Friday, January 28, 2011

Brave Egyptians

What will happen tomorrow, when the protesters have called for a "day of rage"? The first two photos below are from Cairo, and the last one is from Suez - both from yesterday.




Tuesday, January 25, 2011

J-Street leading a Birthright visit to Israel this summer

Press release from J-Street
J Street U is very happy to announce that we will be leading a free, ten-day Taglit-Birthright trip this summer titled, "Explore Israel: Progressive Zionism and Social Justice." 



This trip is an incredible opportunity to connect with the Israel that isn't on the front page or in the guide books. Move beyond the headlines, and see what's really happening on the ground.

If you're Jewish, age 18 - 25, and have yet to take a peer group trip to Israel, we strongly encourage you to sign up and be the first to know when registration opens.

The trip is a chance to appreciate the vibrancy of Israel's history, culture and landscape from a perspective that acknowledges your Jewish and progressive values.

The best way to discover the richness of Israeli society and the full contours of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to travel around Israel and meet people from the diverse groups of the region. There is simply no substitute for seeing the land and connecting with the people.    



On the trip, we'll speak with members of Israeli civil society working to advance the goals of democracy and human rights. Our itinerary will provide a cross-section of Israeli opinion. 
 


This trip is a gift of Taglit-Birthright Israel and will be provided by The Israel Experience, Ltd.

Sign up now to be the first to know when registration opens.

If you have any questions, feel free to email us at birthright@jstreetu.org.

- Daniel

Daniel May
Director, J Street U
January 25, 2011

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Lebanon is now officially a Hezbollah state

Lebanon now officially run by Hezbollah - Hezbollah-Backed Leader to Form Government in Lebanon.

See Michael Totten on this latest development: Lebanon heats up

Ta-Nehisi Coates - Unbearable Whiteness of Pro-Lifers

Another beautiful post from Ta-Nehisi at the Atlantic: The Unbearable Whiteness of Pro-Lifers and Pundits.

Just read it. I've learned so much from reading his blog - I am a fan.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jared Loughner is NOT Jewish

One of the search queries that has recently gotten people to my blog is "is Jared Loughner Jewish." Now I have an answer to this question. Ron Kampeas, who writes a blog for the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency), researched this question, and the answer is "No." For those interested in the research, see his blog, Capitol J: Lougner's Jewish Mother? Not so much.

I hope those who have found their way to this blog through this query enjoy reading the rest of the blog.

Pat Buchanan on blood libels

Pat Buchanan, our favorite anti-Semite in public life, who is still inexplicably viewed kindly by most of the mainstream media, came out with an aggressive defense of Sarah Palin's use of the phrase "blood libel" to refer to what she believes is slander against her by those calling her out for her use of violent language and imagery: Sarah Palin's Use Of Blood Libel Was 'Excellent'.

His words:
Pat Buchanan said Wednesday that Sarah Palin has been a victim of the media in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), and she was right to use the phrase "blood libel" in defending herself from charges that her language had anything to do with the mass shooting.
"Frankly I thought it was an excellent statement with regard to the phrase 'blood libel'," Buchanan said. "That of course refers to the libel that was used in the Middle Ages, charges against Jews that were utterly unsupportable slanders and I think she's using it in that context."
So apparently someone has accused Sarah Palin of killing young children and using their blood for strange rituals? Odd, I hadn't heard that charge lately.

P.S. Alan Dershowitz has defended the legitimacy of Palin using the phrase "blood libel," while the ADL has condemned it. Dershowitz notes:
The term “blood libel” has taken on a broad metaphorical meaning in public discourse. Although its historical origins were in theologically based false accusations against the Jews and the Jewish People, its current usage is far broader. I myself have used it to describe false accusations against the State of Israel by the Goldstone Report. There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim. The fact that two of the victims are Jewish is utterly irrelevant to the propriety of using this widely used term.
Far be it from me to disagree with the distinguished Professor Dershowitz, but the fact that he used it in the case of his criticism of the Goldstone Report hardly validates the use of the term outside of the proper historical context. At various times when I've been living in Israel I've heard Israeli politicians use the phrase to protest against other people's (usually correct) criticisms of their (often corrupt) behavior. This metaphorical use has always struck me as an absurdly exaggerated attempt to play on the sympathies of the audience.

I would prefer to use the phrase "blood libel" to refer to actual blood libels.

The first recorded blood libel was the accusation in 1144 that 12-year-old William of Norwich had been murdered by Jews for ritual purposes before Passover. The Medieval Sourcebook has published the first written account, from 1173, by Thomas of Monmouth, of the supposed torture and death of William at the hands of local Jews. [Warning: not for the faint of heart]. Accusations of ritual murder by Jews for religious purposes have been made since then, including up to the present in the Arab world.

Not a phrase to use lightly.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Michael Totten - Israeli Way of War

Michael Totten has just published a really interesting article on The Israeli Way of War. It covers a number of things, including his interview with an official in the Judge Advocate General's office in Tel Aviv. (JAGs prosecute crimes committed by soldiers).

The JAG office spoke about how they gain information about possible crimes committed during war by soldiers.

Totten asked her:
“What do you think about all these NGOs that criticize Israel and the army?” I said.

