Story by: (Author NameStaff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta – 138th Public Affairs Detachment Dated: Thu, Nov 5, 2009 This map illustrates the earthquake fault lines in Western New York. An earthquake in the region is a likely event, says University of Buffalo Professor Dr. Robert Jacobi. TONAWANDA, NY — An earthquake in western New York, the scenario that Exercise Vigilant Guard is built around, is not that far-fetched, according to University of Buffalo geology professor Dr. Robert Jacobi. When asked about earthquakes in the area, Jacobi pulls out a computer-generated state map, cross-hatched with diagonal lines representing geological faults. The faults show that past earthquakes in the state were not random, and could occur again on the same fault systems, he said. “In western New York, 6.5 magnitude earthquakes are possible,” he said. This possibility underlies Exercise Vigilant Guard, a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks. The exercise was based on an earthquake scenario, and a rubble pile at the Spaulding Fibre site here was used to simulate a collapsed building. The scenario was chosen as a result of extensive consultations with the earthquake experts at the University of Buffalo’s Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), said Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey, commander of 53rd Troop Command, who visited the site on Monday. Earthquakes of up to 7 magnitude have occurred in the Northeastern part of the continent, and this scenario was calibrated on the magnitude 5.9 earthquake which occurred in Saguenay, Quebec in 1988, said Jacobi and Professor Andre Filiatrault, MCEER director. “A 5.9 magnitude earthquake in this area is not an unrealistic scenario,” said Filiatrault. Closer to home, a 1.9 magnitude earthquake occurred about 2.5 miles from the Spaulding Fibre site within the last decade, Jacobi said. He and other earthquake experts impaneled by the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada in 1997 found that there’s a 40 percent chance of 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurring along the Clareden-Linden fault system, which lies about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, Jacobi added. Jacobi and Filiatrault said the soft soil of western New York, especially in part of downtown Buffalo, would amplify tremors, causing more damage. “It’s like jello in a bowl,” said Jacobi. The area’s old infrastructure is vulnerable because it was built without reinforcing steel, said Filiatrault. Damage to industrial areas could release hazardous materials, he added. “You’ll have significant damage,” Filiatrault said. Exercise Vigilant Guard involved an earthquake’s aftermath, including infrastructure damage, injuries, deaths, displaced citizens and hazardous material incidents. All this week, more than 1,300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals have been training at several sites in western New York to respond these types of incidents. Jacobi called Exercise Vigilant Guard “important and illuminating.” “I’m proud of the National Guard for organizing and carrying out such an excellent exercise,” he said. Training concluded Thursday.
Protests against the legitimacy of Iran’s Islamic Republic continue to sweep across the vast country triggered by a multitude of reasons including rising food prices, the collapse of a twin-tower apartment building killing at least 29 people (with more dead feared under the rubble) and a considerable loathing of the clerical regime.
During Thursday night’s protests in the southwestern city of Abadan, where the building had collapsed, people chanted slogans against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself, saying “Khamenei is a murderer; his rule is illegitimate,” despite the deployment of riot police.
Police fired tear gas into the air to disperse the angry crowd of hundreds near the building site, online video analyzed Saturday shows. Videos shared online showed a massive crowd near the Metropol Building on Friday night, with lights shining on its facade. In a second video, demonstrators at street level are seen chanting: “Our enemy is here; they lie that it is America!” A third video showed an angry crowd with one shot heard. The person filming turned and ran, shouting: “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”
According to human rights activists and Iranians meticulously documenting the regime’s violent crackdown, at least five people have been killed and scores of demonstrators have been incarcerated.
In this photo released by official website of the office of Iranian Senior Vice-President, on Friday, May 27, 2022, ruins of a tower at under construction 10-story Metropol Building remains after it collapsed on Monday, in the southwestern city of Abadan, Iran. (Iranian Senior Vice-President Office via AP)
The shocking deaths in Abadan prompted Iranian actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi to devote part of her acceptance speech to the suffering victims after winning best actress at the Cannes Film Festival in France on Saturday. Amir Ebrahimi lives in exile due to a smear campaign regarding her romantic life.
“The Biden administration and EU continue to talk about social justice but that just seems to be cheap talk for votes,” Banafsheh Zand, an Iranian-American journalist and human rights expert, told Fox News Digital. “That social justice does not seem to extend to everyone around the world though.”
“That Biden did not even address the disaster in Iran and the huge anti-regime demonstrations, is another sign of him wanting to cover up the Khomeinist regimes’ crimes against humanity, just so he can make his disastrous [nuclear] deal,” she added. “The Iranian people, for the most part, now consider both the Democratic Party and the European leaders as hypocrites and foes.”
Lisa Daftari, also an Iran expert, wrote on her website, The Foreign Desk, “As protests enter their third week in provinces across Iran with demonstrators calling for the death of the Iranian supreme leader and the overthrow of the hard-line, radical regime, the Iranian opposition is coming to social media in droves expressing their frustration at being generally ignored and unsupported by the international community.”
