Isaac Luria


Isaac Luria, Director of Communications and New Media for J Street, discusses a primary J Street goal: changing what it means to be pro-Israel, why a one-state solution is really a one-state delusion, how Avigdor Lieberman undermines Israel’s status as a democracy and natural ally of the U.S., indications Bibi Netanyahu will concede part of E. Jerusalem and the short 6-12 month window of opportunity for serious Palestinian/Israeli negotiations.

MP3 here. (17:57) Transcript below.

Isaac Luria is Director of Communications and New Media for J Street. He previously worked for 4 years in online organizing and consulting, 2 years of which he spent at the online marketing firm Donordigital in San Francisco. Isaac received his Bachelors degree in American Studies from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. During 2007-2008, Isaac lived in Jerusalem, Israel as a Dorot Fellow. Isaac lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Sara, who is studying to become a Reform Rabbi.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Isaac Luria, July 31, 2010

Scott Horton: All right y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. Our next guest is Isaac Luria from JStreet – the pro-peace Israel lobby in Washington D.C. How’s it going, Isaac?

Isaac Luria: Going great. Thanks for having me, Scott.

Horton: Well thanks very much for joining us today. Well, lots of stuff in the news in terms of Middle East policy and the Israel Lobby in the United States. I guess we could talk about Iran sanctions. We could talk about East Jerusalem. We could talk about Representative [Ileana] Ros-Lehtinen and her efforts to kick the Palestinian Authority out of the United States. What do you think? You pick.

Luria: Well let’s start with Ros-Lehtinen, because I think it’s an important indication of some of what JStreet’s been up to in the last little while. We are right now asking our hundred and fifty thousand supporters online to take action with us in opposing a letter that Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has been circulating-out for signatures. The letter actually calls to kick the Palestinian diplomatic representation that they have here in the United States out of the country.

And this is, I mean, it’s just a wild idea, one that is so far out of the mainstream when it comes to folks who really care about achieving a peace in the region that will secure Israel’s future, you know, the right thing to do by the Palestinians, and solve American, you know, help American interests in the region. You know, we are really pushing back on this letter. I think it is just a really difficult thing to see happen in Capitol Hill.

I can just imagine the Israelis and Palestinians are trying to come to direct talks now in the region. The U.S. is, you know, Mitchell, his team, Secretary Clinton, President Obama are doing what they can to get this train moving on the right track, and these sorts of firebombs get thrown from Congress, and it’s really unhelpful. And I hope that people will join us, come to our website and fight back against this fearmongering. Because we do need a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and stuff like this really sets that back.

Horton: Well you know, it seems like a lot of the pro-right wing, pro-Likud kind of argument in America is based around the idea that, “To give up the West Bank is to destroy Israel forever; they want us all just destroyed forever” and just completely conflating the ’48 borders with the ’67 ones, or even the ’45 borders with the ’67 ones. It seems like the whole argument takes place, maybe deliberately, detached from reality – “To believe in this, you just have to believe in it, and this is our line and we’re sticking to it.”

Luria: Right, and I think that’s exactly what JStreet was founded to change. There is this idea that being pro-Israel means marching in lockstep with a particular Israeli government policy. There are some things that Benjamin Netanyahu has done which I think is a good thing, but I think overall we have to be doing what we can to advance the peace process. It is so urgently needed, as a pro-Israel American, as a Zionist, I believe that this is the only way that Israel is ever going to be secure, and that means sharing the land with the Palestinians, finding the way to divide the biblical land of Israel into a state for the Palestinians and a state for the Israelis. And that is, for me, the fulfillment of the Zionist idea. If we believe that Jews should be able to determine their own fate in a country of their own, we also must believe that another people – the Palestinians – should be able to determine their own fate in a country of their own, as well. So that is my version of what it means to be pro-Israel, and that’s what JStreet’s trying to advance on Capitol Hill and with the administration.

Horton: [police sirens audible] Jeez, sounds like they’re coming for ya, Isaac.

Luria: [laughs] You know, I think it’s one of these issues that is just considered a third rail in American politics. I think we’re prying-open the space. We have to. There’s no other way to approach this issue than by mounting an aggressive political campaign to change hearts and minds on Capitol Hill and in the American Jewish community. So I think we’re having some success.

It is an incredibly difficult issue, a hot button issue, so we have a lot more to do to make that work. You know, every time – and I say this to staff, I say this to friends of mine and supporters of JStreet – that every time we are attacked by the “right” people – and I mean the folks on the other side of the aisle – when it comes to being pro-Israel – that they make us stronger, that they show that they do only want one way of being pro-Israel to be – “there’s only one way to be pro-Israel in the American Jewish community or on Capitol Hill.” So it proves our point. And we have the ability then to turn that into new supporters, into money for candidates that we support, and the like.

Horton: Right on. Yeah well, that’s certainly true. I mean, it has seemed for a long time as though there’s just the one line, but I think more and more people are understanding at least that there is an argument that the policies of the Israeli government and the policies of the pro-Israeli government forces in America are really bad for Israel over the long term if you want Israel to exist under the parameters as you just said.

Now me, I’m kind of a Declaration of Independence guy, and I don’t think race or religion matter, but then again that’s a kinda newfangled western-American kind of idea, and racial and ethnic division, religious division by border, is the symptom of the way the old word works, I guess. I wouldn’t try to insist on overthrowing all that, I guess, but then again it’s kinda funny – I saw Avigdor Lieberman – well you can characterize him however you want – but I guess it’s at least just fair to say – is a very right-wing nationalist and is the foreign minister there – of Israel. He was actually talking more like what I would think would be the idea – not that I would trust him to implement it my way or anything – but he was saying, “What we ought to have is just a one-state solution and equal rights for everyone,” and why should it be a division of Jewish versus Christian and Muslim for the land instead of just the Bill of Rights for everybody?

Luria: Well I think that is a, you know, just not where JStreet comes down. We believe that a two-state solution is the solution. I actually don’t believe that any sort of one-state scenario is going to lead to peace. I think it’s a sort of scenario that actually will end up with more violence. We will see – I call it a one-state delusion because I think that when people support it that what they’re actually going to result in – and I think that people come at this – they want to grapple with this issue, they’re trying to come up with the right answer – but I do think that it’s important to say that we would be consigning the region, especially the Israelis and Palestinians, to a 40-year, 50-year Kosovo-style low grade conflict that will claim many more lives and destabilize the region further.

And second, as a pro-Israel American, as somebody who believes that there needs to be a Jewish homeland, that Israel is that homeland, and we’ve got to secure it – and that means borders. And that means that the character of the state would be defined by its citizens which would be majority Jewish in the context of a two-state solution. So I understand the one-state movement, and you see it also popping up, as you said, you know from right-wing politicians in Israel – but I think that it is a mistake. I think that that’s the sort of rethinking of the last twenty years of policy that could get us down a very, very difficult and dangerous path, not just for Israel but for everybody in the region.

Horton: What do you think Lieberman is up to, trying to agree with me about something? Doesn’t seem right.

Luria: You know, I think that Lieberman is a character in Israeli politics that is very difficult to handle for many American Jews. What we see in Israel and what we believe is good about Israel is that it’s a democracy. It is representative of the values that we hold dear, that we share enemies in terrorism, that that setup of a values-based relationship – you know, a strategic relationship, as well, between the U.S. and Israel – but in particular a values-based relationship – that whole idea is called into question by people like Avigdor Lieberman who don’t have the same view of what it means to be in a democracy.

Horton: All right, I’m sorry, hold it right there, Isaac – we got to go out and take this break. Go look at, the pro-peace Israel lobby in D.C. We’ll be right back with Isaac Luria right after this.


Horton: All right, so we’re on the phone with Isaac Luria from JStreet. is the website, and when we were so rudely interrupted by the commercial break, Isaac, we were talking about Avigdor Lieberman – Israel’s Lieberman – and he’s the foreign minister there, and you were arguing that he’s so right wing and nationalist in his policies and proposals and ways of doing things that he’s delegitimizing the argument that Israel is a democracy and therefore a natural ally of the United States. And that is of concern to you guys at JStreet.

Luria: Yeah. I mean, I think that Avigdor Lieberman’s view of what Israel should be – will be – is not mine. He does not see the beauty, I don’t think, of the Declaration of Independence of Israel that pledged to respect and honor the rights of all people living within the borders of the state. So I think that this is just one of those issues in which JStreet just disagrees with the way that Avigdor Lieberman approaches what it means to have a state of Israel and a state with a Jewish majority, and I think that there is a key difference here.

And I am worried about the pull of politicians like him inside Israel and what that means for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. When Americans see a politician who really represents the antithesis of their values when it comes to democracy, when it comes to civil rights, when it comes to rights of minorities, it just doesn’t sit well, and it should be rejected. And I think what we’re trying to do is really mount a – what I would call a last ditch effort to save Israel from the brink of losing its democratic nature. And that’s why we’re supporting President Obama’s push for a two-state solution. And this is, I think, just given the political calendar and given the trends in Palestinian and Israeli society, one of the last times that we’re really going to be able to push hard for a two-state solution and secure Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic home.

Horton: Well you know, I wonder how much all this – you know we are talking about Benjamin Netanyahu’s government here – and I’m sure you remember the “Clean Break” strategy that was written by the American neocons Richard Perle and Douglas Feith and David Wurmser. And what they said was, at least part of it was – and what he did – was disrupt, basically sabotage, the Oslo peace deal, and then they carried out the rest of it: getting America to invade Iraq, which was supposed to, get this, weaken Iran, which I think is hilarious. But I wonder whether you think it’s possible for Israel to ever have an about-face on this policy of, you know, the larger regional policy of, “We will just be stronger than everyone forever and dominate them, and they won’t dare try to oppose us forever” rather than trying to make friends with everybody? You know what I mean? America can only bribe Egypt to pretend not to hate Israel for so long; what if Mubarak died, you know?

Luria: Well I think that’s the question that’s on the table right now – whether or not Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to take this opportunity and really pursue it. There are some encouraging signs in the past few weeks. I know this sounds odd from a JStreet representative, but I think there have been real encouraging signs from Bibi Netanyahu recently.

He made a statement to a gathering of American Jewish leaders in New York on the issue of Jerusalem, which, as you probably know, is one of the key stumbling blocks when it comes to the peace process. What do we do about Jerusalem? How do we share it? Who gets the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem? Who gets the Jewish neighborhoods in West Jerusalem, and what happens to the holy sites in the Old City? But on that issue the prime minister, when asked whether or not in the context of a two-state solution agreement, “would Jerusalem remain united,” which is a code-language for, “would Jerusalem remain under Israeli control entirely, including Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem” – which is a non-starter with the Palestinians and probably a non-starter with the two-state solution, as well. Assuredly a non-starter.

But he didn’t answer in the way that anybody had expected. He said, “Oh you know, of course there are Palestinian neighborhoods which might end up as part of East Jerusalem,” which is a very different answer than he’s ever given on Jerusalem – totally different; seems like a change. And then you watch to see if the Prime Minister’s bureau is going to deny it, and they didn’t. Usually those denials happen very quickly, and this one was not denied.

So my view is that the jury is still out. It’s not yet decided whether or not Bibi is the right man for the job. I think that he has an opportunity to make history, that he is going to need to understand that this is the last great window to do it – with President Obama in the White House, with Abbas and Fayyad in charge in the West Bank. So it remains to be seen. I am hoping. And JStreet will be pushing this Israeli government in ways that we can from America to take this opportunity and pursue it.

Horton: Well now I guess you imply there, when you say kind of, “last chance, last window of opportunity” kind of language there – then after this, then what? Israel will be doomed to a one-state solution, right? It seems like a major question is, “Can, or even will, the Israeli army, if ordered, remove settlers from the West Bank?” – which is already divided up into such tiny little pieces that you can’t make a state there without undoing the massive settlements that are crisscrossing the place.

Luria: And you’re right that many settlements will have to be evacuated in order to make this two-state solution work. The question of what happens next, I think, is a very difficult one. I think that things are going to move – there’s going to be a lot more drama before we have any sort of answer to that, but I’m focused on this goal which is: In the next six months, are we going to see progress? If we don’t see progress in the next six to twelve months, I think we’re in a very dangerous spiral.

So the key is the American government. Are they going to be able to have the political will behind their effort to make peace? And I think that that is also a question now that JStreet is faced with. And that’s what our role is, to create that political space so that President Obama will be able to do what’s necessary to bring the parties to the table, to propose compromised solutions, and to push, when necessary, to get both sides, Palestinians and Israelis, to agree to the two-state solution based along what they almost agreed to in the nineties and two-thousands.

Horton: All right now we’re very short on time here – that’s the bumper music all ready playing – so just really quickly kind of yes or no: Are we nearing the day when JStreet has as much authority on Capital Hill as AIPAC?

Luria: We are doing what we can to fight against all kinds of folks on the right. I wouldn’t put AIPAC as the only one; there are lots of them and we’re building.

Horton: All right everybody that’s Isaac Luria at JStreet.

Luria: Thanks so much. Join us at

Mikey Weinstein


Mikey Weinstein, author of With God on Our Side: One Man’s War Against an Evangelical Coup in America’s Military, discusses the “fundamentalist Christian parachurch military corporate proselytizing complex” that Eisenhower never warned about, the “American Taliban” Christian dominionists within the military who want to replace the Constitution with religious edicts, the danger of a military indoctrinated in end-times theology and equipped with a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons and why Armageddon is not a viable exit strategy for Afghanistan.

MP3 here. (20:32)

Mikey Weinstein is the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. He was described by Harper’s magazine as the constitutional conscience of the U.S. military, a man determined to force accountability. Mikey’s family has a long and distinguished U.S. military history spanning three consecutive generations of military academy graduates and over 130 years of combined active duty military service in every major combat engagement our country has been in from World War I to the current Global War on Terror.

Mikey is a 1977 Honor Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. Mikey has been married for over 32 years to his wife, Bonnie. He is the proud parent of two sons and one daughter. His oldest son and daughter-in-law are 2004 Graduates, and Mikey’s youngest son graduated in the Class of 2007 from the Air Force Academy and is the sixth member of Mikey’s family to attend the Academy. His father is a distinguished graduate of the United States Naval Academy. Mikey spent 10 years in the Air force as a “JAG” or military attorney serving as both a Federal prosecutor and criminal defense attorney.

Ivan Eland


Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute and regular contributor to, discusses the U.S. fight for diplomatic leverage in Afghanistan, why extreme militarization signals the final stage of empire, the many tragedies created by Democrats acting tough and why we need a president like Eisenhower who won’t jump headfirst into every foreign conflict.

MP3 here. (21:48)

Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow at the The Independent Institute and a regular columnist. He is the author of Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq and Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World.

Charles Goyette


Charles Goyette, former Antiwar Radio co-contributor and author of The Dollar Meltdown : Surviving the Impending Currency Crisis with Gold, Oil, and Other Unconventional Investments, discusses the sacrifice of social programs to preserve the sacrosanct Pentagon budget, how American insularity breeds ignorance, the worthless 2300-page financial reform bill passed by Congress, how alternate systems of money and commerce will bypass Fed control and why oil and gold will hold their value against a declining dollar.

MP3 here. (39:38)

Charles Goyette was a longtime award winning morning drive-time radio host from Phoenix, AZ. He is a libertarian commentator, who is noted for his outspoken anti-war views, his opposition to the war in Iraq, and his economic commentary. He is the author of the book The Dollar Meltdown: Surviving the Impending Currency Crisis with Gold, Oil, and Other Unconventional Investments.

James Bovard


James Bovard, author of Attention Deficit Democracy, discusses the FBI’s flagrant abuse of national security letters that apparently entitles them to even more eavesdropping power, the lawsuits and sabotage efforts likely heading WikiLeaks’ way, how media sycophancy enables the know-nothing Congress and why Bob Barr’s 2008 Presidential Committee needs help paying its bills.

MP3 here. (20:23) Transcript below.

James Bovard is a contributor to The American Conservative magazine and policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation. He is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal and many other books.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews James Bovard July 30, 2010

Scott Horton: All right y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. I’m joined on the phone by my friend Jim Bovard. He’s the author of The Farm Fiasco and The Fair Trade Fraud and Feeling Your Pain and Freedom in Chains, Terrorism and Tyranny, The Bush Betrayal, and Attention Deficit Democracy is so good – it’s a couple of years old now, but still – man what an awesome book, Attention Deficit Democracy. I’m sure I’ve left half of them off the list there, but that’s Jim Bovard’s work. He is the most accomplished libertarian journalist in history and of course he’s a fellow over at the Future of Freedom Foundation as well. Hey Jim, how’s it going man?

James Bovard: Hey, Scott, thanks for having me on the air.

Horton: Well I appreciate you joining us again on the show today.

Bovard: Hey, it was a really great interview that you did yesterday with Julian Assange. It’s great that you guys are putting the transcripts online. You know, I’ve been hearing a lot of stuff in the Washington press corps and the Washington Post about kind of telling you that the release a couple of days ago wasn’t as big as the Pentagon Papers. It’s nice to see from your interview there’s a whole lot more coming, and you know this game is only starting and it’s getting better all the time.

Horton: Well, thanks very much. Two things there: First of all, Angela Keaton gets the credit for producing this show and getting all the guests lined up, like you right now, but like Julian yesterday as well – she gets all the credit for that. And then, secondly, the transcripts are thanks to a small group of volunteers I’ve been able to put together. I think at least some of them have told me not to say their names or whatever, so I guess I won’t say their names, but anyway there are about five people who are working together to put together the transcriptions and then go over them and get them in final draft form for me, and then, as you mentioned, they got that Julian Assange interview transcript together, ready to post in real time with the archive of the audio last night. So I’m very thankful to all of them for that. It’s really something having the transcripts up.

Bovard: Yeah, and it’s so helpful for folks who might not want to listen or folks who are more print oriented, kind of like geezers like myself.

Horton: Well and it’s a matter of time too, you know.

Bovard: That’s true. That’s true.

Horton: You listen to a half-hour interview, you can read it in four minutes, you know?

Bovard: That’s true, and something which is nice about being able to read it is that you can annotate it.

Horton: Right, yeah, copy, paste.

Bovard: And there are certain quotes – like the thing a half an hour ago, I did a blog on your interview, and it was nice to be able to pull out a couple of sentences from his comments and just pop them right in there, so…

Horton: Right, well and you think about some of the things I get, former CIA agents and former National Security Council staffers and other people who will say on the show – a lot of those things could be news stories themselves, and I think now that we’re getting them in print, and especially fast like this, maybe we can get to building some news releases around them. You know, because Flynt Leverett on this show, the things that he says – that’s a news story itself, that this guy Flynt Leverett told this guy Scott Horton X and such.

Bovard: Well, yeah, but the downside to all this is it means you’re going to have more trouble with groupies.

Horton: Yeah! Well that’s always been a real problem around here, believe me.

Bovard: Well, I saw it happen at that Future of Freedom conference. My goodness, you know, it was dangerous standing close to you. You know? I felt like I had to do my middle-linebacker, you know, always be on defense.

Horton: Well, it’s nice to know you have my back, Jim.

Bovard: All right.

Horton: Hey, by the way, when are they doing another one of those Future of Freedom Foundation conferences? That thing was awesome, man.

Bovard: Good question. Don’t know. That’s a good question for Bumper [Future of Freedom Foundation president Jacob Hornberger] next time you talk to him. They’ve been cooking some other stuff up, so I don’t know.

Horton: You know, people go on the YouTube and look – that was in 2007, right?

Bovard: There was one in 2007. There was one in 2008.

Horton: Okay. Well maybe that was the 2008 one. Or maybe – I don’t know. Yeah, I guess that was 2008. So, anyway, go and look at the YouTube y’all, and there are excellent speeches by Ron Paul, and Stephen Kinzer, and Andrew Bacevich, and you’re one of them too, aren’t you?

Bovard: I was one of them. There was Glenn Greenwald…

Horton: Karen Kwiatkowski. Yeah, Greenwald. Anthony Gregory gave a great speech about why it’s immoral to drop high explosives on peoples’ heads from your airplane. Yeah, it was awesome – always is. And of course Jacob’s speech was great too.

Bovard: Yeah, he’s a first-class hell raiser.

Horton: All right. Well, so, we got to cover some news or something important or something, so let’s talk about this WikiLeaks thing. That’s kind of where we started here with the Julian Assange. I’m trying to be hopeful that – and this was going to be one of my questions for him before I ran out of time yesterday, and I don’t know, he doesn’t have any inside information on this, I guess. But what I’m hopeful about, Jimand I wonder whether you think that this will be the case, is that WikiLeaks will inspire competition, and more people, more computer geniuses with encryption skills and whatever are going to figure out ways to do their own little separate WikiLeaks.

Bovard: That would be great. I mean, as long as there’s some type of quality control. Because I would assume at some point that people inside of the government are going to be trying to feed false information through the different people that are sending information to the various –

Horton: Well, the more the merrier, right?

Bovard: Absolutely.

Horton: I mean that’s where we get our checks and balances in the market. And, well look, as we’ve been discussing, as I think you brought up – yeah, because you’re talking about the Washington Post there and the way that they treat this thing – we have to come up with our own journalism. Ray McGovern yesterday called it the “Fifth Estate”“the Ether”and the establishment can’t do nothing about it. It’s the Internet. It’s (I’m looking at your article, “The Fraud of ‘Big-Picture’ Thinking” right now). It’s It’s and And this is the future of journalism in the world.

Bovard: I hope you’re right. I’m not entirely confident the government cannot find some way to sabotage it. I would also – I will be curious to see what they try to do as far as lawsuits; I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in Congress tries to pass a law that would somehow attach liability to people who pass on government confidential documents. I mean, there’s all kinds of peril laying out there, and it was surprising to see some of these liberal mainstream journalists prior to this most recent leak kind of taking shots at WikiLeaks. I mean, it’s almost as if some of the liberals thought that they should be a team player, and I’m thinking, you know, it doesn’t make sense to trust the government to tell us the truth because the government’s had plenty of opportunities and it hasn’t done it.

Horton: Yeah, well, we’re doomed.

Bovard: Well, I don’t know that we’re doomed, but I expect that there’ll be a lot of surprises and tussles coming up here. But it’s very encouraging to hear that those folks have got a lot more surprises in the pipeline, and you know, the thing that’s shocking to a degree is how much the established mediayou know, there have been individual journalists who have done a great job in Afghanistan – people like Carlotta Gall for the New York Times and some other folks, but so much of the mainstream press coverage – well, it’s been government-fed, which is why that Rolling Stone story was such a shock. It’s like the evidence was out there, but it was almost as if some of the journalists were bending over backwards not to connect the dots.

Horton: Yeah, well and you’re right. I mean, you do have Carlotta Gall and a lot of other good reporters at the Times and even at the Post and other places, but it’s the narrative that sticks, you know? No matter how many times Carlotta Gall reports about, I don’t know, Pakistani help for the Taliban, or whatever, and it’s the kind of thing that people who are paying attention already know – the narrative really never changes from, whatever, “It’s hard work but we’re making progressall we got to do is surge some more troops in there and everything will end up going our way.”

Bovard: Well, yeah. I mean there is a fair amount of that. The interesting thing about Gall is she had the first bombshell story on the U.S. use of torture after 9/11, using it there in Afghanistan, but if memory serves, the New York Times editors basically sat on the article for a long time and then kind of buried it in the middle of the A section or the front section, and did not give it anywhere near the play. And if the New York Times had not flinched on that, it might have been more difficult for the Bush administration to make an institution of torture in so many different places around the world. And it’s surprising to me that Carlotta Gall has not gotten a lot more credit for what she’s done, because – well, anyhow, that’s another story.

Horton: Well you know when you talk about the Democrats turning on WikiLeaks. I was just looking at Greg Sargent’s blog, actually at the Washington PostGlenn Greenwald had a link over to it – and it’s this Jason Chaffetz, a Republican congressman who voted against the Afghan war funding, is being attacked for betraying the troops by his Democratic opponent. And on down the chain of BS we go, just switching roles back and forth between these two stupid parties.

All right, y’all, it’s Jim Bovard the genius on the show, on the line. We’ll be right back after this.

* * * * *

Horton: All right, y’all. Welcome back to the show, it’s Antiwar Radio, I’m on the phone with former Kelly Girl typist Jim Bovard.

Bovard: [laughs]

Horton: He’s the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, it’s really a great book, you guys really ought to read it. I know I sit here and I tell you about all these books you got to read all the time. I can’t even read all the books I got to read, and that’s my job. But this is one that you actually go and get and read, not just hear about: Attention Deficit Democracy. And, yeah, he knows it’s not supposed to be a democracy, it’s just a stupid title.

Bovard: [laughs] Oh thanks, that’s a great plug.

Horton: Yeah, yeah, quote that one on the back of the next one, you know?

Bovard: Sounds good to me.

Horton: All right, so let’s talk about –

Bovard: – Bob Barr has a blurb, but go ahead.

Horton: Oh, yeah, yeah, no doubt. Hey, by the way, did that guy ever give you the money he owed you? Ok, nevermind.

Bovard: Oh, now there’s a question. Things are proceeding on the litigation front.

Horton: Well the guy is a former federal prosecutor, so I don’t expect him to have any honor or anything, but I guess we’ll see how that goes. Well, yeah, and speaking of that, I want to pick on the FBI.

Bovard: Go for it.

Horton: I know they’re one of your favorite government agencies to pick on. These guys – well, two things. First of all, it says that they want to just be able to seize whatever information they want from any ISP in the country without any warrant. But I thought they could already do that, because of the Patriot Act, because of the National Security Letters and administrative subpoenas and so forth, so I was hoping you’d set me straight as to exactly how that works. And then the second thing is, all the cops were cheating on the test about when you’re allowed to seize what – to see whether they’re allowed to be cops in the first place.

Bovard: Well this is – yeah, the second story, the FBI agents probably apparently cheated en masse as far as being able to answer the question about when they’re allowed to do these – seize people’s private information without a warrant, but that’s a harmless error because it works out well for the government. And the second one – front page of the Washington Post today – the Obama administration is pushing to allow the FBI to seize far more personal information about people’s computer use without using a warrant. This is basically a change in the standard which the National Security Letters would be used for.

National Security letters have already been a complete disaster. The FBI has used those to put the Fourth Amendment through a shredder. We have no idea how many innocent people’s privacy has been violated by that, because there have been some very good inspector general reports, but the actual damage to privacy is far greater, and the government leaves out all the details, so we don’t know what the government did with the information it got. And so the folks in the Obama White House think the answer is to give the FBI a much bigger vacuum cleaner and basically change the law to make it much clearer that the FBI is entitled to far more sweeping information on people’s Internet use, the times and dates they sent email, the subject lines, and also possibly a person’s browser history. So if someone out there clicks on, that could go on their permanent federal FBI record.

Horton: Well look, I think everybody ought to understand already that it does go on their permanent National Security Agency file forever, if not the FBI, at this point.

Bovard: Well, it’s really hard to know – well, you know, sometimes bureaucrats share, and we have no idea how much information is being passed back and forth.

Horton: Right, I mean, that’s the real concern, right? I mean, hell, Jim, if we left it up to the FBI to build the Cray supercomputer to enslave us all, we’ll be free forever, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that you change an “and” to a “to” in some legislation somewhere, and now the National Security Agency’s powers over all of us are available to the cops who actually can use these things in court against us, and the National Security Agency – I guess they could contract out a secret hit with the CIA to kill you or whatever, but they don’t have any police power over us here other than through the FBI.

Bovard: Well, the FBI or perhaps other federal agents or federal agencies, because we don’t really know how much else, how many other laws are being broken right now. It’s been a long time since federal law enforcement was on a leash, and we really don’t know who they’re ravaging. But it’s appalling to see the Obama Administration, “Mr. Constitutional Lawyer,” coming in there and just pushing these things, which are just one more wish list for law enforcement and the intelligence types and one more trampling of privacy. I mean, it is an outrage that these folks want to give more power to the government on this when they have not yet disclosed how the government abused the power it already had.

Horton: And even if you check out the Priest-Arkin version of the national security state in the Post, they’re saying, “It’s out of control.” I think that was the title of the first piece of that last week was “Out of control, National Security State” – no one’s in charge, certainly not elected representatives of anybody.

Bovard: Well and Congress is supposed to have oversight. I would wager heavily that probably less than a third of the members of Congress even read that Washington Post series. Because members of Congress almost never read. I mean, you know, it’s like – well, anyhow.

Horton: Well, you know I’m actually going to interview Barbara Lee later today.

Bovard: Oh good!

Horton: It was supposed to be at the beginning of the show, and that was going to be one of my questions for her, is, “How dim is the average member of Congress?” I mean not even in the sense of, “Do they disagree with me about X, Y or Z?” Lord knows Barbara Lee and I disagree about all kinds of things, I’m sure. But it seems to me like most of these members of congress, Jim – and I know you’ve covered most of them live there at the Capitolit seems like they don’t even care about stuff. They’re not even interested in what’s going on.

Bovard: Right. Yes. I mean, something that you might want to do with Barbara Lee is ask her what her assessment is of how much the average congressman knows about what the government is doing either in foreign policy or in the surveillance stuff. And ask her if her fellow members of Congress ever read anything about these things, because that might get a very interesting answer.

Horton: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s pretty obvious to listen to these people talk that they’re a tenth as informed as the average reader of You could even tell, in the Bush years, there were times where you could tell that George Bush actually knew less than the readers at Whatever it was they were telling him didn’t include a lot of the story.

Bovard: Scott, Scott, Scott, this is damning with faint praise as far as your readers –

Horton: Well, no, I don’t meanI mean what he’d even been briefed on.

Bovard: “Knows more than George W.” I mean, this is something to pat yourself on the back about. It’s like being a Rhodes Scholar these days.

Horton: No, no, you know what I mean, where he’s just talking about – I wish I had a good example, but, you know, going on about Iran and Iraq, and you can tell he really doesn’t know that he’s been fighting for Iran in Iraq for years on end. I mean, most of these guys knew they were lying when they said something like that. Nobody ever even told him, you know? All he had to do was get a laptop and start googling, he’d have found out a lot more than Condoleezza Rice ever let him know.

Bovard: Well, and the thing that’s unfortunate – it was so rare in an interview with Bush that some journalist would ask him a question that would actually test his factual knowledge, because that would tell us a lot more as far as whether he had any clue in Hades as far as what was going on. But the journalists almost never did that. There was a short little Irish lady who interviewed him in the summer of 2004 and Bush just had a snit because she was pushing him on torture, and the White House just about fell apart on that.

Horton: Right, yeah, how dare she? And you know, this is the symptom of the whole larger thingI hate to even bring this up. But I obviously don’t want to talk about the subject, but it’s an example/side-issue thing – is the upcoming marriage – apparently, I hadn’t read anything but a headline, can’t avoid them – the upcoming marriage of the daughter of two presidents ago. And this is like some kind of like the – when I was a kid and Lady Diana got married to Prince Charles or whatever. I mean, really, I’m supposed to care about Bill Clinton’s daughter? This is news? It’s like we do live in England with this kind of weird pseudoroyalty that they got from Arkansas.

Bovard: Well, yeah, and it’s similar to the British Royalty because it’s fairly inbred.

Horton: [laughs] Yeah, indeed. I always did think that – well, never mind, I’m not going to say it.

Bovard: [laughs] Okay.

Horton: I had something really funny I was going to say, but never mind.

Bovard: Okay, well, we’ll just try to keep up to you.

Horton: It would have been worth that laugh I got out of you.

Bovard: All right, well, you know I was waiting for a zinger.

Horton: Well, yeah, there was a zinger but I stifled it, man.

Bovard: A Bill Hicks cyber zinger – You know, I was looking for some Bill Hicks caliber right there.

Horton: Yeah, no. There’s nothing Bill Hicks caliber here, man. Anyway, we try. Well, so, hey, here’s this too, man, is the Iraq waryou think that’s ever going to end?

Bovard: Well, there’s still quite a few Iraqis alive, so um…

Horton: Yeah, I guess we still got a job to do.

Bovard: Well, and it’s fascinating how the mainstream American media has basically gone with this notion that the U.S. wonand it’s like a hell of a definition of victory.

Horton: And it really has worked – You know Biden here says the headline, “U.S. Troops Halted Chaos and Destruction in Iraq.” They really got away with that. We really live in a world upside down.

Bovard: Well, it almost makes you cynical.

Horton: Yeah, almostwell good thing you’re not yet. Everybody go look at, would you? And thanks, Jim.

Bovard: Hey, thanks for having me on, Scott.

Horton: We’ll be back.

Muhammad Sahimi


Muhammad Sahimi, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Southern California, discusses the differences between the two Jundallah terrorist groups, the easily exploited tensions between Iran’s government and ethnic and religious minorities, the lack of support for Jundallah (Iran) even within the Baluchi community, the post-9/11 U.S. rejection of Iran’s cooperation that crippled the moderate government and put hardliners in charge, why the U.S. won’t tolerate an independent Middle East regional power no matter the political ideology and why a U.S. attack on Iran would be dangerous for troops in Iraq.

MP3 here. (48:07)

Dr. Muhammad Sahimi is a political columnist for Tehran Bureau. He is a professor of chemical engineering and materials science, and the NIOC Chair in petroleum engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. In addition to his scientific research, which has resulted in four books and nearly 300 published papers, he has been writing about Iran’s nuclear program and its internal developments for many years.

His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, Harvard International Review, the Progressive, and Huffington Post. Muhammad has been a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists since 1986, and a contributor to its Partners for Earth program.

Eric Margolis and Tom Engelhardt


This recording is excerpted from the KPFK Strategy Session program of July 26th. Scott Horton separately interviews Eric Margolis and Tom Engelhardt. The audio for Tom Engelhardt begins around 17:10. The complete recording can be heard here.

Internationally syndicated columnist Eric Margolis discusses the differences between the WikiLeaks Afghan War files and the Pentagon Papers, why the media won’t press the issue and inflame public opinion against the war, the U.S. ultimatum after 9/11 that made Pakistan walk a tightrope between servitude and strategic interests, how private mercenary contractors got out of control and why troop surges are usually met with even larger resistance surges.

Tom Engelhardt, author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s, discusses the flood of new leaks following the WikiLeaks blockbuster, a possible insurgency within the U.S. military or intelligence services that is determined to end the Afghanistan War, the unprecedented secrecy revealed in the “Top Secret America” Washington Post piece and the markedly different emphasis in the U.K. Guardian vs. The New York Times on the WikiLeaks documents. The show ends with listener calls and some Q&A.

MP3 here. (44:44)

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times and Dawn. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.

Tom Engelhardt created and runs the website, a project of The Nation Institute where he is a Fellow. He is the author of a highly praised history of American triumphalism in the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, and of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing, as well as a collection of his Tomdispatch interviews, Mission Unaccomplished.

James Bamford


James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, discusses the huge advances in NSA technology and invasiveness since the Church Committee‘s 1975-76 investigation of illegal intelligence gathering, the NSA’s ominously-titled “Perfect Citizen” cyber assault monitoring program, technology and free speech activists who fight internet censorship and how the major telecom hubs provide the NSA with enough information to fill enormous data centers.

MP3 here. (28:24) Transcript below.

James Bamford is the author of three books about the NSA and a former Investigative Producer for ABC’s World News Tonight. The Emmy nominated PBS Nova program “The Spy Factory” can be watched here.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews James Bamford July 29, 2010

Scott Horton: All right everybody, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m reading the closed captioning on the MSNBC over my shoulder here. They’re explaining how war crimes can’t be war crimes when Americans commit them – everybody knows that. All right, anyway, our next guest on the show is the great James Bamford. He’s the author of course of The Puzzle Palace, Body of Secrets and The Shadow Factory about the National Security Agency, and of course A Pretext for War. And you can also – I highly recommend you go online and watch his Nova special about the National Security Agency. It’ll knock your socks off. And also you should read him in Rolling Stone magazine where he’s got a couple of really good ones, including “The Man Who Sold The War” all about [John] Rendon and the PR group that worked with Chalabi and the Neocons and the CIA to lie you into Iraq. The great James Bamford – welcome to the show! How are you doing, Jim?

James Bamford: Well, thanks, I appreciate it. I don’t know if I deserve the comment, “great,” but I appreciate you having me on your show.

Horton: And you hear that, he’s modest too, ladies and gentlemen – check it out. Alright, so Jim, let’s begin this interview with you where you end your book: “More than three decades ago, when the NSA posed a fraction of the privacy threat that it poses today with the Internet, digital communications and mass-storage, Senator Frank Church, the first chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, investigated the NSA and issued a stark warning:

‘That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left. Such is the capability to monitor everything – telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government – no matter how privately it was done – is within the reach of government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. ‘”

And then you write, “There is now the capacity to make total tyranny in America. Only law ensures that we never fall into that abyss – the abyss from which there is no return.” And now I wonder about, you know, how far down we’ve fallen into that thing, because I haven’t heard of a law being around in a long, long time now.

Bamford: Well, the interesting thing was Senator Frank Church – who was the very first person ever to really explore NSA, look into NSA and find out what the agency really does, that was back in the mid-70s – said that when the NSA’s capability was simply to eavesdrop on landline phones and really didn’t have too much capability to do domestic telephone interception back in those days. When you compare that to today, when the NSA has the ability not only to eavesdrop on telephone calls everywhere, it has the ability to eavesdrop on e-mail and every kind of electronic transmission. So at one point, the NSA could eavesdrop on basically a handful of domestic communications, and today it could basically get into your mind. You know, if you get a week’s worth of a person’s entries into Google and so forth, you can get a pretty good idea of what goes through that person’s mind every day. And so that’s really the danger, and that was not even forseen by Frank Church when he made those comments.

Horton: You know, I think you were one of the sources for this article. . . Christopher Ketcham in Counterpunch [it was Radar Magaizine -ed.] – all about “Main Core,” the database, the table of contents, I think he called it, that they put under the Department of Homeland Security because the CIA and the FBI already had some guidelines kind of preventing them from doing something like this outright, but under the DHS it’s all new, and so they put this together and I think basically, what he says in there is it amounts to sort of the insta-FBI file. You know like, people used to talk about this guy or that guy had an FBI file. Well, this is the thing where if they just push “Enter,” the computer will automatically assemble the entire file for them right there, on the spot, from all the disparate sources of information – all the disparate government databases and private ones too. And so, you know, you just type in “Suzie Q,” and it just pulls up every single thing about “Suzie Q” that Big Brother has on file.

Bamford: Well, I’ve never heard of “Main Core,” so I’m not familiar with that operation, and it’s just something that, you know, a few people have written about, but I haven’t really come across it in my research. But what you’re basically describing isn’t really any more sophisticated than simply a Google search. I mean if you just apply Google-style search engines to an enormous database of communications, you’re basically doing the same thing. You’re able to go in there and zero in on every communication, e-mail or phone call that a person might make if he just interchanged the effort and hit the button and all those communications would come together just like it would on Google, and that’s really the danger now, is the fact that the NSA is acquiring so much information.

I mean one example of that is the article I wrote for the New York Review of Books a few months ago – I think it was in November I wrote it. And what I talked about in that article was this new data storage facility – very, very secret data storage facility that the NSA is building in Utah – out in the desert in Utah – and it’s going to be one million square feet and cost about two billion dollars. Now, you know if you consider how much information can go on a little flash drive – three, four, five gigabytes worth of data, which is an enormous amount of data – think how much can go into a building that’s a million square feet. That’s the size of the capitol plus one third additional. And that was after the NSA just built another enormous data center down in San Antonio, Texas that’s almost the size of the Astrodome.

So, you know, they’re building these enormous, very secret databases. The question is, “What’s going into the databases and what happens to the information that does go in there.” The big problem we have is lack of transparency. The NSA seems to have a right to be able to do anything it wants to in secret – which is fine as long as they were obeying the law and doing all their eavesdropping overseas. But now that they are doing all this domestic eavesdropping, plus building these enormous data–centers within the United States. There’s an obvious need for more transparency in what’s happening – what’s going in there, what’s coming out of it, what are they doing with the information inside and how much of that is US vs. foreign?

Horton: Well, according to your research, how much of an overstatement would it be to just say, “Well they’re getting everything.” They’re vacuuming up the whole Internet every day, right, every bank transaction, every e-mail, every Google search. Not necessarily that they have access to examine all of it, I guess that’s a different question, but aren’t they just basically getting everything?

Bamford: Well, it all has to be speculation. I’m always the outsider looking in. I’m not on the inside looking out.

Horton: Right, but you’re the closest to the inside that we’ve got, Jim.

Bamford: Right, exactly, so I can tell you that they’re building a big data facility. I can tell you how much it costs and how big it is, and what their potential is. I can’t tell you what is going through those routers in there, or what’s going into the Cray supercomputers or whatever. I mean, I wish I had that crystal ball, I can’t.

But that’s what I’m saying is that in a perfect world, the NSA would be called before some committee in congress in open session and say, “OK, we’re giving you two billion dollars to build this facility. Now tell us – you don’t have to tell us everything that’s in there – just tell us how much of what’s going in there is domestic vs foreign? What’s being done with it in there? How much data–mining is being done? What happens with the private information that comes out? Is it e-mail? Is it telephones? What is it? I mean, those are the kind of things that should be told to the American people. It’s their communications that are being worked on.

Horton: All right everybody, we’re talking with Jim Bamford. He’s the author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America. We’ll be right back to talk a little about the structure of the national security state when we get back. Right after this. In a sec.

––– break –––

Horton: All right y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott, I’m talking with the great James Bamford. You’ve got to read this book, The Shadow Factory. I read it and then I listened to the thing on audiobook, and then I loaned them both out, and, thank my lucky stars, I actually got the book back, which is pretty good! Fifty percent, I’ll take it. You’ve got to read this book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret National Security Agency from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America by James Bamford.

Bamford: Scott, just one comment. The book I wrote, The Shadow Factory, we did as a TV documentary also on PBS Nova which was called The Spy Factory and last week it just got nominated for an Emmy Award, which I was very happy about, for Outstanding Investigative Journalism.

Horton: Hey, congratulations.

Bamford: Thanks, but that – anybody that watches the video will see some of the ideas that I talked about a little earlier transformed into visual objects in the documentary.

Horton: Well, and it also shows how this book was written, “I’m standing here in Yemen at Hani Hanjour’s father-in-law’s house, where the al Qaeda switchboard was” or “I’m standing here in Malaysia where the guys met before getting onto the plane to Bangkok” and yeah, now I know why this book is so good. There it is.

Bamford: Thanks, I appreciate it.

Horton: Man, I’m telling you, this is what journalism is supposed to be. This is what all those other journalists don’t measure up to, is what’s in this book. Yeah, ok so enough of that, let me ask you about this Perfect Citizen Program real quick. Do you know about that?

Bamford: Well, the Wall Street Journal had an article about that a few weeks ago. Yeah, again, I just wonder who at NSA comes up with these titles. “Perfect Citizen” sounds like something out of Big Brother, George Orwell or something. But what it basically is, is this idea that NSA has of putting sensors into the sort of data and electronic infrastructure within the United States. Their idea is that by putting sensors into the electronic grid and the nuclear power plants and things like that, they’ll be able to see if some outside force – whether it’s a terrorist group or a foreign country – is trying to probe those areas or plant viruses or conduct electronic or cyber warfare. That’s the idea behind [Perfect] Citizen is the NSA’s ability to penetrate the US electric grid and pretty much its entire infrastructure – electronic infrastructure – in order to put sensors in there that will give them an idea if there’s some penetration by some outside force. That’s the positive thing, if that works.

