jews like Michael Lerner, a San Francisco rabbi who heads an anti-war community called Tikkun. Rabbi Lerner has tried to argue for years that it is in Israel's best interests to reach a peaceful settlement, and that demonising Arabs as terrorists is counter-productive and against Judaism.

Lerner is probably right to assert that he speaks for a large number of American Jews, only half of whom are affiliated with pro-Israeli lobbying organisations. Certainly, dinner party conversation in heavily Jewish cities like New York suggest misgivings about Israel's strategic aims, even if there is some consensus that Hizbollah cannot be allowed to strike with impunity.

Few, if any, of those misgivings have entered the US media. "There is no major figure in American political life who has been willing to raise the issue of the legitimate needs of the Palestinian people, or even talk about them as human beings," Lerner said. "The organised Jewish community has transformed the image of Judaism into a cheering squad for the Israeli government, whatever its policies are. That is just idolatry, and goes against all the warnings in the Bible about giving too much power to the king or the state."

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Monday, August 14, 2006

Seymour Hersh: U.S. Helped Plan Israeli Attack, Cheney "Convinced" Assault on Lebanon Could Serve as Prelude to Preemptive Attack on Iran

AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He joins us in Washington, D.C. His latest piece is called “Watching Lebanon: Washington's Interests in Israel's War.” We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Seymour Hersh.


AMY GOODMAN: Hi. Can you just start off by telling us what you know at this point of what Washington's interests in Israel's war are?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, when you say Washington, you have to talk about Dick Cheney. I can tell you pretty firmly that it's his office. I guess you could say it's sort of the home of the neoconservative thinking in Washington -- some of his aides and the people close to him in the White House: Elliott Abrams, David Wurmser, others.

What I understand is this: our military, our Air Force has been trying for a year to get plans for a major massive bombing assault on Iran pushed through the Pentagon, pushed through the process. And there's been sort of an internecine fight inside the Pentagon over just basically the idea of strategic war against Iran. They're very dug in Iran. The Persians have been digging in for -- what? -- centuries and centuries. And the Marines and the Navy and the Army have said, No way we're going to start bombing, because it will end up with troops on the ground. So there's been a stalemate. I've written a lot about it.

And in this spring, as part of the stalemate, the American Air Force approached the Israeli Air Force, which as you know is headed by General Dan Halutz, who is an Air Force -- I think the first IDF commander, the commander of the Israeli Defense Forces, to be an Air Force guy, and another believer of strategic war, and the two had a lot of interests. And so, out of these meetings in the spring became an agreement, you know, sort of we'll help you, you help us, and it got to Cheney's attention, this idea of Israel planning a major, major strategic bombing campaign against Hezbollah. And for -- I can't tell you where Bush is, but you have to assume he’s right with him. Obviously everything he's done makes that clear.

Cheney's idea was this, that we sort of -- it's like a three-for. We get three for one with this. One, here we're having this war about the value of strategic bombing, and the Israeli Air Force, whose pilots are superb, can go in and -- if they could go in and blast Hezbollah out of their foxholes or whatever they are, their underground facilities, and roll over them, as everybody in the White House and I'm sure everybody in the Israeli Air Force thought they could do, that would be a big plus for the ambitions that I think the President and Cheney have for Iran. I don't think this president, our president, is going to leave office with Iran being, as he sees it, a nuclear threat.

The second great argument you have, of course, is if you are going to do Iran, you're going to need -- you can't attack Iran without taking care of the Hezbollah missiles or rockets. They're really rockets. They're not independently guided. Even their long-range rockets that go a few hundred kilometers, you cannot attack Iran without taking them out, because obviously that's the deterrent. You hit Iran, Hezbollah then bombs Tel Aviv and Haifa. So that's something you have to clean out first.

And thirdly, of course, is if you get rid of Hezbollah and Nasrallah, why, you get rid of a terror -- a man who’s considered to be, as somebody famously said, Richard Armitage, the “A-Team of terrorism.”

So on that basis, there was a tremendous interest in Israel going ahead. There were meetings. There were an enormous amount of contacts. I should add, Amy, that of course -- and this is reflected in the story -- Israel doesn't need the United States to know they have a problem with Hezbollah. And so, they were going to do something anyway. But it's a question of timing, and that's one of the big issues.

This summer, earlier this summer, there was -- and late, I guess after the Israelis began their reoccupation -- occupation of Gaza, after the first Israeli soldier was captured, a soldier named Shalit, I think, June 28th, after he was captured, the traffic, the signals traffic that the Israeli signals community gets showed an enormous amount of talk about doing something on the northern border. That is, on the border between Syria -- I mean between Lebanon and Israel.

And so, on that basis, it was clear this summer, the next time Hezbollah made a move, and there's been a cat-and-mouse game between Israel and Hezbollah for about six years, since the Israelis were kicked out or driven out by Nasrallah in 2000. It’s been cat-and-mouse. Both sides have been going against each other, nickel-dime stuff. And the next time Hezbollah made a move, the Israeli Air Force was going to bomb, the plan was going to go in effect. The move came very quick. It came about ten days after or twelve days after the first Israeli soldier was captured.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, his latest piece appears in this week's issue of the New Yorker magazine. You say the Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits, quoting a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, sure. I mean, believe me, Israel thought, you know -- I guess the only other time in history where you can look back on such misguided optimism or one of the more recent times was, of course, us going into Iraq. Shades of Iraq, deja-vu or however you want to put it. Israel was convinced it would be easy. The Air Force was going to go and clean them out.

