The Anti-Empire Report #40
By William Blum – Published December 17th, 2006
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a man seemingly custom-made for the White House in its endless quest for enemies with whom to scare Congress, the American people, and the world, in order to justify the unseemly behavior of the empire. The Iranian president has declared that he wants to “wipe Israel off the map”. He’s said that “the Holocaust is a myth”. He recently held a conference in Iran for “Holocaust deniers”. And his government passed a new law requiring Jews to wear a yellow insignia, ˆ la the Nazis. On top of all that, he’s aiming to build nuclear bombs, one of which would surely be aimed at Israel. What right-thinking person would not be scared by such a man?
However, like with all such designer monsters made bigger than life during the Cold War and since by Washington, the truth about Ahmadinejad is a bit more complicated. According to people who know Farsi, the Iranian leader has never said anything about “wiping Israel off the map”. In his October 29, 2005 speech, when he reportedly first made the remark, the word “map” does not even appear. According to the translation of Juan Cole, American professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History, Ahmadinejad said that “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” His remark, said Cole, “does not imply military action or killing anyone at all,” which presumably is what would make the remark threatening. 1 Readers are advised that the next time they come across such an Ahmadinejad citation to note whether a complete sentence is being quoted, and not just “wipe Israel off the map”.
At the conference in Teheran (“Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision”), the Iranian president said: “The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon, the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom.” 2 Obviously, the man is not calling for any kind of violent attack upon Israel, for the dissolution of the Soviet Union did not occur through force or violence.
As for the Holocaust myth, I have yet to read or hear words from Ahmadinejad’s mouth saying simply and clearly and unequivocally that he thinks that the Holocaust never happened. He has commented about the peculiarity of a Holocaust which took place in Europe resulting in a state for the Jews in the Middle East instead of in Europe. And he argues that Israel and the United States have exploited the memory of the Holocaust for their own imperialist purposes. He also wonders about the accuracy of the number of Jews – six million – killed in the Holocaust, as have many other people of all political stripes, including Holocaust survivors like author Primo Levi. (The much publicized World War One atrocities which turned out to be false made the public very skeptical of the Holocaust claims for a long time.)
The conference gave a platform to various points of view, including six members of Jews United Against Zionism, at least two of whom were rabbis. One was Ahron Cohen, from London, who declared: “There is no doubt what so ever, that during World War 2 there developed a terrible and catastrophic policy and action of genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany against the Jewish People.” He also said that “the Zionists make a great issue of the Holocaust in order to further their illegitimate philosophy and aims,” indicating as well that the figure of six million Jewish victims is debatable. The other rabbi was Moshe David Weiss, who told the delegates: “We don’t want to deny the killing of Jews in World War II, but Zionists have given much higher figures for how many people were killed. They have used the Holocaust as a device to justify their oppression.” His group rejects the creation of Israel on the grounds that it violates Jewish religious law in that a Jewish state can’t exist until the return of the Messiah. 3
Another speaker was Shiraz Dossa, professor of political science at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada. In an interview after the conference, he described himself as an anti-imperialist and an admirer of Noam Chomsky, and said that he “was invited because of my expertise as a scholar in the German-Jewish area, as well as my studies in the Holocaust. … I have nothing to do with Holocaust denial, not at all.” His talk was “about the war on terrorism, and how the Holocaust plays into it. Other people [at the conference] have their own points of view, but that [Holocaust denial] is not my point of view. … There was no pressure at all to say anything, and people there had different views.” 4
Clearly, the conference – which the White House called “an affront to the entire civilized world” 2 – was not set up to be simply a forum for people to deny that the Holocaust, to any significant degree, literally never took place at all.