The negative thing is that, as I mentioned before, since there’s a lack of transparency in NSA, you don’t know what else is being done with all that. They plan all these sensors everywhere – I mean we already know they have sensors within the telecommunications structure to get e-mails and cell phone calls and all that kind of electronic communications. The question is what happens when they start putting these sensors all through everybody’s infrastructure for electronics. Where does that affect the average citizen? And those answers are classified. You can’t find out what’s going to happen or what exactly they’re going to do, and that’s the problem. The problem is always not knowing, and always being given some very bland cover story for what’s really going on, you know?

Horton: You know what I wonder? When you kind of look at the long term, do you get the feeling that the Internet is going to stay free and be basically what it’s, you know, more or less been – this Web 1 and Web 2. 0 and whatever we have here? Are we going to end up with just, you know, the whole world is going to have like a Chinese Internet where ultimately the American Politburo is watching everything we do and decide what it is we’re allowed to do and say, whether we can have an or not.

Bamford: Well, there is that danger, and there is a movement, a fairly large movement, to make it that way, because you see the China situation where they’re trying to control exactly what goes on the Internet and what comes off it. But there’s also moves within the United States by a number of groups that are interested in censorship for the purpose of their own philosophical ideas or whatever. They don’t want anybody else’s ideas to get on the Internet.

So there are these movements all over the world, not only in China, but also in the United States to put restrictions on the Internet and – you know on the surface, some of them sound fairly benign – but once you start looking into it and once you start expanding it, giving this group permission to take something off the Internet, then giving another group, pretty soon you don’t have an Internet anymore, you just have the same thing you have in mainstream media, which is a lot of censorship.

Horton: Yeah, well, you know, it’s no mystery why the establishment and the corporate media are threatened by the Internet. They denounce it all the time for being “Not good journalism” like they do, or whatever, which, you know, you had to quit ABC News to continue doing real journalism in your career; you serve as a pretty good example there.

Bamford: Well, I left because of Monica Lewinsky. I didn’t want to spend a year chasing Monica around Washington. I thought writing Body of Secrets would be a lot more interesting.

Horton: Exactly my point. Yeah of course. And it was, to people who are interested in interesting things. But it’s not just, you know, pressure groups, it’s the executive state, I mean they keep talking about all this cyber warfare, and Joe Lieberman has a bill where he wants to be able to I guess send in guard troops to seize all the routers and shut down the Internet in case of a war, or in case of profound criticism of Israel or something like that.

Bamford: Well, the other problem is that the technology does exist for, sort of, ultimate censorship, this “deep packet inspection” is what it’s called, so that everything that crosses the Internet can go through these devices that provide “deep packet inspection.” So if you’re saying something – if there’s a word or a phrase, if there’s communications from a certain web address that the government doesn’t want – it’s possible to, what they call “mitigate” it, which means exclude it. So that technology is there, and to a large degree, it’s set up in a lot of these countries. A lot of these devices are actually made in the United States and then exported – the software, hardware – exported to these countries where they use them for censorship in Vietnam and China and other places. So that’s the problem, you’ve got the technology there to allow the censoring of the Internet and probably just have to be very conscious not to let that happen.

Horton: Now is there any chance I could keep you one more segment here, Jim?

Bamford: Sure, yeah, that’s fine.

Horton: Ok, wonderful. Everybody, it’s Jim Bamford, the book is The Shadow Factory, and we’ll be right back.

––– break –––

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m talking with James Bamford. He’s the author of The Shadow Factory, and I appreciate you reminding me, Jim, the name of the Nova special – now the Emmy-nominated Nova special – is The Spy Factory which everyone can find at Of course, Nova is the great science show there, and this is the science of Big Brother vacuuming up your entire life and keeping the closest tabs on you. So now in this segment Jim, if we could, I’d like to focus first of all on some of the software, and kind of the history of how – maybe even you know some of the scandal – about the NSA trying to work out which programs to use and where they get them from – the programs that they use to sift all this data to try to, I think as you quote somebody saying in the book, “They’re trying to surf on the ocean of information rather than drown in it. “So I wonder how this software works. If you can help us understand a little bit about that, and then maybe we can wrap up with a bit of the structure of the national security state and the public-private partnerships – as they like to call them – that make it all happen.

Bamford: Sure. The way it works, basically, is in terms of telecommunications – most communications these days – in terms of international communications – enter and leave the United States via undersea cable and they come in to about six or so places, six or eight places on the east coast and six or eight places on the west coast, called “cable heads,” where the cables actually come ashore. And once they come ashore they go to various telecommunications switches which are usually large buildings like ten-story buildings that have no windows, and that’s where the NSA begins its first interception of communications.

For example, when the communications come across the Pacific Ocean and then enter the United States, they go to this enormous building in downtown San Francisco. And because of a whistleblower who was very courageous in terms of giving information about what he saw going on inside that building – which was AT&T’s switch for that part of the country – he said he saw the building of this very secret room within the AT&T switch. It was a room that virtually nobody had access to, and was locked all the time, and I think there was just one person that was allowed in and out of it.

So what happens is that the communications come into the building on these cables or fiber-optic cables, which means that the communications are transmitted by photons – little bits of light – and they go into this machine. The cable actually goes into this machine called a splitter, and what it does – it’s basically a prism – and it divides the light. It actually duplicates the light, so if you have one photon coming in, after it hits the splitter there’s two photons, there’s the original photon and an identical photon.

So what you have is the communications come in, they hit the splitter, one section goes off to where it should go, you know, an e-mail to Kansas City or something. And the other side, the duplicate side, then goes down one floor into this secret room, and inside the secret room are a lot of computers–hardware and software designed to target communications. You know if you say the wrong word or if you have an address, e-mail address, on that watch list in there, or you’re communicating to an e-mail that’s on the watch list, all these things are programmed in there. They’re programmed into the software and then the hardware filters it all through these software filters and then when it picks up the software that’s targeted, or picks up the communications that are targeted, such as an e-mail to Jim Bamford or whatever, then it sends it off to NSA to be further analyzed.

So that’s pretty much how it works, it’s all done electronically and very quickly, and with software that’s designed to penetrate deep within the communications to pick out the target information it wants, and then analyzes it. And again all of this was never even dreamed of when Frank Church made that comment that you mentioned at the beginning of the show.

Horton: Yeah, well and as you talk about, it’s actually your comment at the very end there: It’s only the old law left over from when Patrick Henry and his militia were just as armed as the central state that that legacy of the law that, you know, attempts to put the State on some sort of equal footing with the regular people. Without that, we’re completely done for. It seems like right now, the law’s been abandoned to the degree that they have all the information about us that they never had access to before, but they can’t quite implement it yet. But then again I guess we saw in the Bush years, that these memos said that George Bush could use the army in America, he could override the First Amendment, he could override the Fourth Amendment, he could override Posse Comitatus, he could do whatever he wanted because the whole world’s a battlefield, and we really are getting to the point where if they get sick and tired of Jim Bamford, they can just shut up Jim Bamford, huh?

Bamford: Well, they can try anyway. I think I would find some way to evade their net or whatever. But that’s the problem. When I originally wrote that the idea was that the government would follow the law. And as we saw during the Bush years, you know, you got one terrorist incident and all of a sudden laws don’t apply anymore. And all these safeguards were put into effect in 1978 following Watergate and Nixon’s abuse of NSA and FBI and so forth, and that’s why they created the FISA court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. But you know, you get one incident and all of a sudden all rules are over and the Bush Administration decided to bypass that safeguard, the FISA court, and conduct warrantless eavesdropping which – at least as of the latest court decision which was a court decision in California – ruled that it was totally illegal. It was illegal because it violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Horton: And then they just amended the FISA Act to say that the FISA court could now just give blanket warrants to entire categories of information and continue on doing the exact same thing again.

Bamford: Well, that was the problem with the FISA Amendments Act. Exactly. Pretty much give the imprimatur of legality to what had already been going on. Again, a large part of the problem is that much of that law was debated in secret, so you don’t know what exactly it is that the FISA court is doing. They certainly downgraded the FISA court and sort of emasculated it, so we’re pretty much in a situation where we were before, except now it has the imprimatur of law.

Horton: Yeah, never mind the Fourth Amendment; it’s as dead as the Eighth and the Fifth. All right well, so we don’t have very much time here, but I guess if you could give us a little bit of insight into the kindof military-industrial-technical-spying complex here, of course, the subject of the big Priest/Arkin series at the [Washington] Post last week, but it really is kind of where the military-industrial complex is – they haven’t just taken over the policy but they’ve kind of taken over the operation of the whole dang thing, huh? That’s part of the lawlessness too, isn’t it? And there’s the bumper music already playing…

Bamford: Well, yeah, in a sense, that’s right. The problem is the contractors don’t have accountability, and that’s where a lot of the authority is going.

Horton: Yeah, all right, everybody please read this book, The Shadow Factory. Go watch The Spy Factory at Thanks, Jim.

Bamford: Thanks, Scott, I appreciate it.

Michael Flynn


Michael Flynn, project director of IPS Right Web, discusses his website’s devotion to profiling individuals who promote militarist U.S. foreign and defense policies, William Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel advocacy group, the unrelenting push for war with Iran and the close family relationships between the (relatively few) neocon true believers.

MP3 here. (18:36)

Michael Flynn is project director of IPS Right Web and a writer based in Geneva, Switzerland. He is the founder and lead researcher of the Geneva-based Global Detention Project, a former associate editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a past fellow of the International Reporting Project (formerly the Pew International Journalism Program), and the recipient of multiple grants from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

His articles have been published by the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Inter Press Service, Asia Times, and Mexico’s Reforma, among other media outlets. He holds a bachelor’s in philosophy from DePaul University and a master’s in international relations from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.

Julian Assange


Julian Assange, co-founder and spokesperson for WikiLeaks, discusses the 15 thousand unreleased intelligence reports from Afghanistan, efforts to get the WikiLeaks Garani massacre video ready for public release, the warning from Seymour Hersh that government officials were ready to ignore the rule of law to silence him (Assange), indications that the supposedly leaked 260,000 diplomatic cables never made it to WikiLeaks, the secret rendition program from Somalia to Kenya and how Bradley Manning’s confinement in Kuwait is essentially rendition.

MP3 here. (14:36) Transcript below.

Julian Assange is the public face of WikiLeaks. He may also be the founder and director. More biographical information is available in this piece in the London Times.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Julian Assange July 28, 2010

Scott Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show, Antiwar Radio. Sorry, a little sloppy with the break time in there, but you got to do what you got to do to keep Dan Ellsberg on the phone. All right, next guest is Julian Assange, the public face of WikiLeaks, responsible for the largest intelligence leak in the history of mankind this Sunday. Welcome to the show.

Julian Assange: Good day, Scott. How are you doing? But, first I must correct your introduction. We are simply publishers, and of course the real hero in this situation is our source or sources who took the risk to get this stuff to us.

Horton: Indeed. And, in fact that was something we were just talking with Daniel Ellsberg about, is the heroism of Bradley Manning, who apparently is responsible for at least some of these leaks. I know you can’t confirm or deny that, but, according to the chat logs, he said he was willing to risk life in prison or even the firing squad in order to do the right thing and get the truth out to people here. With the highest of motives, he did what he did, apparently, and I certainly take that at face value.

So, now, I know you’re very short on time today, and there’s so much to go over here. First of all, you have said to other media sources that there are 15,000 more documents that you are going over to black out names and so forth that are fixing to be released. Is that true? On Afghanistan.

Assange: Yes, that’s true, that’s true. And a lot of these are intelligence reports as opposed to field reports. They’re more interesting in the sense that they contain more stories, sort of narrative disclosures, less interesting in the sense that it’s often material from informers who are indeed informing for mixed reasons, sometimes making stuff up for personal revenge, or doing it for the money, but also other times telling the truth.

Horton: And, so are these a high level of classification?

Assange: They’re at the same level of classification, but they’re a different type of material. They’re intelligence reports as opposed to field reports.

Horton: And Newsweek is reporting today – Mark Hosenball is saying he has three sources that say that there’s a cache of Iraq documents that you’re preparing to release that will be three times the size of this recent dump of Afghan documents. Is that correct?

Assange: We don’t speak about what we’re going to publish unless there’s been a very careful consideration, but it appears that his source for that – trying to read between the lines – is just what he’s pulled out of the chat logs. Or perhaps he’s been speaking to Adrian Lamo, the informer who is said to be responsible for putting Mr. Manning in prison.

Horton: Okay. Well, you have confirmed in the past that you have the video of the Garani massacre in Afghanistan, and you’ve said that you have plans to release that, right?

Assange: That’s correct. We are still working on the Garani video. It is quite complex, and in this case we also have managed to acquire a number of tracking documents, underlying reports. So it’s fleshed out a bit – but a very complex attack occurring over a five- to six-hour period, many different bombers and aircraft involved. So it’s quite a difficult bit of work.

Horton: Okay, now, so there have been numerous reports over the time, and they seem to have changed in the tone, but they say that, at least for a time, you were concerned that the CIA was after you, and I think there were even quotes from maybe DOD officials that they were looking for you. Can you tell us the status of that? Is that a bunch of hype, or are you really concerned that the U.S. government is trying to get you?

Assange: We never said that the CIA was after us. However, I was contacted by Sy Hersh, who’s a senior national security reporter in the United States, conveying some information, and our other sources in the United States government were concerned about some of the rhetoric being used in private.

However, since that point, the public rhetoric by the U.S. and private rhetoric has aligned to be more reasonable and there seems to be an understanding pertaining to follow the rule of law when dealing with us – with the exception of surveillance, according to a Canberra Times reporter who’s a former Australian diplomat.

The Australian government received a high-level request to engage in some state surveillance and perhaps some collections of evidence against our people in Australia that was denied mostly by the Australian government with the exceptions of willing to give out some movements of where our people were. It was felt that actions which might result in Australian journalists spending time in overseas prison would not be politically acceptable to the Australian public, and the Australian government is approaching an election in five to six weeks’ time.

Horton: Could you please clarify the role of Seymour Hersh in this? You say that the CIA passed a message to you through him, is that right?

Assange: No, no. Mr. Hersh simply contacted me and provided me with a warning.

Horton: Oh, I see. He was just advising you to keep your head down, is what you’re saying?

Assange: Yeah, essentially. And there were another U.S. national security reporter who provided the same information, and we also had some other confidential sources giving similar statements. And some people who had invited me to a conference in the United States gave some information, and then a former New York Times reporter, Philip Shenon – his government sources gave him similar information. So there was a constellation of signals coming out of the U.S. administration which were alarming during that period, including a request to the Australian intelligence.

Horton: Okay, now, according to the chat logs – as published by Wired and the Washington Post, anyway – Bradley Manning, who may be one of your sources, claimed to have sent in hundreds of thousands of State Department cables, more than a quarter-million of them, and I guess I’ve read that you’ve denied in the past that you did receive those from him. And I wouldn’t want you to implicate Bradley Manning in any way here, Julian, but can you tell me if you have any State Department documents that would make Hillary Clinton have a heart attack one morning if she woke up and read the front page?

Assange: Well, we would love to have those, but, if you read the charges carefully against Mr. Manning, if we take them at sort of face value, they say, “Well, he is charged with downloading 150,000 to his personal computer.” He has only been charged with leaking 51 of them, though it really doesn’t say to where.

But, you know, if anyone has those cables or has access to similar material, we encourage them to send them to us. Interestingly, in this material we have released about Afghanistan, there are about 60 U.S. embassy cables feed into the sort of Afghan data collection system where different embassies around the world, mainly the American embassy in Kabul, are discussing information that they perceive to be of relevance to the situation in Afghanistan.

Horton: Is it true that – I guess there was a CNN report that said that WikiLeaks has received, I guess especially since the “Collateral Murder” video was published, a deluge of new high-level leaks from people inside the U.S. government?

Assange: Yes, that is true. And we are, as an organization, suffering, if you like, under this enormous backlog of material we’re trying to get through. It will cause substantial reform when that material is released. Bar a catastrophe, that’s going to go ahead, not just from the U.S. – we have a six months’ backlog to go through because we were busy fundraising and reengineering for this period of intense public interest. So it’ll be interesting days ahead.

Horton: Yeah, it sounds like it. So I’m interested – one of the things we like to cover on the show a lot here is American involvement in the war in Somalia since Christmastime 2006, and –

Assange: Well, that’s good, that’s good. That’s very underreported. The first leak that we ever did was about Somalia.

Horton: Well, I’d read that, and I wonder whether you have any information about the renditions going on there, CIA, JSOC intervention inside Somalia on behalf of the Ethiopians and African Union forces there?

Assange: We have a little, although nothing – I don’t know in the queue, this big pile of material we’ve had to go through for the past six months, how much material there is there relates. But certainly there are some classified orders and policy material related to that. We also released a rendition log from Kenya – where most of the Somalis end up passing through – for about 103 people were – I have to be careful on this number actually – but somewhere between 50 and 150 people were renditioned through Kenya, most of them from Somalia, and we have the flight logs, which we put up about a year ago.

Horton: Right, well, and we know at least some of those, or at least one of those was an American citizen who was renditioned to Ethiopia. Sure would like to look into that more. And, you know what, I know I’ve already pushed my time limit here, Julian, is it okay if I ask you one more thing here, or do you really need to go?

Assange: Go, Scott. Go ahead. They’re still setting up here.

Horton: Okay, well, this is sort of just from inside the recent leak. You know, it’s made the news that there are reports of heat-seeking missiles being used to bring down American helicopters in Afghanistan, and I was just wondering, from having gone through all this material, at least as much as anyone, how many different reports were there of heat-seeking missiles being used? Is this a total game changer in the war, or it’s just, you know, maybe one or two?

Assange: Yeah, I’m not sure. I wasn’t the one who did that.  It was someone else in our partnership who knows, who [inaudible] the detail. I mean we’ve also seen other reports that the Taliban were using chemical weapons and modifying RPGs to give them chemical boost. But for some reason the Times, who initially discovered that, decided, I guess, that the report there was not credible enough. So perhaps not enough incidents of that kind of reporting. I don’t see those things as the real game changer.

The big picture that I see from all this material is you can see that the war is escalating, that it’s not failing for the Taliban or the insurgent groups – it’s sort of wrong to call them Taliban – that insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan are becoming more sophisticated and more civilians are being killed, and the human intelligence environment is very difficult – that informers are, you know, taking money for bribes and just giving up completely outlandish stories about Osama bin Laden or in some cases the ISI, in other cases stories that appear to be true, say, about the extensive ISI involvement in supporting the Taliban.

Horton: Okay, and one last thing, I’m looking at, here, Julian, and they have a legal fund established to try to fight the imprisonment of Bradley Manning. Do you support this effort?

Assange: Absolutely. You know, regardless of whether Bradley Manning ends up to be our source or some intermediary or completely innocent of these allegations that have been made against him, there is no doubt that this young soldier, 22 years old, has been effectively renditioned to Kuwait, from where he was stationed in Baghdad. He’s been kept away from his family, from civilian lawyers within the United States, and from effective press representation by keeping him in Kuwait. Kuwait is serving as a Guantanamo Bay for this young solider to keep him outside of the U.S. continent where he can be effectively represented.

Horton: All right, thank you so much for your time. I really do appreciate it, Julian.

Assange: You’re welcome. Bye bye, Scott.

Horton: Everyone, that’s Julian Assange. He is the public face of WikiLeaks. Check out the war logs at Afghan war log – well, let me get the exact address for you here instead of getting it wrong. It’s And that’s the website of the organization that is changing journalism on the face of the earth. Good stuff. We’ll be right back.

[Transcript slightly edited to include “this big pile of material that we have to go through for the past six months,” and a closed quote on a paraphrase of the charging documents again Bradley Manning.]

Daniel Ellsberg


Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, discusses the myriad official reasons why the Afghan War Diary is endangering soldiers and/or completely irrelevant, how WikiLeaks has changed the face of journalism and government transparency, the scapegoating of Pakistan for the failing Afghanistan War effort and why now is the time for other whistleblowers/leakers to come forward.

MP3 here. (18:05) Transcript below.

Daniel Ellsberg is the author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.

In 1959 Daniel Ellsberg worked as a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation, and consultant to the Defense Department and the White House, specializing in problems of the command and control of nuclear weapons, nuclear war plans, and crisis decision-making. He joined the Defense Department in 1964 as Special Assistant to Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs), John McNaughton, working on Vietnam. He transferred to the State Department in 1965 to serve two years at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, evaluating pacification on the front lines.

On return to the RAND Corporation in 1967, he worked on the Top Secret McNamara study of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68, which later came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. In 1969, he photocopied the 7,000 page study and gave it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; in 1971 he gave it to the New York Times, the Washington Post and 17 other newspapers. His trial, on twelve felony counts posing a possible sentence of 115 years, was dismissed in 1973 on grounds of governmental misconduct against him, which led to the convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Daniel Ellsberg, July 28, 2010

Scott Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show.  It’s Antiwar Radio.  I’m Scott Horton, and I’m joined on the line by Daniel Ellsberg, the heroic Daniel Ellsberg, author of the book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, and the man who – let me see if I can figure out how to say this in English correctly – the persecution of this guy, anyway, is what I’m trying to say – is what really led to the downfall of Richard Nixon.  So not only did he help end the Vietnam War, he also helped end the presidency of Richard Nixon, and that’s a hell of a great thing. Welcome back to the show Dan.  How are you?

Daniel Ellsberg: Thanks, fine. And by the way, if I can comment on your English.  On the one hand, it was the prosecution by Nixon – and he had in mind a lot of persecution – but you have to say attempted persecution.  It rebounded on him.  It didn’t hit me.  And the upshot was that he was faced with prosecution himself, and impeachment and had to resign.  So I’m not a martyr at the hands of Nixon.  He had that in mind for me, but he didn’t succeed.

Horton: Right, you were within a hair’s breadth of being martyred by him, it seems to me.  And by the way, the movie is out now, The Most Dangerous Man in America, which I highly urge everybody to watch.  And, Dan, I’d love to do a whole Vietnam interview with you – it’s been a while since we’ve done that – but we’ve got more important and more timely news to talk about.  Well not more important but more timely news to talk about right now.  And that is, really, the advent of WikiLeaks and the effect that they’re having on journalism in America and maybe in the Afghan war.  And that’s my first question: Do you think that this massive leak of 92,000 documents is going to, or has already, changed the conversation in any way as far as the future of this policy in Afghanistan?

Ellsberg: Well I think it has changed the conversation.  I think it has gotten as much attention as could have been hoped for, really, from the media.  Nixon gave the Pentagon Papers a lot of drama by his attempts to censure the press beforehand by his injunctions, which were unprecedented.  And without that, I don’t know how many people would have paid that much attention to a tremendous amount of newsprint.  But in this case, [it’s] hard to get people to dig through 92,000 reports.  But the very volume has given that a drama and it has drawn attention.  And with all the efforts of the administration to lowball this and imply, “Oh it’s all old stuff and nothing new,” the fact is that it has been, as I understand it, on a lot of front pages because of the very volume, which is possible because of the ingenuity of Julian Assange, I guess, in his software and his technology, and of course the whole digital era here.  I couldn’t have Xeroxed 92,000 reports here; I couldn’t have done the 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers in several copies without Xerox.  I couldn’t have done it 10 years earlier than I did.  But even then I couldn’t have done what this is.  So it does usher in a whole new process of transparency.

Horton: You know I’ve read one analysis of this, comparing and contrasting the largest intelligence leak ever with your leaking of the Pentagon Papers, and one of the things they said is that the narrative that, “Oh well there’s really nothing new here, etc.” is basically part of – well it’s sort of that there should be some cognitive dissonance here.  On the one hand, “You’re jeopardizing the soldier in the field.”  On the other hand, “It’s no big deal at all.”  That’s what the critics said about the Pentagon Papers back then, and this analysis I was reading was saying that, “Well what was really important about the Pentagon Papers wasn’t stark revelations that the critics, you know, had no idea about or anything like that.  But basically what it did was it told all the people who weren’t the critics that ‘Hey the critics have been right all along, that they’ve been lying to you, that this war is to prop up a government that has no legitimacy, that we’re not going to win and they’ve been going along the losing policy for years and years and they’ve known it and been lying to you, just like the critics have been saying all along.’  But that really made it official, that the critics were right.”  And that at least could be, it seems like, without major strategy or policy changing revelations here, at the very least that’s what this document dump should do, right?

Ellsberg: That’s true; you’ve put it well.  Actually I’ve had a laugh over some of the statements of the administration which take the form, “We’ve learned nothing new from these.”  Well, duh.  You know, surprise.  These are their own reports.  They’re not supposed to be seeing something new from their own reports that hopefully they’ve been reading over the years.

But when President Obama says, “Well, this has all been a matter of public discussion before” – yes, as you say, it’s been charged by Afghans that civilians were being killed; it’s been charged by President Karzai that civilians were being killed and that it was being covered-up.  But that’s been accompanied by official denials that we were hitting civilians, or statements, “We are investigating,” which itself is almost surely untrue.  There’s no evidence of real investigations in these many thousands of pages of documents.  But what is true is that a lot of the reporting was perfectly knowledgeable that civilians were being killed and that official denials were false.

Horton: Right and that really is a big part of the story here, just how many.  Assange said there were a hundred and forty-four incidents here of civilians killed, many of which were stories that were never reported at all and others were stories where now if journalists go back and look and we see vastly different versions of what was claimed to have happened then and what we see now.

Ellsberg: There is another thing that I find very familiar – let me tell you this – they’re saying now another way of putting down the significance of this is to say that it’s all “old stuff,” that it was all six months old and it’s all changed now with Obama’s new strategy.  Although of course this account of six years of war shows factors for our failure there and our continued stalemates, factors that have remained the same – as you say, an illegitimate, corrupt government; a fact that the Taliban, which is intrinsically unpopular among most of the Afghans after its brief time in power, has as its main recruiting basis the fact that it is in a struggle against foreign invasion, and it is our very presence there that strengthens the Taliban.

Well they’re saying, “Ok, that’s all different now, and that was all seven months ago.”  It reminds me that when I left Vietnam in June of 1967, the last thing I did on the way to the airport – with an official car taking me to the airport – I had it stop by the embassy so I could pick up copies of the latest province reports, the kind of thing that I’d been reading for two years in the country and a lot of reports of the kind that I’d been writing during that period, all of which showed a thoroughly stalemated war.  And I wanted to get the very last edition that had come out the day I left so I could go to Washington to refute the people who said, “Oh yeah, Dan, what you were telling us over the last two years about a total stalemate and the lack of any progress there was true then, but it’s all changed now, since you left.”   You know, or: “In the last month or two we’ve turned the corner.”  I know that Walt Rostow, the assistant for national security to President Johnson, would certainly take that line, so I wanted to have the very latest reports and stave off, by at least one month, the claim that things had changed.

And indeed when I got into the White House and talked to Rostow, he said, “Dan, I want you to see the charts here, how things have all turned around and victory is within sight.”  And I remember saying to him, “Walt, I don’t want to see your charts.  I don’t need your charts.  I’ve just come back from Vietnam.  Victory is not within sight. It is not near.  It is nowhere in sight at all.”

And that’s – I’m sure the latest reports, which we await from some new leaker, I hope, would show that there has been, not only no essential change, but let me make this strong guess – that if someone were to leak, and I hope it happens, to Congress and to us, the inside estimate of the strength of the Taliban in December, when President Obama made his decision to escalate the war – what was their estimate then, of the strength of the Taliban in its various forms altogether, and what is their current estimate?  I would like to see that one leaked, if not announced officially.

And I don’t think they will announce officially those two figures because I’m sure they would show that the Taliban is stronger now, and the basis for that prediction is that that’s been true for years – that, as we put troops in, and money, and we fire from the air on people on the ground, as in that Apache helicopter video that WikiLeaks released, we’re strengthening the Taliban.  And that the money that Congress voted yesterday to pay for that escalation went into strengthening the Taliban by our very presence and by the essence.  And that’s what happens and it is past time for us to be asking ourselves, “How much can we afford to strengthen the Taliban? How much more money is it worth doing that?”

Horton: Well it’s not even just indirectly, there’s been all kinds of reports – Jean MackKenzie at the Global Post did, I think, the best work on the fact that the army and the CIA are outright paying the Taliban to, “Please let us drive our trucks through here so we can fight you later.”  They’re just directly paying the enemy.  Never mind all the indirect ways which –

We are very limited on time.  Again I’m Scott Horton.  I’m talking with Daniel Ellsberg here, the heroic whistleblower, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers.  And I want to give you a chance to call out government employees and ask them to go ahead and liberate some documents and serve their higher oath to the American people.

But first, Dan, I’d like to get your comment on the New York Times and the rest of the American media spin that we’re indirectly supporting our enemy, but really it’s all the Pakistani’s fault.  Well, and the Iranian’s, too.  But the Pakistanis, they’re stabbing us in the back.  Apparently the New York Times, which has been reporting about Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban for years now, just found this out all over again and now everything would be fine there, as Chris Floyd is complaining on his blog, “The narrative is now, ‘Everything would be fine, but now we see why it’s not working out – because our so-called friends the Pakistanis are letting us down. ‘”

Ellsberg: Well there are so many reasons it’s not working.  I’m really looking for humor in this situation to counteract all the bad.  I was just re-reading Michael Steele’s comment – a brilliant chairman of the Republican National Committee who actually said something very sensible.  [Laughs]  For which of course he was denounced by, not only his own party, but by the Democrats.  And he said – let me quote it; I actually wrote it down; this is so great – talking of Obama, he said, “If he’s such of student of history, has he” – this is Steele – “has he not understood that the one thing you don’t do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan?  Everyone who has tried, over 1,000 years of history, has failed.  And there are reasons for that.”  Very well said by Michael Steele.

Horton: Right, well even when going back to the memos when Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski were trying to provoke the Russians into invading Afghanistan, one of the Brzezinski memos – or at least he claims this now – one of his memos, or his first memo to Carter when the Russian army crossed the border to support their commie puppet there, was, “Now we will give them their own Vietnam.”  Vietnam shorthand for “When you stupidly engage in a land war in Asia, and it tears your own society apart back home.”  And that’s what they were trying to do by getting the Russians to invade there, and here we are, playing the wrong end of our own dumb script, giving ourselves our own “another Vietnam” again –

Ellsberg: Well it’s not just us who have been given another Vietnam, and it was not just the Russians.  I’m afraid the real back-story to that particular boast of Brzezinski’s that we’d given the Soviets – and he had helped given then Soviets – their Vietnam was that we all gave the Afghans their Vietnam, the Afghan people.  And they lost a million people in the course of that ten-year war, which we had deliberately provoked and encouraged, and which we fueled through Pakistan, supplying money to people like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the warlord who actually throws acid in women’s faces who aren’t wearing the burqa.  We built-up that force, and we’re now fighting him, now that he has new foreigners to oppose, namely ourselves.

In other words, we have been making life hell – literally hell – for Afghanistan, not just for two years here, not for ten years, but for thirty years.  The quotes you’re talking about from Brezinski go back to 1979 and 1980, and for all that period we have been fueling conflict in Afghanistan of a kind that did not exist before the Soviets were provoked to come in.  It’s a terrible, terrible thing we’ve been doing, and it’s really time to stop.

There’s a spill of blood, like the spill of oil in the gulf, that’s been beneath the surface, like the oil, for so long and one thing these reports do – which the administration, of course, has not – is to bring that flood of blood near the surface, where we can see it a little.  It’s really brought it into public consciousness where I hope it really will make a difference.

Horton: Alright now, Dan, I’m sorry, I know you’re really short on time, and I am, too.  I got to get Julian Assange on the phone here, but please tell the government employees who may ever hear this that it is time for them to risk prison in order to get the truth to the people – no more games.

Ellsberg: Well I think, I really admired the statement that Bradley Manning’s informer reported his as having said to him.  Which was that Bradley Manning said he was willing to go to prison for the rest of his life, he said, or even be executed, he said, in order to get out truth that had sickened him to read and that he thought might shorten this war.  And that was a very appropriate, courageous thing to do.  Bradley Manning, I think, is a very great patriot, and I admire him a lot.  And I think he will, as a military person facing the universal court of military justice – not civilian law – he probably, if the government can prove its charges against him beyond a reasonable doubt, that he will spend a lot of time in jail.

And my prediction from the experience of other whistleblowers, including Mordechai Vanunu, who spent 11 and 1/2 years in solitary confinement for revealing the Israeli nuclear arsenal – he’s, Vanunu’s said he had never regretted for a minute telling that truth, and he paid virtually an ultimate price for it. I’m sure Manning will not regret – if he was the one who was the source here, and we don’t know that – but if he was the source, I think he won’t regret it, and he will deserve our gratitude and our admiration –

Horton: That is Daniel Ellsberg – Dan, we gotta go right there.

Ellsberg: – deserve support for his defense. There is I think groups doing a Bradley Manning support group – maybe Assange can tell you more about that – that deserves our full support.

Horton: Well we actually interviewed Mike Gogulski from, and they do have an official and verifiable – with lawyers and paperwork and legitimacy – “Save Bradley Manning Fund” going on right now at  And I’m sorry that we have to leave it there, but I thank you so much for your time, Daniel.

Ellsberg: Okay, sure.  Bye, Scott.

Horton: Everybody, that is Dan Ellsberg, his website is  The book is Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.  And we will be right back with Julian Assange, the public face of WikiLeaks, right after this.

Ray McGovern


Ray McGovern, former senior analyst at the CIA, discusses the supplanting of the traditional press (Fourth Estate) by borderless internet journalism (the “Fifth Estate”), the New York Times‘ “attaboy” reward from the White House for its deference to government authority, the media’s new discovery that other countries sometimes have different priorities than the U.S., the plethora of information in the Afghan War Diary that will aid Iran war boosters and why the Taliban seem to be waging a very successful insurgency.

MP3 here. (23:42)

Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years, from the John F. Kennedy administration to that of George H. W. Bush. His articles appear on Consortium News and

Eric Margolis


Internationally syndicated columnist Eric Margolis discusses the biggest intelligence leak in history courtesy WikiLeaks and (probably) Bradley Manning, the much higher Afghan civilian casualties than publicly acknowledged, much ado about Pakistan’s “betrayal” of the U.S. by supporting the Taliban, how WikiLeaks endangers politicians but not soldiers in the field and why the Taliban’s acquisition of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles would lead to a victory over NATO forces.

MP3 here. (19:24)

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times and Dawn. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.

As a war correspondent Margolis has covered conflicts in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Sinai, Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was among the first journalists to ever interview Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and was among the first to be allowed access to KGB headquarters in Moscow. A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq.

Margolis is the author of War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet and American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.

Jason Ditz


Jason Ditz, managing news editor at, discusses the notable early discoveries within the huge cache of  leaked documents from WikiLeaks, the impressive Afghanistan “War Logs” spread set up by the Guardian, the leak’s effect on public opinion and Congressional war funding, roaming U.S. assassination squads in southern Afghanistan and evidence that IED attacks are as deadly and unstoppable as ever.

MP3 here. (19:36)

Jason Ditz is the managing news editor at

Mike Gogulski


Mike Gogulski, founder of the Help Bradley Manning website, discusses “Collateral Murder” leaker Bradley Manning’s bravery and risk of an effective lifelong prison sentence, media smears and misrepresentations of Manning, the Obama administration’s record-setting whistleblower prosecutions and how you can donate to Manning’s legal defense fund.

MP3 here. (20:19)

Mike Gogulski is the founder and frequent contributor to the Help Bradley Manning website.

Jeremy Scahill


This recording is excerpted from the KPFK Beneath the Surface program of July 23rd. Scott Horton interviews Jeremy Scahill and is himself interviewed by KPFK producer Alan Minsky. The complete recording can be heard here.

Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, discusses the too little too late Washington Post exposé on “Top Secret America,” how private contractors do the dirty (and illegal) work of state terrorism while providing the U.S. government plausible deniability, the “preparing the battlefield” exception to Congressional oversight and how the U.S. has created a big brother surveillance state in the British model.

MP3 here. (25:50)

(Scott Horton discusses the forthcoming U.S. military presence in Costa Rica, the political motivations behind “Islamic terrorism” and how U.S. intervention in Somalia created Al Shabaab.)

Jeremy Scahill operates the website and is a contributor to The Nation, Democracy Now, and He is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

Paul Rogers


Paul Rogers, Global Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group, discusses Israel’s military upgrades that make a solo attack on Iran possible, why military action would prompt Iran to withdraw from the NPT and develop nuclear weapons in earnest, Israel’s strategic alliances with Azerbaijan and the Iraqi Kurds, the little-known permanent U.S. military operational presence in Israel, why the U.S. military (and not Israel) is most at risk to an Iranian counterattack and the lingering hard feelings Iranians have for their “Axis of Evil” inclusion.

MP3 here. (29:01)

Paul Rogers is Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, and Global Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group. Professor Rogers has worked in the field of international security, arms control and political violence for over 30 years. He lectures at universities and defence colleges in several countries and has written or edited 26 books, including Global Security and the War on Terror: Elite Power and the Illusion of Control (Routledge, 2008) and Why We’re Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2008).

He writes monthly briefings analysing the international security situation for the Oxford Research Group website and since October 2001 has written a series of ORG Briefing Papers on international security and the ‘war on terror’, including Endless War: The Global War on Terror and the New Bush Administration (March 2005) and Iran: Consequences of a War (February 2006). Paul is also a regular commentator on global security issues in both the national and international media, and is openDemocracy’s International Security Editor.

Philip Giraldi


Philip Giraldi, columnist for, contributing editor at The American Conservative magazine, contributing writer utor to the Campaign for Liberty member of the American Conservative Defense Alliance, the Council for the National Interest Foundation, discusses the case of the defection of Sharam Amiri, his low-level expertise in nuclear matters and access only to rumor about the nuclear program – which said that there was no weapons program, Amiri’s decision to go home and the CIA’s efforts to burn him by claiming he’d turned over all kinds of top secret stuff in order to cause him as much trouble as possible back in Iran, what a low-level asset like that is worth to the CIA, the new update to the National Intelligence Estimate that will just spin the same old info to sound worse rather than pushing a worst-case pile of fake facts like in 2002, the recent Judallah suicide bombings in Iran and the American role in supporting them and the tie between the Brazil-Turkey-Iran nuclear deal and the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla.

MP3 here. (21:00)

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is a contributing editor to The American Conservative and a fellow at the American Conservative Defense Alliance. His Smoke and Mirrors column is a regular feature on

Daniel McCarthy


Daniel McCarthy, editor of The American Conservative magazine, discusses the principles of conservatism as he see them, the dumbing down of different political schools of thought into left and right and the convenience of such a system in lending itself toward imperialism, the problem of the red-state military belligerence and the importance of the antiwar types on the right staying open to the idea that they can be reached and the Bush/Obama plot to discredit interventionism for all time.

MP3 here. (18:49)

Daniel McCarthy is editor of the American Conservative magazine.

Shelley Walden


Shelley Walden, international officer at the Government Accountability Project, discusses Paul Wolfowitz’s girlfriend Shaha Riza, their corrupt deal with SAIC and the World Bank and the Foundation for the Future which came to nothing but kept everyone paid.

MP3 here. (20:31)

Shelley Walden graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Journalism and International Studies. Before joining GAP in 2004, she worked as a freelance reporter for The Chapel Hill Herald and the Museum of Life and Science. She also interned in Bolivia with Save the Children (in collaboration with the Foundation for Sustainable Development), where she helped raise funds for and launch a housekeepers’ rights campaign. She was the 2004 SERVAS essay winner and delegate to the United Nations Non-Governmental Organization Conference.

Birgitta Jonsdottir


Birgitta Jonsdottir, member of the Icelandic parliament, talks about the role the financial meltdown in 2008 played in the people there’s insistence on transparency in government and banking, the new whistle-blower protection law working its way through their system which would protect, computer servers, prevent judges from compelling disclosure of sources, the hero Bradley Manning‘s plight, the importance of Wikileaks, the inability of Iceland to protect whistleblowers from extradition, but their important ability to promise that whatever documents people do risk life and liberty to leak will reach the public and not be removed from the Web and the delay behind the release of the Garani airstrike video.

MP3 here. (15:04) Transcript below.

Birgitta Jonsdottir,is a member of parliament of the Althing, the Icelandic parliament, formerly representing the Citizens’ Movement, but now representing The Movement. Her district is the Reykjavík South Constituency. She was elected to the Icelandic parliament in April 2009 on behalf of a movement aiming for democratic reform beyond party politics of left and right. Birgitta has been an activist and a spokesperson for various groups, such as Saving Iceland and Friends of Tibet in Iceland. Currently she is a spokeswoman for the website Wikileaks in relation to her role as a co-producer for the Collateral Murder video published by Wikileaks.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Birgitta Jonsdottir July 25, 2010

Scott Horton: Alright everybody, welcome back to the show. If I’m lucky, I have Birgitta Jonsdottir. I’m sorry, ma’am. Hi, welcome to the show. My Icelandic is horrible this time of year, can you help me?

Birgitta Jonsdottir: [laughs] Yeah, Jonsdottir. It was quite close, actually.

Horton: Well you’re very generous, thank you. And thank you for joining us here. Now, so everyone, I urge you to go and look at this very interesting article by Raffi [Khatchadourian] at the New Yorker magazine, called “No Secrets: Julian Assange’s Mission for Total Transparency,” and it’s a really great piece. Apparently this reporter hung-out with the Wikileaks crew as the so-called “Collateral Murder” video was being assembled, and ma’am you take part in this story – uh you’re on scene, saying you don’t really believe in the State but as long as there is one you wanted to get a law passed to protect whistleblowers. Can you tell us about your adventures here?

Jonsdottir: Well the thing is, since I live in Iceland and – I don’t know if your listeners are aware of this but we had the biggest financial collapse in history in Iceland in 2008, so, you know, I got to go into parliament being an activist there – I used to be an activist outside the parliament.

And one of the things that everybody in Iceland has become aware of is the tax havens, and how they are being abused and how they create total secrecy. So we wanted to take the same principle and concept of the tax havens and pull together all the best possible laws from around the world to ensure transparency and freedom of information and expression. So we’re basically modernizing all the legislation in relation to strengthening these pillars of democracy. And what I have found during this quest – in a fairly complex journey – is that these basic rights are eroding at an alarming rate in our world, and in particularly in the so-called “Western World.”

So what I have discovered through this journey is that Iceland is not the only country that needs it, but there is a growing debate – particularly in Europe – that they need to change their laws as well – to face the fact that we are living in a world where information doesn’t have any borders anymore. And at the same time lawyers don’t have any borders anymore so we have to try to be one step ahead of them.

Horton: So exactly what is this law anticipating? Is it something like protecting the sanctity of privately-owned computer servers, that kind of thing?

Jonsdottir: Yes, it is dealing with the IP host problem, and dealing with, of course – this is extremely important for Iceland and it seems to the rest of the world – to ensure that journalists don’t have to reveal their sources. So both the journalists can’t – or it would be illegal for him to reveal the source, or he cannot be forced to do it by a judge. And we are also basing our whistleblower legislation on the Swedish one, which is apparently the strongest in the world.

Plus, encouraging people to do whistleblowing because it is very important that people are encouraged to, instead of what seems to be the case with the Bradley Manning case where it seems to be the case that your country wants to make him an example of how people should not do whistleblowing. And in his case if he is indeed the person that leaked the Iraqi video of “Collateral Murder” that he was obviously showing a hideous war crime that the rest of the nations that are participating in this war need to see.

Horton: And is this new legislation already a done deal or is it still going through the process?