She continued, “The protesters, whose platform is mainly centered upon the government’s corruption and lack of human rights, have a global message; they’re calling out the regime spending billions of dollars on its terror ambitions and leaving the Iranian people without subsidies to purchase basic goods and live comfortable lives.”
March 08, 2020: A huge mural of Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei Iran’s Supreme Leader painted next to a smaller one of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (R) seen on Motahari street on March 8, 2020 in Tehran, Iran. The message on the wall reads “The power and influence and dignity of America in the world is on the fall and extermination” and on top of the building, another slogan reads “We are standing till the end”. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
Daftari, who speaks fluent Farsi, quoted one anti-regime activist saying: “I just want the international community to place themselves in our situation, and explain how they would feel. If your entire life is ruined because of a bunch of terrorists and others don’t care about you, how would you feel?”
The lack of strong condemnation of the Iranian regime’s violent crackdown on dissent and of solidarity for the protesters from the international community has, according to Daftari, “to do with the desire of major Western countries to negotiate and revive the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran.”
The US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany are desperately trying to reach a deal with Iran’s regime in Vienna to provide economic sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran promising to temporarily restrict its production of nuclear weapons.
Len Khodorkovsky, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Trump administration and senior adviser to the U.S. representative for Iran, tweeted, “I know what President Trump said to the Iranian people during #IranProtests. President Biden, your turn.”
Khodorkovsky embedded a tweet from Donald Trump from 2020 in which the former president declared that he stands with the people of Iran and added: “We are following your protests closely. Your courage is inspiring.”
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, meets with senior White House advisors Tuesday evening, Jan. 7, 2020, in the Situation Room of the White House, on a further meeting about the Islamic Republic of Iran missile attacks on U.S. military facilities in Iraq. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
On May 16, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted, “Brave Iranian protesters are standing up for their rights. The Iranian people have a right to hold their government accountable. We support their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression online and offline − without fear of violence and reprisal.”
Iran’s regime is following its playbook used in past protests against the theocratic state. Iranians in Khuzestan, Esfahan and Tehran reported significant, serious disruptions to internet access, including blockages when trying to upload images of protests to social media.
Amir Taheri, a veteran Iranian journalist who has written extensively about the Islamic Republic, tweeted: “The Khomeinist clique see use of force as sole method for calming public discontent. They are sending armed anti-riot units to make large scale arrests in Khuzestan cities: Abadan, Ahvaz, Shadegan, Dezful & Izeh. Their incompetence is matched by their violence.”
KCNA released photos of the warheads, dubbed Hwasan-31s, as leader Kim Jong Un visited the Nuclear Weapons Institute, where he inspected new tactical nuclear weapons and technology for mounting warheads on ballistic missiles, as well as nuclear counterattack operation plans.
Experts say the images could indicate progress in miniaturizing warheads that are powerful yet small enough to mount on intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the U.S.
“It has something more powerful in a smaller space. That’s worrisome,” said Kune Y. Suh, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University, comparing the new warheads to the 2016 version.
Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korean naval officer who teaches at Kyungnam University, said the warheads were most likely designed for use with at least eight different delivery platforms listed in posters on the wall, including missiles and submarines.
“Those are not limited to tactical missiles but appear to be a miniaturized, lightweight and standardized warhead that can mount on various vehicles,” he said.
“Now that the delivery vehicles are nearly ready, they would churn out warheads to secure second strike capabilities — perhaps hundreds, not dozens — while running centrifuges even harder to get weapons-grade nuclear material,” he added
Kim Jong Un ordered the production of weapons-grade materials in a “far-sighted way” to boost its nuclear arsenal “exponentially” and produce powerful weapons, KCNA said.
He said the enemy of the country’s nuclear forces is not a specific state or group but “war and nuclear disaster themselves,” and the policy of expanding the arsenal is solely aimed at defending the country, and regional peace and stability.
Kim was also briefed on an IT-based integrated nuclear weapon management system called Haekbangashoe, which means “nuclear trigger,” whose accuracy, reliability and security were verified during recent drills simulating a nuclear counterattack, KCNA said.
North Korea has been ramping up tensions, firing short-range ballistic missiles on Monday and conducting a nuclear counterattack simulation last week against the U.S. and South Korea, which it accused of rehearsing an invasion with their military exercises.
North Korea’s military simulated a nuclear airburst with two tactical ballistic missiles equipped with mock warheads during Monday’s training, while testing a nuclear-capable underwater attack drone again on March 25-27, KCNA said in separate dispatches.
The underwater drone, called Haeil-1, reached a target in the waters off the northeast coast after cruising along a “jagged and oval” 373-mile course for more than 41 hours, it said.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said North Korea does not deserve “a single penny” of economic aid while pushing for nuclear development, his spokesman said.
A South Korean military spokesman said that additional tests and analysis would be needed to verify whether the North’s new warheads are deployable, but that its report on the underwater drone was most likely “exaggerated and fabricated.”
