The Counter-deception Blog

Examples of deceptions and descriptions of techniques to detect them. This Blog encourages the awareness of deception in daily life and discussion of practical means to spot probable deceptions. Send your examples of deception and counter-deception to

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


...and where does the boss stand?

…behind “evasive legalisms.”

These days there are “lies, damned lies, and evasive legalisms.”

So much for your “clear standards” Captain Fishback!

Captain Fishback’s chain of command may want to practice their Jack Nicholson imitations:

“Honor? You want honor? You’re not ready for honor!”

Practice that, right up to where the buck used to stop.

… it is an odious thing that the top two law enforcement officers of the United States will both be people who resort to evasive legalisms in response to simple questions about uncivilized conduct. Capt. Fishback should not have to be pleading with senators, as he is now doing, to give "clear standards of conduct that reflect the ideals [soldiers] risk their lives for."

Mr. Flanigan's Answers Wednesday, September 28, 2005; Washington Post A20

ON THE FACING page today we publish a letter that a U.S. Army captain sent to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), expressing his frustration at the absence of clear standards governing how the military should treat detainees. In the letter (which did not come to us from the captain or the senator), Capt. Ian Fishback expresses his view, based on service in Iraq and Afghanistan, that this "confusion contributed to a wide range of abuses including death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment."

How can it be that an officer of the United States armed services, concerned about detainee mistreatment that he has personally witnessed, could struggle in vain for 17 months to learn the standards of humane treatment the military is applying? The answer to this question appears starkly in the written responses to questions from senators by Timothy E. Flanigan, President Bush's nominee to serve as deputy attorney general: The Bush administration has no standards for humane treatment of detainees. Capt. Fishback is looking for something that doesn't exist.

Mr. Flanigan was Alberto R. Gonzales's deputy when the attorney general served as White House counsel during Mr. Bush's first term, and he was therefore deeply involved in forming policy on matters related to detainees. Like Mr. Gonzales, he has piously repeated the administration's insistence that it does not engage in torture. Yet, also following the administration's disgraceful line, he has refused to say that conduct just short of torture -- which is banned by treaty and is a stain on American honor -- is either illegal or improper when inflicted on foreigners overseas.

Mr. Bush has promised that all detainees will be treated humanely. Yet, when asked how he would define humane treatment, Mr. Flanigan declared that he does "not believe that the term 'inhumane' treatment is susceptible to a succinct definition." Did the White House provide any guidance as to its meaning? "I am not aware of any guidance provided by the White House specifically related to the meaning of humane treatment."

Mr. Flanigan could not even bring himself to declare particularly barbaric interrogation tactics either legally or morally off-limits. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) asked him about "waterboarding," mock executions, physical beatings and painful stress positions. Mr. Flanigan responded: "Whether a particular interrogation technique is lawful depends on the facts and circumstances," and without knowing these, "it would be inappropriate for me to speculate about the legality of the techniques you describe." And he reiterated that "inhumane" can't be coherently defined.

All of which is to say that anything short of outright torture goes -- or, at least, that nothing is absolutely forbidden. The Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to report Mr. Flanigan's nomination to the floor as early as tomorrow. Having only recently confirmed Mr. Gonzales despite his similar refusal to be pinned down, the committee isn't likely to draw the line at Mr. Flanigan. Still, it is an odious thing that the top two law enforcement officers of the United States will both be people who resort to evasive legalisms in response to simple questions about uncivilized conduct. Capt. Fishback should not have to be pleading with senators, as he is now doing, to give "clear standards of conduct that reflect the ideals [soldiers] risk their lives for."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


A Matter of Honor

Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as Al Qaeda's, we should not be concerned. When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States?

Others argue that clear standards will limit the President's ability to wage the War on Terror. Since clear standards only limit interrogation techniques, it is reasonable for me to assume that supporters of this argument desire to use coercion to acquire information from detainees. This is morally inconsistent with the Constitution and justice in war. It is unacceptable.

If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession. I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is "America."

Once again, I strongly urge you to do justice to your men and women in uniform. Give them clear standards of conduct that reflect the ideals they risk their lives for.

Seems clear enough to me, but apparently not to those who matter.

A Matter of Honor

Wednesday, September 28, 2005; Washington Post A21

The following letter was sent to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sept. 16:

Dear Senator McCain:

I am a graduate of West Point currently serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army Infantry. I have served two combat tours with the 82nd Airborne Division, one each in Afghanistan and Iraq. While I served in the Global War on Terror, the actions and statements of my leadership led me to believe that United States policy did not require application of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan or Iraq. On 7 May 2004, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's testimony that the United States followed the Geneva Conventions in Iraq and the "spirit" of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan prompted me to begin an approach for clarification. For 17 months, I tried to determine what specific standards governed the treatment of detainees by consulting my chain of command through battalion commander, multiple JAG lawyers, multiple Democrat and Republican Congressmen and their aides, the Ft. Bragg Inspector General's office, multiple government reports, the Secretary of the Army and multiple general officers, a professional interrogator at Guantanamo Bay, the deputy head of the department at West Point responsible for teaching Just War Theory and Law of Land Warfare, and numerous peers who I regard as honorable and intelligent men.

Instead of resolving my concerns, the approach for clarification process leaves me deeply troubled. Despite my efforts, I have been unable to get clear, consistent answers from my leadership about what constitutes lawful and humane treatment of detainees. I am certain that this confusion contributed to a wide range of abuses including death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment. I and troops under my command witnessed some of these abuses in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

This is a tragedy. I can remember, as a cadet at West Point, resolving to ensure that my men would never commit a dishonorable act; that I would protect them from that type of burden. It absolutely breaks my heart that I have failed some of them in this regard.

That is in the past and there is nothing we can do about it now. But, we can learn from our mistakes and ensure that this does not happen again. Take a major step in that direction; eliminate the confusion. My approach for clarification provides clear evidence that confusion over standards was a major contributor to the prisoner abuse. We owe our soldiers better than this. Give them a clear standard that is in accordance with the bedrock principles of our nation.

Some do not see the need for this work. Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as Al Qaeda's, we should not be concerned. When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? We are America, and our actions should be held to a higher standard, the ideals expressed in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Others argue that clear standards will limit the President's ability to wage the War on Terror. Since clear standards only limit interrogation techniques, it is reasonable for me to assume that supporters of this argument desire to use coercion to acquire information from detainees. This is morally inconsistent with the Constitution and justice in war. It is unacceptable.

Both of these arguments stem from the larger question, the most important question that this generation will answer. Do we sacrifice our ideals in order to preserve security? Terrorism inspires fear and suppresses ideals like freedom and individual rights. Overcoming the fear posed by terrorist threats is a tremendous test of our courage. Will we confront danger and adversity in order to preserve our ideals, or will our courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice? My response is simple. If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession. I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is "America."