Jonsdottir: Well since – I am – our task to the government is to change 13 laws in 4 different ministries, it is still in a process. It will probably take a year, a year and a half for all the laws to be implemented, but the good news is that when I got this into the parliament nobody really believed that this could happen.  However once it went into voting, it was unanimously voted for, and in Iceland the system is such that the ministers are also parliamentarians, so they all voted for it as well, including the Prime Minister, which is sort of a corollary to the president.

In a body, it’s not all going to happen in a day because it is being written in different ministries, but the person who is handling it, or is the taskmaster for this, and will make sure the other ministries are also doing their part of this – they are very well aware of and acquainted with all of the suggestions that we have for legislative change. But I really encourage people, if they want to find out more, to go to our website; it is   And there is an English section with the whole process, the timeline and all the laws that we want to change.

Horton: That’s

Jonsdottir: Yes.

Horton: Ok, now, so you may very well be aware of the fact that there’s a new series in the Washington Post about the length and the breadth and the depth of the national security state in America. And in part one, they say there’s – let’s round up to – a million people public and private that are now at the top-secret access level. So let’s say hypothetically that 100,000 of them stole, no, liberated important documents from their masters in the bureaucracies and leaked them to, for example, Could they then flee to Iceland and be protected from extradition by the Icelandic government for their heroic act which may in fact be technically criminal here in the United States?

Jonsdottir: Um, no.  They can’t flee to Iceland, but they can – if it is stored on Icelandic servers, or Sweden’s for that matter – their case would then be taken through that legal system and not the US legal system. And the laws would be in their favor – not as the laws that they are trying to pass in the US about the whistleblowing.

So I think the law is very much – a different aspect of the law – is very much considered to be sort of a safe haven for investigative journalism. And let’s say that I am a blogger in China or in Tibet or Sri Lanka, and I want to take a big chance by revealing what is going on. Now I can not – or this law will not ensure that these people risking their lives to bring out the truth – will not be arrested or tortured. But we can assure that the story with this law – that the story that they are willing to risk their lives to publish is not going to be taken down, which is equally important, I think.

But this is not an over-all – this is not a magic bullet. There is still a lot of things that we, both globally and in our individual consciousness need to address, and need to make ourselves aware of, when it comes to all the secrecy that is – if anything – always increasing. But another thing which is very disturbing, and that is all these so-called “gag orders” on journalists – and all these lawyers – it seems to be international lawyers at corporations that focus on going into suing the media corporations about stories that may be tracked back ten years. So they are always pulling out stories about corporations, and their criminal activity out of the historical records. So we are starting to have a very wrong image of our modern-day history if their activities are constantly being taken out and completely erased off the internet.

Horton: Right absolutely, well, it is so important, I think, for – I hope people already recognize and agree on the importance of things like Wikileaks and the kinds of protections you’re providing for people who work with institutions like Wikileaks, because as you said, we live in a world of more and more centralization of power, and expansion of power and expansion of secrecy. And there’s more and more secret information that’s got to be able to get out somewhere at the same time that the press is more and more cowed and doing their job less and less. So it’s the supply and demand: we demand Wikileaks and, I’m sorry…

Jonsdottir: And I think one thing that’s occurring and that is a very interesting development when it comes to media in general, that citizen journalism is always growing stronger. And because of that, the traditional media is really losing ground. And if they don’t start to act differently in the Internet world in particular – because all the media is moving on to the Internet – and there is this transitional period which is so dangerous, so we have to both strengthen those that are in the traditional media that want to bring up news by creating strong platforms for them, protect the platforms for their stories to live on.

Horton: So, this is sort of a technical thing – it’s very well said on all the principles there – but I was wondering if you could help us understand, for example, why it takes so long for – or why it is taking so long for the Garani massacre video to be released. It’s been rumored and I guess confirmed for months now that Wikileaks is in possession of the Garani video, and people are wondering well, “Go ahead and release it then.” Or if it is true, for example that Wikileaks obtained State Department cables from Bradley Manning, as is alleged, we want to see them. What is it that takes so long in the process? Because it says here in this New Yorker article that you really have an inside view of how this works. I was hoping you could help us understand that.

Jonsdottir: Basically I am not a spokesperson for all the other projects that Wikileaks is doing. I did co-produce the “Collateral Murder” in the sense that I put a tremendous amount of work in it. However, maybe they are having, you know because they get so much volume of stuff and some of it can be encrypted and so-forth, so maybe they want to verify if this is indeed what they think it is, just like we did with the Collateral Murder video. When I was working on that we made sure to send journalists off to [Partha] to try to find the children that were discovered in the van and other witnesses to make sure that the credibility of this video could not be put into question. So maybe it has something to do with that, and I think one of the things that I find to be so disturbing about the Bradley Manning case is that there has been no attention in the bigger media about this incredible case. He has been charged with leaking the video and for leaking 60 cables and might be facing up to 50 years in prison. And no journalist and nobody has asked to see how he is. I mean he is only 22.

Horton: Right, they’re still holding him in Kuwait.

Jonsdottir: Yes, I really encourage everybody that wants to follow his story to go to the website. There is a team of people from various organizations and countries that want to support him in any which way possible, and if you want to write him, or just to try to follow-up what’s going on then I really encourage your listeners to support this brave man.

Horton: Very well said, again, thank you very much. Let me see if I can say this well, Birgitta Jonsdottir – nope – Birgitta Jonsdottir – is that better?

Jonsdottir: Uh no. [laughs] It’s ok. I’m used to my name being butchered so it really doesn’t matter.

Horton: Well it’s embarassing for me, but anyway…

Jonsdottir: Good luck with you and thank you for your website and your show. It is very important.

Horton: Well, thank you very much. Well, please tell people where they can look up – oh you already did say it, it’s

Jonsdottir: Also there’s a lot of good material if you Google News and write, “Icelandic modern media initiative.”

Horton: Ok, great. Thank you so much.

Jonsdottir: Thank you. Have a good one.

David T. Beito


David T. Beito, professor of history at the University of Alabama and keeper of the blog Liberty and Power at the History News Network, discusses his book (with co-author Linda Royster Beito) Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s madness, his Justice Department’s witch hunt against those who opposed the New Deal regime and march to war, FDR’s direct and personal use of the IRS to persecute dissenters, widespread opening of mail, rumors of actual fascist threats to the Roosevelt administration, the role of Martin Samuel Dickstein, the only U.S. Congressman proven to have been an actual KGB agent, in spreading the “brown-shirt under every bed” meme, the Old Right anti-New Deal coalition, the persecution of Edward A. Rumely, the bogus mass sedition trial during WWII, the distance between the America First Committee and the pro-Nazi types, the Communists repeated flippa-floppas back and forth on the war question and hard core support for sedition persecutions and the foundations of the modern police/imperial state in the Roosevelt years.

MP3 here. (39:52)

David T. Beito is a professor of history at the University of Alabama and keeps the blog Liberty and Power at the History News Network. He is co-author with Linda Royce Beito of the book Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power, and author of From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967, and Taxpayers in Revolt: Tax Resistance during the Great Depression.

Joseph Shansky


Joseph Shansky, contributor to Counterpunch, UpsideDownWorld and Democracy Now! en Español, discusses the “invited” invasion of Costa Rica by the U.S.. Navy and Marine Corps, the drug war excuse, Costa Rica’s pacifist constitution which forbids such things, the notable lack of information about the move, the widespread disapproval of the new U.S. presence among the population, the realignment across Central and South America away from U.S. power and other reasons to anticipate a new era of attempted U.S. intervention there, the coup in Honduras last year and the human rights violations of the victors.

MP3 here. (10:33)

Joseph Shansky is a contributor to CounterPunch, UpsideDownWorld and Democracy Now! en Español.

Jeremy Kirk and Luke Hansen


Jeremy Kirk and Luke Hansen, both members of Witness Against Torture, discuss their trip to Burmuda to visit the 4 Uighurs recently released from the Guantanamo Bay prison, how they came to be sold to Americans in Pakistan and brought to Cuba, their inability to leave the tiny island or see their families, the Christian doctrines which motivate their help for modern victims of imperial crucifixion and a little bit about the organization Witness Against Torture.

MP3 here. (20:19)

Jeremy Kirk is a student at Union Theological Seminary and Luke Hansen is a teacher at Red Cloud High on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. They are both members of Witness Against Torture.

Stephen M. Walt


Stephen M. Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard University and co-author of the article and the book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy with professor John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, discusses once-and-present Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stubbornness in implementing the Oslo Accords, the newly released 2001 video which shows him bragging at his success, how the policies of the Likud Party and the American Israel Lobby are counter-productive for the long-term interests of the Israeli state, the one-state, two-state debate, the status of Muslim and Christian Arab-Israeli citizens within the borders of Israel proper, the seemingly endless and intractable conflict with Iran over their nuclear program and what the U.S. should be doing to resolve the conflict, the neoconservatives’ responsibility for the disaster in Iraq and how it strengthened Iran’s position in the region, the power of the Israel Lobby in Washington DC and prospects for change.

MP3 here. (41:49) Transcript below.

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he served as academic dean from 2002-2006. He previously taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, where he served as master of the social science collegiate division and deputy dean of social sciences.

He has been a resident associate of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, and he has also been a consultant for the Institute of Defense Analyses, the Center for Naval Analyses, and Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Professor Walt is the author of Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy (W. W. Norton, 2005), and, with coauthor J.J. Mearsheimer, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007).

He presently serves as faculty chair of the international security program at the Belfer Center for Science and international affairs and as co-chair of the editorial board of the journal International Security. He is also a member of the editorial boards of Foreign Policy, Security Studies, International Relations, and Journal of Cold War Studies, and co-editor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, published by Cornell University Press. He was elected as a fellow in the American academy of arts and sciences in May 2005.


Transcript — Scott Horton Interviews Stephen M. Walt, July 20, 2010

Scott Horton: All right everybody, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. Appreciate y’all tuning in today. Our next guest on the show is Stephen M. Walt. He is a professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, previously taught at Princeton and the University of Chicago, was a resident associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and guest scholar at the Brookings Institution. He’s the author of the book, Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy, 2005, and co-author with John J. Mearsheimer of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, both the essay and the book all about it. Welcome to the show, how are you doing, Stephen?

Walt: I’m doing just fine. Nice to be here.

Horton: Well thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate it. So, I guess let’s start with the video of Netanyahu that was released over the weekend. I’m sure you saw it and read the transcript and so forth, right?

Walt: I haven’t seen the video, but I have read about the remarks that were disseminated in it.

Horton: I wonder if you can kind of paint a portrait of what exactly the Oslo Accord was and at what stage they were — I guess what happened was Netanyahu became Prime Minister in ’96 and just set about a course to undo it, right?

Walt: The Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, and it was an agreement between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel, and essentially done independently, although the United States came in at the last minute. And the Palestinians recognized Israel’s right to exist, and the Israelis recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. And it set out a timetable that was supposed to lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian community. The Oslo Accords — worth noting — do not ever talk about a Palestinian state, although many people believe that’s where it was headed. In any case, those negotiations proceeded through the 1990s, but there were several events — mistakes on both sides, on the Israeli and Palestinian sides — that delayed the process. Of course the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin being an important setback, a tragic fact there. And then finally when Bibi Netanyahu was elected in ’96, he had never been a supporter of the Oslo Accords, and basically dug-in his heels as much as possible to try and prevent that from happening.

Horton: And then, well, I guess I want to finish off the video here before we get into the nuts and bolts of the process here, but basically he’s ridiculing the American people for their support for whatever it is he does. He mocks us.

Walt: Well, the video that’s come out is a conversation, I believe, in Israel, with a community there and basically explaining how he’s not going to allow a two-state solution to occur. But the part that is most incendiary is a series of statements where he basically says, “You don’t have to worry about American pressure. You know, that’s something we can deal with.” And I think the key point to understand is twofold. First of all, Netanyahu is basically right; it has been decades since the United States has been willing to put any kind of meaningful or long-lasting pressure on Israel, particularly over the occupation. And secondly, that this policy is not good for the United States, but has also been quite harmful to Israel as well, because many Israelis now realize that the occupation has been a disaster for them. Not allowing the creation of a Palestinian state is threatening Israel’s long-term future, so the fact that we’re unable to act like an honest broker is in fact not good for either country, and of course not good for the Palestinians either.

Horton: Well, and this is a point you often make on your blog, which I guess I should have pointed out here, it’s at You do point out often that the so-called pro-Israel policy — for example, [that promoted by] the neoconservative movement and the pro-Israel lobby in the United States — is the worst policy for Israel and has been for quite some time. Can you elaborate on that a little bit more?

Walt: Well, the main problem is that the attempt to create a Greater Israel, essentially to colonize the West Bank, has led to a situation now where Israel controls a very large number, you know, 4 to 5 million Palestinians. And over the long term, of course, this threatens Israel’s future as a Jewish state. If you either have one course or the other — either the Palestinians ultimately get a state of their own on the West Bank and in Gaza, or you’ll have a situation where virtually at least half and maybe a majority of the people under Israel’s control will not be Jewish and will, at the same time, not have any political rights, not have the right to vote. About 20 percent of Israel’s current population is Arab — that’s Israel prior to, within the ‘67 boundaries — and they do have the right to vote, although they don’t exercise much political power at all. But a world in which Israel controls the West Bank in perpetuity is a world in which ultimately they have to either become a multi-ethnic, truly liberal democracy where everybody has the right to vote — in which case it would no longer be a predominantly Jewish state — or they have to continue to deny the Palestinians any political rights, in which case they become an apartheid state. And unfortunately, this sort of unconditional US support and uncritical US support has allowed that situation to continue, thereby threatening Israel’s long-term future.

Horton: Well, I believe you linked to another blogger last week and an article that he wrote saying, “It’s already too late, get over it. There’s already too many so-called settlements, I guess colonies, in the West Bank, and the army would fall apart before it was able to even get them out of there. And the Bantustans have already been created, the walls have been built, and it’s basically a done deal — there never will be a two-state solution. Eventually it will be not just de facto, but an outright single state, and the Jewish character of the state will be destroyed.

Walt: Yeah, I don’t think anybody actually knows at what point this becomes irreversible. As you say, there are certainly many people — including a few Israelis, some Palestinians, some Americans, Europeans — who think that the moment has already been passed, that we’ve sort of gone past the point of no return, and that the future over the next ten to twenty to thirty years will be a struggle for political rights within Israel itself, that the two-state solution is really no longer possible. I don’t believe that yet, but I do think we are very rapidly approaching that point of no return. And the question people ought to be thinking about is, “What does an American president do at that point?”

Right now, President Obama, or President Bush before him, could talk about how they were in favor of a two-state solution, and they say this over and over again. But at some point, if we continue in the current course, that won’t be possible. It’ll sound silly if you say you’re in favor of a two-state solution because everyone will know it’s totally unreachable. And the question then becomes, “What is American policy?” Are we going to support an apartheid state in which nearly half the population is denied political rights? Or are we going to support “one person, one vote” which is very consistent with America’s political traditions, the idea that everyone should be considered an equal citizen, regardless of their background, regardless of their religion? If you don’t want an American president to face that very awkward choice, then you ought to be pushing very hard for a two-state solution, if it is in fact still possible.

Horton: Well now, can you tell us a little bit about the rights of Israeli Arabs? You know, Arabs who are Muslims or Christians but are citizens of Israel and how their treatment differs from Jewish Israelis?

Walt: Well first of all, the state is explicitly founded as a Jewish state. In fact, though, it is considered by Israelis to be the state of the Jewish people, so in a sense you’ve already declared the Arab population to be second-class citizens. It would be as though the United States said, “We are a Protestant state” or “We are a Christian nation,” and anybody who wasn’t would have to walk around knowing that they somehow didn’t quite fit in. Israeli Arabs who have the right to vote — and they do, they have the right to form political parties — but for example– and they are about 20% of the population. I believe in the entire history of Israel, there has been one member of an Israeli cabinet who was Arab. Despite the fact that they’re 20% of the population, they don’t really have much political representation — they certainly don’t have 20% of the seats in the Knesset. Moreover, there are all sorts of structural inequalities in Israeli society.

Horton: All right, I’m sorry. We’re going to have to hold the rest of that answer on the structural inequalities for when we get back from the break. Everyone, it’s Stephen Walt, We’ll be right back after this.

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Horton: Alright y’all welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton, I’m talking with Stephen M. Walt. He writes at — that’s He’s the co-author, of course, of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, and when we were so rudely interrupted by the commercials there, you were about to begin discussing the structural differences in how non-Jewish Israeli citizens are treated inside the state of Israel — I’m not talking about Gaza and the West Bank now, but in the rest of Israel there.

Walt: Right, and as I said, Israeli Arab citizens have the right to vote and participate in politics, but, as is often the case with minorities in other societies, they are treated essentially as second-class citizens. They are not allowed to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, with a couple of exceptions. And because service in the military is compulsory for most Israeli citizens and is a route to advancement — it’s a way in which you move up in Israeli society — that cuts off one obvious route to rising. The school systems are not equal for the Arab citizens and the Israeli citizens. The amount of money devoted to Arab villages, Arab communities, bus service, things like that, is unequal as well. There have been actually several Israeli commissions looking at this, have been quite critical of the performance of the Israeli state in dealing with its own Arab minority. Now, that’s still much, much better than the treatment that Palestinian Arabs get in the West Bank and in Gaza, obviously, where they have essentially no political rights whatsoever and certainly no voice over the policies of the government that is occupying those territories and controlling their lives.

Horton: Well, I wonder whether the truth here gets all just mixed up by our point of view. In a sense, Israel expanded beyond those borders in 1967. The West Bank and Gaza are part of Israel. It already is a one-state solution there, it’s just that the people in Gaza and the West Bank don’t have any rights, that’s all.

Walt: Well, and there are a number of people, including many Israelis, who argue essentially that point, that a one-state system of control exists in de facto. I think, again, that there is still a difference in the status between occupied territories and Israel proper (pre-1967 borders). And if there’s going to be any hope of a peaceful settlement, reconciliation any time soon, it will still be along the lines of a two-state solution. The only question is whether or not the two sides can be brought to that, and that brings us to the role of the United States, which is probably the only country with sufficient potential leverage to actually bring something like that about before it’s too late.

Horton: Well now, tell me this. What is — can you give us your nutshell history of the last year and a half of the Obama administration here? Because I’ve got to admit I’m thrown for kind of a loop. I mean if he was smart, he would have just done what George Bush and Bill Clinton did which is wait until the end of his presidency and then, you know, give it his attempt to half-measure something. But he came out on this big roll, with this big Cairo speech and said, “No, I’m determined. We’re going to get this done and we want a freeze on the rate of the growth of the colonies in the West Bank and all this.” And now it seems that he has completely and totally backed down.

Walt: Yeah, I think that’s a fair characterization of it. I believe President Obama understood two things when he became President. I think that he understood that the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a huge problem for the United States. It undermined our image throughout the Arab and Islamic world, was ultimately not good for Israel’s long-term future as well, and that trying to bring that to a close was the right thing to do. I think he genuinely believed that, and of course he was right. And so, somewhat encouraging, the first six months, that he appointed a respected mediator in George Mitchell. He said a number of the right things, culminating in the Cairo speech. And you got the impression that he really meant it.

I think, in retrospect, it now appears that he and the people advising him were very naive. And they were naive in the following sense: they, I think, believed that if they took a very firm line at the very beginning, the Israeli government, and in particular Prime Minister Netanyahu, would not want to do anything to annoy a very popular US President and that he would therefore go along. And they never asked themselves the question, “What are we going to do if Netanyahu digs his heels in and says ‘No.'” I don’t think they even considered that option. And when that’s exactly what Netanyahu did, they suddenly realized they had a fight on their hands, and that was not a fight they were willing to face, particularly when they only had 60 votes in the Senate — they were trying to get health-care through. I think they began to realize that they could not buck the domestic political support, and in particular the power of various groups in the Israel lobby, and at that point it’s been one retreat after another, which is again not good for us, but I would argue not good for Israel either.

Horton: Well it seems like, from the very beginning, that he was willing to concede to them Iran policy: “Look just let me get some progress going on in the West Bank and Gaza, and I’ll go ahead and threaten Iran in whichever form is preferable to Likud.”

Walt: Well, again I think that oversimplifies it a little bit. I believe that when they came in, they wanted to open up to Iran. There were a number of gestures made in the first two months of the administration designed to indicate a greater willingness to negotiate with Iran, certainly —

Horton: That’s funny, I’d forgotten all about that.

Walt: Right, he sent this broadcast message. And remember that the Bush administration policy had been not to talk to Iran at all, have no contact whatsoever. And the Obama people, to their credit, they were willing to talk to them: “We’d like to see if we can work this out.” And I think they were hoping that the Iranian elections that happened last summer would go a different way, that they’d get a more flexible Iranian government, and of course they got the worst of all possible outcomes: a somewhat fraudulent election, domestic disturbances in Iran which had made the government even more rigid. So that was, I think, a bad break.

The problem is that ever since then they’ve reverted back to what you might call a sort of Bush-Light policy, which is attempting to basically ratchet up threats to Iran and repeatedly tell Iran, “Look, you give us what we want, which is the complete cessation of your nuclear program, and then we’ll talk about what you might want.”  And that’s essentially been the US position ever since last summer, and I think unfortunately we’ve tried that for the past ten years, and we know it’s not going to work. So we’re now back in a position where people are beginning to talk about using military force again, even though many people recognize that’s not going to solve the problem and probably will make things a lot worse. So, in a sense, it’s mostly been a — ever since that first few months — a remarkably unimaginative, one might even call a brain-dead, policy, where we’re just repeating policies that have failed in the past.

Horton: Well you know, we’ve been covering the Iran nuclear issue on this show for years and years now, and I one time asked Gareth Porter, “Look, if everybody in the world, including everybody in Mossad and in Netanyahu’s office, knows that there’s not really any kind of nuclear weapons program in Iran, then why [are they] so paranoid about what’s going on at Natanz?” And Gareth said he thought that a big part of it was Aliyah, and people are leaving Israel, and they’re not coming to it, and the idea is not that Iran would strike first with atomic weapons at Israel and then get completely extinct at the hands of Israeli retaliation — it’s that people would be afraid to move there, and this population problem in Palestine that we’ve been referring to — from their point of view — would become that much worse. And so that’s really what all this is about, or a big part of it.

Walt: If that’s true or not, and it may be true, and I know there are some Israelis who think along those lines, the point is that that’s a completely self-fulfilling problem — the more you talk about it the more scared you might make people and the worse the problem becomes.

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Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton and I’m talking with Stephen M. Walt. You can find his blog at Of course he’s the author of the famous book The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.  Now Stephen when we went out to break, I had asked you about the motivation or the reason for such Israeli paranoia about Iran’s nuclear program, and Gareth’s idea that it has to do with the willingness of the Diaspora to move to Israel.

Walt: I think the thing to point out is there are lots of different reasons why Israelis would not like Iran to have nuclear weapons capability. Some of it may be concern that people won’t want to come to Israel or may leave because they may be scared. Certainly there has got to be some residual fear that they might use a weapon. I think that is very unlikely, but certainly we would feel the same way if a country near us was developing a nuclear weapon. And also, of course, raising that issue is a way of distracting everyone from other things like the occupation as well. I don’t think there is anything nefarious about an Israeli government preferring that Iran not get a nuclear capability. The question is: “What do you do in order to try and discourage them from doing that, and how serious a threat is it really?”

My argument would be that the United States would obviously like it if Iran never got nuclear weapons. We don’t know, by the way, if they are actively trying to do so now or not. We know they are trying to control the full fuel cycle, but whether they turn that into a weapons program is another question. The real issue is whether or not you are willing to go to war to prevent that from happening, and there, I think, it would be an enormous mistake. And what we ought to be trying is a much more creative set of diplomatic approaches to persuade Iran that it is in Iran’s best interests not to ever take it’s nuclear capacity and actually weaponize it. And what that ultimately gets linked to is a larger effort at creating some kind of nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, which would then bring the Israeli nuclear arsenal into play in those negotiations as, I think, another issue as well. The main problem is that our policy towards Iran in the last ten years or so has been very unimaginative, and it’s not surprising that we haven’t gotten anywhere.

Horton: Well, it was the goal of the hawks, was it not, in the Bush administration at least, to try to marginalize the moderates, to try to get Iran to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and break their Safeguards Agreement in the way that the North Koreans did? That’s what John Bolton said. It’s on YouTube.

Walt: I’m not surprised to hear that Ambassador Bolton might have said something like that. I think that early in the Bush administration, certainly about the time that we were going into Iraq, there was a pretty ambitious idea that we were really going to transform the entire region. And first we’d knock off Saddam Hussein, and then we’d turn on Iran or Syria and either threaten them into doing what we wanted or actually engage in more regime change as well. And that particular dream, I think, died in the sands of Iraq.

But it is quite clear that some of the same groups and the same people who dreamed up the idea of going into Iraq in the first place, way back in the late 1990s, are now the loudest voices calling for a very hard line, including the possible use of military force against Iran. I think if you pay attention over the next six months or so, you’re going to see a very similar kind of campaign being waged to try and persuade people that diplomacy is never going to work, that Iran simply has to be toppled and that the United States has to be willing to use military force to either destroy their nuclear facilities or possibly do more. Now, they don’t have George Bush in the White House. They don’t have Dick Cheney in the Vice President’s office. And that’s going to make it, I think, a harder sell. But there are people in the Obama administration who’ve been sympathetic to that kind of argument in the past. And it remains to be seen how President Obama and the rest of his government will respond as this campaign begins to ratchet itself up.

Horton: Well, you know, you base what you say on all these facts that you refer to and stuff about, well, you know, “they’re mastering the fuel cycle, but it remains to be seen whether they’re trying to make nuclear weapons or not,” that kind of thing, and yet that’s not really how the discussion about this issue goes on in the media. Even when the NIE came out in 2007 and it kind of stopped the war party in their tracks, at least for TV purposes, it only lasted two or three months, and we were right back to the Iranians are making nuclear weapons again.

Walt: Right. Well there’s an enormous amount of disinformation that goes on there and none of us know for 100% certainty what Iran is doing. The question you want to ask yourself is, first of all, what’s the most promising strategy for persuading Iran not to go down the nuclear weapons road? Not to ever test them, develop them, build a big arsenal, etc. And there may be ways to do that, none of which we really have explored, I think, very carefully. But the main point I’d make there is if you’re trying to persuade someone not to get nuclear weapons, continually threatening them, including threatening them with regime change, is not the way to do it. The only way to persuade them to not go down the nuclear road is if they feel reasonably secure, feel like the United States isn’t going to come after them.

The second thing, of course, is, if they were to go down that road, you have to ask yourself, is a preventive war the best way to deal with that or is reliance on deterrence, the same way we relied upon it against the Soviet Union and others in the past, recognizing, among other things, that Israel itself has several hundred nuclear weapons and an Iranian leader could never order an attack on Israel or any other close US ally without endangering his entire country and his own life? I don’t think deterrence is an ideal strategy, but I think it’s a better strategy than preventive war.

Horton: All right, well, I know I’m on the fringe on this, but what about just giving them a security guarantee and making friends? Like when Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton in the 1990s, and he committed the treason of going overseas to criticize his own government and said, “Bill Clinton and these unreasonable sanctions, this has got to end; I’m trying to do business here.” What if we were just friends with the Iranians? “No hard feelings.”

Walt: Well I think that should be our long-term objective. I think if we’re realistic about it, given the history of US-Iranian relations and all of the bad blood and misunderstanding going back now decades, it’s naïve to think you can turn that around in a month or six months or even a year. What we ought to be doing, though, is looking for opportunities to do that and certainly not doing anything that will make that harder to do down the road. There are actually many issues, including counterterrorism, including al-Qaeda, including stabilizing Afghanistan, where the United States and Iran have very similar interests. And, again, I don’t think anyone should be naïve about how easy it will be to unwind that spiral of hostility and suspicion, but I do think it’s possible, and the problem is we’re not being very creative in finding ways to do that. We’re actually making things worse progressively.

Horton: Well it seems like the case could be made that, look, the Iranians have been our best allies in fighting the Iraq war since 2003. That’s a pretty good plus in their book, isn’t it? Or have we been helping them fight it?

Walt: I think that again that oversimplifies it a little bit. Iran has probably done some things that undermine our effort in Iraq and has done some things to help as well. They have not exploited it as much as they might have. They certainly were very helpful to the United States back in 2001, 2002, after 9/11, both condemning the attack but also giving us active help when we went into Afghanistan after the Taliban and after al-Qaeda. And there were actually, I think, several opportunities there where we might have built upon those gestures of friendship. I might add that this is before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current president, was even elected. And I think a good case can be made that he might never have been elected had we responded differently back in that early period.

Now it’s going to be even tougher to unwind things, but the way to do that is not by continuing to threaten them with regime change, being only willing to talk with them in the most sort of narrow way, and ultimately I think it would depend on, as you were suggesting, providing some sort of assurances to Iran that we’re no longer trying to overthrow their government, we’re not actively engaged in, you know, efforts to sabotage things inside Iran, and that we’re eager to sort of move past the bad relations of the past and build something more constructive. That’s going to require some movement on their part, too.

Horton: Right. Okay now, hold on just one second. Is it okay if I push it and try to keep you one more segment here, Stephen?

Walt: Okay, one more.

Horton: Okay, excellent. Everybody, it’s Stephen M. Walt. That’s, and down at your local bookstore; it’s The Israel Lobby.

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Horton: All right, y’all, we’re wrapping up Antiwar Radio for the day. I’m Scott Horton. Check out and and also, that’s the blog of our guest, Stephen M. Walt. He’s a professor of international affairs at Harvard. He’s the coauthor of the book and the essay, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy with John J. Mearshimer. And now we’re talking about Iran, and these hard breaks are pretty inconvenient sometimes, but you were saying that, well, I guess first of all it was oversimplification for me to say that the Iranians have been our best allies in Iraq this whole time. But then again it’s not that much of an oversimplification, considering that our war has been to install the Da’wa Party and the Supreme Islamic Council and Moqtada al-Sadr in power — at least we’ve been fighting for them if they haven’t been fighting for us there, huh?

Walt: Well, again, I think actually what it shows is what a boneheaded decision it was to go into Iraq in the first place. Certainly the goal of the United States was not to install a series of leaders who were very sympathetic to Iran. I mean, our policy up until then had been to be very hostile to both Iraq and Iran, and certainly, when George Bush ordered the troops in, he was not doing that because he thought he was going to do Tehran a big favor. I think one of the ways in which we see what a mistake that war was is the fact that we ended up improving the strategic position of the other main adversary we had in the region, and that was again because the people who dreamed that up didn’t understand the regional politics very well, were very cavalier in how easy it would be to knock off Saddam and put in place a pro-American government, and that’s, of course, you know, not what happened. But I don’t think one could argue that we did it in order to help the Iranians.

Horton: Oh no, I just meant, you know, in effect.

Walt: Well in effect, yes. But again it wasn’t our goal.

Horton: I mean Bush at some point said, “Look, I prefer Abdul Aziz al-Hakim to Moqtada al-Sadr,” because that was his choice. You know? And Abdul Aziz al-Hakim had been in exile in Iran for 30 years.

Walt: Right. And again, it’s because we ended up in a situation where we didn’t have any good choices and have been forced to try and make the best of it ever since. I think the larger point, though, is that the United States is going to have to find ways to start dealing with Iran as it is and try and hope that the democratic impulses that do exist — and I think are actually quite powerful within Iran — ultimately do come to the fore.

There’s actually quite an interesting book recently published by Stephen Kinzer, who’s an award-winning journalist formerly with the New York Times, arguing that over the longer term — not, again, in the next six months or so, but over the longer term — the United States should be trying to build very constructive and positive relations with both Iran and also with Turkey because these are countries in the Muslim world that do have strong democratic traditions, have been pursuing democracy now for a century or so, unlike some other countries in that part of the world, and therefore we have to start thinking much more creatively about how to get past all of the differences between ourselves and Iran and move in a much more constructive direction going forward. And again, if I faulted the Obama administration on this one, as I said before, it’s primarily because after some initial gestures they have fallen back on a set of approaches towards Iran that have never worked in the past and are unlikely to work in the future.

Horton: Now, when you talk about Iraq and all of this, the neoconservative movement, it all comes back to the Israel lobby. I don’t know if you’d agree with this, but Andrew Cockburn said that he defined the neoconservative movement not so much as former leftists and Democrats who became right-wingers so much as, “This is where the Israel lobby crosses with the military industrial complex.” And basically Lockheed and Northrop Grumman and all those companies needed to hire some intellectuals to come up with excuses for selling their weapons and so they made this kind of mob marriage with the neocons back in the ’70s, and so we have this immense power behind this neoconservative movement. It seems like a lot of the positions that you’re taking and explaining in a very reasonable fashion here on this show today are mostly not even really part of the discussion in DC, at least as far as I can tell. It seems like Bill Kristol gets to decide the terms of every debate.

Walt: I don’t want to overstate Mr. Kristol’s power, but he’s obviously a very influential figure. And the most disturbing thing about the sort of role of neoconservatives is the complete lack of accountability. You would think that the architects of the Iraq War — and neoconservatives really were; they were the first people to talk repeatedly about the need to go to war in Iraq, and this began in the mid to late 1990s. These were the guys who dreamed up this whole idea. And you would think that, given the results of Iraq — a costly, protracted, disastrous war for the United States — you would think that no one would be taking them very seriously at all. But in fact — because there is in fact very little accountability in the sort of inside-the-beltway establishment, they are continuing to be on talk shows and have their journals of opinion and op-ed columns and, you know, forming new organizations, having founded old committees and projects and groups to try and advocate for war with Iraq — we now see the same people, same tactics, being used to try and push the United States into a war with Iran. As I said, you know, a half hour or so ago, they don’t have quite as sympathetic an environment, and certainly the 9/11 attacks certainly helped the cause, although they had to do an awful lot of distortion to exploit that, but nonetheless they’re trying to do the same things now, and it’s really remarkable, given the track record that they’ve had so far.

Horton: Well, a major part of this is brought to kind of the forefront with the new Emergency Committee for Israel. One of the prime members of it with Bill Kristol is Gary Bauer from the right-wing side, the religious right, I guess, the Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson-John Hagee style of right-wing Protestantism. And I wonder if you could give us any kind of ballpark estimate as to how many millions of people count as that part of the Israel lobby?

Walt: I actually think it’s a much smaller number than people believe. You often hear the number, you know, sort of, 40 million people in the Evangelical movement, but the vast majority of them do not place the same priority on a sort of hard line pro-Israel position. Some of them do, and they have some political weight. They certainly help within the Republican Party, for example. I think in terms of our policy vis-à-vis Israel, still groups like AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents, and some others have more clout on Capitol Hill, have more influence in Washington. Think tanks like the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, American Enterprise Institute, now the Saban Center at Brookings, I think have more influence within Washington circles than the sort of Gary Bauer Christian Zionist groups.

But they’re not trivial, and they certainly do broaden the base of groups that want the United States to back Israel no matter what it does and in particular want the United States to oppose any kind of two-state solution. In the case of Christian Zionists, it’s based on their interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. And I’ve never thought the Old Testament was a particularly good guide to American foreign policy, whatever its merits as a religious document might be.

Horton: Well, now, in your book, Professor Mearshimer and yourself — and again, it’s The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy — in here you make it very clear that it’s perfectly legitimate for people to be lobbyists and for Americans to be lobbyists in favor of other countries that they like and what have you, and that sounds fair enough to me, as long as we have a democracy and all that. But it seems like, as you guys — really it’s the subject of your book: the balance of power is pretty out of whack when this tiny little country really has just an absolutely inordinate amount of influence over our government — and on issues where it seems pretty apparent, like when we’re talking about Iran here, that this isn’t in the interest of anybody in America, never mind Israel.

Walt: I think that that’s right. I mean, certainly, as you just said, it’s completely legitimate for Americans to have strong attachments to other countries, whatever that country might be, whether it’s Poland or Israel or Pakistan or India or Greece, whatever. We’re a melting pot society and lots of people have ties in lots of different places and they can manifest those ties and attachments in our political system. It is, however, a bad thing if the influence becomes so great that you really can’t even have a discussion about it, if it almost becomes reflexive and if politicians and others are scared or intimidated from voicing any questions or raising any doubts about it. But secondly, it’s also just not good for either the United States or for these other countries.

We’re now in a position where you can’t even have an honest discussion about it. If President Obama says anything critical about Prime Minister Netanyahu, he immediately gets a storm of criticism and lots of phone calls, things like that. And it’s not good if the United States cannot tell its friends, its allies, when they are making mistakes. You know, we all make mistakes, and you want your friends to be able to help you correct them when you do, and we’re now in a situation where even when Israel is doing something that’s not good for us but also not good for itself, American politicians can’t even say that, because, again, these groups and the lobby wield such power within our political system.

Horton: Well, and as anybody who saw when first the article and then the book came out, you suffered the brunt of this criticism and every kind of accusation about your character that could be made — you know, congratulations to you for bearing through that and standing by your positions there. So, is there any progress being made? I mean it seems like, geez, well, like you said before, it seems like the neocons really overplayed their hand with Iraq, that would have discredited them. Are we ever going to get to the point where it’s not “anti-Semitic,” quote unquote, to say, “Hey, America’s interests are different than Israel’s and we ought to take care of ourselves. They can take care of themselves fine, especially with all the weapons we already bought them.”

Walt: Well, I think there’s some good news here. There is, I think, a more open discussion on this subject than there was back when we wrote our original article. I think that we helped kicked that door a little bit open. I think the advent of the internet has made a big difference in sort of opening up the discussion. And I do think the accusation that anyone who is critical of Israeli policy, things that they’re doing, or thinks the United States should have a more normal relationship with Israel rather than this very odd special relationship we have — the accusation that those people are always just reflexively anti-Semitic no longer has quite the same power that it did, and that’s a good thing.

Anti-Semitism itself is a very bad thing, and it ought to be condemned, but not honest discussion, not honest criticism of policy. I think that that accusation is losing some of its power to intimidate. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the influence of these groups is still pretty profound; politicians are still very scared of them. President Obama, I think, understood that he couldn’t take it on and not get into real trouble in fundraising and in other ways as well, and that means that American policy hasn’t shifted yet. So we’re getting a more open discussion but we’ve still got a ways to go before we have a policy that would be better for the country and for our friend.

Horton: All right, everybody. That is Stephen M. Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He writes the blog at, and of course is the coauthor of the article and the book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, with John J. Mearshimer. Thank you so much for your time on the show today. I really appreciate it.

Walt: My pleasure.

Joe Meadors


Joe Meadors, former US Navy signalman and survivor of both the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty and on the Gaza Peace Flotilla, describes the details of the Liberty assault, why they believe it was intentional, the recall of the USS Saratoga‘s fighters twice that day from assisting the Liberty on orders from Lyndon Johnson, the massive cover-up, why the Israelis were unable to sink the ship despite their best efforts, different theories on the Israeli’s motivations, his motive for participating in the Gaza Peace Flotilla, the violent, though not deadly, raid on the ship he was on, the mistreatment of the kidnapped while in Israeli custody, the murder of American Farouk Dogan and the American politicians’ silence.

MP3 here. (18:48) Transcript below.

Joe Meadors resides in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is a survivor of the June 8, 1967 attack on the USS Liberty and for decades has been in the forefront of the effort to persuade the U.S. government to conduct an investigation of the attack.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Joe Meadors July 19, 2010

Scott Horton: All right, everybody, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio, I’m Scott Horton, and our next guest on the show is Joe Meadors. He’s a retired U.S. Navy signalman and a survivor of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty and the Gaza flotilla. Welcome to the show, Joe. How are you?

Joe Meadors: I’m really great. Thanks a lot.

Horton: Well I really appreciate you joining us on the show today.

Meadors: Oh, no problem. Just one clarification – I’m retired, but I didn’t retire from the military.

Horton: Oh, you were kicked out, or sank, or what happened?

Meadors: No, I served my hitch and I got out.

Horton: Oh, I got it, I see, and then you had a whole regular life as a regular person.

Meadors: Yeah, I was a regular person after that.

Horton: I see. Okay. Well I can see why you would want to get out of the military after what happened to you. But why don’t you tell the good people what happened to you? Many people never heard of the USS Liberty. Lord knows it happened long before I was born.

Meadors: Oh, thanks for reminding me.

Horton: (laughs) Well, I tell you what, I got more gray hairs on my chin now than I’d like to brag about. A couple on the side of my head too.

Meadors: Well so do I. Well the USS Liberty was in fact a spy ship. What we did was we went around, normally up and down the west coast of Africa, just monitoring all sorts of radio traffic and sending all that information back to the U.S. to send to the NSA. We were ordered to the Eastern Mediterranean as a result of the conflict in the Middle East at the time, and we arrived on station on June 8 at 9 o’clock in the morning. It was the fourth day of the Six Day War.

Right after we had arrived on station, we were circled in total about 13 times by Israeli aircraft that we listened to, and we could hear them radioing back to their headquarters with a proper identification of the ship.

About 2 o’clock in the afternoon we detected two high-speed jet aircraft flying up our starboard side. They started to circle – what we thought would be another circling of the ship – so we just ran up to the signal bridge, and I was one of the signalmen so that was my work station. When we got up there we saw the aircraft directly ahead of us, and they peeled off immediately to the left and began strafing the ship.

They continued strafing. We had men in all the gun mounts. We had four 50-caliber machine guns with men inside of them. They put rockets inside each gun tub, at least one, and rockets inside each of the many antenna mounts that we had.

Those initial strafings continued for about 10 or 15 minutes, then the slower Mystre aircraft came in with cannons, rockets, napalm and machine guns, and they dropped at least one napalm canister on our ship, and it struck the bridge. Those were followed by three torpedo boats who had two torpedoes each, and they dropped five torpedoes in the water. One of them struck our starboard side, killing 25 people below decks.

Then came the helicopter-borne assault troops that I saw. They tried to land but they couldn’t land because of the antennas that were blowing around in the breeze. The helicopters couldn’t get low enough.

And then that was followed up by a helicopter that came out bearing onboard the U.S. military naval attachŽ, and he dropped a message on the fo’c’sle, and he simply asked, “Do you have any casualties?” And he couldn’t see all the blood and the guts on the fo’c’sle, I guess.

But the thing that makes us most angry about the attack itself is just a few minutes after the attack started, our antennas were all knocked out, but one of our electronics technicians found an antenna that he had put out of commission because it wasn’t working. He got that antenna back up and working within a few minutes of the beginning of the attack. We got a message off to the Sixth Fleet steaming 450 miles away in convoy with the USS America and USS Saratoga, two aircraft carriers.

The USS Saratoga turned into the wind and immediately launched its ready strike force, and before those aircraft reached the horizon, they were recalled on orders from the White House, and about an hour later they launched again, and again those aircraft were recalled on orders from the White House.

And all the while we were continuing under attack, calling for help, and the radiomen on those Sixth Fleet ships were listening to us, knowing that the aircraft that had been launched to come to our assistance had been recalled on orders from the White House.

And that in a nutshell is basically what happened.

They had a Court of Inquiry. They took four days of testimony, and according to the participants in the court they were ordered to come to the conclusion that the attack was not deliberate.

Horton: Right, now, okay. So there’s a bunch to go over there, including the cover-up at the end there. And I think, actually that’s the first thing I ever heard about the Liberty was flipping through the channels and I saw some admiral or something say, “Hey, the President told me to lie, and when you have my job, you do what the President says. It’s not a question of being truthful or not, it’s a question of obeying orders. And we were ordered to pretend that the whole thing was an accident.” That’s the first I ever heard of it. So, cover-up blown.