Also on Tuesday, a U.S. carrier strike group led by the USS Nimitz docked at the Busan naval base in South Korea after conducting joint maritime drills. It was the carrier’s first visit in nearly six years and coincides with the 70th anniversary of the two countries’ alliance.
The strike group commander, Rear Admiral Christopher Sweeney, said his ships were prepared for any contingency.
“We don’t seek conflicts with the DPRK. We seek peace and security. We’re not going to be coerced, we’re not going to be bullied and we’re not going anywhere,” he told reporters.
DPRK is an abbreviation for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Pyongyang has accused the allies of stoking tensions and using exercises to rehearse an invasion.
A commentary in the Rodong Sinmun, the North’s ruling party media outlet, said the drills, especially those involving the aircraft carrier, amount to “an open declaration of war” and preparations for a “preemptive attack” against North Korea.
“The frantic war drills in the puppet region are not just military drills but nuclear war drills for a preemptive strike … pursuant to the U.S. political and military option to escalate confrontation with the DPRK and finally lead to a war,” it said.
New fuel rods sit in wrapping ahead of use in a storeroom beside the main reactor hall at the Dukovany nuclear power plant operated by CEZ AS in Dukovany, Czech Republic, on Sunday, April 6, 2014. CEZ AS, the largest Czech power producer, sees potential for two new reactors at its Dukovany nuclear complex once the current four units are retired in 2035. Photographer: Martin Divisek/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)
The 2015 Iran nuclear deal, though under threat, isn’t dead yet. The other parties to it — China, France, Russia, Germany, the U.K. and the European Union — have continued to talk to Iran about preserving the deal in some form. The Trump administration, in an effort to bury it for good, pressed the United Nations to restore its sanctions against the Islamic Republic but was rebuffed by other members of the UN Security Council. Of particular U.S. concern is the UN arms embargo against Iran, which lapses in October 2020 unless sanctions are snapped back. The deal’s future could turn on the outcome of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, in which Trump is seeking a second four-year term. His opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, has said he would rejoin the deal if Iran resumes complying with it. Iran had expected the pact to stimulate an economic revival, but new and reinstated U.S. sanctions instead provoked an economic contraction.
Iranian statements and international contacts with Pakistani scientists prompted the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to warn in 1992 that the Persian Gulf country could develop a nuclear weapon. While Iran reaffirmed its commitment to the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it wanted the country’s “right” to enrich uranium recognized before it made concessions. A breakthrough came after Iran elected a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, president in 2013. The 2015 deal he made recognized Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and Iran was allowed to keep 5,000 centrifuges to separate the uranium-235 isotope needed to induce a fission chain reaction. But Iran agreed that for 15 years it would not refine the metal to more than 3.7% enrichment — the level needed to fuel nuclear power plants — and would limit its enriched-uranium stockpile to 300 kilograms, or 3% of the amount it held in May 2015. The International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Iran eliminated its inventory of 20%-enriched uranium, which can be used to make medical isotopes and to power research reactors but could also be purified to weapons-grade material at short notice. Inspectors also confirmed that Iran destroyed a reactor capable of producing plutonium. U.S. officials under then-President Barack Obama estimated that the pact extended the time it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for a bomb from a few months to a year.
Trump administration officials say the 2015 deal emboldened Iranian activities that destabilize the Middle East and didn’t adequately address Iran’s ballistic missile program. They had some company in criticizing the deal. Middle East powers including Israel and Saudi Arabia say it empowered Iran’s theocratic regime to the detriment of regional security. And some members of the U.S. Congress say Iran can’t be trusted to make any fissile material, whether for energy, medicine or bombs. Like other enriching countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Japan and South Africa, the technology gives Iran the ability to pursue nuclear weapons should it choose to break its commitments. Supporters of the deal say Iran would never agree to abandon enrichment entirely and that a decade’s worth of sanctions failed to stop its nuclear program. Keeping an enrichment capability was important to Iran, for reasons of national pride and because it was previously denied access to uranium on world markets. Defending the agreement, Obama has said that it prevented another war in the Middle East. Without a deal, supporters say, Iran would have been left free to pursue its nuclear ambitions unchecked.
“Iran could produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon in less than two weeks and it would only take several more months to produce an actual nuclear weapon,” Gen. Milley told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense Thursday morning. “But the United States remains committed, as a matter of policy, that Iran will not have a fielded nuclear weapon.”
Indeed, U.S. officials have said that Iran can now produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb within about 12 days. Enrichment of about 90% is needed to produce nuclear weapons. United Nations inspectors earlier this month reported that uranium enriched up to 83.7% was discovered at Iran‘s underground Fordo nuclear site.
The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed by the U.S. and other major powers during the Obama administration, limited Iran‘s uranium enrichment to 3.67%, which is enough to produce nuclear power but not enough for a weapon.
