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March 17, 2010

Officers reprimanded for crashing British nuclear sub

Officers reprimanded for crashing British nuclear sub

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

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A British Royal Navy commander was reprimanded on Monday by a court martial, after pleading guilty to “failing to ensure the safe direction” of the submarine HMS Superb. Commander Steven Drysdale was in charge of the nuclear-powered submarine in May 2008, when it struck a rock pinnacle 132 metres below the surface. A navigation chart showed the pinnacle, but Drysdale said that he had misread its depth as 732 metres.

Officer of the Watch Lieutenant-Commander Andrew Cutler and Navigating Officer Lieutenant Lee Blair were also reprimanded for their part in the incident by the court martial, held at the HMS Nelson centre at Portsmouth naval base.

Cquote1.svg The three defendants all looked at the chart and the sub was taken to 250m. No thorough check was made to establish whether this depth was safe from obstacles. Cquote2.svg

—Captain Stuart Crozier, prosecuting

The £32 million submarine was in the Red Sea, heading for the Persian Gulf, and was suffering from technical problems at the time which were slowing it down. The officers decided to dive from 100m to 250m, which would allow them to travel faster and reach their destination on time.

According to prosecutor Captain Stuart Crozier: “The three defendants all looked at the chart and the sub was taken to 250m. No thorough check was made to establish whether this depth was safe from obstacles.”

Lieutenant-Commander Cutler then realised that a change to the route could shorten it. “On assessing the chart, Officer of the Watch Cutler saw he could cut the corner of a dog-leg, saving about three to four miles,” said Crozier. “He then instructed the plot officer to draw a new line on the chart. However Lieutenant-Commander Cutler did not check the depth around this new track.”

“Unfortunately, with the sub now dived to 250m, this new track went directly over a pinnacle which showed only 132m of available depth.”

The new route was plotted directly over the pinnacle on the chart, and the court martial was told that this made it harder to spot the error. None of the officers, including Commander Drysdale, realised that they had put the vessel on a collision course.

HMS Superb struck the pinnacle at 10.01 on May 26, suffering damage to its bow and sonar equipment. There were no casualties, but the submarine was forced to abandon its mission and return to the United Kingdom. It was decommissioned in September 2008, though the Ministry of Defence said that this was not due to the accident.

Commander Alison Towler, representing Drysdale, said that he accepted full responsibility and had “deep remorse and regret” over the incident. “He believes that due to the surrounding information he simply misread 132m as 732m” she said. “It was only later that he realised the plot officer had drawn the sub’s new transit straight through the pinnacle, which made it even harder for it to be seen.”

Navigating Officer Blair also pleaded guilty to failing to take into account all the dangers in or near the planned movements, and Officer of the Watch Cutler pleaded guilty to failing to supervise the plot officer adequately. All three officers will continue to serve in the Navy, but Drysdale has been moved to a desk job and will not be taking up the position in Washington DC he had planned to.

Captain Philip Warwick, president of the court martial board, told the three: “It was indeed fortunate that no one was hurt and we note that the submarine could not complete its deployment in full. The failings were unacceptable and we take an extremely dim view of them.”

The Royal Navy has since brought in new procedures on submarines to prevent a repeat of the incident, requiring that all depths are rechecked when plotting a new route.



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December 3, 2009

Iran releases five detained Britons

Iran releases five detained Britons – Wikinews, the free news source

Iran releases five detained Britons

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

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Iranian authorities have released five British yachtsmen who were detained last week in the Persian Gulf. A statement from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said that, after investigation, it reached the conclusion that their illegal entry was a mistake.

Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed the release, and said the yachtsmen are being towed to international waters, and were expected to head to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Iranian naval forces detained the Britons on the 25th of November as they sailed from Bahrain to Dubai for a race. The chair of Sail Bahrain, Andrew Pindar, which owns the yacht, said the vessel “may have strayed inadvertently” into Iranian waters due to a problem with its propeller.

State radio quoted a statement by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as saying that “after getting necessary guarantees, Iran released the five. We reached the conclusion that they entered Iran’s territorial waters by mistake.”

The news comes hours after British Foreign Secretary David Miliband spoke to his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki by phone and pressed him for clear information on the incident. Miliband denied the sailors had any malicious intent. He said the incident has “nothing to do” with politics or Iran’s nuclear program.



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July 9, 2008

Iran conducts nine missile tests

Iran conducts nine missile tests – Wikinews, the free news source

Iran conducts nine missile tests

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

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The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard has conducted a missile test exercise, in which nine missiles of three different types were launched simultaneously. The exercise, known as Great Prophet III was conducted early this morning from an undisclosed location near to the Strait of Hormuz. One of the missiles launched was an upgraded version of the Shahab-3, capable of reaching Eastern European countries like Bulgaria and Greece as well and Middle Eastern countries such as Israel, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. Eight shorter range Zelzal and Fateh missiles were also launched.

Estimated range of the Shahab-3 missile.

The Iranians have been under international pressure to withraw from their plans of achieving nuclear proficiency, but have rejected putting a hold on their programme and have also been moving forward with their rocketry programme.

The test is believed to have been a reaction to Israeli and American military exercises, which the Iranian government believed to be training for an attack on facilities related to the Iranian nuclear development programme. In addition to these tests, Iran’s first indigenous satellite launch attempt, which will place the Omid spacecraft into low Earth orbit, is expected immanently. A successful satellite launch would demonstrate that Iran’s missiles have global reach.

The tests have been widely criticised by the international community. The British government stated that it “underlines the need for Iran to comply with its international obligations on the nuclear issue”, and that the test was “unwelcome”. The French ministry of defence suggested that “these missile tests can only reinforce the concerns of the international community”, and the German government described the exercise as “regrettable”. Israeli housing minister Ze’ev Boim told the Israeli parliament that Israel should “prepare itself to do what is needed to do”, implying the need for a military resolution.