But now, okay, so everybody we’re talking with Joe Meadors. He was a signalman on the USS Liberty, attacked in 1967 by the Israelis.

So I’m curious, because you talk about they attacked you with napalm, and I guess I don’t know all that much about it, but I thought my understanding was that that’s not so much made for explosive power but for spreading jellied gasoline all over people and burning them to death. Is that right?

Meadors: That is correct.

Horton: I mean, that’s not how you destroy – if you’re trying to sink a ship, I don’t understand – I mean on one hand, there’s the whole, “They were trying to kill y’all” aspect, which I’m interested in, but there’s also the question of, why weren’t they dropping bombs from above? It seems like if any air force against a ship like the Liberty, as you said, armed with 50-calibers that were taken out almost immediately and so forth, how come they were unable to sink it, right? Where’s the big bombs?

Meadors: Exactly. Well, if you look at the tactics they used, they used unmarked aircraft, jammed our radios on both U.S. Navy tactical and international maritime distress frequencies, destroyed our defenses and our communications capabilities, then brought in three torpedo boats, dropped five of the six torpedoes available. Luckily four of them missed.

And then the torpedo boats – one part I failed to mention, as the torpedo boats circled the ship, and they deliberately machine gunned the life rafts we had dropped over the side in anticipation of abandoning ship, then brought in the heli-borne assault troops, the theory that I’m – you know, I’ve been trying to deny it all these years, but that only points to me that they were trying to sink the ship and kill all the survivors. The purpose for the napalm was to drive the crew below decks to keep them off the top decks so they would sink with the ship and drown with the ship.

Horton: I see. So it’s a tactical thing, basically, the napalm.

Meadors: Exactly.

Horton: But now, so you’re saying that, “Oh, they were certainly trying to sink it, but four out of their six torpedoes missed”? But then, what? They were out of torpedoes? I mean, I thought this thing went on all afternoon.

Meadors: The theory that we have – of course, the U.S. government has never conducted an investigation, and the Israelis have issued a report but we’re trying to get a copy of the evidence that they used to support that report, and of course that report said the Israelis didn’t do anything wrong – but the U.S. government has never conducted an investigation, so we really don’t know exactly what their motives were.

Horton: Right. Now, well there are some theories, and I guess, you know, it’s okay for you to speculate, you’re the victim of it, and they refused to, as you just said, have any kind of process for justice, so, you know – I hear some say that, “Well, what they wanted to do was sink the ship and then blame it on the Egyptians and get America into the ’67 war full-scale on their side.”

I’ve also heard speculation that there was a massacre of Egyptian prisoners of war on the Sinai Peninsula and they were trying to block out knowledge of that.

Do you have a favorite of these theories or one you lean toward, or – ?

Meadors: Well, I’ve been leaning toward two, actually. The one I just described. Plus there was one that suggested the Israelis wanted to invade the Golan Heights but all their troops were massed on the Sinai Peninsula, and we were close enough, in order to move their troops, such a mass movement, they would have to have a lot of radio traffic, and we could detect increases in radio traffic. We couldn’t hear the actual words that were being spoken because we were too far away, but we could detect the increase in the radio traffic, so they probably wanted to have the invasion of the Golan Heights accomplished before the U.S. government found out about it.

But then again, the U.S. embassy was right there, and they could probably listen to that as well, so I don’t know how much credence that theory would support.

Horton: All right, everybody, we’re talking with Joe Meadors. He survived an Israeli attack on the USS Liberty.

* * * * *

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. I’m talking with Joe Meadors. He survived the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty and the raid on the Gaza peace flotilla. Now, I want to wrap up here real quick, Joe, on the Liberty with some quotes from, it’s, it’ll forward you on to the page we’re looking at here anyway.

And there are quotes here from Lyndon Johnson; from Dean Rusk, then Secretary of State; Clark M. Clifford, then presidential adviser and chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board; George Ball, Under Secretary of State; intelligence officials; members of Congress; Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, Captain Ward Boston, Cmdr. Ernest Castle and Cmdr. William McGonagle, all of the U.S. Navy; Richard Helms, the Director of the CIA – all of them say that this was not an accident, they knew what they were doing, they were trying to sink your ship.

Meadors: That is correct. And all we’re trying to do is get the attack investigated. It’s the only attack on a U.S. Navy ship in the history of the U.S. that’s never been investigated by the U.S. government.

Horton: Well, and it really is just amazing. It’s a story almost as amazing as the story itself, the fact that most Americans have never even heard of it, never will.

Meadors: And I think that’s by design. They’re kind of hoping we’ll just shrivel up and blow away, but we’re not going to. We were ordered – after the attack, we were ordered not to talk about the attack, and I understand that order is still in effect, so they could throw us in jail, but I’m kind of hoping they’ll just give it a try.

Horton: Yeah, it’d be fun to watch your trial anyway, you know, although hopefully you’d, you know, come out the other end a free man. But it’d be nice to see the discovery process, really, I guess is what I’m getting at.

Meadors: That’s true.

Horton: Now it says in your bio that you, because you climbed up to the top of the ship, up at the bridge, during the whole attack, that you had the bird’s-eye view and watched them deliberately strafing the life rafts with your own eyes, Joe Meadors. Is that correct?

Meadors: No, no. I didn’t witness that myself, but Lloyd Painter, one of the officers on the ship, did witness that with his own eyes, and he testified to that effect during the Court of Inquiry. It should have been on the record, or it was on the record, but if you get a copy of the Court of Inquiry report today, his testimony did not appear. It just totally – it’s not blacked out, like a redacted space, that normally would be from a U.S. government document. The quote never appears at all in the record.

Horton: All right, now, before we move on to the Gaza flotilla, is there anything left about the USS Liberty that I should ask here, that you want to make sure and point out before we change the subject here?

Meadors: Well, any listeners who want to help us, just go to the, and there’s a few places you can go to get the suggested letters or get in contact with us to find out what we would like you to do, so if you’re as outraged as we are at the U.S. government’s willingness to allow war crimes to be committed by and against the United States, please drop by our website and give us a shout out.

Horton: Right, and again that’s

Meadors: That is correct.

Horton: All right, thanks very much for that. All right, so now, I guess this is part of what motivated you to go and help to join the peace efforts to break the Gaza blockade?

Meadors: That’s right. The Liberty survivor, you become by default a student of what’s happening in the Middle East, and you learn to sort out the wheat from the chaff and know what questions to ask and what questions aren’t going to be answered, so when I was given the opportunity of being a member of the flotilla, I jumped at the chance, even given my history.

Horton: I guess you knew you were sort of taking a risk that you might not make it out alive this time or that you might end up being a survivor of another attack by the Israeli military?

Meadors: Well, I knew that they couldn’t kill me the first time, so I thought maybe God was on my side.

Horton: Well, yeah, everybody in the Middle East thinks God is on their side. I think that might be part of the problem. But anyway, at least you were unarmed. You were going to deliver tricycles and wheelchairs and food and medicine to civilians.

Meadors: That’s exactly right. And all of the ships were inspected by inspectors before we left, so the claim that they were afraid that we were carrying arms and ammunition to the radical elements in Gaza is just a smokescreen.

Horton: Well, now, I guess you were lucky enough that the raid on your ship did not turn into a bloodbath like the raid on the Mavi Marmara, right?

Meadors: That is correct. However, the Israelis tried to give the impression that everything was just peace and love when they came on board, and it wasn’t. They used their concussion grenades. They used their batons, kicked people, tied people up, and all that stuff. So it wasn’t flowers and honey when they arrived either.

Horton: And you know I think that is a pretty underreported part of this story, is exactly how the raids went down on the other ships. You weren’t on the same ship as former ambassador Ann Wright, right?

Meadors: No, she was on the, I believe the Challenger 1, and I was on the Svendoni with former ambassador Ed Peck and three other Americans.

Horton: You know, I talked with Kenneth O’Keefe, and he was on the Mavi Marmara. He said that once in custody that he was beaten, and of course when he was released there were pictures of him with his head all bloody. Were you guys mistreated in Israeli custody at all after they finished kidnapping you off of the high seas?

Meadors: I wasn’t, but one of our – the leader of the American group, Paul Larudee, he was very severely beaten by the Israelis when he was in prison. He said that he had his joints moving in directions that he didn’t know they would move before. But he was very severely beaten.

Horton: Amazing. And of course one American citizen was included with the nine who were murdered by the IDF, Farouk Dogan, I believe is how you say his name. [Apologies. The man’s name was Furkan Dogan – ed.] But in American media, “Well, he wasn’t really an American citizen, and after all, what kind of funny name is that, and his skin was a little bit darker than yours and mine, I suppose. And so who cares about him?”

Meadors: He was described repeatedly as a Turkish-American. In fact he wasn’t. He was an American citizen. He wasn’t a Turkish citizen. And he was, I guess, accidentally killed with four bullets in the brain.

Horton: Amazing. Well, I guess, you know, it’s really no big deal compared to what happened to the Liberty, right? If Lyndon Johnson can order everybody to just be silent about the Liberty, then obviously it’s not a big deal for Barack Obama to just remain silent about what everybody knows happened to you guys.

Meadors: Well, and I don’t think he really cares. And my congressman doesn’t either. Ann Wright and I just completed a 10-day tour of Texas talking, in six different cities, and one was down here in Corpus Christi, where I live. I invited my congressman to send somebody to the presentation just to listen to a first-person account of what has happened, and it’s about a 10-minute drive from his office, but he wouldn’t send anybody.

But if you write him a letter about the Liberty or the Freedom Flotilla, he’ll have his boilerplate response that totally ignores the issues. And he had an opportunity to get first-person accounts and he refused to.

He has a history of ignoring the USS Liberty; he was invited to a dedication of a memorial plaque on the USS Lexington Museum down here, and he refused to send anybody there either.

Horton: All right, everybody, that’s Joe Meadors. The website is Thanks very much for your time on the show today. I really appreciate it.

Meadors: Thanks.

David Spero


David Spero RN, author of the book The Art of Getting Well, writer for, discusses his push for a left-right-libertarian realignment for liberty and against the empire, the important issues we agree on and the divisive social issues that divide us, Scott’s hairbrained idea for a real two-party system, TV’s best efforts to keep Americans helpless, the hopeful rise of civilian mutual support networks to decrease dependence on the central state as economic times get worse.

MP3 here. (24:57) Transcript below.

David Spero RN writes books, columns, and blogs about the social dimensions of health. He edited the paper Green Consensus for the California Greens.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews David Spero, July 21, 2010

Scott Horton: All right, everybody, it’s Antiwar Radio, I’m Scott Horton, and our next guest is David Spero, RN. His website is He’s the author of the book The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health and Well–being When You Have a Chronic Illness, and he writes political stuff over at I think we spoke in January about “Left and Right Against the Empire,” and now is “Don’t Fear the Right: They Are Potential Class Allies,” written from the left, from July 15, 2010 – again on the website at Welcome to the show, David. How are you?

David Spero: Hey, I’m doing good. Thanks for having me.

Horton: Well, thanks very much for joining us here. Sorry about the delay there.

Spero: It’s good to hear that speech.

Horton: Yeah, it started out really poetry wise, but I don’t really know about those things, but it sounded like a poem at first anyway. Yeah, good stuff. And you know it makes a good jumping-off point here, that Ron Paul clip. Because what he’s saying is the kind of thing, most of that – at least I think that it’s a very kind of centrist speech that he was giving, really, that it incorporates the very best parts of the left and the right. It doesn’t make him a so-called moderate, you know, bloodthirsty warmonger like Lindsay Graham or Joe Lieberman or something. He’s in the center, but up at the top toward freedom instead of down at the bottom towards totalitarianism, where those guys are. And I think that’s the same kind of mindset that I see in your writing here, that, you know, like me and like Ron Paul, you put all the emphasis on the war and the Bill of Rights first and culture wars later.

Spero: Right. And this new article, “Don’t Fear the Right,” it sort of disagrees with what Ron Paul said at the end there, about this is all gonna be – can be done through peaceful and intellectual means. I mean, that’s what most people have to do, but I think that we all agree that we’re moving into a – or we have moved into a police state, in a large degree, and a warfare state, which he said.

And I think we need to involve the people who are fighting those wars and carrying out that police state, and that’s what the Oath Keepers are doing. That was the essence of my article; the new article was about the Oath Keepers, which is a group of active duty and retired military and police who pledge to follow the Constitution and to not carry out unconstitutional orders. And I would rather have police like that than, you know, than Blackwater or the SWAT team.

And so that’s – it’s interesting, though, that they have been attacked like most groups that are identified as right, whether they really are right or not – that they’re attacked as being a militia or as being racist or a lot of things that really aren’t true. Because they – although they haven’t come out fully against the wars and things, they do encourage soldiers to think for themselves, and police officers as well, and I think we could use that.

Horton: Yeah, well, and you know what, it may be, you know, in the broadest sense, a right phenomenon, but what does that really mean? You know, especially from kind of leftist definitions – I saw Noam Chomsky saying, “Well, wait a minute, these are all working-class people – shouldn’t they be coming to us? And why aren’t we reaching out to them? Why are we sitting around condemning them and calling them racists all day and whatever, when we ought to be their heroes? Maybe we’re doing something wrong, y’all.”

Spero: Well I didn’t know that Chomsky said that, but I agree. I mean, Chomsky’s a pretty smart guy, so… And there’s a lot of – well, I think, as you’ve often called it, that, you know, the culture wars and cultural prejudice that keeps a lot of people who at least identify themselves as left from reaching out to people that they should be reaching out to, that we really have lots in common with because culturally they’re different, or because we disagree on certain points. I mean, it’s really interesting to read the comments section on DissidentVoice with the first article, “Left and Right Against the Empire,” or in this article – the comments can get pretty angry.

Horton: Yeah, well, hold it right there, man. The music’s playing. We got to go out to this break.

Spero: Okay.

Horton: But we’ll be right back with David Spero, from, on Antiwar Radio after this, y’all.

* * * * *

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. I’m talking with David Spero from We’re talking about left and right and the empire and the war and all that kind of thing. You know – well, go ahead, you were talking, David, about the war in the comments section over your article proposing that people get their priorities straight.

Spero: Well, yeah, and most of the complimentary comments I received came from libertarians, but not exclusively. You know there were some people who identified themselves as very left who said that, “Yeah, we need to work with libertarians and we need to work with conservatives as much as possible,” but with real questions about how that can be done, especially with what’s sort of happening in the part of the political spectrum that identifies itself as conservatives – that a lot of them are very interventionist, very statist, very, you know, people that it’s hard to see how you could work with.

Horton: I wonder if you’re – are you familiar with the Nolan Chart?

Spero: Yes.

Horton: So, for people not familiar, you know, your high school history teacher – if they teach you – probably your gym coach in the first place who doesn’t know anything – but then if he teaches you anything, he shows you this left-right political spectrum, it tells you that you gotta fit somewhere in the “reasonable” center between Stalin and Hitler on the left-right spectrum.

And what the Nolan Chart does is it adds – I forget which is the X and which is the Y axis, but it adds a second dimension to these questions, and if you rank right at the very top in the center, you rank as a plumb-line libertarian, and down at the bottom is where the communists and the fascists meet with their total statism. And so it’s useful for thought experiment purposes. I don’t even know if the questionnaire even includes foreign policy. I think it doesn’t, and that’s probably its major flaw.

But, anyway, it kind of shows the possibility there of – in fact, I would say foreign policy of course is most important, that and the Bill of Rights – and you see the possibility for where, if a conservative Democrat like Joe Lieberman and a liberal republican like John McCain can get it together and form coalitions in order to kill people all around the world forever, then the people who are opposed to those things ought to also be able to form those coalitions. I mean, that’s what to me is the natural party distinction. It’s not between, you know, country and rock and roll, it’s between whether you’re on the side of elite power and the national state – the empire – or you’re on the side of individuals.

Spero: Yeah, and I think we need to move – now we’re at the point where we need to start to really think about, “How are we going to do that in practice?” And you know there are issues that we’ll need to work out. And actually some of that has come up in the comments section of this last article, of, you know, how do you feel about Social Security, for example. Can we work out these differences so that we can ally? And I think we can, but we really need to be talking to each other and people need to get out of their comfort zone, you know, and be willing to talk to people that may be, both in terms of their ideas and also in terms of maybe their cultural attitudes and things, are a little different. And really, it’s a challenge, and I’m going to keep writing about this stuff, and I hope we can get some of these things going.

Horton: Well, you know, when it comes down to it, there are some intractable questions such as abortion and the role of the federal government in regulating business and whatever. But for me – well, I mean obviously that’s part of it, you know, the second thing there – but most of these, you know, cultural divisions I think are basically just bogus. And this is what makes the two-party system a scam is that everybody’s divided, not among people who actually believe that the government ought to be doing this or that about the important things, but just about their kind of cultural distinctions, you know, whether they wear boots or sandals – crap like that.

Spero: Yeah, well, I mean, from the emotional content, the anger that I see in these comments, and that you see when you go to, say, a Tea Party rally – you know that there is going to be some more work to do for people to connect, and to work out these things. And whether it’s even possible or not, I don’t really know. I mean, so far what I see is left/right. So what’s actually happened is libertarians and greens, or libertarians and far leftists – you know Alexander Cockburn type, which I guess I would count myself as one of – and those people can see it, and like the sort of the average conservative and average liberal aren’t seeing it at this point, you know what I mean?

Horton: Yeah, yeah, well that’s exactly right. But then again, the people who are the most ideological are the ones who do the most writing and can help to lead the way on things like that. And I know Alex Cockburn has always been a Ron Paul fan. I think he says he’s just a rogue Texas congressman fan and just likes that style of politics that Ron represents there.

But so that brings me actually to where we started and really where the rubber meets the road, I think, one of the major important questions, which is, can the left get behind a coalition to support Ron Paul for president next time? After all, the last time, he said over and over and over again, “I’m not trying to abolish your Social Security and your Medicare and your Medicaid. I’m trying to shore it up by abolishing the empire.” And he had a proposal to let people who are under the age of 25 opt out of Social Security if they wanted. But he always was opposed to the George Bush/Cato Institute proposal to “privatize” Social Security by taking it all out of government bonds and putting it in the stock market – he was never for that fascism. You know? And so this is a guy who’s basically made his offer to the left, “Look, I might try to abolish the Department of Education while I demolish the Department of Homeland Security too. Do we have a deal?” You know? And that to me is fair enough – should be.

Spero: Yeah, and I think a lot of leftists would… Okay, you go out and actually talk to people about this then. During the elections a lot of people would say, “I would love to see a Ron Paul / Dennis Kucinich ticket,” or something like that. Or a Dennis Kucinich / Ron Paul ticket, you know? And so there are a lot of people like that, but it’s going to require work. And that’s why I’m mainly writing on left sites and things like that because like, you know, that’s where I grew up, and that’s the audience that I think I can talk to. And you do see an awful lot of pro Ron Paul comments in the comments sections of like Common Dreams and other left sites, not so much on like the Huffington Post or you know you get more closer to the liberal center, but you know the leftist Counterpunch and places like that, there is a lot of left support for Ron Paul. Although you know a lot of people also feel – and I kind of think that Paul is a little bit like Kucinich in the sense they kind of allow him to do what he does and they don’t trash him because they think it’ll keep people in the Republican Party or keep people in the electoral system. You know what I mean?

Horton: Yeah. Well, boy, I’ll tell you what, support for Ron Paul should never translate to support for any other Republican. I mean, boy, that would be horrible, to shore up the Republican Party there. And let me suggest too that when it comes to Pat Buchanan and all the different people which – I don’t even think he’s any longer at the American Conservative magazine – but, you know, the whole paleoconservative right, and the libertarians as well – but even just the paleo right – I notice that left-wingers get very uncomfortable about having any agreement with somebody like Pat Buchanan – which is understandable if you’re a true blue leftist, then you know, Pat’s problematic from your point of view in a lot of ways or whatever.

But it seems like rather than being nervous about that kind of thing, that he would make a great talking point for the left – that, look, “I’m so right that Pat Buchanan says I’m right.” “I ‘m so right that there’s a whole group of right-wingers who completely agree with me about how we’ve got to stop the killing of people all the time. We’ve got to reinstate the Bill of Rights before we have no chance to, ever again.”

Spero: No, I agree with that, and I think Jane Hamsher over at Firedoglake – which is a liberal site, or a left site, let’s say – was working with and actually cosigned some articles and papers with Grover Norquist and I think Pat Buchanan as well. So there are some people doing that.

Horton: Yeah, right on. That’s leading the way right there. That’s what we need.

Spero: Yeah. And it’s going to be, and it is uncomfortable, and it is difficult, and I don’t think success is guaranteed, either, you know, because we are talking about a fairly small group of rightists and a fairly small group of leftists there. But I think it’s what we got to try, don’t you?

Horton: Yeah, well, that’s my view. I’ll tell you what, we’re almost out of time for this segment. If you want to talk politics more, I could hold you over through the news and we can go on for another ten minutes, or I’ll let you go if you need to go.

Spero: I can do another ten minutes.

Horton: Okay, great. So why don’t you hold on right there. Everybody, it’s David Spero from We’re talking about the left and the right and, you know, what I like to think of as the new realignment. In the 1930s – I learned in school that basically the only people left out of the New Deal alliance were the old classical liberals. All the conservatives got on board for it, black and white, and all the different ethnicities, town and country, and rich and poor, and Wall Street and Main Street, and everybody got on board for the New Deal. And that’s really what we need now is that kind of realignment where there’s a real consensus that we are going to put peace and the Bill of Rights first. And end the corporate welfare too, by the way, which means abolishing the central bank. We’ll get back to all this with David Spero, right after this.

* * * * *

Horton: All right, y’all. Welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. I’m talking with David Spero from Back in January he wrote this great one, “Left and Right Against the Empire.” And he’s got a new one called “Don’t Fear the Right,” which is a message to the Left.

Now, David, so, here’s the thing. This is never going to happen in a million years, but it’s a fun little thought experiment type thing, for me anyway – at least it helps me make my point. Here’s what I want to see happen: Have everybody who cares about peace and the Bill of Rights all bum rush the Republican Party, rename it the Democratic-Republicans after Thomas Jefferson’s first real party – born in dissent against the tyranny of John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists. And we’ll take all the Jeffersonian leftists or liberals and all the Jeffersonians on the right, with the libertarians as the center instead of Joe Lieberman as the center, and then we will just name the other party “The War Party.” And [we’ll say] “you guys will be the party of taxation and tyranny, police state and mass murder, and we’ll be the party of individual liberty and peace.”

Spero: Well, I’ll tell you what. Call me up and I’ll be there, but I do think that’s rather a long shot.

Horton: Yeah, yeah, it’s impossible. But shouldn’t that really be the division? I wish people could see it the way I see it. Seems like we’d win!

Spero: Well, there’s the control of an incredibly massive media world out there that keeps people from seeing that. I mean there’s television, and there’s movies, and there’s – yeah, you go to the movies and there’s ads for the military, right there before you see your movie – and there’s news, actually there’s Fox News radio that you have on this network, and it’s pretty hard to get the message out. And that’s what we’ve got to work on, is how can we get to that point? Because people don’t change their minds that easily, you know? And they’ve been hearing this patriotic or jingoistic kind of – let’s go kill everybody kind of – ideas and education and publicity for decades now.

So it’s going to take a lot of work. And you’re doing a lot, I mean you’re doing the best you can – I mean, this show – I’m really happy to be on this show because you’re consistent about that, and we need more voices. But I don’t see exactly where those – there aren’t a lot of outlets like Liberty Radio for these voices to go on. There are some, though, and with the Internet there are more and more, so, yeah, I don’t think it’s impossible. I just think that it’s, you know, especially people – I’m like, I’m almost 60, so I mean, it’s like you get trapped in old ways of doing things, like, “Lets get this in the newspaper, let’s get an article in a magazine,” or something like that. And it doesn’t really seem to work anymore. I think it’s very difficult to compete with the War Party message.

Horton: Yeah. Well and you know, I gotta hand it to the War Party too. They really did good with this Obama guy. You know? I mean the George Bush scam was so transparent – you know, George Bush’s son – oh yeah, he’s a cowboy, he’s a middle class guy just like you, and whatever, and that was ridiculous.

Spero: But that worked too!

Horton: Oh, it worked just as well, but the Obama thing is more plausible on its face. You know, he’s not George Bush’s son. You know what I mean?

Spero: Yeah, I know what you mean.

Horton: And boy it worked so well. And you know I saw Cindy Sheehan, bless her, she put this thing out on the Facebook about how, “Antiwar protest at the White House cancelled for lack of interest.” Oh, man! They can’t even get anybody to show up. I saw a hardcore leftist, I think it was, in the comments section at, who said, “Man, those dirty hippies in the ’60s did more to fight the war and the state before breakfast than all y’all people have ever done. Pathetic! And that was with Democrats in the White House. That was with Lyndon Johnson in the White House, you know? Most of it.

Spero: That’s true. Well, you’re right, I mean that was a stroke of genius with Obama, and I don’t think it was accidental either. I think, you know, some War Party types found him when he was just getting started and groomed him for this role, and Goldman Sachs and others poured hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaigns and made it happen.

Horton: Hey, at what point do you think they started grooming him?

Spero: I think before he was first elected to the state senate in Illinois.

Horton: Really?

Spero: I mean, probably when he was in Harvard.

Horton: You know, I haven’t even really read about that. I probably should. I just figured only goofy right-wingers had written about it, so why bother? But I read, like the Newsweek account was that he gave a great speech after he was a state senator and some Democratic Party Clintonite types said to him, “Hey man, you give a pretty good speech. Why don’t you come with us?” But that was the Newsweek version. Who knows what’s real?

Spero: Yeah, and that’s true of a lot of things that happen. And when things happen that just don’t seem quite right, like, “How did this guy? Who is this guy? How did he get to be president at the age of 45 or whatever it is?” You think maybe there was something else going on there that we weren’t told.

Horton: Well, the American people certainly wanted to believe in the hope and change. At least we’ve got to give them credit for that, that they knew that – I mean, none of them want to take responsibility for being former supporters, really, but they knew they didn’t want the Bush-Cheney era to go on anymore. Something had to change. They just didn’t know what, and they went for the easy thing, but –

Spero: And it didn’t – you know, there’s a Bruce Cockburn song – can’t remember the name of it [Ed. – Last Night of the World] – but he’s got this line in there, “I’ve seen the flame of hope flashing in the eyes of the hopeless, and that was the cruelest blow of all.” You know? And that’s the way you feel when you look at anybody who had some hope for Obama would feel, you know? “Wow we’ve got this guy and it’s worse than ever.”

Horton: Well, I kind of hope that that’s true that people at least are starting – I mean I would hate the idea that they just all drop out, you know, “Well, gee, I tried my best and all I did was help get another bad guy elected,” or whatever. But at least if they learn the truth that, “Hey, wow, so it might as well have been John McCain, huh!” then, you know, there’s a perspective there that’s, you know, progress in the mind of the average Left–Right believing American.

Spero: If we can give them an alternative. You know, I’m thinking of the younger folks now that were really – that came out for Barack and are totally, you know, burned out and turned off at this point. Who can give them another way to go – but I don’t – that may not be another candidate, I mean, although, you know, a good candidate like Ron Paul would help, but I mean I think about one of the militias that I wrote about in this article, up in Maine – the author Carolyn Chute created this club, “The Second Maine Militia,” and she says that it’s definitely anti-police state and anti-corporate, and you know it’s a bunch of poor people with guns. And I think that that’s something we could do even in the cities. Maybe you could have an unarmed militia, you know? But I think we need to organize-that we may need to find other ways to organize.

Horton: Yeah, well, and you know that’s really facing the hard truth there, that, like Ron Paul always says, “This is all going to change and it won’t be because you listened to me, it’ll be because, like I told you when you weren’t listening to me, ‘All empires fall down, man, this is how it goes.'” And now, you know, what you’re talking about is how are we going to take care of ourselves after that. And this is why I think our focus on ideology is so important, because when times are really bad, people are easily led by demagogues and easily led to blame the powerless instead of the powerful for their predicament and embrace authoritarianism and stuff, and who knows how bad it’s really going to get economically here, but it could get really bad. It’s already pretty consistently high unemployment for a few years in a row now.

Spero: I don’t see that getting any better any time soon. I think that the, you know, the really powerful folks in this country made a decision about 20, 30 years ago to send the good jobs away because the labor movement with the unions were the biggest thing that was standing in their way of doing what they wanted, so they broke them. You know, they just sent all those, closed all those factories down, or most of them. And so I don’t see that coming back.

If you don’t have productive good–paying jobs, I don’t see how, you know, Krugman and some of these liberal economists saying, you know, “More stimulus, more stimulus, more.” What are you stimulating? There’s no, you know, the underlying economy is pretty screwed, and we need to sort of rebuild it. And I mean I just think we need to be organizing at the local level and at every level to try to take care of ourselves. And that sounds kind of – Just this morning I was on the Oath Keepers website to see what’s happening over there.

Horton: Oh, real quick, sorry, we’re about out of time.

Spero: Yes, but anyway, people are arguing about these things. People are talking about these things. And so I’m just encouraging people to get out of your comfort zone, talk to people that you don’t normally talk to and find out where you’ve got the common ground.

Horton: All right everybody, that’s David Spero.

Gareth Porter


Gareth Porter, independent historian and journalist for IPSNews, discusses indications that Amiri the mysterious Iranian defector was actually a double-agent sent by Iran to learn what the CIA knew and thought about them, Amiri’s role on the periphery of their nuclear program, his statements to the CIA that there is no nuclear weapons program, Porter’s source who says that the National Intelligence Council will stand by their previous no-nuke-weapons-program-in-Iran stance [.pdf] from 2007 in their soon to be released National Intelligence Estimate update(!), the Washington Post‘s use of the Israeli intelligence front, the National Council for Resistance in Iran, in spinning the Amiri story, the ultimate dishonest neo-crazy media sycophant David Sanger of the New York Times and what a liar he is.

MP3 here. (20:30) Transcript below.

Gareth Porter is an independent historian and journalist. He is the author of Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam. His articles appear on Counterpunch, Huffington Post, Inter Press Service News Agency and


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Gareth Porter July 19, 2010

Scott Horton: All right y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio, I’m Scott Horton, and man I’m so lucky I got Gareth Porter on the phone.You guys are maybe wondering, “Gee, how come Scott talks to Gareth Porter all the time?” Well it’s because he’s the best reporter in the world. Welcome back to the show, Gareth!

Gareth Porter: Thanks for having me on again, Scott.

Horton: Man, I’m sitting here reading this brand-new article — it’s not up yet, but it will be up at and of course at And now I’m trying to click around and find the first one here, it was, “Clues suggest Amiri defection was an Iranian plant.” And now the follow-up is called, “Amiri told CIA Iran has no nuclear weapons program.”

So, first of all, everybody knows Amiri, right? Amiri was the guy who surfaced in a YouTube saying, “Help me, the CIA kidnapped me.” And then there was another YouTube that said, “Nah, I’m chilling here, I’m going to school, everything’s fine.” And then a third one said, “No, the CIA did kidnap me, I’m on my way out of here.” And then he showed up at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington D.C. He was flown out of the country last week, received a hero’s welcome back in Iran. So that’s the basic premise of the thing. Now hit me, Gareth Porter.

Porter: Well, first of all I think the question of whether Amiri was, in fact, a double-agent or what is called in the spy trade a “dangle” is clearly still open, not at all answered yet. The question remains unanswered. I think the question that is most troubling to the CIA itself is that he was an unvetted person who was a walk-in. I’m told he was a walk-in in Turkey, where a lot of Iranians approach U.S. intelligence with offers of information and to be agents and so forth. So it was a logical place to have a walk-in, but also a logical place for the Iranians to have a dangle.

And the fact is that the CIA didn’t really know very much about him when they took him on, apparently, as an agent, you know, as a source, some time ago — we don’t know exactly when. But then the fact that he actually decided to leave Iran and come to the United States without his family is a major issue, a major question that remains unclear as to what that means. I mean it certainly is a danger signal for anybody who would be in a position to make a decision about whether, in fact, this is a sign of being a double agent.

So I’m simply saying that that’s something we don’t know yet, and I think the CIA people who have been observing what happened with Amiri are very concerned about this. But now I think the bigger question is, “What, in fact, did he tell the CIA when he was in touch with them and reporting, supposedly, on what he knew about the Iranian nuclear program?

Horton: Right, now hold on to that for a second, because you’re right, that is the question. But before that is the preliminary question, which is in regards to especially your follow-up article here, which is that you have’s Philip Giraldi — he’s also a contributing editor at the American Conservative magazine, former CIA officer, former DIA officer — you have him, in this article, saying that he’s talking to CIA guys that are telling him what?

Porter: The CIA contacts that he has, who are people he says who are really in the know, who are knowledgeable about the Amiri case completely, are telling him that what Amiri said to the CIA was that there is no Iranian nuclear weapons program. Now, this has to be – we have to start with the fact that he was clearly extremely marginal to the Iranian nuclear program. He was a scientist who may have been a physicist but was not really working on any of the aspects of nuclear physics that have to do with the Iranian nuclear program.

Horton: Is that part of the indication that he was just a dangle, that they wouldn’t be able to get any real information out of him, but he would be able to report back to the Iranians, “Well, this is what they apparently know because this is what they asked me.”

Porter: I would say that is a perfect indication that the chances are that he was indeed working for the Iranian intelligence agency, but of course, again, this has to be still a supposition at this point.

Horton: Right.

Porter: No question about it, he would be a perfect candidate from their point of view because he really didn’t know anything. There was no danger that he was going to spill the beans in the United States. At the same time, he could pick up valuable intelligence about what the United States did and didn’t know. So that is indeed, I think, a serious question mark about the case.

But he also was somebody who, according to the sources that Giraldi has still within the CIA, he knew some people who were nuclear scientists who were telling him that, indeed, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. And so it was on that basis that he was reporting this to the CIA, and again I’m told by Giraldi that his sources are saying that his contribution was a minor contribution, but nevertheless a contribution to the overall judgment by the CIA in its new intelligence assessment that Iran does not, in fact, have an active nuclear weapons program.

Horton: Oh, wow, well, so — geez, there’s too many questions, and everything you say leads to like ten things. But let’s stay on that for a second. The new NIE, this is the thing that Newsweek especially has been reporting about all this pressure on the CIA and the National Intelligence Council —

Porter: It’s probably like you said, “spin reporting,” but anyway, yes.

Horton: Yeah. Well, you know, either way it’s “Newspeak” magazine. But Hosenball and Michael Hirsh too both had something that said that, you know —

Porter: Right. You know Newsweek has been peddling this idea that the intelligence community is in the process of reversing its position on the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program active.

Horton: And now you’re telling me that from what you know, and you say in this article too that you have a separate source who’s seen at least an initial draft…

Porter: That’s right.

Horton: …of this new NIE, and that what it actually says is that they still stand by the NIE of 2007’s conclusions.

Porter: They basically still stand by it. They’re going to introduce some language that it’s not — we don’t know exactly what the language is, but you know it reflects, obviously, things that have happened since 2007; the Qom or Fordow site, the second enrichment site, and other things that have happened which will be presenting a rather subtle, complex presentation of the changes that have taken place, but not essentially change that conclusion; that’s correct.

Horton: Awesome, that’s the best news I’ve heard in so long.

Porter: It is good news, and what is important to understand here is just how much pressure the intelligence community has been under, politically, to introduce some language that would be indicative of something that could be used against Iran. And this pressure is coming, of course, initially from Israel. Israel is the primary moving force behind it. But they have lined up France, Germany and the United Kingdom in service of that aim.

So basically you’ve got an international coalition of states who are allies of the United States — or in the case of Israel, not an ally but obviously a client — who are saying to the United States, “Now you’ve got to change this 2007 intelligence finding because it is politically impossible to move Iran as long as you’re saying that it doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program.”

And so the political pressure has been intense. It has been coming for the last couple of years. It has stepped up in 2009 and 2010. It is particularly focused, of course, on the news media. And if you go through the stream of stories, as I did in this article for IPS, what you find is that the quality media — New York Times, Washington Post, particularly — have reflected the international coalition’s pressure on the United States perfectly in their coverage of this issue.

Horton: Well you know you brought up France and the UK’s involvement in that on the KPFK interview on Friday, and now I’m remembering Hosenball talking about the Germans and the Israelis pushing, but I guess I wasn’t aware about the France and UK role in that. But we’ll get back to that when we get back from the break. It’s Gareth Porter.

* * * * *

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. I’m talking with Gareth Porter. And now, Gareth, you’re saying that the British and the French too are in with the Israeli-German plot to try to pretend that the CIA and the rest of the intelligence agencies in America need to revise their 2007 estimate that the Iranians do not have a nuclear weapons program to say that, “Yeah, in fact they do now.”

Porter: Yeah, I’m not in touch with any of these intelligence agencies, the British, French, Germans, or the Israelis, by any means. But all this is based on a lot of secondary sources which report the fact that these intelligence agencies have in fact lined up against the 2007 NIE and have been basically saying that they disagree with the assessment for the last few years.

Horton: Well, and what you’re telling me is that the CIA is saying that, “No, they got nothing.”

Porter: Well they don’t. I mean, the fact is that these agencies really don’t have any reporting that they have come up with that anybody has sort of reported on in the media or otherwise that indicates that there is any intelligence that contradicts the 2007 NIE report on this. Basically they’re trying to suggest that there’s an interpretation of the data that they’ve come up with that contradicts it. But there’s no hard evidence at all.

For example, the German BND, the German intelligence agency, has come up with a position that suggests that the Iranians were basically carrying out a nuclear weapons program on the basis that there were procurement items that they came up with that indicate that. These procurement items were dual-use procurement items. And so this is clearly an analysis that is simply based on circumstantial evidence that is not dispositive at all. This is typical, I think, of the kind of arguments that these agencies have been making. And the CIA didn’t buy it in 2007; they’re not buying it today.

Horton: All right now, at the same time, though, the CIA are the worst villains on earth, and according to this guy — which maybe is a double agent and he’s just spreading anti-American propaganda, but he goes, “Yeah, they tried to force me to say that I had a laptop that had a bunch of proof of a secret nuclear weapons program on it.” And that rings true to me, Gareth Porter.

Porter: Well, you know, I don’t know what the CIA said to him, whether they encouraged him to say things that were damaging or not. You know, my tendency is to doubt that for the following reason: These people in the CIA who were handling him, basically are accountable for the kind of information they’re coming up with.

Horton: Ha! Somebody at the CIA’s accountable for what now?

Porter: They’re accountable to people in the CIA at a higher level for the information they’re coming up with. You know, if they’re going to feed in stuff that is completely phony, then they’re going to have to explain the circumstances and so forth. I just tend to doubt that he was being told this by the people who were debriefing him.

Horton: Well, unless the order came from the top down, right? “This is what they want us to do.”

Porter: Yeah, but in fact the people who are handlers, who are familiar with the handling of Amiri, are reporting exactly the opposite; that what he was saying was, “There’s no nuclear program.” So I just don’t think that the people at that level are the ones who are interested in peddling that thesis. I think that that’s coming from an entirely different place in the U.S. government. I think it’s coming from the National Security Council and from the Pentagon and from certain parts of the State Department.

Horton: The thesis that what?

Porter: That the Iranians are trying to get nuclear weapons, and that they in fact have an active weaponization program. I think that this is not coming from within the intelligence community, essentially.

Horton: Right, well, yeah, because based on all the evidence they’re not.

Porter: Yeah. And I think we know that there are people in the Pentagon, starting with Gates himself — we know there are people in the White House national security staff, including Gary Seymour who is a hard liner, who is pushing for giving more prominence to the military option, as is Gates — these are the people who we have very good reason to believe are pushing the line that Iran is going after nuclear weapons and has weaponization programs. I don’t think it’s coming from the intelligence community, and the evidence in my article is basically that we know the way the analytical community is coming down is not to the liking of these people.

Horton: I’m Scott Horton, I’m talking with Gareth Porter. The two articles in question are “Clues Suggest Amiri Defection Was an Iranian Plant,” that’s at right now, and then the brand new one, which will be there probably by the time most people hear this in mp3 format later, is called “Amiri Told CIA Iran Has No Nuclear Bomb Program.” And now in this follow-up piece, you point out that the Washington Post is quoting the NCRI about this guy Amiri and what his skills were, is that right? And what’s NCRI?

Porter: The Post wasn’t simply citing some Internet site where the NCRI posted an analysis — or not an analysis, a statement — but actually did an interview with somebody from NCRI; they actually quote a specific individual who is an official of the NCRI. And this is a bit of a shock to me that the Washington Post at this late date would still be seeking out the people who are anti-regime terrorists and people who are known to be conduits for the Israelis as far as so-called “intelligence” is concerned, and quoting them as a source on what Amiri is actually saying. I think that is really sort of scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of lack of professionalism in American journalism.

Horton: Yeah, well, and what they have the NCRI saying is accusing, or claiming that Amiri “has been associated with sensitive nuclear programs for at least a decade.”

Porter: Right, and this is the idea that has now spread across American journalism, thanks to, basically I think, journalists who have an agenda because of their own personal convictions, because of the people that they talk to a lot basically telling them that this is the case, that Iran is looking for a nuclear weapon. The hard-liners in the U.S. and these other countries obviously share that view. And the journalists tend to go along with that. That’s the atmosphere in which they operate. That’s the sea in which they swim, politically.

And so I think these are journalists in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Associated Press, ABC News — these are people who tend to mirror, to reflect the political views of the people that they deal with day to day. And so I think that it’s their own personal convictions that have shaped this story, reflecting the pressure on the United States intelligence services to come up with a conclusion that would serve the interests of this coalition.

Horton: Well, for example, David Sanger — you cite him here directly contradicting what you’re reporting today. You say you have sources, which by the transitive property of Gareth Porter’s trust that I trust, that say that they’ve seen the drafts of this NIE and they’re not going to back away, or they’re going to be very careful in the new National Intelligence Estimate. Here’s David Sanger in the New York Times basically laying the groundwork, or the trial balloon or whatever, for the exact opposite conclusion, which is that they’re bending over backwards to please the Israelis because that’s I guess what David Sanger wants.

Porter: That’s what Sanger wants. Sanger’s a special case. I mean, he, more than anybody else in the U.S. news media, has a personal mission — and has had a personal mission for years now — to discredit the judgment of the 2007 NIE on the Iranian nuclear issue, and he has been pursuing that with a vengeance every chance that he’s had.

And I’ve lost count of the number of articles he’s done, but I would guess it’s on the order of 16 or 17 articles over the past 2½ years on this subject.

He has basically done everything possible to suggest that the NIE was wrong on this, and that everybody who knows anything knows this, and that it’s only a few stubborn people at the CIA who are resisting this conclusion that Iran is indeed going for weaponization of a nuclear weapon.

Horton: And actually though, over these years you and I have catalogued pretty much each and every one of these claims of his in the New York Times, and none of them amount to anything. It’s a pile of zeroes. You know 0 times 16 or 17 is still zero, isn’t it?

Porter: It really is. He really does not have any evidence that he can put forward, and so what he ends up doing, for example in this story that I cite in my own article, he uses this very strange language to characterize and say that the United States is implicitly admitting that it’s backing away gradually from the conclusion of 2007.