There was another element, and you mentioned that in your intro and also in your news report. One of the things that struck me right away, as soon as I saw how Israel was bombing, and my instinct told me there was something there, because in one of the Air Force plans that I knew about but didn't write about, one of the Air Force options for taking out Iran was, of course, shock and awe, a massive, massive bombing well beyond any of the nuclear facilities. Go hit the country hard for 36 hours, drive people into underground bunkers. Don't target civilians, necessarily, but hit their infrastructure, hit the roads, hit the power plants, hit the water facilities.

And so, when they come out of their bunkers after 36 hours, they look around. In the American neo-con view, they were going to say to each other, “Oh, my god, the mullahs did this to us, the religious mullahs who run the country. We're going to overthrow them and install a secular government.” That was the thinking for the last year. That is the thinking for the last year inside some elements of the Pentagon, the civilian side, and also in Cheney's shop.

So when you watch what Israel did in its opening salvo, the first targets, I remember vividly, was -- and everybody should -- they took out the civilian airstrip. They took away civilian -- the ability to use aircraft to travel. They took out highways. They took out roads. They took out petrol stations. They basically isolated Southern Lebanon. But I think part of the reason they did so much damage to the infrastructure was they believed -- and I think the Israelis have been very clear about it -- that the Christian population and the Sunni population -- don't forget Hezbollah is Shia -- would rise up against Hezbollah, and it would be a great feather in the cap, etc., etc., etc.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His latest piece is called "Watching Lebanon: Washington’s Interests in Israel’s War." We'll come back with him in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We continue our conversation with Seymour Hersh. His piece in the latest New Yorker is called "Watching Lebanon: Washington's Interests in Israel's War." So, can you take us through the timeline, as you understand it, that started before the capture of the two Israeli soldiers, the meetings that were taking place?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, I don't know an awful lot about it, because, obviously, this is secrecy cubed here in this town, Washington, this White House. I don't even know how much Bush was involved in the direct planning. Certainly he’s carrying out the policy. The best guess I have is that this spring there was a tremendous fight in the Pentagon over a nuclear option for Iran, with the generals standing up, standing up quite a bit against this White House. And I think it's a sign, I guess, of the perceived weakness, political weakness, of the Bush administration at this point. And nuclear option was taken off the table for Iran.

Iran's underground. The nuclear facilities, the alleged nuclear facilities, I’ve also written, we can't find any evidence of a significant weapons program. But in any case, they're certainly doing research in Iran, and they may indeed have intentions, but they're deep underground, buried under a lot of rock, 75 feet, etc. etc. We've all heard that. And at that point in the spring, when the nuclear option was gone and there was a lot of concern about how do you drive down 75 feet and guarantee knocking out a potential weapons system, it was then that our Air Force began to talk with the Israeli Air Force, because the Israelis have been shipped -- we have sent them an awful lot of large 5,000-pound bunker busters. And they’ve done a lot of research into the idea of using two or three bombs on top of each other, etc.

And so, spring is when I began -- I think you can really trace the American military involvement with the Israeli military. And the way it was described to me, eventually this talk, the planning between the two of them, the sharing of intelligence, which is sort of normal -- we and Israel are very close, a lot of stuff is shared with their military and their intelligence service -- eventually it bubbled up, is the way it came to me, into the Pentagon, into the top leadership, Donald Rumsfeld, and eventually got to Cheney, whose idea was, “Let's push this. This is a great idea.”

I’m not suggesting that Washington forced Israel to go more quickly than it wanted to, but I don't think there's any question that the Israeli Defense Force, the Air Force, was surprised by how quickly Nasrallah, Hezbollah moved into the business of capturing. As I said, the first Israeli soldier was captured in Gaza on June 28. There was traffic about going, heating up the north. But for Nasrallah to move on 12th of July was very quick. But it was agreed that the next step he made, whenever, and I think the best guess people had is it could have been as late as fall, September or October, that they would go. They went quickly. And people I talked with in Israel -- I spent a lot of time in this story talking to people in Israel -- one of the things that everybody remarked on was the quickness with which the Air Force moved, not that they didn't have plans in effect, but it was very quickly.

AMY GOODMAN: You also talk about Elliott Abrams, and you talk about Donald Rumsfeld's role.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, what's interesting about Rumsfeld, because for the first time -- and not everybody agreed, but people that -- you know, I’m long of tooth, Amy, and I’ve been around this town a long time, and obviously, since 9/11, a lot of people talk to me. And for the first time, Rummy doesn't seem to be on board, is what I’m hearing. Actually, somebody even suggested he's getting a little bit like Robert McNamara. If you remember, McNamara, the Secretary of Defense who, under both Kennedy and Johnson, was a great advocate of the Vietnam War and its chief salesman, basically, one of its chief salesmen all during the ’60s, and by ’67, he decided it wasn't winnable and ended up being shoved out and put in the World Bank.

Rumsfeld is very concerned about the 150,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq, who are potentially in a very untenable position. There's no question Iraq’s lost. There's a lot of question about what we're doing in Afghanistan. We're sort of 0-for-2 in those two. And so, Rumsfeld was not happy about this policy, about going in in a protracted war in Southern Lebanon with Nasrallah, because, of course -- I think Nasrallah is his own man. None of us really know. I think he decides what he wants to do. I don't think Syria and Iran control him the way Washington, this White House seems to believe everything comes from Iran. You know, anybody who meets Nasrallah, as I have a couple of times, he's rather formidable. In any case --

AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, when did you meet him?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Oh, I’ve met him a lot. I mean, I’ve interviewed him. I’ve interviewed him in the New Yorker. And I just spent time with him over this winter.