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors earlier this month said they struck a deal with Tehran to restore cameras and other monitoring equipment at key Iranian nuclear sites, including at the Fordo location, offering some hope of slowing Iran‘s potential march toward a bomb.
Iran‘s leaders have repeatedly denied they are seeking a nuclear weapon, saying it is against the regime’s Islamic principles.
Jeremy Scahill tracks the destructive history of U.S. imperialism in Iraq.
March 24 2023, 4:00 a.m.
This week marked the 20th anniversary of the launch of the war in Iraq. But the U.S. government’s involvement in the country tracks back decades prior. Jeremy Scahill retraces the U.S. government’s long history of meddling, destabilizing, and bombing Iraq — and how major players have faced no accountability for their crimes.
Jeremy Scahill: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from The Intercept. And this is a special bonus episode of Intercepted: Legacy of Blood, the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Jim Miklaszewski: There are reports that there is no evidence of a direct link between Baghdad and some of these terrorist organizations.
Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld: There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns — that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
But they did it with the support of many in Congress, including some of the most prominent and elite Democrats, including the current President of the United States.
But I also believe that we need to understand how we got to where we are today in Iraq because this is a classic case study in U.S. imperial crimes.
And that means stepping back and examining a much broader history. It’s a 60-year history that is filled with constant interventions and bombings and sanctions and covert CIA activity and regime change. And in this history, a history you never hear discussed on cable news, the main victims are, as they’ve always been, ordinary Iraqis.
Newscaster: The latest Middle East crisis, perhaps the most menacing of all, has flared up in Iraq, a country that produces over 30 million tons of oil a year. In this picture, King Faisal is at Kirkuk with his uncle, Crown Prince ‘Abd al-Ilah.
JS: July 14, 1958: Baghdad, Iraq. Army Brigadier General Abd al-Karim Qasim leads a military revolt against the British-backed Iraqi monarchy.
Newscaster:Without warning, revolution has swept away the young King Faisal of Iraq and his uncle Crown Prince ‘Abd al-Ilah. Iraq becomes number one danger spot. Veteran premier Nuri al-Said is deposed. He has fled, and the Republic rebels have offered 10,000 pounds for his arrest. The tide of Arab nationalism is again in flight.
JS: Facing almost no resistance, the Iraqi rebels seize key military and government installations in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country and they declare an end to the era of the Hashemite royals who ruled Iraq backed by the iron fist of Western colonial powers.
Abd al-Karim Qasim: Our revolution is a real reaction against tyranny and corruption. We want to use our wealth to raise the standard of living of the people.
JS: Abd al-Karim Qasim declares Iraq a republic, and he consolidates power through a revolutionary council. Qasim and his allies created a structure for the Iraqi presidency where power will be shared by representatives of the three largest groups in Iraq: the Shia, the Sunni, and the Kurds. Qasim becomes prime minister and the new government begins to implement sweeping economic and political reforms.
JS: The United States and Britain wanted Qasim gone, and the CIA, under John F. Kennedy, began working with Iraqi factions that the U.S. believed could help overthrow Qasim — namely the Ba’ath Party, and one of its most vicious henchmen, a man who had actually tried to assassinate Qasim in 1959. His name? Saddam Hussein.
This new government seized nearly all of the land in Iraq that was controlled by the British-owned Iraq Petroleum Company and redistributed that land to Iraqi farmers. And Qasim pulled out of the U.S.- and British-run Baghdad Pact, which was aimed at keeping the Soviets away from Middle Eastern oil.
Newscaster: At Lancaster House in London, representatives of five nations meet to discuss a crisis. Mr. Macmillan, who presided, opened the meeting with a tribute to King Faisal.
British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan: We meet today under the shadow of the recent, tragic events in Iraq.
JS: While the British and Americans began plotting to isolate and possibly remove Qasim, the new revolutionary government in Baghdad gained rapid, widespread support in the country. Laws on women’s rights were passed and amnesty was granted to Kurds who had engaged in uprisings in Iraq in the 1940s. Qasim also ended a ban on the Iraqi Communist Party. He pulled Iraq out of the security and military partnerships with the United States and other Western countries, and he normalized relations with the Soviet Union.
Qasim openly backed Palestinian liberation causes and the Algerian resistance against the French. He also stated clearly that oil-rich Kuwait was part of Iraq and that its independence was a project of Western oil corporations. Qasim nationalized many of Britain’s oil fields and formed a new Iraqi national oil company.
Newscaster: The story in the capital city of Baghdad is the scene of the latest bloody coup d’état, a demonstration of violent, 20th-century Arab tensions, set against a way of life that has changed little since the Dark Ages.
Newscaster: In the storied city of Baghdad, capital of Iraq, has been the scene once more of bloody revolt, that has ceded a new government. For five years, General Abd al-Karim Qasim, right, ruled the country by armed might, after he seized power by assassinating King Faisal and the prime minister. Now, like many before him, he has fallen as he rose: Violently. A pro-communist, Qasim died before a firing squad in the wreckage of the Defense Ministry building.