Horton: Yeah, well, anyway, y’all can keep David Sanger, I’ll keep Gareth Porter. Thanks, man.

Porter: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Horton: We’ll be right back.

Bruce Fein


Bruce Fein, author of American Empire: Before the Fall, discusses the domestic consequences of foreign empire, the very fast transition from republic to empire in American history, the changing of the presidency from chief executive to permanent war commander, the simple truth that terrorism is a reaction to, not the reason for American interventionism in the Middle East, Faisal Shazad’s explanation of how this works to a federal judge in New York recently, an example of how empire’s bring themselves down, the morality and effectiveness of a peaceful state with an explicit nuclear deterrent, the long, long list of new powers claimed by the president since 9/11 and the secrecy surrounding it all, the war powers of the presidency as the core of our problem, the Washington D.C. imperial court, how to restore the republic and why we have to try.

MP3 here. (29:02)

Bruce Fein was Associate Deputy Attorney General and General Counsel to the Federal Communications Commission under President Reagan and author of The American Empire: Before the Fall.


Transcript – Scott Horton Interviews Bruce Fein July 19, 2010

Scott Horton: All right y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton, and our next guest is Bruce Fein. He was the Associate Deputy Attorney General and General Counsel to the Federal Communications Commission under Ronald Reagan, and he is the author of the book American Empire: Before the Fall. Welcome to the show, Bruce. How are you?

Fein: I’m doing well. Thank you for inviting me, Scott.

Horton: Well, I really appreciate you joining us here. So basically the book is structured around the farewell address of the first President, George Washington; a speech on July 4, 1821, I think it was, by John Quincy Adams; and of course the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And you take these as a mandate from the founders of the American federal government – the general government, as they called it back then – to stay out of the world’s affairs.

Fein: I think that’s a fair approximation. I call these the charter documents. The philosophy is the United States of America is about protecting and securing the blessings of liberty for Americans, that the influence of America abroad was by the force of example – period. No entangling alliances. We build defenses, defenses, defenses for United States citizens alone. If people want to volunteer to do Good Samaritan work abroad, that’s up to them. But the government of the United States has no right or authority to coerce an American to spend a dollar to fight for the liberty of somebody who doesn’t owe their loyalty to the United States.

And the reason why – although it seems to some as callous – the Founding Fathers undertook this particular posture was because when you go abroad in search of monsters to destroy – as John Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State put it –you destroy the Republic. All power concentrates in the president. All due process is shattered. The money, the taxes, the contracts, the appointments, the desire for fame and remembrance – all pushes the President to inflate fear, to concoct excuses for war, and to destroy individual liberty at home in the name of having some particular obelisk built.

The Founding Fathers knew the executive branch was vulnerable to that temptation because that was their entire experience in observing the history of Europe prior to the Revolutionary War. It was the European monarchs that would fight for trivial causes. The Founding Fathers said, “No! We must stay away from these entanglements because it will destroy our republic.”

Horton: Well now, I guess it could be argued – I think I would argue – that the American state has really been at war since they created its power to raise armies and put taxes on people, and they hardly ever stopped. I mean, a lot of times we act like the Age of Empire began maybe when they stole Hawaii or something like that, but I think Noam Chomsky on this show called that the “saltwater fallacy,” and they waged war to seize this continent.

Fein: I think that that is an incomplete examination. I do think it’s fair to say that up until the Mexican-American War, the United States did expand – like the Louisiana Purchase that bought the land from Napoleon, from the French – and there certainly were clashes with Indians, but the major issue that destroyed the Republic is the legal architecture of war.

When you formally declare war, that’s the silence of the rule of law and the subordination of individual liberty. Up until the Mexican-American War – we did fight the War of 1812 over impressment and neutrality; the British had attacked, and they ultimately burned Washington on that occasion; but that was a war declared by the Congress of the United States. But until the Mexican-American War, I do not believe that we were using the legal architecture of war to justify the destruction of checks and balances and the securing of the unalienable right to life, liberty, and [the] pursuit of happiness, which is the goal of all government.

It was the Mexican-American War and this rather ridiculous idea of “manifest destiny” and a crusading spirit of bringing to all of the world United States’ values and free enterprise that launched us on the trajectory towards empire that now has reached its zenith, post-911, where we now have a military force in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which, if that ratio to the enemy was used in World War II, we would have had 3.4 billion Americans fighting Germany and Japan – which means multiplying the population by twenty-five and conscripting every one of them.

And I do believe that it was because the successors to the founding generation after Quincy Adams forgot the lessons, the creed of the founding Republic, that led them into this enterprise of domination for the sake of domination. That’s what we’ve got to get away from.

Our pride has to be in securing freedom for Americans, making us a more perfect union, and hoping the rest of the world, by emulation, may wish to copy us – but if not, that’s up to the rest of the world. We still have a union that treasures liberty – the individual as the center of the universe, not the government.

Horton: Well, and it’s fair enough that you focus on the consequences for the American people because, one, the American people don’t seem in majority, or in large measure anyway, to care about the lives of foreigners at all, so never mind the Indians or the Iraqis or the Pakistanis and what it’s like for them.

But you’re confronting one of the foundational myths of our entire civic religion in this society, which is that you and I couldn’t even be having this conversation if it wasn’t for the Army killing Iraqis, and that, you know, it’s good for the economy, etc. – that all this empire is for us, that we benefit from it, it’s why we have the Bill of Rights – it’s not the biggest threat to the Bill of Rights. That’s what the people are told to believe on TV all day.

Fein: Yeah. Well, and of course the fact is [that] empires ultimately end up in self-destruction because the arrogance and the duplicity of their motivations cause resentment and what you might call “blowback,” which is exactly what, largely, Osama bin Laden/al Qaeda is about.

It’s very striking, Scott, that if you examine the reported colloquy that was had in a New York Federal District Court up in the Southern District of New York recently between Faisal Shahzad – he was the individual who pled guilty to having the car with a bomb in New York Times Square – and the attempted conspiracy, if you will, to kill Americans – and he was asked by the judge when he pled guilty, “Well, why did you do this?” He said, “Well, we are at war with Islam; that’s what the Afghanistan and Pakistan wars are about.” And she said, “Well, but why are you killing women and children if it’s a war?” And he says, “Well, your drones don’t make any distinction when they come crashing into Afghanistan and Pakistan between women and children – they kill anybody. So why are we to play by Queensberry rules where you engage in atrocities?” And she didn’t have an answer for that.

And this was an individual – Faisal – who was a U.S. citizen. He didn’t say, “I hate American liberty.” He didn’t say that he despised the fact that women didn’t have headscarves on or burqas that caused him to do what he did. It was retaliation for exactly what we’re doing abroad.

This is the stupidity – we are creating a hundred new enemies for every drone that kills one militant, if we even know how to define a militant. This is quite stupid, but that’s the stupidity of empire – ultimately to destruction, like Rome, the Ottomans, the British, etc.

Horton: In fact I just interviewed a writer, a journalist named Stephan Salisbury, about some of these entrapment cases, these bogus terrorism cases since September 11th. And he talks about how the informants always use Israeli policy, American policy in the Middle East as their talking points to try to provoke these people into saying something stupid into an open microphone so that they can be prosecuted. And they don’t ever say, “Don’t you hate it that women can wear skirts to a primary election?” Or something like that. They always say, “Look at what’s going on in the West Bank! How can you not fight back?” That’s what the provocateur says to entrap.

Fein: Yeah, exactly! Because they know that, no, even if these people don’t necessarily embrace the American form of democracy, they don’t wake up each day and think, “Oh, I’m so angry that someone has freedom, that a woman can go to school.” That’s ridiculous! They don’t care about that 5,000 miles away from Afghanistan or Pakistan. It’s a concoction made to dupe the American people into thinking that these are non-human beings and that there will be a caliphate in Washington D.C. unless we’re sending Predator drones into their wedding parties.

Horton: Right, and that is the strength of this book. Again, it’s called American Empire: Before the Fall. And it seems like we are really pretty much at least at the top of the decline here. It seems like the apex of American power was in the last administration. I think Pat Buchanan wrote that the “high tide” was Fallujah, when they turned us back, basically. It was a giant massacre for nothing.

All right, so hang on the phone, Bruce. It’s Antiwar Radio. The music’s playing, we’ll go out to break, and we’ll come back and talk more about this excellent book – I really recommend you all run out and get it – American Empire: Before the Fall. It’s Antiwar Radio.

* * * * *

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. I’m talking with Bruce Fein. He’s the author of the brand new book, American Empire: Before the Fall.

Now I want to ask you to kind of catalog, as you do so well in the book, the degradation of even the theory of the rule of law as binding the power of anybody in the government at all.

But first I want to pick a fight with you about what you say about how America should be unilaterally at peace – abandon collective security and all that stuff – and we should be unilaterally at peace, but we should threaten nuclear annihilation against anyone who ever attacks us. But it seems to me like, at the very worst, if we respond to somebody that attacks us, it should be proportional, not nuclear annihilation of women and children and other men who had nothing to do with the decisions of their politicians. That’s not any more fair than Iraq or Iran nuking us now for what we did to them.

Fein: Well, obviously you’ve got to – look, the purpose here of the threat is to try to deter war in the first instance. That’s the greatest tragedy.

Horton: Yeah, but then if somebody attacks us, we got to nuke ’em.

Fein: It’s hard to argue. Take, for example, Scott – was Hiroshima and Nagasaki disproportionate to Pearl Harbor and all the deaths that had happened in the interim?

Horton: Yes.

Fein: The main success is deterring war in the first instance. You want to promise, in my view, that someone who is the aggressor – and this is an aggressor state. An attack/war is not an individual who comes in and says, “I hate America” – that doesn’t justify a war response. I’m talking about an attack that’s an existential attack like Pearl Harbor with a country that’s got millions of people in the armed forces – Japan ultimately had over 10 million – a huge industrial base – that you want to prevent this catastrophe that comes in the first instance by saying, “Then you’re going to lose all of your power. Your country will be annihilated.” That’s the goal there.

Now you may disagree with regard to whether it will be effective. I think that’s far more beneficent towards mankind, to prevent war in the first instance, than saying, “Well, if you attack us, even if it’s unprovoked, we’ll only go back, and so you’ll suffer the same amount as we did.” I think that would be more encouraging to warfare, but we can debate that.

But I want to go back, if I can – well, I don’t want to cut you off. You may have a response to mine. It’s not fair for me to just say it without you responding to my observation.

Horton: Well, I mean, I would agree with you that the deterrence of having thousands of hydrogen bombs does work to prevent major-power war. It has worked. But it seems like at the same time we could absolutely annihilate the capital city of any major power that ever attacked us without nukes even. I mean, they’ve got all kinds of conventional weapons that can make life hell for anyone in the world without actually fusing hydrogen atoms together over their cities, you know?

Fein: Yes. Well, okay, let’s move on. I think we both agree that, whatever purposes, our posture ought to be defense and deterring war, not preemptive war.

Horton: Certainly. Now go ahead, go ahead, because time is limited.

Fein: Yeah. This would be just a catechism of all the lacerations of the rule of law. One, when war comes, the president claims – and he is claiming – a unilateral authority to identify Americans abroad who he says are an imminent danger and have them wiped out by assassination squads. We have one member that President Obama has identified as a U.S. citizen in Yemen who’s on the hit list for assassination. It’s a little bit like Vladimir Putin’s killing of one of his opponents, Mr. Litvinenko, in London with polonium-211.

The President then claims authority he can detain any American citizen, or noncitizen, without accusation, without a trial, as a so-called “enemy combatant.” So you just sit there and rot. It goes back to the days, pre-Magna Carta, where King John would throw people in the dungeon without any accusation to let them sit there until they turned into vassals or otherwise.

Then he claims the authority to use these military commissions, which combine judge, jury, and prosecutor in a single branch, for alleged “war crimes,” which include activities such as “conspiring to train in a terrorist training camp” even if you’ve never threatened an American at any time or any place. And military commissions are about as procedurally irregular as the Spanish Inquisition.

Then he claims he has absolute power, in fighting the war against international terrorism, to spy on us without warrant – that he’s gathering military intelligence on the battlefield when he undertakes this collection because with terrorism it can occur anywhere, so the geography of war is not limited, it’s everywhere on the planet. And he can collect “battlefield intelligence” with group warrants, or without warrants whatsoever.

He also claims the authority to act in secrecy. Congress has no ability to even subpoena a member of the executive branch and inquire as to how they’re running war. Which is of course is an enormously menacing proposition. We have government in secrecy instead of transparency. And we know that secrecy breeds abuses.

Let’s just think for a minute, Scott, about these Predator drones slamming into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Neither you, nor me, nor the audience, nor anyone in Congress, has any idea, how do these targets get selected? We read in the newspapers, “12 militants killed, and maybe some civilians.” Well how do we know there were 12 militants that were killed? Where’s the proof that that was accurate information? Where did you get it? Were the informants who you paid $10,000 the ones who you relied upon? Is the accuracy the same as the accuracy for detainees at Guantanamo Bay? Where 5 or 6 out of 7 get released once a court has an opportunity to examine the evidence, even if a bunch of it’s classified?

So this is basically running government in secrecy, which is the opposite of government by the consent of the governed. How can the people consent to government activity if you don’t even know what it is?

And this is truly, perhaps, the most destructive element of our entire constitutional system that has come into play with the so-called “war against international terrorism.” It’s all in secret. And I don’t know whether you read in today’s front page of the Washington Post about our new intelligence leviathan out there.

Horton: Yeah it was about [inaudible] part about how it says they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space. It’s the new post-9/11 only – never mind post-World War II – national security state, Bruce.

Fein: Yes, that’s right. And a million people with Top Secret security clearances that don’t even talk to each other. And what has resulted? You know, the recipients, the users, say this is useless. It doesn’t even give us any information that enables us to defeat the enemy, if you will, the terrorists. It’s utter and complete mindlessness, but you can imagine all the information that’s captured about American citizens, you know – to what end? Other than just make government bigger and giving them control over your life.

So that’s another element of the rule of law. And I suppose perhaps the most egregious comes to this issue of how we get into war in the first instance.

The Founding Fathers universally agreed that only Congress could be trusted with deciding whether to initiate war, because the president has such a temptation to concoct danger in order to get into clashes because war gives the President the taxes, the money, the contracts, the appointments, the fame, the jingoism that he thinks will let him profit politically and leave his mark in the footprints of time. And that was the statement of even the most aggressive proponent of the strong executive, Alexander Hamilton – the legislative branch decides on war or peace.

And now we’ve come in the empire phase where, no, the president unilaterally decides whether to go to war, or Congress delegates to the president, like the Iraqi War Resolution, “You decide, Mr. President, whether to go to war.” Same thing happened in the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Same thing happened in Korea – President Truman unilaterally decided to call the Korean War a “police action” and said, “We don’t need any authority from Congress to fight this.”

Horton: Well let me ask you now, Bruce, is there any chance I can keep you for another 10-minute segment here?

Fein: Yes, you can.

Horton: Okay, great, hang on the line. Everybody, I’m talking with Bruce Fein. He used to be a lawyer in the Ronald Reagan administration, wrote the articles of impeachment of Bill Clinton, and wrote the book, American Empire: Before the Fall. We’ll be right back.

* * * * *

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton, and I’m talking with Bruce Fein. He’s the author of American Empire: Before the Fall. And you know, for those of you who have somebody that you’re trying to get the anti-empire point across to, this might be the one. In fact, I’m pretty sure this book will go down in history as part of the story of “Some Americans tried to fight this.”

But anyway, let me share a little bit of the table of contents with you guys:

One: Empire Without a Cause.

Two: How Far the Republic Has Fallen – From Lexington and Concord to the Korangal Valley.

Three: The Nation’s Charter Documents.

Four: America’s Descent into Empire: From the Mexican-American War to World War II.

Five: Twin Myths of the American Empire.

Six: Crucifying the Rule of Law on a National Security Cross.

And I’m going to skip ahead here to Chapter Nine: Restoring the American Republic. Bruce, how do you propose to do that?

Fein: Well, in some sense the ultimate solution, if you will, lies in the American people. We The People are still sovereign. It’s the first three words of the Constitution of the United States.

We have to insist, by our votes and by our opinions, that we withdraw all of our troops from abroad. Our military posture should be a thoroughly defensive one. We can spy and gather intelligence for defensive purposes, but we shouldn’t have a single soldier on any foreign soil.

We’ve got to renounce this idea that the President is there to make us safe. No, he’s there to give us freedom, along with Congress.

We have to restore checks and balances. We have to make certain that a member of Congress is not elected who will not impeach a president for unilaterally initiating war, who would not impeach a president if he withholds information and testimony from Congress, who will insist that we have a government that places the individual at the center of the universe, that protects privacy, that views the thrill of stealth government and transparency as the earmark of the United States, that differentiates us from citizens who are vassals and serfs of a leviathan at the federal level.

And that’s going to mean civic education. It’s going to mean a promotion of the idea that it is not great to dominate for the sake of domination. That is not the earmark of the destiny of the United States and of the Republic.

It’s America for Americans, not because we’re callous but because we recognize that by going abroad in search of monsters to destroy, we would destroy the Republic for ourselves. And the American people need to embrace this. We have to reject as a people the idea that absolute safety is what we crave more than anything else. We have to recognize that you have to take some limited degree of risk, because everybody is capable of evil – that is, no one can go and swear on Korans or Bibles or whatever that it’s impossible for them to do wrong.

That doesn’t mean we stick everybody in prison but that freedom and liberty thrive when there’s some measurable prudent risk out there that you can have a Timothy McVeigh. And that has got to be the creed of the United States of America.

Right now, Scott, all of the language, the grammar is, “Safe, safe, safe, safe.” It doesn’t matter how much you destroy the whole purpose of the enterprise, of freedoms. Just tell me it’s gonna make me safe, even if it doesn’t. Body scanners, whatever.

And one of the ironies of the gathering of the more information that was disclosed to be useless in the Washington Post today – you know, what is the government saying? “Give us even more analysts.” You know? And this makes the problem even worse, by creating even more useless information. That’s the kind of bureaucratic big government mentality that has to be repudiated.

But in the long run it’s got to be a change in the political culture. And that was what was so vibrant and thrilling about the founding generation. The American people understood and craved liberty over domination for the sake of domination.

When the Latin Americans and South American colonials erupted against Portugal and Spain, the American people didn’t say, “We have to go over there and run interference and engage in warfare.” No, we wished them well, but otherwise we remained Americans. America has to come first.

Otherwise I think the changes – the things that can be done incrementally by changing the laws – will not have the sustaining power to return to the Republic.

Just think, for instance, we have laws, Scott, against torture which includes waterboarding, which the president himself has said is torture. They don’t go enforced because we lack the political will to say, “Hey, this is the rule of law. If you want to pardon somebody and take accountability for committing torture, go ahead. But the president doesn’t have the authority to just ignore enforcing the law because he thinks it’s politically inconvenient.”

Horton: Well, yeah, and they’d have to repeal the Eighth Amendment to legalize torture, anyway, right?

Fein: They would have to do that, yeah. Or I suppose Congress could try to at least eliminate maybe criminal penalties, which they haven’t tried to do.

But that’s what the culture is about here in terms of restoring the Republic to what it was envisioned by the founding generation. We can’t just blame the individual leaders. We can complain about it, but it’s up to us to throw them out of office,  to give them a stigma. This is simply not acceptable.  Wedo not want the United States dropping Predator drones on wedding parties because there’s a one trillionth percent chance that someone might be a baby Osama bin Laden growing up in Kabul in the next 50 years coming as an individual and try to commit a terrorist attack.

No! We’re more than that. We care more about our freedom. We care more about transparency in government.  Even if it does [mean] taking some risks than it does domination for the sake of domination. The latter is the earmark of tyranny. It’s the earmark of the lion and the tiger in the jungle, just wanting to try to beat and brutalize and dominate for the thrill that’s rather visceral, a feeling that you’re the first guy on the block.

Horton: Well you know I think a lot of people would, you know, if you were one of the guys they talk to on TV all the time about these things, I think you could win people over to your position. In terms of what the people really want, I mean they’re mostly unconcerned with foreign policy anyway, but if you could truly offer them peace, I think they’d take it.

But what about the imperial court? You know, William S. Lind said on this show that you shouldn’t even call it Washington D.C.; it is simply an imperial court. And there are bazillions of uncounted, printed dollars flowing to specific extremely rich and powerful private interests that control the empire. And how are Americans supposed to believe that they can do anything about that? That’s why most people don’t care and don’t pay attention to these kinds of issues – it’s because they feel powerless. Why would they sit around and read all day if all they’re going to do is shrug and pout and it does them no good?

Fein: Well, Scott, it’s certainly true that it’s an uphill battle. But the process of struggle itself is its own reward.

Just think about the initial effort in the United States to abolish slavery. William Lloyd Garrison, born in the place that I grew-up in – Boston, Massachusetts – he formed The Liberator magazine in 1831. He was tarred and feathered, driven out. He said people told him just what you told me – “Oh, slavery. There are too many monied interests involved here. It’s profitable. The North lends money to the South. The South gets the tobacco. They grow agricultural products at cut-rate prices with slavery. It’s hopeless.”

Lloyd Garrison, he came back despite being tarred and feathered. He was there when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified – abolished slavery in 1865 – then he shut down The Liberator magazine.

It’s true. Oftentimes it seems hopeless. But the quest itself, to do what is right, to pay rewards to the Founding Fathers, who had the right philosophy, has to be its own reward. You do it anyway even if it seems hopeless, like Lloyd Garrison did, because everything else would be ignoble. That’s why we fought at Valley Forge. It didn’t seem we were going to have a victory around the corner, but we persisted and ultimately prevailed.

But in some sense, Scott, even if we fail, it was worth it. Our legacy is our immortality in terms of the philosophy that will be there in future generations and maybe be taken up in more propitious times to carry the beacon of freedom and liberty, the way the Founding Fathers understood it to be there. That’s why we can never despair. We can never yield simply because it looks hopeless. We always fight and be uncompromised in our principles in knowing why we’re here between ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

Horton: Wow. So that’s Bruce Fein. He worked for Ronald Reagan in the Justice Department back in the ’80s. He wrote up the articles of impeachment against the felon, William Jefferson Clinton, in the 1990s, and now he’s the author of the book American Empire: Before the Fall. And this is some really good stuff, y’all. I highly suggest you go out and read it. And I want to thank you very much for your time on the show today, Bruce.

Fein: I’m really thankful, Scott, and I appreciate your audience being so patient. Thanks again.

Eric Margolis


Eric Margolis, foreign correspondent and author of War at the Top of the World and American Raj, discusses the just released 2001 video of Benjamin Netanyahu mocking the stupidity of the 80% of Americans who support Israel and the ease with which Tel Aviv can dictate to Washington D.C., Netanyahu’s history of thwarting peace deals made by his predecessors and the neoconning of the Canadian media at the expense of our guest.

MP3 here. (16:11)

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times and Dawn. He is a regular columnist with the Quebecor Media Company and a contributor to The Huffington Post. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.

As a war correspondent Margolis has covered conflicts in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Sinai, Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was among the first journalists to ever interview Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and was among the first to be allowed access to KGB headquarters in Moscow. A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq.

Margolis is the author of War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet and American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.

Gareth Porter


Gareth Porter, independent historian and journalist for IPS News, discusses the creation of the Emergency Committee for Israel, UN Security Council resolutions demanding Iran cease all uranium enrichment, global support for Iran’s position and the Israel Lobby’s pressure to have the National Intelligence Council re-write the National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007 which held that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program and had not decided to pursue one.

MP3 here. (12:47)

Gareth Porter is an independent historian and journalist. He is the author of Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam. His articles appear on Counterpunch, Huffington Post, Inter Press Service News Agency and

Michael Hastings


Michael Hastings, freelance reporter, author of the book I Lost My Love in Baghdad and the article “The Runaway General” in Rolling Stone magazine – which brought down General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the Afghan War – discusses the rules of engagement for American forces in Afghanistan, public support for a timeline for withdrawal, the failure of the operation in the small town of Marja and the reluctance of Kandahar leaders to go along with repeat of the same in their city, the corruption and ineffectiveness of the Hamid Karzai regime, the current move to change from the ridiculous CNAS COIN doctrine of nation building to the less ambitious Joe Biden plan for endless targeted raids.

MP3 here. (17:49) Transcript below.

Michael Hastings is the author of I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story. In 2008, he covered the U.S. presidential elections for Newsweek, and before that he was the magazine’s Baghdad correspondent. His articles have appeared in GQ, Slate, Salon, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, LA Times, and other publications. His blog The Hastings Report focuses on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other foreign policy topics.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Michael Hastings July 14, 2010

Alan Minsky: And this is Alan Minsky, and I’m sitting in here for Suzi Weissman on Beneath the Surface, and I’m joined live in the studio by Scott Horton of We just heard an interview about Iran and Iranian issues with Gareth Porter, and now Scott is going to take us on a dialog with Michael Hastings about the situation in Afghanistan.

Scott Horton: Michael Hastings is a freelance journalist. He has written investigative pieces for GQ and most recently and most famously for Rolling Stone magazine. He’s the author of I Lost My Love in Baghdad. Welcome to the show, Michael, how are you doing?

Michael Hastings: Hey, Scott, man, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Horton: Well I appreciate you joining us today. Now, you know, your article made all these waves and of course cost Gen. McChrystal his job as commanding general of the Afghan war, but it seems like the only real lesson that was learned by the political class in DC was that the rules of engagement on our soldiers is far too restrictive, and reminiscent, really, of the myth of Vietnam that we could have won that war except that our guys had their arms tied behind their back by the politicians who wouldn’t let them fight.

Hastings: Well I think certainly the rules of engagement is an issue that Petraeus is saying he’s going to directly address, just to give the soldiers there a better ability to defend themselves. But I would say, actually, you know, the story did also spark this debate about the time-line. I think that’s really the key issue. I don’t see rules of engagement changing too much really, but I think this idea of the time-line of when we’re going to get out of there, people also started talking about that as well.

Horton: Well in fact I just saw a poll today that said that the majority of the American people are behind a time-line and even when the question is phrased, “no matter how bad it is there?” and they say, “Yes, no matter how bad it is there.”

Hastings: And I think that’s clear. I mean, even when Obama took office, the war had been sinking in popularity, and the fact of the matter is, the more attention that people focus on the war, the less popular it becomes. That was actually a comment that one of McChrystal’s senior advisers told me, so it’s no secret. And I think this is the sort of strategy going forward, if you can call it that, and what Petraeus has sort of proved he could do in Iraq, is that, you know, getting the war off the front page. That’s the goal, is to get the war off the front page, especially going into the 2012 election.

Horton: Well, and that was really the same thing that Petraeus said about Iraq, that it was all about adding time to the “Washington clock.”

Hastings: Exactly. And I think that’s what’s very interesting about the dynamics here. The war in Afghanistan has been going badly for a while but what we only start paying attention to when there’s some event in Washington that sort of focuses the policymakers’ attention on it there. It happened last summer when Gen. McChrystal’s strategic review was leaked, and it happened again just recently with the Rolling Stone story where it becomes this sort of Washington story and that’s what drives the news cycle and drives the attention. So what’s going on in Kabul that should be very relevant actually isn’t, in terms of how these decisions get made.

Horton: Yeah, well, it should be relevant also for the listeners though to make up their mind about how they feel about this, so why don’t you tell me whether you think that the Karzai government and the parliament that America has created in Kabul could last in a million years?

Hastings: I think, seriously, there’s questions about how credible and how stable the Karzai government is. I don’t think they’re in any danger of being overthrown. I think even if we had only 50,000 or 30,000 Western troops there, they would never be overthrown, because they have a lot of weight behind them. They have a fairly significant army and police force, even though it’s corrupt and not the greatest in the world by any stretch of the imagination. But they certainly are going to take all the support we’re going to give them. You know, if someone’s writing you a check for a billion dollars every week, there’s not much incentive for you to say, “Hey, you know, I like the billions, you know I’m buying new departments in Dubai, you know I spent last weekend at Wimbledon, so you know you guys should just cut out giving me all this money.” And that’s not going to happen.

Horton: Well, now, if for some reason they were so public spirited that they spent all the American tax money they were receiving on attempting to build this counterinsurgency-Western Europea-nation state that supposedly is the end goal here, is it possible, with all the ethnic divisions and the geography and everything else?

Hastings: I certainly think there is no precedent for it. I think when you talk to people, you know, the sort of policymakers, they’ll tell you this, they’ll say, “Look, Afghanistan was great in the ’70s, we’re going to try to turn the clock back to 1979.” I mean this is really the argument. But you look closer at the ’70s, you say, “Well, okay, there were, what, two coups and an invasion from a neighboring foreign power.” So if that’s your model, then I think you’re in a tough situation already. And certainly there’s no precedent for that sort of government getting established. As I said recently, “You know, look, it took 40 years for Americans to get into the World Cup. It’s going to take more than 40 years for Afghans to embrace democracy.”

Horton: Well, and also they’re in a situation where our guys are the redcoats and fighting colonials who are hiding behind rocks and then running away. And so there’s no set-piece battle where the Americans get to take out the Taliban. This is why McChrystal, I guess, had focused his strategy down to I guess basically taking the Delta Force and the Navy SEALs and using them to do these targeted night raids while then the rest of the Army is supposed to basically stand around like a bunch of traffic cops making friends with people or something.

Hastings: Well exactly. And that really rubs a lot of people on the ground there, the soldiers on the ground, the wrong way. And I think that’s fair enough. They didn’t sign up – you don’t sign up to the Marines because you want to be a cultural anthropologist. You know, I mean this is sort of stating the obvious, but I don’t think it can be said enough. And I remember last time we spoke about a month ago when all this stuff was going down with McChrystal, I was at the Kandahar air base, which is being attacked fairly regularly. So obviously there’s quite a bit of resistance, and the soldiers there feel like they’re not able to sort of fight back in the way they feel appropriate. Now the thing is, soldiers have always complained about rules of engagement, at least over the last five years or so, but I’d never seen it so widespread and so targeted at a particular individual.

Horton: Their distaste for McChrystal, you mean.

Hastings: Yeah. I mean, they liked him as a man, they just didn’t like this policy that he became so closely associated with. It’s not an accident that Petraeus’s first move was to very publicly say he’s going to review the rules of engagement.

Horton: Right.

Hastings: That was a move to build morale among American troops. How much are the rules of engagement really going to change, I don’t think that’s clear at this point. But certainly, you know, it got to a point where you’re literally telling the soldiers, “Look, we want you to go out on patrol and we don’t want you to get attacked, so we just want you to sort of be targets.” And I think that’s tough for the soldiers entirely. Obviously it should be a good policy – hey we’re not killing civilians, right? I mean that should obviously be the policy we want to pursue. But the reality is, if we’re there, civilians are going to be killed. And if we don’t want to kill civilians, we shouldn’t have 150,000 American troops there – I mean, Western European and American troops.

Horton: I’m Scott Horton and I’m talking with Michael Hastings, freelance reporter, who recently made big headlines with his article “The Runaway General” in Rolling Stone magazine, and now something that features pretty prominently in that article is the story of Marja, which started out as this, you know, I guess teaming metropolis of 80,000 people, and then it turned out that, no, maybe only 10,000 people lived there and they’re all just a few farmers and whatever, but this is still going to be kind of a showpiece of the new clear-hold-build-counterinsurgency-Center for a New American Security strategy. And yet the headline yesterday was they’ve sacked the new district commander, or whatever they called him, the guy that they had placed in charge there in Marja, and they’re going to try to start all over again, “government in a box” notwithstanding.

Hastings: Yeah, government in a box doesn’t work. And that should have been obvious to begin with. I think, you know, when we look at Marja, yeah Marja was supposed to be the set piece, it was supposed to be what they called “the proof of concept” for the Kandahar operation. It was clear to people on the ground, who were saying, “You know, things are not going well here. The Taliban are still coming back at night. The government in a box is not taking hold.” So that played very largely into the fact that the Kandahar operation, which was scheduled for the summer, has been delayed. And we often look at it through sort of this U.S. viewpoint, obviously. But the question is, well, why was Kandahar delayed? Okay, one, yeah, Marja was sort of a disaster and sort of was perceived as a disaster. And secondly, we went to Kandahar and we said to the people of Kandahar and the tribal leaders, “Hey, do you guys want a U.S. operation here?” They all said, “Hell, no,” which makes sense, especially if you’re a tribal leader who’s going to be running for office in September. You know, there are parliamentary elections in Afghanistan in September. So why would they do anything that’s going to upset the population, that would lose them votes? So we, as Americans, regularly, yet again, fail to understand the most basic of dynamics in Afghanistan. And I’m not some, you know, some expert, it’s just sort of like very kind of obvious things.

Horton: Yeah, well, it sounds like they have the strategy set up around the idea that the average resident of Kandahar wants to be invaded so that the Americans will come and get rid of all the bad guys, clear and hold the place. But you’re saying, “No, that’s not what they want, and the proof is right there in the tribal leaders who have to stand for election. They’re not going to take that gamble.”

Hastings: Certainly not when they’re up for – maybe they will agree to it, I think they’re going to have to agree to something, but that’s going to happen probably later in September. I spoke to one U.S. military official who described the Kandahar operation as “putting a noose around the city.” Those were his words, and meant in a way that I think was supposed to be positive. Where I think if you remember, if you live in Kandahar, when you hear the Americans saying they’re going to put a noose around the city, that does not necessarily inspire confidence. Not that there aren’t really bad people in Kandahar. That’s not the issue. But obviously it’s a minority, and you ask the average guy in wherever, they’re not going to want fighting in the streets.

Horton: Now there was a report that Gen. McChrystal’s last order before he went back to DC to be fired was to cease the night raids. Is that true?

Hastings: He had put out restrictions on night raids, I think it was earlier than that time, but there had been serious sort of restrictions that they were trying to place on the Special Forces community in particular. Again, that was also very controversial and there were certainly questions about whether Gen. McChrystal had not really had his heart in that order. But yeah, I think obviously if you are listening to Karzai, Karzai’s going to say, “Hey, people don’t like it.” I mean the fact that it took us nine years to figure out that people don’t like it when foreign troops come into your bedroom in the middle of the night and search through everything you’ve got, I mean that it took us nine years to realize that creates resentment, is a little astounding to me as well.

Horton: Well, you know, McChrystal actually says in there that he has this, I don’t know, the “McChrystal ratio” or something. For every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies. And I was just wondering, somebody ought to ask these people whether they think that counts going back in history or whether we should check.

Hastings: Well, exactly. And I think that’s an interesting, I think that’s probably true to a large extent. I think at the end of the day – look, you know, they kill – a lot of a innocent civilians were killed in Iraq during the surge, which was kind of considered sort of the, you know, the playbook for counterinsurgency enthusiasts to look at. And did that really have any impact in terms of what the final resolution was? Not really. I think what’s more important than limiting – I mean, obviously on a moral level, we should limit civilian casualities, but at the end of the day, counterinsurgency is a cold-blooded thing. Hearts and minds is sort of a PR phrase. And what matters is basically showing that you have power and coercing the native population to behave in a way you want them to behave. If tactically it’s advantageous not to kill civilians, then that’s what they’re going to do. If they think there are advantages to killing civilians, that’s what they’re going to do. I mean it’s all about showing that you have legitimate authority or that the acting government that you’re propping up has legitimate authority.

Horton: I think it was Kelley Vlahos who said it’s like trying to stick a round peg in a brick wall. Their counterinsurgency doctrine has failed, and Andrew Exum and the guys over at the Democrats’ PNAC, the Center for a New American Security, are already saying, “Well, you know, maybe we could do the Biden Plan where we just kind of do hunt-and-kill operations and never mind counterinsurgency.” It sounds like they’ve already admitted defeat, they just don’t want to call it that.

Hastings: Well I think that that’s what we’re fighting towards – the Biden Plan. Because eventually –

Horton: Well tell us what that is, the Biden Plan, please.

Hastings: The Biden Plan, essentially the idea is put like a limited number of ground troops, and you’re focused on counter-terrorism operations and training the Afghan army and police. Why can’t you do that and negotiate with the Taliban? You know, why can’t you have Richard Holbrooke in Pakistan negotiating with the Pakistanis to help with the Afghan Taliban while, you know, you’re propping up the government still, you’re giving the Special Forces guys enough to keep them busy, you’re giving the CIA enough to keep them busy? And you just don’t have this huge occupying force there that’s costing billions and billions of dollars. But essentially we are, the idea is we’re fighting to get into a stronger negotiating position, and we eventually will have to negotiate with the Taliban, and putting that off a few more years just to sort of prove some point that we saved face, I think, is rather suspect.

Horton: Well, yeah, I mean the theory is they’ll be weaker by the time a year and a half goes by and we can start the negotiations, but then again, if we take in that McChrystal ratio into account, we look at just the recent history, the more troops they’ve put in, the more resistance they have. I was just reading last week that at least by some estimates the Taliban control 60% of the country in the daytime and 80% at night, Michael.

Hastings: And this is the most violent year of the war so far. Now military planners hope that eventually we’ll hit this, you know, this inflection point where the violence will start to drop down, as we saw in Iraq. You know, there’s this sort of escalation of violence between 2007 and then by the time you get into like the middle or end of 2008, all of a sudden the violence sort of drops off precipitously. So that’s what they’re hoping for in Afghanistan. And that’s what they’re trying to achieve. But there’s no guarantee that that’s going to happen. I mean, I think everybody would hope that, you know, if they’re using this many resources and doing this, that the violence obviously drops and that they can find peace. But it seems like it’s one of these things where, you know, if peace is our goal, then why don’t we really start trying to get peace now rather than waiting a couple of years? That’s not very naive. I think it’s actually something that would be doable. Because the reason we don’t do it is because we don’t want to look weak and Obama doesn’t want to be accused of cutting and running, but I think the way to frame the debate would be, “Hey, we’re just changing our strategy to one that works and makes sense.” You know, it’s not about weakness, it’s not about saving face, it’s about doing something that actually makes sense.

Horton: Well, of course, they’ve already changed tactics and strategy so many times, that’s nothing but euphemism for admitting defeat before, why not admit it again, right?

Hastings: Well, I think it’s funny – I mean, it’s not funny in a ha-ha way, but if you go back to this idea of the Vietnam syndrome, right? We leave Vietnam in 1975 and the North Vietnamese take over the country. You know, and oh, it’s a huge defeat for American prestige. Yet five years later, according to the lore, it’s morning in America again and Reagan is at the height of America’s glory in the ’80s.

Horton: Well it did keep us out of any real overt wars until 1991, at which time they announce, “We beat the Vietnam syndrome! Finally the American people are behind the empire forever again.”

And we’re going to have to leave it there, I’m sorry, Michael. Everybody, that’s Michael Hastings from Rolling Stone magazine, GQ, and he’s a freelance reporter, writes for all kinds of people, and wrote really the biggest news story of the last few months anyway, “The Runaway General” in Rolling Stone magazine, that cost Stanley McChrystal his job as the top general in that war. Thanks very much for your time, appreciate it.

Hastings: Thanks, Scott. Appreciate it. Take care, man.

Alan Minsky: And this is Alan Minsky again, sitting in for Suzi Weissman on Beneath the Surface, and you just heard from Scott Horton and Now, folks, go to, they’ll find a lot of other material, am I correct, interviews you’ve done about the American war machine?

Horton: Yes, we keep all the foreign policy news from all around the world updated all day, every day, all of the best columnists from the left, right, libertarians, and everybody else, and as far as my radio show, yes, there are archives of hundreds of interviews going back to 2007 at

Minsky: That’s Scott Horton, and thank you so much for joining us on Issue of the Day, Scott. And we’re going to be right back, where we’re going to hear from political scientist Tom Ferguson and a little scoop that’s been provided to us from Paul the Octopus.

Leslie Lefkow


Leslie Lefkow, senior researcher and Horn of Africa team leader for Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division, discusses the recent history of conflict in Somalia, the rise of al Shabaab, the recent bombing attacks in Uganda, claimed by al Shabaab as retaliation against Uganda for participating in the African Union military force in Somalia, the humanitarian crisis, the American government’s suspension of food aid, and the blowback caused by U.S. intervention there.

MP3 here. (20:32)

Leslie Lefkow is senior researcher and Horn of Africa team leader for Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division. She has specialized expertise in investigating abuses in armed conflict, humanitarian crises, Sudan, and the Horn of Africa. She has conducted investigations for Human Rights Watch in Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Before joining Human Rights Watch, she worked for humanitarian organizations in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone. Lefkow is a graduate of Columbia Law School and Bryn Mawr College.

Elaine Cassel


Elaine Cassel, civil liberties attorney and author of The War on Civil Liberties: How Bush and Ashcroft have Dismantled the Bill of Rights, returns to Antiwar Radio to discuss the case of civil liberties lawyer Lynn Stewart, whose prison sentence was recently increased to 10 years in prison (probably life for a 70-year-old woman) the guideline infractions and material support and charges against her, why mouthing off to the judge at her previous sentencing was probably a bad idea, the chilling effect against the principle of fair legal representation represented by the Stewart case and others, the penalty increase case against Abu Ali who was tortured into confessing to a plot to murder George W. Bush by the Saudi government from 10 years to life in prison, the bogus trial he received in the first place, the lamentable fact that everything really did change after September 11th.

MP3 here. (29:11)

Elaine Cassel is a  civil liberties attorney and author of The War on Civil Liberties: How Bush and Ashcroft have dismantled the Bill of Rights.

Chase Madar


New York civil rights lawyer Chase Madar discusses the case of child-soldier-turned U.S. kidnapping-torture victim Omar Khadr, lousy PR victories from convictions of cooks and a chauffeur, bogus “war crimes” charges against someone accused of throwing a grenade on a battlefield, reasons to disbelieve that the kid threw the grenade in the first place, the tortured confession, the failure of the American people to insist on the old law, why the Canadian government doesn’t want the kid back and Jay Bybee’s job as a federal judge.

MP3 here. (20:45)

Chase Madar is a civil rights lawyer from New York.

Punk Johnny Cash


“Punk Johnny Cash,” veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and blogger at the, discusses movie portrayals of the marines, how basic training changes one forever, the modern epidemics of shell shocked vets and on-base violence, the similarity of the mindset of an enlisted man and a battered wife, examples of how they humiliate and break down new recruits in order to rebuild them and whether or not the U.S. needs to take over the planet Earth in the first place.

MP3 here. (20:22)

Punk Johnny Cash is a blogger for the

Flynt Leverett


Flynt Leverett, former Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council, discusses how Israel is getting all its ducks in a row for a 2011-2012 attack on Iran, the lack of evidence that Iran ever had a nuclear weapons program (even prior to 2003), the unsettling prospect that the US will go to war with Iran over uranium enrichment and why the delayed release of the new Iran NIE means there is some disagreement among the intelligence agencies.

MP3 here. (18:57) Transcript below.

Flynt Leverett directs the Iran Project at the New America Foundation, where he is also a Senior Research Fellow. Additionally, he teaches at Pennsylvania State University’s School of International Affairs.

Dr. Leverett is a leading authority on the Middle East and Persian Gulf, U.S. foreign policy, and global energy affairs. From 1992 to 2003, he had a distinguished career in the U.S. government, serving as Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council, on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, and as a CIA Senior Analyst. He left the George W. Bush Administration and government service in 2003 because of disagreements about Middle East policy and the conduct of the war on terror.

