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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Israel, USS Liberty, 911, AIPAC and the $3 billion US gives every year to Israel

'The USS Liberty': America's Most Shameful Secret

by Eric S. Margolis

NEW YORK – On the fourth day of the 1967 Arab Israeli War, the intelligence ship 'USS Liberty' was steaming slowly in international waters, 14 miles off the Sinai Peninsula. Israeli armored forces were racing deep into Sinai in hot pursuit of the retreating Egyptian army.

'Liberty,' a World War II freighter, had been converted into an intelligence vessel by the top-secret US National Security Agency, and packed with the latest signals and electronic interception equipment. The ship bristled with antennas and electronic 'ears' including TRSSCOMM, a system that delivered real-time intercepts to Washington by bouncing a stream of microwaves off the moon.

'Liberty' had been rushed to Sinai to monitor communications of the belligerents in the Third Arab Israeli War: Israel and her foes, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.

At 0800 hrs, 8 June, 1967, eight Israeli recon flights flew over 'Liberty,' which was flying a large American flag. At 1400 hrs, waves of low-flying Israeli Mystere and Mirage-III fighter-bombers repeatedly attacked the American vessel with rockets, napalm, and cannon. The air attacks lasted 20 minutes, concentrating on the ship's electronic antennas and dishes. The 'Liberty' was left afire, listing sharply. Eight of her crew lay dead, a hundred seriously wounded, including the captain, Commander William McGonagle.

At 1424 hrs, three Israeli torpedo boats attacked, raking the burning 'Liberty' with 20mm and 40mm shells. At 1431hrs an Israeli torpedo hit the 'Liberty' midship, precisely where the signals intelligence systems were located. Twenty-five more Americans died.

Israeli gunboats circled the wounded 'Liberty,' firing at crewmen trying to fight the fires. At 1515, the crew were ordered to abandon ship. The Israeli warships closed and poured machine gun fire into the crowded life rafts, sinking two. As American sailors were being massacred in cold blood, a rescue mission by US Sixth Fleet carrier aircraft was mysteriously aborted on orders from the White House.

An hour after the attack, Israeli warships and planes returned. Commander McGonagle gave the order. 'prepare to repel borders.' But the Israelis, probably fearful of intervention by the US Sixth Fleet, departed. 'Liberty' was left shattered but still defiant, her flag flying.

The Israeli attacks killed 34 US seamen and wounded 171 out of a crew of 297, the worst loss of American naval personnel from hostile action since World War II.

Less than an hour after the attack, Israel told Washington its forces had committed a 'tragic error.' Later, Israel claimed it had mistaken 'Liberty' for an ancient Egyptian horse transport. US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, and Joint Chiefs of Staff head, Admiral Thomas Moorer, insisted the Israeli attack was deliberate and designed to sink 'Liberty.' So did three CIA reports; one asserted Israel's Defense Minister, Gen. Moshe Dayan, had personally ordered the attack.

In contrast to American outrage over North Korea's assault on the intelligence ship 'Pueblo,' Iraq's mistaken missile strike on the USS 'Stark,' last fall's bombing of the USS 'Cole' in Aden, and the recent US-China air incident, the savaging of 'Liberty' was quickly hushed up by President Lyndon Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

The White House and Congress immediately accepted Israel's explanation and let the matter drop. Israel later paid a token reparation of US $6 million. There were reports two Israeli pilots who had refused to attack 'Liberty' were jailed for 18 years.

Surviving 'Liberty' crew members would not be silenced. They kept demanding an open inquiry and tried to tell their story of deliberate attack to the media. Israel's government worked behind the scenes to thwart these efforts, going so far as having American pro-Israel groups accuse 'Liberty's' survivors of being 'anti-Semites' and 'Israel-haters.' Major TV networks cancelled interviews with the crew. A book about the 'Liberty' by crewman James Ennes' was dropped from distribution. The Israel lobby branded him 'an Arab propagandist.'

The attack on 'Liberty' was fading into obscurity until last week, when intelligence expert James Bamford came out with Body of Secrets, his latest book about the National Security Agency. In a stunning revelation, Bamford writes that unknown to Israel, a US Navy EC-121 intelligence aircraft was flying high overhead the 'Liberty,' electronically recorded the attack. The US aircraft crew provides evidence that the Israeli pilots knew full well that they were attacking a US Navy ship flying the American flag.

Why did Israel try to sink a naval vessel of its benefactor and ally? Most likely because 'Liberty's' intercepts flatly contradicted Israel's claim, made at the war's beginning on 5 June, that Egypt had attacked Israel, and that Israel's massive air assault on three Arab nations was in retaliation. In fact, Israel began the war by a devastating, Pearl-Harbor style surprise attack that caught the Arabs in bed and destroyed their entire air forces.

Israel was also preparing to attack Syria to seize its strategic Golan Heights. Washington warned Israel not to invade Syria, which had remained inactive while Israel fought Egypt. Bamford says Israel's offensive against Syria was abruptly postponed when 'Liberty' appeared off Sinai, then launched once it was knocked out of action. Israel's claim that Syria had attacked it could have been disproved by 'Liberty.'

Most significant, 'Liberty's' intercepts may have shown that Israel seized upon sharply rising Arab-Israeli tensions in May-June 1967 to launch a long-planned war to invade and annex the West Bank, Jerusalem, Golan and Sinai.

Far more shocking was Washington's response. Writes Bamford: 'Despite the overwhelming evidence that Israel attacked the ship and killed American servicemen deliberately, the Johnson Administration and Congress covered up the entire incident.' Why?

Domestic politics. Johnson, a man never noted for high moral values, preferred to cover up the attack rather than anger a key constituency and major financial backer of the Democratic Party. Congress was even less eager to touch this 'third rail' issue.

Commander McGonagle was quietly awarded the Medal of Honor for his and his men's heroism – not in the White House, as is usual, but in an obscure ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard. Crew member's graves were inscribed, 'died in the Eastern Mediterranean..' as if they had be killed by disease, rather than hostile action.