As to the yellow star story of this past May – that was a complete fabrication by a prominent Iranian-American neo-conservative, Amir Taheri. There are as well other egregious examples of Ahmadinejad’s policies and words being twisted out of shape in the Western media, making him look like a danger to all that’s holy and decent. Political science professor Virginia Tilley has written a good account of this. “Why is Mr. Ahmadinejad being so systematically misquoted and demonized?” Tilley asks. “Need we ask? If the world believes that Iran is preparing to attack Israel, then the US or Israel can claim justification in attacking Iran first. On that agenda, the disinformation campaign about Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statements has been bonded at the hip to a second set of lies: promoting Iran’s (nonexistent) nuclear weapon programme.” 6
Ahmadinejad, however, is partly to blame for this “disinformation”. I heard him in an interview while he was at the UN in September being asked directly about “the map” and the reality of the Holocaust, and he refused to give explicit answers of “yes” or “no”, which I interpret as his prideful refusal to accede to the wishes of what he regarded as a hostile Western interviewer asking hostile questions. In an interview with the German news magazine, Der Spiegel (May 31 2006), Ahmadinejad states: “We don’t want to confirm or deny the Holocaust.” The Iranian president is also in the habit of prefacing certain remarks with “Even if the Holocaust happened … “, a rhetorical device we all use in argument and discussion, but one which can not help but reinforce the doubts people have about his views.
It may already be too late. The conventional wisdom about what Ahmadinejad has said and meant may already be set in marble. Ban Ki-Moon, at a news conference on December 14, after being sworn in as the new secretary-general of the United Nations, was asked by an Israeli reporter whether the United Nations was going to address the issue of Holocaust deniers. Ban replied: “Denying historical facts, especially on such an important subject as the Holocaust is just not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable to call for the elimination of any state or people.” 7 Let’s hope that this is not very indicative of the independence of mind that we can expect from the new secretary-general. Myths die so hard.
Time magazine has just foregone its usual selection of “Person of the Year” and instead chosen “You”, the Internet user. Managing editor Richard Stengel said that if it came down to one individual it probably would have been Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but that “It just felt to me a little off selecting him.” 8 In previous years Time’s “Person of the Year” has included Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler.
No one ever thinks they’re guilty of anything. They’re all just good ol’ patriots.
General Augusto Pinochet, who escaped earthly justice on December 10, was detained in London in 1999 awaiting a ruling by a British court on whether he would be extradited to Spain on a Spanish judge’s warrant to face charges of crimes against humanity committed during his rule in Chile from 1973 to 1990. “I tell you how I feel,” he told a London journalist at the time. “I would like to be remembered as a man who served his country, who served Chile throughout his entire life on this earth. And what he did was always done thinking about the welfare of Chile.” 9
P.W. Botha, former president of South Africa died November 1. He was a man who had vigorously defended the apartheid system, which led to the jailing of tens of thousands of people. He never repented or apologized for his actions, and resisted attempts to make him appear before the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. At one point he declared: “I am not going to repent. I am not going to ask for forgiveness. What I did, I did for my country.” 10
As Pol Pot lay on his death bed in 1997, he was interviewed by a journalist, who later wrote: “Asked whether he wants to apologize for the suffering he caused, he looks genuinely confused, has the interpreter repeat the question, and answers ‘No’. … ‘I want you to know that everything I did, I did for my country’.” 11
“In these three decades I have been actuated solely by love and loyalty to my people in all my thoughts, acts, and life.” Adolf Hitler, “Last Will and Testament”, written in his bunker in his final hours, April 29, 1945.
Fast Forward now to 2036 … George W. Bush lies dying, Fox News Channel is in the room recording his last words … “I know that people think the whole thing … that thing in Iraq … was a bad thing, and they hold it against me … I appreciate their view … I can understand how they feel … But y’know, I did it for America, and the American people, and their freedom … The more you love freedom, the more likely it is you’ll be attacked … Saddam was a real threat … I still think he had weapons of mass destruction … and someday we’ll find ‘em … someday we’ll say mission accomplished! … that will really be a turning point! … So I’m prepared to meet my maker and whatever he has in mind for me … in fact I say Bring it on!”