“I actually appreciate the work of the NGOs,” she said. “They help me make sure our violent operational activity is conducted appropriately. I want to live in a country where there is an address for these kinds of complaints. We’re in constant dialogue with them, and they help me. They do seem to appreciate the thorough work we do. They probably don’t agree with all my decisions, but they know I take what they say seriously.
An impressive testimony about the value of Israeli human rights groups. If the Israeli army doesn't consider them traitors, I don't understand why blowhards on the Israeli right do.

Who is Jared Loughner?

An interesting analysis of Jared Loughner by Mark Potok of Southern Poverty Law Center.
At one point, Loughner refers disparagingly to “currency that’s not backed by gold or silver.” The idea that silver and gold are the only “constitutional” money is widespread in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement that produced so much violence in the 1990s. It’s linked to the core Patriot theory that the Federal Reserve is actually a private corporation run for the benefit of unnamed international bankers. So-called Patriots say paper money — what they refer to with a sneer as “Federal Reserve notes” — is not lawful.

At another, Loughner makes extraordinarily obscure comments about language and grammar, suggesting that the government engages in “mind control on the people by controlling grammar.” That’s not the kind of idea that’s very common out there, even on the Internet. In fact, I think it’s pretty clear that Loughner is taking ideas from Patriot conspiracy theorist David Wynn Miller of Milwaukee. Miller claims that the government uses grammar to “enslave” Americans and offers up his truly weird “Truth-language” as an antidote. For example, he says that if you add colons and hyphens to your name in a certain way, you are no longer taxable. Miller may be mad as a hatter, but he has a real following on the right.

Loughner talks about how you “can’t trust the government” and someone burns a U.S. flag in one of his videos. Although certain right-wing websites are already using that (and his listing of The Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books) to claim that Loughner was a “left-winger,” that does not strike me as true. The main enemy of the Patriot movement is certainly the federal government. And so-called Patriots have certainly engaged in acts like burning the flag.
See also several interesting articles on the Talk2Action site by Chip Berlet and Frederick Clarkson.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Thoughts about Gabrielle Giffords

I wrote a post last night about the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The post expressed a great deal of anger and pointed to the use of violent imagery in the last election as possibly providing a motivation for the person who did the shooting. Upon further thought, I don't feel comfortable leaving the post up, because there isn't enough evidence at this point to say for certain that the shooter's motivation was political. I still decry the violent political language used in the last election, and the attacks upon candidates (for example, Giffords' campaign office was vandalized), but at this point a direct connection with the actions of the shooter has not been proven. If evidence comes forth that is more definite, then I'll return to this topic.

I'm still very disturbed, of course, by the attack yesterday. Six people were killed, including a federal judge and a nine-year old girl, and twelve others were injured. If Giffords hadn't been the target of the attack (and if a federal judge hadn't been killed), then this attack would probably have mostly been noticed by people in Arizona and those close to the victims, and by the rest of us as one of the many mass shootings that have occurred in the United States. In that case, the main question I would take from the killing would be - why is it so easy for people to get guns in this country? The Supreme Court may have decided that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms, so it is constitutional - but is it wise? Doesn't the easy availability of guns make both mass killings like this one and attacks with fewer victims so much easier to commit?

The other thing I was thinking about this morning was the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968, during the middle of the 1968 presidential election. He was killed on June 5 by Sirhan Sirhan. For anyone who was alive at the time, the political context is clear. I was twelve years old, and I remember the very unsettled political atmosphere, continuing threats of violence (earlier in the year Martin Luther King had been assassinated, and after his death there were riots across the country), and mass protests against the Vietnam War. But it wasn't Kennedy's stance on Vietnam that provided the motivation for the man who killed him. During Sirhan's trial he talked about Kennedy's support for Israel - Kennedy had promised, if he were elected, to support selling U.S. fighter jets to Israel. Sirhan was a Christian Palestinian - his family was from Musrara, in Jerusalem, and after the 1948 war moved to the Jordanian part of Jerusalem. The family emigrated to the U.S. a few years before the assassination. While Sirhan may also have been mentally ill, there also seems to have a political motivation - but not one that related to Vietnam or the Civil Rights movement, which were certainly the most salient political issues in the U.S. at that time. But Kennedy's death certainly had an effect upon subsequent American politics - at the time of his assassination, he was second behind Hubert Humphrey in the number of delegates to the upcoming Democratic Convention. His death meant that it was far easier for Humphrey to gain the nomination. And who knows, if he had been nominated, he might have been a much stronger candidate against Richard Nixon than Humphrey was. Kennedy's death came to be understood in the context of the unsettled atmosphere of the U.S. in 1968 and the conflict over the Vietnam War, not in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Some interesting articles:

David Kurtz from TPM:
What people on the Hill have trouble understanding is, why now?
Beginning in August 2009, when the tea party movement began disrupting congressional town halls in districts across the country, Democratic Members suddenly faced a general vitriol -- but also a series of specific violent threats -- that none of them had encountered before. Despite Republican claims that Democrats were milking the threats and exaggerating them for political gain, the threats were deeply troubling to Democrats privately. They were forced to rethink holding town halls and to recalibrate the risks associated with being a public official.