A member of President Johnson's staff believed there was a more complex reason for the cover-up: Johnson offered Jewish liberals unconditional backing of Israel, and a cover-up of the 'Liberty' attack, in exchange for the liberal toning down their strident criticism of his policies in the then raging Vietnam War.

Israel, which claims it fought a war of self defense in 1967 and had no prior territorial ambitions, will be much displeased by Bamford's revelations. Those who believe Israel illegally occupies the West Bank and Golan will be emboldened.

Much more important, the US government's long, disgraceful cover-up of the premeditated attack on 'Liberty' has now burst into the open and demands full-scale investigation. After 34 years, the voices of 'Liberty's' dead and wounded seamen must finally be heard.

May 2, 2001

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2001

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/margolis12.html

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9/11: THE TRUTH COMES OUT
Israel's 9/11 connection exposed – and you read it here first!

In late November, the Washington Post ran a story that stopped me dead in my tracks: "60 Israelis on Tourist Visas Detained Since Sept. 11," but it was the subhead that really got my attention: "Government Calls Several Cases 'of Special Interest,' Meaning Related to Post-Attacks Investigation." In addition to the 1000-plus Middle Easterners of the Muslim persuasion swept up in Ashcroft's post-9/11 dragnet, it seems, some 60 Israelis were in custody. And these were no ordinary tourists: INS officials testified in immigration court hearings that this group was "of special interest to the government" – the same argument used to justify the detention of Arabs in connection with the investigation into 9/11. Shortly thereafter, in a column dated 11/28/01, I asked: "What, exactly, is the meaning of this?" Today, I am relieved to note, the rest of the media is finally catching up to Antiwar.com and asking the same question.

THE ISRAELI ANGLE

While my own answer has developed over at least half a dozen subsequent columns, the core of my thesis has remained essentially unchanged. As I put it:

"As long as 60 Israeli citizens are being held – under conditions of great secrecy – in connection with the 9/11 investigation, it is no longer tenable to dismiss the possibility of an Israeli angle in this story."

The Post story went on to describe the Israeli detainees as having served in special anti-terrorist and intelligence units. "Something tells me these guys are no ordinary tourists," I averred. While "we just don't know" because of the secrecy surrounding the government's actions, I thought that the whole point of the Ashcroft round-up was not only to sweep up potential suspects but to gather information that could lead them to Al Qaeda's underground network in the US. Therefore, I theorized,

"It could be that the Israelis, or at least some of them, fall into this category: while not being directly involved, maybe they know something. Nothing else could account for the government's 'special interest.'"

A TRAIL OF CLUES

The suggestion of an Israeli connection to the events surrounding 9/11 did not spring, full blown, like Athena from the head of Zeus. It had been hovering in the background, implied in odd accounts such as the one about the group of Israelis picked by the FBI after they were spotted in Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, laughing and giving each other high-fives as the World Trade Center burned on the other side of the river. In an astonishing story in the Bergen Record, we learn that 5 men described as "Israeli tourists," were picked up 8 hours after the WTC attack, "carrying maps linking them to the blasts." "...[S]ources close to the investigation said they found other evidence linking the men to the bombing plot. 'There are maps of the city in the car with certain places highlighted,' the source said. 'It looked like they're hooked in with this. It looked like they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park.'" According to this account, the 5 "tourists" had been picked up by local police after receiving the following alert from the FBI:

"Vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack. White, 2000 Chevrolet van with New Jersey registration with 'Urban Moving Systems' sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center. Three individuals with van were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion. FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for prints and detain individuals."

INSTANT MESSAGE

Then there was the story about the two employees of the Odigo Company, an Israeli-based "instant-messaging" software company, with New York offices in the vicinity of the WTC, who received messages in the hours before disaster struck that the World Trade Center would be hit. I was so skeptical of this report, published in Ha'aretz, an Israeli daily newspaper, that I wrote the author: he confirmed the contents of these mysterious missives and cited his sources. In this context, the Washington Post story fit into an eerie pattern: it was not the final but the definitive piece of the puzzle: the piece that, once found and put in place, evokes an exclamation of "so that's what it is!" I was alone, at the time, in raising the possibility of an Israeli angle to the story of 9/11 – but not for long.

CAMERON'S BOMBSHELL

On December 11, Fox News ran the first of a four-part series by Carl Cameron that offered yet more evidence to support my contention that the Israelis had some rather specific foreknowledge of the 9/11 atrocity. Citing sources in law enforcement, Cameron dropped a bombshell:

"A handful of active Israeli military were among those detained, according to investigators, who say some of the detainees also failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged surveillance activities against and in the United States. There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that they [sic] Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are – quote – 'tie-ins.' But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, – quote – 'evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It's classified information.' Fox News has learned that one group of Israelis, spotted in North Carolina recently, is suspected of keeping an apartment in California to spy on a group of Arabs who the United States is also investigating for links to terrorism."

The detained Israelis, reported Cameron, had been part of a vast spy operation that had very possibly been tracking the hijackers, and had both the means and the opportunity to discover the terrorist plot. Over four nights, he detailed extensive Israeli penetration of US defense and government facilities revealed in the documents of a secret task force within the government that has been collecting evidence on this case since the early 1990s.

ART FOR ART'S SAKE?

Posing as "art students" selling cheap handicrafts and paintings, as many as 120 young Israelis – the majority of whom "stated they served in military intelligence, electronic surveillance intercept and or explosive ordinance units" in the Israeli army – made contact with US government officials and personnel in "hundreds of incidents and towns across the country." Indeed, there had been so many news reports in local media, concentrated especially in Texas and Florida, detailing this activity that the National Counterintellligence Center (a dot-gov site) issued the following alert:

"In the past six weeks, employees in federal office buildings located throughout the United States have reported suspicious activities connected with individuals representing themselves as foreign students selling or delivering artwork. Employees have observed both males and females attempting to bypass facility security and enter federal buildings."

