The New Middle East
On The Monitor this week:
Roy Eidelson on the psychology of the Trump administration and Gareth Porter on the White Helmets.
More about this week’s guests:
Roy Eidelson is a psychologist and an associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. Recent Articles:
Gareth Porter (@GarethPorter) is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on US national security policy. His latest book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, was published in February 2014. Historian Andrew Bacevich called his latest book, ‘Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War’, published by University of California Press in 2005, “without a doubt, the most important contribution to the history of U.S. national security policy to appear in the past decade.” He has taught Southeast Asian politics and international studies at American University, City College of New York and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
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KPFT has all the usual thank you gifts available at various pledge levels but this week’s show is going to offer copies of the documentary “HyperNormalisation” on DVD (more about the documentary below). This DVD is available at a pledge level of $90 if you call during the show.
More about HyperNormalisation:
This week’s show features excerpts from HyperNormalisation, a 2016 BBC documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis. The film was released on 16 October 2016. In the film, Curtis argues that since the 1970s, governments, financiers, and technological utopians have given up on the complex “real world” and built a simple “fake world” that is run by corporations and kept stable by politicians. The documentary runs for more than 2.5 hours and features some rare archival footage that starts in the 1970s and takes the viewer on a thought-provoking journey all the way up to the election of Donald Trump.
Starting in 1975 with the fiscal crisis in New York City and the emergence of the idea that financial systems could run society; Curtis brings in the shuttle diplomacy between then-US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Middle Eastern leaders in the Arab-Israeli dispute and the subsequent retreat by Hafez al-Assad of Syria and the onset of hypernormalisation in the Soviet Union. Then, following the United States’ involvement in the 1982 Lebanon War, a vengeful al-Assad made an alliance with Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran to February 1984, when the U.S. withdrew all its troops from Lebanon because, in the words of then-US Secretary of State George P. Shultz, “we became paralyzed by the complexity that we faced”. For the remaining 2 hours Curtis takes you on a journey, full of rare footage, that is sure to make you think.
Get a copy of this fascinating documentary with a pledge of $90 to KPFT during the show. You can do so only by calling 713.526.5738 during the show and telling the volunteers that you want a copy of HyperNormalisation. Once we have a final tally of listeners wanting a copy I will take care of the rest.
Don’t help me set the table
Cause now there’s one less place
I won’t lay mama’s silver
For a man who won’t say grace
If home is where the heart is
Then your home’s on the street
Me, I’ll read a good book
Turn out the lights and go to sleep
— ”Standing Room Only” from This Is Barbara Mandrell
On The Monitor this week:
- Reporting from Syria and not just on Syria – an interview with Eva Bartlett
- The difference between a tactic and a strategy for dealing with ISIS – an interview with Ambassador Edward Djerejian
More about this week’s guests:
Eva Bartlett is a Canadian freelance journalist and activist who has lived in and written from the Gaza Strip, Syria, and Lebanon. She has visited Syria four times in the last 2 years (April and June 2014, February and December 2015). You can read other articles by Eva, or visit Eva’s website. She has a lengthy article published on DissdentVoice titled Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria
You can follow here on twitter here and read her articles about Syria here. The interview attempts to dissect the divergent narratives presented about Syria in the media and to get an eyewitness account from somebody who has actually been there. It is sure to cause some controversy.
Edward Djerejian is a former United States diplomat who served in eight administrations from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton (1962–94.) He served as the United States Ambassador to Syria (1988–91) and Israel (1993–94), Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and Deputy Press Secretary of Foreign Affairs (1985-1986), and was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (1991-1993.) He is the director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and is the author of the book Danger and Opportunity: An American Ambassador’s Journey Through the Middle East. You can read his full bio here and follow him on twitter here
The main focus of the interview is Ambassador Djerejian’s policy brief on ISIS titled A STRATEGY TOWARD DEFEATING ISIS in which he argued that recent attacks were an opportunity for a U.S.-led coalition to come together to defeat a common enemy. Full text available online in English (CME-ISIS-111915) and Arabic (CME-ISIS-Arabic-122115).
During the interview I asked Ambassador Djerejian for his response to the speech President Obama gave in which he outlined the U.S. response to the terror threat posed by ISIS: Full text of President Obama’s speech in reaction to the shootings in San Bernardino, CA You can also read Ambassador Djerejian’s June 2, 1992 speech mentioned towards the end of the interview: Meridian House Speech.
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This week we have Marjorie Cohn on the show to talk about her latest article “Want Endless War? Love the U.S. Empire? Well, Hillary Clinton’s Your Choice” and a volume she edited called Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues which you can get during this week’s show for a pledge of $120.