Cquote1.svg These missile tests can only reinforce the concerns of the international community. Cquote2.svg

—French Ministry of Defence

The United States government claims that the test was “evidence that the missile threat is not an imaginary one”. American presidential candidate John McCain suggested that it justified US proposals to construct a missile defence system in Eastern Europe, whilst his opponent Barack Obama described Iran’s missile programme as a “great threat”. Russia, however called for diplomacy, stating that they believe Iran to be “ready for negotiations”, and Israel’s Prime Minister issued a statement saying that he had “no desire for conflict or hostilities with Iran”.



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November 12, 2007

Vanity Fair contributing editor Craig Unger on the Bush family feud, neoconservatives and the Christian right

Vanity Fair contributing editor Craig Unger on the Bush family feud, neoconservatives and the Christian right

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Craig Unger: “In Spain my publisher, Planeta, is considered a center-right company and they made me the big book of their season. In Europe I am considered a straight-ahead reporter. In the United States I tend to be shunned by the mainstream media, almost completely, especially by the White House press corp.”
photo: David Shankbone

In a recent interview with the Dalai Lama’s Representative to the Americas, Tashi Wangdi, David Shankbone remarked to him that Americans have trouble relating to centuries-long conflicts that exist between peoples around the world, including those in Asia. Many Asian countries dislike each other tremendously, and the conflict over Tibet is just one enduring multi-national battle.

According to Vanity Fair contributing editor Craig Unger, it is not that Americans do not have these deep-seeded conflicts; it is that they do not remember them and thus have no context in which to see them as they resurface in our political culture.

On the same day he spoke to the Dalai Lama’s representative, Shankbone sat down with Unger, author of The New York Times best-seller House of Bush, House of Saud. In his new book, The Fall of the House of Bush, Unger attempts to fill in some of the blanks of an epochal narrative in American politics. Using a mix of painstaking research, interviews with cultural and political leaders and delving into previously classified records to come up with some overview of how America has arrived at this particular political moment.

To make sense of such complicated history, Unger draws upon three themes: He illustrates the conflict within the modern Republican Party via the oedipal conflict between George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush. Things are not well within the House of Bush. Bush Jr. has not only shut out his father and his allies from his administration—something Bob Woodward discovered in his interviews with the President—but he also appointed many of his father’s bitterest enemies to key cabinet positions.

Unger’s second theme draws upon this Bush family feud: many of Bush Sr.’s foes happen to be leaders of the neoconservative movement, who had been working against the President’s father since the 1970’s. Back then the neoconservatives did not have a base of political support within the Republican Party, which brings Unger to his third theme: the marriage between the neoconservatives and the Christian right to create a formidable ideological block.

Unger is a Fellow at the Center for Law and Security at NYU’s School of Law. In addition to his work at Vanity Fair, he is a former editor-in-chief of Boston Magazine, and former Deputy Editor of the New York Observer. A journalist of the old school who believes in verifying his sources’ veracity, Unger illuminates the Republican Party’s ideological struggle between the old and the new and traces its history for those who do know it.

Unger disputes the recent assertion by The New York Times that these forces are dead; they are thriving. Below is David Shankbone’s interview with Craig Unger about his book, The Fall of the House of Bush.

On the likelihood of an attack on Iran before the 2008 election

David Shankbone: Tim Wirth sent David Mixner this article by Jim Holt in the London Review of Books, and Mixner sent me a link to it. It posits that the Bush administration has all along planned on having a permanent military presence in Iraq. Have you seen it?

Craig Unger: I skimmed this and I know the thirty trillion dollar figure. What is astonishing about the neocons if you read them, is how little they mention oil. You can characterize their plans as strategic dominance in the Middle East for the United States and oil is obviously a part of that. I don’t know if Holt means it ironically or intentionally, but I think it is oversimplifying to say, “Oh, it’s exactly as they intended.” Although there are people like Michael Ledeen who say “Let’s turn it into a steaming cauldron”—those are his words.

According to Unger, Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate who would not attack Iran. “The neocons are in Giuliani’s camp, such as Norman Podhoretz and Daniel Pipes.”

I would never say things went exactly as planned. If you go back to the work of David Wurmser, for example, they really believed that a Shia like Chalabi would take over Iraq and be pro-west and recognize Israel. They talk about the Hashemite among the Shia in Iraq rising up and they hoped they would overthrow the mullahs in Iran. Obviously, that hasn’t happened.

DS: You’ve written that Iran is definitely on the agenda for a military strike by the Americans.

CU: Oh, absolutely. It’s possible it will occur under Bush, but if not and a Republican wins they will do it. The neocons are in Giuliani’s camp, such as Norman Podhoretz and Daniel Pipes.

DS: If the neconservatives succeed, two years into the future where will we be?

CU: The biggest single question is Iran. If we bomb Iran, they will immediately block the Persian Gulf. The Strait of Hormuz is only about thirty miles wide and forty percent of the world’s oil goes through there. Cruise missiles can easily hit Saudi oil facilities. Oil will shoot to $200, maybe $300 a barrel. At the pump it’s hard to calculate, but that would mean at $6 a gallon. We currently have minesweepers in the Gulf, which suggests we are right there for that possibility. That’s one of the scary things. But it unleashes uncontrollable forces. If you have the Saudis attacked by Iran you have the Sunni-Shia conflict erupting throughout the entire region. There’s an inverse correlation between the price of the dollar and oil, so as oil goes up, the dollar goes down. The dollar is already weak and would plummet accordingly, which would start a global recession. There would be a global oil war during a period where we may be approaching peak oil—I know that concept is controversial—but its also at a time when China’s energy needs are going through the roof; their imports are going up as much as forty percent a year. Their energy consumption is going through the roof, and the same with India. We used to be the lone huge consumer and it didn’t bother anyone, but now there are real rivals out there. And in geostrategic terms, we are getting in a weaker and weaker position. If you look at the costs of the Iraq War, 4,000 Americans dead, hundreds of thousand of Iraq dead, four million refugees, hundreds of billions of dollars spent; but in geostrategic terms we are weaker off, Israel is much weaker, and the only beneficiary has been Iran, whose GDP has gone through the roof because of the price of oil has gone from $22 to $98.