WANNA SEE MY ETCHINGS?

These "students," the NCC observed, who "have been described as aggressive," didn't seem too interested in selling anybody anything, and instead seemed intent on simply gaining access. Two were arrested (in Texas) and, lo and behold, it was discovered that their work visas and green cards were counterfeit. One particularly eerie aspect of all this is these "students" turning up at "the private residences of senior federal officials under the guise of selling art." On October 2, KHOU-TV of Houston, Texas, reported that, earlier in the year, these guys were caught sneaking into "federal buildings and defense sites," and, in Dallas,

"The so-called students hit early this year at the city's FBI building, the Drug Enforcement Administration and at the Earle Cabell Federal building, where guards found one student wandering the halls with a floor plan of the building."

THE MARRIAGE OF ART AND HI-TECH

The Fox News exposé also reported on the near-total penetration of US communications facilities by Israel, through two "private" Israeli telecommunications companies, Amdocs, Ltd., and Comverse Infosys, which, together, handle virtually all the billing records and government wiretaps in the US. Indeed, many of the "art students" not only had "intelligence expertise," but also worked for Amdocs "or other companies in Israel that specialize in wiretapping."

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

Cameron's report, which was immediately denied by the Israelis, spread pandemonium throughout the government, and official spokesmen stonewalled. Ari Fleischer was unusually laconic, referring questions from reporters to an unresponsive Justice Department and other equally uncooperative government agencies. As for the rest of the American media – a stunning silence. You could hear a pin drop. As Cameron put it in an interview with CSPAN:

"The biggest story of our time, of Israel spying on all branches of the government, on all our intelligence agencies – in the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], the DEA and the White House itself, is not picked up by the leading newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post."

BREAKTHROUGH

Ah, but the Post, at least, would eventually be forced to pick up the story, if only to serve as a conduit for official government denials. In the meantime, for months, the only place you could read about this story was on Antiwar.com, and specifically right here in this space: that is, here, and here, and here, and here – and also here, and here. Not to mention here. (And don't forget here.) Until, finally, the story was picked up overseas, by LeMonde, a major French newspaper, which based its story [go here for the French version] on a report published in the Online Intelligence newsletter. The editor of the newsletter, Guillaume Dasquié – co-author of Bin Laden: The Hidden Truth – was recently taken to task in this space for positing the 9/11 conspiracy as being part of a plot by Saudi Arabia, which, after all, "since the 18th century … has been focused on conquering the world." I am glad to see, however, that the direction of his investigation has now taken a radically different turn….

STUMBLING ON A RATTLESNAKE

This turn was helped along, it seems, by yet another "leak" from a US government agency, this time the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Dasquié had somehow gotten his hands on a classified 61-page report drafted by an interagency task force charged with summarizing information gleaned from the nearly 120 Israelis rounded up in the wake of 9/11. The DEA, it seems, took the lead in the investigation because its Office of Security Programs – responsible for internal security – first stumbled on "unusual behavior of young Israeli nationals who had gained access to DEA circles." As it turned out, nearly all these "art students" belonged to a particular school of art – that is, if espionage and spying in general can be considered an art, albeit a black one.

NAMING NAMES

What I like best about Online Intelligence is that it names names,

"A few of the operatives are well known in the Israeli intelligence community. The report cited the names of Peer Segalovitz (military registration number 5087989) and Aran Ofek, son of a renowned two-star general in the Israeli army. The network targeted some of the most sensitive sites in the U.S., such as Tanker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City. Indeed, the U.S. Air Force's Office of Special Investigation sent a letter to the Justice Department on May 16 of last year to ask for assistance in a case against four Israelis suspected of spying: Yaron Ohana, Ronen Kalfon, Zeev Cohen and Naor Topaz."

ISRAEL'S UNDERGROUND ARMY

According to the DEA, Israel's underground army in the US consisted of "around 20 units composed of between four and eight members each." More names are named: Michael Calmanovic headed up the team in Irving, Texas, while Florida was the domain of Hanan Serfaty. Legum Yochai had charge of the Miami operation. Online Intelligence also notes the Amdocs connection: it seems these "art students" "cultivated contacts with Israeli information technology companies based in the US and serving as regular suppliers to various U.S. federal agencies, such as Amdocs" and others. The Fox News series is cited, by Online Intelligence and Le Monde, and the former even provides a convenient map of the Texas chapter of the "art students" underground apparatus, complete with not only names, but arrival dates, corporate connections, when and where they were arrested, and their specific functions in the Israeli military-intelligence apparatus. How much more evidence do we need before the editorialists and the pundits start calling government officials on their lies – and Congress begins an investigation?

TRUTH WILL OUT

As I said in my first column on this subject, written before Fox News expanded on the story and introduced it to a wider public, "truth will out" in spite of government stonewalling and obsessive secrecy:

"In these days of the Internet, and the instant dissemination of information, the gatekeepers have to resort to quasi-legal means to keep the truth from coming out. But it will come out, sooner rather than later – in which case, the question, 'Haven't we had enough of Israel?' may be definitively answered."

This story was really too big to keep under wraps for long, which is why I kept flailing it week after week, certain that sooner or later it would find its way into the major media and have a decisive impact on the public debate over this war, and our relations with the rest of the world in general. It is a nice feeling to be vindicated, and, if you'll permit me to indulge myself for a moment, let me just remind my regular readers: you read it here first!

AN 'URBAN MYTH' – MY EYE!

As the embargo on the Israeli spy story began to break down, with reports from the British media filtering into the US and Canada, the Washington Post – the original source of the news that 60 Israelis had been detained – ran what is fated to become the prototypical denial coming from the US and Israeli governments:

"'This seems to be an urban myth that has been circulating for months,' said Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden. 'The department has no information at this time to substantiate these widespread reports about Israeli art students involved in espionage.'"

