One subtle indicator of the relative dominance of a state in the world is the number of successes it enjoys at imposing its agenda upon other states, peoples, and assorted collections thereof—the so-called international community, to risk using a dangerous phrase. Presuming that its use ever can be more than just another indicator of a state’s power or lack thereof, that is. As when an American political figure or an American commentator uses the phrase to designate whatever the American state—also, often, American-based NGOs adhering to the same agenda—happens to be doing at any moment.
Of course, this same point holds true for non-state actors besides NGOs. As when the group that brought to the U.S. territory those four events ever since seared into the world’s memory as 9/11.
But I don’t think it would be true to count everything subsequent to the events of 9/11 among their effects. Certainly not the American invasions of Afghanistan (October, 2001-) and Iraq (March, 2003-), and everything the military occupations have entailed—I wouldn’t call these consequences of 9/11. Not at all.
For Afghanistan and Iraq to have been placed upon the world’s agenda—the agenda of the “international community,” here using the phrase as only the powerful can use it—in the manner in which they have these past three years required a state actor with a hell of a lot more power, more dominance globally, than any bunch of terrorists murdering 3000 people in a spectacular fashion can muster. As a matter of fact, it requires dominance on a truly global scale. As when, in the hours immediately after that morning’s events, one of the American Secretary of Defense’s personal scribes jotted down these notes (CBS Evening News, Sept. 4, 2002):
Best info fast, judge whether good enough to hit SH at the same time, not only UBL.
Go massive, sweep it all up, things related and not.
(Strictly between ourselves: I guarantee nothing with respect to fonts, case, punctuation, or spacing. Moreover, I am patiently awaiting the mass of “conservative” bloggists out there—the ones alleged to have just exposed “Rathergate,” if ever a suffix were stretched beyond abusive limits; the ones the Chicago Tribune tells us are “force-marching the nation’s mainstream media into a new era of transparency and accountability” (e.g., “littlegreenfootballs“), not the ones “who assume the mantle of the free press but operate outside of traditional journalistic rules that aspire to fairness, balance and rigorous editing and fact-checking,” like this blog, say (Howard Witt, “True of false: Blogs always tell it straight,” Sept. 19)—to prove their democratic bona fides by refuting not only this CBS News report from two years hence, but also the allegation, not without credible evidence to back it up, that the publicly expressed grounds over which the Americans invaded Iraq were outright lies.—Might any brave soul out there from among this new breed of electronic Thomas Paines be game?)
Surely when it comes to the successes they’ve had at imposing their agenda upon the “international community,” the Americans lead the world. They do it unilaterally. (Though being as dominant as they are, they almost never have to march alone.) They do it with what are known as allies. (The fabled “coalition” of the Second Iraq War, let’s not forget, included some important prewar help from the British, the Australians, and the Israelis. Especially from their Ministries of Truth. And thereafter, in the postwar period, a lot of pretending that the deliberate lies of the prewar period were but honest mistakes, the solution to which is simple: Better “intelligence.” More of the same.) When the Americans are really on top of their game, working over their allies, lobbying behind the scenes, and making threats—called “diplomacy”—of a kind the public all-too-rarely has the chance to observe, they do it multilaterally. Not just through “coalitions of the willing,” either—though the importance of these rises and falls as does the Americans’ access to “multilateral” bodies. But through the United Nations above all. Through its Secretary-General—that master of finding items to condemn when the Americans want them condemned, but whimpering silence where the Americans themselves are concerned. Through its Security Council. Its International Atomic Energy Agency. And the like.
(Quick aside. Thank heavens—at least, thank the drafters of the Charter of the United Nations—for the General Assembly. It is the one important part of the UN architecture that still resembles the world as its exists beyond the immediate grasp of the Americans.)
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meets this week in Vienna to launch its 48th General Conference. (Roughly, what the General Assembly is doing in New York City this week and last. Though the General Assembly’s session is now its 59th.)