DS: Are there any Republican front-runners that would not undertake an assault on Iran?

CU: The only one is not a front-runner: Ron Paul. I don’t think there is a single Republican who has tried to discredit Bush’s policies. One of my concerns addressed in this book is I don’t want people to think, “Oh, the Bushs are gone, it’s all over.” No, no, no. We’re going to be paying for this for decades. The Christian right and the neocons: that is the Republican Party today. It transcends Bush. Bush became the vehicle through whom they carried out their policies.

DS: So it could have been anybody but they ingratiated themselves with Bush?

CU: He was an ideal vehicle. Partly he has a name that was identified with the old Republican establishment—

DS: And he wasn’t particularly well-informed, giving them an “in” to educate him?

CU: That’s for sure. A lot of voters thought they were getting his father. Wall Street Republicans thought of him as a moderate. He used terms like “ Compassionate Conservative” that were perceived as moderate. I have a chapter called “Dog Whistle Politics” where he’s speaking one language to the general public, and another to his base. So compassionate conservatism is precisely that. It really was a program for taking away the social safety net and giving it to right-wing churches. It was a movement that was about anything but a liberal safety net.

DS: Within the United States, what are the neoconservatives and Christian right concerned will happen that could scuttle their agenda?

CU: The Democrats winning, obviously, which is one reason they might bomb Iran before the election. That would change the dynamic of the entire election. I think there are two possibilities: are they going to do it before the next election? I don’t have the answer and I can’t predict it, but it would be a disaster. It would change the dynamics of the election that they are soft on terrorism, they want to throw Israel to Iran—

DS: Would that still work after all this time?

CU: The Zogby Poll just showed 52% of Americans think we should bomb Iran. The media has not improved at all since the Iraq War, and 90% of Americans were behind that. Part of the problem is that this jingoist stuff you might expect from Fox News, but when The New York Times becomes a mouthpiece for Dick Cheney, you then form a consensus in the national conversation and anyone critical is marginalized.

This history behind the Bush family feud

DS: Is there a movement within the Republican Party that is working against the fundamentalism in the party?

CU: I frame it in an almost oedipal way—the first chapter is called “Oedipus Tex”—and they have lost. It was Bush Sr. and his best friend Scowcroft against Bush Jr. On the surface there were no words between them; they would play horseshoes and talk nice about their houses and Midland.

DS: Bob Woodward was astonished when Bush Jr. told him he had not spoken to Bush Sr. about the Iraq War at all. Do you come across what is behind that?

“[I]n 1994 you had George W. and Jeb running for governor of Texas and Florida, respectively, and exactly the reverse happened of what people expected: that George would lose and Jeb would win. The opposite happened.”

CU: First, George W. Bush was not the favorite son by a long-shot. Jeb was, and even Neil was ahead of them. But in 1994 you had George W. and Jeb running for governor of Texas and Florida, respectively, and exactly the reverse happened of what people expected: that George would lose and Jeb would win. The opposite happened. In 1998, George wins reelection and suddenly he’s a two-term governor of a very visible state who has positioned himself for the Presidency. He knows nothing about foreign policy. He had only left the country one time, which was to visit his daughter in Italy. He had no curiosity about the world. Bush Sr. decides they have to educate him about it, so they bring in Prince Bandar and Condi Rice and begin a series of seminars. They are thinking the old guard—by that I mean Brent Scowcroft, Condi Rice, James Baker,Colin Powell—will take charge; that is not what happens at all. In late 1998 the neocons quickly move in, and you have Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams making semi-secret trips down to Texas.

DS: That was to educate Bush? The Daily Show did this piece where they did a debate splicing Texas Governor Bush’s views of what he said when he was governor versus what he has said as President, and they are polar opposites. When he was governor he was saying we can’t go out nation-building.

CU: Right. If you carefully, carefully examine what is happening, Richard Perle comes back from one of those trips and tells a breakfast meeting in 1999 that Bush is going to carry out their plan to overturn Saddam. Bush himself says it in the fall of 1999 and says, “I’m going to take him out.” Afterwards people call him on it and ask, “You’re going to take out Saddam?” and he gets criticized for it mercilessly. He backs down and says, ‘No, no, I mean take out the weapons of mass destruction.” He backs off and attacks Gore as you say, and says we are not going to do nation-building instead. But he’s had these private conversations; Stephen Hadley tells these private fundraisers that Bush’s first priority is going to be to overthrow Saddam. This is in early 2000. I paid a lot of attention to the period just after the election was settled. Some fascinating things happen—I wrote about this as a Salon expert; it’s a Wolfowitz story—the neocons realize if they want to carry out the Iraq War, they need to control the intelligence apparatus. The perfect way to do this is to make Paul Wolfowitz the head of the CIA.

DS: What was the problem with the intelligence apparatus at that time that the neocons needed to take control of it?

CU: If you go back all the way to the mid-1970s, the neocons were distorting intelligence even back then. They had an operation known as Team B. From there I start tracing five neocons who are on the staff of Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson. He was a muscular Democrat. He was strong on labor, but a hard-line Cold Warrior who wanted to roll back the Soviet Union. The neocons grew out of that. His hero is Albert Wohlstetter, who was one of the models for Dr. Strangelove. 1976 is the era of détente, and the neocons hate this; they fear losing their favorite enemy, the Soviet Union. They are saying the CIA is coming up with much too rosy of predictions and they don’t believe the intelligence. Who takes over the CIA at this point? George H.W. Bush. They decide they have to go to battle against him and they form what is known as Team B, which starts an “alternative intelligence assessment.” It effectively says the CIA is all wrong and that we have to redo their intelligence. But Team B’s estimates were completely inaccurate. I go into considerable detail of how they vastly, vastly overestimated the power of the Soviet Union.