An "urban myth" – oh, that's rich! Confronted with the evidence, the denialists equate documented reports from reputable news sources with stories of alligators in the New York City sewer system. Faced with a leaked government document that reveals names, places, and military identification numbers, government spokesmen resort to characterizing the (so far unknown) leaker as a "disgruntled" DEA employee who single-handedly wrote the memo. We don't know what person or persons authored the DEA task force report on Israeli spook activity in the US prior to 9/11, but, in any case, what loyal American wouldn't be disgruntled at this administration's increasingly unsuccessful effort to bury this deeper than the lowest rung of Hell?

SOPHISTRY, WASHINGTON-STYLE

As the new revelations were met with a barrage of denials in Washington and Israeli consulates around the country, Dasquié stuck by his story. The FBI was engaging in sophistry, he said, when it denied that the "art students" had been arrested for carrying out espionage on behalf of a foreign power in the US: all were expelled, the FBI piously averred, for routine visa violations. But that is precisely how a cover-up of spying by a "friendly" government would be accomplished, Dasquié points out: especially by the Israel-friendly Bush administration, which is doing everything it can to tamp down the growing scandal. Haul them into immigration court, get them out of the country quick – and no one's the wiser. Except, for once, they are….

IF I LISTEN LONG ENOUGH TO YOU

Ms. Dryden's smug arrogance in dismissing serious charges as "urban myth" may have backfired. Denigrating your opponent when he has the goods on you is not a smart strategy. As long as US and Israeli officials continue to lie straight-faced, while gullible journalists look to find a reason to believe government lies, Intelligence Online is threatening to publish the leaked DEA report in its entirety:

"'It seems irresponsible for us to publish it, but if the denials go on, we could put the report on our Internet site and in so doing possibly blacken the names of the people most exposed,' the editor of the Intelligence Online site, Guillaume Dasquié, said. … 'The document we have in our possession details not only the identities of the members of this network, but also their activities in the Israeli army, and even their serial numbers in the intelligence services, their passport numbers and their validity, and their visas and their validity."

Au contraire, messieurs Dasquié, et al, it would be irresponsible to refrain from publishing it. Don't we have a right to know the full context of the biggest terrorist attack in American history – an attack that signaled the start of a rapidly expanding war? As for "blackening the names of the people most exposed" – isn't that what we mean by justice?

FUN, FUN, FUN!

But of course the responsibility for all this goes much higher than the son of an Israeli general and a few high-ranking intelligence officers – including responsibility for the ongoing cover-up. That is why we are seeing both the US and Israeli governments going into full "spin" mode, the signal that a real panic is going on behind the scenes. This should provide us with plenty of entertainment for the next few weeks, and I see by this item in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the fun has already started….

KNOCK, KNOCK – WHO'S THERE?

Reiterating the basic facts of the story – Israeli spies penetrating government facilities posing as "art students" – the Sun-Sentinel reports that, in South Florida, these suspicious characters were employed by an outfit known as "Universal Art," with addresses in South Miami and Southrise:

"On Wednesday, there was no sign of a company called Universal Art Inc., at 10873 NW 52nd St. in Sunrise. The address in Florida incorporation documents came back to a light industrial complex next to the Sawgrass Expressway and south of Commercial Boulevard. No one answered the door, and several occupants had not heard of the company. The company's officers, Yitzchak Shish and Chava Sagi, are not listed. They were not among those who were deported…."

Nobody answered the door, eh? Well, then we ought to be knocking a little harder. And if no one answers, then why not break down the door and see who or what is inside? After all, the authorities haven't hesitated to do this in the case of Arab-Americans and other non-Israeli Middle Eastern visitors and immigrants. Why the reluctance in this case?

DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH

As the hijackers were training for their deadly mission in South Florida, the resident Israeli cell, all of whom lived nearby, could have easily kept a close watch on their activities. If anyone ever catches up with Yitzchak Shish and Chava Sagi, perhaps we will learn more about what the Israelis knew about the events surrounding 9/11, and when they knew it. But if we're depending on the FBI and our own intelligence services to find these two, and make their story public, then I'm afraid we are in for a long wait indeed.

http://www.antiwar.com/justin/j030802.html

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Israel receives some $3 billion every year from the U.S.

By Christopher Bollyn

While it is commonly reported that Israel officially receives some $3 billion every year in the form of economic aid from the U.S. government, this figure is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many billions of dollars more in hidden costs and economic losses lurking beneath the surface. A recently published economic analysis has concluded that U.S. support for the state of Israel has cost American taxpayers nearly $3 trillion ($3 million millions) in 2002 dollars.

“The Costs to American Taxpayers of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: $3 Trillion” is a summary of economic research done by Thomas R. Stauffer. Stauffer’s summary of the research was published in the June 2003 issue of The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Stauffer is a Washington, D.C.-based engineer and economist who writes and teaches about the economics of energy and the Middle East. Stauffer has taught at Harvard University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Stauffer’s findings were first presented at an October 2002 conference sponsored by the U.S. Army College and the University of Maine.

Stauffer’s analysis is “an estimate of the total cost to the U.S. alone of instability and conflict in the region – which emanates from the core Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“Total identifiable costs come to almost $3 trillion,” Stauffer says. “About 60 percent, well over half, of those costs – about $1.7 trillion – arose from the U.S. defense of Israel, where most of that amount has been incurred since 1973.”

“Support for Israel comes to $1.8 trillion, including special trade advantages, preferential contracts, or aid buried in other accounts. In addition to the financial outlay, U.S. aid to Israel costs some 275,000 American jobs each year.” The trade-aid imbalance alone with Israel of between $6-10 billion costs about 125,000 American jobs every year, Stauffer says.

The largest single element in the costs has been the series of oil-supply crises that have accompanied the Israeli-Arab wars and the construction of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. “To date these have cost the U.S. $1.5 trillion (2002 dollars), excluding the additional costs incurred since 2001,” Stauffer wrote.

The cost of supporting Israel increased drastically after the 1973 Israeli-Arab war. U.S. support for Israel during that war resulted in additional costs for the American taxpayer of between $750 billion and $1 trillion, Stauffer says.