AMY GOODMAN: In Lebanon?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Yeah, sure.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you describe your sense of him?

SEYMOUR HERSH: I think he believes in -- he's religious, in the sense that -- I’ve met religious leaders, Archbishop O'Connell here in New York. One of these people who you really, you know -- for an agnostic like me, you come away from a meeting with those people believing that there is something to this business of religion, because these people are so devout. He is very much a believer, Nasrallah, in his own religion, and he doesn't have dead eyes. He's got alive eyes, and he's got humor.

The reason I started seeing him, I see intelligence people around the world and some of the intelligence people in the Middle East, when the Iraqi war began to start, they encouraged me to see him, on grounds that this guy has a better feel for what's going on in Iraq, as a Shia -- he's very close to the Shia leadership, to Sistani, also to the Iranians, who have a lot of juice inside Iran. So just as a reporter, I would go see him, and we’d talk about mostly Iraq in the beginning, and obviously.

In any case, the whole point here is, Rumsfeld -- to get back to Rumsfeld, there's no question that Iran has enormous influence inside Iraq, dominated now by the Shia, Shia Iran, and I think Rumsfeld’s concern, I was told, is that a protracted war against Nasrallah will only cause the Iranians, in support of Hezbollah, to start squeezing our troops in Iraq.

And we're -- you know, as I say, it's an untenable position in Iraq. And nobody quite knows -- this government has no idea on how to get out, just like I don't think the Israelis -- you know, the same pattern you saw in Israel as you saw with this Bush White House going into Iraq: they were so sure of victory that they never looked at the downside. Actually, I quote somebody in this article in the New Yorker, a really high-level guy in one of the military services, saying, “You can't get this White House to think about the downside of anything.” And you saw that with the Israelis. They had no idea, once they got into the quagmire, of how to extract, except to add more forces and increase the death toll to themselves, too.

AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, you've also written about the U.S. rejecting overtures from Syria in dealing with the war on terror. Can you talk about that, as, of course, you can't talk about Lebanon or Iraq with this administration without talking about Syria and Iran?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, look, this is an administration that still refuses to deal with people it doesn't like. You know, I don't know. When my children were in pre-nursery, you know, little boys will get into a fight, and the nursery school teacher would take the two little boys who were fighting and say, “You two shake hands and go back to the sandbox,” and they would. And so we have a president that won't talk to the Iranians, although they’ve wanted to, and there’s been a lot of stories written about that. And they won't talk to the Syrians.

And I’ve obviously -- maybe not so obviously, but I’ve interviewed the President of Syria, Bashar al-Asad, a couple of times. And one of the last times, with great pain he told me -- I think he showed me, even showed me, he was -- this was in 2005. He's written letters to George Bush, saying, “Let's get together. Let's talk. We have a lot in common. We can help you. We and Iran basically both have more -- we can do more for you in Iraq than any other country. Why aren't you using us? We don't need a Somalia on our borders. We're not interested in chaos there.” And this White House doesn't believe it. And the letters weren't answered, he told me. His ambassador here in Washington, Imad Mustafa, is absolutely isolated. All this talk that the White House has made, Condoleezza Rice, about having openings to Iran, to Syria, are just, you know -- they're not worth much. There's been some low-level talk. Nobody has made any efforts.

Syria has, as I’ve written in the New Yorker years ago, was one of the biggest helpers we had after al-Qaeda struck us, because Syria is -- the old man Asad, the father of the current president, hated Jihadism. He did not like the Muslim Brotherhood. They were his opponents. And he kept the best books going on the Muslim Brotherhood, which is very closely connected to al-Qaeda. In fact, we learned more about al-Qaeda from Syria after 9/11 than from any other country. Asad, the president, gave us thousands access -- agreed to give us access to thousands of files. And I wrote a story, I think in ’02 or ’03 for the New Yorker, in which I quoted a senior intelligence official of Syria saying, “We're willing to even talk about our support for Hezbollah with you. We want to see you win the war on terror.”

So it's been an amazingly horrific performance by this White House, which is of par. You know, I don't think any of us -- I certainly won't breathe easy until we get to 2009, inauguration of a new president. But there's just no question that if we were to approach Syria right now, something else I didn't write at the time -- that's because I wasn't writing about it -- I don't think there's any question that Israel was interested in talking to Syria in ’03, even about the Golan Heights, which is a tough issue for them, and --

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Sy --

SEYMOUR HERSH: Let me finish this. And we discouraged Israel from doing it.


SEYMOUR HERSH: I don't know. I guess we didn't want our friends to talk to our enemies.

AMY GOODMAN: You wrote in 2003 about the U.S. bombing of a convoy inside Syria that once and for all smashed the attempts of Syria to communicate with Washington.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, it didn't really. At the time, it did. But there he is again, the President of Syria, Mr. Asad, tried again and certainly in ’05, the letter he sent me, I saw, had just been written. He was still trying to make contact with Washington, because, obviously, in his view, he had a lot to offer us about resolving the crisis in Iraq. And it's a crisis for Syria, too, in Iraq, because there's now 400,000 or 500,000 Iraqi refugees living in Damascus and elsewhere, a couple hundred thousand now of Lebanese. And so real estate property has gone out of sight there.

The irony is that as much as we can't stand Syria, for the first time in their life, the Syrians are getting an awful lot of foreign investment, because, you know, with the oil at $75 a barrel, all of the Gulf countries, which are -- they're just washed with money. They don't know what to do with the money they're making every day. And they don't want to invest anymore in America, because some of them have contributed money to charities that have been put on a watch list by the United States. So there's a fear in some of the Gulf countries that if they invest the hundreds of billions of dollars they’ve collected in Washington or real estate here, they might have the property seized for being aiders and abetters of terrorism, so they're dumping money into Syria right now. They were dumping a lot of money into Lebanon, too, but not any more.