Once again, I strongly urge you to do justice to your men and women in uniform. Give them clear standards of conduct that reflect the ideals they risk their lives for.

With the Utmost Respect,

-- Capt. Ian Fishback

1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division,

Fort Bragg, North Carolina


Two Messengers, two messages, oddly parallel outcomes

Our Public Diplomat was challenged for failing to understand the Saudi women she was attempting to convince. The Army captain was challenged for attempting to convince Army investigators that they had failed to understand.


Saudi Women Have Message for U.S. Envoy

By STEVEN R. WEISMAN 2005/09/28

When Karen Hughes expressed the hope that Saudi women would be able to "fully participate in society," her audience of Saudi women challenged her.


Officer Criticizes Detainee Abuse Inquiry

By ERIC SCHMITT 2005/09/28

An Army captain said the investigation appeared to be focusing on those bringing the allegations, and not on the officers who may have shared responsibility.



Iran's Objectives

Suggests Iran’s objective is solidifying its foreign policy gains, while isolating the US and the E3 by insisting on its NPT rights, despite Iran’s past wrongs: Iran continues to assert its right under the NPT to enrich uranium and has accepted an intrusive inspection regime, while the Europeans insist that Iran must atone for its previous treaty violations by permanently suspending such activities. Ultimately, it appears impossible to reconcile these positions….Somehow - as a result of misguided nationalism or a genuine sense of necessity - mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle has become a sine qua non of modern Iranian politics.

Why Iran isn't a global threat

By Ray Takeyh from the September 29, 2005 edition -

WASHINGTON - Last week's vote by the International Atomic Energy Agency branding Iran in breach of its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) commitments has given impetus to the United States to call for the deferral of Iran to the UN Security Council. Tehran is adamant that it wants nuclear power for generating electricity. Yet, Washington policymakers and their European counterparts subtly argue that Iran's previous treaty violations indicate a more sinister motive to subvert its neighbors and export its Islamic revolution.

Such alarmism overlooks Iran's realities. In the past decade, a fundamental shift in Iran's international orientation has enshrined national interest calculations as the defining factor in its approach to the world. Irrespective of the balance of power between conservatives and reformers, Iran's foreign policy is driven by fixed principles that are shared by all of its political elites.

The intense factional struggles that have plagued the clerical state during the past decade obscure the emergence of a consensus foreign policy. Under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a loose coalition emerged around the notion that Iran cannot remain isolated in the global order.

By cultivating favorable relations with key international actors such as China, Russia, and the European Union, Tehran has sought to craft its own "coalition of willing" and prevent the US from multilateralizing its coercive approach to Iran. Although the Islamic Republic continues its inflammatory support for terrorist organizations battling Israel and is pressing ahead with its nuclear program, its foreign policy is no longer that of a revolutionary state.

This perspective will survive Iran's latest leadership transition. The demographic complexion of the regime's rulers is changing. As Iran's revolution matures and those politicians who were present at the creation of the Islamic Republic gradually recede from the scene, a more austere and dogmatic generation is beginning to take over the reins of power. In response to Iran's manifold problems, newly elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his cabinet frequently criticize their elders' passivity in imposing Islamic strictures and for the rampant corruption that has engulfed the state. They are determined to reverse the social and cultural freedoms of the reformist period and to institute egalitarian economic policies.

On foreign policy issues, however, the new president has stayed well within the parameters of Iran's prevailing international policy. In his August address to the parliament, Mr. Ahmadinejad echoed the existing consensus, noting the importance of constructive relations with "the Islamic world, the Persian Gulf region, the Caspian Sea region, Central Asia, the Pacific area, and Europe." Moreover, the most important voice on foreign policy matters, recently appointed head of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, has reiterated these same themes.

Although the assertive nationalists who have taken command of Iran's executive branch have dispensed with their predecessor's "dialogue of civilizations" rhetoric, and display a marked indifference to reestablishment of relations with America, they are loath to jeopardize the successful multilateral détente that was the singular achievement of the reformist era.

All this is not to suggest that the current negotiations between Iran and the EU-3 (France, Britain, and Germany) designed to resolve the nuclear stalemate will resume. More than two years of talks have failed to bridge the essential differences.

Iran continues to assert its right under the NPT to enrich uranium and has accepted an intrusive inspection regime, while the Europeans insist that Iran must atone for its previous treaty violations by permanently suspending such activities. Ultimately, it appears impossible to reconcile these positions.

It is important to note, however, that the divergence between the European and Iranian perspective predated the rise of Ahmadinejad. This highlights a worrisome convergence in Iranian political thought over the past two years: Somehow - as a result of misguided nationalism or a genuine sense of necessity - mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle has become a sine qua non of modern Iranian politics.

Its nuclear ambitions will continue to irritate the international community, but the days when Iran wantonly sought to undermine established authority in the name of Islamic salvation are over. Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's disciples have long abandoned the mission of exporting the revolution, supplanting it with conventional measures of the national interest.

Despite the chorus of concern, Iran's new president has demonstrated no interest in substantially altering the contours of Iran's international policy - nor has the country's ultimate authority, the Supreme Leader. To be sure, the new president's well-honed reactionary instincts will be felt by his hapless constituents as he proceeds to restrict their political and social prerogatives.

But the notion that Iran's foreign policy is entering a new radical state is yet another misreading of the Islamic Republic and its many paradoxes.

Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and is currently completing a book on Iran's foreign policy.


The Public Diplomat: Turkey

Our UndSecState for public diplomacy had a rough time in Turkey, repeating her rocky receptions in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Her talking points (e.g., Iraqi insurgents are all terrorists and "my friend President Bush" did all he could to avoid a war in Iraq) seem to be making the “dialogue” worse rather than better. Newton’s Third Law works for PSYOP too: When Spin hits Reality, there is an equal and opposite reaction.


September 28, 2005

U.S. Envoy's Message Falls Flat Again, This Time in Turkey


ISTANBUL, Sept. 28 - Under Secretary of State Karen P. Hughes, seeking common ground with leading women's rights advocates in Turkey, was confronted instead today with anguished denunciations of the war in Iraq and what the women said were American efforts to export democracy by force.

It was the second straight day that Ms. Hughes found herself at odds with groups of women on her "public diplomacy" tour, aimed at improving the American image in the Middle East. On Tuesday, she told Saudi Arabian women she would support efforts to raise their status, but she was taken aback when some of them responded that Americans misunderstand their embrace of traditions.

Ms. Hughes met today with about 20 Turkish feminist leaders at a local museum in Ankara, the capital. She introduced herself, as she has been doing on this trip, as "a working mom" and said she was there to emphasize the many things Turkey and the United States had in common. The women welcomed her but had a different emphasis.