This happens to be the same IAEA whose 35-state Board of Governors voted over this past weekend (Saturday, Sept. 18, in fact) to adopt Resolution 2004/79—a resolution that pertains to the issue of the Government of Iran’s compliance (or lack thereof) with its legal obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) not to develop nuclear energy for any purpose other than peaceful ones.
Now. The real purpose behind this ridiculous resolution—and I hope you take the time to check it out—is that it enables the Americans to continue using the IAEA as an instrument for harassing the Iranian Government, and keeps the Iranian nuclear issue on the agenda of the “international community” for the indefinite future, to be invoked as circumstances require, with only a little prodding from the Americans. We can detect this purpose clearly at work in operative paragraphs 1-9, as well as in the main point of contention from the past weekend between the roughly 13 states on the Board of Governors which are members of the Non-Aligned Movement, and the four states that pushed the resolution: the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany. (Though as always, only the first really matters.) There is no possible reading of the NPT such that its signatories are prohibited from developing their own uranium enrichment program for peaceful purposes. But this is precisely what the Iranian Government has been accused of doing. Not enriching uranium for belligerent purposes, note well. (On this one, there is no proof whatsoever. Just a lot of fear.) But, rather, suspending its earlier voluntary suspension of all uranium-enrichment-related activities. A decision for which the Americans would like sanctions imposed on Iran, sooner or later. (And for which the Israeli Government very well may have liked to start bombing already.)
So, Saturday’s Resolution gives us paragraphs strongly urging Iran to do what it already has been doing (i.e., cooperating with the IAEA, despite the enormous technical and logistical demands that have been made of them); deeply regretting that Iran is doing what it has every right to do as a signatory to the NPT (i.e., develop an uranium enrichment program), while also calling on Iran to suspend this activity by no later than November 25; and, finally, compelling the IAEA to reassess Iran’s compliance with these demands before November’s Board meeting, at which time it will “decide whether or not further steps are appropriate….” Meaning sanctions and whatever comes next. The noose around Iran’s neck keeps getting tighter, in other words. And the Government of Iran seems to have no way of escaping from it. No matter what it does, the Americans will accuse it of non-compliance.
This also happens to be the same IAEA whose Director General just produced an extensive survey of the Iranian nuclear program titled Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2004/60, Sept. 1, 2004). And the same IAEA whose Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, when he reported directly to its Board of Governors on September 13, summarized this survey’s findings as follows (“Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors“):
[T]he Agency is making steady progress in understanding the nature and extent of Iran’s nuclear programme, and no additional undeclared activities on the part of Iran have come to light during this period. Iran has continued to act as if its additional protocol were in force. The Agency has gained access to requested locations. Iran has also provided new information in response to Agency requests, although in certain instances the process needs to be accelerated. While in some cases information has been provided promptly, in other cases information has regrettably been provided so late that it has not been possible to include an assessment of it in this report.
I would urge Iran therefore to continue to accelerate its cooperation, pursuing a policy of maximum transparency and confidence building, so that we can bring the remaining outstanding issues to resolution within the next few months and provide assurance to the international community. This is clearly in the interest of both Iran and the international community and should trigger a broad dialogue on many of the underlying issues. I would also urge those States from which components or materials may have originated to continue their cooperation with the Agency. I should note that their cooperation is indispensable to the Agency’s ability to bring some of the important outstanding issues to closure.
But this is precisely what the Americans don’t want—the Iranian Government resolving the remaining issues in the next few months, I mean, thus bringing this high-stakes game to a closure. The Americans don’t want these issues resolved because resolving them would deprive the Americans of an important one of their Iranian cards—the aces and jokers they like to keep up their sleeves and lay upon the table of the “international community” every now and then because, well, they are part of the Americans’ agenda. How the Americans play the game of international poker.
Similarly, the Americans have been playing this game with Sudan cards. North Korea cards. Syria cards. You name it.
Of course, at times of late, we’ve all overheard expressions of regret that they ever played their Afghan and Iraq cards the way they did over the past three years. Sometimes they can’t help themselves.