AMY GOODMAN: Bob Parry writes at “Consortium News,” that it was U.S. neo-cons who pushed Israel even further than Israel wanted to go around this issue of the attack of Hezbollah. Do you agree with that?

SEYMOUR HERSH: The Israelis I talked to said, “Look, you know, there might have been a question being pushed on timing, but Israel certainly wanted to go.” I just don’t -- Bob Parry was right in so many things back in Iran-Contra. I just don't have the same information he does on that. But that there was certainly a decision that -- I quote somebody as saying, we told them basically, “You know, guys” -- in this article I quote somebody as saying in effect -- the Americans telling the Israelis, “Sooner than later, we want this to happen before this president is out of office,” -- that is, taking out Hezbollah so you can take out Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: Just a few months ago, you wrote the piece, "The Iran Plans: How Far Will the White House Go?" talking about the U.S. plans to bomb Iran. Where do you think the current situation now leaves the United States and the Middle East?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, you can't apply rationality to it, because I think it's simply something Bush and Cheney want to do. As I said earlier, they want to take out Iran. They don't want to talk to it. They believe it’s, you know, the axis of evil cubed. And so, frankly, my real worry is what's going to happen -- I think nothing's going to happen before this election. That's impossible. My real worry is what's going to happen when George Bush is a lame duck. He's talking about, privately now, so I’m told and so I’ve written, about Winston Churchill. If you remember, after leading England to war in World War II, he was turned out by the voters, and he wasn't fully appreciated until years later. So I think he sees himself in the position of “I know I’m right. They don't quite believe me. But I’m going to do the thing I think is right, the right thing. And maybe in 30 or 50 years, they'll come to accept me for the great president I think I am.” And so, that's what we really have as leadership right now.

AMY GOODMAN: And where does Condoleezza Rice fit into this picture?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, you know, my guess is that she was smart enough to know this going -- this last trip she made to the Middle East, I've written that she didn't want to go, because she knew she had nothing to offer anybody. And I think there was a story the other week in the New York Times that was, clearly she inspired to her people about how Cheney is plotting against her, and Elliott Abrams, when he was on the trip with her, he was constantly calling up the White House behind her back and filling them in.

You mention Abrams. Abrams is sort of the key intellectual player, I think, of this policy that Cheney's involved in. He's not in Cheney's office. He works directly for the President as a Special Assistant in the National Security Council office, but there's no question, his influence is enormous on this.

AMY GOODMAN: And Seymour Hersh, for young people who don't remember Iran-Contra, can you just fill people in on who Elliott Abrams is, his history?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Elliott Abrams was one of the key players in this incredibly wacky scheme we had in the Iran-Iraq war of two decades ago. Between 1980 and 1988, Iran and Iraq fought each other, and we supported Iraq. We supported Saddam Hussein, the United States did, with a lot of secret arms, secret intelligence, even shipping him secret formulas that could be used to make biological weapons and chemical stuff and intelligence, etc, etc. And that was because of course, Khomeini -- we had been kicked out of Iran, when our Shah, the Shah was overthrown.

We were terrified of the Shiite leadership there. And so, one of the plans, one of the schemes was, in the middle of all of this hostility, Ronald Reagan was so committed to the Contra War in Latin America, that is, defeating what he thought was a communist-led insurgency in Nicaragua in an election there, that he cut a deal to ship arms -- let's see. It's complicated. They sold arms to Israel, which they were shipped, I think, into Iran. You help me out on this.

Anyway, the bottom line was that it was a policy that brought us into contact with Iran, secret trading. We were going to get weapons that were going to -- the Israelis were going to buy weapons. Money was -- they were going to sell weapons to Iran. Money was going to be generated from that sale to support covertly, outside of Congress's knowledge, to support aid for the opposition in Nicaragua that we favored --

AMY GOODMAN: For the Contras.

SEYMOUR HERSH: The Contras, yes, and so there we are. It was totally a crazy policy. When it unraveled, it should have probably led to, in a normal process, an impeachment proceeding for Ronald Reagan, but by that time, he was -- everybody understood he was -- he wasn't well with Alzheimer's or whatever.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that some of the weapons Hezbollah is using today could have come from that sale from the United States?

SEYMOUR HERSH: No. I think what's happened is, if you really want to know, I think the best guess is, and again, this is -- I quoted somebody to this effect, Vali Nasr, who is a professor at one of the Navy post-graduate schools, very competent guy. What really probably happened is this: once we made our move, the Bush administration and the French, to drive the Syrians out of Lebanon, that famous 1559 you always hear about -- we always hear about 1559. We never hear much about UN Resolution 242, which called for Israel to go back to its original borders. Anyway, 1559 called for Syria to get out of Lebanon and Lebanon to take control, a civilian government come in and also take -- disarm Hezbollah. That was what it called for. Well, of course, it's impossible in Syria, because the Lebanese army is probably 50% Shia and very close to Hezbollah. It was -- that's an impossibility. And so -- wait, I've lost my track of thought. What was I saying?

AMY GOODMAN: You were just saying that after --

SEYMOUR HERSH: Oh, yes, I remember. I'm sorry, Amy. So what happened is, once it was clear that the White House and French were getting our way with the UN, and Syria was going to get out, which only could only be interpreted by Iran and by Syria and by Hezbollah, as the pressure was going to be on them to be disarmed -- at that point, Iran really began to step up its support for Hezbollah, not so much in terms -- yes, there's always been close support of aid and arms, but they sent a lot of technicians into Hezbollah to help them dig and help them to improve their ability to mask what they were doing, hide their weapons, their launchers for their rockets, go deeper underground, build command and control bunkers, build a lot of facilities that fooled the Israeli's intelligence.