"You are very angry with Turkey, I know," said Hidayet Tuskal, a director of the Capital City Women's Platform, referring to opposition in Turkey to the Iraq war, which she said was a feminist issue because women and children were dying daily. "I'm feeling myself wounded," Ms. Tuskal added. "I'm feeling myself insulted here."

Fatma Nevin Vargun, identifying herself as a Kurdish rights advocate, said she was "ashamed" of the war and added that the United States bore responsibility. Referring to the arrest of a war protester at the White House earlier this week, she added, "This was a pity for us as well."

With her brow furrowed, Ms. Hughes replied: "I can appreciate your concern about war. No one likes war." She went on to say that "my friend President Bush" did all he could to avoid a war in Iraq, but she then asserted about Iraq: "It is impossible to say that the rights of women were better under Saddam Hussein than they are today."

She said women had been tortured, raped and killed under the Hussein government before it was ousted by American-led troops.

The comments about Iraq underscored the uneasiness Turkey has had since planning for the invasion began in 2002, when Turkish leaders equivocated and then declined to let American troops enter Iraq from the Turkish border. Turks are now worried about the spillover that a federalized Iraq, with a semi-autonomous Kurdish region in its north, would have in encouraging Kurdish separatists in eastern Turkey.

Ms. Hughes, approaching the end of her five-day trip, also met today with Turkish foreign ministry officials and flew from Ankara to Istanbul later in the day for more sessions with citizen groups and people who the State Department says are "opinion leaders" picked by the consulate.

She also got a tour of the historic Topkapi Palace, the seat of power and luxury in the old Ottoman Empire, where she held an "interfaith dialogue" with Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Jewish leaders. It was another staple of this trip, which is intended to emphasize that Muslim countries with large devout populations should understand that Americans are also guided by religious convictions.

She called on the leaders one by one to discuss the principle of tolerance and said afterward: "They assured me that as faith leaders they are prepared to do their part. I hope this is the beginning of many such conversations."

The women in Ankara were notable because their meeting with Ms. Hughes began congenially, with her host describing the importance of her support for their causes. But it quickly spilled into tough talk, delivered politely but firmly.

Feray Salman, a human rights campaigner, said that while she believed in democracy, the Bush administration was trying to export it by force. "States cannot interfere through wars," she said. "I don't believe in this."

In recent months, Turkey has charged that the Bush administration has failed to denounce violent actions of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the P.K.K. Asked by one speaker why the United States refused to label the group a terrorist organization, Ms. Hughes said the administration had done just that.

"We condemn P.K.K. terrorism," said Ms. Hughes. But then she noted what she said was an irony, that the women were expecting American support for the sometimes violent Turkish crackdown on Kurdish separatists while also denouncing the American battles with insurgents in Iraq.

"Sometimes you have to engage in combat in order to confront terrorism," Ms. Hughes said.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Our Public Diplomat

If the private meetings went down the lines of the public meeting (described below), our “top public relations person” has her work cut out for her. That she failed to avoid the rhetorical traps troubled me:
One young man asked what the US expects the students to do when they graduate from the university. Hughes's answer began: "I hope you would speak out against the killing of innocent civilian lives that is so much a part of terrorism today."

Now that is a question that just begs to be answered by a question: “What do you think the US should expect young graduates to do?”

from the September 28, 2005 edition

US begins new pitch to Muslim world
Close Bush adviser Karen Hughes is touring Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

By Dan Murphy | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

CAIRO - Karen Hughes, a folksy Texan and longtime confidante of President Bush, has one of the toughest jobs in the US government: convincing the rest of the world, particularly the Arab world, that US policies are in their best interests.

She started her first week as the State Department's top public relations officer with a "listening tour" of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. But she won't have to listen too closely to hear the widespread anger over perceived US arrogance and heavyhandedness - perceptions difficult to undo as she engages with the Middle East for the first time in her career.

While her friendliness was welcomed by Egyptian students, all on US government scholarships, at her only appearance open to the public here, Ms. Hughes signaled the US wouldn't back down from its post-9/11 goals: focus on the war on terror as a global struggle, and emphasis on a lack of understanding of US policy as the reason people are so angry at America.

It's an approach that failed her two predecessors in the job, Charlotte Beers and Margaret Tutwiler, who presided over a huge slide in America's global image, largely due to the war in Iraq.

In 10 countries surveyed in 2000 by Pew, an average of 60 percent of the people had favorable images of the US. By the middle of this year, that average dropped to 40 percent. A Zogby International poll found that 22 percent of Egyptians had a favorable view of the US in 2002. By the end of last year, that number had slipped to 2 percent.

"I'm glad she spoke to us, but I didn't find her answers very convincing,'' says Mary Essam Wases, a business major at American University in Cairo who met with Hughes. "They said they were looking for weapons of mass destruction - well, that was a fake goal. There weren't any. It doesn't mean I agree with Saddam's reign, but I see that the country is worse off than before."

Ms. Wases also shares the common Arab view, confirmed by polling, that America has made the world a more dangerous place. "They want to stop terrorism but they're helping it to spread," she says. Egypt, a close American ally, has experienced three major terrorist attacks in the past year, following a six-year lull.

Though Hughes has acknowledged on her trip that many are frustrated with America's policies, changing tack in that arena is outside of her formal job description. She does, however, have the ear of President Bush, which distinguishes her from her predecessors.

Hughes is a former executive director of the Republican Party in Texas and served as the director of Bush's communications office during his six years as governor and during his 2000 presidential election campaign and also helped write President Bush's autobiography.

Yasser Fahmy, an engineer in Cairo, says if he could sit down with Hughes he'd emphasize four things: America should admit invading Iraq was a mistake, set a timetable for withdrawal, reduce support for Israel, and end what he called the "hypocrisy" of calling for democracy while maintaining close ties to dictatorships in the region like Saudi Arabia. "I don't think they really care what we think, but if they do, this is what would improve US standing in the region," he says.

But for now, the Arab world and the US are likely to continue to talk at each other - with Americans most worried about global terrorism, and many Arabs worried that the US is a danger in itself.

Perhaps emblematic of this was the way Hughes returned to terrorism as a threat to Egypt in response to wide-ranging questions from the students who, like most Egyptians, don't share America's level of concern over the issue.

One young man asked what the US expects the students to do when they graduate from the university. Hughes's answer began: "I hope you would speak out against the killing of innocent civilian lives that is so much a part of terrorism today."

When asked what the US could do to help Egypt, she began by talking about President Bush's desire to "spread democracy." She finished her comments by explaining that an absence of freedom in the region, "Led to a malignancy so deep ... that young people would get on an airplane and crash it into innocent people."

When another student asked if she thought the US war in Iraq had ended terrorism, she asked her audience to understand the profound effect 9/11 had on America, finishing up by saying: "The biggest threat to young people here is the prospect that terrorists could get weapons of mass destruction ... so the president made a difficult decision."

