Tag Archives: US

Response to: ‘Arms deal’ or ‘security shift’?

Response from the Guardian’s Middle East editor Ian Black to this email:

dear david

i would say that the phrase “security issue” can encompass both defence and offence. (security forces. national security etc).

if you have any other questions i suggest you contact reader@guardian.co.uk

yours sincerely,


And my response:

Dear Ian,

I would only say that if I accepted the Bush Doctrine.

As regards the readers editor, I don’t see the need to hide behind a mediator.

Yours sincerely,


‘Arms deal’ or ‘security shift’?

After reading a letter by David Traynier to the Guardian’s Ian Black regarding a report he’d penned on the recent US arms deal with Saudi Arabia, posted at Persistence of Vision, I found the article had been reproduced by the Irish Times the next day.

Traynier has since received a fairly uninterested response from Black (captured for posterity below), where he failed to answer any of Traynier’s reasonable questions:

“thanks for your email. i would say that the phrase “any military threat” includes the possibility that there isn’t actually one. a standfirst inevitably compresses material contained in the body of the article.


I thought it was worth following up, even just to allow Black the chance to dismiss another criticism.

Dear Ian Black,

I’ve just read your report for the Guardian on the US arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which has been republished (in part) by the Irish Times, and I had a quick question I hope you can answer.

You explain at the beginning of the report that the purpose of the “biggest arms deal in US history” is to “shore up [US] Gulf Arab allies to face any military threat from Iran.” And again, towards the end of the piece you write: “Questions about democracy, freedoms and human rights in the kingdom clearly have a lower priority than security issues.”

Would it be fair to say that in describing the deal as a ‘security issue’ designed to face a ‘military threat’ you have framed the sale of weapons as a ‘defensive act’? It seems to me as though you have dismissed entirely the possibility that the sale of arms could potentially be viewed as an act of provocation.

Even if the reader accepts that Iran may well, now or at some future point, pose a military threat to the US and its allies, the arms deal could, even then, only be reasonably seen as a tit-for-tat provocation between regional powers, definitely not a simple case of ‘security’ against a ‘threat’.

I’d be interested to hear back from you on this. I’m also copying the Irish Times foreign desk.

Yours sincerely,




[Update: I should have said: Israel clearly sees it a provocation, and they’re an ally!]

The Destruction of Fallujah – A US Legacy

Not yet mentioned in the Irish press.

Patrick Cockburn writing in CounterPunch:

Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.

Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighboring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.

Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of the cancers and birth defects. He added that “to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened”. [The Toxic Legacy From the Siege of Fallujah – Worse Than Hiroshima?, CounterPunch, 27/07/10]

Cockburn interviewed by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now!:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Patrick, I’d like to ask you about this whole other issue of the report on—by Chris Busby and some other epidemiologists about the situation in Fallujah and the enormous increases in leukemias and cancers in Fallujah after the US soldiers’ attack on that city. Could you talk about that?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Sure. I think what’s significant, very significant, about this study is that it confirms lots of anecdotal evidence that there had been a serious increase in cancer, in babies being born deformed, I mean, sometimes with—grotesquely so, babies—you know, a baby girl born with two heads, you know, people born without limbs, then a whole range of cancers increased enormously. That this was—when I was in Fallujah, doctors would talk about this, but, you know one couldn’t—one could write about this, but one couldn’t really prove it from anecdotal evidence. Now this is a study, a scientific study, based on interviews with 4,800 people, which gives—proves that this was in fact happening and is happening. And, of course, it took—you know, it has taken place so much later than the siege of Fallujah, when it was heavily bombarded in 2004 by the US military, because previously, you know, Fallujah is such a dangerous place to this day, difficult to carry out a survey, but it’s been finally done, and the results are pretty extraordinary.