The Israelis -- some commando units did go into the war early on and hunter-killer teams, and they were completely bamboozled and hurt hard, because everything they thought would be in place was not. The intelligence stunk, and I think Iran, in the last 18 months, probably played a role in improving Hezbollah's intelligence or its capability to withstand a bombing attack.

AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, I want to thank you very much for joining us. His latest piece, "Watching Lebanon: Washington's Interests in Israel's War" is in this week's issue of the New Yorker magazine.

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Iranian Leader Opens Up

When correspondent Mike Wallace interviewed him in Tehran last week, it became apparent that he sees the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah — a militia Iran has long supported — as part of a larger battle between the U.S. and a militant Islam for control of the Middle East.

08/13/06 "CBS" -- -- "Very clearly, I will tell you that I fully oppose the behavior of the British and the Americans," Ahmadinejad tells Wallace. "They are providing state-of-the-art military hardware to the Zionists. And they are throwing their full support behind Israel. We believe that this threatens the future of all peoples, including the American and European peoples. So we are asking why the American government is blindly supporting this murderous regime."

Wallace tried to ask him about Hezbollah's use of missiles, rockets furnished by Iran, but he wanted to talk about Israel's attacks with American bombs.

"The laser-guided bombs that have been given to the Zionists and they're targeting the shelter of defenseless children and women," the president said.

"Who supports Hezbollah?" Wallace asked. "Who has given Hezbollah hundreds of millions of dollars for years? Who has given Hezbollah Iranian-made missiles and rockets that is making — that are making all kinds …" he continued as he was interrupted.

"Are you the representative of the Zionist regime? Or a journalist?" Ahmadinejad asked Wallace.

"I'm a journalist. I am a journalist," Wallace replied.

"This is not journalism, sir. Hezbollah is a popular organization in Lebanon, and they are defending their land," the president said. "They are defending their own houses. And, according to the charter of the United Nations, every person has the right to defend his house.

"What I'm saying is that the killing of innocents is reprehensible. And making this — the displacement of people and making them refugees, again, is reprehensible,"

"Well, what has Hezbollah, though — wait a minute," Wallace asked. "Hezbollah is displacing and damaging and making bleed all kinds of people. You know that."

"Please tell me, are the Lebanese inside the occupied lands right now or is it the other way around, that the Zionist troops are in Lebanese territory?" Ahmadinejad replied. "Lebanon is defending its independence. We are not at all happy with war. That is why on the first day we condemned these recent — conflict. And we asked for an immediate cease fire."

Ahmadinejad told Wallace the United Nations Security Council has not passed an effective ceasefire resolution because the Security Council is in America's pocket.

"Tell, the reason is, that the United Nations Security Council is there to safeguard the interests of the British and the Americans. They are not there to provide security. It's very clear," the president said.

"The UNSC, the United Nations Security Council, is there to protect the interests of the United States and the British. That's what you say?" Wallace asked.

"It has been created to help with peace and justice. But we see that it is not responding to atrocities. If we search for the root causes we see the hand of the British and the Americans," Ahmadinejad said. "People, innocent people are being killed. … And houses are being destroyed. Where is the UNSC? Also, the draft resolution which has been circulated only serves the interests of one party. And it is not just."

And, he told Wallace the Security Council is also doing America's bidding by trying to prevent Iran from developing nuclear energy. The Security Council is demanding that Iran stop all uranium enrichment by the end of this month, which Iran is refusing to do.

"But if Mr. Bush thinks that he can stop our progress, I have to say that he will be unable to do that," Ahmadinejad said.

Asked to elaborate, the president said: "We want to have access to nuclear technology. We want to produce fuel. Do you not think that the most important issue of the world of tomorrow that is will be energy?

"We think that Mr. Bush's team and the parties that support him want to monopolize energy resources in the world. Because once they have that they can impose their opinions, points of view, policies on other nations and, of course, line their own pockets."

"President Bush said — vowed — he will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. You believe it?" Wallace asked.

"Basically we are not looking for — working for the bomb," the president said. "The problem that President Bush has is in his mind he wants to solve everything with bombs. The time of the bomb is in the past. It's behind us. Today is the era of thoughts, dialogue and cultural exchanges."

But "dialogue and cultural exchanges" don't sound like his policy toward Israel.

"Israel, you have said time and again, Israel must be wiped off the map. Please explain why. And what is Iran doing about that?" Wallace asked.

"Well, allow me to finish with the nuclear dossier first," Ahmadinejad said.

"No, you finished with that. You finished with that. Please," Wallace continued.

"No, it's not finished, sir. It's not finished. We are just beginning," Ahmadinejad said.

"OK, oh!" Wallace replied with a chuckle. "That's what I was afraid of. But go."

"Well, the Americans are overly sensitive. And, of course, the American government. I don't know why they're opposed to Iranian progress," the president said.

Asked if he really believed that the United States is against Iranian progress and development, Ahmadinejad said, "That is true. That is what I am saying."

"You know that's not so," Wallace replied.

President Ahmadinejad then offered an explanation for his theory.

"Before the revolution, the German, French, American government and the Canadian government had signed contracts with us to produce nuclear fuel inside Iran. But immediately after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, their opposition started," he said. "Right now, they are opposed to our nuclear technology. Now why is that?"