Rightly or wrongly, many Arabs see the Iraqi insurgency as a largely nationalist movement, and when Hughes said the insurgency in Iraq "is just killing for killing's sake" during her meeting with the students she struck a wrong chord with many in the audience.

"Wouldn't Americans fight if they were occupied?'' asked another student after the meeting, who asked not to be named.

Nena Rizk, a political science major, says he appreciated Hughes's warmth and "friendliness" but says he worries that America abuses its role as the world's lone superpower.

"America has a very important role in the Middle East, because she's the most powerful country in the world, particularly in the peace process" between Israel and Palestine, he says.

"But she acts in a wrong way - she misuses her position. I think maybe America misunderstands how to use power. She wants to make an example of Iraq and make other countries afraid of her rather than negotiating together."

Monday, September 26, 2005


Where the Demagogues Come From

A key element of PSYOP is target audience analysis. If you read any political sociology, you see echoes in this piece of descriptions of folks in the late 1920’s and 1930’s in Europe and North America, prime breeding times and grounds for demagoguery. Keep watching for these parallels. The idea that Americans are always resilient and will always snap back from adversities to “our better angels,” is, well, just another of our myths.

Why Baton Rouge Is Still Bush Country

By Jennifer Moses
Sunday, September 25, 2005; B07

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The tide is turning for the president -- or at least that's what the news commentators have been saying ever since Hurricane Katrina washed a million and a half people out of their homes and onto the front pages. Moreover, polls show that the president's approval ratings are down nationally. But here in Baton Rouge, where the rubber, as it were, meets the road, the president still seems to enjoy an almost indestructible popularity. Given that Baton Rouge has now swollen to twice its pre-storm size, traffic is a nightmare, schools are on double shifts, helicopters swarm in the skies and the shelters continue to house thousands, the undimmed support for the president is downright astonishing.

But it's a tale of two cities: In the shelters and in north Baton Rouge, where row upon row of dilapidated shotgun shacks have long been home to the city's black community, mention of the president inspires little more than quiet disgust. Few bothered to watch his New Orleans speech; fewer still believe that any real help will ever be forthcoming. But on the other side of town, in the prosperous white neighborhoods where solid brick houses sit well back on lush lawns, the president's reputation remains largely intact, so much so that if the Bush-Kerry election of last November were replayed here tomorrow, Bush would probably win again, though perhaps with a smaller margin.

The question is: Why now? Why, after five years of extraordinary ineptitude, culminating in the shameful spectacle of Americans dying from lack of emergency resources, does Bush continue to inspire any loyalty at all, let alone the loyalty of what strikes me as a large swath of the population of the city that, more than any other place, has absorbed Katrina's secondary shock waves? And the answer isn't that the folks in Baton Rouge are a bunch of racist ignoramuses. Rather, it lies in cultural and social identification, overlaid with a patina of Christianity and fueled by raw, largely social, fear. In short, even before the hurricane rendered hundreds of thousands homeless, the feeling in white, middle-class Baton Rouge was already one of displacement.

An example is my neighbor Becky, or, as we on the block call her, "Saint Becky." So kind is Becky that, some years ago, she stopped on her way home from doing errands to help a homeless mother and her two daughters who were walking and appeared to be lost. Becky ended up taking them in for a full month. But Becky also has eyes, and what she sees when she takes her kids to school or to the dentist is a whole neighborhood, just a few blocks from our own, where every third household exists on welfare, parents routinely abuse their kids, young men deal drugs, prostitutes ply their trade and rap music extolling the joys of gang rape and murder blasts out of every other car.

I suspect that when Becky, who isn't exactly rolling in dough herself, looks at the sorry spectacle of America's intransigent underclass, she simply wonders what happened to good-old-American, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps ingenuity. What Becky sees when she sees George Bush is a man who may not be a genius but who at least talks the talk, drawing a clear line between right and wrong. She looks at his face and sees her own staring back.

My neighbor Lee (who, incidentally, under Bush, lost health insurance for his children) is also a Bush supporter. Lee looks at our sleazy, sex-driven popular culture, as well as the explosion of poverty-related societal ills, and links them as one big piece of rot. Of course, he could just pull the plug on the television, but that's not good enough, because the real problem, I suspect, is that Lee doesn't know where he belongs anymore, which tribe he might claim membership in. The pace of change, coupled with cultural permissiveness, sickens him. Who might help? A plain-spoken Texan, the kind of fellow who, if things had been a little different, might be in charge of buying burgers for the annual Family Day cookout at church.

It doesn't help any that the Democrats haven't been able to speak plainly in decades. Because if under George W. Bush the Republican Party has become heartless, the Democratic Party has become spineless. Republicans like my neighbors look at left-leaning candidates and see nothing but a blur. (I myself went hoarse last year during the presidential debates, screaming, "Stop hedging and say what you mean!" at the television set.) Or, as my friend Mark, a lifelong liberal, put it: "I'm so disgusted with the leadership from both parties that I'm going to become an anarchist."

Of course, not all the support for Bush in Baton Rouge comes from as benign a position as that of my neighbors -- we have plenty of plain old-fashioned greed here, as well as the usual assortment of racism, xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, homophobia and religious self-righteousness, which the Bush team has played so brilliantly. But even without right-wing zealots, it's as if a miasma has come upon us all; as if, while we fracture nationally into smaller and smaller sub-groups, we no longer want to know what, and who, we've become. We want to be better than we are, but we've settled for an image.

Jennifer Moses is a writer who grew up in McLean and has lived in Baton Rouge for 10 years.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


Thursday, September 22, 2005


Deception Arts: Following a Hard Act

Writing a book to match "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" would be tough. So, if  "The City of Falling Angels" is half as good as this reviewer thinks, it will be worth the time. If you read Midnight, know Venice (if only from Othello), or followed any of the story of the Fenice Opera House fire, you already know how this relates to deception in the arts and the arts of deception.
September 22, 2005
Turning Venice Into Savannah on Stilts

On a snow-white page at the start of John Berendt's new book the rest of his bibliography is listed. "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil": that's it, and it was published 11½ years ago. Mr. Berendt's smash-hit foray into the gothic secrets of Savannah, Ga., looked like an impossible act to follow - until a spin of the globe led him to Venice, Italy, in search of a similar setting. For all practical purposes he has found one. "The City of Falling Angels" does its best to turn Venice into Savannah on stilts.

No writer looking for murky intrigue will leave Venice disappointed. But, as Mr. Berendt points out, most well-known visions of Venice come from outsiders, even visitors on the order of Thomas Mann and Henry James. He chose instead to infiltrate the place deeply enough to interpret local customs like the catching of pigeons in nets to spirit them out of Venice's public places. He would come to realize that "we're taking them to the veterinarian" was how a discreet Venetian might phrase a pigeon-unfriendly thought.