But things had calmed down for the most part since the passage of health care in the first part of 2010. As the 2010 midterm campaigns heated up, the political tenor grew sharply more volatile again, although not to the extent it had been (unless, perhaps, you were Muslim). If an attack on a Member, especially a Democratic Member, had happened during the heat of the health care reform debate or the run up to the elections, no one would have been shocked. But the heat of the moment seemed to have dissipated.
Steve Benen from Washington Monthly:
Which leads us to the second point. The shooter may have been politically motivated, in the sense that the assailant targeted a political figure, but Giffords probably wasn't shot because her attacker disapproved of the individual mandate in the new health care law. Loughner appears to be "conservative" only in a loose sense -- he hates abortion rights, is paranoid about government power, and obsesses over states' rights -- but given his madness, he doesn't necessarily fall along the traditional left-right spectrum. The truly crazy rarely do.

But my fear is the latter observation will somehow mitigate the former. We may come to a point fairly soon at which the investigation of yesterday's massacre is complete, and we learn that the shooting was "just" the result of psychotic madman. "Oh," some might say, "then the political climate is irrelevant; violent rhetoric in the mainstream is inconsequential; and everything's fine."

No matter what the outcome of the Tucson investigation, everything isn't fine.
Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend gives a list of all those who were killed yesterday, as well as photo of the other man who is suspected of somehow being involved in the attack.

What is B'Tselem?

Because of a debate that I'm currently conducting with a commenter on the previous post, I thought it would be useful to provide some information about B'Tselem, one of the Israeli human rights groups that the Knesset wishes to investigate for its supposedly anti-Israel actions.

From the B'Tselem "About B'Tselem" page:
B'TSELEM - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories was established in 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel. 

B'Tselem in Hebrew literally means "in the image of," and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. The word is taken from Genesis 1:27 "And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did He create him." It is in this spirit that the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights." 

As an Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government, which rules the Occupied Territories, protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law.
B'Tselem is independent and is funded by contributions from foundations in Europe and North America that support human rights activity worldwide, and by private individuals in Israel and abroad.
List of donors to B'Tselem (from the B'Tselem funding page):


British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Christian Aid (UK)

Commission of the European Communities

DanChurchAid (Denmark)

Diakonia (Sweden)

Development Coorporation Ireland (DCI)

EED (Germany)

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland

Ford Foundation (USA)

Foundation for Middle East Peace

ICCO (Netherlands)

International Commission of Jurists-Swedish Section

Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation

New Israel Fund (Israel)

Norwegian Foreign Ministry

Shefa Fund

SIVMO (Netherlands)

Stichting Het Solidaritetsfonds (Netherlands)

Trocaire (Ireland)

Members of the B'Tselem Board
Co-chairs: Oren Yiftachel, Professor of political geography and urban planning, Ben-Gurion University, and Gilad Barnea, Attorney, Administrative and Constitutional Law, appearing before the Supreme Court and other tribunals. [See a short Haaretz article about him: Tilting at Windmills and another from the Jerusalem Post - Can Israel Deny Muslim Prisoners Bread on Pessah?]

Orna Ben-Naftaly, Head of the Law and Culture Division and the International Law Division, the Law School, the College of Management Academic Studies

Rachel Benziman, Director, Financial Sustainability for Social Change, former executive director of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel

Elias Khouri, Attorney in private practice who specializes in real-estate law and administrative law.

Vered Madar: Ph.D. Candidate, Jewish and comparative Folklore, Hebrew University

Michael Rivkine, a human-rights activist and political prisoner in the former Soviet Union, has continued his human-rights activity since immigrating to Israel 22 years ago.

Alla Shainskaya: Senior Staff Scientist, Weizmann Institute of Science

Yuval Shany, Professor, Hersch Lauterpacht Chair in Public International Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

David Zonsheine, CEO, Zooee Software
I don't have the energy right now to look up information about all the board members, but from what I've provided above, I believe it's sufficient to show that B'Tselem is an Israeli group, started by Israelis, in order to deal with human rights abuses committed by the Israeli government.  It is not a stealth project by enemies of Israel with the intention of destroying the state - instead its goal is hold Israel to the standards that it set for itself in the Declaration of Independence in 1948.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Israel Democracy Watch

The Israeli Knesset has approved the establishment of an inquiry commission to investigate the funding of several left-wing organizations - B'Tselem, Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence, Yesh G'vul, and others. This is after the attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, ruled in August that there should be no such investigation of these groups. The party that has brought this proposal forward is Yisrael Beitenu ("Israel Our Home"), the racist and extreme right-wing party led by Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign Minister.

Ha'aretz reports: "The panel will essentially be charged with looking into where these groups have been attaining their funds, particularly whether this money is coming from foreign states or even organizations deemed to be involved in terrorist activities."

The proposal passed 47-16. Three of them were members of Kadima, a supposedly centrist, democratic party - led by Tzipi Livni, who is the leader of the opposition. Note that there are 120 members of the Knesset. What happened to the rest of them?

Read the statements below by National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari, who called the members of the leftist and human rights groups "traitors," "germs," and "enemies of Israel." Note the dehumanizing rhetoric that he employs - rhetoric like this is used to make the target seem less than human, and to legitimize attacks (verbal and physical) against them.
MK Ben-Ari: Eradicate treacherous leftists

by Roni Sofer, Yair Altman
Yediot Ahronot

Just hours after the Knesset approved a motion calling for a parliamentary investigation into the activity of B'Tselem, Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence and other groups, National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari referred to members of the leftist organizations as "traitors who must be persecuted at any cost."

