The New Republic is not my favorite magazine, but facts are facts, and this is a perspective one doesn't often see. Peter.

The New Republic -- December 24, 2001

Arabian Fights
by Lawrence F. Kaplan

Asked in a recent Washington Post interview whether the United
States had been pressuring Israel at the behest of Saudi Arabia,
Secretary of State Colin Powell responded, "we are not doing this
because we have an obligation to pay off one side or another."
Powell got it half-right. We have no obligation to the Saudis. But
we've been paying them off nonetheless. And, until the terror
bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa two weeks ago, it looked like Israel
would be the one to foot the bill.

According to popular wisdom, Riyadh's leverage over the Bush
administration's Israel policy derives from the events of September
11--the price Washington pays for maintaining its vaunted
"coalition." But, in truth, the Saudis have been lobbying the Bush
administration to turn its back on the Jewish state since its first day in

The very next day, in fact, King Fahd's cabinet issued a statement urging
the new president "to press the Israeli side to implement
international resolutions, stop procrastinating, lift the blockade, and put a
halt to the bloodshed." And they had reason to believe he would. Having
converted their Gulf war contacts into business contacts, the men
who guided foreign policy in Bush I (and who, it was assumed, would
help do the same in Bush II) boast unusually close relations with the
Saudis. The elder Bush, for example, decamped for the Carlyle
Group, a Washington investment firm favored by Saudi elites--
including the bin Laden family, with whom Bush Sr. has met twice.

During his first months in office, however, W. defied expectations.
Far from pressing the Israelis, the president enshrined in official
policy his campaign pledge of unconditional support for Israel--a stance not
particularly well received by Saudi Arabia's potentates. As a result,
Crown Prince Abdullah still has yet to accept a standing invitation
from Bush to visit Washington. The president, then, has found himself
in a bind: A staunch supporter of the Jewish state, his administration has
nonetheless gone to excruciating lengths not to offend a regime
that would prefer that state never existed. In April, for instance,
when Israeli soldiers fired on a convoy of Palestinian officials, Yasir
Arafat called Abdullah, who called Prince Bandar, the monarchy's man in
Washington and Colin Powell's former squash partner. Bander, in
turn, phoned Dick Cheney. And, within an hour, Powell was
upbraiding Ariel Sharon on the phone. (The Egyptians complain
about Israel just as loudly as the Saudis, but they're relegated to
official channels.) Then, in response to further Saudi complaints,
Bush dispatched Powell on a peacemaking mission to Israel in June.

Still, Riyadh wasn't happy. In fact, that very same month, Saudi
anger boiled over. In a June meeting that set the stage for special envoy
Anthony Zinni's current stay in the region, Powell met with Abdullah
in Paris, where, according to a senior administration official,
"[Powell] got the full treatment--`appoint an envoy, recognize [Palestinian]
statehood, speak out, do this, do that.'" At about the same time, U.S.
ambassadors throughout the Arab world began warning Foggy
Bottom that the Saudis meant business: Washington must either step
up its mediation, they cautioned, or risk a breach with Riyadh.

Poppy's national security adviser Brent Scowcroft--a vocal champion
of the Saudis who has since been installed as a director of Pennzoil
and Qualcomm, firms heavily invested in Riyadh--chimed in, warning
that America's Arab friends were "deeply disappointed with this
administration and its failure to do something to moderate the
attitude of Israel." Two weeks later, Scowcroft, Bush pere, and the president
himself repaired to Kennebunkport. There the former president did something
unprecedented. With the current president apparently in
the room, George Sr. picked up the phone, called Abdullah, and
assured him that Bush Jr.'s "heart is in the right place" and that he
could be counted on "to do the right thing."