Mr. Berendt fills his new book with wily figures like the pigeon hunters. But he much prefers the ones trying to bag bigger game. In an interlocking set of stories loosely gathered around the investigation of a spectacular fire, he describes all manner of bizarre patricians and clever parasites, real artists and con artists, annual Carnival participants and those who stay in costume all year round, all united in cherishing Venice's melancholy grandeur. He seeks out the ineffably, aristocratically strange. The man whose palazzo features three space suits and a stuffed monkey is par for the course.

The fire - not nearly as interesting as the true-crime story at the center of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" - destroyed the famous Fenice Opera House, making it a fitting focal point for a book with its own highly operatic manner.

When Mr. Berendt introduces new characters, they stroll onto the page in full voice, proclaiming their importance with resounding brio. A typical opening gambit here: "Meet Alvise da Mosto, my favorite ancestor. He discovered the Cape Verde Islands in 1456 at the age of 29."

Regardless of whether Venetians really talk this way, Mr. Berendt uses such entrances to fine effect. Though he lacks a narrative of great urgency, he nonetheless delivers an urbane, beautifully fashioned book with much exotic charm. The authorial gondola glides from one sharp-daggered standoff to another, and the details of these stories are chosen with care.

Once again, Mr. Berendt makes erudite, inquisitive, nicely skeptical company as he leads the reader through the shadows of what was heretofore better known as a tourist attraction.

Whatever his personal tactics - and the book is elusive enough to prompt curiosity about them - Mr. Berendt repeatedly charmed his way into the good graces of warring factions. He is able to present irreconcilably different sides of the stories told here without hiding where his ultimate sympathies lie. "The Last Canto," an extended look into the familial and literary legacy of Ezra Pound, investigates the underhanded way in which the poet's mistress, Olga Rudge, was induced to surrender control of his extremely valuable archives. He uncovers a real-life version of "The Aspern Papers," Henry James's tale of a conniving scholar who insinuates his way into a literary family. "We've been living with 'The Aspern Papers' for 40 years,' " Mr. Berendt is told by Pound's daughter.

"I could care less whether Henry James wore a bow tie or a cravat when he wrote 'The Aspern Papers,' " says the man with the stuffed monkey - and with an answering machine message that says, "You have reached the Earth liaison station of the Democratic Republic of the Planet Mars." Like many of the wealthier individuals described, he holds the keys to part of Venice's artistic legacy but finds that even the grandest heritage can be burdensome. In general here, the scale of the real estate matches the stubbornness of the grudge.

Mr. Berendt finds the book's most raging resentments in Count Giovanni Volpi, who as a 9-year-old held sway over a 75-room Venetian landmark, a 300-room Roman palace and 4,000 acres in Libya.

Count Volpi plays a pivotal role in "Beware of Falling Angels," a chapter title that refers to the precarious condition of much Venetian architecture. This chapter is otherwise devoted to the charitable organization called Save Venice and behind-the-scenes social wrangling within its powerful ranks. "Venice will save itself," the count concludes - quite credibly, given the oddball resourcefulness that Mr. Berendt's describes throughout the book. "Go save Paris!"

There is heated competition for the honor of being this book's most vivid eccentric. The man whose collection includes 900 truncheons and 4,000 neckties is certainly a contender. But the most notable - and quotable - is also an inspired business tycoon: the chef who declares "my cuisine is known around the world!" because his specialty is custom-made rat poison, adapted to each country's indigenous garbage. French rats like butter. American rats like vanilla, granola and popcorn. Indian rats enjoy curry.

By the end of the book, this specialist has discovered that Italian rats have begun to prefer plastic to Parmesan cheese, reflecting the growing human appetite for fast food. This man may not be an artist, but he certainly brings a kind of genius to his work. And he perfectly embodies the dauntless, resilient Venice that Mr. Berendt enshrines.


ABLE DANGER: The Opera Continues

“What did they know, when did they know it?” And “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” Two old saws that, with all the conspiracy theory undertones of pre-9-11 intelligence, will keep the ABLE DANGER story bubbling.

The next old saw one might look for: “Tapes? There are tapes?!? In Washington, there are always tapes.” 

Senators Accuse Pentagon of Obstructing Inquiry on Sept. 11 Plot


The complaints came after the Pentagon blocked several witnesses from testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a public hearing on Wednesday.


Iran Nuclear: Who's Isolating Who? Pt 3
U.S. and E.U. Make Plea On Iran Atomic Program
IAEA Urged to Refer Case to Security Council

By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, September 22, 2005; A16

VIENNA, Sept. 21 -- The United States and European Union on Wednesday urged the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for nuclear treaty violations, but many members of the regulatory body expressed reluctance to take that step.

In strongly worded statements to the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United States and several allies said Iran's years-long concealment of nuclear activities, its resumption of uranium conversion and the suspension of negotiations with Britain, France and Germany had undermined Iran's claim that its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

The U.S. and European governments have expressed additional dismay over statements by senior Iranian officials in the past two days that they would consider pulling out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and resuming uranium enrichment if their case goes to the Security Council. That body could implement punishments ranging from a verbal rebuke to economic sanctions.

"These reckless words only serve to deepen our concerns about the nature and intent of Iran's nuclear program and intentions," U.S. Ambassador Greg Schulte said during the 35-member IAEA board's closed-door meeting, according to a copy of his statement released afterward.

Canadian, Australian and Japanese officials also pressed the board to report Iran to the Security Council, diplomats said.

But the drive was running into stiff opposition from key board members, including Russia, China and a large contingent of developing countries that have nuclear programs, raising doubts over whether the matter would come to a vote this week.

"While Iran is cooperating with the IAEA, while it is not enriching uranium and observing a moratorium, while IAEA inspectors are working in the country, it would be counterproductive to report this question to the U.N. Security Council," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a speech at Stanford University, the Reuters news agency reported.

Fourteen members of the IAEA board who represent the Non-Aligned Movement, a grouping of countries dating from the Cold War, are scheduled to present their position on Thursday, IAEA officials said. Diplomats described countries in this camp as deeply conflicted: They are concerned by Iran's covert nuclear program, but at the same time feel some sympathy with Iranian assertions that big powers are trying to keep developing countries from using nuclear energy to produce cheap electricity.

In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday, Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said his country had an "inalienable right" to produce nuclear fuel and condemned attempts by other nations to curtail its program as "nuclear apartheid."

Western officials deny such a bias. "The E.U. recognizes the inalienable right of NPT parties to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," British envoy Peter Jenkins, speaking for the European Union, told the board.

But, he said, "Iran gives every sign of being intent on developing fissile material production capability well before the international community obtains what it needs: confidence that Iran's program is exclusively peaceful in nature."