Speaking at an SOS Israel conference in Jerusalem Wednesday evening, Ben-Ari called the leftists "germs" and "enemies of Israel." The rightist lawmaker went as far as equating the leftist organizations to Hamas and Hezbollah.

In an audio tape obtained by Ynet, Ben-Ari can be heard saying, "Elements that want to destroy the Jewish state are operating within the State of Israel. They are nothing short of traitors. They are persecuting IDF soldiers and want to castrate our resilience.

"I see the people from Peace Now; they each have a private car. Every clerk has the finest equipment. Who funds all of this? The greatest Israel haters are funding this. If we'll have to enact a law in the Knesset to eradicate this dangerous enemy, that is what we'll do. Such a germ can destroy Israeli society. This enemy threatens the state's existence," he added.

Extreme rightist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who also attended the conference, called on activists to protest outside the homes of the leaders of the leftist groups "and explain to their neighbors that these are people who harm IDF soldiers and cause Israel damage.

"We must also face them on the legal front – file lawsuits and show them we are not suckers. Those who harm the State of Israel and its soldiers will be punished," he said.

In addition to the mass support from right-wing factions, the proposal to set up an inquiry commission into the activity of leftist groups was also backed by three members of Kadima, which heads the opposition. "We must erect a democratic and Zionist barrier against the use of human rights claims at the expense of Israeli patriotism," MK Otniel Schneller said.

"These organizations apparently have a good reason for concealing their funding sources," he said.

Kadima MK Yulia Shamalov Berkovich said, "When I see Israeli organizations that harm the only consensus in Israel – the soldiers – I want to know how this happens."

MK Robert Tiviaev, who also voted in favor of an investigation, said "groups such as Adalah cannot be allowed to operate against the IDF."
Harrison Salisbury (New York Times reporter) wrote in 1971 that the author "Sinclair Lewis aptly predicted in It Can't Happen Here that if fascism came to America it would come wrapped in the flag and whistling 'The Star Spangled Banner.'" (The quote is incorrectly attributed to Lewis, but instead seems to be Salisbury's summary of the message of Lewis's book, which does in fact depict an America in which fascists took power in the 1930s).

The cynical decision of the Knesset to persecute left-wing groups demonstrate that if fascism comes to Israel it will come wrapped in the blue-and-white flag and singing Hatikva.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

April Glaspie's cable of July 25, 1990 - just before Iraq invades Kuwait

Wikileaks has just released some cables from 1990. One is from then U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie, from July 25, 1990 - just before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2.

Note - this cable apparently was leaked as early as late 1991. See an article in the American Journalism Review of November 1991, where the author, Gilbert Cranberg, refers to the section of the cable (paragraph 22), where Glaspie criticizes an interview that Diane Sawyer did with Saddam shortly before her meeting with him.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 BAGHDAD 04237

E.O. 12356: DECL:OADR
TAGS: MOPS PREL US KU IZ
SUBJECT: SADDAM'S MESSAGE OF FRIENDSHIP TO PRESIDENT BUSH

¶1. SECRET - ENTIRE TEXT.

¶2. SUMMARY: SADDAM TOLD THE AMBASSADOR JULY 25 THAT MUBARAK HAS ARRANGED FOR KUWAITI AND IRAQI DELEGATIONS TO MEET IN RIYADH, AND THEN ON JULY 28, 29 OR 30, THE KUWAITI CROWN PRINCE WILL COME TO BAGHDAD FOR SERIOUS NEGOTIATIONS. "NOTHING WILL HAPPEN" BEFORE THEN, SADDAM HAD PROMISED MUBARAK.

--SADDAM WISHED TO CONVEY AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO PRESIDENT BUSH: IRAQ WANTS FRIENDSHIP, BUT DOES THE USG? IRAQ SUFFERED 100,000'S OF CASUALTIES AND IS NOW SO POOR THAT WAR ORPHAN PENSIONS WILL SOON BE CUT; YET RICH KUWAIT WILL NOT EVEN ACCEPT OPEC DISCIPLINE. IRAQ IS SICK OF WAR, BUT KUWAIT HAS IGNORED DIPLOMACY. USG MANEUVERS WITH THE UAE WILL ENCOURAGE THE UAE AND KUWAIT TO IGNORE CONVENTIONAL DIPLOMACY. IF IRAQ IS PUBLICLY HUMILIATED BY THE USG, IT WILL HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO "RESPOND," HOWEVER ILLOGICAL AND SELF DESTRUCTIVE THAT WOULD PROVE.
[Comment by RL - I believe this is the definition of chutzpah: Saddam is complaining about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties in the Iran-Iraq War, but he is the one who who invaded Iran in 1980!]
--ALTHOUGH NOT QUITE EXPLICIT, SADDAM'S MESSAGE TO US SEEMED TO BE THAT HE WILL MAKE A MAJOR PUSH TO COOPERATE WITH MUBARAK'S DIPLOMACY, BUT WE MUST TRY TO UNDERSTAND KUWAITI/UAE "SELFISHNESS" IS UNBEARABLE. AMBASSADOR MADE CLEAR THAT WE CAN NEVER EXCUSE SETTLEMENT OF DISPUTES BY OTHER THAN PEACEFUL MEANS. END SUMMARY.