JS: As Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party consolidated power, they massacred thousands of people, including a substantial number of communists.
Newscaster: Army and militiamen carry on the search for communist infiltrators, over 100,000 of whom entered Baghdad during Qasim’s regime. When they are found, the communists from other countries are deported. Native reds, known for crimes perpetrated on behalf of Qasim, are sent before firing squads, as the Arabs show they are more concerned about the dangers of communism that is realized by some Western leaders.
JS: The interior minister of the new regime would later say that the Ba’ath Party came to power on a CIA train. Yes, a decade after overthrowing the democratically elected leader, Mossadegh, in Iran, the CIA played a similar role in toppling the Iraqi government, which like Mossadegh was unfriendly to colonial Western oil corporations.
The CIA provided lists of people for Saddam and his men to exterminate. Those lists were compiled at CIA stations across the Middle East. Suspected communists, leftists or supporters of Qasim, were tortured and summarily executed.
Newscaster: The streets of ancient Baghdad become the scene of a short but decisive revolution that topples the pro-communist government of Premier Abd al-Karim Qasim, shown here on the right. A six-man military junta seizes power on a holy day, and within hours, the premier, who reportedly had executed 10,000 people, is himself shot.
By the time Saddam Hussein officially took over as the president of Iraq in 1979, the country was considered by the U.S. to be one of its most strategically important regimes in the Middle East, particularly after the U.S. backed-shah was overthrown in neighboring Iran.
Newscaster: Khomeini, almost unknown outside of Iran just a few months ago, returned a hero: The man who, from long distance, had led the revolution to topple the shah. Inside the airport terminal, Khomeini was greeted by scores of Muslim religious leaders and political allies. He called on Iranian Prime Minister Bakhtiar to resign and said all foreigners should leave the country.
In an obvious reference to the United States, he said, “Foreign advisers have ruined our culture and have taken our oil.”
JS: When the Islamic Revolution in Iran happened in 1979, the Iran-Iraq War soon followed, and would kill hundreds of thousands of people — some estimates say as many as a million dead. The United States supported both sides in that war, but no doubt wanted Iraq to win.
Saddam was known as a brutal mass murderer, but that was preferable to Washington over an Islamist government. U.S. war planners gave Saddam Hussein targets to bomb throughout Iran, they poured weapons into the effort and the Reagan administration removed Iraq from the list of state sponsors of terrorism so that the weapons could flow unimpeded.
President Ronald Reagan: Well, the Ayatollah is in a war, and if he’s going to go on with provocative acts against us or anyone else, then he’s running a great risk because we’re going to respond.
JS: After Reagan removed Iraq from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the U.S. began increasing its military aid to Iraq, including selling Iraq attack helicopters — helicopters that were used in the most famous incident of the Iran-Iraq War involving chemical weapons, and that was when Saddam Hussein ordered the gassing of Kurds in Halabja.
Jamie McIntyre: Tell me what was going on during this, this period?
Donald Rumsfeld: Where did you get his video, from the Iraqi television — ?
JM: This is from Iraqi television.
DR: When did they give it to you? Recently, or back then?
JM: No, we dug this out of the CNN library.
DR: I see. Isn’t that interesting. There I am.
JM: So, so what was going on here? What were you thinking at the time?
DR: Well, Iraq was in a battle, a war with Iran and the United States had just had 241 Marines killed, and president Reagan asked me to take a leave of absence from my company —
JS: In that meeting, Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein discussed solidifying U.S.-Iraqi relations, and it was during this period when the U.S. was at its most cozy with Saddam Hussein that the Iraqi dictator was at his most brutal. He was a mass murderer, but he was Washington’s mass murderer.
It was only when Saddam Hussein decided to invade oil-rich Kuwait, a country that many Iraqis characterized as an oil field with a flag, that the U.S. posture changed.
Suddenly, overnight, Saddam was being compared to Hitler, and George H.W. Bush launched a massive air attack on Iraq in 1991.
President George H.W. Bush: Just two hours ago, allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq, in Kuwait. These attacks continue as I speak. Ground forces are not engaged. This conflict started August 2, when the dictator of Iraq invaded a small and helpless neighbor: Kuwait, a member of the Arab League and a member of the United Nations, was crushed. Its people brutalized.
JS: Despite Bush’s claim that the U.S. led attack was aimed at the Iraqi military and Saddam Hussein, the Gulf War saw the United States bomb Iraq back centuries. Its civilian infrastructure was obliterated; its water treatment and sewage facilities destroyed. The U.S. also heavily used depleted uranium munitions that would later cause a skyrocket in cancer and birth defects.
But George H.W. Bush decided to keep Saddam Hussein in power. Why? Because he was considered preferable to an Islamic government, particularly one that would have aligned itself with Iran. And so, Saddam remained.
GHWB: As commander-in-chief, I can report to you, our armed forces fought with honor and valor. And as president, I can report to the nation, aggression is defeated. The war is over. [Cheers and applause.]