DS: How did they bring Team B into the present?

CU: What you see back then are events that prefigure the Iraq War to an enormous extent. The key operatives in the White House then are the youngest Chief of Staff in the history of the United States, Dick Cheney; and the youngest Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. They are siding with Team B. Here you have thirty years ago the beginning of this alliance between Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Richard Perle.

Bush appoints his father’s enemies to his Cabinet

DS: So Rumsfeld and Cheney are not seen as old Bush Sr. people.

CU: Rumsfeld is probably the bitterest, bitterest enemy of George H.W. Bush ever.

DS: Weren’t they considered part of the realpolitik school?

CU: Cheney was, but not Rumsfeld. And Cheney was Rumsfeld’s protégé.

DS: What effect did it have on Bush Sr. that some of his bitterest foes were assuming positions in his son’s administration?

CU: He is famously nonresponsive on this, but James Baker spoke out. What you see going on in December 2000 is that Bush Jr.’s team had decided on Indiana Senator Dan Coats for Secretary of Defense.

DS: I remember that mentioned.

CU: It was because he was against gays in the military. What better qualification could one possibly have, right? They first appoint Colin Powell as Secretary of State, and he has a press conference with Bush in which Powell is so dazzling that Cheney freaks out and says, “My God, Dan Coats will never be able to stand up to him!” They need somebody more powerful. They call in Donald Rumsfeld and James Baker warns Bush, “You know what this guy did to your father.” Rumsfeld had sabotaged Bush Sr. again and again and again. Bush had been considered a likely choice for Vice President under Gerald Ford instead of Nelson Rockefeller, and Rumsfeld kept him off the ticket.

DS: Why was there a dispute between Rumsfeld and Bush Sr.?

CU: It was ambition. Rumsfeld had Presidential ambitions himself.

Paul Wolfowitz and the Office of Special Plans

According to Unger’s sources, Paul Wolfowitz’s affair with Shaha Ali Riza (above) scuttled plans to make him the Director of the CIA.

DS: Coming back to current times, what continues to transpire in the formation of Bush Jr.’s 2000 cabinet?

CU: They want to appoint Wolfowitz head of the CIA. Well, there’s a problem: he is dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and he is allegedly caught having an affair with a female staff member. He’s also allegedly having another extramarital relationship with another woman who had become more famous, Shaha Ali Riza.

DS: I believe Riza was called Wolfowitz’s “neoconcubine” by his critics.

CU: Yes. To him, that relationship was the romantic embodiment of the neocon venture: he’s a secular Jew; she’s a secular Muslim. He parades her on his arm at all the neocon events that season. There’s one person who doesn’t like this situation: Clare Wolfowitz, his wife of thirty years and mother of his three children. She’s not happy.

DS: What does Mrs. Wolfowitz do about his extramarital affairs?

CU: She’s writes a letter to George W. Bush saying, ‘You can’t possibly make my husband head of the CIA because he’s a security risk,’—she has not commented on this, by the way—that ‘he’s a security risk not just because he has undisclosed relationships, but because one of them is with a foreign national, Shaha Ali Riza.’ This alleged letter I’m told was intercepted by Scooter Libby, who is Wolfowitz’s protégé at Yale and is to become Chief of Staff to Dick Cheney. They are now very wary of putting Wolfowitz up for Congressional hearings; this could be a mess! Instead, they call in Donald Rumsfeld and they see that if they are going to handle intelligence they are going to do it through the Defense Department. This is where the Office of Special Plans gets created.

DS: So they decide to redo the entire intelligence apparatus for Wolfowitz?

CU: This is an alternative national security apparatus. We spend $40 billion a year on intelligence and a great power has to have accurate intelligence. So they put up disinformation pipelines to have the intelligence they want to back up their policies.

DS: What was the CIA’s reaction to this?

CU: They awaken to it bit by bit by bit. The people in the CIA who were aware of it became incredibly angry and there were battles and some people who have spoken out about it are former CIA officials and defense intelligence people. Patrick Lang, Ray McGovern, Melvin Goodman, Philip Giraldi, and so on. I ended up with around ten people like that on the record. The Defense Department was going ballistic. Rumsfeld and Cheney, in a stroke of bureaucratic brilliance, devise this way to hijack for the executive branch the whole national security apparatus. They now can stop the bureaucracy when they want to, grease the wheels when they want to; for example, they put in Josh Bolton as under Secretary of State, who acts as a spy watching Colin Powell.

DS: Was Powell aware of this?

CU: Yes, and he didn’t act. He could easily have fired Bolton. He failed to act.

DS: Why?

CU: He has to answer for that and in the end it was moral cowardice or weakness. The State Department has its own intelligence apparatus, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and they were finding fault again and again with the intelligence that was coming out of the new Pentagon unit. INR wanted to discredit Curveball, for instance; they wanted to discredit the aluminum tubes and the Niger documents. So Bolton and his people forbade INR director Greg Thielmann from attending various key meetings. Now you would think Powell would have stood up for his own intelligence unit, but he did not. When it came to the week before the United Nations meeting in which he made his speech, Colin Powell could have had his people there. He did call them to go over the material somewhat, but they were not present to argue out these points of conflict, and as a result, Cheney’s information got in. When they were preparing for the UN meeting, all the intelligence data came from Cheney’s office and not from the CIA.

What the neoconservatives want

DS: What is the end goal with all of these machinations?