¶3. AMBASSADOR WAS SUMMONED BY PRESIDENT SADDAM HUSAYN AT NOON JULY 25. ALSO PRESENT WERE FONMIN AZIZ, THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICE DIRECTOR, TWO NOTETAKERS, AND THE IRAQI INTERPRETER.

¶4. SADDAM, WHOSE MANNER WAS CORDIAL, REASONABLE AND EVEN WARM THROUGHOUT THE ENSUING TWO HOURS, SAID HE WISHED THE AMBASSADOR TO CONVEY A MESSAGE TO PRESIDENT BUSH. SADDAM THEN RECALLED IN DETAIL THE HISTORY OF IRAQ'S DECISION TO REESTABLISH DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS AND ITS POSTPONING IMPLEMENTATION OF THAT DECISION AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR, RATHER THAN BE THOUGHT WEAK AND NEEDY. HE THEN SPOKE ABOUT THE MANY "BLOWS" OUR RELATIONS HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO SINCE 1984, CHIEF AMONG THEM IRANGATE. IT WAS AFTER THE FAW VICTORY, SADDAM SAID, THAT IRAQI MISAPPREHENSIONS ABOUT USG PURPOSES BEGAN TO SURFACE AGAIN, I.E., SUSPICIONS THAT THE U.S. WAS NOT HAPPY TO SEE THE WAR END.

¶5. PICKING HIS WORDS WITH CARE, SADDAM SAID THAT THERE ARE "SOME CIRCLES" IN THE USG, INCLUDING IN CIA AND THE STATE DEPARTMENT, BUT EMPHATICALLY EXCLUDING THE PRESIDENT AND SECRETARY BAKER, WHO ARE NOT FRIENDLY TOWARD IRAQ-U.S. RELATIONS. HE THEN LISTED WHAT HE SEEMED TO REGARD AS FACTS TO SUPPORT THIS CONCLUSION: "SOME CIRCLES ARE GATHERING INFORMATION ON WHO MIGHT BE SADDAM HUSAYN'S SUCCESSOR;" THEY KEPT UP CONTACTS IN THE GULF WARNING AGAINST IRAQ; THEY WORKED TO ENSURE NO HELP WOULD GO TO IRAQ (READ EXIM AND CCC).

¶6. IRAQ, THE PRESIDENT STRESSED, IS IN SERIOUS FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES, WITH 40 BILLION USD DEBTS. IRAQ, WHOSE VICTORY IN THE WAR AGAINST IRAN MADE AN HISTORIC DIFFERENCE TO THE ARAB WORLD AND THE WEST, NEEDS A MARSHALL PLAN. BUT "YOU WANT THE OIL PRICE DOWN," SADDAM CHARGED.
[RL - What was this "historic difference"? Lots of people dead who wouldn't have been if he had not invaded Iran?]
¶7. RESUMING HIS LIST OF GRIEVANCES WHICH HE BELIEVED WERE ALL INSPIRED BY "SOME CIRCLES" IN THE USG, HE RECALLED THE "USIA CAMPAIGN" AGAINST HIMSELF, AND THE GENERAL MEDIA ASSAULT ON IRAQ AND ITS PRESIDENT.

¶8. DESPITE ALL THESE BLOWS, SADDAM SAID, AND ALTHOUGH "WE WERE SOMEWHAT ANNOYED," WE STILL HOPED THAT WE COULD DEVELOP A GOOD RELATIONSHIP. BUT THOSE WHO FORCE OIL PRICES DOWN ARE ENGAGING IN ECONOMIC WARFARE AND IRAQ CANNOT ACCEPT SUCH A TRESPASS ON ITS DIGNITY AND PROSPERITY.

¶9. THE SPEARHEADS (FOR THE USG) HAVE BEEN KUWAIT AND THE UAE, SADDAM SAID. SADDAM SAID CAREFULLY THAT JUST AS IRAQ WILL NOT THREATEN OTHERS, IT WILL ACCEPT NO THREAT AGAINST ITSELF. "WE HOPE THE USG WILL NOT MISUNDERSTAND:" IRAQ ACCEPTS, AS THE STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN SAID, THAT ANY COUNTRY MAY CHOOSE ITS FRIENDS. BUT THE USG KNOWS THAT IT WAS IRAQ, NOT THE USG, WHICH DECISIVELY PROTECTED THOSE USG FRIENDS DURING THE WAR--AND THAT IS UNDERSTANDABLE SINCE PUBLIC OPINION IN THE USG,
TO SAY NOTHING OF GEOGRAPHY, WOULD HAVE MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE AMERICANS TO ACCEPT 10,000 DEAD IN A SINGLE BATTLE, AS IRAQ DID.

¶10. SADDAM ASKED WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE USG TO ANNOUNCE IT IS COMMITTED TO THE DEFENSE OF ITS FRIENDS, INDIVIDUALLY AND COLLECTIVELY. ANSWERING HIS OWN QUESTION, HE SAID THAT TO IRAQ IT MEANS FLAGRANT BIAS AGAINST THE GOI.