When the United Nations estimated that upwards of half a million Iraqis were killed as a result of the sanctions, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright defended it on “60 Minutes.”
Lesley Stahl: We have heard that a half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, and, you know, is the price worth it?
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it.
JS: In addition to the sanctions that Madeline Albright was defending, Clinton initiated the longest sustained U.S. bombing campaign since Vietnam, at some points bombing Iraq an average of once every three days throughout the 1990s.
President William “Bill” Jefferson Clinton: My fellow Americans, this evening I want to speak with you about an attack by the government of Iraq against the United States and the actions we have just taken to respond. This past April, the Kuwaiti government uncovered what they suspected was a car bombing plot to assassinate former president George Bush while he was visiting Kuwait City. The Kuwaiti authorities arrested 16 suspects, including two Iraqi nationals.
JS: In response to an alleged plot to kill former President George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton ordered an airstrike in Baghdad that killed several Iraqi civilians, including the famed painter Layla Al-Attar.
Kris Kristofferson: (singing “The Circle”): Who killed this woman, this artist, this mother? Who broke the candle and snuffed out her light?
JS: I can say from having spent extensive time in Iraq in the 1990s, that its hospitals were like death rows for infants. There were no medical supplies. Birth defects that weren’t found in modern medical journals were appearing. Syringes were being reused and hospital floors were being cleaned with gasoline.
A once secular society with advanced schools and modern positions on women’s rights, relative to its neighbors, Iraq started to become much more religious. Saddam Hussein himself also began projecting himself as the defender of the Islamic world.
In 1998, Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act which was authored by the neoconservatives of the Project For A New American Century.
That legislation made regime change the law of the land.
Bill Clinton: The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power he threatens the well being of his people, the peace of this region, the security of the world. The best way to end that threat, once and for all, is with a new Iraqi government.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: Mr. Speaker, Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator who should be overthrown, and his ability to make weapons of destruction must be eliminated, I have serious doubts however, whether the action we are taking today will take us one step forward in that direction, and I fear that innocent civilians, that women and children, in that country will be killed.
JS: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld came into power with a mission to overthrow Saddam Hussein. 9/11 was not even hours old when Rumsfeld started pushing to invade and attack Iraq, a nation that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.
Donald Rumsfeld: We know they have weapons of mass destruction, we know they have active programs. There isn’t any debate about it. So the idea that if you had an appropriate inspection regime, that they come back and say “you were wrong,” is so far beyond anyone’s imagination, it’s not even something I think about.
JS: This push to war was aided by powerful media organizations that breathlessly reported on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Prominent Democrats and Republicans pushed this myth.
Senator Hillary Clinton: In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapon stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.
JS: Then-F.B.I. director Robert Mueller also pushed those lies in front of Congress. President Joe Biden, who at the time was the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, refused to call a single antiwar witness to the hearings that he conducted on the eve of the invasion of Iraq.
Senator Joseph R. Biden: We cannot be complacent about those who espouse hatred for us. We must confront clear dangers with a new sense of urgency and resolve. Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, in my view, is one of those clear dangers. Even if the right response to his pursuit is not so crystal clear. One thing is clear: these weapons must be dislodged from Saddam Hussein or Saddam Hussein must be dislodged from power.
JS: Neoconservative officials like Paul Wolfowitz promised America that the occupation would pay for itself and go swimmingly.
Paul Wolfowitz: These are Arabs, 23 million of the most educated people in the Arab world, who are going to welcome us as liberators. And when that message gets out to the whole Arab world it is going to be a powerful counter to Osama bin Laden. The notion that we’re going to earn more enemies by going in and getting rid of what every Arab knows is one of the worst tyrants, and they have many governing them, is just nonsense.
Secretary of State Colin Powell: We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails. The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War.
JS: None of that, of course, was true. In a last ditch effort to avoid war, the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gave an interview to 60 Minutes and denied that his country possessed any weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam Hussein: And I believe the mobilization that’s been done was, in fact, done partly to cover the huge lie that was being waged against Iraq about chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. That is why, when you talk about such missiles, these missiles have been destroyed. There are no missiles that are contrary to the prescription of the United Nations in Iraq. They are no longer there.
JS: But it wasn’t just Saddam. Countless experts on Iraq, including former senior UN officials with long history in the country pleaded with the White House to back off its drive to war based on lies.
Wolf Blitzer, CNN: Scott Ritter, a former United Nations Weapons Inspector, today, addressed the Iraqi National Assembly and basically made the point that there are no problems as far as Iraq is concerned. Listen specifically to what he said:
Scott Ritter: The rhetoric of fear that is disseminated by my government and others has not, to date, been backed up by hard facts that substantiate any allegations that Iraq is, today, in possession of weapons of mass destruction or has links to terror groups responsible for attacking the United States.
JS: But it was not to be. And 20 years ago this week, the U.S. began its invasion and occupation of Iraq with massive air strikes across the country in an operation called Shock and Awe.