When Israel was losing the war, President Richard Nixon stepped in to supply the Jewish state with U.S. weapons. Nixon’s intervention triggered the Arab oil embargo which Stauffer estimates cost the U.S. as much as $600 billion in lost GDP and another $450 in higher oil import costs.

“The 1973 oil crisis, all in all, cost the U.S. economy no less than $900 billion, and probably as much as $1,200 billion,” he says.

As a result of the oil embargo the United States created the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to “insulate Israel and the U.S. against the wielding of a future Arab ‘oil weapon.’” The billion-barrel SPR has cost U.S. taxpayers $134 billion to date. According to an Oil Supply Guarantee, which former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger provided Israel in 1975, Israel gets “first call” on any oil available to the U.S. if Israel’s oil supply is stopped.

Stauffer’s $3 trillion figure is conservative as it does not include the increased costs incurred during the year-long buildup to the recent war against Iraq in which Israel played a significant, albeit covert, role. The higher oil prices that occurred as a result of the Anglo-American campaign against Iraq were absorbed by the consumers. The increase in oil prices provided a huge bonus for the leading oil companies such as British Petroleum and Shell, who are major oil producers as well as retailers. The major international oil companies recorded record profits for the first quarter of 2003.

The Washington Report seeks to “provide the American public with balanced and accurate information concerning U.S. relations with Middle Eastern states.” The monthly journal is known for keeping close tabs on the amount of U.S. taxpayer money that goes to Israel and how much pro-Israel money flows back to Members of Congress in the form of campaign aid.

The journal’s website, www.wrmea.com, has an up-to-date counter at the top that indicates how much official aid flows to Israel. While the counter currently stands at $88.2 billion, it only reflects the minimum, as it does not include the many hidden costs.

“The distinction is important, because the indirect or consequential losses suffered by the U.S. as a result of its blind support for Israel exceed by many times the substantial amount of direct aid to Israel,” Shirl McArthur wrote in the May 2003 issue of Washington Report.

McArthur’s article, “A Conservative Tally of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: $97.5 Billion – and Counting” tallies the hidden costs, such as interest lost due to the early disbursement of aid to Israel and funds hidden in other accounts. For example, Israel received $5.45 billion in Defense Department funding of Israeli weapons projects through 2002, McArthur says.

Loans made to Israel by the U.S. government, like the recently awarded $9 billion, invariably wind up being paid by the American taxpayer. A recent Congressional Research Service report indicates that Israel has received $42 billion in waived loans. “Therefore, it is reasonable to consider all government loans to Israel the same as grants,” McArthur says.

Support for Israel has cost America dearly – well over than $10,000 per American – however the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been extremely costly for the entire world. According to Stauffer, the total bill for supporting Israel is two to four times higher than that for the U.S. alone – costing the global community an estimated $6 to $12 trillion.

http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/article.asp?ID=831

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AIPAC's Overt and Covert Ops
by Juan Cole August 30, 2004


CBS is reporting that a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst detailed to Undersecretary of Defense for Planning Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans is under FBI investigation for spying for Israel. The person passed to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) confidential documents, including those detailing Bush administration policy toward Iran, and AIPAC then passed them to Israel. There are wiretaps and photographs backing up the FBI case (the FBI agents involved are extremely brave to take this on).

But this espionage case is too narrow. Consider what journalist Jim Lobe wrote about Feith's Office of Special Plans (OSP) and the Pentagon Near East and South Asia (NESA) office:

"[K]ey personnel who worked in both NESA and OSP were part of a broader network of neoconservative ideologues and activists who worked with other Bush political appointees scattered around the national-security bureaucracy to move the country to war, according to retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who was assigned to NESA from May 2002 through February 2003. The heads of NESA and OSP were Deputy Undersecretary William Luti and Abram Shulsky, respectively. Other appointees who worked with them in both offices included Michael Rubin, a Middle East specialist previously with the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI); David Schenker, previously with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP); and Michael Makovsky; an expert on neocon icon Winston Churchill and the younger brother of David Makovsky, a senior WINEP fellow and former executive editor of pro-Likud Jerusalem Post. Along with Feith, all of the political appointees have in common a close identification with the views of the right-wing Likud Party in Israel."

Karen Kwiatkowski was an eyewitness in NESA, and Lobe reports:

"[S]he recounts one incident in which she helped escort a group of half a dozen Israelis, including several generals, from the first floor reception area to Feith's office. 'We just followed them, because they knew exactly where they were going and moving fast.' When the group arrived, she noted the book which all visitors are required to sign under special regulations that took effect after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. 'I asked his secretary, "Do you want these guys to sign in?" She said, "No, these guys don't have to sign in."' It occurred to her, she said, that the office may have deliberately not wanted to maintain a record of the meeting."

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a lobbying group that used to support whatever government was in power in Israel, and used to give money evenhandedly inside the U.S. My perception is that during the past decade AIPAC has increasingly tilted to the Likud in Israel, and to the political Right in the United States. In the 1980s, AIPAC set up the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a pro-Israeli alternative to the Brookings Institution, which it perceived to be insufficiently supportive of Israel. WINEP has largely followed AIPAC into pro-Likud positions, even though its director, Dennis Ross, is more moderate. He is a figurehead, however, serving to disguise the far right character of most of the position papers produced by long-term WINEP staff and by extremist visitors and "associates" (Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer are among the latter).

WINEP, being a wing of AIPAC, is enormously influential in Washington. State Department and military personnel are actually detailed there to "learn" about "the Middle East"! They would get a far more balanced "education" about the region in any Israeli university, since most Israeli academics are professionals, whereas WINEP is a "think tank" that hires by ideology.

I did some consulting with one U.S. company that had a government contract, and they asked me about WINEP position papers (many of them are just propaganda). When I said I would take them with a grain of salt, the guy said his company had "received direction" to pay a lot of attention to the WINEP material! So discipline is being imposed even on the private sector.