¶11. COMING TO ONE OF HIS MAIN POINTS, SADDAM ARGUED THAT USG MANEUVERS WITH THE UAE AND KUWAIT (SIC) ENCOURAGED THEM IN THEIR UNGENEROUS POLICIES. THE IRAQI RIGHTS, SADDAM EMPHASIZED, WILL BE RESTORED ONE BY ONE, THOUGH IT MAY TAKE A MONTH OR MUCH MORE THAN A YEAR. IRAQ HOPES THE USG WILL BE IN HARMONY WITH ALL THE PARTIES TO THIS DISPUTE.
[RL - is he hinting here at some kind of military action?]
¶12. SADDAM SAID HE UNDERSTANDS THAT THE USG IS DETERMINED TO KEEP THE OIL FLOWING AND TO MAINTAIN ITS FRIENDSHIPS IN THE GULF. WHAT HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND IS WHY WE ENCOURAGE THOSE WHO ARE DAMAGING IRAQ, WHICH IS WHAT OUR GULF MANEUVERS WILL DO.
[RL - meaning supporting Kuwait?]
¶13. SADDAM SAID HE FULLY BELIEVES THE USG WANTS PEACE, AND THAT IS GOOD. BUT DO NOT, HE ASKED, USE METHODS WHICH YOU SAY YOU DO NOT LIKE, METHODS LIKE ARM-TWISTING-

¶14. AT THIS POINT SADDAM SPOKE AT LENGTH ABOUT PRIDE OF IRAQIS, WHO BELIEVE IN "LIBERTY OR DEATH." IRAQ WILL HAVE TO RESPOND IF THE U.S. USES THESE METHODS. IRAQ KNOWS THE USG CAN SEND PLANES AND ROCKETS AND HURT IRAQ DEEPLY. SADDAM ASKS THAT THE USG NOT FORCE IRAQ TO THE POINT OF HUMILIATION AT WHICH LOGIC MUST BE DISREGARDED. IRAQ DOES NOT CONSIDER THE U.S. AN ENEMY AND HAS TRIED TO BE FRIENDS.
[RL - is Saddam talking about "arm-twisting" or military force?]
¶15. AS FOR THE INTRA-ARAB DISPUTES, SADDAM SAID HE IS NOT ASKING THE USG TO TAKE UP ANY PARTICULAR ROLE SINCE THE SOLUTIONS MUST COME THROUGH ARAB AND BILATERAL DIPLOMACY.

¶16. RETURNING TO HIS THEME THAT IRAQ WANTS DIGNITY AND FREEDOM AS WELL AS FRIENDSHIP WITH THE U.S., HE CHARGED THAT IN THE LAST YEAR THERE WERE MANY OFFICIAL STATEMENTS WHICH MADE IT SEEM THAT THE U.S. DOES NOT WANT TO RECIPROCATE. HOW, FOR EXAMPLE, SADDAM ASKED, CAN WE INTERPRET THE INVITATION FOR ARENS TO VISIT AT A TIME OF CRISIS IN THE GULF? WHY DID THE U.S DEFENSE MINISTER MAKE "INFLAMMATORY" STATEMENTS?

¶17. SADDAM SAID THAT THE IRAQIS KNOW WHAT WAR IS, WANT NO MORE OF IT--"DO NOT PUSH US TO IT; DO NOT MAKE IT THE ONLY OPTION LEFT WITH WHICH WE CAN PROTECT OUR DIGNITY."
¶18. PRESIDENT BUSH, SADDAM SAID, HAS MADE NO MISTAKE IN HIS PRESIDENCY VIS-A-VIS THE ARABS. THE DECISION ON THE PLO DIALOGUE WAS "MISTAKEN," BUT IT WAS TAKEN UNDER "ZIONIST PRESSURE" AND, SADDAM SAID, IS PERHAPS A CLEVER TACTIC TO ABSORB THAT PRESSURE.

¶19. AFTER A SHORT DIVERSION ON THE NEED FOR THE U.S. TO CONSIDER THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF 200,000 ARABS WITH THE SAME VIGOR AND INTEREST AS THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE ISRAELIS, SADDAM CONCLUDED BY RESTATING THAT IRAQ WANTS AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP "ALTHOUGH WE WILL NOT PANT FOR IT, WE WILL DO OUR PART AS FRIENDS."

¶20. SADDAM THEN OFFERED AN ANECDOTE TO ILLUSTRATE HIS POINT. HE HAD TOLD THE IRAQI KURDISH LEADER IN 1974 THAT HE WAS PREPARED TO GIVE UP HALF OF THE SHATT AL-ARAB TO IRAN TO OBTAIN ALL OF A PROSPEROUS IRAQ. THE KURD HAD BET THAT SADDAM WOULD NOT GIVE HALF THE SHATT--THE KURD WAS WRONG. EVEN NOW, THE ONLY REAL ISSUE WITH IRAN IS THE SHATT, AND IF GIVING AWAY HALF OF THE WATERWAY IS THE ONLY THING STANDING BETWEEN THE CURRENT SITUATION AND IRAQI PROSPERITY, SADDAM SAID HE WOULD BE GUIDED BY WHAT HE DID IN 1974.