AMY GOODMAN: What were the various weapons that were used in the bombing of Fallujah in 2004?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Well, primarily, it was sort of, you know, artillery and bombing. Initially it was denied that white phosphorus had been used, but later this was confirmed. I think one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact, in this case, that before one thinks about was depleted uranium used and other things, that just simply the use of high—large quantities of high explosives in a city filled with civilians and people packed into houses—often you find, you know, whole families living in one room—was, in itself, going to create, lead to very, very high civilian casualties. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the increase in cancers and so forth, and the suspicion that maybe depleted uranium, maybe some other weapon, which we don’t know about—this is not my speculation, but of one of the professors who carried out the study—might have been employed in Fallujah, and that would be an explanation for results which parallel, in fact exceed, the illnesses subsequently suffered by survivors of Hiroshima. [Democracy Now!, 29/07/10]

And the report itself: ‘Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009’ [International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health]

via MLMB

US war on Afghanistan – “A more realistic perspective”

An Editorial in today’s Irish Times brings readers bang up-to-date on the US war on Afghanistan.

We are told “NATO…are quietly scaling down their commitment to it ahead of withdrawing troops,” while the US and UK are still willing to give military means one last chance before the inevitable “political negotiation with the Taliban.” As the costs continue to rise, their critics are not so confident, saying “it is time to scale down ambitions there and to reduce and redirect the military effort.”

Afghans are in agreement, they “do not want Nato there and support efforts to reach a political deal with the Taliban, based on the assumption that it is not a unified resistance run by al-Qaeda, but a coalition of regional and local opponents who could be attracted to an alternative path.”

An ‘assumption’ supported by at least onewestern official” in Afghanistan, who said in 2006:

“The name “Taliban” may be misleading, he explained – as certainly is the assumption that its insurgency is a simple black and white struggle of foreigners versus fundamentalists. “This is about narcotics, corruption, tribal tensions, warlordism, illegal armed groups, Arabs, Iranians, Chechens – and all of these factors are interrelated. You never know who you are dealing with. You probably have some guys working for good and bad at the same time.” [July 4, 2006]

The US legacy to Afghanistan is summarised as follows: “rampant insecurity, endemic corruption, widespread poverty and weak government.” Along with the possibility of “a new civil war” potentially resulting in “an effective partition between the north and south of the country, which could make parts of it even more of a haven for international terrorism.”

This analysis is interesting in several respects, the most obvious of which being that the story is told entirely from the perspective of those in Washington and London. According to the Times there are only two sides to the war: the proponents in the White House and Downing Street and the critics in the White House and Downing Street.

Long gone are the days when anti-war activists (the vast majority of the world, including Afghans) had a say in the matter, even if the reasons for their objections became entirely bastardized when squeezed through the journalistic editing process practiced at the Times: “They were never going to be convinced it could work, or convince a country that believes it has a right to strike back.” [October 10, 2001]
Another useful omission is the purpose of the whole bloody venture. The purpose of the war, which has gone through countless improbable iterations, now seems to be the idea of a courageous defeat, following Obama’s unfulfilled lofty ambitions of “reveres[ing] the recent impression of slow defeat or stalemate.” But lest we forget the original motive, finding and killing Osama bin Laden:

“The United States-led military riposte so intensively under preparation since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11th is now under way. A formidable force has been assembled to attack bases in Afghanistan used by the al-Qaeda organisation and its leader, Osama bin Laden, and the political and military infrastructure supporting them.” [October
08, 2001

“Nearly three weeks on from the beginning of the US-led military campaign against Afghanistan it is clear that its objectives are increasingly difficult to attain. There is little sign that the Taliban regime is close to collapse. It is proving difficult indeed to assemble an Afghan coalition that might replace it. The search for Osama bin Laden and his al-Queda organisation, blamed by the United States for the atrocities in New York and Washington on September 11th, has so far proved fruitless.” [October 26, 2001]

“It should be remembered that even if a major transition is successfully engineered in Afghanistan as a result of these events the objective of bringing the perpetrators of the attacks on New York and Washington to justice remain to be achieved. The chief suspects, Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation, are still at large.” [November
14, 2001

The “military victory” of this “this short war” “demonstrates the awesome effectiveness of modern US air power accurately deployed.” “It will allow the US-led campaign in pursuit of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation to go ahead unhindered and maybe successfully.” [December 7, 2001]

“The 18,000 US troops still deployed have failed to find Osama bin Laden despite inflicting huge casualties on his supporters.” [November 21, 2006]

No Weapons of Mass Destruction and no dead bogeyman. That’s 0 for 2 for the US military, unless that is, they had an ulterior motive?

[Image via Wikicommons “Pullout of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. 1988. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev.”]