Dr. Leverett’s 2006 monograph, Dealing With Tehran: Assessing U.S. Diplomatic Options Toward Iran, presented the seminal argument for a U.S.-Iranian “grand bargain”, an idea that he has developed in multiple articles and Op Eds in The New York Times, The National Interest, POLITICO, Salon, Washington Monthly, and the New America Foundation’s “Big Ideas for a New America” series.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Flynt Leverett July 14, 2010

Scott Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio, I’m Scott Horton, and our first guest on the show today is Flynt Leverett. He directs the Iran Project at the New American Foundation, where he’s also a senior research fellow, and he teaches at Pennsylvania State University School of International Affairs. He’s a leading authority on the Middle East and the Persian Gulf and global energy affairs. From 1992 to 2003 he worked for the U.S. government serving as Senior Director for Middle East Affairs at the National Security Council, on the Secretary of State’s policy planning staff, and as a senior CIA analyst. He left the Bush administration in 2003 because of disagreements about Middle East policy and the conduct of the war on terror. I think particularly Iran policy was an issue there. Welcome to the show, Flynt, how are you?

Flynt Leverett: Hi, thanks for having me.

Horton: Well thanks very much for joining us. Okay, now, I talked with Gareth Porter last week, and I asked him, “Gareth, I’m hearing all these rumors about ships headed toward Iran and all this pressure and Israel trying to work out deals with the Saudis to use their air space or maybe make some bases out in the desert, these things, and yet they just passed the new sanctions. So it seems like if there’s going to be a conflict, a military conflict with Iran, it would have to be after, you know, I don’t know, a year or so of saying, ‘Well, I guess the sanctions didn’t work. We tried everything and now there’s no choice left but war.'” And Gareth said, “Yeah, that’s right. You know, we have time. It’s not that the danger is over. But don’t panic.” And then, almost as though Bill Kristol listens to my show, which I’m sure he doesn’t –

Leverett: I’m sure he does.

Horton: Oh, yeah, right. The next day or something, they came out, a couple days later they came out and said, “We’re creating the ‘Emergency Committee for Israel.'” The emergency apparently being Iran. What’s going on here?

Leverett: Well, I think I would largely agree with Gareth in terms of the timing of development. I think the deployment of the additional carrier battle group and other assets to the Gulf, I suspect that really is more a matter of rotational arrangements and logistical scheduling. I don’t think it portends, you know, an imminent decision on the part of the United States to use force against Iran. I also think the story about the Israelis reaching agreement with the Saudis to use their air space, overfly Saudi air space, to get the targets in Iran – you know, I suspect there is a certain amount of disinformation or what some call “informational operations” going on there.

Horton: It was in the London Times.

Leverett: Which is actually a pretty frequent venue for that kind of thing.

Horton: Yeah.

Leverett: But I think that there is something afoot. My own view is that the Israelis are in all probability not gearing up to strike Iran in the near term, not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, and in fact the Israelis are constrained to some degree because their own unilateral options for attacking targets in Iran from a military standpoint are relatively limited. The amount of damage that they could do in Iran is just pretty circumscribed. And I tend to think that the Israelis are playing a much longer game here. And I think you’re right, we now have these new sanctions in place that we’re going to need to go through six months, twelve months or so living with these sanctions until everyone is willing to acknowledge that they’re not having the desired effect. And I think the Israelis are playing a game, looking at a year down the road, 18 months, maybe two years down the road, when after more and more people come on board and say sanctions aren’t working, the Iranians are continuing to develop their fuel cycle capabilities, etc. – at that point, probably around the time that President Obama is gearing up for his own reelection campaign in a serious way, the Israelis can come back and say, “Okay, now we need to do something more coercive around the Iranian problem.” I think they’re sort of softening us up for, you know, say, 18 months from now.

Horton: Well now, what did you make of Obama’s statement to the Israeli press that, I guess apparently he had just come out of one meeting or another with Netanyahu, and then told the Israeli press, when asked, that, “Oh, I don’t think there’ll be any surprises. I think that, you know, if we, if there is ever going to be a war with Iran, Netanyahu and I will arrange it together,” basically.

Leverett: I think that is, in a way, what Obama was saying in that statement. I don’t think Obama would have said it if he didn’t feel like he had some kind of understanding with Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israel is not going to take unilateral action in the near term and that Israel is not going to surprise the United States on something this important and that he’s at least going to get to have another conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu before Israel would go down that road. I can’t imagine he would stake out that sort of position in public unless he felt he really did have that kind of understanding with Netanyahu, and I think this is part of the long game that Netanyahu and the Israelis are playing. They’re saying, in essence, “Yeah, we’ll let you see what these sanctions do. You can have time to see how these sanctions play out.” But Netanyahu has also put down markers in public that he doesn’t think the sanctions are going to work, and he’s also put down markers that, as the way he put it, “The only thing that has ever caused the Iranians to stop their nuclear program has been the perceived threat of U.S. military action,” not Israeli military action, but U.S. military action. And he’s shifting the onus, you know, if and when sanctions fail, and he thinks they probably will fail, the only thing that can really stop the Iranians is the threat of U.S. military action. And I think he’s putting all these pieces in place.

Horton: Well, which brings us back to the Emergency Committee for Israel. Is this a piece that Netanyahu is putting in place by way of Bill Kristol?

Leverett: I don’t think I would go so far as to say that Mr. Kristol and his associates are working at the direct behest of Prime Minister Netanyahu, but I’m sure that Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn’t mind the emergence of this group and I think it is going to be – there is going to be a campaign from the pro-Israel community in the United States. You know, they were very, very focused on getting the sanctions in place and AIPAC’s stated position has been, “We’re focused on getting new sanctions. We’re not urging military action for now.” And they’ve always put in that language, “for now.” But I think the next step is going to be to start hyping the threat, supposedly, that Iran poses to Israel, to start using every channel available and create new channels to drum that message home to the American public that, “Iran is bad, Iran is dangerous, Iran needs to be stopped, and in the end it’s really only the United States that can stop it.” I think you’re going to see an escalation in the delivery of that message through multiple channels from the pro-Israel community here in the United States over the next one to two years.

Horton: Okay, now, everyone who listens to this show already understands that in order for Iran to make nuclear weapons, they would have to basically grant John Bolton’s wish and withdraw from the nonproliferation treaty, kick the inspectors out of the country, and announce to the world, “We’re making nuclear bombs now.” And there is no nuclear weapons threat from Iran until at least – you know, the clock doesn’t even start ticking until the day that that happens, and so far they haven’t fallen into that trap. So, what I want to ask you, on that issue, is a little bit more of an inside baseball question, and that is that the National Intelligence Estimate from 2007 said that the Iranians halted all nuclear weapons work in 2003. And now when I talked to Gareth Porter, he says that he actually has a source who’s read the entire classified version of that NIE and that all of that assertion that there ever was a nuclear weapons program of any description is based on the forged Israeli document posing as an Iranian laptop that says that they had a bench level experiment for laser enrichment of uranium tetraflouride and a few other things that Gareth, in his words, has completely debunked as a forgery. And I guess that bumper music means we have to go out to break and you’ll have a couple of minutes to think about your answer, but I want to know whether there’s any credible evidence they ever had a nuclear weapons program before 2003 even.

Leverett: Okay.

Horton: We’ll be right back, y’all.

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton. I’m talking with Flynt Leverett, former CIA analyst and National Security Council Middle East staffer expert. He and his wife keep the blog Race for Iran, at Basically we’ve been talking about the substance of the article, “Who Will Be Blamed for a U.S. Attack on Iran?” so far in the show. But before we went out to break, I was asking you, sir, whether there was any actual evidence, as opposed to forged documents created by the Mossad, that say that the Iranians ever had a nuclear program before 2003, like is sort of implied or indicated in the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007?

Leverett: Well, to the best of my knowledge, no, there is not. I say that because, you know, I haven’t been working in a classified environment for a number of years now and I certainly wouldn’t claim to know everything that the U.S. intelligence community might have.

Horton: But it’s fair to say that you would have heard, right?

Leverett: Look, my very strong impression is that we know that the Iranians have been working on, you know, a dedicated fuel cycle program focused on uranium enrichment for a long time. Could they have at some point, you know, looked into other kinds of technical or engineering problems that you would need to solve if you were actually at some point going to build a nuclear weapon? Yeah, that’s possible, but I’ve never seen what I would consider clear and convincing evidence of it. And that, you know – we have been through this once before, with regard to Iraq, where we relied on foreign intelligence services, where we didn’t have access to the primary sources, we relied on, you know, defector information. I have a sneaking suspicion that this new NIE, when it comes out, may make use of a lot of information from both defectors and from foreign intelligence services, and I think there is a real risk that we may be going down the same road that we went down with regard to intelligence, anyway, before the war in Iraq.

And from a political standpoint, if we do go to war with Iran, we are basically going to be going to war with them because they’re enriching uranium. Not because they have, as you know you posited earlier, withdrawn from the NPT and are building nuclear weapons. Not because they attacked someone. We’re going to go to war with them, if that’s the way things go, because they’re enriching uranium, and Israel is uncomfortable with that. And I think that’s a really disturbing scenario. I think it’s going to be quite bad for U.S. interests in the region if it plays out. And while there were some critics who tried to argue that we basically went to war in Iraq for the benefit of Israel, as someone who was in government in the run-up to the war with Iraq, I have to say that was not my perception, that was not my experience. But if we go to war with Iran because Iran is enriching uranium, we will basically be doing that because of Israeli discomfort over it and because the pro-Israel community here has really pushed hard to get us to take a confrontational stance toward Iran because it’s enriching uranium. And I think that’s going to be quite bad for U.S. interests if things play out that way.

Horton: Well, even with the war with Iraq, that was kind of a confluence of interests, right? I mean, Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s aide (Powell was the first Secretary of State in the first Bush Jr. administration), he was on the show last week and said that Douglas Feith and David Wurmser both were simply acting as at least de facto agents of Israel in everything they did to get us into the war in Iraq.

Leverett: I think there were a lot of the neoconservatives who clearly were in the vanguard of pushing us to go to war in Iraq. I just think, from my own experience in January of 2002, just as I was getting ready to move from the State Department over to the White House – I was a U.S. representative at this annual conference in Herzliya, basically the annual gathering of Israel’s national security community, and there was clearly a lot of interest at that conference in sort of where the U.S. was going to go next in terms of the war on terror, and the message that I got from Israeli participants in that conference was, if the United States chose to go war in Iraq, that the thing was, Israel wasn’t going to say, “No, don’t do that,” but as far as Israel was concerned, you know, it was a much higher priority to go after Iran. In some respects, going after Iraq was the wrong country, as far as Israel was concerned. I think they would have preferred to see us really giving priority to going after Iran. That’s obviously not how things worked out.

Horton: Well, and there’s a difference too between the policies that the neoconservatives in America put first and even Ariel Sharon’s policies.

Leverett: Yes. And I think that distinction matters. And I think that the neoconservatives certainly bear, you know, a lion’s share of the blame for the debacle in Iraq, but I think that the role of Israel and of the pro-Israel community in the United States in pushing that war was not as great as some would make it out to be. But in this case, if we go to war with Iran – as I said, go to war with them, attack them, because they’re enriching uranium – we’re basically going to be doing that because of an Israeli agenda.

Horton: Okay, now, it looks like I’m not going to have a chance to ask you about the peace offer of 2003, because more important and more timely is this new NIE that you mentioned. Mark Hosenball of Newsweek says that it’s the Israeli Mossad and the German intelligence agency, I forget what it’s called –

Leverett: Yeah, the BND.

Horton: The BND, right. That they are the ones insisting that, “No, there is a nuclear weapons program in Iran,” and Hosenball said that yeah, they’re I guess in the middle of rewriting it right now. Do you know, have you heard in the wind or anything – I heard you when you said you don’t have access to classified information anymore, but do you know of any evidence that says that there’s any kind of parallel secret nuclear effort in Iran of any description, or are we simply just talking about Natanz and all their 3.6 enriched uranium laying right there?

Leverett: You know, I think Western intelligence services have been searching for years for that parallel program and there are many people who are convinced that it must exist, but to the best of my knowledge, no one has actually come up with hard evidence of a parallel program.

Horton: Is there any pushback in the CIA or the other intelligence agencies that participate in the National Intelligence Council trying to resist doing this? Because after all, even though the neocons did their part over at the Pentagon really in coming up with the talking points, the CIA took all the blame for Iraq – are they going to, you know, go ahead and roll over with the political pressure here, you think?

Leverett: I’ve heard that there is some pushback within the community, and it is striking that I think the appearance of this NIE is quite overdue at this point. It’s well past its due date, and that would seem to confirm to me the idea that there may be some disagreement.

Horton: All right. Great. Well, thanks very much for your time. Everybody, Flynt Leverett,

Leverett: Thank you very much.

Sydney Levy


Sydney Levy, Director of Campaigns for Jewish Voice for Peace, discusses his organization’s fight for Palestinian equality rather than a specific state solution, the very simple problem at the core of the Israel/Palestine conflict: land theft, how brings attention to silenced critics of Israel, the campaign to pressure mutual funds into divesting from Israeli companies and why Israel’s oft-noted status as the sole Middle East democracy is in question.

MP3 here. (18:47)

Sydney Levy is Director of Campaigns for Jewish Voice for Peace. He has worked for over 15 years in nonprofits advocating for LGBT human rights organizing for media justice, and assisting in the preparation of death row appeals. He is the son of Egyptian Jews who immigrated to Venezuela, where he was born. Sydney lived in Jerusalem for seven years, where he received his Masters degree in Jewish History from the Hebrew University. Sydney has been working with JVP–first as a volunteer, then as a staff member–since 2000.

Jeremy Sapienza


Jeremy Sapienza, Senior Editor at, discusses the temptations of liberal interventionism following the Uganda bombings , the wrongheaded conventional wisdom that Somalia’s problems are due to the West’s inattention, terrorism charges leveled at Minnesotan Somali-Americans who allied with Al Shabab to fight the Ethiopian army and why the Uganda bombings are a textbook case of blowback.

MP3 here. (19:06)

Jeremy Sapienza is Assistant Webmaster and Senior Editor at

Kelley B. Vlahos


Featured columnist Kelley B. Vlahos discusses her acceptance of the Andrew Exum challenge: making a case for a non-COIN strategy in Afghanistan, why talk of withdrawal is verboten in the US media and “serious minded” think tanks, the uncertainty of Taliban dominance in a US-free Afghanistan and why Hamid Karzai’s government is doomed no matter what happens.

MP3 here. (22:43)

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer, is a longtime political reporter for, a contributing editor at The American Conservative magazine and featured columnist. She is also a Washington correspondent for Homeland Security Today magazine.

Andy Worthington


Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, discusses his updated “definitive prisoner list” for Guantanamo, how the US whisked away the real suspected terrorists to CIA black sites and used Gitmo as a catch-all and PR stunt, more reasons why torture is unjustifiable and how the Justice Department is forced to pursue terrorism charges against Yemenis who have been cleared for release.

MP3 here. (18:58)

Andy Worthington writes for Counterpunch, the Future of Freedom Foundation and He is the author of The Guantanamo Files and blogs at His documentary movie Outside the Law: Stories From Guantanamo is available on DVD.

Glenn Greenwald


Glenn Greenwald, blogger and former constitutional lawyer, discusses the military’s formal charging of Bradley Manning for giving classified information to WikiLeaks, Wired‘s refusal to disclose the full chat logs between informant Adrian Lamo and Manning and why whistleblowers who embarrass government are typically subjected to the Daniel Ellsberg treatment.

MP3 here. (9:53) Transcript below.

Glenn Greenwald was a constitutional lawyer in New York City, first at the Manhattan firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and then at the litigation firm he founded, Greenwald, Christoph. Greenwald litigated numerous high-profile and significant constitutional cases in federal and state courts around the country, including multiple First Amendment challenges. He has a J.D. from New York University School of Law (1994) and a B.A. from George Washington University (1990). In October of 2005, Greenwald started a political and legal blog, Unclaimed Territory, which quickly became one of the most popular and highest-trafficked in the blogosphere.

Upon disclosure by the New York Times in December 2005 of President Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program, Greenwald became one of the leading and most cited experts on that controversy. In early 2006, he broke a story on his blog regarding the NSA scandal that served as the basis for front-page articles in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers, all of which credited his blog for the story. Several months later, Sen. Russ Feingold read from one of Greenwald’s posts during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Feingold’s resolution to censure the president for violating FISA. In 2008, Sen. Chris Dodd read from Greenwald’s Salon blog during floor debate over FISA. Greenwald’s blog was also cited as one of the sources for the comprehensive report issued by Rep. John Conyers titled “The Constitution in Crisis.” In 2006, he won the Koufax Award for best new blog.

Greenwald is the author of A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok and Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Glenn Greenwald July 12, 2010

Scott Horton: All right, everybody, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio, and our next guest is the great Glenn Greenwald. I tell you every day to read his blog. I read it every day, it seems like I ought to talk to him all the time on the show too. Welcome back, Glenn, how are you doing?

Glenn Greenwald: It’s great to be back, Scott. Glad to be here.

Horton: I appreciate you joining us. Let’s talk about Bradley Manning. He finally got charged, by who, and with what?

Greenwald: He was charged by the U.S. military with obtaining and mishandling classified information and also leaking classified information, and the charging document specifies that among the classified material that he leaked was the video that was obtained by WikiLeaks of the U.S. military attack on civilians that caused such controversy a couple months ago, an attack in Baghdad, as well as material that has yet to be released including 50 diplomatic cables which the military claimed that he also leaked. One of those actually was released by WikiLeaks about six months ago, which was a diplomatic cable involving the embassy in Iceland, as well as about 150,000 pages of diplomatic cables that the document accuses him of downloading but not leaking.

Horton: Okay, now, let’s try to break that down a little bit. First of all, it says specifically in the charging document – well, actually, first of all, is it worth going over the fact that they kept him in jail for about, what, three, four weeks, before they charged him, or should we just skip on to the details of the charges here?

Greenwald: Yeah, I mean, you know, the military obviously has some different rules in terms of its justice system than what civilian courts have. But even taking that into account, the length of time that he was detained in detention without being charged with anything was really quite unusual. They have charged him now, but there was a significant period of time where he was simply sort of sloughed away without any charges at all.

Horton: All right, and then you’re saying that in the charging document it specifically ties him to the Baghdad Reuters so-called “Collateral Murder” video and to the video of the Garani massacre in Afghanistan, is that right?

Greenwald: Well, actually, interestingly the charging document makes no mention of any video from Afghanistan. There have been reports from WikiLeaks that it has that video. They’ve said they have that video and intend to release it, but the actual charging document doesn’t say that Manning was involved in any way either in the downloading of that video or in the leaking of it. So it could be that they have a different source for that. It could be that they just don’t have the evidence for it. You know, who knows? But that is not mentioned in the charging document.

Horton: Well, and the same thing there when you talk about the different charges, about how many State Department cables he supposedly sent versus how many he downloaded, and then of course you’ve got to compare that to what it says in the chat logs, which, correct me if I’m wrong, says 260,000 State Department cables, he claims that he already sent to WikiLeaks. Is that right?

Greenwald: Well, one of the interesting parts of the charging document is how different it is than the chat logs that were released by Wired magazine in which he allegedly confessed to this hacker, Adrian Lamo, which is what started this case in the first place. There are a lot of facts that are very different, if you’ve looked at what the charging document suggests that he did versus what he allegedly said he did in those chats, including what you just mentioned, which is that in the chat he said that he had leaked 260,000 pages of documents, and yet the charging document says that he leaked only 50 cables but that he obtained 150,000 pages. And so what it suggests fairly strongly is that the military either had information about Lamo before that chat took place or they have obtained information from him or some other sources since those chats took place that have caused them to create a much different picture in the charging document. But whatever it is, they clearly have more than just what’s in the charging document, because so much of what they’re saying is different than what’s in those chats.

Horton: Well, another thing made clear by those charging documents too is that they’re throwing the book at him big-time, right?

Greenwald: Right, well, if you look at what the charges are and the penalties that are available, he actually faces up to 52 years in prison. Now there is absolutely no indication whatsoever that he did anything to harm national security. I mean, remember, the only documents that he’s actually accused of leaking that have actually been publicized are the video of the Apache helicopter attack in Iraq which obviously revealed no national security secrets. It embarrassed the United States, and it spawned the kind of debate about our war there that the military certainly wants to avoid, but nobody has ever suggested that that resulted in any national security harm, as well as this very innocuous diplomatic cable from Iceland, involving the ambassador to Iceland, that embarrassed the Icelandic authorities but certainly didn’t even arguably lead to the disclosure of classified information, yet they created the charging document in such a way that he could basically spend the rest of his life in prison. We’re talking about a 22-year-old private first class who, whatever else you want to say about him, was clearly motivated by leaking what he thought was evidence of very serious corruption, and in the case of the video, even war crimes, I mean shooting at unarmed rescuers of the wounded in their own country. And so clearly this is just part and parcel of the effort of the Obama administration that we’ve seen in multiple cases to intimidate and deter would-be whistleblowers from exposing embarrassing government secrets.

Horton: It seems kind of surprising– well, I don’t know, I guess it’s not surprising. It seems it probably made it worse, I guess, is what I was going to try to say there, that they’re just smearing the kid and they’re denying exactly what you just said. He’s motivated here by a crisis of conscience, etc. And they’re saying, “No, he’s a sissy. He’s despondent and he’s very sad and his friends don’t like him anymore, and that’s why he did this. He’s just vacuuming up data,” according to Lamo. And then the Washington Post ran an article that was picked up by I think every other newspaper in the United States that was titled, “Oh, the kid’s despondent.” That’s the best they can do with him. They’ve got nothing else to attack about him, Glenn, and so they’re assassinating his character by saying he’s weak.

Greenwald: Well, it’s interesting. One of the things that you can do is look at how whistleblower cases are handled typically, and you find exactly that same pattern. I mean, that’s even true more generally if there are disgruntled employees who expose embarrassing secrets involving corruption and wrongdoing on the part of their employer, the employer always tries to suggest that they’re doing it out of vindictiveness or vengeance because they were denied a promotion or have emotional problems or whatever. And no less a person than Daniel Ellsberg actually talked about how the treatment to which Bradley Manning is being subjected by the government and the press is basically identical to what they tried to do with Daniel Ellsberg when he blew the whistle on the Vietnam War. And of course the Nixon administration got caught breaking into his psychiatrist’s office precisely because they wanted dirt on him to depict Ellsberg as being this, you know, sort of mentally unstable, mentally unbalanced individual in order to discredit his exposure. So this idea of whispering that, you know, Bradley Manning was somehow angry or mentally imbalanced is just par for the course. It’s what governments do when their secrets get exposed and they want to discredit the whistleblower.

Horton: Well, that’s funny. It sounds like you can just refer to the Washington Post and the government in the same breath as the same thing, really, huh?

Greenwald: Well, it’s interesting, you’re right. I mean, in my answer I really didn’t distinguish, because you asked me about the Washington Post and I responded by talking about what the government does. I mean, and you know you see that over and over and over again where the dirty work of the government is done by the largest media outlets. I mean, that’s their role. I mean, when the government wanted to propagandize about the Iraq War, it used the New York Times. When it wanted to, you know, spread war propaganda involving Jessica Lynch’s Rambo-like heroic firefight with Iraqi monsters and the heroic rescue by the Marines from the hospital, all of those lies, you know, that was planted with the Washington Post. And you see that over and over and over again where very uncritical reporters simply repeat what they’re told by government sources and do their dirty work for them. And that’s exactly what’s being done here.

Horton: Well, and I’ve been reading your blog, and you’ve been calling them out, saying, “Hey, you’ve shown in your work there that you have access to more of the transcripts of Manning and Lamo the Snitch than has been published at Wired – let’s see the rest of them,” and they won’t even talk to you about it.

Greenwald: And you know that’s really bizarre. One of the things that, you know, what I did before I began –

Horton: Real quick here, 20 seconds.

Greenwald: Sure. – was I litigated. And what you know is that when people release to you bits and pieces of information but not the whole thing, it’s because the stuff they’re not releasing [doesn’t fit] with the picture they want to paint, and that’s what’s going on here as well.

Horton: Yeah, “Brady material.” That’s Glenn Greenwald, everybody. Thanks, Glenn.

Greenwald: My pleasure, Scott.

Sheldon Richman


Sheldon Richman, senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, discusses the unsustainable expense of US empire, the “political transaction costs” that shield government from scrutiny and protest, lack of emphasis on foreign policy at the Freedom Fest 2010 conference and why defense spending is the trillion pound gorilla in the (budget deficit) room.

MP3 here. (18:47)

Sheldon Richman is editor of The Freeman, published by The Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York, and serves as senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation. He is the author of FFF’s award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America’s Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and FFF’s newest book Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State.

Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: “I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank… . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility…”

Mr. Richman’s articles on population, federal disaster assistance, international trade, education, the environment, American history, foreign policy, privacy, computers, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the Fortune Encyclopedia of Economics.

A former newspaper reporter and former senior editor at the Cato Institute, Mr. Richman is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia.

Maria Burnett


Maria Burnett, senior researcher in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, discusses the possible Somalia grudge motive behind the Ugandan “World Cup” bombing, the need for a competent and timely civilian police investigation to catch the perpetrators and Uganda’s spotty track record of adhering to the rule of law and human rights.

MP3 here. (9:46)

Maria Burnett is senior researcher in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. She currently covers Uganda and emerging human rights issues in Central Africa. She has worked with the organization since 2005, first as the Burundi researcher in the Bujumbura field office.

Burnett has worked on a range of human rights issues, including child soldiers, torture and killings by intelligence and counterterrorism agents, abuses by the Lord’s Resistance Army, and justice reform in Central and East Africa. Before joining Human Rights Watch, Burnett worked as an architect and journalist in Africa. Burnett holds a law degree from Yale Law School and a bachelor’s in architecture from Princeton University. She speaks French.

Cynthia McKinney


Former congresswoman and peace activist Cynthia McKinney discusses her participation in a 2008 attempt to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip to deliver humanitarian aid there, the Israeli navy’s ramming of their boat, the accurate coverage provided by a CNN anchor on scene and the power the Israeli Lobby has over the congress of the United States.

MP3 here. (20:28)

Cynthia McKinney is a former US Congresswoman and a member of the Green Party since 2007.  She served six terms as a member of the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat. In 2008, the Green Party nominated McKinney for President of the United States.


Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Cynthia McKinney July 7, 2010

Scott Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. And it turns out we are going to talk with Cynthia McKinney on the show today, right now in fact. Hi Cynthia, welcome to the show.

Cynthia McKinney: Well, thank you so much for having me.

Horton: Well, I’m very happy to have you here. Everybody, you know her. Cynthia McKinney is a former politician, was a congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate, and is a world-famous peace activist, of course. And I was wondering if you could tell us, you know, this whole flotilla incident recently with the Israeli raid on the Turkish boats full of aid trying to break the Gaza blockade, has kind of brought this up and gotten a lot more people paying attention. I was hoping we could kind of go back over the story of your involvement with a previous attempt to break the blockade of the Gaza strip, and hopefully people will remember at least the headlines, the Israeli patrol boats – I guess they didn’t kill anybody, but they rammed y’all’s ship on the open sea, is that right?

McKinney: You’re absolutely right. The Israelis have been leading up to committing this kind of murder of human rights activists who were trying to take humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, and quite frankly it started in December of 2008 when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead – that was their military assault on the 1½ million people of Gaza using U.S.-supplied F-16s, depleted uranium, helicopter gunships, you name it, they were willing to use it, whether it was legal or illegal according to international law. And we had three tons of medical supplies. We had doctors who were prepared to perform surgery on those who were in need. And the Israelis, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, while we were in international water, rammed our boat trying to kill us. And the only thing that saved us was that it was a very old boat, and instead of being made of fiberglass it was made of wood, and it was that very solid wood construction that saved our lives. And then the government of Lebanon agreed to rescue us, and we limped into the Lebanon port accompanied by their navy, and we were received by the people as if we were heroes, when we were really nothing more than humanitarian activists. And then, undeterred, as I said on CNN, undeterred, we attempted to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza once again. And this is all being done, coordinated, through the Free Gaza movement. So we put ourselves on a boat again, and this time there were 21 of us. We were on the boat and –

Horton: If it’s okay, I’d like to stop you there and ask you about the first trip here. I mean, this is a – I kind of want to ask you to paint a picture of the scene. What kind of boat were you attacked by, how big was it, how hard did they ram your boat, how certain are you that they really were trying to sink your boat and kill y’all?

McKinney: Well, for those who are listening and they want to know more about the story, it is still available on I checked it just probably a few weeks ago to make sure that the story was still up there, and at that time it was still there. And it was still there as reported by, I say, this journalist, this is a true journalist, Karl Penhaul, his name, P-e-n-h-a-u-l. He has broken several stories for CNN after the story about the ramming of our boat. He happened to be on the boat. Now, I would presume that CNN thought that they could embed a pro-Israeli journalist on the boat who would report the Israeli disinformation as the operation came underway, to thwart our entry into the Gaza port. But Karl Penhaul refused to do so. He refused to lie. And he told the truth. And therefore the world knew the truth because CNN placed this journalist there, and this journalist proved to have integrity.

Horton: I’m actually looking at a picture of the boat right now. I believe, perhaps, if my Googling was effective here, the article you’re referring to is “Gaza relief boat damaged in encounter with Israeli vessel,” is that it?

McKinney: It might be that, because they called it –

Horton: There’s quite a few here, actually, it looks like. But there’s a picture here of the boat in ruins.

McKinney: The boat was totalled! It couldn’t be used anymore! In fact, the boat was so damaged, it could not even be repaired. So, you know, and Israel put out all kinds of lies during the incident, and you know they said things like they didn’t know who we were. Well, that’s not true because we did press conferences before we left. We did press availabilities at the boat as we were leaving. The Israeli military – as is the standard operating procedure of the Free Gaza movement, they informed the Israeli government of not only the course that the boat was going to take, but they also informed the Israeli government of the cargo and the passengers. So Israel was fully aware of everyone.

And then when we were under attack, the Israelis announced to us, “Go back to Larnaca.” At the same time they’re saying to us they didn’t know who we were, they’re saying to the public they didn’t know who we were, they knew that we had come from Larnaca, Cyprus, which is where our boat, you know, the Free Gaza headquarters is located and that’s where our boat had come from. So it was just lie after lie. And then the last lie they put out was that it was my fault. That was a statement– and it’s there on the CNN website as well, a statement that was issued from the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia. Of course they’re savvy enough to know that I’m from Georgia. And so they put out their disinformation from the Georgia office, from the Georgia wing of their entire propaganda operation. But I have to say that Karl Penhaul was just absolutely masterful. Here he is, the boat’s taking on water, and it’s just a yacht, it’s a pleasure boat, you know, and first of all he’s reporting that we had been surrounded by Israeli warships, and of course the –

Horton: Yes, it says here that they had been shining the spotlight on you for half an hour before, so it’s not like some accident where they bumped into you or something.

McKinney: Exactly! But, you know, but then they turned the spotlight off when they rammed us, of course. And so anyway, I don’t know how to swim, so I mean you know it was quite a thing for me to spend Christmas with my family and then just say, “Bye y’all, I’m going to Gaza.”

Horton: Well, and the silence of the American government at the time, this attack, attempted murder, it sounds like to me, of a former American congressperson is about the same silence that involved the killing of an American citizen in the latest flotilla raid. It doesn’t seem to matter as long as it’s Israel doing the murder or attempted murder.

McKinney: Well, now, you know, that’s very interesting. Because of course this was right after the 2008 election and just before Barack Obama had been sworn in, so Barack Obama, I asked publicly for a comment, and he said, “There’s only one president at a time.” So that meant that nobody said anything.

Horton: Yeah. And he didn’t say anything this last time either. All right, we’ll be right back with Cynthia McKinney after the break, y’all. Hang tight.

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio on the Liberty Radio Network. I’m talking with Cynthia McKinney, peace activist. We won’t hold it against you that you’re a former politician, ma’am.

McKinney: [laughs] Well, let’s see, I’ll say I wasn’t a politician, but I was a public servant.

Horton: Ah, there you go! I haven’t heard that term in a long time. Okay.

McKinney: I know. The idea is –the concept is alien to most of those people who purport to represent us.

Horton: Afraid so. All right, well, and speaking of which, we were going out to the break there, when the bumper music started, talking about the silence of Barack Obama. “Only one president at a time” he said, about the Israeli military’s attempt to kill you on the high seas in 2008 there, and then of course he was silent throughout Operation Cast Lead, which ended right before he took the oath, just as he was silent and his state department was silent when they killed an American citizen on the assault on the Mavi Marmara a few weeks back. Isn’t that their job, to protect American citizens from attack by foreign governments?

McKinney: Of course not, because now President Obama wants to kill American citizens.

Horton: Yeah, himself. He’s got dozens and dozens of people on the list. That may include you, I hope not. May include me.

McKinney: [laughs] Well I very well could be on the list. I mean, anyone who stands up and speaks out and who reveres the idea of what America can be and who believes that the American people deserve to reap the peace dividend that we were promised after the Berlin Wall fell, and we didn’t get that. We never got a peace dividend because there was always some war that needed to be financed, and the Congress just goes right along. So what I have begun to think about is the idea that average, ordinary peace people need to run for office. We need to support them. I just heard the ad that was played that there is now a civil disobedience fund so that people can get bailed out of jail, and, I mean, you know, we are going to have to activate in order to take our country back. Our country has been hijacked, and right now, now just imagine if you’ve got 19 men with box cutters and they can overtake 200 or so people on an airplane – which I don’t believe, because if I had been on the airplane, there would have been some serious business going on.

Horton: Yeah well, even that day, when it got to the fourth plane and they had enough time to talk to people on the ground who said, “Hey listen, you’re on a guided missile right now, you’re not landing in Cuba, pal,” they rushed the cockpit, and that’s what any group of passengers on any American plane would do now, certainly.

McKinney: Absolutely. So, we are going to have to activate those people of conscience to step outside of where they have been comfortable. Because right now our country is not comfortable. The global community that is willing to accept U.S. leadership in a peace initiative is not comfortable. Mother Earth, with what BP has just insulted Mother Earth, and not only BP, but this is something that is happening all over our planet, and a blind eye has been turned to these massive insults to the environment. We are going to have to step outside of our comfort zone in order to change things.

Horton: Yeah, well, and, speaking of which, you definitely practice what you preach here. And, I want to get back to focusing on your activism in the Middle East, because I did interrupt you actually and take you off the path when you were talking about you were rescued at sea by the Lebanese government, I guess, and then you went back. And, you know, I’d be happy to talk about all the rest of the stuff another time too.

McKinney: Yes, so, undeterred, the Free Gaza movement was able to raise enough money to, you know – and these little boats that they have, they’re no competition to these great big huge U.S.-supplied, technologically advanced warships that the Israelis have. And when those commandos – and then the second, it was a little ferry, and this little ferry, you know, we’re going, it’s going to take us 30 hours to get there, to show you how slowly the boat went. And this little ferry is headed, and we’ve got our medical supplies, and this time we also had school supplies because we had been told that the children needed school supplies. And I went around and I solicited, and I had received donations of Crayola crayons and coloring books and paintbrushes and that sort of thing for the kids.

And so we’re there, there’s 21 of us, and all of a sudden again – well, we passed the place where the Dignity, which was the first boat, had been rammed. We passed that place and at that moment we all kind of, you know, held hands, because the captain was the same, the captain of the Spirit of Humanity was the same captain, he was wonderful, and the first mate was the same crazy Irish guy who is totally committed, and so we played a song and we, you know, just sort of respected that space in the Mediterranean. Then we went on and proceeded to Gaza, and out of nowhere the Israelis have some kind of machine I’ve never seen before that makes waves, and they were trying to tip us over. This little ferry didn’t tip over, thank goodness, and so then they went to Plan B. Plan B was they jammed the GPS and shut it off. It was off for several hours. And during that time they had hoped that we would veer off course and then they would have an excuse, if we wandered into Israeli territorial water, that they would have an excuse to pick us up. But that did not happen because our captain – who was not an activist, he was hired by the Free Gaza movement because he is an expert captain, not because he was an activist. And the captain navigated the seas the old-fashioned way, using the stars. And we, by the time the GPS came back on, we were just a little bit off course, not really enough to even say anything about. And so Plan B didn’t work. There was nothing left for the Israelis to do other than surround us and then commandeer our boat and kidnap us. And that’s what they did. And they brazenly did it.

Horton: Now, I’m sorry. I’m sorry to stop you here, but we only have a couple of minutes and I got to squeeze in this last question about American politics. You were a member of the House of Representatives, and I was hoping you could help me and the audience understand why it is that Congress and the rest of the national government are so afraid to really contradict the Israeli government. What is – I mean, it’s not like they’re all Republicans who are having sex with little kids and stuff, some of them obviously, but they can’t be all blackmailed. What are they so afraid of?

McKinney: Well, anyone who’s familiar with the testimony of Sibel Edmonds can understand the kind of blackmail that goes on on Capitol Hill. Sibel told the truth and that’s why she, her message has been suppressed. With that having been said, though, just look at the fact that we have a war party and it consists of both Democrats and Republicans. Both Democrats and Republicans go to the same people to raise money, and the same people are giving to Democratic candidates, they give to Republican candidates, they give to the Democratic Party, they give to the Republican Party, and so both political parties are bought. That’s why you get the silence. Because both political parties are bought and therefore anyone who dares to speak out, as I happen to have done, would get targeted. And then of course on the Hill they call it being “McKinneyed.” They’ve got a verb for it. And no one wants to suffer the humiliation that I have suffered at the hands of the pro-Israel lobby.

Horton: Well, and it could be – you must be kind of proud of that, in a funny way, but it could be any other number of congressmen, Hollings, or a lot of others who’ve suffered the same fate, but that’s really just what it comes down to is campaign contributions. That’s what M. J. Rosenberg wrote today in an article, or yesterday in an article, about Obama and Netanyahu pretending like they’re going to do anything about the colonization of the West Bank when what it’s all about is just making nice for the upcoming midterm.

McKinney: Well, look. There’s 11 U.S. warships off the coast of Iran.

Horton: Hey.

McKinney: So they’re doing more than making nice. They’re about to make war.

Horton: Aw, geez. Well all right. Thank you. We’re going to have to leave it right there. Cynthia McKinney, everybody. I appreciate it very much.

McKinney: Thank you.

Patrick Cockburn


Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for the London Independent and author of the book Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq, discusses the recent bombing attacks against Shia pilgrims in Iraq, the continued political impasse over which alliance of parties will be able to form a government, the question of whether whoever comes to power will insist upon the Dec. 2011 deadline for U.S. withdrawal or bow to Pentagon plans to retain bases there and the continuing humanitarian crisis there.

MP3 here. (20:09)

Patrick Cockburn was awarded the 2009 Orwell Prize for political writing in British journalism. He is the Middle East correspondent for The Independent and a frequent contributor to Cockburn is the author of The Occupation: War, Resistance and Daily Life in Iraq and Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Battle for the Future of Iraq.

Stephan Salisbury


Stephan Salisbury, author of Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland, discusses the sordid history of bogus domestic terrorism cases since 9/11, an egregious example in Philadelphia, the difficulty the entrapping feds cause the local police in their attempts to build trust in their local Muslim communities, the long history of undercover provocateurs in the pay of the national government, Dick Cheney’s 1% Doctrine, the case of the “Newburg Four,” the Albany pizza shop owner and the FBI’s killing of Luqman Ameen Abdullah in Dearborn, Michigan.

MP3 here. (39:07)

Stephan Salisbury is cultural writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His most recent book is Mohamed’s Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland.

Jason Ditz


Jason Ditz, managing news editor at, discusses Obama’s capitulation to Israeli PM Netanyahu on every issue from the West Bank to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and all the demands he never made about the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem and the Gaza blockade.

MP3 here. (29:06)

Jason Ditz is managing news editor of

Gareth Porter


Gareth Porter, independent historian and journalist for IPSNews, discusses the recent rumors of war against Iran, why he thinks violent military confrontation unlikely in the short to medium term, continuing opposition from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the central role of the American Israel Lobby in pushing for a war certain to be detrimental to the United States and the American/Israeli pathology toward aggressive war against helpless opponents.

MP3 here. (18:33)

Gareth Porter is an independent historian and journalist. He is the author of Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam. His articles appear on Counterpunch, Huffington Post, Inter Press Service News Agency and

Jeff Huber


Jeff Huber, regular and author of Bathtub Admirals, discusses the diminishing likelihood of war with Iran or success in Afghanistan, the crazy Kagan-O’Hanlon plan to invade Pakistan and seize their nukes and why it would be completely unnecessary anyway.

MP3 here. (20:25)

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) commanded an E-2C Hawkeye squadron and was operations officer of a Navy air wing and an aircraft carrier. Jeff’s essays have been required reading at the U.S. Naval War College where he earned a master of arts degree in neoconservative studies in 1995. His satires on military and foreign policy affairs appear at, Aviation Week and Pen and Sword. Jeff’s novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America’s rise to global dominance, is on sale now.

Philip Weiss


Philip Weiss, author of the blog MondoWeiss, discusses the role of the Israeli government and the neoconservative movement in lying the American people into war in Iraq, the woeful dishonesty of the American media on all issues related to the occupations of the West Bank and Gaza strip, the pathetic belly crawling of “a$%-kissing little chicken-sh*t” Gen. David Petraeus before the feet of his neocon masters as he accidentally revealed to an anti-neocon activist with a careless email forward, signs of progress in Americans’ view of Israel issues as well as those of the elites.

MP3 here. (29:30)

Philip Weiss is an investigative journalist who has written for The Nation, New York Times Magazine, The American Conservative, Jewish World Review and other publications. He is the author of American Taboo: A Murder in the Peace Corps and writes the blog “Mondoweiss.”

Grant F. Smith


Grant F. Smith, director of the Institute for Research of Middle East Policy and author of America’s Defense Line: , discusses the real reason for Israel’s policy of “strategic ambiguity,” about their nuclear weapons, his conference on Israeli nuclear weapons, Israel’s offer to sell nuclear missiles to apartheid South Africa, Obama’s pretended push for a two state settlement, the leaked Luntz poll indicating that the American people are finally beginning to see through Israel’s ridiculous perpetual-victim narrative, and outgoing senator Arlen Spector’s efforts to help cover up for the Israelis who stole weapons-grade nuclear material from the NUMEC corporation in Pennsylvania.

MP3 here. (39:18)

Grant F. Smith is the author of Spy Trade: How Israel’s Lobby Undermines America’s Economy, America’s Defense Line: The Justice Department’s Battle to Register the Israel Lobby as Agents of a Foreign Government and Foreign Agents: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee from the 1963 Fulbright Hearings to the 2005 Espionage Scandal. He is a frequent contributor to Radio France Internationale and Voice of America’s Foro Interamericano. Smith has also appeared on BBC News, CNN, and C-SPAN. He is currently director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington, D.C.

Scott Horton


The Other Scott Horton (no relation), international human rights lawyer, professor and contributing editor at Harper’s magazine, discusses how the UK courts are forcing the government to open up their torture files detailing how the CIA helped torture Binyam Mohammed, Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s prosecution of Chicago police prolific torturer John Burge and his witch-hunt against Gitmo defense attorneys, how the Obama administration is just pretending to close down Gitmo and why McChrystal was better than Patraeus because he can admit we are losing in Afghanistan.

MP3 here. (27:38) Transcript below.

The other Scott Horton is a Contributing Editor for Harper’s magazine where he writes the No Comment blog. A New York attorney known for his work in emerging markets and international law, especially human rights law and the law of armed conflict, Horton lectures at Columbia Law School. A life-long human rights advocate, Scott served as counsel to Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, among other activists in the former Soviet Union.