The United States is convinced that nuclear energy is just a smokescreen and that what Iran really wants is the bomb. Then Wallace tried to get the president back to his most inflammatory statement regarding Israel.

"You are very good at filibustering," Wallace remarked. "You still have not answered the question. You still have not answered the question. Israel must be wiped off the map. Why?"

"Well, don't be hasty sir," the president said. "I'm going to get to that. I think that the Israeli government is a fabricated government."

"Fabricated" following the Holocaust, which he's said may also have been fabricated.

Last December, Ahmadinejad said the Europeans had created a myth of the Holocaust.

"What I did say was, if this is a reality, if this is real, where did it take place?" Ahmadinejad replied.

"In Germany," Wallace said.

"Who — who caused this in Europe?" Ahmadinejad asked.

"In Europe. If I may … so …what you're suggesting — one moment — what you're suggesting then, that Israel should be over in Germany because that's where the holocaust took place?" Wallace asked.

"I'm not saying that, mind you," the president replied.

But he has said Israel could be moved to Europe, or even to the United States but it shouldn't be in Palestine.

"Well, if an atrocity was committed in Germany or Europe for that matter, why should the Palestinians answer for this?" the president asked. "They had no role to play in this. Why on the pretext of the Holocaust they have occupied Palestine? Millions of people have been made refugees. Thousands of people to-date have been killed, sir. Thousands of people have been put in prison. Well, at the very moment, a great war is raging because of that."

"Look if you could — if you could keep your answers concise. Concise. I beg you. We'll get more questions in," Wallace requested.

"Well, one of your questions required — all of your questions require a book-long answer. If you want me to just finish the interview, please tell me and we can wrap up right now," the president said.

"No, no, no, no, no," Wallace said.

"Do you, perhaps want me to say what you want me to say?" Ahmadinejad said to Wallace.

"No, no," Wallace insisted.

"If that is the case, then I ask you to please be patient," the president replied. "Maybe these days you don't have a lot of patience to spare. Maybe these are words that you don't like to hear, Mr. Wallace."

"Why? What? What words do I not like to hear?" Wallace asked.

"Because I think that you're getting angry," Ahmadinejad said.

"I couldn't be happier for the privilege of sitting down with the president of Iran," Wallace said.

And with that established, Wallace moved on to the topic of Iraq.

"I am told that your revolutionary guards, Mr. President, are taking bombs, those — those roadside bombs — the IED's into Iraq. And what they are doing is furnishing the insurgents in Iraq with the kind of material that can kill U.S. soldiers. Why would you want to do that?" Wallace asked.

"Well, we are very saddened that the people of Iraq are being killed," Ahmadinejad replied. "I believe that the rulers of the U.S. have to change their mentality. I ask you, sir, what is the American army doing inside Iraq? Iraq has a government, a parliament. Iraq is — has a civilized nation with a long history of civilization. These are people we're dealing with."

Asked if he thinks Saddam Hussein was a civilized, reasonable, leader and whether the United States was wrong about going into Iraq, Ahmadinejad said: "Well, Saddam's story has been finished for close to three years, I would say. He belongs in the past. … And the Americans are openly saying that 'We are here for the long run,' in Iraq that is. So, a question for you, according to international law, the responsibility of providing security rests on the shoulder of the occupying, rather army. So, I ask them why are not — why are they not providing security?"

Instead of security, he says the United States is oppressing Iraq, and instead of calling the United States, "the great Satan," as the Ayatollah Khomeini did, Ahmadinejad calls the United States "the great oppressor."

"We are opposed to oppression," the president told Wallace. "We support whoever is victimized and oppressed even the oppressed people of the U.S."

A senior European diplomat in Tehran told Wallace that Iran's president feels the United States should be confronted in Iraq — and around the world — because he truly believes that the U.S. government is against Islam, and the developing world, that America keeps pushing Iran and other countries around, and he is determined to push back.

The Bush administration paints Iran's president as America's mortal enemy — as a man who wants nuclear weapons and supports Islamic terrorists. For his part, President Ahmadinejad views the United States as his major adversary.

He's the son of a blacksmith; was a commando during the Iran-Iraq war; has a Ph.D. in civil engineering, and became president a year ago by running as a populist man of the people. He is savvy, self-assured and self-righteous, but he rarely gives interviews to American journalists. His last U.S. newspaper interview was six months ago in USA Today.

But he sat down with 60 Minutes because he wanted to speak directly to the American people — and to President Bush.

Asked what he thinks of Mr. Bush, Ahmadinejad replied, "What do you think I should think about the gentlemen? How should I think about him?"

"Come on. Come on. You're perfectly capable of handling that question if you have the courage to answer it," Wallace pushed.

"Well, thank you very much. So, you're teaching me how to be bold and courageous," Ahmadinejad said, laughing. "That's interesting."

"Answer the question," Wallace said.

"I think that Mr. Bush can be in the service of his own people," Ahmadinejad said. "He can save the American economy using appropriate methodologies without killing people, innocents, without occupation, without threats. I am very saddened to hear that 1 percent of the total population is in prison. And 45 million people don't have a health care cover. That is very sad to hear."

And he was sad also not to hear any answer from President Bush to an 18-page letter he sent three months ago, urging him to be less bellicose in his view of the world. The White House dismissed the letter as a publicity stunt.

Asked what he expected to hear back from President Bush, Ahmadinejad said: "I was expecting Mr. Bush to give up or, I should say, to change his behavior. I was hoping to open a new window for the gentlemen. One can certainly look on the world from other perspectives. You can love the people. You can love all people. You can talk with the people of the Middle East using another language, other words. Instead of blind support for an imposed regime, they can establish a more appropriate relationship with the people of the region."