William Shirer, in his monumental work “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, comments that Hitler’s Last Will and Testament “confirm that the man who had ruled over Germany with an iron hand for more than twelve years, and over most of Europe for four, had learned nothing from his experience.” 12
Shirer tells us of another happening concerning Hitler’s bunker, on April 12. When news of the death of President Franklin Roosevelt reached Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, he phoned Hitler in the bunker. “My Fuehrer,” Goebbels said. “I congratulate you! Roosevelt is dead! … It is the turning point.” 13
The United States of Punishment
2.2 million imprisoned … “We’re Number One! USA! USA! USA!” … 7 million – one in every 32 American adults – either behind bars, on probation, or on parole … When it comes to sentencing, let me tell you, people, and pardon my language, the United States is one hell of a tough mother fucker … beginning with mandatory minimum sentences … there are tens of thousands of young men rotting their lives away in American prisons for simple possession of a drug, for their own use, for their own pleasure, to enjoy with a friend, no victims involved. Do you think a person should be in prison if he hasn’t hurt anyone? Either physically, financially, or in some other real and serious manner? Jose Antonio Lopez, a legal permanent resident with a family and business in South Dakota, was deported back to Mexico a while ago because of a cocaine charge – Sale? No. Use? No. Possession? No. … He told someone where they could buy some. 14 Another man was sentenced to 55 years in prison for three marijuana deals because he was in possession of a gun each time, which he did not use or brandish. Possession of a firearm in a drug transaction requires a much stiffer prison sentence. Four former attorneys-general and 145 former prosecutors and judges wrote in support of a lighter sentence for this man. The presiding judge himself called the sentence “unjust, cruel and irrational”, but said the law left him no choice. 15
On December 1, a court in the Netherlands convicted four Dutch Muslims of plotting terrorist attacks against political leaders and government buildings. The heaviest sentence for any of them was eight years. 16 On December 13, a priest was convicted of taking part in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide by ordering militiamen to set fire to a church and then bulldoze it while 2,000 people seeking safety were huddled inside. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sentenced him to 15 years in prison. 17 Considerably lighter sentences than in the United States are generally a common phenomenon in much of the world. In the US, the mere mention of the word “terrorist” in a courtroom will likely bring down 30, 40, 50 years, life in prison, on the defendant’s head, even for only thinking and talking of an action, an Orwellian “thoughtcrime”, with nothing concrete done to further the plan.
Colombian drug traffickers, British Muslims, and others accused of “terrorist” offenses strenuously fight extradition to the United States for fear of Uncle Sam’s merciless fist. They’re the lucky ones amongst Washington’s foreign targets; they’re not kidnapped off the street and flown shackled and blindfolded to secret dungeons in shadowy corners of the world to be tortured.
For those who think that no punishment is too severe, too cruel, in the War on Terrorism against the Bad Guys, it must be asked what they think of the case of the Cuban Five. These are five Cubans who were engaged in the United States in the 1990s trying to uncover information about anti-Castro terrorists based in Miami, some of whom shortly before had been carrying out a series of bombing attacks in Havana hotels and may have been plotting new attacks. The Five infiltrated Cuban-American organizations based in Miami to monitor their actions, and they informed the Cuban government of their findings. The Cuban government then passed on some of the information to the FBI. And what happened next? The FBI arrested the five Cubans.
The Cubans were held in solitary confinement for 17 months; eventually they were tried, and in 2001 convicted on a variety of charges thrown together by the government for the occasion, including murder (sic!) and conspiracy to commit espionage (probably the first case in American judicial history of alleged espionage without a single page from a single secret document). They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 years to life. But the federal government’s lust for punishment was still not satisfied. They have made it extremely difficult for their Cuban prisoners to receive family visits. Two of them have not seen their wives and children since their arrest in 1998; the other three have had only scarcely better luck. 18 Yet another glorious chapter in the War on Terrorism.
The making of official history
It was just a passing remark in an Associated Press story about the recent overthrow of the Fiji government. “It was the nation’s fourth coup in 19 years,” the article noted, the first being the 1987 coup. “The takeover, like the previous three coups, has its roots in the ethnic divide between the descendants of ancient Melanesian warrior tribes and those of Indian laborers brought by former colonial power Britain to work in sugar plantations.” 19 That’s how “official history” is created and passed on, all the more effective because it’s unconscious, unknowing, voluntary, and done by “objective” journalists.