He is a co-founder of the American University in Central Asia, and has been involved in some of the most significant foreign investment projects in the Central Eurasian region. Scott recently led a number of studies of abuse issues associated with the conduct of the war on terror for the New York City Bar Association, where he has chaired several committees, including, most recently, the Committee on International Law. He is also a member of the board of the National Institute of Military Justice, the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, the EurasiaGroup and the American Branch of the International Law Association.


Transcript: Scott Horton interviews The Other Scott Horton, July 5, 2010

Scott Horton: Okay, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton, and on the line is The Other Scott Horton. He is the heroic anti-torture international human rights lawyer, he lectures at Columbia Law School, he writes for Harper’s Magazine, which I believe is the oldest continually published magazine in America,, and he is the cofounder of the American University in Bishkek, and chairman of every kind of bar association, anti-torture this, that and the other thing you can imagine, and his blog is called No Comment. Welcome back to the show, Scott, how are you doing?

The Other Scott Horton: Hey, great to be with you. And Happy Fourth of July weekend.

SH: Oh, yeah, thanks! Yeah, I like Independence Day. It’s too bad – you know, I saw this video where the guy’s going around asking people why we’re celebrating Independence Day, and they have no idea. He’s talking about, “Yeah, it’s celebrating our independence from Nazi Germany, right?” And they’re like, “Yeahhh.” And he says, “Well, it’s celebrating the day that we declared our independence from the Roman Empire.” And they’re like, “Yeah, that’s right.” [laughs]

T.O.S.H.: We have some polls showing more than 50% of Americans did not know from whom we had declared our independence on July 4 in 1776.

SH: Oh, no. See, I liked it better when it was an anecdotal thing. Now you got statistics.

T.O.S.H.: It’s even more depressing.

SH: It is. Yeah. Well, I saw something at one time that said 91% of people think that the Constitution is important. And so I thought, well, that’s pretty good. But then they asked them about things in it, and they had no idea. They always quote Karl Marx and everybody thinks it’s Thomas Jefferson, you know?

T.O.S.H.: That’s depressing too.

SH: All right. Well, anyway, so, speaking of depressing, I guess, well it’s good news about a depressing subject, maybe? “David Cameron agrees terms of UK torture inquiry.” I think they meant to have the word “to” in there; it’s a headline from The Guardian, Tell me what’s going on here.

T.O.S.H.: Well, as you know, over the course of the last year and half, the British government has had quite a row with the British court on the question of torture. The British government has consistently said, “No, [we were] not involved.” They tried to suppress evidence from hearings. And this is a case where the British court basically stood up to the government and said, “We’re not taking that. We’re not accepting your use of state secrecy to put a seal on all of this. The evidence and information we’ve seen suggests that torture went on.” And this is mostly surrounding – it’s a couple of different issues, and we don’t know the details of all of them, but the principle one involves a former Guantanamo principle named Binyam Mohamed, who was an Ethiopian who had been granted asylum in Britain and then was captured in Pakistan and sent to jail in Guantanamo. And so the British court forced the opening of a criminal inquiry, and they also very pointedly told the government there should be a formal investigation of this.

And the Gordon Brown government, the Labor government, had stonewalled that, had not gone forward with it, And they now are turned out of office and we have a new conservative, a Tory, government in Britain, and that government has announced that it is going ahead with a formal official inquiry, so a judge is going to be appointed to conduct this inquiry. It will be tasked to pull together all the facts about what happened and to award compensation to torture victims and then make a reference back. And on a parallel track, there is also probably going to be a criminal prosecution. It looks like the police are closing their investigation down and they are going to recommend some prosecutions.

SH: No way!

T.O.S.H.: Yeah, I think so. And this has to do principally with joint operations between British intelligence and the American CIA. In fact, it’s so tied up in things the CIA did, that David Cameron had to pick up the phone and call Barack Obama and give him advance notice of the fact that this official judicial inquiry was going to be opened.

SH: Wowee. Well, I guess I’ll believe that when I see people in handcuffs. But I like the part about at least we’ll have more historical documents come forward for the truth about all this. Whether there’s accountability or not, I guess, is something else.

T.O.S.H.: Well I think it shows you that, you know, there is a way a new government coming after one that was involved in torture can credibly deal with the allegations by undertaking an inquiry. So Barack Obama said, “Don’t look back,” and the government in Britain has said, “No, actually, we’re sworn to uphold the law, so of course we’re going to look back at what happened, and we’re going to have an independent inquiry take a look at it.”

SH: Now, Binyam Mohamed, isn’t he the guy that they tortured with razor blades until he “admitted” that he and Jose Padilla were going to set off a radioactive dirty bomb?

T.O.S.H.: That’s right. In fact, he was seized in Pakistan, turned over to the CIA, the CIA moved him to the secret wing of a prison that they operate in Rabat, Morocco, nominally a Moroccan prison but the CIA has a wing of it. And that’s where he was brutally tortured. In fact, according to the evidence, his genitalia were lacerated with a razor blade, amongst other things. And this went on while CIA control persons were there observing the entire thing, and British agents also were present.

SH: Now, it’s interesting, you have this blog post about Patrick Fitzgerald, who’s probably the most famous federal prosecutor, or any kind of prosecutor, in the country right now, the guy that indicted and convicted “Cheney’s Cheney,” Scooter Libby, of perjury in that famous case, and the whole Plame affair and all that. And you have this article about how he was the guy who was prosecuting the Chicago police for torture while at the same time prosecuting people who were trying to defend victims of federal torture.

T.O.S.H.: Well, investigating in the second case, not prosecuting. But, you know, he’s wearing two hats right now. In one he is the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and Chicago, and in the other he has been appointed as a special prosecutor by Eric Holder. In the first case he prosecuted a man named Jon Burge, a long-time Chicago police officer, lieutenant, and he prosecuted him based on perjury charges, but it’s a really all related to his involvement in what may be hundreds of incidents of torture that occurred in Chicago, mostly in the south side of the city, a few in the west side too, in a handful of police stations where they had a routine practice of torturing suspects to give up a confession and then using the confession to get a conviction. And that’s – really, this whole practice was exposed by a bunch of law students at Northwestern University in Chicago who studied it over a period of about seven years and put together a detailed, really comprehensive, thoroughly documented series of reports about it. And that launched – that really forced the criminal investigation that Patrick Fitzgerald launched, although it’s interesting here that that criminal investigation got launched only after the Committee Against Torture, which is the independent experts body at the UN, reviewed what was going on in Chicago and pressed the U.S. government to explain why there had been no federal prosecutions. And it’s right after that happened that Patrick Fitzgerald actually picked up the files and went with it. And he got a conviction, so we’ll give him credit for that.

SH: Yeah, I talked with an activist from Chicago named Spencer Thayer, and of course he forwarded me a bunch of news articles about the descriptions of some of what was done to these people over the years, and it’s nice to see that there’s finally some justice. It’s unfortunate, I guess; the people of Chicago can never really enforce their own rights from the bottom up, they have to rely on the same federal prosecutors who will then, you know, at the same time are harassing people for trying to defend torture victims.

T.O.S.H.: Well, that’s right. The state prosecutors were engaged in harassing the Northwestern students and faculty members who were investigating this. They threatened them. They said they would threaten to prosecute them. They issued subpoenas to them. They did all sorts of things, engaged in all sorts of dirty tricks to slow them down. But then that brings us back to the second case, the other Patrick Fitzgerald matter in the headlines, and that’s his investigation of the John Adams Project, which has also been in the news recently, thanks to a couple of exposés, and we don’t know exactly what it is that Patrick Fitzgerald is going to wind up doing in this case, but we know that the whole assignment he’s been given really is focused on harassing people who were involved in putting together defense cases for these Guantanamo prisoners. The defense counsel are going to try and establish that they were tortured, that they were treated coercively, and to do that, of course, they’ve got to figure out when the interrogation sessions occurred, who was there, and what happened at them. So they have investigators looking at that. And a lot of this coercive interrogation, of course, was carried out by the CIA. They’re the people originally who got a green light to use the harsh stuff, waterboarding, hypothermia and everything else, and so a group of investigators have been trying to identify who the CIA agents were. And the CIA is pushing back, saying any attempt even to learn anything about them is a violation of national secrecy rules and is a crime. So it’s pushing, basically, to incriminate the people who are trying to investigate torture. And Patrick Fitzgerald has been appointed to head that investigation.

SH: Wow. That’s why they call it the Department of Justice, right? Sort of like the Department of Defense. The Ministry of Plenty.

T.O.S.H.: Yeah, it’s justice in the Orwellian sense. Of course, you know, Fitzgerald hasn’t done anything yet, and I for one will be very surprised if he actually brought charges against any of the torture investigators, but just the fact that this probe is going on of course is chilling the entire process of putting together defenses for these defendants. But, by the way, you know these defendants are also habeas applicants in a number of cases in the District of Columbia, in federal court, and they seem to be winning. It seems very, very few cases that the Department of Justice prevails in.

SH: Well, I was just going to ask you about this recent federal appeals court decision here, but I was going to preface it with, I spoke with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson the other day, Colin Powell’s former aide, and he said that they all knew, at least in the deputies meetings at the State Department, that all these guys were innocent, and that in fact, the way he put it, if I can paraphrase him, I think this is pretty accurate, he said: “Look, the fact that they brought all the guys from the black sites to Guantanamo in 2006, it’s proof positive right there that the ones who were the actual terrorists weren’t there.” I guess, you know, maybe Qahtani, somebody like that. The rest of these guys were simply rounded up, sold by Pakistani military guys, or who knows what.” And they knew it all along, Scott, according to a guy that was the right hand man of the Secretary of State at the time.

T.O.S.H.: Well, and that’s what the federal courts are concluding. I mean, the Congress rigged the situation basically so only a short list of federal judges who were overwhelmingly very conservative and very Republican are able to hear these cases, and yet those judges are coming out for the defendants, you know, for the prisoners, in roughly 80% of the cases. And that’s, you know, after 80% of the detainees had been let go. So we’re talking about this remaining 20%, and 80% of that remaining 20% are winning their cases against the government, with the court finding over and over again that the government has no evidence to justify holding these people. Big decision handed down on Friday by the Court of Appeals. It was an appeal from one of the few cases that the government won, involving an Algerian whose name is Belkacem Bensayah. And the Court of Appeals reverses the decision of the District Court, saying, “No, there really wasn’t enough evidence to justify his continued detention.” And the court really chastises Judge Richard Leon, a Bush appointee; he’s one of the federal judges who’s handed down a large number of rulings for the government. The court really chastises him, saying that he’s accepting intelligence analysis, which is somebody’s conclusions, as evidence. And they say they’re not evidence. You have to look at what are the underlying facts that the government used to make its conclusions, not rest it on the conclusions themselves. And this is an opinion written by Justice Ginsburg, remember, who was a nominee at one point for the Supreme Court, I think, before, by George H.W. Bush, the father, and, you know, a Republican justice with a very conservative panel.

SH: You’re talking about the panel that overruled the lower panel.

T.O.S.H.: Exactly.

SH: Yeah, well, that’s good, I guess, that this guy has a chance. I wonder about that, though. Does that speak directly to your legal mind about the competence of a judge who would confuse an assertion with evidence for an assertion? I mean, I remember getting an F on this at senior year in high school. You can’t just make an assertion without providing at least an attempt to prove it there, pal. Not even in your history class essay.

T.O.S.H.: Well, it’s exactly right. You know, the great risk that a lot of people have thought going into this is that because you take something and put a stamp on it that says “super super secret,” that somehow that makes it evidence. But, you know, it’s not. Because many of these reports that are highly classified represent an intelligence officer’s conclusions. His surmise. His view. His thinking. That’s fine, we need that thinking, and it’s useful. But the court isn’t supposed to be looking at that and making its decisions. It’s really supposed to be focused on the facts that that intelligence officer had. That is the information that’s supposed to come in and be evaluated. So there’s supposed to be an independent assessment made of those facts. And that’s where Judge Leon went wrong.

SH: Now, I saw this piece, I forget, I believe it was a Charlie Savage piece in the New York Times, and he of course has done a lot of really great work covering these issues, and I believe it was him a week or two ago where they quoted Obama administration officials as saying that they don’t want to try to close Guantanamo at all. It’s all about the appearance of trying to close Guantanamo, and that’ll be good enough for the left and good enough for the world.

T.O.S.H.: Well, yeah, I mean, that was a very important article. Actually Charlie Savage’s article on this Bensayah case that I just talked about is also really terrific. And, you know, it really shows the way the commitment that was touted very aggressively by Obama and his team during the election campaign, it just disappeared. And why has it disappeared? I think the reasons that are suggested by that article are pure partisan politics. And the analysis runs something like this: The Republicans want to make a big megillah out of Guantanamo, so we’re not going to walk into their line of fire. We’ll just let it stand. All right, in fact, we’ll do exactly what they’re advocating, or by and large, 90% of what they’re advocating, we’ll leave it there. We’ll walk away from it. So the analysis of senior political advisers in the White House is don’t make an issue out of Guantanamo. So just let it continue. Let the status quo continue. It’s a complete abandonment of the promise he made during the campaign.

SH: Right, and of course he’d look tougher if he just stood up against them, but I guess that lesson will always be lost on…

T.O.S.H.: Well, he would look principled if he did what he said he was going to do, of course.

SH: Right, right. All right, hold it right there, we’ll be right back.

SH: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio, and I’m on the phone with the other Scott Horton, from Harper’s magazine, and Scott, I really appreciate you spending time with us on the show, as always. Anybody can tell by looking at your blog, seeing that you travel the world, and you’ve got all these advanced degrees and all these insane credentials, you translate poetry from all different centuries and all different languages, and this is some really classy stuff, and I really appreciate you hanging out with me. I hope it ain’t just because we’ve got the same name.

T.O.S.H.: [laughs] I couldn’t think of a better place to spend the Fourth of July weekend.

SH: All right, well cool. All right, so, now, tell me this. You’re so familiar with the Old World because when the Soviet Union fell down, you went and traveled the world like Johnny Appleseed passing out Ludwig von Mises, right?

T.O.S.H.: [laughs] Well, I spent a lot of time working with human rights dissidents and activists in the former Soviet Union. Andrei Sakharov was a client of mine. So was Elena Bonner and a number of others. And I spent a lot of time over there and becoming persona not grata, you know, in the late Soviet period.

SH: Oh, well, good for you! That’s a pretty high badge of honor. That ought to go in your bio there on the – well, I guess, you got the Sakharov Foundation, so that makes it pretty clear. But so, I thought you told me before too that you actually were kind of doing your part to spread libertarian economic theory around the former Soviet Union at one point, too, huh?

T.O.S.H.: Yeah, well, I think, you know, I’ve worked a lot with a lot of people over there, and when communism collapsed and people started rethinking these basic questions, I say, Austrian School economics, which is, you know, the basis of libertarian economics, was a very hot commodity, a very hot item. You know, it offered I think probably the most coherent, the best put together, the most systematic criticism of Western economic ideas, especially the sort of statist models we have in the United States, Britain, and in Europe. And I think it was very, very influential, and certainly we’ve got a lot of countries over there where the government’s view is very, very strongly informed by Austrian economics.

SH: Yeah, that’s good news, too. I’ll tell you, it seems like there are little branches of the Mises Institute popping up all over the world, and of course with the magic of the internet and and that kind of thing, all the voluntaryists doing translations in all different languages, the stuff’s really getting out.

T.O.S.H.: And not to forget the The Road to Serfdom, of course.

SH: Right. Yeah, of course. Yeah, Hayek’s all the rage again.

T.O.S.H.: Even if Glenn Beck is promoting it.

SH: [laughs] Right, it seems a bit counterintuitive. Maybe he ought to read a little bit of it.

T.O.S.H.: I have to say, I’m absolutely convinced he’s never read it, based on stuff he says, but…

SH: He couldn’t have. Yeah, he’s not so much a reader or a writer, that guy. Anyway.

All right, so, now, so let’s talk about a little bit of what’s going on in the Old World there. You say something about Afghanistan in your e-mail here. What do you know?

T.O.S.H.: Well, you know, I give you a salute right away for bringing in [Michael] Hastings and talking about his article, which I think was a big press story. But I have to thank the media. It’s amazing that McChrystal falls over that, and, you know, not over the Pat Tillman story, not over his involvement with torture at Camp Nama, and not over policies that really bear his signature in Afghanistan that have not been successful. And, just in the last couple of days I’ve spoken with some senior people at the State Department who are involved in Afghanistan policy, and what I hear from them is, you know, some regrets that McChrystal’s out. And I asked, “Well, why?” And they say, “Well, because he really seemed to understand that things weren’t working. And we’re not so convinced that Petraeus recognizes that.”

SH: Huh, interesting. Well, hmm, that is an interesting interpretation. I guess my first question there is, can you say whether these anonymous senior State Department officials are Hillary Clinton’s people or whether they’re professional long-term State Department permanent types?

T.O.S.H.: No, they are professionals who have been involved studying and writing about Afghanistan for many, many years. Not tied to Hillary Clinton.

SH: Okay. Did they give you any indication as to whether Hillary and Holbrooke and their people feel the same way?

T.O.S.H.: Yeah, I mean what I hear from them is that, you know, there’s even what we might call a level of alarm inside the administration, inside the foreign policy apparatus, about how things are going. You know, McChrystal had taken the position that we would launch this massive campaign in the south of the country, deliver a real blow to the Taliban, send them reeling, and then maybe we’d sit down at a table and talk peace with them or some elements of them. And this effort to deliver a decisive blow to the Taliban has absolutely flopped. It’s not gone anywhere. And I think the reason it’s flopped – we’re all pretty clear about that too – the reason it’s flopped is that the Pashtun in the south of Afghanistan don’t like us and they’re embracing the Taliban. And that’s a relatively new phenomenon. You know, we had the support of the great majority of these people up until about 2½ years ago, and that’s just worn away now. And, at this point you’ve got to ask, like, so what does victory look like in Afghanistan?

SH: Getting out of there 10 years ago. You know, Michael Scheuer says some pretty politically incorrect things sometimes, but even with his kind of worst sort of way of putting the revenge attack that should have happened after September 11, it’s still, the pile of skulls he talks about will still be much smaller than the tens of thousands of Afghans that have been killed since then. And he just recently wrote an article saying, after September 11th, you know, the task was clear. You go in there and you kill as many al Qaeda guys as you can and then you leave. And in fact even Colin Powell – this was one of the original fights between Colin Powell and the neocons, was Powell originally said, “Eh, we’re not so interested in who’s in charge in Kabul.” He wasn’t trying to walk into the trap. And of course I guess he got overruled. That was way back then.

T.O.S.H.: Let’s remember the Pottery Barn Rule, which I think a lot of people think is a pretty serious rule. You break it, you fix it. You go into a country and topple its government, it’s your responsibility. And, you know, Colin Powell and a number of others thought that the plans for sweeping on-the-ground action there were not very smart for that very reason. And one of the big problems, I think, with the Obama administration, he walked in the door and he accepts Bush Plus. You know, he decides to put much more muscle behind the policies that the Bush administration had put in place. And I think there are very fundamental questions about whether those policies make any sense. Not whether they’re morally right or wrong, but whether they’re effective, whether they really are going to accomplish anything.

SH: Yeah. Well, and I’m not trying to rehabilitate Colin Powell or anything, but I did just read this old Justin Raimondo article from I think November of 2001, where it was about Bill Kristol attacking Colin Powell for explicitly saying just that. So those are the facts right there. And that’s also where the fault line was on the policy, too.

T.O.S.H.: And now Bill Kristol is attacking the chairman of the Republican party.

SH: Right. For saying exactly what you’re saying, or at least implying, which is, “Hey, guys, guess what. Nobody can ever take over Afghanistan. It’s not how it works, so don’t bother trying.”

T.O.S.H.: It didn’t work for the Brits, and they tried it three times. It didn’t work for the Russians either.

SH: Yeah, and Scheuer says in his recent article I read, he says the last guy who pulled it off was Genghis Khan. And he just went in there and killed everybody.

T.O.S.H.: Mass extermination strategy. That works just fine.

SH: Although that didn’t even work for the Russians, and they tried it. Of course, Rambo III, I remember I learned this as a kid, in Rambo III, he says, “You cannot defeat these people. They will not submit to foreign armies, and anybody who knows their history knows that.” I wonder if maybe that’s where Michael Steele got the line from, somebody had him watch Rambo III, you know? It doesn’t work. You can’t – well, so, and even if the empire wants to stay in Central Asia, they don’t have to stay in Afghanistan, right? We’ve still got bases in all the former Soviet stans, don’t we?

T.O.S.H.: Oh, you bet. We’ve got a base in Kyrgyzstan, for instance. And we also have installations that they don’t like to talk about in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, a major supply arrangement in Uzbekistan, a base in Azerbaijan. We have these facilities all over the region. It never gets talked about in the American press, but you can count on it of course that the Russians are keeping warily track of every bit of this.

SH: Yeah, oh, there’s the most important issue in the whole world, our relationship with Russia, and of course we’re almost at the time wall here, but I’d point out that I saw Hillary Clinton over there talking about bringing Ukraine into NATO again.

T.O.S.H.: Talking with my buddy, Misha Saakashvili, yesterday, in fact.

SH: Oh, about bringing Georgia into NATO too?

T.O.S.H.: About bringing Georgia in. Georgia…

SH: You tell your buddy, you tell her no thanks for me, okay? All right, thanks Scott, appreciate it.

T.O.S.H.: Okay, great to be with you.

SH: Everybody go read No Comment at The Other Scott Horton. We’ll be right back.

Lawrence Wilkerson


Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, discusses why Bush and Cheney must have known most Guantanamo prisoners were innocent, the US military’s inability to do battlefield vetting of Afghan war prisoners, Cheney’s reversal of the Blackstone formulation on the wrongful imprisonment of innocents, how Colin Powell and others were kept out of the loop about intelligence based on tortured confessions, how the intelligence failures on Iraq WMD were in part due to compensating for missing Saddam’s real program in 1990-91 and why Douglas Feith and Richard Perle are essentially representatives of Israel’s Likud party.

MP3 here. (28:52) Transcript below.

Larry Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.


Scott Horton interviews Col. Lawrence Wilkerson July 2, 2010

Scott Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio, I’m Scott Horton, and our next guest on the show today is retired Col. Larry Wilkerson. He helped lie us into war with Iraq and he’s regretted it ever since. Now he’s at the New America Foundation. Was an aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Welcome to the show. How are you doing, Larry?

Lawrence Wilkerson: Doing fine.

Horton: Appreciate your joining us here. Now, this is kind of old news, but what’s so old about it? It’s all still going on. From April 9, of this year, 2010, “George W. Bush ‘Knew Guantanamo Prisoners Were Innocent’,” in the Sunday Times, which normally I would think if it’s in the Sunday Times, it’s not true, but here they’re quoting you, and you seem like an honest guy, so why don’t you tell us about it?

Wilkerson: I believe that as soon as we got the 740 or so prisoners out of Afghanistan to Guantanamo, that we knew there had been improper battlefield vetting; that is to say, there were too few troops in Afghanistan, U.S. troops, to do the kind of combat status review tribunals, the other things under the Geneva Conventions that are normally done, that indeed we’ve done in every war since World War I, even before that, and so what happened was that no U.S. soldiers were involved really significantly in their capture. There were Pakistanis, there were warlords, there were Northern Alliance troops and so forth involved, but there really weren’t any U.S. personnel involved. So this complement of prisoners came to Guantanamo having been swept up on the battlefield by all manner of people other than the U.S. and having had no battlefield vetting whatsoever.

So when we got them there, it was clear that there were people there who didn’t belong there. We had people who were over 90 years old. We had 12-year-olds, 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds, 16-year-olds. We had British citizens. We had Australian citizens and so forth. We had foreign ministers like Jack Straw from London, for example, a good friend of Colin’s, asking us immediately to repatriate these people because they were our allies – the UK, arguably our special relationship ally – and yet we wouldn’t do that.

So it became clear, I think, to the highest levels in the U.S. government quite swiftly in 2002 that we had people at Guantanamo we didn’t know much about at all. Some of them might be hardcore terrorists, some of them might be nothing more than soldiers, drivers and that sort of thing, and a whole bunch of them, maybe even the majority of them, might be nothing more than people who had been swept up on a battlefield that was quite chaotic, and incidentally swept up at times for bonuses that we were paying. We paid $5000 to a Pakistani, for example, for capturing someone, so what’d he do, he goes out and he captures his enemy and makes $5000 off of it. If he’s Taliban, that’s great. If he’s al Qaeda, that’s even better. But normally they weren’t. They were just people that the Pakistani made $5000 off because he didn’t like him very much.

Horton: Well now, on one hand, Secretary Powell, and the vice president, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, and everyone must have known this because I think quite a bit of this was in the media, at least, if you’re reading The Guardian or something, this wasn’t, you know, it was pretty apparent that they were sort of just sweeping up people and paying bounties and that kind of thing early on. But, here you are, you’re a former high-level official in the government and you’re saying you know for a fact that these men knew. How do you know for a fact that these men knew? Did you all see the same papers and you know they saw the same papers, or you were in the room when Colin Powell and Dick Cheney discussed this, or what?

Wilkerson: No, a lot of this is my surmise with regard to the vice president and the president. I mean it’s very difficult for me to see what I saw and know what I knew, listening to deliberations that Secretary Powell went through with, for example, his Ambassador for War Crimes, Pierre Prosper, and others and not believe that my president and my vice president knew how screwed up they were at Guantanamo. Furthermore, I know what the philosophy was, and the philosophy was that if you’ve got one terrorist in jail, who cares if you’ve got 500 innocent people in jail? It’s worth it. It’s worth it for two reasons: One, because you may be able, because the people you’ve got who are innocent came from the same region, the same country, the same area, often the same province as the terrorist, you may be able to get information out of them that may be helpful. So that’s the first reason. The second reason is, who cares if you sweep innocent people up as long as you get the bad guy? I mean, if you read Ron Suskind’s book, you understand that that was pretty much the philosophy that Vice President Cheney exercised all the time.

On the other side of the coin, I heard the discussions that took place every morning at 8:30 in the conference room when we met with the assistant secretary and the under secretaries and office heads and so forth, and people like Pierre who were dealing with this issue of trying to repatriate people, trying to get people who weren’t guilty of anything other than having been swept up on the battlefield, like the teenagers and the 90-year-old man and so forth, out of Guantanamo and back to their country. Or in the case of people we didn’t know anything about, which I think was the majority of them, back to a country where the same kind of process could be pursued, perhaps even better pursued, as in the UK – after all they had experience with Northern Ireland and so forth and a lot more terrorist experience than we did – and getting them back to them so that they could do it. All this conversation went on day after day after day, but nothing ever happened.

The Uighers were another case in point. I think everyone early on knew that the Uighers were guilty of nothing but having been swept up on the battlefield. Now we have U.S. courts having corroborated that fact. There were about 16 or 17 of these Uighers. They were from the far province, the western province of China, Xinjiang province of China. And yet we hadn’t at the end of the Bush administration repatriated them yet because we couldn’t find anybody in the world that wanted to take them. We didn’t want to give them back to the Chinese. We were fearful that the Chinese would take draconian, drastic action about them because the Chinese had declared that that group of people were terrorists in their own right. So, I mean, this went on daily, this discussion, and is today, and it was clear to me that the highest-level people knew how screwed up the situation was in Guantanamo. Now, the fact that I saw the Secretary of State aware of it, knew that he talked to Dr. Rice every day, knew that he talked to Secretary Rumsfeld quite frequently, that leads me to believe that the highest people over there in the White House knew about it too. And if I conclude otherwise, then I have to conclude they were all idiots. And though I’ve said some disparaging things about the vice president and others, I don’t think I’ve ever called them an idiot. I don’t think they were idiots.

Horton: Well, did Scooter Libby sit in on these deputies’ meetings?

Wilkerson: No, these were meetings in the State Department where Secretary Powell meets with his people.

Horton: Oh, I see. But they have the deputies’ meetings where the Deputy Secretary of Defense and State and all the different departments come together and then the vice president surely would have somebody representing him there, right?

Wilkerson: Oh, the vice president had people representing him everywhere. There were people at the lowest level coordination meetings within the interagency group from the vice president’s office. For example, when I sat in on discussions of the six-party talks or issues in Asia in general with Jim Kelly, who was the Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, who was in the chair – when I sat in those low-level coordination meetings, the first level, if you will, of the interagency process, there was always a person from the vice president’s office there.

Horton: Now, you know, pardon me, but, it seems to me like if you guys were having these meetings where you talk about how there’s all these innocent people there, on such a regular basis, was everybody not agreeing that “We know we’re liars but this is part of our PR for the war on terrorism, is we got to pretend that there’s more than 100 of these guys in the whole world”?

Wilkerson: Well, look at the problem they had. Look at the challenge they had. And when I say they, I mean the entire interagency, including my boss, Secretary Powell. The challenge had a number of dimensions to it. The first dimension was, “Wow, we don’t know about these people. They were not vetted properly on the battlefield. They were not taken by U.S. soldiers. We don’t know. All we have in some cases is a card with an expected name, maybe the time and date of capture, and maybe who captured. That’s the extent of the trail of evidence that we have. Wow. We don’t want to release these guys because they might really be terrorists. Better to keep them in jail and be wrong about their guilt or innocence than to release them and let them resume the war.” That’s the first dimension. Second dimension…

Horton: All right, well, we’ll have to hold it right there. We’ll get back to the second dimension of it after this break. It’s Larry Wilkerson from the New America Foundation. Antiwar Radio.

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton, and I’m talking with retired Col. Larry Wilkerson, former aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, now at the New America Foundation, and we’re talking about how the government, the Bush government, knew that the men at Guantanamo Bay were innocent. And you were saying, sir, about the second dimension, or maybe you want to recap the first, the two points about what y’all knew, and I guess I was suggesting that it seems like it must have been a cynical conversation, that we have this PR stunt to try to prove that there are lots of terrorists out to get us, you know, 700-something innocent people at Guantanamo originally, while there were never more than a couple hundred al Qaeda in the whole world in the first place.

Wilkerson: Well, the first dimension that I mentioned was of course that we didn’t want to let a terrorist go. And that’s a legitimate dimension, in my view. The second one was, how on earth could you possibly admit to the American people how screwed up Guantanamo was? If you’re Secretary Rumsfeld and you admit that, you’ve just admitted that you don’t know what you’re doing. And you certainly open yourself up to firing by the President of the United States, and you’ve made yourself look like a total fool. So you’ve got this very understandably human dimension to it that no one wants to admit that they’ve made such a colossal error. You’ve got another dimension to it, too, and you hinted at it there. It’s what I call the “Karl Rove dimension.” You want to exploit this as much as you possibly can, so you put them in shackles, you put hoods on them, you put them in orange jumpsuits, and you show a little TV footage every now and then. You want the American people to believe that these are heinous, despicable, deadly criminals.

Horton: Yeah, goes good with an orange alert in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Wilkerson: Yeah. And it doesn’t hurt that you’re doing that. And you’re also, if you’re the vice president, who’s been saying from one end of the country to the other that there are contacts between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and Baghdad, which the intelligence community was saying, “No there aren’t, no there aren’t, no there aren’t” repeatedly, then you want these people to be, shall we say, subjected to the most extreme interrogation methods possible in order to get out of them corroborating proof that there are contacts between al Qaeda and Baghdad.

Horton: Now, now, let me stop you right there, because any journalist – in fact, let’s go ahead and point at McClatchy Newspapers – they went through and they said, “Look, all the torture coincides with Iraq lies, Iraq al Qaeda lies, Iraq weapons of mass destruction lies, but you were there. Were there discussions that you overheard, Col. Wilkerson, where they were deliberately talking about “We need to torture these guys into lying about Saddam Hussein’s connections to Osama bin Laden”?

Wilkerson: No, I was not. And I would not have been privy to those kinds of conversations anyway.

Horton: You ever talk with Colin Powell about that, in the elevator or when you were walking to the car?

Wilkerson: I don’t even believe, in my study of past national security decision-making situations, I don’t even corroborate this, I don’t even believe Colin Powell knew about it. I think this was a very, very closely held, vice president, perhaps the president – I’m not even sure the president was fully versed on it – George Tenet group that worked the problem aside from everyone else. And that’s not – historically that’s not unusual. When the president issues a finding to do something like this, whether it’s Eisenhower issuing a finding to overfly the Soviet Union with U-2s, or whether it’s Eisenhower, for example, issuing a finding to overthrow the first democratically elected prime minister in Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, the community that knows about that finding, that decision, is very small. It usually doesn’t include anyone without a need to know, and that means people who are actually going to have to execute the decision. So, I have no problem understanding that my boss didn’t even know about some of this stuff.

Horton: Well, but when you guys were the recipients of the information, such as, we have this guy, I don’t know if they told you the name, al-Libi, but he says that Saddam taught the al Qaeda guys how to make chemical weapons and so forth, did you believe that, or did you know that had anything to do with people being, you know, crucified from the ceiling until they “admitted it,” or worse?

Wilkerson: I didn’t know that until much later. I found it out through my own research, and in the case of Shaykh al-Libi, I found it out because this intelligence individual revealed to me that he had had been tortured in Egypt.

Horton: But I mean the CIA brought you his lies and said, “Use this,” right?

Wilkerson: But the CIA did not bring us any identification of sources, and that’s their normal modus operandi. We did not know, for example, that Curveball existed until well after his UN presentation. We did not know that. What the term of art that the CIA used with the Secretary of State and with me and others was “a high-level al Qaeda operative” has revealed so and so and so and so. We didn’t know names. We didn’t know places. We didn’t know interrogation methods and so forth until well after the presentation.

Horton: Well, formalities aside, did you know that they were BS-ing?

Wilkerson: I’ll be very honest with you and tell you that I suspected at the time that we weren’t getting the full truth.

Horton: Well, now there’s so much ground to cover on Guantanamo, but there are so many other things I want to ask you about as well. Is there anything important about Guantanamo I might have missed – to give you a chance to address here?

Wilkerson: Well I think, you see, one other thing, when President Bush makes a decision to send, if I remember right, it was 14, the 14 high-value detainees that were fairly – we were fairly certain about were very instrumental either in 9/11 or in other activities that al Qaeda was planning or had accomplished, when he decided to pull them out of the secret prisons, which as you know were distributed across the globe, and put them in Guantanamo, there were statements at that time, and some of us made with some derision in our voice, that, “Hey, for the first time since Guantanamo was opened, we really have some hardcore al Qaeda there.”

Horton: Right, yeah, it puts the lie to the whole Guantanamo situation when anybody who was actually, you know, Ramzi bin al-Shibh or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were in a former Soviet torture dungeon in Eastern Europe or in Morocco or in an underground dungeon in Thailand or something like that.

Wilkerson: And frankly I think that was one of the president’s reasons for putting them at Guantanamo. Because we knew the situation at Guantanamo was untenable in the long term and we needed to get some people down there who really counted.

Horton: All right, now, I have a bunch of questions. I don’t know how many I can fit before the next break – do you think there’s any chance I can keep you one more segment after the bottom of the hour?

Wilkerson: Um, yeah. I can stay for another 15 minutes or so.

Horton: Okay, great, I know you’re busy, and I appreciate it. So I want to talk about the aluminum tubes. I want to ask you about the aluminum tubes. Because so much hinged on the idea, as you know, anybody who knew anything about nuclear anything would have been able to just laugh at it, but, you know, the idea that Hussein had some sort of advanced uranium enrichment program or something was laughable to anybody who knew anything about it – or to the IAEA, for example – but the case for war hinged on these tubes. And it was not just the neocons. I believe the story was, it was somebody at the CIA insisted on it. And yet you were working with Colin Powell over at the State Department, and I know that it was the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which I guess is sort of the State Department’s own little CIA there, that they and the Energy Department said, “This is nonsense.” And that was leaked to, or not leaked but discussed at least off the record with Knight Ridder Newspapers, and even with the Washington Post – in September of 2002 the Post ran a story saying, “The lower people don’t believe this.” And yet they kept using it all the way up until the invasion in 2003, including, of course, in Colin Powell’s famous speech – and now I’m sorry because the bumper music’s playing, we’ll have to go out to break, but I’ll try to get your answer on the other side of it. Everybody, it’s Col. Larry Wilkerson, who used to work for Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State in the first Bush administration. We’ll be right back.

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio on the Liberty Radio Network,, and, talking with retired Col. Larry Wilkerson. He’s now at the New America Foundation. And the question before the break was about the aluminum tubes and who believed this nonsense about the aluminum tubes other than the American people?

Wilkerson: Well, you have to look at the entire panoply of intelligence that was brought to bear on Iraq. There are 16 intelligence entities in the United States, 17 if you count the Foreign Intelligence board. Fourteen of the 16 agreed on the nuclear program. I&R at State and DoE’s intelligence outfit were the only two that dissented, and their dissent was duly noted in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. But, more important than that consensus in the intelligence community that was wrong, obviously, was the fact that it wasn’t just aluminum tubes. There were seven items that the other 14 entities brought out to demonstrate that they thought he had a program. They ranged from everything from the tubes and magnets and rotors and all the things necessary for a centrifuge complex, to scientists that Saddam was trying to recruit who were nuclear scientists, to software that he was purchasing around the world through his what we called “spider front” of companies that purchased in Germany and Russia and elsewhere for him, and so there were other reasons to believe, not the least of which, and I didn’t even include it in the seven, was the fact that we had been very wrong in 1990 and 1991 about his nuclear program. He was much further along than the intelligence community had estimated at the time. So you might say they were trying to make up for their failure in ’90 and ’91 by assessing that he was further along then. So it wasn’t just the aluminum tubes, though admittedly they were a part of it. And I’m not one to defend this at all, because it was dead wrong, but there were other aspects to it than just the two dissenters and the aluminum tubes.

Horton: Yeah. Well, the guys at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, they bought everything but the tubes, or they were –

Wilkerson: Yeah, they bought the chemical and they bought the biological. And then one of the things Tom does in his book now –

Horton: Well, I meant in terms of the other pieces of the nuclear story there. Because you know, Mohamed ElBaradei said, “Come on, this is not right. I’ve been there.”

Wilkerson: Well, you have to remember that ElBaradei had motives of his own, and even if he didn’t have motives of his own, the president, the vice president, even the Secretary of State and others thought he did. So, you know, you’re dealing with politics here and you’re dealing with international politics.

Horton: Right.

Wilkerson: That’s sometimes hard to deal with.

Horton: But at the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research, how much of the nuclear story were they buying? – You said there were the 14 different pieces…

Wilkerson: They didn’t buy any of it. To Tom Fingar’s credit, to Carl Ford’s credit and other analysts in INR, they stood up against the rest of the intelligence community, except for the small element in the Department of Energy, and they said, “We dissent. We do not believe he has an active nuclear program. We do think he wants nuclear weapons, we do think that he will eventually try, but we don’t think he’s got an active program right now.” And they were right.

Horton: All right, now, I guess we can keep going down that path, but there’s so many other things. Let me ask you about the role of David Wurmser and John Bolton in the State Department in the first Bush Jr. administration. It sort of seemed from the outside – there was a piece in by Anonymous called “The State Department’s Extreme Makeover,” that came out, I think in 2002, maybe early 2003, saying “Boy, these guys that work for Cheney came in, turned the place upside down, marginalized or fired all the old CFR member types and you know if we put aside Iraq for the moment there’s the story of how America broke the agreed framework with the North Koreans, put new sanctions on them, and now it’s the Proliferation Security Initiative which said we’re going to seize your ships at sea and all this, in what seemed like deliberate plan to provoke the North Koreans into withdrawing from the Nonproliferation Treaty, as John Bolton has been caught on tape saying, what’s his plan with Iran as we’ll, to so frustrate them that they would just go ahead and quit their international agreement. And I wonder if you can kind of tell me about your view from inside the State Department of these two men and how the Cheney network operated under Colin Powell and Dick Armitage and you over there at the State Department?

Wilkerson: There’s no question that John Bolton was operating off a different sheet of music than the rest of us on more than one occasion. I would go in to see the Deputy Secretary of State and we would both lament the fact that we didn’t seem to be able to control him because he was covered by the vice president’s office. Very difficult to control an under secretary who ultimately has access to the vice president and, in this case, ultimately to what I believe was the real power in the first Bush administration. We tried. Obviously, we didn’t do that good a job. He made some very egregious speeches about North Korea, about Syria, about Cuba having an active biological weapons program, of all things, tried to intimidate one of our I&R analysts, a young man, Christian Westermann. The secretary had to bring the young man in and tell him no one in the State Department would intimidate him and give him access to his own office were it to happen again. So, yeah, it was a contest.

Now to go to those two specific individuals in your statement earlier, I think there’s a very clear-cut case that Wurmser was not only working for Rumsfeld and Feith and the Pentagon, but he was also working for Israel. I think Feith was working for Israel too. Cheney, on the other hand, I think was working for Cheney. And so you had this confluence of motivations and confluence of unholy alliance, if you will, of strange characters. You had Feith and Wurmser, who as far as I was concerned, were card-carrying members of the Likud Party. And they had different motivations from people like Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. And they had different motivations than people like Cheney and Libby and Addington and the vice president’s office. So you had this alliance of these people who were all after one thing, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but in many cases, for very different reasons.

Horton: Wow, so, please elaborate about what exactly you mean there. I guess people sort of differentiate between who’s an actual spy or who’s an agent of influence, and I guess the Israelis have a thing called a “sayanim” who’s like, “Eh, a friend of Israel who does things for us sometimes,” that kind of thing. Just how much agents of Israel, these guys, do you think they were? Wurmser and Feith, particularly.

Wilkerson: I’ll put it this way. I think Douglas Feith thought that Israel’s interests and the U.S. interests were 100% complementary 100% of the time. So if he was looking out for Israel’s interests, it was not any, by any way, stretch of the imagination, being unfaithful or traitorous with regard to the United States because our interests were the same, all the time, every day, day in and day out. That’s of course nonsense, but I think that’s really the way he believed.

I didn’t know Wurmser that well so I can’t tell you how he believed, but I do know that there were people in the Pentagon and elsewhere in the government, as there are right now this minute, and as there will be tomorrow, who were working as much for Israel as they are for the United States, and I know that with AIPAC and the Jewish Lobby, as John Mearsheimer has called it, in general operating the way it normally operates in this country, this special relationship that we have with Israel overlooks a lot of this a lot of the time. I mean you can throw out Jonathan Pollard and you can throw out an occasional attempt to do something about the more egregious spying, especially when it brings clear damage to us, but by and large it happens all the time. Look at what happened with Franklin and Rosen and AIPAC and that business. It’s pretty much been swept under the rug now. We share classified data with the Israelis all the time, both through official conduits and through unofficial ones too, and people get away with it all the time.

Horton: Well, no doubt about that. So, I wonder what you have to say about Richard Perle? Is that a general enough question for you?

Wilkerson: Richard Perle was so much on our minds – and he would love to hear me say that – in 2001 and 2002 that the secretary actually asked me to build a dossier on him and to see what he was saying, because he was going all over the world, Europe principally but elsewhere too, and he was talking, and he was being perceived, as an official member of the government. Of course he was a semiofficial member, he was on the Defense Policy Board, and he was pushing the war with Iraq, and we at the State Department in particular didn’t like what he was doing.

Horton: I tell you what, I’m starting to hate these hard breaks, but that’s it. Thank you very much for your time on the show. I hope we can do this again soon, because I’ve got more questions.