"You can love the people. That's very easy to say," Wallace remarked. "You despise certain people. You despise the Zionists."

"Well, I don't despise people or individuals, I should say," Ahmadinejad said.

Pushed further on Zionists, the president said, "What I am saying is that I despise heinous action."

And as for his letter to Mr. Bush.

"In the letter you praise Jesus and ask President Bush how he could be a follower of Christ and claim to support human rights but at the same time attack and occupy other countries, kill thousands of people, spend billions of dollars on wars. And you urged him, the president, out of respect for the teachings of Christ to be a force for peace instead of war. How is that so?" Wallace asked.

"That is true, which was a part of my letter," Ahmadinejad acknowledged.

And then he had a new message for President Bush: "Please give him this message, sir. Those who refuse to accept an invitation to good will not have a good ending or fate."

Asked what that means, Ahmadinejad said: "Well, you see that his approval rating is dropping everyday. Hatred vis-à-vis the president is increasing everyday around the world. For a ruler, this is the worst message that he could receive. Rulers and heads of government at the end of their office must leave the office holding their heads high."

After Ahmadinejad answered the question, an assistant handed the president a note. Asked what he was telling him, Ahmadinejad said he had been told to rearrange his jacket.

"Why are they worried about your jacket? I think you look just fine," Wallace said, laughing.

"That is right. They have told me the same thing. They tell me that it's a very nice looking coat," Ahmadinejad replied.

Asked if he is a vain man, Ahmadinejad said, "Sometimes appearances — yes, you have to look your back… that is why I comb my hair."

"What do you do for leisure?" Wallace asked.

"I study. I read books. I exercise. And, of course, I spend some time — quality time — with my family," said Ahmadinejad, who is a father of three.

"How long has it been since the leaders of Iran and the leaders of the U.S. have had any conversations?" Wallace asked.

"Twenty-six, 27 years," the president replied.

Asked if he has a desire to resume relations with the United States, Ahmadinejad said, "Who cut the relations, I ask you."

"That's not the point. The question is would you, the president of Iran, like to resume relations which have been gone for 26, 27 years with the United States," Wallace pressed.

"Well, we are interested to have relations with all governments … and all nations. This is a principle of my foreign policy," Ahmadinejad said.

"I know that," Wallace said.

"Allow me to finish myself," Ahmadinejad said.

"Why don't you just answer, say yes or no?" Wallace asked. "Do you want to have relations now, after 26, 27 years, with the United States? What harm could come from that?"

"We are not talking about harm. The conditions, conducive conditions, have to be there," Ahmadinejad said.

Asked what those "conducive conditions" are, the president said, "Well, please look at the makeup of the American administration, the behavior of the American administration. See how they talk down to my nation. They want to build an empire. And they don't want to live side by side in peace with other nations."

"Who does not? Washington does not?" Wallace asked.

"The American government, sir. It is very clear to me they have to change their behavior and everything will be resolved," Ahmadinejad answered.

"I am told that your aides want us to wind up our interview. But you kindly promised to answer my questions," Wallace said. "And I still have just a few left."

"Well, you might have five more hours of questions now," Ahmadinejad said. "Well, I have other appointments to get to. It's time for the night prayer, sir."

"Last one," Wallace said. "You have a special unit of martyr seekers in your revolutionary guard. They claim they have 52,000 trained suicide bombers ready to attack American and British targets if America should attack Iran."

"So, are you expecting the Americans to threaten us and we sit idly by and watch them with our hands … tied?" Ahmadinejad said.

Asked if the Americans have threatened him, Ahmadinejad said: "I do hope that the Americans will give up this practice of threatening other nations so that you are not forced me to ask such questions. I wish you well."

Produced By Robert G. Anderson ©MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Seagate hoping to get 60GB and 120GB drives into iPods


Posted Aug 14th 2006 3:20PM by Darren Murph

Filed under: Portable Audio, Storage
If you haven't been paying close attention to the theoretical glass ceiling that the iPod has struck, you may not realize that Apple's darling has been capped at 60GB for quite awhile now. While the iPod with video is, in our humble opinion, very ripe for a refresh, the holdup could be history if Seagate has anything to do with it. The world's "largest hard drive manufacturer" isn't fazed by the recent flash-based memory craze, and feels that even NAND can't oust the tried and true storage platters on its own. William Watkins, the company's CEO, recently stated that he felt quite secure in his operations, and that while flash memory had its place, consumers needing spacious drives for backup and home / vehicle media storage will be skipping over the small stuff and heading straight for the hard drives. Regardless, recent analyst reactions to the less-than-stellar financial performance from the company has sparked questions about how it plans to stage a comeback in a flash-driven world, and the answer just might be the iPod. Watkins noted that Seagate hasn't been competitive in the high-capacity 1.8-inch drive arena, but we latched onto a certain comment regarding his intentions to change that -- in regards to 60GB and 120GB 1.8-inch drives, Watkins claimed that the company "will have one in the December quarter," which is obviously prime fodder for new iPod speculation (you know, since that's the holiday shopping season and all). While we weren't told outright that Seagate was in line to supply Apple with these larger drives, we sure hope somebody hooks it up with more capacity, and besides, there's never a time like the present to crank up the rarely-stagnant Apple rumor mill once again.