Britain, Germany and France have been negotiating inconclusively with Iran for close to two years, offering diplomatic and economic concessions in exchange for a permanent end to elements of Iran's nuclear program that could be used to make bombs. Iran's resumption last month of several operations it had suspended led the Europeans to seek the Security Council referral.

Political analysts and diplomats here questioned whether the matter would be forwarded to the council if it faced a veto by Russia or China, or if the referral would come from a board deeply split between rich, industrialized countries, and poorer, underdeveloped countries.

Diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said intense, behind-the-scenes lobbying was underway to persuade some countries to abstain rather than vote against a referral. They were also discussing what sort of action the Security Council might take if the matter were forwarded.

The European Union has circulated a draft of a resolution that would refer Iran, a copy of which was given to The Washington Post. It cites Iran's "many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply" with Non-Proliferation Treaty requirements to notify the IAEA about its nuclear activities.

"Iran's co-operation with the Agency was marked by extensive concealment, misleading information and delays in access to nuclear material and facilities," the draft says. It states that the IAEA board is "gravely concerned" that Iran has not stopped uranium enrichment-related activities that it resumed a month ago at its Isfahan plant in central Iran.

The draft stops short of calling for sanctions, urging the Security Council instead to advise Iran to heed the IAEA's demands to "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activity," return to negotiations and give IAEA inspectors greater access to nuclear facilities and personnel.

On Tuesday, Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and its chief nuclear negotiator, told reporters at a news conference in Tehran that Iran might resume uranium enrichment and pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty if its case is forwarded to the Security Council.

In Vienna on Wednesday, a member of the Iranian delegation, Ali Azrar Sultani, told reporters that Iran was "not going to withdraw from the NPT." But he said Iran would consider resuming uranium enrichment if referred to the council.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Who's Isolating Who? Pt 2

Lack of coherent counter-proliferation strategy lets Iran and North Korea play "good proliferator, bad proliferator" in various fora and negotiations.  
September 21, 2005
Iran Warns Against Referral of Nuclear Issue to the U.N.

TEHRAN, Sept. 20 - Iran's chief nuclear negotiator warned Tuesday that the country would resume enriching uranium and restrict United Nations inspectors from critical information if the United States and its allies used the "language of threat" by referring Iran to the Security Council.

The negotiator's threat, which appeared to be backed by Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came as a confidential draft resolution circulating at the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency included a call for the Security Council to take up "Iran's many failures and breaches of its obligations." But the draft makes no specific reference to sanctions, which are still opposed by China and Russia, both of which hold veto power in the Council. A copy of the resolution was provided to The New York Times by an official involved in the behind-the-scenes diplomacy over how the board should deal with Iran at its meeting this week.

The comments by the Iranian negotiator, Ali Larijani, in a news conference here on Tuesday were the first time that Iran had explicitly threatened to cut off inspections and resume enriching uranium - which it insists will be used for civilian reactor fuel, not nuclear weapons - if the atomic agency's board acts.

Mr. Larijani, who is also secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, is newly appointed to his post as negotiator on nuclear issues, and the news conference was his first since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office last month. In a fiery speech on Saturday in front of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Ahmadinejad criticized the United States and its allies and vowed to press ahead with Iran's nuclear program, noting that it had a right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to produce nuclear fuel. The Bush administration maintains that Iran gave up that right by hiding, for more than 17 years, a range of nuclear activities that United Nations inspectors only discovered with the help of intelligence agencies and Iranian dissidents.

Last week in New York, the senior State Department official on nonproliferation, Robert Joseph, briefed seven nations on the I.A.E.A.'s board about evidence that the United States has collected that it says shows that Iran's missiles could be used to launch nuclear warheads, according to a senior administration official, who insisted on anonymity because he was discussing intelligence matters. Among the countries that received the briefing were Ghana, Argentina and India. But American officials insist that the briefings were classified, and they have declined to make public the details of their suspicions.

Iran's threat came only 24 hours after the United States and North Korea reached an agreement in principle for the North to give up its nuclear weapons and all other nuclear facilities. But that accord seemed in jeopardy within hours of its signing, and it is being closely watched by Iranian officials.

Mr. Larijani said the world should learn a lesson from the case of North Korea, which American intelligence officials believe has produced fuel enough for six or eight weapons. He said the Bush administration's efforts to isolate the North had failed. "What was the result of such tough policies?" he asked. "After two years they ended up accepting its program, so you should accept ours right now," he said.

American officials say they have never accepted the North's weapons program; Mr. Larijani may have been referring to President Bush's decision to discuss allowing the North to keep a light-water reactor.

What was striking to several American experts interviewed Tuesday was that Iran's threats seemed to be drawn from the strategy that North Korea pursued three years ago, when it was confronted by American allegations that it had started a second, clandestine nuclear program to evade a freeze on nuclear activities that it had negotiated with the Clinton administration in 1994. At the end of 2002, the North threw out international inspectors and withdrew from the nonproliferation treaty, though Iran has not threatened to go that far.

"The North Koreans were using the Iranian example as well, saying that if they are allowed to keep a reactor, why can't we?" said Jack Pritchard, a former State Department official who dealt with the North and left the department in disagreement with the Bush administration's strategy. "Having these negotiations with North Korea and Iran take place simultaneously means that both countries use the other's tactics, and I'm sure the administration wished that was not happening."

Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's religious leader, said in a statement read on state television on Tuesday, "The great Iranian nation today, stronger than before and with a determined will to reach its aims and goals, stands solidly and will not surrender to any sort of pressure and threat."

Mr. Larijani emphasized that the ability to enrich uranium was Iran's right under the nonproliferation treaty. The United States and Iran's three European negotiating partners, Germany, Britain and France, have insisted that Iran not be allowed to do so, however, because the enrichment process can also be used to produce weapons.

"If they want to use the language of force against Iran, Iran will definitely review its relations with the nuclear agency and its commitments to N.P.T.," he said. "If they want to use the language of threat, or send Iran's case to the Security Council, Iran will think twice about implementing the Additional Protocol and will resume uranium enrichment."

The Additional Protocol is an addendum to the treaty that allows the I.A.E.A. to conduct intrusive inspections of sites that a country has not declared are part of its nuclear program. Iran adopted it in 2003 and started carrying out its procedures, but the Parliament has not ratified it.

Mr. Larijani also rejected calls for a deadline for the country to stop work at the fuel-conversion facility at Isfahan, saying that setting a deadline was equal to sending Iran's case to the Security Council. "Pressuring a country like this is resisting a country's national pride," he said, referring to the country's achievements in nuclear science and compared it with nationalization of oil in the 1950's. "Two years of negotiations and hiding intentions has made Iran frustrated and it seems that the three European countries have humiliated Iranian people," he said.