”This book provides much-needed analysis of why America’s targeted killing program is illegal, immoral and unwise.” —from the foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“Very important book… In a few months we will commemorate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, which, despite the limits of the day, established the founding principle of modern law: presumption of innocence. Today that principle has been rescinded. Guilty verdicts are no longer to be rendered by a jury of peers, but by a White House session deciding who we are going to kill today along with whatever unfortunates happen to be in the vicinity of the drone attack. As these valuable essays show, Obama s global terror campaign is a menace to the world, and Americans are not likely to escape unscathed.”
You can also get a copy of Censored 2016: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2014-15 for a pledge of $90.
More about this week’s guest: Marjorie Cohn has been a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law since 1991. In summer 2016, she will become Professor Emeritus, and will continue to lecture, write, and provide media commentary. A former news consultant for CBS News and a legal analyst for Court TV, Professor Cohn has been a legal and political commentator on BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, and Pacifica Radio.
Professor Cohn is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Cameras in the Courtroom: Television and the Pursuit of Justice (with David Dow), and Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (with Kathleen Gilberd). She is editor and contributor to The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, and Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.
On The Monitor this week:
- Tim Shorrock on the South Korean Government Crackdown on Citizen Protests against Labor Repression, Destructive Rice Imports and Rewriting of History Books
- 9/11 Whistleblower Coleen Rowley on Visas and Mideast War Root Causes
More about this week’s guests:
Tim Shorrock is Washington-based investigative journalist and author of SPIES FOR HIRE: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence. He is also a contributor to The Nation and longtime writer about Korean affairs and US-Korean political, military and economic ties. You can read his recent article “Raising a ruckus with the South Korean government” at the Nation website and his website.
Background: South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the country’s longtime dictator, has launched a massive crackdown on labor, farmer and citizens groups opposed to her government’s policies on unions, rice imports and education. President Park, one of President Obama’s closest allies in Asia, has also come under fire for recent comments she made likening protesters to the Islamic State (IS). “Rallies where protesters wear face masks should be banned. Isn’t that how IS does it? Hiding their faces…,” Park reportedly said at a recent Cabinet meeting to discuss new counterterrorism bills. The South Korean experience is far from unique. With the deepening of corporate-led globalization processes, governments everywhere seek to weaken labor movements and worker protections and restrict options for public education and democratic debate. As a consequence, the KCTU’s efforts to anchor a broad coalition of social forces around an alternative social vision deserves international attention and support.
Coleen Rowley is a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures — was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002.
Quote: “Only a few crickets chirped after our 2014 Huffpost warning of gaps in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Our second post, however, came out at the same time the President and Congress had suddenly clicked into gear to tighten the program, obviously in reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.”
Rowley criticized the lack of politicians “lamenting his or her terrible mistakes in having okayed the various post 9-11 wars and bombing campaigns to re-make the Mideast — what some warned would be like ‘hitting a hornets’ nest’ and which have only succeeded in vastly increasing the number of terrorist incidents throughout the world, as well as more people everywhere who simply hate the U.S. …
“In its mad rush to push something out to look as if they were quickly remedying the problems, the House skipped normal debate that comes from holding committee meetings, passing its bizarre ‘Trump-lite’ blanket discriminatory provisions in H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015 [passed on Tuesday 407-19], that would bar citizens of participating countries with Syrian, Iraqi, Sudanese or Iranian ancestry from participating in the waiver program even if they have never set foot in any of these countries.
“A backlash naturally erupted from civil liberties and minority rights groups. For instance, according to the ACLU’s reading of the bill, a person who was born and raised in France but whose father is a Syrian citizen would be forced to get a visa before visiting the United States, even if that person has a French passport and has never been to Syria.
“In a press release Tuesday, NIAC [National Iranian American Council] Action, a group that lobbies on behalf of Iranian Americans, lashed out at the bill. …
“Even worse, in their hurry, is the congresspersons’ choice of the four specific countries to designate for ‘blanket’ exclusion: Iraq (which was supposed to be a democratic paradise by now), Syria, Sudan and (most bizarrely) Iran, whose nationals have not ever launched a terrorist attack inside the U.S. Yet, countries like SAUDI ARABIA (well known as the main country of origin for Al Qaeda, ISIS and other Wahhabi extremism), Pakistan, Yemen, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Nigeria, Chechnya and other nations and regions from where terrorist perpetrators have come from are not designated as ineligible for the program. This truly makes zero sense, making us wonder if congresspersons have any clue as to the nature of the threat from ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorism.”
Background: Rowley wrote to the FBI Director again in February 2003 with some hard questions about the reliability of the evidence being adduced to “justify” the impending invasion of Iraq. See “Coleen Rowley: Ten years after Iraq.”
On The Monitor this week we take an extended look at the background of the terror attacks in Paris. What are the historical connections are future implications? Our first interview is withJ. Michael Springman and our second is with Christian Parenti.