Wilkerson: Okay.

Horton: And you apparently have a lot of answers.

Wilkerson: Thanks so much for having me.

Horton: All right, everybody, that’s Larry Wilkerson. He’s at the New America Foundation.

Joy Gordon


Joy Gordon, author of Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions, discusses the comprehensive sanctions imposed on Iraq in the 1990s that killed 500,000 children, the US led effort to literally starve Iraq by cutting off food importation, how the Gulf War and subsequent sanctions destroyed Iraq’s modern infrastructure and prevented rebuilding, contradictory US and UN policies on rewarding compliance of Security Council resolutions and how the US “reverse veto” power guaranteed the sanctions would never be lifted while Saddam Hussein remained in power.

MP3 here. (18:46)

Joy Gordon is a Professor of Philosophy at Fairfield University. Her work focuses on human and economic rights, particularly economic sanctions. She has been published in Harper’s Magazine, Le Monde Diplomatique, Yale Journal of Development and Human Rights Law, and The Nation. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University and a J.D. from Boston University School of Law.

Robert Higgs


Robert Higgs, senior fellow at the Independent Institute, discusses the tiresome rants of gloom and doom survivalists, why those who long for a government or economic collapse should be careful what they wish for, why federal spending can’t continue at the current level without a bond market revolt, the none-too-encouraging result of the Soviet Union’s collapse and why the US empire may face gradual cutbacks instead of outright abolition.

MP3 here. (28:55) Transcript below.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy for The Independent Institute and Editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, and the University of Economics, Prague. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow for the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Higgs is the editor of The Independent Institute books Opposing the Crusader State, The Challenge of Liberty, Re-Thinking Green, Hazardous to Our Health? and Arms, Politics, and the Economy, plus the volume Emergence of the Modern Political Economy.

His authored books include Neither Liberty Nor Safety, Depression, War, and Cold War, Politická ekonomie strachu (The Political Economy of Fear, in Czech), Resurgence of the Warfare State, Against Leviathan, The Transformation of the American Economy 1865-1914, Competition and Coercion, and Crisis and Leviathan. A contributor to numerous scholarly volumes, he is the author of more than 100 articles and reviews in academic journals.


Scott Horton interviews Robert Higgs, July 7, 2010

Scott Horton: Okay, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton, and I’m joined on the line by the great Robert Higgs from The Independent Institute. Let me click on the right thing here so I can read you some of the books he wrote: Crisis and Leviathan, Depression, War, and Cold War, Against Leviathan, Resurgence of the Warfare State, Opposing the Crusader State, Neither Liberty Nor Safety, The Challenge Of Liberty, Arms, Politics, and the Economy… On and on like that it goes. He is the editor of The Independent Review. You can check out The Independent Institute at, and, boy, this guy is more libertarian than all of y’all. He doesn’t even like it when the government does bad things to other government people, which makes him more libertarian than me, even. Welcome back to the show, Bob, how are you doing?

Robert Higgs: I’m doing fine, Scott.

Horton: Yeah, I think you’re the only libertarian I ever heard say: “I am absolutely opposed to Dick Cheney being tried for war crimes. There shouldn’t be any federal trials at all ever again for anyone.”

Higgs: Well, I don’t remember saying that, but I’d actually prefer that he were struck by lightning, and that could save us some expense, perhaps.

Horton: Well, I have a witness. It was Anthony Gregory, your colleague at The Independent Institute. He can verify this.

Higgs: I trust him more than I trust my own memory.

Horton: Yeah, well, and if you’re smart, more than you trust me too, so, we’ll double check with him. All right, now – and I know you’re smart because I read your stuff. Let’s talk about “Which End, If Any, is Near?” Which end, if any, is near, Bob?

Higgs: [laughs] I wish I knew, Scott. I assume you’re referring to a little piece I wrote recently which was a kind of a lament, I think, about the proliferation of doomsday forecasts or expectations or households or whatever they are that have appeared, particularly in the last year or so. They’re all over the web now, and on certain Websites you get hardly anything else. And some sites have more or less switched over from doing libertarian analysis to doing gloom and doom and survivalism and talking about which guns and ammo are better and so forth, so there’s been a lot of this stuff going on, and at some point I found it more than I could take, and so I had to express the opinion that I think most of it is extremely overwrought.

Horton: Well, I guess I hate to say this, but I’m sort of hopeful about an economic collapse. What Ron Paul always says is that, you know, these horrible policies, meaning the complete and total destruction of any semblance of the rule of law, especially at the national level, but really across the society in terms of at least the way it binds the power of the government (obviously it still applies to us) the endless warfare around the world, that this is only going to end, not because people listen to him but because the dollar’s going to break, because our empire’s going to fall apart like the Soviet Union. And I always figure that’s better than going out like the Germans or the Japanese.

Higgs: A lot of unfortunate things may happen. I’m not at all arguing against that. In fact I think some unfortunate things are virtually certain to happen. From one point of view they may not be unfortunate at all. For example, the government’s promises to pay benefits under Social Security, and particularly the Medicare part of Social Security, cannot be kept, so if you know arithmetic, you already know that at some point these programs are going to collapse in the sense that they will be unable to pay what they promise people and therefore in one way or another they will not make those payments. So, yes, that sort of thing is easy to not only imagine but actually to expect, and people would be well advised to plan for it, but there are a lot of other aspects of gloom and doom being discussed that are by no means sure things. Although I think the dollar conceivably might collapse at some point, I think the odds are strongly against it, and in history there have been many worse-managed currencies that managed to hang on for a very long time, and I won’t be surprised if the dollar turns out to be that way too. That doesn’t mean the dollar is going to hold its value. It almost certainly will continue to depreciate quicker or slower over time. And again that’s something that people should expect and plan for, but that’s a different matter from pell-mell abandonment of the dollar. I think, too, Scott that it’s worth recalling that when people long for a kind of overall collapse of the economy, they should think twice about that, because historically collapses like that are virtually never the occasions in which liberty comes out ahead at the end. In my work and in other people’s work that I’ve read about but not really participated in doing the research for, it seems to me that social collapses and particularly government collapses generally portend even greater totalitarianism.

Horton: Well, sure, and your book, Depression, War, and Cold War, as the mark of all of that.

Higgs: The tsarist regime was horrible. But the Bolsheviks were worse. The Weimar German regime was horrible. But the Nazis were worse. The people should think twice when they hope for collapse.

Horton: Yeah, no, I’m with you, and especially when, you know, the American people are so detached from reality in so many ways now and you can see somebody like Glenn Beck take a perfectly Ron Paulian argument that, “All we’ve got to do is not be afraid and just start doing the right thing,” and then he turns the right thing into, “Let’s persecute the poor and the brown and the powerless,” instead of “Let’s end the war and shore up the dollar and reinstate the Bill of Rights,” which is how Ron finishes the sentence, you know. But, but you take a Glenn Beck, and if economic times got much worse, that whole side of the Tea Party movement could be a real kind of fascist thing, I think. It scares me.

Higgs: I share your view in that regard. I think we need to remember that when there is some kind of revolution or thorough-going collapse of the political order, what happens next really depends heavily on the kind of ideological stance that people have and what kinds of preparation and schemes have been made by activists as well. There are sometimes little groups like the Bolsheviks in old Russia. They didn’t amount to much, you know, their numbers were trivial, but they were more or less prepared to do something and take action when an opportunity arose, and so they managed to leverage that crisis into their domination of a huge society. So if we’ve got people out there who are laying their plans and are well prepared to be unscrupulous, then they have a much stronger chance of coming out on top of the heap at the end. But most of all what will happen depends on what people will be willing to tolerate. And in general when there’s some kind of collapse of society or economy, almost everybody becomes tremendously fearful and they look for salvation. And where they look for salvation and how they expect to find it hinges entirely on the dominant ideology those people hold at the time, and right now I’m afraid to say that the dominant ideology of the United States is anything but propitious for the cause of liberty.

Horton: Yeah.

Higgs: So, you know, I could easily see that if things fell apart, we’d come out of it in a few years even worse off than we are now.

Horton: I don’t know what propitious means, but it sounds right.

Higgs: [laughs]

Horton: I’ll tell you. Well, you know, the Soviet Union, that was certainly a benefit when the Soviet Union fell apart, and yet millions starved and the collapse of their system was absolutely devastating for the people of Russia and continues to be. And, hell, in America, we got FDR the last time we went through a real depression, so…

Higgs: Yeah, I think…

Horton: Hold it right there, Bob. I’m sorry, we’re going to have come back right after this break.

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton, and I’m so selfish, I’m sitting here pining for an economic collapse just because I’m sick and tired of talking about war all day, every day, and yet Robert Higgs is saying, “Be careful what you wish for, young man,” something along those lines. Now, and then I guess your real point, Bob, is that the American empire is not going to collapse anytime soon. It’s going to be just like when Harry Browne died when I die, 50-60 years from now or whatever, everything is still the Permanent Crisis.

Higgs: Well, I don’t think the empire’s on the verge of collapse, Scott, but I do think, again, that it’s likely that financial constraints will bring about some changes, and in this case, probably some retrenchment. The U.S. government in the last few years has been mismanaged so badly that it’s put itself in a position that it can’t maintain indefinitely. Now, the people who run the system, I think at least some of them understand this, and that’s why they’re busily getting together in Toronto and having active discussions all the time how to disengage from some of these measures they’ve taken in the past two years to stimulate, as they imagine, the economy in this financial debacle and the recession.

But even though some of them appreciate the need for them to retrench, particularly to stop adding so much debt every year until they reach the point where the capital markets rebel against them, that that will be the real constrain on them. Because at some point the people that buy these bonds will simply lose interest in buying any more of them and in fact will want to hold fewer of them, and when that turnaround comes, and I think we may be in the neighborhood of such a turnaround right now, these governments will not be able any longer to continue spending at the same rate that they’ve been spending without financing their expenditures in even more troublesome ways such as by outright inflation of the money stock. So, if they reach the point where the financial constraint really begins to bite, they’re going to have to reduce expenditures, and that will almost certainly have to include the enormous expenditures on maintenance of the U.S. empire.

So I think there’s some hope, reason for hope, that the empire will be diminished in future years. I don’t see, with my understanding of political realities of the world, that it’s going to be given up all at once, or easily, because a great many people are going to fight to keep it, but I think the fundamental forces that hold up these governments, the U.S. government and the other advanced ones in the world, are now running against them. And so those forces ultimately will probably produce some results in the direction of retrenchment. I think it will be easier, ultimately, for the U.S. government to reduce the size of the empire than it will be for the U.S. government to cut down on old people’s pensions and medical care and so forth, because that’s going to generate just tremendous opposition politically.

Horton: Well now, ironically speaking and so forth, what role does the empire of bases play in propping up the dollar in the sense of impressing upon foreign leaders how they probably ought to still want to buy American securities?

Higgs: I don’t think it plays much of a role, Scott. You know, there’s a certain amount of intimidation that is part and parcel of the U.S. empire, and so this so-called central bank cooperation, for example, is a reflection of the clout that the U.S. brings to the table whatever the issue happens to be, whether it’s financial cooperation or military cooperation or anything else, but most of the people who hold U.S. debt and the debt of other governments are private individuals and institutions, and I think these people are practically all living in a world of very mobile capital. They can, with a push of a button, move tremendous sums of money anywhere in the world very quickly, and I simply don’t think they’re going to be intimidated by how many bases the U.S. happens to be maintaining in Somewhereistan.

Horton: In other words, these [bases] are simply a gross and net loss. There’s no – you know, there’s a whole theory that part of the reason that America wanted to attack Iraq is because he wanted to start buying his oil in euros and that kind of thing, and here they wanted to spend trillions of dollars doing a regime change to, in essence, prop up the dollar. But you think that probably doesn’t hold water then?

Higgs: I’ve never thought there was much to that idea, frankly. First of all, the magnitudes are trivial, when you look at the amounts of money at stake.

Horton: There is the example, though, right?

Higgs: There might be an example, but again the U.S. can invade Iraq fairly readily compared to its ability to invade and wreak havoc in a lot of other parts of the world. So I think other factors lie much more strongly behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But in any event, I think the empire is and always has been for the U.S. a net loser, but it’s not maintained for its aggregated benefits and costs, it’s maintained for the benefits it brings to the people who run it or are cozy with those who run it. So, so, it’s a ripoff.. It’s like virtually everything the government does. It goes about under an umbrella of misrepresentation about national security and weapons of mass destruction la la la la la, but that’s just for the boobeoisie. The people who actually run the system are interested in much more definite things, and I think in most of the cases where it looks like a screw-up for U.S. foreign policy, or the empire in general, these people who run the system still come out smelling like roses.

Horton: Yeah, of course. You’re the one who takes the blame. I saw you on C-SPAN, you’re the guy who got us into this mess, you mean old man.

Higgs: [laughs]

Horton: Now, which by the way, I highly recommend Bob Higgs on C-SPAN, Robert Higgs on C-SPAN, the three-hour call-in episode, to anyone who feels like gut laughing all day. Or crying, whichever you prefer. But now here’s the thing, though, we run up against what you’re saying about when times get bad, rather than the people who run the state retrenching, it tends to be a “Crisis and Leviathan” situation. We go into the Great Depression, everybody blames Bob Higgs and the libertarian free market for causing the problem, and what we need is another New Deal and another New Deal. I’m looking at your article entitled, “Crisis and Leviathan” at the Independent Institute, which is also the name of your book, talking about the revolution within the form that we’re undergoing right now. While everybody’s watching the oil spill, there’s a revolution inside the White House and inside the Congress as we speak, Bob. And if it’s okay, I’d like to keep you one more segment and ask you about that.

Higgs: Okay.

Horton: Thanks. Hang tight. Antiwar Radio.

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show, Antiwar Radio, and lucky me, lucky you, we’ve got Robert Higgs to stay one more segment with us. He’s at The Independent Institute, that’s, the author of Crisis and Leviathan, and, Bob, I guess this is where we get back to ideology. When a crisis comes, are we going to start rolling back some of our excesses, like, you know, all the money spent torturing people to death, or are we just going to have more of what it seems like we’re in the midst of right now, which when Garet Garrett talked about Franklin Roosevelt back in the ’30s, he called it a revolution within the form. He said, “All the revolutionaries are inside the White House and everybody else is outside the gate saying ‘Stop, stop.'” So, it seems like that’s where we’re already at. The dollar, if there’s a run on the dollar, like they say, I guess the crackup boom is the worse case scenario, then what do we get? Just military dictatorship?

Higgs: Well, I wouldn’t rule that out. They’ve certainly made preparation for that if they need it. Of course they would prefer not to have things get to that point, I’m sure, but I don’t think the people who control the U.S. government are going to just walk away from their power ever. I think they’ll do what they feel is necessary to retain their power, and I think they are unscrupulous people, and if they have to do horrible things, that’s what they’ll do. So, that’s the main reason I think why we all ought to be hoping that we don’t have any kind of a breakdown of the existing order because we’re likely to have a really fierce, terrible response to it from the government. And to make things work, a great many Americans will back the government when it takes these actions. As you know, governments always identify certain scapegoats and people to blame and hold responsible, and whether its economic royalists or communists or whatever it happens to be at the time, you identify the enemy, you start smearing everybody who gets in your way and putting people in prison right and left. So, I think our government is perfectly capable of reacting fiercely to the prospect of losing its grip on power. Now, that doesn’t mean they’ll never lose their grip, I simply think that when they do, and I think ultimately they probably will, it will be a much more gradual process of decay in which more and more people, as it were, simply walk away from them, refuse to cooperate any longer, withdraw their support, and eventually behave in such a noncooperative, evasive and sabotaging manner that the government can no longer accumulate resources and can no longer command enough allegiance to do its will.

Horton: Well, and that’s really what happened with the Soviet Union, right?

Higgs: I think so. In that case, it was also a revolution from the top, of course, even though many people in the lower levels of Soviet society were surely unhappy, and hardly anybody at that point believed in communism any longer as an ideological object or, you know, the loyalty to communism had pretty much dissolved except amongst some of the very old people. But I think what the Soviet power elite realized at some point in the 1980s was that the system was doomed and that there was a way for them to come out on top as it went under. And so they did that. They snatched the state property they had controlled by various devices, and they created a lot of billionaires among themselves, and they retained a lot of control over what was worth something in the society, like the natural resource deposits and means of marketing, and they still pretty much run the system. They renamed the KGB, and they call the new system capitalism, and whoopee. But as you mentioned before, the mass of the people continue to be in very bad economic condition there. And I think there has been some improvement. I think things for the masses of the Russians are a little better than they were under communism, but certainly it’s been a top down kind of regime change that has much less substance than it appears to have.

Horton: Well now, it’s funny because, I’m looking back on this thing, and it seems like FDR had this massive failure of a New Deal for a decade or so, and then he got us into a war, because that’s what you do when all else fails is you start conscripting people, that’ll bring that unemployment rate down one way or another there, and, you know, just dump them en masse on machine gun nests on top of cliffs and stuff, that kind of thing. But we never stopped warring since 1941, in that war that FDR got us in, and now it’s brought us to this point, and we see that there’s a pseudo New Deal going on with the government intervening more than ever in terms of the markets and taking over companies and bossing them around and these kinds of things. But so does that mean that we have another major full-scale, you know, World War III coming up – I don’t know, Obama or the next guy’s only way out of the mess they’ve got us in so far – or are we at the end of this cycle?

Higgs: I think conditions are different this time, partly because the configuration of power in the world as a whole is different. The wars that we may get in now are wars like attacks on Iran. That’s a very different thing from the United States and its allies going to war against Germany, Japan and their allies in World War II.

Horton: Sure.

Higgs: But those were powerful nation states that could really put up a fight. The U.S. makes war now against people that it would appear it’s bound to defeat, and yet it can’t. That’s a kind of paradox of the U.S. empire, that it loses all of these wars of empire, because what it tries to do is impose its will on societies that don’t want to be subjects of the United States, and so they keep sabotaging U.S. control of their societies in one way or another until finally the political will wears down among the American political establishment and they give it up or make some kind of arrangement like the one in Korea. But it always ends. The shooting stops and life goes on. But these post World War II wars have all been – even though Korea and Vietnam were not negligible in any sense, but relative to World War II much smaller affairs and aimed at much different objectives, I think. This was not the same situation Roosevelt was confronting in 1939 at all, and I don’t think it will play out the same either. If, for example, the U.S. does go ahead with or without Israel to attack Iran, what I would expect is a massive outpouring all over the world of opposition to that, just as there was sooner or later great opposition to the U.S. attack on Iraq, and that will provide some constraint on what the U.S. does and some encouragement for it to back away. Again, I think that these little kind of palace wars that are dreamed up by neocon schemers for the most part, who have inside connections, are quite different from the world wars in so many ways that it’s hard to draw a parallel.

Horton: So you think that if it really did come to, I don’t know, record unemployment and a horrible 1930-style situation, that at that point that’s where they’ll have to realize and give the empire up rather than going crazy like FDR and expanding it.

Higgs: Not give it, but cut back on it I think.

Horton: Yeah. At least. Well, hopefully starting with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, for their sakes. Thanks so much for your time, Bob, and your wisdom. Appreciate it.

Higgs: You’re welcome, Scott.

Horton: Everybody, that’s the great Bob Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan and Depression, War, and Cold War,


Kenneth O’Keefe


Human rights activist Kenneth O’Keefe discusses his reasons for joining the Gaza aid flotilla, his disillusionment with the vaunted Marine Corps honor code, the use of experimental vaccines on unwitting soliders in the Gulf War, terrorist accusations leveled at him and associated organizations by Israel’s defenders and why he will keep trying to run the Gaza blockade until it ends.

MP3 here. (24:51)

Human rights activist Kenneth O’Keefe is a former US Marine and Gulf War veteran. He was a passenger on the MV Mavi Marmara and participated in the ship’s defense against the Israeli commando raid.

Eric Garris


Eric Garris, founder and director of, discusses the convoluted House votes on multiple Afghan War bills and amendments, Obama’s broken pledge to stop using emergency supplemental bills for war funding, how House Reps can now somewhat credibly claim either support or opposition to the war and why China seems to have won the Iraq war.

MP3 here. (12:55) Transcript below.

Eric Garris is the founder, managing editor, director and webmaster of


Scott Horton interviews Eric Garris July 2, 2010

Scott Horton: Okay, everybody, welcome back to the show, wrapping up the week here, Antiwar Radio on LRN, the Liberty Radio Network,, and simulcasting the first two hours of the show every Tuesday through Friday from 9 to 11, well, West Coast time where I am, 11 to 1 Texas time, at And our first guest on the show today is’s founder and managing director, Eric Garris. He’s also the webmaster for Welcome to the show, Eric.

Eric Garris: Thanks for having me, Scott.

Horton: Let’s talk about this vote. This is the strangest thing in the world. I wanted you on the show to see if you could explain this to me a little bit because you’re such a master at the electoral politics game here, and we got three of the four top stories on right now are the roll call votes on: 1) the war funding bill, 2) withdrawal from Afghanistan, and 3) cut all war funding. And I’ve never seen so many Republicans vote against either of these kind of antiwar bills, anything like this before. I’m not sure what’s going on. I was wondering if you could help provide some clarity.

Garris: Well, I talked this morning with a congressional staffer who said that this was the most convoluted set of votes that he’s ever seen, which is saying quite a bit, considering we’re talking about Congress. As convoluted as the Afghan war and its goals have become, the votes last night really reflected the confusion and just how complex the war funding has become. There were actually six votes last night, and interestingly enough, that Ron Paul speech that you just aired came after the last vote.

Horton: Hmm.

Garris: They did not want to give him his full five minutes during any of the other votes.

Horton: I can’t figure out why…

Garris: The final vote was the vote to approve the war funding bill. It was presented as a procedural bill, or a procedural amendment, on a bill that was described as such: “Making emergency supplemental appropriations for disaster relief and summer jobs for fiscal year ending September 30, 2010.”

Horton: Summer jobs, is that what they’re calling it now?

Garris: That’s what they called it, summer jobs. Summer jobs in Afghanistan.

Horton: Yes. That’s hilarious. So –

Garris: So the vote that eventually was the approval vote passed 215-210 with every Republican voting against it.

Horton: Now how is that? Because it said summer jobs?

Garris: Because it added all this domestic pork into the legislation. So what’s going to happen now is that it goes back to the Senate. If the Senate concurs on everything the House did, it goes to the president for his signature. Otherwise it will come back to the House for reconciliation and may result in another vote in the House at some point in the near future, but that is not clear. The other votes are very interesting. It basically was set up to allow members of Congress to go back to their districts and say, “I voted for the war,” or “I voted against the war.”

Horton: Ahhh.

Garris: Because given the different sets of votes, they could claim either one.

Horton: Aha! Which is why such disparity between the cut-all-funding bill and the withdrawal-from-Afghanistan bill there.

Garris: That’s right. Now, there were two –

Horton: Well, now hold it right there, man, we got the bumper music playing here, we have to go out to the break. But I’d like to note here, Eric, before we go out to the break, real quick, that this is all about emergency supplementals that Obama promised he would never fund the war by emergency supplementals. Just that one more at the beginning of last year.

Garris: Yes.

Horton: And now here we are. All right, we’ll be back.

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m your host, Scott Horton, and I know you read Raimondo three times a week, but this is the guy that really makes it happen, Eric Garris, the founder and the director of Now, Eric, we’re talking about the six different votes in the House of Representatives on war funding yesterday. Help me make sense out of this.

Garris: I’ll try. The original bill that was passed by the Senate includes 37 billion for Afghanistan and Iraq but also includes money for FEMA, Haiti, veterans, the Gulf oil spill, farm loans, mine safety, Guam, highway safety, Capitol police, and a few other things.

Horton: And this is the Senate bill?

Garris: That is correct.

Horton: Okay.

Garris: So the first amendment was an amendment to add more domestic pork like summer jobs and such. And that passed. The second amendment was additional domestic issues, money for teachers, Pell grants, energy loans, schools on military installations, but interestingly also includes tightening up of Iran sanctions and tightening up of the No Fly List, those were just thrown in there, as well as requirements to shore up the policing of detainees. So that also passed. Those are the two reasons that the Republicans voted against the final bill, 215-210. Now the three interesting amendments that came up were all defeated. One would have required a new National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan by January 31 of next year, requiring a plan by April 4 of next year on the safe, orderly and expeditious redeployment of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. That got 160 yes votes. That’s as close as we came to any sort of antiwar vote. The Barbara Lee amendment, which would require war funds to be tied to withdrawal of Afghanistan, got 100 votes. The best amendment was an amendment to cut off all war funds from Afghanistan immediately. That amendment got only 25 yes votes. There were three Republicans and 22 Democrats. The three Republicans were Ron Paul, Duncan from Tennessee, and, uh…

Horton: Walter Jones, right?

Garris: No, not Walter Jones, interestingly enough.

Horton: Oh!

Garris: It was from Tim Johnson off Illinois.

Horton: Oh, so Jones was out that day or something. He voted yes?

Garris: Yes. Again, this was one of those things where people – see Jones was the cosponsor of one of the weaker amendments, so I think he felt obligated to vote against this one. As did Barbara Lee. Barbara Lee voted against the immediate cutoff of war funding.

Horton: Yeah. Well, I know that Walter Jones is sincere in his opposition to the war, so I’m not exactly sure what’s going on there.

Garris: Well, as I said, he was the cosponsor of the McGovern-Obey amendment, which was the one to require the National Intelligence Estimate. So I think that he probably made a deal to not support the more radical ones in order to push this one.

Horton: Okay, fair enough, go ahead.

Garris: But, you know, this is just – these last three amendments, none of them were expected to pass. They were allowed up in order, as I said, to give congressmembers the argument that they voted either for the war or against the war when they go back out to their constituents and when they’re running for reelection. There were very few that voted consistently across the board. One of them, interestingly enough, was Alan Grayson. He voted against the final funding, voting with the Republicans, and he voted for the immediate cutoff – he voted for all the antiwar bills. He and Ron Paul were among two of the only people that voted that way.

Horton: How’d Dennis Kucinich do in there?

Garris: Oh, I’m sorry. Kucinich also voted correctly on all of those.

Horton: Yeah, I would assume so. He’s voted against war funding all along, just like Ron Paul.

Garris: That’s right. Kucinich has got one of the best voting records in Congress, as far as war bills go.

Horton: All right. Well, so, the lesson here basically is that we have our very small group of congressmen who we know mean it and the rest of them are just posturing, and they get to vote yes, no, and sideways on six different bills so that when they go home and run for reelection they can put their finger in the wind, figure out what it is that people want, and then they can claim that that’s how they’ve been voting.

Garris: Right. And it’s really a reflection of the whole “strategy” of our mission in Afghanistan. You know, as Ron Paul said in his speech that you opened up with, what is the reason that we’re there? It keeps changing all the time. And, so you have mission creep being reflected in the votes in the House.

Horton: Yeah. Well, and of course, it’s, I don’t know, I guess I subscribe to the Gareth Porter theory, that basically the generals are just chasing the bullets they’ve just shot, and whichever direction they’re shooting, just keep going that way, and just keep it going on forever, you know. Of course the highest levels of the Pentagon are intimately tied together with the military industrial complex firms and so forth with the iron triangle-revolving-door thing, and I don’t know, let me ask you. Do you think that anybody still imagines that they’re going to have some kind of safe, secure pipeline from Tajikistan down to the port of Karachi there? It seems like that pipe dream’s long gone, right? Pipeline dream?

Garris: You know, I think that those kinds of things, you know, the mineral wealth in Afghanistan, those are just PR. They’re just trying to sell the American people on the fact that they might at some point recoup some of the losses of the money.

Horton: They wanted an oil pipeline through there before the war.

Garris: Well, yes, they may have wanted it, but in terms of holding it out as something that we think we’re going to get anything from, as long as we’re there militarily, those kinds of things are not going to happen. You know, you look at what happened in Iraq. I mean, look at all the oil money that we made back from the money we spent on the war, that Wolfowitz predicted. It didn’t materialize.

Horton: Well, and I think it’s in The Times today that it’s the Chinese who are going in there with briefcases.

Garris: Exactly. Just going to say that.

Horton: Yeah, they’re over there making deals for that Iraqi oil. And people want to say Petraeus won that war? It sure don’t look like it to me.

Garris: Well, in a number of ways, we’re fighting the wars for the Chinese. I mean, they’re the ones that are profiting from our actions around the world.

Horton: Well, and fair enough. They’re the ones paying for it all.

Garris: Well that’s right. So it’s a good deal.

Horton: The American empire, it’s a wondrous thing! All right, well, thanks very much Eric. I’ve learned again how cynical the leaders of Congress are. Appreciate it.

Garris: Okay.

Horton: All right, everybody, that’s Eric Garris. He’s the founder and managing director of He’s also the webmaster for Give him credit. Hang tight, we’ll be back.

Jason Ditz


Jason Ditz, managing news editor at, discusses Iraqi factional divisions that have prevented a Prime Minister from being seated from the March elections, the regained prominence of former PM’s Ayad Allawi and Ibrahim al-Jaafari, violent popular protests against Iraq’s incompetent government, persistent rumors of Saudi airspace authorization for an Israeli attack on Iran and CIA director Leon Panetta’s misleading claim that Iran has enough uranium for 2 nukes.

MP3 here. (17:44)

Jason Ditz is the managing news editor at

Ray McGovern


Ray McGovern, former senior analyst at the CIA, discusses the hype surrounding a seemingly benign Russian spy ring in the US, the sorely needed FBI public relations boost from their apparent counter-espionage success, CIA director Leon Panetta’s disincentive for changing the 2007 Iran National Intelligence Estimate and why Iran really was pursuing a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003.

MP3 here. (25:08)

Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years, from the John F. Kennedy administration to that of George H. W. Bush. His articles appear on Consortium News and

Gareth Porter


Gareth Porter, independent historian and journalist for Inter Press Service, discusses how Gen. David Petraeus’s political skills and reputation could enable a compromise settlement in Afghanistan, speculation that Gen. Stanley McChrystal got fired on purpose, the August deadline for significant US troop reduction in Iraq and why even war boosters aren’t talking about victory in Afghanistan anymore.

MP3 here. (18:33)

Gareth Porter is an independent historian and journalist. He is the author of Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam. His articles appear on Counterpunch, Huffington Post, Inter Press Service News Agency and


Scott Horton interviews Gareth Porter June 29, 2010

Scott Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton, and I’ve got Gareth Porter on the phone. He’s an independent historian and journalist, writes for Inter Press Service, and we feature just about every bit of it at, and, well, first of all, Gareth, welcome back to the show.

Gareth Porter: Hello again, Scott.

Horton: And it looks like you have one here at, “Why Petraeus Won’t Salvage This War.” And that’s our footnote for the day, for starters anyway, and there are a lot of footnotes hyperlinked inside the article, of course, as well. But I want to start with something that I don’t think you address in here, but it’s been on a lot of people’s mind, and I know it’s been on your mind, the idea that this guy McChrystal is too smart by half, obviously, and that he knew good and well that when he spilled his guts to Michael Hastings that he was going to get himself in trouble and that’s why he did it, because, you know, I guess, simplest explanation: Afghanistan’s falling apart and he would prefer it happen on someone else’s watch. That way he can say, “Gee, if only I’d been there, it would have worked out.”

Porter: Well, you know, I can’t completely dismiss that idea at all, and I haven’t looked into it as deeply as I would like to. But one thing that struck me is that some of the juiciest quotes in that article are taking place in Paris at a NATO meeting. And that actually goes back to mid April, which, from my understanding of the sequence of events, is a bit early for McChrystal to have reached the point where he saw that it was completely a lost cause. I have a feeling that that may have happened much later, that is to say May and early June, rather than in April. So that’s just a caveat that I have about the thesis. I don’t dismiss it yet, I’m interested in it, but I am sort of curious about the timing of some of the juicy quotes there that would suggest to me that they were still in a mode that was not yet desperate, as they I think would become later on.

Horton: Well, what was it, was there something particularly that happened in May, like they looked at Marja and said, “Geez, we can’t even take a town that’s half the size we said it was.”

Porter: Well, you have basically the whole story of Kandahar becoming so much more serious, much more basically a problem that they couldn’t solve. They basically realized, I think, in May and June, that they could not basically get the government, both local and national, to go along with a major troop increment in Kandahar, and that’s what they were still expecting by early May. They were still planning to do that in early May. And I think that that was really the straw that broke the camel’s back. I think that it was the realization that they could not carry out the offensive that they had planned at Kandahar, that really taught McChrystal that he could not deliver on what he had promised. And so by the end of that I would be prepared to say, yes indeed, that he was ready to find a way out, because it was truly a desperate situation for him.

Horton: So, this is the kind of thing he would have done, except that the timing just doesn’t seem to fit.

Porter: Well, at least, you know, all I’m saying is that the quotes that have gotten some of the biggest play did take place pretty early for this thesis to be most persuasive, that’s all.

Horton: Yeah. Well, and in fact the article itself doesn’t portray him as – I mean Hastings quotes him talking about Marja being a bleeding ulcer and all that, but he and his crew don’t sound all that hopeless in the actual article.

Porter: Well that’s what’s interesting to me, in part, is that what you don’t find in the article is an admission of any sort by the McChrystal inner circle, or certainly by McChrystal himself, that this is indeed a desperate situation, that they were really taken aback by a whole series of developments, particularly of course the inability to mount the offensive in Kandahar. That would have, to me, made it certainly much more persuasive that he was indeed looking for a way out by sort of taking the soft route out, if you will, of sort of going down in flames, making comments that he should have known certainly would have raised the specter of being fired.

Horton: All right, now, to this piece in Foreign Policy, “Why Petraeus Won’t Salvage This War,” we’re featuring of course in the Viewpoint section today on, and is it fair to say that this article revolves around the piece in the Independent on Sunday, the London Independent, talked about McChrystal’s last classified assessment of the war?

Porter: Well I think that’s one piece of it. What that means is that Petraeus knows already, as he goes into this confirmation hearing today, that there isn’t going to be any progress in the next six months, that’s what McChrystal was saying in his last assessment, classified assessment. He knows that he really can’t deliver on any promise to make progress in those six months, and that suggests to me that he is well aware that he either has to find a way to finesse this similarly to the way he finessed the, or planned to finesse the Iraq war, by basically saying that he’s going to report back to the president whether the strategy can work or not, or is working, I should say, is working or not, within a matter of some months, and if it isn’t working, he will say so, and will call for withdrawal. Now he has not said that, apparently, in his confirmation hearing thus far. He has been hewing to a line that tries to suggest that, you know, we’re still going to follow the basic lines of the strategy.

But I know for a fact that Petraeus is telling folks that he is inviting to come onto his staff in Afghanistan that the first order of business will be a complete review and reappraisal of the strategy, knowing that they cannot deliver on what the McChrystal, and one could say very well the McChrystal-Petraeus, strategy that was adopted late last year has promised. So I think that, although he’s publicly continuing to emphasize or implying certainly continuity of strategy, I think that in fact he is planning to make a major overhaul and that as part of that, at least privately, I think that he is going to be saying to the White House, “We’re going to have to give this a period of time and then reevaluate it at the end of the year.” And of course there is already this formal evaluation or reevaluation that’s scheduled for December. I think that Petraeus is going to take advantage of that, assuming, as I believe is certainly going to be the case, that he is going to find that the strategy is not working, that he will report that to the president and make recommendations or allow the president to take the heat, perhaps, but certainly go on record as saying that this can’t continue. And I’m basing that again on the historical record, which is not well known, because it’s never been published, that in fact he told his staff in Iraq, in Baghdad, in early 2007, that we will give this strategy, the new strategy, the counterinsurgency strategy, six months, see if it works; if it’s not working when I have to give my first congressional testimony in September of 2007, I will say that it’s not working and we will have to recommend that we’ll have to leave.

Horton: Okay, well, you know, obviously he’s a self-interested guy. If the war is completely unwinnable, he doesn’t want to be the guy who completely unwon it, and I guess he would rather, I could see the argument that he would rather cut and run toward the beginning, try to make a deal and get out of there, than fight on and on and then still lose, just for his own political ambitions later or his place in history or whatever like that. But you know I’m still kind of conflicted about this Iraq example. Because after all, Gareth, I mean, he failed in Iraq and then he still said we won anyway, when all he did was kind of bribe everybody to put off killing each other until he could get out of the place.

Porter: Well, of course. That’s exactly what he did. He claimed credit for things that he had no control over which happened, which allowed him to push forward that narrative. I agree. What I think is clear, however, in the case of Afghanistan, is that there is no such break that he’s going to get.

Horton: Right. All right, hang tight, everybody. Gareth Porter. We’ll be right back.

Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio, I’m Scott Horton, and I’m on the phone with the great Gareth Porter, and he’s making the case that due to his own self-interested avarice, Gen. Petraeus might end up covering, with his heroic credibility as the heroic victor of Iraq, an exit from Afghanistan. Now, here’s my problem with that, Gareth. It seems to me like the neocons wanted Iraq really bad. Some of the guys in the military industrial complex, Lockheed and them, they really wanted to push this Iraq thing. But you always have the Zbigniew Brzezinskis and the CNAS crowd, for that matter. You read the Wall Street Journal, it says it’s all Rockefeller money created that thing, and these are the cruise missile liberals, as Jeremy Scahill calls them, the sort of centrist old foreign policy establishment, not as crazy as the crazies, but, you know, maybe the loonies that preceded the crazies, and they call this whole area “the arc of crisis.” They want the Caspian Basin. They want to keep China out of those minerals in Afghanistan. This is the consensus in New York and D.C. is that, “Eh, screw Iraq, but we’re staying in Central Asia,” right?

Porter: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s no doubt in my mind that Petraeus is committed to the broader strategy of maximizing the U.S. military presence in that whole area in the arc of crisis just as much as anybody else. So I just don’t think that that necessitates, from his point of view, necessarily, the effort to accomplish what may not be accomplishable in Afghanistan. Now, I’m not suggesting that he’s going to publicly declare today or next week that if this isn’t working we’re going to have to get out. I think that there’s undoubtedly going to be some variance on this basic theme of an exit strategy, particularly when he has a president who is already known to favor a negotiated settlement. I think that he may view that as part of the exit strategy and that it will not be, sort of saying that we’re going to unilaterally withdraw. I think he’s going to say that we have to reduce our expectations about what we can accomplish and that we’re going to have to turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, and I think he’ll try to mesh that idea with what Obama wants to do, which is to withdraw, particularly if possible more rapidly under a negotiated settlement.

So I mean that leaves a lot of murky questions unanswered. But, I would emphasize the most important thing about this issue right now to understand is the radical disconnect between what someone like Petraeus says publicly and what he says privately. We know from Tom Ricks’ book, The Gamble, that Petraeus told him that he regards it as part of the commander’s job to be publicly optimistic, and so I expect him to portray the situation in less than the dire terms that then what one would use if one were being honest. But I think privately he is saying something very, very different at this point, and will be doing so with his staff when he gets there, and I think that the policy that he is going to be basing his command on is going to take that into account. You know, so I can’t really predict exactly how he’s going to play this. You know, part of it undoubtedly will be trying to put the best face on it, no question about that, he’s going to use the idea of information warfare to his best advantage, but in the end he is far more realistic than he’s going to let on publicly.

Horton: Well, this guy Obama apparently has no principles whatsoever, and even if for his own self-interested avarice reasons, he wants to get out of there, or claim progress on getting out of there by the time he’s running for reelection in 2012 or whatever, he’d just as easy turn around and say, “Yep, we’ve got to make the COIN work. If it’s going to take 20 years, it’s going to take 20 years. If you don’t like it, blame George Bush.” But otherwise, as you and Kelley Vlahos were both saying on the show last week, the whole CNAS crowd and their allies in the Republican party are prepared to say that, “Ah, the Democrats are spineless wimps, they’re peaceniks,” that’s their constant line. And the only thing that the Democrats can do, including the president, is kill more people to prove how tough they are.

Porter: Well, you know, I’m very sympathetic with that line of analysis for sure. The one thing that it doesn’t take into account, however, is that there are realities on the ground that limit the ability and the freedom of people like the CNAS crowd, and indeed, someone like Petraeus himself, to pursue the kind of ambitions beyond U.S. borders that they prefer. I mean there are things that they can do. They can continue to maintain military bases throughout the region, I mean, particularly in central Asia, you know. They can continue to send Special Operations forces into many, many countries and make trouble. But in terms of maintaining a major military presence in Afghanistan for many, many years, that’s more difficult, because of the cost and because of the inability to make the case that you’re succeeding. In other words, the Afghans, the Taliban insurgency, has a veto over the ambition that the United States military wants to pursue.

Horton: And as Jeff Huber was saying in his article on today, nobody talks about victory in Afghanistan anymore at all, Petraeus or Obama or McChrystal or any of these guys. Pretty much everybody is conceding that the Taliban controls most of the country and are going to over the long term. That’s what Anand Gopal was saying on the show yesterday – hey, America leaves now or 20 years from now, it’s going to be the Pashtun tribesmen and whoever they can get to be their political representatives, who are going to control Kabul, who are going to control that country.

Porter: Right. And that’s why I still insist that whether it’s McChrystal or Petraeus, you know, the military command in Afghanistan and the Obama administration face a what I call the “Iraq 2006 moment” in the coming months. They have to face the fact that this war has gone off the tracks, the wheels have gone off the car, so to speak. And that they’re going to have to make some major, major readjustments to cope with that situation. And so that’s really the bottom line as far as I’m concerned.

Horton: All right, now, I need the shortest answer possible about this. August is coming up. Are we going to be down to 50,000 troops in Iraq, never mind counting the mercenaries?

Porter: There will be, I don’t know, I can’t give you an exact figure, but all I know is that there’s still going to be tens of thousands of combat troops in Iraq, contrary to what the administration will say.

Horton: Right. Do you think the number will be anywhere near the 50,000 they promised, even if they just rename combat troops everything else in the world?

Porter: It could be roughly that figure.

Horton: Because that was the deal. That’s why I asked.

Porter: Yep. Yep.

Horton: All right, we’re all out of time. Thanks very much for your interest again, Gareth.

Porter: All right, thank you.

Horton: Everybody, that’s the great Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, And we’ll be back after this.

Fred Branfman


Fred Branfman, author of the article “5 Million Iraqis Killed, Maimed, Tortured, Displaced — Think That Bothers War Boosters Like Christopher Hitchens?” discusses the demonstrably false assertion that Iraqis are “better off” now than under Saddam Hussein, why liberal warhawks like Hitchens bear a moral burden for Iraqi civilian deaths, the ongoing class war in America (that the billionaires are winning) and why holding elections does not qualify Iraq as a democracy.

MP3 here. (28:58)

Fred Branfman is a writer and longtime activist who directed the Indochina Resource Center during the war in Indochina. Visit his Web site.

Eric Margolis


Internationally syndicated columnist Eric Margolis discusses the cultural meaning of WWII for Americans, nostalgia in Russia for Soviet times, the US and British capitulation to Stalin at the Yalta Conference, why FDR was a senile fool and/or a communist and how the Security Council nations use the UN as a fig leaf for their aggressive actions.

MP3 here. (20:36)

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times and Dawn. He is a regular columnist with the Quebecor Media Company and a contributor to The Huffington Post. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.

As a war correspondent Margolis has covered conflicts in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Sinai, Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was among the first journalists to ever interview Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and was among the first to be allowed access to KGB headquarters in Moscow. A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq.

Margolis is the author of War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet and American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.