[Bombs falling on Baghdad.]
JS: Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed throughout the course of the U.S. occupation; millions were forced to flee their homes and the country. The U.S.-backed death squads and paramilitary militias conducted massacres in cities like Fallujah and encouraged sectarian battles. Mercenaries, including those from Blackwater, poured into the country: war profiteers. And Iraq became a massive killing field.
But the image of Saddam’s statue being pulled down in Firdos Square helped the myth that victory was as simple as the neocons promised.
And just months into the occupation, George W. Bush declared victory.
President George W. Bush: Thank you very much. Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans. Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. [Cheers and shouts.]
JS: Despite this idiotic and sick display by George W. Bush, where he dressed up as a military pilot and stood in front of that “Mission Accomplished” banner on the warship, the war in Iraq was just starting. The viceroy that was sent to Iraq to run the Green Zone and the occupation, L. Paul Bremmer, he was a neocon who profited off of risk insurance and he made a series of disastrous and stupid decisions. His de-Ba’athification edict resulted in 250,000 Iraqi soldiers losing their jobs. It wasn’t long before they joined the resistance. And by the end of 2004, here were both Shiite and Sunni uprisings against the United States.
Vice President Dick Cheney: The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint I think will clearly decline. I think they’re in the, in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.
JS: The highest price for this invasion and occupation was of course paid by ordinary Iraqis. And it didn’t take long after Saddam Hussein was executed before his trials were even complete for Saddam Hussein’s popularity to rise. Many Iraqis hated Saddam, despised him but they hated what the U.S. had done to their country even more and that phenomenon continues to this day.
President Barack Obama: We are in full agreement about how to move forward. So, today, I can report that as promised the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.
JS: Barack Obama, who campaigned as an anti-Iraq War candidate, did pull most U.S. troops out of Iraq. But then he quickly changed course and sent thousands back as fighting intensified along the Iraq-Syria border.
What the U.S. started in Iraq ultimately spilled over into Syria, and out of the ashes of a disastrous U.S. policy, ISIS rose. And some of their most sophisticated military operatives and strategists had been Iraqi soldiers fired by Paul Bremmer in 2003 and 2004.
At least one Iraqi general, a famous one, he was on the deck of cards that the U.S. military created for the kill/capture campaign of high-value targets. He had worked with the U.S. during the Iran-Iraq war; he ended up joining ISIS. And when Obama left office, there were more than 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and an expanding U.S. Air War.
President Donald J. Trump: I had numerous conversations with Sean Hannity at Fox and Sean Hannity said, he said, “You were totally against war,” because he was for the war.
Lester Holt: Why is your judgment better?
DJT: And wait, excuse me. And that was before the war started. I was against the war, he said, “You used to have fights with me.” Because Sean was in favor of the war. And I understand that side also — not very much because we should have never been there. But nobody called Sean Hannity.
DJT: George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes. But that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.
John Dickerson: You still think he should be impeached?
DJT: You do whatever you want, you call it whatever you want, I wanna tell you: They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
JS: Despite all of Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail, he came into office and proceeded to start ratcheting up the bombing in Iraq and Syria. He loosened rules on killing civilians and the death tolls skyrocketed.
While ISIS was largely decimated in Iraq, it came at a tremendous price, overwhelmingly paid by Iraqis. In just the month of March 2017, an estimated 1,000 civilians were killed in the US-led bombing campaign in ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria. By the end of that year, an estimated 6,000 had died as a result of coalition strikes.
None of this ever needed to happen. It was the decisions made in Washington D.C.—in the chambers of power in the world’s most powerful nation— that unleashed this chaos and bloodshed. It was U.S. actions that opened the door for the influx of al Qaeda and other militant groups culminating with ISIS’s campaign of terror. To this day, the U.S. continues to play a destabilizing role on top of the legacy of blood that it had already created in Iraq.
From the 1960s and the CIA working with Saddam and the Ba’ath Party, to the weapons, intelligence, and support for Saddam during the Iran-Iraq War, to the Gulf War and the destruction of the civilian infrastructure, to the sanctions and the no-fly zone bombings, to the lies about WMDs and the invasion of Iraq, from the stupidity of the neocons before and during the occupation to the massive refugee crisis caused by the war: U.S. policy has been consistent. For the past 60 years, there has been one central truth about the U.S. role in Iraq. And that is: that it’s been consistently anti-Iraqi people.
Since the 1960s, U.S. policy under Democrats and Republicans has been about the interests of Western capitalism and the flags of American victories have always been planted violently on piles of Iraqi corpses.
[Intercepted Outro Theme]
JS: And that’s it for this episode of Intercepted. You can follow us on Twitter at @intercepted. Intercepted is a production of The Intercept. Jose Olivares is lead producer. Supervising producer is Laura Flynn. Roger Hodge is editor in chief of The Intercept. And Will Stanton mixed our show. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky.
If you’d like to support our work, go to theintercept.com/join — your donation, no matter what the amount, makes a real difference.