CU: You can see it in the neocon foreign policy papers that they have been writing as early as 1992. The first one was a Defense Department policy guidance paper. Cheney was Defense Secretary and he had under him Wolfowitz, Khalizad and Feith, key neocons who helped formulate this policy, which was considered so radical that Bush Sr. rejected it out of hand. Then you see duplicity on Cheney’s part: publicly he sides with Bush Sr. and Scowcroft , who were very very deliberate. One of the most important foreign policy decisions they made was to not topple Saddam. They had a REAL coalition—unlike the one we have today—of thirty-four countries, eight of which were Arab who supported us throwing Saddam out of Kuwait. They decided, and it was very deliberate, that if they went after Saddam and continued on to Baghdad they would ruin their coalition, alienate their Arab partners, and be mired in a quagmire forever.

DS: Saddam was so unpopular in the region; how did they foresee they would ruin the coalition if they rid Iraq of a very brutal dictator?

CU: American troops occupying an Arab country is a real, real problem, especially in view of Israel. Notice they kept Israel out of it; they were not part of that coalition. They handled it with certain dexterity and were much tougher on Israel, who was unhappy to some extent. This is where you see enormous bifurcation. Out of this comes the effort to sabotage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The term “a clean break” comes out of a very important neocon policy paper called “A Clean Break from the Land for Peace Process.” It means they are throwing that out, which is very interesting because that was official American policy, it was the Oslo policy, and it was even Israeli policy at that point.

DS: It still is.

CU: Theoretically, but they have sabotaged it so badly. Netanyahu did not make good on a lot of the promises…

DS: Arafat didn’t—

CU: Arafat backed out.

DS: So what is the end goal?

CU: It’s a strategic vision of the Middle East.

DS: To control it?

CU: Yes, and they saw Iraq becoming at worst something like Jordan, which is a Hashemite Kingdom that is pro-west and reasonably nice to Israel. We’d have military bases there and we’d have oil deals. Iraq would be a beachhead from which we could go on to Iran. And Iran is a great prize. In 1996 Netanyahu comes to Washington, he’s presented with the Clean Break policy by Richard Perle, and a couple of days later he makes an address before a joint session of Congress and borrows from A Clean Break, but he adds a new country and says ‘the most important country in the region is Iran.’

DS: Was that a surprise?

CU: What’s interesting is that you start to hear the terms “Democracy in the Middle East” and “Democratization” and what you realize is that it’s not about democratization at all, it’s about strategic dominance of the region, and that’s what their policy has been about.

The Christian right and the neoconservatives

DS: In your book you talk about a confluence of social forces. You have the Christian right and you have the neoconservatives, who came together to assist each other in their agendas.

CU: Absolutely. This goes way, way back.

DS: To the 1970s?

CU: Certainly to the 1970’s. The Christian right is part of the DNA of America. I go back to English Puritanism, and you see John Winthrop in the 1630’s saying, “We are starting a shining city on a hill.” Shining city on a hill means we’re the New Jerusalem, we’re the new Zion. America is the Promised Land. What we do is ordained by God. This is Christian Zionism. It is a phrase that has never appeared in the New York Times, but it is an incredibly powerful force that is operative today. It has been picked up by the Christian right and unites them with Israel. It brings together the Christian right, the neocons and the Israeli right: Likud and Benyamin Netanyahu.
You see it come alive in the seventies. Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the first non-Labor Prime Minister in Israel, called Jerry Falwell realizing that America is only 2.5% Jewish and they need a broader base. About 30% of America is evangelical. If you read the Bible, the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis where God says to , “ I give to you this land between the Euphrates and the Nile.” If you believe in biblical inerrancy, as evangelicals do, then you have to believe, “I shall bless those who bless thee; I shall curse those who curse thee.” That’s in Genesis, and I talked to Falwell and a lot of evangelicals. I traveled undercover with Tim LeHay.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), who is a Christian Zionist: “God appeared to Abram and said, ‘I am giving you this land — the West Bank.’ This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true.”

DS: Did they openly talk to you about these things?

CU: Yes, this alliance is not a secret. What I do in the book is reframe the entire paradigm. Everyone talks about “Islam vs. The West” and I say that no, it’s fundamentalism—and by that I mean Christian and Jewish fundamentalism, not just Islamic—against the modern, post-Enlightenment world, and it happens that our government is on the wrong side. We are carrying out a fundamentalist foreign policy.

DS: How did the neoconservatives and Christian right come together?

CU: They play very different roles. The neocons are an ideological vanguard and the Christian right is a mass electoral base. You have a couple hundred thousand pastors who can bring them together. The role is the way the unions used to be for the Democratic Party, for example. You had Netanyahu calling Jerry Falwell, which I told you about. You also have people like Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein who formed the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. He has worked with a lot of the evangelicals. It has been fostered by the Israeli right and the neocons. I asked Michael Ledeen why he was on the 700 Club and he said, “It’s just we like to promote our views.” People like Gary Bauer have participated in a lot of these policy discussions. You have people like Tom DeLay proclaiming himself as a Christian Zionist openly, or Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. They would say it’s not a political issue whether Israel should have this land, that it’s a biblical certainty. This has to happen.

DS: It would seemingly take a lot of collusion between them. How does it work?

CU: The Christian right are not policy-makers in general, though there is a Council for National Policy. Falwell told me it’s an umbrella group overseeing all these evangelical groups. It has four or five hundred members and I list some. They are the big honchos of the Christian right, and within that is a smaller group called The Arlington Group, which has about fifty people. They were in regular contact with Karl Rove on a regular basis.

DS: Bush is convinced this is all God’s will?