Ultimately, the Iranian Government will never be able to bring their nuclear program into compliance with what the Americans are really demanding of them: Not just some strict form of nuclear catechism. But a different regime in Tehran.
Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2004/60), September 1, 2004
Resolution 2004/79, September 18, 2004
Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, 1968
Documents and Texts Related to the NPT, Federation of American Scientists
Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, International Court of Justice, Advisory Opinion, July 8, 1996
“Iran’s Dire Threat (It might be able to defend itself),” Edward S. Herman, Z Magazine, October, 2004
“Israeli Nuclear Capabilities and Threat” I, ZNet Blogs, September 4
FYA (“For your archives”): Am depositing here the transcript of the CBS Evening News report that first broke the story about the comments Donald Rumsfeld is alleged to have made at a high-level emergency meeting of Bush Administration officials the day of September 11, 2001. No one has ever refuted this report or discredited the authenticity of the notes that form its basis, as best I can tell. And in terms of actual news value, it’s monumentally more important than some silly sideshow about the sitting American President’s activities while trying to avoid combat—quite unlike his contender from the other party, it’s worth noting, who seemed to have relished his tour of duty. Whatever his views afterwards. Whether 1971. Or 2004.
CBS News Transcripts
SHOW: CBS Evening News (6:30 PM ET) – CBS
September 4, 2002 Wednesday
HEADLINE: Notes from an aide to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says Iraq was considered an attack target as far back as 9/11 despite no evidence of involvement
ANCHORS: DAN RATHER
REPORTERS: DAVID MARTIN
DAN RATHER, anchor:
President Bush is launching a new campaign to win support for a new war against Iraq. He started today with the leaders of Congress, and in the days ahead, he will focus on US allies overseas, the United Nations and the American public. More about that in a moment.
But first tonight, a CBS News exclusive on how it all began; this push by the president for another war with Saddam Hussein. CBS’ David Martin has learned the idea of targeting Iraq goes directly back to September 11th, and that the key decision-maker was Donald Rumsfeld.
DAVID MARTIN reporting:
Barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, the secretary of Defense was telling his aides to start thinking about striking Iraq, even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.
That, according to notes taken by an aide who was with Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center on September 11th; notes which show exactly where the road to war with Iraq began.
At 9:53 AM, just 15 minutes after the plane had hit the Pentagon and while Rumsfeld was still outside helping with the injured, the National Security Agency, which monitors communications worldwide, intercepted a phone call from one of bin Laden’s operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The caller said he had ‘heard good news,’ and that a third target was still to come, an indication he knew another airliner–the one that eventually crashed in Pennsylvania–was at that very moment zeroing in on Washington.
It was 12:05 when the director of Central Intelligence told Rumsfeld about the intercepted conversation. Rumsfeld felt it was ‘vague, might not mean something, no good basis for hanging hat.’ In other words, not clear cut enough to justify military action against bin Laden. But later that afternoon, the CIA reported the passenger manifests for the hijacked airliners showed three of the hijackers were suspected al-Qaida operatives. ‘One guy is associate of Cole bomber,’ the notes say; a reference to the suicide boat attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, which had also been the work of bin Laden.
With the intelligence all pointing toward bin Laden, Rumsfeld ordered the military to begin working on strike plans. And at 2:40, the notes quote him as saying, he wanted “best info fast, judge whether good enough to hit SH“–meaning Saddam Hussein–“at the same time, not only UBL,” the initials used to identify Osama bin Laden.
Now, nearly one year later, there is still very little evidence Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks. But if these notes are accurate, that didn’t matter to Rumsfeld. “Go massive,” the notes quote him as saying, “sweep it all up, things related and not.”
If the Iraqi dictator now becomes one of the things swept up by the US military, he will have Osama bin Laden to thank for it, because it was his attacks on 9/11 which set in motion the plans to get rid of Saddam. David Martin, CBS News, the Pentagon.