But the Saudis still weren't convinced. During July and August,
Abdullah sent Bush several letters, each more shrill than the last,
beseeching the president to "pull the reins on Mr. Sharon," as an
Abdullah spokesman describes the correspondence. According to a
White House adviser, one of these letters threatened a return to the
"summer of 1973," a reference to the Arab front that united against
Israel prior to the Yom Kippur War. Another, reported The Wall Street
Journal, warned, "We are at a crossroads. It is time for the United
States and Saudi Arabia to look at their separate interests. Those
governments that don't feel the pulse of the people and respond to it
will suffer the fate of the Shah of Iran." It was this threat,
received in late August, that finally prompted the administration to reverse
course and, in the first week of September, to convene a principals meeting
at which Saudi discontent was explicitly tied to the launching of a peace

Powell and CIA Director George Tenet urged the president to meet with Arafat
at the United Nations and recommended that Powell deliver an address
endorsing a Palestinian state--an address that was even then being drafted by
State Department peace processor Aaron Miller. The administration would then
follow up with the dispatch of a special envoy to Israel. Bush agreed with
the idea and, for good measure, sent the Saudis a letter, which, according to
Foreign Minister Prince Saud Faisal, indicated
"that the United States had come to a full realization that it was time for a
new effort."

Then came September 11. Given that 15 of the hijackers were Saudi,
one might have expected the monarchy to be somewhat chastened.
Far from it. "After September 11," a senior administration official
explains, "[the Saudis] just wanted to change the topic from
themselves. So they turned the volume up even louder." Yet, fearful
of appearing to reward terrorism, the White House postponed
Powell's speech. Even so, Bush publicly declared his support for a
Palestinian state and declared that "the world ought to applaud"
Arafat "for trying to control radical elements." Until November the
administration also resisted placing Hamas on its list of newly
sanctioned terrorist groups. And the State Department, echoing the
Saudi contention that such groups were merely "resisting
occupation," said it now distinguished between terrorism based on
"political issues" (violence directed against Israelis) and terrorism
that seeks to "destroy societies" (violence directed against Americans).

None of this, however, seemed to make the slightest impression on
the Saudis. Indeed, in a November 9 interview with The New York
Times, Foreign Minister Saud Faisal complained that he was "angrily
frustrated" with the younger Bush, whose stance on the peace
process "would make a sane man go mad." A week later, under
pressure from the Saudis as well as Powell, Bush agreed to revive
the initiative. It was decided that Powell would give his speech on
November 19 at the University of Kentucky. But exactly what he
planned to say remained the object of bitter disagreement, with
Pentagon officials--including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld--
and the White House political staff questioning the wisdom of a
renewed Middle East initiative. Bush himself tempered some of
Powell's language and Israeli officials even offered suggestions.
Nonetheless, Powell did deliver the speech, which demanded that
"the occupation must end." He also announced the appointment of
General Anthony Zinni as his special envoy to the region, a choice
Israeli officials suspect was made with the Saudis in mind. (Zinni,
the former chief of American forces in the Middle East--excluding Israel--
maintains exceptionally close ties to the Saudi royal family, who
call the general "our commander" and go falcon hunting with him.) And
Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns
assured the Saudis that Zinni would remain in the region until "progress" was

Arafat, for one, was pleased, thanking King Fahd in Riyadh one week
later for playing "an active role in moving the U.S. position toward
a Palestinian state." And Saudi Prince Alawaleed exulted that
"Washington is doing exactly what we asked for." But his fellow
princes weren't so sure. "The fact that Powell asks Palestinian
President Yasser Arafat to make an effort to stop the violence in
Palestine is disappointing and impossible to satisfy," Okaz, an
official Saudi newspaper, commented the day after the speech. "[The
Saudis] thought the speech was soft," an administration official said
a few days later, "and they're still calling."

But no amount of Saudi griping could overcome what happened next.
The Palestinians welcomed Zinni to the region with a parade of
suicide bombers, who, in the space of one day, killed 25 Israelis. As
a result, the former general's mission effectively ended before it
began, wasting the political capital the Bush administration had expended at
Saudi behest. And since the attacks, members of the White House
national security team claim Bush has lost whatever little trust he
once possessed in Arafat. National security adviser Condoleezza
Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, have also turned squarely
against the Palestinian leader. At a meeting in the aftermath of the
attacks, they asked how the United States would know if Arafat was
upholding his pledge to clamp down on terrorism. The answer came
back: when that clampdown prompts internecine violence on the
Palestinian street, a standard that has since become an unofficial
barometer for measuring Arafat's sincerity. Even Powell and Burns
were said to be livid at the Palestinian leader. In his meeting with
Sharon the day after the attacks, Bush, according to Israeli
officials, said Israel could take whatever action it deemed necessary, short
of ousting Arafat and dismantling the Palestinian Authority. As for the
Saudis, a senior administration official claims Bush "was already
chafing at the complaints, and ... he won't be inclined to take their
advice again any time soon."