To reach a compromise, the three European countries have insisted that Iran freeze its enrichment of uranium fuel, but have promised to provide the country with fuel for its plants. Control would remain in European hands.

Mr. Larijani said Tuesday that that was not acceptable. "There is no international guarantee that governments would provide us with nuclear fuel," he said. "We cannot lay the fate of this nation in the hands of other governments."

Both President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have said in recent days that they think a referral of Iran to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions is nearly certain but its timing is not.

"I am quite certain that at some point in time Iran is going to be referred to the Security Council, particularly if Iran continues to demonstrate that it is not prepared to give the international community assurances that is not going to try to build nuclear weapons under cover of civil power," Ms. Rice said.



Pentagon bars ABLE DANGER Testimony

Apparently, it would be too dangerous...I keep echoes of that old Washington refrain, "It's not the crime, it's the cover-up."
September 21, 2005
Pentagon Bars Military Officers and Analysts From Testifying

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 - The Pentagon said Tuesday that it had blocked several military officers and intelligence analysts from testifying at an open Congressional hearing about a highly classified intelligence program that, the officers have said, identified a ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks as a potential terrorist a year before the attacks.

The officers and intelligence analysts had been scheduled to testify on Wednesday about the program, known as Able Danger, at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bryan Whitman, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement that open testimony "would not be appropriate."

"We have expressed our security concerns and believe it is simply not possible to discuss Able Danger in any great detail in an open public forum," Mr. Whitman said.

He offered no other explanation of the Pentagon's reasoning.

Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the committee, said he was surprised by the Pentagon's decision because "so much of this has already been in the public domain, and I think that the American people need to know what happened here."

Mr. Specter said in a telephone interview that he intended to go ahead with the hearing on Wednesday and hoped that it "may produce a change of heart by the Department of Defense in answering some very basic questions."

Two military officers - an active-duty captain in the Navy and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve - have recently said publicly that they were involved with Able Danger and that the program's analysts identified Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian-born ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, by name as a potential terrorist by early 2000.

They said they tried to share the information with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the summer of 2000, more than a year before the attacks, but were blocked by Defense Department lawyers. F.B.I. officials, who answer to the jurisdiction of Mr. Specter's committee, have confirmed that the Defense Department abruptly canceled meetings in 2000 between the bureau's Washington field office and representatives of the Able Danger team.

The Pentagon had said that it interviewed three other people who were involved with Able Danger and who said that they, too, recalled the identification of Mr. Atta as a terrorist suspect. Mr. Specter said his staff had talked to all five of the potential witnesses and found that "credibility has been established" for all of them.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Nuclear Iran: Who's Isolating Who?

Iran bids to redefine nuclear limits

At the UN, Iran's president challenges the sway of Western powers on the issue.

By Scott Peterson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor from the September 19, 2005 edition -

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - Iran has hardened its determination to pursue its controversial nuclear program, brushing aside US and European threats of censure while trying to create a new diplomatic framework for nonproliferation.

Iran's newly elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared at the U.N. Saturday that nuclear power was an "inalienable right" for Iran and accused the West of practicing "nuclear apartheid" by depriving it of nuclear know-how.

Iran has increasingly seized the offensive in the standoff over its nuclear efforts. And it appears to be gaining ground as it casts its clash with the West as a spearhead for ending big-power dominance.

"It is, of course, an issue of proliferation, but really it is about the nature of the [Iranian] regime, its politics, and its ambitions," says Shahram Chubin, head of research at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

The dispute masks a power play "on both sides," between Iran and the US, says Mr. Chubin, who runs an annual arms control course for diplomats working on the Middle East. "It's a question of who is going to dominate the regional order."

In his address, President Ahmedinejad accused the US of trying to divide the world into "light and dark countries." The US was failing to abide by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) itself, he charged, with a doctrine that includes preemptive strikes and developing a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons. And Ahmadinejad laid down a defiant marker.

"If some try to impose their will on the Iranian people through resort to a language of force and threat with Iran, we will reconsider our entire approach to the nuclear issue," the populist Iranian president said.

Within days of Ahmadinejad being sworn in as Iran's new president in August, Iran resumed its nuclear enrichment activities. Those had been voluntarily suspended for much of the past two years during talks with the EU3.

"The US only takes countries seriously that have reached a certain degree of technological and economic power (hence the cooperation with India)," says Bijan Khajehpour, an analyst and chairman of the Atieh Group of companies in Tehran. "This fact certainly motivates Iran to become ... more powerful."

Washington alleges that Iran's program is a cover for making atomic bombs, an accusation the Iranian president dismissed as a "pure propaganda ploy."

But intense lobbying to censure Iran by the US and Great Britain, France and Germany - the EU3 - appear to have failed.

Iran is due to face tough questions in Vienna Monday, when the board of the UN's nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meets. UN inspections in Iran have turned up no evidence of a clandestine weapons program, but the latest report, earlier this month, said the IAEA could not rule it out.

Still, US and EU3 plans to have Iran referred to the UN Security Council for reporting violations and possible sanctions have unraveled, as Russia, China, India and others voiced opposition, despite direct appeals to leaders, in some cases, from President George Bush.

To dispel fears of Iran's nuclear intentions, Mr. Ahmadinejad spelled out acceptance of broader oversight, suggesting the involvement of third countries such as South Africa, or even private companies working with Iranian scientists. He also appeared to indicate that Iran was constrained by Islam in developing weapons. "[I]n accordance with our religious principles, pursuit of nuclear weapons in prohibited," he said.

But that did not convince Western doubters. A State Department official told reporters that the address was a "very aggressive speech, which would seem to cross the EU3 red line."

A British official called the speech "unhelpful," and French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said that referring Iran to the Security Council "remains on the agenda."

Iran bid for more support from nonaligned countries - and sought to counter the US push to isolate the Islamic Republic - when Ahmadinejad promised to share its nuclear knowledge with other Muslim countries.

"We believe that atomic energy is a blessing given by God; it is an opportunity given to all nations," the staunchly conservative leader said.

"Ironically, those who have actually used nuclear weapons, continue to produce, stockpile and extensively test such weapons ... [and] are not only refusing to remedy their past deeds, but in clear breach of the NPT, are trying to prevent other countries from acquiring the technology to produce peaceful nuclear energy."

The offer to share nuclear technology has "changed the dynamics," says Mr. Khajehpour, because "some Western players now see more reason to stop Iran's efforts to enrich uranium."

But the offer was likely "targeted at Iran's neighbors to give them assurances that Iran is not planning to deprive the region of nuclear technology."

Still, the offer has set off alarm bells in Western capitals. "That's red meat for anyone concerned with nonproliferation and security threats," and may prove to be "another bargaining chip to give away," says Natalie Goldring, at the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University in Washington.