¶21. THE AMBASSADOR THANKED SADDAM FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS DIRECTLY WITH HIM SOME OF HIS AND OUR CONCERNS. PRESIDENT BUSH, TOO, WANTS FRIENDSHIP, AS HE HAD WRITTEN AT THE 'ID AND ON THE OCCASION OF IRAQ'S NATIONAL DAY. SADDAM INTERRUPTED TO SAY HE HAD BEEN TOUCHED BY THOSE

¶22. AMBASSADOR RESUMED HER THEME, RECALLING THAT THE PRESIDENT HAD INSTRUCTED HER TO BROADEN AND DEEPEN OUR RELATIONS WITH IRAQ. SADDAM HAD REFERRED TO "SOME CIRCLES" ANTIPATHETIC TO THAT AIM. SUCH CIRCLES CERTAINLY EXISTED, BUT THE U.S. ADMINISTRATION IS INSTRUCTED BY THE PRESIDENT. ON THE OTHER HAND, THE PRESIDENT DOES NOT CONTROL THE AMERICAN PRESS; IF HE DID, CRITICISM OF THE ADMINISTRATION WOULD NOT EXIST. SADDAM AGAIN INTERRUPTED TO SAY HE UNDERSTOOD THAT. THE AMBASSADOR SAID SHE HAD SEEN THE DIANE SAWYER SHOW AND THOUGHT THAT IT WAS CHEAP AND UNFAIR. BUT THE AMERICAN PRESS TREATS ALL POLITICIANS WITHOUT KID GLOVES--THAT IS OUR WAY.
[RL - Saddam released a transcript of the conversation between him and Glaspie that accords with this cable - see Cranberg's article, mentioned above].
¶23. WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS THAT THE PRESIDENT HAS VERY RECENTLY REAFFIRMED HIS DESIRE FOR A BETTER RELATIONSHIP AND HAS PROVEN THAT BY, FOR EXAMPLE, OPPOSING SANCTIONS BILLS. HERE SADDAM INTERRUPTED AGAIN. LAUGHING, HE SAID THERE IS NOTHING LEFT FOR IRAQ TO BUY IN THE U.S. EVERYTHING IS PROHIBITED EXCEPT FOR WHEAT, AND NO DOUBT THAT WILL SOON BE DECLARED A DUAL-USE ITEM- SADDAM SAID, HOWEVER, HE HAD DECIDED NOT TO RAISE THIS ISSUE, BUT RATHER CONCENTRATE ON THE FAR MORE IMPORTANT ISSUES AT HAND.

¶24. AMBASSADOR SAID THERE WERE MANY ISSUES HE HAD RAISED SHE WOULD LIKE TO COMMENT ON, BUT SHE WISHED TO USE HER LIMITED TIME WITH THE PRESIDENT TO STRESS FIRST PRESIDENT BUSH'S DESIRE FOR FRIENDSHIP AND, SECOND, HIS STRONG DESIRE, SHARED WE ASSUME BY IRAQ, FOR PEACE AND STABILITY IN THE MIDEAST. IS IT NOT REASONABLE FOR US TO BE CONCERNED WHEN THE PRESIDENT AND THE FOREIGN MINISTER BOTH SAY PUBLICLY THAT KUWAITI ACTIONS ARE THE EQUIVALENT OF MILITARY AGGRESSION, AND THEN WE LEARN THAT MANY UNITS OF THE REPUBLICAN GUARD HAVE BEEN SENT TO THE BORDER? IS IT NOT REASONABLE FOR US TO ASK, IN THE SPIRIT OF FRIENDSHIP, NOT CONFRONTATION, THE SIMPLE QUESTION: WHAT ARE YOUR INTENTIONS?
¶25. SADDAM SAID THAT WAS INDEED A REASONABLE QUESTION. HE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT WE SHOULD BE CONCERNED FOR REGIONAL PEACE, IN FACT IT IS OUR DUTY AS A SUPERPOWER. "BUT HOW CAN WE MAKE THEM (KUWAIT AND UAE) UNDERSTAND HOW DEEPLY WE ARE SUFFERING." THE FINANCIAL SITUATION IS SUCH THAT THE PENSIONS FOR WIDOWS AND ORPHANS WILL HAVE TO BE CUT. AT THIS POINT, THE INTERPRETER AND ONE OF THE NOTETAKERS BROKE DOWN AND WEPT.
[RL - again, the chutzpah of the man! Notice, however, that Saddam doesn't answer Glaspie's question].
¶26. AFTER A PAUSE FOR RECUPERATION, SADDAM SAID, IN EFFECT, BELIEVE ME I HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING: WE SENT ENVOYS, WROTE MESSAGES, ASKED FAHD TO ARRANGE QUADRAPARTITE SUMMIT (IRAQ, SAG, UE, KUWAIT). FAHD SUGGESTED OIL MINISTERS INSTEAD AND WE AGREED TO THE JEDDAH AGREEMENT ALTHOUGH IT WAS WELL BELOW OUR HOPES. THEN, SADDAM CONTINUED, TWO DAYS LATER THE KUWAITI OIL MINISTER ANNOUNCED HE WOULD WANT TO ANNUL THAT AGREEMENT WITHIN TWO MONTHS. AS FOR THE UAE, SADDAM SAID, I BEGGED SHAYKH ZAYID TO UNDERSTAND OUR PROBLEMS (WHEN SADDAM ENTERTAINED HIM IN MOSUL AFTER THE BAGHDAD SUMMIT), AND ZAYID SAID JUST WAIT UNTIL I GET BACK TO ABU DHABI. BUT THEN HIS MINISTER OF OIL MADE "BAD STATEMENTS."