If you haven’t already, please subscribe to Intercepted. And definitely do leave us a rating or review — it helps people find us. If you want to give us feedback, email us at Podcasts@theintercept.com. Thanks so much.
The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, condemned Sunday, March 26 2023 the Israeli occupation forces’ attack on the Palestinian worshipers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Abdellatif Al-Qanoo’, a Hamas spokesman, said, “Israeli occupation forces’ storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and expelling the worshipers are a dangerous escalation, and the Israeli occupation bears the consequences. ”
He called on the Palestinian people to increase their existence in the courtyards of the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Today’s midnight, Israeli occupation forces stormed the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and expelled the Palestinian worshipers from its prayer halls.
TINIAN, NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS – The tiny island of Tinian was the launch point for U.S. planes carrying atomic bombs to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Now a new runway is being carved from the jungle, just south of World War II ruins.
And on a blustery February morning, a few hundred meters away at Tinian’s civilian airport, American airmen refueled Japanese fighter jets during a military exercise using more airstrips, islands and Japanese planes than the two enemies-turned-allies have ever mustered for drills in the North Pacific.
Asia and the Pacific are steering into an anxious, well-armed moment with echoes of old conflicts and immediate risks. Rattled by China’s military buildup and territorial threats — along with Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine and doubts about U.S. resolve — nations across the region are bolstering defense budgets, joint training, weapons manufacturing and combat-ready infrastructure.
For decades, Asia’s rise made it an economic engine for the world, tying China and other regional manufacturing hubs to Europe and America. The focus was trade. Now fear is setting in, with China and the United States locked in a volatile strategic contest and with diplomatic relations at their worst point in 50 years.
Xi has made his intentions clear. He aims to achieve a “national rejuvenation” that would include displacing the United States as the dominant rule-setter in the region, controlling access to the South China Sea, and bringing Taiwan — a self-governing island that China sees as lost territory — under Beijing’s control.
In response, many of China’s neighbors — and the United States — are turning to hard power, accelerating the most significant arms race in Asia since World War II.
Many countries hope that stronger militaries will discourage China from going any further, but the buildup also reflects declining confidence in the United States. The war in Ukraine has drawn down U.S. political capital and material support.
Asia’s security calculations ultimately point to an unsettled and ill-tempered global order, shaped by one-man rule in a more militarized China with slowing economic growth, polarized politics in a heavily indebted America, bolder aggression from Russia and North Korea, and demands for greater influence from the still-developing giants of Indonesia and India.
In 2000, military spending in Asia and the Pacific accounted for 17.5% of worldwide defense expenditures, according to SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In 2021, it accounted for 27.7% (with North Korea excluded, making it an undercount), and since then, spending has shot up further.
China’s growth has been a major driver of that increase. It now spends about $300 billion a year on its military, according to SIPRI, up from $22 billion in 2000, adjusted for inflation — an expenditure second only to the $800 billion defense budget of the United States. And while U.S. military spending covers a global network, China has focused on Asia, rolling out hardware to project power and intimidate its neighbors.
China’s navy has already outstripped the U.S. Navy, reaching 360 battle force ships in 2020, compared with the U.S. total of 297, according to the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence. In 2021, China fired off 135 ballistic missiles for testing, more than the rest of the world combined outside war zones, according to the U.S. Defense Department.
Beijing’s nuclear arsenal is smaller than those of the United States and Russia, but here, too, the gap is starting to narrow. By 2030, the Defense Department has estimated, China’s supply of more than 400 nuclear warheads is likely to expand to 1,000. It already has more land-based launchers than the United States, leading some to call for the Pentagon not just to modernize its own technology but also to add to its nuclear stockpile of 3,708 available warheads.
Beyond raw capacity, Xi’s willingness to brandish the People’s Liberation Army on disputed borderlands has magnified anxieties, as has China’s new naval base in Cambodia and recent security agreement with the Solomon Islands.
Many countries have concluded that to restrain the Chinese Communist Party and gain leverage with the United States or other nations, they must show they can and will counterattack if needed.
In 2006, Japan and India started sharing security assessments over concerns about China’s efforts to expand airstrips and ports across South and East Asia, an effort that would later include building military bases on islands and reefs that other nations claim as their own.
Now that many kinds of missiles from China and North Korea can hit U.S. bases in nearby Japan and in Guam, every U.S. service branch has begun aiming for a dispersed approach in the Indo-Pacific — “the priority theater” for global security, according to the Defense Department, which has stationed 300,000 troops in the region.
To minimize risk and maximize deterrence, U.S. officials have been hunting for real estate. The Philippines, Japan, Australia, Palau, Papua New Guinea and U.S. territories across the Pacific are all working with Defense Department officials on expanding military access and facilities, often with the U.S. proposing investments in shared infrastructure.
U.S. officials acknowledge that tensions across the region are rising alongside military budgets. But they say they believe the glue of shared distress about China will hold.