Imperial arm-twisting: "mounting a surge"

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Yesterday, the done-deal in Turkey was undone yet again, this time evidently staggering American officials. The Turkish parliament by a combination of no-votes and abstentions managed to nix the stationing of 60,000 American troops on the Turkish border in preparation for an invasion of Iraq, the subject of weeks of arduous negotiations. American policymakers had, it seems, been so sure of this one that prodigious quantities of equipment and supplies were already being unloaded in Turkey, probably illegally, for the invading army that now may not be.

My vote for quote of the day comes from the New York Times: “‘The relationship is spoiled,’ said Murat Mercan, a member of Parliament from the majority party. ‘The Americans dictated to us. It became a business negotiation, not something between friends. It disgusted me.'” That quote might stand-in for the way, at the UN and elsewhere, the Bush administration has been carrying out its “diplomacy” for war — with a hand far too heavy for its own good.

My vote for story of the day did not — here’s a surprise — appear in the American press. Today’s British Observer carried a report on a leaked memo from our highly secretive spying outfit, the National Security Agency (NSA), on “mounting a surge” to bug, tap, intercept the phone calls, emails of, and otherwise spy on the UN missions (and homes) of the diplomats of the crucial uncommitted nations which will soon vote in the Security Council on the American-British resolution for war in Iraq. I include both the story and the document itself.

Until the Turkish negotiation story finally broke, imperial arm-twisting, concession-giving, gift-showering, and bribing at the UN and elsewhere on our beleaguered planet had hardly been covered in the American media, which — since it was evident to the naked eye of someone like me light years from the action and without an inside source in sight — has been nothing short of criminal. Now, if we read carefully and to the ends of articles in the elite press, or check out the right columnists on op-ed pages, we can pick out the tale.

Still, I’ll be curious to see how the American press plays this Observer story, which (as our President said of the Iraqi missiles now being destroyed) is but the tippiest tip of the imperial iceberg. A second curious question is who leaked the document to the Observer. My guess is someone against this upcoming war somewhere in the British intelligence services, but since many people inside the intelligence agencies of both governments are undoubtedly horrified by US policies, who knows.)

I include below as well a short piece by Robert Fisk of the British newspaper The Independent enumerating the “aid” suddenly being showered on the Middle East to rally a “coalition of the well paid or badly cowed.” While these sums are not large, not by the standards of the Turkish deal anyway, they undoubtedly sit weightily in relatively small numbers of Middle Eastern pockets.

Of abiding interest here is the repeated heavy-handedness of the Bush administration — perhaps a reflection of their arrogance and mind-numbing self-assurance, their faith, you might say — which has managed to turn near slam-dunk situations (such as the UN vote) into virtual humiliations, as in Turkey yesterday and possibly the UN in a week or two.

An empire cannot be run on pain, threats, and bribes alone. Human beings even the ruling classes of vassal states usually need something more. For all the pretty words about freedom and democracy, it turns out that the Bushites have a pretty basic, reductionist, even Skinnerian view of how the rest of (degraded, pagan) humanity works. They truly believe that, given American military might, it’s enough to raise the big stick, twist the weakened arm, and then slip a little money to the doorman at just the right moment for entry to the building.

To offer a bit of historical perspective on all this, I include a staggering little news report from ABC News on-line (of all places) about — appropriately enough — a recent book by James Bamford on the NSA. He reveals that, in the early 1960s, the Joint Chiefs of Staff developed plans to trick the American people into supporting an invasion of Cuba. They even suggested the possibility of blowing up an American ship (remember the Maine?) and blaming it on the Cubans. President Kennedy turned them down flat and still that didn’t quite stop them from planning on. As you read this account — forty years too late, of course — consider the single leaked document we have today, thanks to the Observer, from the NSA, and try to imagine what of present efforts we might not see for another forty years. Then just consider this as well: The people ready to do just about anything to get us into an invasion of hated Iraq are not, as forty years ago, a hair’s breadth from power. Today, given the opportunity, the Joint Chief’s might, I believe, say no to this invasion, while the men creating the secret plans of the moment are actually in power. There’s you’re bedtime story for a Sunday night. Sleep tight. Tom

Revealed: US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war
Secret document details American plan to bug phones and emails of key Security Council members

By Martin Bright, Ed Vulliamy in New York and Peter Beaumont
The Observer
March 2, 2003

The United States is conducting a secret ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.

Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.

The disclosures were made in a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency – the US body which intercepts communications around the world – and circulated to both senior agents in his organisation and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for its input.

To read more of this Observer piece click here

Observer Exclusive
US plan to bug Security Council: the text
Online document: The text of the memorandum detailing the US plan to bug the phones and emails of key Security Council members, revealed in today’s Observer
March 2, 2003

To: [Recipients withheld]
From: FRANK KOZA@Chief of Staff (Regional Target) CIV/NSA
on 31/01/2003 0:16

Subject: Reflections of Iraq debate/votes at UN – RT actions and potential for related contributions

Importance: High



As you’ve likely heard by now, the Agency is mounting a surge particularly directed at the UN Security Council (UNSC) members (minus US and GBR of course) for insights as to how to membership is reacting to the on-going debate RE: Iraq, plans to vote on any related resolutions, what related policies/ negotiating positions they may be considering, alliances/ dependencies, etc – the whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises. In RT, that means a QRC surge effort to revive/ create efforts against UNSC members Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria and Guinea, as well as extra focus on Pakistan UN matters.

To read more of the NSA memo click here

Friendly Fire
Book: U.S. Military Drafted Plans to Terrorize U.S. Cities to Provoke War With Cuba
By David Ruppe
March 1, 2003

In the early 1960s, America’s top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.

Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.

The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba’s then new leader, communist Fidel Castro.

America’s top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: “We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba,” and, “casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.”

To read more of this ABC news piece click here

American billions keep Arab regimes sweet
By Robert Fisk in Beirut
The Independent
March 2, 2003

It was pathetic. The President of the United Arab Emirates – too old and too sick to visit Sharm el-Sheikh – sent a message begging Saddam Hussein to go into exile, just as the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, had told the Arabs to do last Thursday, when he urged them to get President Saddam “out of the way and let some responsible leadership take over in Baghdad”.

Even the Saudis didn’t oppose the Emirates’ plea, while the Egyptians – host to the Arab League summit – could only claim that they were “not in the business of changing one regime for another”. How much does it cost to produce this kind of subservience? In Egypt’s case, $3bn (£1.9bn) in US aid and other credits, plus another $1bn in gifts..

To read more Fisk click here