Note that over 80% of American Jews vote Democrat, that the majority of American Jews opposed the Iraq war (more were against it than in the general population), and that American Jews have been enormously important in securing civil liberties for all Americans. Moreover, Israel has been a faithful ally of the U.S. and deserves our support in ensuring its security. The Likudniks like to pretend that they represent American Jewry, but they do not. And they like to suggest that objecting to their policies is tantamount to anti-Semitism, which is sort of like suggesting that if you don't like Chile's former dictator Pinochet, you are bigoted against Latinos.

As can be seen by Lobe's list, WINEP supplies right-wing intellectuals to Republican administrations, who employ their positions to support Likud policies from within the U.S. government. They have the advantage over longtime civil servants in units like the State Department's Intelligence and Research division, insofar as they are politically connected and so have the ear of the top officials.

So, passing a few confidential documents over is a minor affair. Pro-Likud intellectuals established networks linking Defense and the national security advisers of Vice President Dick Cheney, gaining enormous influence over policy by cherry-picking and distorting intelligence to make a case for war on Saddam Hussein. And their ulterior motive was to remove the most powerful Arab military from the scene, not because it was an active threat to Israel (it wasn't) but because it was a possible deterrent to Likud plans for aggressive expansion (at the least, they want half of the West Bank, permanently).

It should be admitted that the American Likud could not make U.S. policy on its own. Its members had to make convincing arguments to Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush himself. But they were able to make those arguments, by distorting intelligence, channeling Ahmed Chalabi junk, and presenting Big Ideas to men above them that signally lacked such ideas. (Like the idea that the road to peace in Jerusalem ran through Baghdad. Ha!)

It was these WINEP and AIPAC-linked U.S. Likud backers in the Defense Department who had the Iraqi army dissolved as soon as Saddam was overthrown. This step threw Iraq into chaos and led to the deaths of nearly a thousand U.S. servicemen so far, since an Iraq without an army would inevitably depend on the U.S. military. But with the Iraqi army gone, and with Egypt and Jordan neutralized, Syria was left the only country anywhere near Israel that could make active trouble for Sharon if he completely screwed over the Palestinians. And Syria was now weak and isolated. So Sharon has had a free hand in his expansionist aggression. And, because the U.S. public has been preoccupied with Iraq, the Likud could pursue its annexation of West Bank land and its expropriation of even more Palestinians without anyone over here even noticing. It is the best of all possible worlds for the heirs of Ze'ev Jabotinsky.

The Likud policies of reversing Oslo and stealing people's land and making their lives hell has produced enormous amounts of terrorism against Israel, and the Likudniks have cleverly turned that to their political advantage. Aggression and annexation is necessary, they argue, because there is terrorism. Some of them now openly speak of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians, using the same argument. But when the Oslo peace process looked like it would go somewhere, terrorism tapered off (it did not end, but then peace had not been achieved).

The drawback for the U.S. in all this is that U.S. government backing for Sharon's odious policies makes it hated in the Muslim world. (Note that Muslims who oppose Israeli aggression are often tagged as "terrorists" by the U.S. government, but right-wing Jews who go to Palestine to colonize it, walking around with Uzi machine guns and sometimes shooting down civilians, are not "terrorists.") This lack of balance is one big reason that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri hit the U.S. on Sept. 11. In fact, bin Laden wanted to move up the operation to punish the U.S. for supporting Sharon's crackdown on the second Intifada.

Likud apologists have carefully planted the false story that al-Qaeda did not care about Palestine, but that is absurd. Bin Laden always complained about the occupation of the three holy cities (Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, the first two because of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and the third under Israeli occupation). When bin Laden came back from Afghanistan to Jidda in 1989, his first sermon at the local mosque was about the Israeli repression of Palestinians during the first Intifada.

Now the U.S.' occupation of Iraq is making it even more hated in the Muslim world. It is a policy hatched in part by AIPAC, WINEP, and their associated "thinkers." The cynical might suggest that they actively want the U.S. involved in a violent struggle with Muslims, to make sure that the U.S. remains anti-Palestinian and so will permit Israeli expansion.

All this can happen because there is a vacuum in U.S. political discourse. A handful of special interests in the United States virtually dictate congressional policy on some issues. With regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a few allies have succeeded in imposing complete censorship on both houses of Congress. No senator or representative dares make a speech on the floor of his or her institution critical of Israeli policy, even though the Israeli government often violates international law and UN Security Council resolutions (it would violate more such resolutions, except that the resolutions never got passed because only one NSC member, the U.S., routinely vetoes them on behalf of Tel Aviv.) As the Labor Party in Israel has been eclipsed by the Likud coalition, which includes many proto-fascist groups, this subservience has yoked Washington to foreign politicians who privately favor ethnic cleansing and/or aggressive warfare for the purpose of annexing the territory of neighbors.

On the rare occasion when a brave member of Congress dares stand up to this unrelenting AIPAC tyranny, that person is targeted for unelection in the next congressional campaign, with big money directed by AIPAC and/or its analogues into the coffers of the senator's or congressman's opponent. Over and over again, AIPAC has shaped the U.S. Congress in this way, so successfully that no one even dares speak out any more.

AIPAC is not all that rich or powerful, but politics in the U.S. is often evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Because many races are very close, any little extra support can help change the outcome. AIPAC can provide that little bit. Moreover, most Americans couldn't care less about the Middle East or its intractable problems, whereas the staffers at AIPAC are fanatics. If some congressman from southern Indiana knows he can pick up even a few thousand dollars and some good will from AIPAC, he may as well, since his constituents don't care anyway. That there is no countervailing force to AIPAC allows it to be effective. (That is one reason that pro-Likud American activists often express concern about the rise of the Muslim-American community and the possibility that it may develop an effective lobby.) Moreover, AIPAC leverages its power by an alliance with the Christian Right, which has adopted a bizarre ideology of "Christian Zionism." It holds that the sooner the Palestinians are ethnically cleansed, the sooner Christ will come back. Without millions of these Christian Zionist allies, AIPAC would be much less influential and effective.