CU: I go back to the Puritans for a reason because we are the new Zion and what we do is God’s will. I have a very interesting quote by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, an Orthodox rabbi who met with Bush. He says that Bush believes God has a mission for America and, “In that belief he is no different from the Founders who actually saw themselves replaying the Israelites crossing the Red Sea…” When he speaks of the “Founders” he is not talking of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine; he is talking about Cotton Mather and John Winthrop. When you got to Liberty University you see the halls have portraits of the great Puritans as precursors of the evangelicals. Yes, I believe that Bush thinks what he has done has been ordained by God. He’s smart enough not to talk about it in those terms.

Orthodox Jews and Fundamentalist Christians

DS: You have a chapter about the assassination of Yitzak Rabin; how did that advance the neoconservative agenda?

CU: It’s one of the least understood events in contemporary history and it is really important in terms of our policy today. Yes, it was done by this one right-wing Israeli, but it was ordained by Orthodox rabbis because Rabin was backing the land-for-peace process. It’s parallel to the Sadat assassination by Islamic fundamentalists. Rabin was breaking Halakhic law by supporting land for peace because it is divinely-ordained land.

DS: Are the Israeli orthodox Jews in touch with the Christian right in the United States?

CU: Completely. And the neocons are a secular version of that, and you see it start coming together, and Netanyahu becomes one of the great backers of an alliance with the Christian right. Michael Ledeen is going on Pat Roberton’s 700 Club shows. You start to have this weaving together.

DS: What does the Christian right have to gain from this?

CU: It’s theological.

DS: The End of Days?

CU: Yes, Christ will not return until that land is given back to the Jews. I try to draw this in the book. People try to talk about the Culture Wars, Red State/Blue State. But no, it’s much deeper than that. It goes back to the founding of America and the Puritans, really. I thought I grew up in a country that put a man on the moon, unraveled the human genome, that discovered DNA and invented the iPod, but no. No western country believes so strongly in Creationism and that the world was born 6,000 years ago; that evolution is wrong. This war is deep and profound and what’s happened now is the government is run by people who believe in dictating our policies based upon the Bible.

DS: This is so much material to be covered in just one book.

CU: Yes, because you can see it in the judiciary. So many students come from Pat Robertson’s law school—

DS: They have a model of the Supreme Court for arguing these fights.

CU: Right. So many of the people in the White House come from Patrick Henry College. It used to be you went to the Ivy League. Now they have people who are homeschooled by evangelicals because they didn’t want them to be poisoned by the secular public school system.

DS: Our society has always been complicated, but there are so many layers to this complex onion of a social movement that it must have been a challenge to articulate it in your book. We hold a lot of myths about our history.

CU: This book goes from biblical times to English Puritanism to espionage and intelligence battles at Langley to the Likudniks in Israel to the assassination of Rabin to the Deep South and the Bible Belt today. You do see the same themes again and again. I tried to do a narrative with three narrative lines: The rise of the neocons in the 1970’s; the rise of the Christian right, which goes back to Biblical times through English Puritanism and the founding of America to becoming a powerful force in American politics and taking over the government because they have a leader who is now President of the United States. It’s important to understand that the Christian right thinks of Bush as a leader, or they have. Although he certainly has lost credibility, the Christian right is not dead at all. I would take issue with The New York Times in their cover story a week or so ago where they proclaim the death of the Christian right, which they do that same story time and again.

DS: Exactly, they recycle the same thematic stories over and over and that one has been written before.

CU: Right. I also try to weave it through the father-son battle. Although I have written critically of Bush Sr. in the past, he certainly is within the framework of the post-Enlightenment reason and reality-based world. There is this quiet sub-rosa battle in which he uses intermediaries in the book like Scowcroft. If there’s a tragic hero in the book, it’s Scowcroft, who is in a very delicate position because he doesn’t want to jeopardize his close friendship with Bush Sr.

DS: But Scowcroft is loathed by George W.’s administration for coming out against his foreign policy.

CU: Right, and now Scowcroft speaks out early and often. He’ll see what’s happening and does what he can, but ultimately he fails.

DS: What does Bush Sr. think or say about Scowcroft’s public statements?

CU: They are still friends. He rarely comments on them, and he doesn’t like to be called out about it. There have been a couple of incidents that I open the book with, statements by Bush Jr. that have been perceived as digs at his father, such as saying “We don’t want to cut and run again.”

DS: Why would Bush Sr. not feel he has a moral obligation to the nation to make his feelings known to his son instead of keeping quiet and not speaking up?

CU: I’m wary of psychoanalyzing him, but I believe they don’t discuss it. He’s come forth several times and said, “Look, why don’t you talk to Scowcroft or James Baker” and he kind of leaves it at that. The Iraq Study Group report did have some earmarks of anger venting . Scowcroft actually goes to Egypt and Saudi Arabia to get their support of the Iraq Study Group plan. He also goes to Condi Rice, who is the last person from that world who seems to have real access to Bush, and talks to her about it. She seems to sign on and at one point she says something like, “Well, when do you think we should do this?” and Scowcroft says, “Not we, you.” She never really does anything; she never stands up. She has become an enabler for the neocons such as Wolfowitz, who have convinced Bush to believe that we have to democratize the entire Middle East, topple Saddam, and only then can we deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Of course, that’s absolutely disastrous.

DS: The neoconservative’s policies are so high-risk and there are so many things that could make it go even more wrong. Grover Norquist came out and said that nothing the supporters of the war said would happen with Iraq has happened, and that everything the critics said would happen has happened. If Mubarak suddenly dies in Egypt and that country erupts into a civil war, which is a scenario that is often discussed as likely, that would implode the region even further. How do they account for all these risks they are laying in the lap of the United States?