¶27. AT THIS POINT, SADDAM LEFT THE ROOM TO TAKE AN URGENT CALL FROM MUBARAK. AFTER HIS RETURN, THE AMBASSADOR ASKED IF HE COULD TELL HER IF THERE HAS ANY PROGRESS IN FINDING A PEACEFUL WAY TO DEFUSE THE DISPUTE. THIS WAS SOMETHING PRESIDENT BUSH WOULD BE KEENLY INTERESTED TO KNOW. SADDAM SAID THAT HE HAD JUST LEARNED FROM MUBARAK THE KUWAITIS HAVE AGREED TO NEGOTIATE. THE KUWAITI CROWN PRINCE/PRIME MINISTER WOULD MEET IN RIYADH WITH SADDAM'S NUMBER TWO, IZZAT IBRAHIM, AND THEN THE KUWAITI WOULD COME TO BAGHDAD ON SATURDAY, SUNDAY OR, AT THE LATEST, MONDAY, JULY 30.

¶28. "I TOLD MUBARAK," SADDAM SAID, THAT "NOTHING WILL HAPPEN UNTIL THE MEETING," AND NOTHING WILL HAPPEN DURING OR AFTER THE MEETING IF THE KUWAITIS WILL AT LAST "GIVE US SOME HOPE."

¶29. THE AMBASSADOR SAID SHE WAS DELIGHTED TO HEAR THIS GOOD NEWS. SADDAM THEN ASKED HER TO CONVEY HIS WARM GREETINGS TO PRESIDENT BUSH AND TO CONVEY HIS MESSAGE TO HIM.

¶30. NOTE: ON THE BORDER QUESTION, SADDAM REFERRED TO THE 1961 AGREEMENT AND A "LINE OF PATROL" IT HAD ESTABLISHED. THE KUWAITIS, HE SAID, HAD TOLD MUBARAK IRAQ WAS 20 KILOMETERS "IN FRONT" OF THIS LINE. THE AMBASSADOR SAID THAT SHE HAD SERVED IN KUWAIT 20 YEARS BEFORE; THEN, AS NOW, WE TOOK NO POSITION ON THESE ARAB AFFAIRS.
[RL - in context, this remark seems to refer to the placement of the border, not to whether the US had no interest in whether Iraq went to war with Kuwait. Glaspie's question about the Iraqi troops on the border should have made it clear that the US was highly interested in what Iraq's intentions were].
¶31. COMMENT: IN THE MEMORY QF THE CURRENT DIPLOMATIC CORPS, SADDAM HAS NEVER SUMMONED AN AMBASSADOR. HE IS WORRIED.

ACCORDING TO HIS OWN POLITICAL THEORIZING (U.S. THE SOLE MAJOR POWER IN THE MIDDLE EAST), HE NEEDS AT A MINIMUM A CORRECT RELATIONSHIP WITH US FOR OBVIOUS GEOPOLITICAL REASONS, ESPECIALLY AS LONG AS HE PERCEIVES MORTAL THREATS FROM ISRAEL AND IRAN. AMBASSADOR BELIEVES SADDAM SUSPECTS OUR DECISION SUDDENLY TO UNDERTAKE MANEUVERS WITH ABU DHABI IS A HARBINGER OF A USG DECISION TO TAKE SIDES. FURTHER, SADDAM, HIMSELF BEGINNING TO HAVE AN INKLING OF HOW MUCH HE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE U.S., IS APPREHENSIVE THAT WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND CERTAIN POLITICAL FACTORS WHICH INHIBIT HIM, SUCH AS:

--HE CANNOT ALLOW HIMSELF TO BE PERCEIVED AS CAVING IN TO SUPERPOWER BULLYING (AS U/S HAMDUN FRANKLY WARNED US IN LATE 1988);

--IRAQ, WHICH LOST 100,000'S OF CASUALTIES, IS SUFFERING AND KUWAIT IS "MISERLY" AND "SELFISH."

¶32. IT WAS PROGRESS TO HAVE SADDAM ADMIT THAT THE USG HAS A "RESPONSIBILITY" IN THE REGION, AND HAS EVERY RIGHT TO EXPECT AN ANSWER WHEN WE ASK IRAQ'S INTENTIONS. HIS RESPONSE IN EFFECT THAT HE TRIED VARIOUS DIPLOMATIC/CHANNELS BEFORE RESORTING TO UNADULTERATED INTIMIDATION HAS AT LEAST THE VIRTUE OF FRANKNESS. HIS EMPHASIS THAT HE WANTS PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT IS SURELY SINCERE (IRAQIS ARE SICK OF WAR), BUT THE TERMS SOUND DIFFICULT TO ACHIEVE. SADDAM SEEMS TO WANT PLEDGES NOW ON OIL PRICES AND PRODUCTION TO COVER THE NEXT SEVERAL MONTHS.

GLASPIE
[RL - Glaspie was certainly proven wrong in saying that Saddam wanted a peaceful settlement, since he attacked Kuwait several days later, which of course she couldn't know about ahead of time! On the other hand, the thousands of Iraqi troops massing on the border with Kuwait should, it seems to me, have spoken more loudly to her than they did].