More about this week’s guests:
J. Michael Springmann was a career official with both the Commerce and State departments. He was economic/commercial officer in Stuttgart (1977–1980), a commercial attaché in New Delhi (1980–1982), a visa officer in Jeddah (1987–1989), a political/economic officer in Stuttgart (1989–1991), and, finally, an economic analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (1991). He recently published the book Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World.
Quote: “During the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.”
From the book description:
“Thousands of American soldiers and civil servants have lost their lives in the War on Terror. Innocent citizens of many nations, including Americans killed on 9/11, have also paid the ultimate price. While the US government claims to stand against terror, this same government refuses to acknowledge its role in creating what has become a deadly international quagmire. Visas for al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World sets the record straight by laying the blame on high-ranking US government officials.
During the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.
Christian Parenti is author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. He is a professor in the Global Liberal Studies Program at New York University
Quote: “The growing crisis of war and state breakdown in the Middle East is partially driven by climate change. We have to deal with climate change — that is, drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions — or face escalating chaos. Parenti is professor in the global liberal studies program at New York University. He has reported from conflict zones in the Middle East and studies the history of political violence. He said U.S. policies “have repeatedly created failed states” in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. “Trying to overthrow [Syrian leader Bashar] Assad is a very bad idea. Assad is admittedly a dictator who inherited a state from his father but he is doing more than anyone to fight ISIS. Seeking his violent overthrow, as has been U.S. policy, is to court further disaster and a wider swath of misery.”
“This situation then explodes as religious conflict, which is really the fusion of environmental crises with neoliberal economic policies. Of course, the violent spark to all of this is the fact that the entire region is flooded with weapons. Some of these weapons are from the Cold War, and some of those guns are from recent U.S. militarism in the region. There were a lot of vets of the anti-U.S. struggle in Iraq who are Syrian — Mujahideen veterans who went to Iraq and came back to Syria and started to fight. There were Syrians who were selling guns to Iraqi underground groups. These groups were buying their guns back, and re-importing them to Syria.”
On The Monitor this week:
- Hillary Clinton makes her candidacy for President official. How much space is there on the American left to criticize her track record or to express concern about her foreign policy positions? We talk with with Stephen Zunes
- Saudi aggression in Yemen – what is the US role in this conflict and what is really going on there? We talk with Sheila Carapico
More about this week’s guests:
Dr. Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as coordinator of the program in Middle Eastern Studies. Recognized as one the country’s leading scholars of U.S. Middle East policy and of strategic nonviolent action, Professor Zunes serves as a senior policy analyst for the Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies, an associate editor of Peace Review, a contributing editor of Tikkun, and co-chair of the academic advisory committee for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.
He is the author of scores of articles for scholarly and general readership on Middle Eastern politics, U.S. foreign policy, international terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, strategic nonviolent action, and human rights. He is the principal editor of Nonviolent Social Movements (Blackwell Publishers, 1999), the author of the highly-acclaimed Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003) and co-author (with Jacob Mundy) of Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution (Syracuse University Press, 2010.)
Stephen writes about Middle East-related topics frequently. Even though we are discussing Yemen with our second guest, Stephen’s recent articles are well worth a read: How U.S. policy contributed to Yemen’s chaos and Powerful nonviolent resistance to armed conflict in Yemen
He has also been discussing Hillary in his writings for several years. Here is an article from 2007 – Hillary Clinton on International Law: When it comes to human rights around the world, Hillary Clinton is little more than Bush Lite.
Sheila Carapico is a professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia. She is the author of Civil Society in Yemen: The Political Economy of Activism in Modern Arabia and Political Aid and Arab Activism: Democracy Promotion, Justice, and Representation
She recently wrote the piece “A Call to Resist Saudi (and U.S.) Aggression in Yemen,” which states: “Saudi Arabia is an oppressive, reactionary regime historically resistant to progressive movements in Yemen and elsewhere. It is also a linchpin in the U.S.-NATO military industrial complex and the endless war on terror. This war risks regional escalation and conflagration. Already, autocratic leaders of Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Pakistan (whose citizens are skeptical) seem to have agreed to join the fight, with Egypt reportedly preparing to send 40,000 ground troops. Arab League leaders meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last weekend ordered the Houthis to surrender and pledged to create a joint Arab military force. The pretext of the ‘legitimacy’ of the Gulf Cooperation Council-anointed administration is a figment of hegemonic imagination. Public opinion inside Yemen is kaleidoscopic and mercurial, but few accept this excuse for intervention.
The Sunni versus Shi’a sectarian narrative misrepresents Yemenis’ multiple proclivities for partisan, regional and class-based leadership. If anything, the escalating war pits the billionaire royal elites of the Gulf against the downtrodden of the Peninsula. Bombardments are both terrifying and deadly. Attacks on al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced persons in Hajjah governorate, a dairy factory near Hodeida and other locations have left dozens of non-combatants dead, according to human rights groups. The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, says ‘the country seems to be on the verge of total collapse.'”