The Founding Fathers of the United States deeply feared that a foreign government might gain this level of control over a branch of the United States government, and their fears have been vindicated.

The situation has reached comedic proportions. Congress is always drafting letters to the president, based on AIPAC templates, demanding that lopsided U.S. policy in favor of Israel be revised to be even more in favor of Israel. U.S. policy recently changed to endorse the expansion of Israeli colonies in Palestinian, West Bank territory.

Where Israel is in the right, this situation obviously is innocuous. The United States should protect Israel from aggressive attack, if necessary. United Nations members are pledged to collective security, i.e., to protecting any member nation from aggression at the hands of another. But given that Israel is a nuclear power with a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction; given that Egypt and Jordan have long-lived peace treaties with Israel; and given that Syria and Lebanon are small, weak powers, there is not in fact any serious military threat to Israel in its immediate neighborhood. In contrast, Israel launched wars against neighbors in 1956, 1967, and 1982 (all of which it won so easily as to bring into question the necessity for the wars in the first place if they were defensive), and has since 1967 been assiduously colonizing Palestinian land that it militarily occupied – all the while attempting to avoid becoming responsible for the Palestinian populations on that land. This latter policy has poisoned the entire world.

AIPAC currently has a project to shut up academics such as myself, the same way it has shut up Congress, through congressional legislation mandating "balance" (i.e., pro-Likud stances) in Middle East programs at American universities. How long the U.S. public will allow itself to be spied on and pushed around like this is a big question. And, with the rise of international terrorism targeting the U.S. in part over these issues, the fate of the country hangs in the balance.

If al-Qaeda succeeds in another big attack, it could well tip the country over into military rule, as Gen. Tommy Franks has suggested. That is, the fate of the Republic is in danger. And the danger comes from two directions, not just one. It comes from radical extremists in the Muslim world, who must be fought. But it also comes from radical extremists in Israel, who have key allies in the U.S. and whom the U.S. government actively supports and against whom influential Americans are afraid to speak out.

If I had been in power on Sept. 11, I'd have called up Sharon and told him he was just going to have to withdraw to 1967 borders, or face the full fury of the United States. Israel would be much better off inside those borders, anyway. It can't absorb 3 million Palestinians and retain its character, and it can't continue to hold 3 million Palestinians as stateless hostages without making itself inhumane and therefore un-Jewish. And then I'd have thrown everything the U.S. had at al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and frog-marched Bin Laden off to justice, and rebuilt Afghanistan to ensure that al-Qaeda was permanently denied a base there. Iraq, well, Iraq was contained.

Fomenting a War on Iran

Here is my take on the Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal in the Pentagon.

It is an echo of the one-two punch secretly planned by the pro-Likud faction in the Department of Defense. First, the United States would take out Iraq, and then Iran. David Wurmser, a key member of the group, also wanted Syria included. These pro-Likud intellectuals concluded that 9/11 would give them carte blanche to use the Pentagon as Israel's Gurkha regiment, fighting elective wars on behalf of Tel Aviv (not wars that really needed to be fought, but wars that the Likud coalition thought it would be nice to see fought so as to increase Israel's ability to annex land and act aggressively, especially if someone else's boys did the dying).

Franklin is a reserve Air Force colonel and former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst. He was an attaché at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv at one point, which some might now see as suspicious. After the Cold War ended, Franklin became concerned with Iran as a threat to Israel and the U.S., and learned a little Persian (not very much – I met him once at a conference and he could only manage a few halting phrases of Persian). Franklin has a strong Brooklyn accent and says he is "from the projects." I was told by someone at the Pentagon that he is not Jewish, despite his strong association with the predominantly Jewish neoconservatives. I know that he is very close to Paul Wolfowitz. He seems a canny man and a political operator, and if he gave documents to AIPAC it was not an act of simple stupidity, as some observers have suggested. It was part of some clever scheme that became too clever by half.

Franklin moved over to the Pentagon from DIA, where he became the Iran expert, working for Bill Luti and Undersecretary of Defense for Planning, Douglas Feith. He was the "go-to" person on Iran for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and for Feith. This situation is pretty tragic, since Franklin is not a real Iranist. His main brief appears to have been to find ways to push a policy of overthrowing its government (apparently once Iraq had been taken care of). This project has been pushed by the shadowy eminence grise Michael Ledeen for many years, and Franklin coordinated with Ledeen in some way. Franklin was also close to Harold Rhode, a longtime Middle East specialist in the Defense Department who has cultivated far right pro-Likud cronies for many years, more or less establishing a cell within the Department of Defense.

The UPI via Dawn reports that "another under-investigation official, Mr. Rhode, 'practically lived out of [Ahmed] Chalabi's office.' Intelligence sources said that CIA operatives observed Mr. Rhode as being constantly on his cell phone to Israel, discussing U.S. plans, military deployments, political projects and a discussion of Iraq assets."

Josh Marshall, Laura Rozen and Paul Glastris have just published a piece in the Washington Monthly that details Franklin's meetings with corrupt Iranian arms dealer and con man Manucher Ghorbanifar, who had in the 1980s played a key role in the Iran-contra scandal. (For more on the interviews with Ghorbanifar, see Laura Rozen's weblog). It is absolutely key that the meetings were attended also by Rhode, Ledeen and the head of Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI, Nicolo Pollari, as well as Rome's Minister of Defense, Antonio Martino.

The right-wing government of corrupt billionaire Silvio Berlusconi, including Martino, was a big supporter of an Iraq war. Moreover, we know that the forged documents falsely purporting to show Iraqi uranium purchases from Niger originated with a former SISMI agent. Watch the reporting of Josh Marshall for more on this SISMI/Ledeen/Rhode connection.