CU: I’m not sure I have a good answer for that, but I can say they are REAL ideologues. It’s worth going back to their history and a lot of this stuff is toxic, third-rail stuff. David Brooks attacked me as a conspiracy nut. The point isn’t that the neocons had this weird Communist conspiracy or anything like that, but that they were trained ideologues and trained in ideological battles and sectarian disputes. They purge people who disagree with them and work in an echo-chamber environment where they don’t admit any facts that contradict their preconceived ideas. You see them operate as this ideological cadre. They purged people in the State Department who were part of the Realist crowd, and I go into that. They’ve had the same ideas for thirty years.

On the press

DS: What sort of reaction do you get to your work?

CU: That’s a good question. The reaction to my previous book was actually terrific, but it’s interesting the patterns. In Europe—England, Spain, The Netherlands—it was terrific and I am thought of as a reasoned Centrist. I am not thought of as particularly left-wing in any way.

German artist Thomas Demand speaking with Craig Unger about The Fall of the House of Bush.
photo: David Shankbone

DS: You painstakingly researched this—

CU: I have over 2,000 footnotes there. So in Spain my publisher, Planeta, is considered a center-right company and they made me the big book of their season. In Europe I am considered a straight-ahead reporter. In the United States I tend to be shunned by the mainstream media, almost completely, especially by the White House press corp.

DS: Who have lost almost all credibility with the public…

CU: But they are still there.

DS: We’re stuck with them.

CU: Right, but they haven’t changed, so I will get almost nothing from them. This includes the supposedly liberal New York Times. I deal with the press to a fair extent in the book; not as much as I would like because that’s a whole interview in itself.

DS: I interviewed Gay Talese, who had nothing but contempt for the Washington press corps. He feels they should be broken up and dispersed around the country to report on the federal government. Report on Washington from Denver, from Austin…national reporting from the states.

CU: It’s shocking the difference between the British and the Americans. The huge part of it is the addiction to access. It’s opportunism—

DS: You get to go to a party; you get to ride in Air Force One—

CU: Right! “I want that interview with Donald Rumsfeld so I’m not going to do anything to alienate him by writing a story that is critical of him.” And when you get that story you end up writing exactly what he tells you and it ain’t the truth.

DS: Just to be able to say, “I interviewed Donald Rumsfeld.”

CU: Right, you get front page and it helps you within your newspaper. You’re considered a star at whatever publication there is. That’s how the phony stories of WMDs got in The New York Times and other publications. More than ideology, it was opportunism, careerism on the part of the reporters.

DS: Talese also said that the press is as much responsible for getting us into this war as are the people running it.

CU: Part of what I did with this book is I am explicitly critical of the American press corp., which has done a dreadful job of covering these issues. That in and of itself means they are less likely to cover you. If you look at the national conversation it has a narrative. The only place you can go to find an alternative narrative is Jon Stewart or Colbert or Keith Olberman. But there’s almost nothing in the tradition of the old Walter Cronkite reporting. It barely exists. The other alternative voices are the international press, and the blogs.



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August 22, 2006

Romanian oil company claims Iran has seized one of its rigs

Romanian oil company claims Iran has seized one of its rigs

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Persian Gulf map.jpg

An Orizont oil platform in the Persian Gulf, owned by the Grup Servicii Petroliere (GSP) of Romania, has allegedly been boarded by Iranian troops after being fired at by a helicopter. Romanian officials have not “heard anything” from the workers on the platform “since then [the attack].”, according to a company statement. The Iranian news agency IRNA claims that the personnel who boarded the platform were not “troops” but “police”.

“We were called by one of our employees at 9.15 a.m. local time (0615 GMT), who told us a military helicopter opened fire against the Orizont rig, and by 9.45 Iranian troops got on board. Since then, we haven’t heard anything from them,” said Radu Petrescu, a spokesman for Servicii Petroliere.

According to a representative of GSP, Lulu Tabanesku, “Iranian [troops] used machine guns” and Iran is “in control of the rig. We cannot contact the rig.” There were at least 26 workers on the 13,000-ton platform when it came under fire. There is no word on whether there are any casualties.

The Foreign Minister of Romania is scheduled to have a meeting to discuss the attack with Iranian officials on Wednesday, but so far Iran has yet to release an official statement regarding the attack. Romanian president Traian Băsescu was unable to reach Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday, the day of the rig’s seizure. August 22 is an Iranian National holiday.

The Romanian company GSP operates the Orizant and Fortuna rigs that are both subjects of a legal dispute with the Oriental Oil Company who rents the oil rights to Petro Iran Development Company (PEDCO), a broker for the National Iranian Oil Company. According to PEDCO, an Iranian court ruling in the contract dispute between the two companies found that both rigs should remain in Iranian waters. GSP moved the Fortuna rig on August 15, claiming the contract was cancelled illegally, Iran accused the Romanians of “hijacking” the platform.

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August 15, 2006

Tanker spills 1000s of tonnes of crude oil off Nicobar Islands

Tanker spills 1000s of tonnes of crude oil off Nicobar Islands

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Approximate location of the incident (shown by red dot), 470 km west of Great Nicobar Island

A Japanese tanker has spilled an estimated 4,500 tonnes (1.4 million gallons) of crude oil in the eastern Indian Ocean, after colliding with a cargo ship, which it was trying to assist, the tanker’s owners report.

A statement released by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd, the owners of the tanker, Bright Artemis said that the tanker was attempting to rescue the crew of the distressed Singapore-registered cargo ship, Amar, when the two vessels came in contact about 470 km (290 miles) west of the Great Nicobar Island in the Indian Ocean at 1:00 p.m., (3:00 p.m. JST) on Monday. The collision opened a gash 1 meter in height and 5 meters in length on the single-hulled tanker’s starboard side, spilling its crude oil cargo. The statement said that the spill has been contained, the crew of the Amar are safe on board another rescue vessel and no other injuries have been reported.

The tanker reported the location of the incident as 5’46″N, 89’04″E and the cargo ship Amar was on fire when the incident happened, said the statement. It added that oil has been transferred from the damaged tanks to other tanks, the tanker is proceeding east at a reduced speed and that the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore and the Indian Coast Guard have been informed of the incident.