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The Guns of August

From The Winnipeg Free Press, August 13, 2006

World conflicts could ignite more serious conflagration

Sun Aug 13 2006

By Richard Holbrooke
WASHINGTON -- Two full-blown crises, in Lebanon and Iraq, are merging into a single emergency. A chain reaction could spread quickly almost anywhere between Cairo and Bombay. Turkey is talking openly of invading northern Iraq to deal with Kurdish terrorists based there. Syria could easily get pulled into the war in southern Lebanon. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are under pressure from jihadists to support Hezbollah, even though the governments in Cairo and Riyadh hate that organization. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of giving shelter to al-Qaida and the Taliban; there is constant fighting on both sides of that border. NATO's own war in Afghanistan is not going well. India talks of taking punitive action against Pakistan for allegedly being behind the Mumbai bombings. Uzbekistan is a repressive dictatorship with a growing Islamic resistance.

The only beneficiaries of this chaos are Iran, Hezbollah, al-Qaida and the Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who recently held the largest anti-American, anti-Israel demonstration in the world in the very heart of Baghdad, even as 6,000 additional U.S. troops were rushing into the city to "prevent" a civil war that has already begun.

This combination of combustible elements poses the greatest threat to global stability since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, history's only nuclear superpower confrontation. The Cuba crisis, although immensely dangerous, was comparatively simple: it came down to two leaders and no war. In 13 days of brilliant diplomacy, John F. Kennedy induced Nikita Khrushchev to remove Soviet missiles from Cuba.

Kennedy was deeply influenced by Barbara Tuchman's classic, The Guns of August, which recounted how a seemingly isolated event 92 summers ago -- an assassination in Sarajevo by a Serb terrorist -- set off a chain reaction that led in just a few weeks to the First World War. There are vast differences between that August and this one. But Tuchman ended her book with a sentence that resonates in this summer of crisis: "The nations were caught in a trap, a trap made during the first 30 days out of battles that failed to be decisive, a trap from which there was, and has been, no exit."

Preventing just such a trap must be the highest priority of American policy. Unfortunately, there is little public sign that the president and his top advisers recognize how close we are to a chain reaction, or that they have any larger strategy beyond tactical actions.

Under the universally accepted doctrine of self-defence, which is embodied in Article 51 of the UN Charter, there is no question that Israel has a legitimate right to take action against a group that has sworn to destroy it and had hidden some 13,000 missiles in southern Lebanon. In these circumstances, American support for Israel is essential, as it has been since the time of Truman; if Washington abandoned Jerusalem, the very existence of the Jewish state could be jeopardized, and the world crisis whose early phase we are now in would quickly get far worse. The United States must continue to make clear that it is ready to come to Israel's defence, both with American diplomacy and, as necessary, with military equipment.
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But the United States must also understand, and deal with, the wider consequences of its own actions and public statements, which have caused an unprecedented decline in America's position in much of the world and are provoking dangerous new anti-American coalitions and encouraging a new generation of terrorists. American disengagement from active Middle East diplomacy since 2001 has led to greater violence and a decline in U.S. influence. Others have been eager to fill the vacuum. (Note the sudden emergence of France as a key player in the current burst of diplomacy.)

American policy has had the unintended, but entirely predictable, effect of pushing our enemies closer together. Throughout the region, Sunnis and Shiites have put aside their hatred of each other just long enough to join in shaking their fists -- or doing worse -- at the United States and Israel. Meanwhile, in Baghdad, our troops are coming under attack by both sides -- Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents. If this continues, the U.S. presence in Baghdad has no future.

U.S. President George W. Bush owes it to the nation, and especially the troops who risk their lives every day, to re-examine his policies. For starters, he should redeploy some U.S. troops into the safer northern areas of Iraq to serve as a buffer between the increasingly agitated Turks and the restive, independence-minded Kurds. Given the new situation, such a redeployment to Kurdish areas and a phased drawdown elsewhere -- with no final decision yet as to a full withdrawal from Iraq -- is fully justified. At the same time, we should send more troops to Afghanistan, where the situation has deteriorated even as the Pentagon is reducing U.S. troop levels -- which is read in the region as a sign of declining U.S. interest in Afghanistan.

On the diplomatic front, the United States cannot abandon the field to other nations (not even France!) or the United Nations. Every secretary of state from Henry Kissinger to Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright negotiated with Syria, including those Republican icons George Shultz and James Baker. Why won't this administration follow suit, in full consultation with Israel at every step? This would clearly be in Israel's interest. Instead, administration officials refuse direct talks and say publicly, "Syria knows what it must do" -- a statement that denies the very point of diplomacy.

The same is true of talks with Iran, although these would be more difficult. Why has the world's leading nation stood aside for over five years and allowed the international dialogue with Tehran to be conducted by Europeans, the Chinese and the United Nations? And why has that dialogue been restricted to the nuclear issue -- vitally important, to be sure, but not as urgent at this moment as Iran's sponsorship and arming of Hezbollah and its support of actions against U.S. forces in Iraq?

Containing the violence must be Washington's first priority. Finding a stable and secure solution that protects Israel must follow. Then must come the unwinding of America's disastrous entanglement in Iraq in a manner that is not a complete humiliation and does not lead to even greater turmoil. All of this will take sustained high-level diplomacy -- precisely what the American administration has avoided in the Middle East. Washington has, or at least used to have, leverage over the more moderate Arab states; it should use it again, in the closest consultation with and on behalf of Israel.

And we must be ready for unexpected problems that will test us; they could come in Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Jordan or even Somalia -- but one thing seems sure: They will come. Without a new, comprehensive strategy based on our most urgent national security needs -- as opposed to a muddled version of Wilsonianism -- this crisis is almost certain to worsen and spread.

Richard Holbrooke is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Special to The Washington Post

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