But journalist Matthew Yglesias has already tipped us to a key piece of information. The Niger forgeries also try to implicate Iran. Indeed, the idea of a joint Iraq/Iran nuclear plot was so far-fetched that it is what initially made the Intelligence and Research division of the U.S. State Department suspicious of the forgeries, even before the discrepancies of dates and officials in Niger were noticed. Yglesias quotes from the Senate report on the alleged Iraqi attempt to buy uranium from Niger:

"The INR [that's State Department intelligence] nuclear analyst told the Committee staff that the thing that stood out immediately about the [forged] documents was that a companion document – a document included with the Niger documents that did not relate to uranium – mentioned some type of military campaign against major world powers. The members of the alleged military campaign included both Iraq and Iran and was, according to the documents, being orchestrated through the Nigerien [note: that's not the same as Nigerian] Embassy in Rome, which all struck the analyst as 'completely implausible.' Because the stamp on this document matched the stamp on the uranium document [the stamp was supposed to establish the documents bona fides], the analyst thought that all of the documents were likely suspect. The analyst was unaware at the time of any formatting problems with the documents or inconsistencies with the names or dates."

Journalist Eric Margolis notes of SISMI:

"SISMI has long been notorious for far right, even neo-fascist, leanings. According to Italian judicial investigators, SISMI was deeply involved in numerous plots against Italy’s democratic government, including the 1980 Bologna train station terrorist bombing that left 85 dead and 200 injured. Senior SISMI officers were in cahoots with celebrated swindler Roberto Calvi, the neo-fascist P2 Masonic Lodge, other extreme rightist groups trying to destabilize Italy, the Washington neocon operative, Michael Ledeen, and the Iran-Contra conspirators. SISMI works hand in glove with U.S., British and Israeli intelligence. In the 1960s and 70s, SISMI reportedly carried out numerous operations for CIA, including bugging the Vatican, the Italian president’s palace, and foreign embassies. Italy’s civilian intelligence service, SISDE, associated with Italy’s political center-left, has long been a bitter rival of SISMI. After CIA rejected the Niger file, it was eagerly snapped up by VP Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, Lewis Libby, who were urgently seeking any reason, no matter how specious, to invade Iraq. Cheney passed the phony data to Bush, who used it in his January 2003 address to the nation in spite of warnings from CIA. . . ."

So Franklin, Ledeen, and Rhode, all of them pro-Likud operatives, just happen to be meeting with SISMI (the proto-fascist purveyor of the false Niger uranium story about Iraq and the alleged Iran-Iraq plot against the rest of the world) and corrupt Iranian businessman and would-be revolutionary Ghorbanifar in Europe. The most reasonable conclusion is that they were conspiring together about the Next Campaign after Iraq, which they had already begun setting in train, which is to get Iran.

But now The Jerusalem Post reveals that at least one of the meetings was quite specific with regard to an attempt to torpedo better US/Iran relations:

"The purpose of the meeting with Ghorbanifar was to undermine a pending deal that the White House had been negotiating with the Iranian government. At the time, Iran had considered turning over five al-Qaeda operatives in exchange for Washington dropping its support for Mujahadeen Khalq, an Iraq-based rebel Iranian group listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department."

The neoconservatives have some sort of shadowy relationship with the Mujahadeen-e Khalq Organization, or MEK. Presumably its leaders have secretly promised to recognize Israel if they ever succeed in overthrowing the ayatollahs in Iran. When the U.S. recently categorized the MEK as a terrorist organization, there were howls of outrage from "scholars" associated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, such as ex-Trotskyite Patrick Clawson and Daniel Pipes. MEK is a terrorist organization by any definition of the term, having blown up innocent people in the course of its struggle against the Khomeini government. (MEK is a cult-like mixture of Marx and Islam). The MEK had allied with Saddam, who gave them bases in Iraq from which to hit Iran. When the U.S. overthrew Saddam, it raised the question of what to do with the MEK. The pro-Likud faction in the Pentagon wanted to go on developing their relationship with the MEK and using it against Tehran.

So it transpires that the Iranians were willing to give up 5 key al-Qaeda operatives, whom they had captured, in return for MEK members.

Franklin, Rhode and Ledeen conspired with Ghorbanifar and SISMI to stop that trade. It would have led to better U.S.-Iran relations, which they wanted to forestall, and it would have damaged their protégés, the MEK.

Since high al-Qaeda operatives like Saif al-Adil and possibly even Saad bin Laden might know about future operations, or the whereabouts of bin Laden, for Franklin and Rhode to stop the trade grossly endangered the United States.

The FBI has evidence that Franklin passed a draft presidential directive on Iran to AIPAC, which then passed it to the Israelis. The FBI is construing these actions as espionage or something close to it. But that is like getting Al Capone on tax evasion. Franklin was not giving the directive to AIPAC in order to provide them with information. He was almost certainly seeking feedback from them on elements of it. He was asking, "Do you like this? Should it be changed in any way?" And, he might also have been prepping AIPAC for the lobbying campaign scheduled for early in 2005, when Congress will have to be convinced to authorize military action, or at least covert special operations, against Iran. AIPAC probably passed the directive over to Israel for the same reason – not to inform, but to seek input. That is, AIPAC and Israel were helping write U.S. policy toward Iran, just as they had played a key role in fomenting the Iraq war.

With both Iraq and Iran in flames, the Likud Party could do as it pleased in the Middle East without fear of reprisal. This means it could expel the Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan, and perhaps just give Gaza back to Egypt to keep Cairo quiet. Annexing southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, the waters of which Israel has long coveted, could also be undertaken with no consequences, they probably think, once Hizbullah in Lebanon could no longer count on Iranian support. The closed character of the economies of Iraq and Iran, moreover, would end, allowing American, Italian and British companies to make a killing after the wars (so they thought).

Franklin's movements reveal the contours of a right-wing conspiracy of warmongering and aggression, an orgy of destruction, for the benefit of the Likud Party, of Silvio Berlusconi's business in the Middle East, and of the neoconservative Right in the United States. It isn't about spying. It is about conspiring to conscript the U.S. government on behalf of a foreign power or powers.

http://www.antiwar.com/cole/?articleid=3467

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