In 1987, Fiji Prime Minister Timoci Bavrada made Washington officials unhappy by identifying himself with the non-aligned movement (always a risk for a country during the Cold War), and even more so by taking office with a pledge to reinstate Fiji as a nuclear free zone, meaning that nuclear-powered or nuclear-weapons-carrying ships could not make port calls. When Bavrada’s predecessor, R.S.K. Mara, instituted the same policy in 1982, he was put under intense American pressure to drop it. Said the US ambassador to Fiji that year, William Bodde, Jr., “a nuclear free zone would be unacceptable to the US, given our strategic needs … the US must do everything possible to counter this movement.” The following year, Mara dropped the policy.
Two weeks after Bavrada took office, American UN Ambassador Vernon Walters visited the island. The former Deputy Director of the CIA had a long and infamous history of showing up shortly before, during, or shortly after CIA destabilization operations. Walters met with Bavrada, ostensibly to discuss UN matters. He also met with Lt. Col. Sitiveni Rabuka, third-in-command of the Army. Two weeks later, Rabuka led a military coup which ousted Bavrada.
The day after the coup, a Pentagon source, while denying US involvement, declared: “We’re kinda delighted … All of a sudden our ships couldn’t go to Fiji, and now all of a sudden they can.”
These happenings, and others concerning the 1987 Fiji coup which I recount elsewhere 20 , are of the type that the mainstream media typically ignore or, if obliged to deal with them, would have us believe are no more than coincidences.
The anonymous author of the Associated Press story can be forgiven for not knowing of the American fingerprints all over the Fiji coup. The story has probably not appeared in any media except those on the left; if by chance a mainstream editor came across such a story he would likely dismiss it as a “conspiracy theory”. Well, you can call people like me “conspiracy theorists” if you call everyone else “coincidence theorists”.
There are of course implausible conspiracy theories, but that is an altogether different matter.
Some things to look forward to in 2007
January: Insurgents in Iraq explode a nuclear bomb, totally destroying all of Iraq and everyone in it. Bush declares: “There will be no change in our policy of bringing freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq. We will not cut and run.”
March: To add to the ban of liquids and jells aboard aircraft, solids are now banned. But gasses are still allowed.
June: Halliburton is awarded a 300 million dollar no-bid contract to investigate contractor fraud in Iraq.
September: New York City policemen run down, then shoot, mace, stab, beat up, and hang a Muslim resident of Brooklyn after thinking that he might be a suspected terrorist who fit the Terrorist Profile, was alleged to be on the Master Terrorist Watch List, and appeared to be carrying what they imagined, or think they imagined, might be a concealed bomb, or something of that nature.
November: George W. announces that he will ask Congress to give embryos the vote.
December: Gasses are now banned aboard aircraft. The only permitted forms of matter are now ionized atoms, electrons, neutrinos, quarks, and dark matter. (The last being what Dick Cheney is completely composed of, he is allowed aboard any airplane.)
- Juan Cole, “Hitchens the Warmongering Hacker”, AlterNet, May 5, 2006
- Associated Press, December 12, 2006
- Rabbi Aharon Cohen’s speech to Holocaust conference; Alex Spillius, “Iran stirs up hatred with Holocaust conference”, The Telegraph, December 13, 2006; Associated Press, December 12, 2006
- Globe and Mail (Toronto), December 13, 2006
- Associated Press, December 12, 2006
- Virginia Tilley, “Putting Words in Ahmadinejad’s Mouth”, Counterpunch, August 28, 2006
- Washington Post, December 15, 2006, p.27
- Associated Press, December 16, 2006
- Sunday Telegraph (London), July 18, 1999
- Democracy Now (Pacifica Network), November 1, 2006
- Nate Thayer, in Far Eastern Economic Review (Hong Kong), October 30, 1997, pages 15 and 20
- Paperback edition, p.1459
- Ibid., p.1441
- Washington Post, December 6, 2006, p.3
- Bulletin News Network, Inc., The White House Bulletin, December 4, 2006
- Associated Press, December 1, 2006
- Associated Press, December 13, 2006
- For the details of the case see my essay, “Cuban political prisoners … in the United States”
- Associated Press, December 6, 2006
- Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, pages 199-200
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to williamblum.org is provided.