But the inability of the US and EU to muster sufficient votes at the IAEA or Security Council to sanction Iran, for a combination of reasons, points toward a shifting nonproliferation framework.

"The US has very little leverage with potential proliferators," says Ms. Goldring. "When headlines in the US talk of preemptive attacks on countries without nuclear weapons, and that [the US] will improve its tactical nuclear arsenal, our leverage is zero or negative."

"We've given the message to Iran that we will not do a whole lot to stand in their way," says Goldring, noting that India and Pakistan, after detonating secret nuclear devices in 1998, survived sanctions and are now being courted by the US. "If I were in Iran, I would see a US tied down in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Mississippi, so Iran has some freedom of movement now."

The dispute has resulted in a diplomatic tug-of-war between the US and Iran.

Washington sought to enlist the support of India, China, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin. But all three urged caution - Mr. Putin, while standing beside Mr. Bush at the White House Friday.

In Tehran, says Chubin, "they talk about the rising East, the rising Asia - this is the old multipolarity: 'If we get Iran tied to Russia, China, and India, then the US would not be able to do anything.'"

"And the Russians almost say the same thing," adds Chubin, who visited Moscow earlier this month. "They do it politely, but they are constantly complaining about US influence.... The Russians are not going to annoy the Americans by supporting Iran, but they are not going to make it easy for them, either."


Speech Raises Doubts, of several kinds

In the wake of the tragedy, grief, and shame of Katrina, on top of the tragedy, grief, and shame of Iraq, we tend to look for some silver linings.

What we usually get in such cases are demagogues.

Iran seems to have one now (story below). This new guy (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) almost makes Pat Robertson look like a diplomat. The US and the ‘European 3’ may think they are going to “isolate Iran,” but I think Iran may be doing the real isolating. I suspect Ahmadinejad lined up the Russians and Chinese before he slapped around the rest at the UN. Such are the ways of demagogues.

Louisiana got a demagogue after the 1927 Flood in Huey Long. Fortunately, the USA got FDR, but he had plenty of demagogy, domestic and foreign, to keep him busy.

Watch out, folks.

This is shaping up as prime time for the politically adroit, who know how to solve all the problems by scape-goating others and pushing our basest buttons. The guys that make the solutions look easy when the problems seem too complex to contemplate.

That the US media re-discovered race, poverty, and injustice “right here in River City” (and coast to coast), is not necessarily an unalloyed good thing. Those subjects are easily hijacked by the politically adroit, as lots of columnists are reminding us as they discuss the origins of “The Southern Strategy.” [“I’m not a racist, but I pander to them on TV.”] The media’s conservatives vs. liberals boxing contest format offers a perfect venue to hijack this environment and move it to the wholly dangerous level of true believers.

Let’s keep an eye out for the recognizable signs from the 1920s and 1930s while we work though the stages of grief.

Iran's President Does What U.S. Diplomacy Could Not
U.N. Speech Raises Doubts About Nuclear Program

By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 19, 2005; A12

NEW YORK, Sept. 18 -- Five weeks ago, Iran's new president bought his country some time. Facing mounting criticism after walking away from negotiations with Europe and restarting part of Iran's nuclear program, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked the world to withhold diplomatic pressure while he put together new proposals.

On Saturday, dozens of international diplomats, including the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, gathered at the United Nations to hear how Ahmadinejad planned to stave off a crisis.

Instead his speech, followed by a confused hour-long news conference, was able to do what weeks of high-level U.S. diplomacy had not: convince skeptical allies that Iran may, in fact, use its nuclear energy program to build atomic bombs.

Ahmadinejad appeared to threaten as much when he warned from the General Assembly podium that in the face of U.S. provocation, "we will reconsider our entire approach to the nuclear issue."

Senior European diplomats said immediately afterward that the speech had been "unhelpful." In fact, the opposite may be true.

"The effect of that speech will likely be a toughening of the international response to Iran because it was seen by so many countries as overly harsh, negative and uncompromising," Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said in an interview Sunday. "The strategic aim of a great many countries is to see Iran suspend its nuclear program and return to peaceful negotiations with the Europeans."

A European diplomat, who could discuss strategy only on the condition of anonymity, echoed Burns's remarks.

"There's no question this will make our case stronger and our task easier," when board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency meet Monday in Vienna to discuss Iran's case.

During his 25 minutes Saturday, Ahmadinejad delivered what began as a sermon praising the prophets of Islam, Christianity and Judaism and then descended into anti-American vitriol, conspiracy theories and threats.

He expressed doubt that the deadly attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, were really carried out by terrorists. He said Americans had brought the devastation of Hurricane Katrina upon themselves and that the U.S. military was purposely poisoning its own troops in Iraq.

There were quotes from the Koran, angry finger pointing and attacks on Israel interlaced with talk of justice and tranquility. There was a staunch defense of Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy, and to enrich uranium to fuel that program. There were no new proposals and little detail about old ones that were reoffered.

For much of last week, Iran had been the subject of endless backroom negotiations and public diplomacy, and at times, Tehran appeared to have the upper hand. But by the time the Iranian leader was headed for John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday night, U.S. and European officials were regaining confidence and putting together a new strategy designed to isolate Iran.

Burns met with British, German and French officials on Sunday in New York to discuss ways to bring around enough members of the IAEA board to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the authority to impose sanctions.

The United States has long advocated such a strategy but still does not have the support of India, Russia or China, or a "next steps" policy if the matter does end up in the Security Council.

Diplomats who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the most likely outcome of the week-long meeting in Vienna would be a deadline resolution giving Iran several weeks to reverse course and demonstrate transparency with U.N. nuclear inspectors, or face the consequences of Security Council action.

Iran has consistently maintained that its program is designed to produce nuclear energy, not weapons. IAEA nuclear inspectors have not found any evidence of a weapons program but several serious questions about the scale, scope and history of the program remain unanswered and have fueled suspicion that Iran is concealing information.

Ahmadinejad's speech, his first major international address as a world leader, highlights a dramatic and conservative shift in foreign affairs for Iran under the new president's leadership. Several diplomats noted that his defiant comments were strikingly different in tone and substance from those delivered from the same podium three months ago by Kamal Kharrazi, who was Iran's foreign minister until Ahmadinejad was elected this summer.

Kharrazi, who addressed a conference on the future of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, spoke in English in an effort to reach an international audience, rather than in Persian, which is spoken almost exclusively in Iran. Although Kharrazi also defended Iran's program, which was built in secret over 18 years and exposed in 2002, he did so without threats.

That text, written by Iranian diplomats eager to see reform of political and religious life, won over countries unsure about Iran's intentions. Tehran declared victory shortly afterward when the IAEA board decided against reporting the country's nuclear program to the Security Council.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company



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