The Bright Armetis was manned by a crew of 23 including Croatians, Filipinos and a Canadian and was carrying close to 250,000 tonnes of crude oil from the Persian gulf to Japan, according to the company.

Indian Coast Guard officials told Reuters news agency that the spill lies outside India’s exclusive economic zone and that they are watching the situation closely.

Bloomberg reports that shares of Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. fell as much as 4.3% upon news of the event. Mitsui is Japan’s second-largest shipping company.

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April 4, 2006

Iran tests its second missile

Iran tests its second missile – Wikinews, the free news source

Iran tests its second missile

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Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Iran has successfully tested the Kowsar land-to-sea missile, and a “flying boat”, Iran state media report.

According to the country’s state television service, “A super-modern flying boat was successfully tested in the ‘Great Prophet’ war game in Persian Gulf waters. Because of its hull’s advanced design, no radar at sea or in the air can locate it. It can lift out of the water. It is wholly domestically built and can launch missiles with precise targeting while moving.”

Iran says that the Kowser missile can be used to sink enemy ships in the Gulf. Iran also announced that the missile’s onboard systems could not be scrambled by enemy action.

Brian Whitman, a spokesman for the Pentagon in the United States, said, “We know that the Iranians are always trying to improve their weapons system by both foreign and indigenous measures. It’s possible that they are increasing their capability and making strides in radar-absorbing materials and technology. [However] the Iranians have also been known to boast and exaggerate [in] their statements about greater technical and tactical capabilities.”

On Friday, Iran tested its Fajr-3 missile, which Iran says can evade radar and can carry many warheads. On Monday, Iran tested in the Straits of Hormuz a torpedo that the country claims can evade sonar.

It is estimated that at least 1500 ships and aircraft, and at least 17,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops, are participating in a week-long war games exercise in the Gulf.

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April 1, 2006

Death toll of Bahrain tourist boat capsizing rises to 57

Death toll of Bahrain tourist boat capsizing rises to 57

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Saturday, April 1, 2006 At least 57 people are now known to have died when a boat designed similar to a traditional dhow capsized one mile of the coast of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Seventeen were Indian and a further 13 of the dead are British; people of another six nationalities are also known to have died. The passengers were mostly foreigners from the Nass-Murray and Roberts construction company, and were enjoying an evening dinner cruise in celebration of their completion of part of the Bahrain World Trade Centre towers. Most who died were dining on the lower deck, and were trapped below.

Over 130 people were onboard the boat at the time, although some say the boat was only licensed to carry 120. Others say the limit was 150. Eyewitnesses say the boat was overloaded. The boat capsized in calm seas soon after it left, trapping many below. Helicopters from the US Navy searched for 13 missing persons until Friday morning, when the search was called off. The dhow had been modified to have an extra, higher deck making the vessel less stable. The exact cause is unknown – suggestions from eyewitnesses include the boat suddenly turning left, being hit by a wave, and many of the passengers moving to one side of the boat together. The Bahrain Interior Ministry is to investigate the accident and establish if the boat was seaworthy.

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December 25, 2005

Australian troops receive Christmas show in Iraq

Australian troops receive Christmas show in Iraq

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Sunday, December 25, 2005 A group of Australian entertainers have sacrificed Christmas at home to spread some Christmas cheer among 450 troops deployed in Iraq. The show was put on for troops in the Al Muthanna Task group at a base near the town of As Samawah.

Performer Little Pattie (Patricia Thompson), who entertained Australian and allied troops during the Vietnam War at the age of 17, led the entertainment. She was joined by Beccy Cole, Angry Anderson, Hayley Jensen, Bessie Bardot, Geoff Barker and Lehmo.

“I feel I’m here to continue a time-honoured tradition which is of Australian performers performing for Australian forces no matter where they are in the world,” Little Pattie said.

“It’s a thing as a country we need to constantly be reminded of that they represent us as a nation around the world” said Angry Anderson.

The Christmas spirit also reached HMAS Parramatta, which is deployed to protect Iraq’s oil infrastructure in the Persian Gulf. The HMAS Parramatta sailors received a surprise visit from Santa Claus who handed out presents.

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March 27, 2005

Guards uncover 600-foot escape tunnel at US prison in Iraq

Filed under: Archived,Persian Gulf — admin @ 5:00 am

Guards uncover 600-foot escape tunnel at US prison in Iraq

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Sunday, March 27, 2005 US troops guarding Camp Bucca in southern Iraq have apparently foiled an escape plan by uncovering a 600 ft of escape tunnel leading from the sprawling, 6,000+ person, detention center. The tunnel had apparently not been used, and officials were uncertain how long detainees had been working on it. No information has been given regarding any prisoners who may have been responsible for the effort.

A number of such tunnels had been found before, but none of this scale or quality.

“We were very close to a very bad thing,” said Major General William Brandenburg, US commander of detainee operations in Iraq.

The prisoners may have planned to make their move under cover of dense fog that often rolls in from the Persian Gulf.

“There was a good chance they would have got out of the camp,” he said.

Extending from beneath the floorboards of a detainee tent to the exterior of the camp, and dug using shovels fashioned from thick poles, canvas, pieces of metal and rope from the tents, the tunnel was buried between 12 to 16 feet underground over its 600 ft length, and around 3ft wide. Dirt had been removed using a cut-open, five-gallon water jug, according to Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, speaking for the detainee system.

Colonel Rudisill said the guards had begun searching for underground escape passages after finding a 300 ft tunnel last week. They then noticed dirt in latrines and piles of dirt by the camp perimeter.

The facility, with 6,049 prisoners, is twice as large as the notorious Abu Ghraib in Baghdad and holds nearly two-thirds of all those detained in Iraq.

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