But how soon is "any time soon"? This week the Saudi foreign
minister met with Bush again, ostensibly to be reminded what steps
his country must take to crack down on terror. Instead he ended up
reminding the president what steps must be taken to crack down on
Israel. Nor have administration officials tempered their public--and
phony--exultations about "across the board" Saudi cooperation in the
war against terror. National Security Council Senior Director for
Near East Affairs Bruce Reidel, who has revealed himself to be a much
closer friend to the Saudis than to the Israelis, will be stepping
down later this month. Yet administration officials say the candidates
most likely to replace him--Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine and
former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense Alina Romanowski--
may prove even less supportive of the Jewish state. The Israelis also
worry that, as soon as the violence abates or Arafat takes cosmetic
steps to restrain Palestinian terrorists, the administration will
heed Saudi counsel once more. Of course, the president could always
follow his own instincts instead. They've certainly proved far
superior to his father's, not to mention the rogues whispering in his ear.

LAWRENCE F. KAPLAN is a senior editor at TNR.



© By Ross Gelbspan

As the shock of September 11 yields to perspective, the United States
faces three simultaneous -- and superficially unconnected-challenges.
The attacks brought home the truth that no complex society can ever truly
protect itself against guerrilla warfare. A long-term path to security
against terrorism lies less in immediate fortifications and more in
large-scale changes in international policies.
At the same time, both the U.S. and the global economies are headed toward a
protracted recession that may well rob millions of people of jobs and homes.
In the longer-term, while it has been pushed off the radar screen by current
events, we face another crisis that will not go away -- an increasingly
unstable climate.What do the problems of terrorism, recession and climate change have in
common? They are all susceptible to a solution which begins with a
properly-financed,worldwide transition to clean energy sources.
A switch to high-efficiency, low-carbon and renewable energy would
dramatically reduce the significance of oil – and with it our vulnerability
to the political volatility in the Middle East.
Oil dependency has altered power relations among nations, skewed incomes
within nations, financed terrorism and destroyed the ecosystems on which
countless communities in developing countries depend for their survival.
It has opened a dangerous gap in places like Saudi Arabia and elsewhere between
corrupt ruling regimes and restive populations susceptible to the fanaticism
of religious fundamentalism.
A second connection to security from terrorism lies in the fact that a
renewable energy economy would have far more independent sources of power –
home-based fuel cells, small-scale hydro dams, stand-alone solar systems –
which would make the nation’s electricity grid a far less strategic target
for future guerrilla attacks.
Finally, a properly-funded global energy transition would represent the
kind of proactive policy needed to begin to redress the economic inequity
that threatens to split humanity irreparably between rich and poor. Just as
runaway carbon concentrations are threatening to destabilize the global
climate, runaway economic inequity can only continue to destabilize our
global political environment. A set of expansive and inclusive policies
toward developing countries – focused around a global energy transition --
would go far to establishing a tone of cooperation by the U.S.
It would create millions of jobs, especially in developing countries. It
would begin to reduce the widening gap between North and South. It would
allow developing countries to grow – without regard to atmospheric limits
and, in many cases, without the budgetary burden of imported oil. It would
turn poor countries into much more vigorous economic partners. As Dr. Morris
Miller, a former executive director of the World Bank, has pointed out,
investments in energy in poor countries create far more wealth than
investments in any other sector.
On the economic front, the entire global economy may be headed for a deep re
cession. It seems clear that serious recessions – or depressions -- are
relatively immune to tax cuts and interest rate reductions. The best remedy
for a truly floundering economy would seem to be a public works program – in
this case, a program to rewire the globe with clean energy.
Finally, as America’s prolonged denial of the threat global warming recedes
– and the rest of the world begins to grope toward solution – the scale and
urgency of the climate crisis are finally dawning on policy makers.
Its magnitude is quantified in the findings of the 2,000 scientists from
100 countries who comprise the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC): to allow the climate to restabilize in a state which
is hospitable to civilization, humanity must cut its emissions of coal and
oil by about 70 percent. That requires a worldwide switch away from
conventional fossil fuels to high-efficiency and renewable energy sources.
The timing is equally daunting. Researchers from some of the country’s
most prestigious centers published findings in the journal Nature which
indicated the world must pursue a global energy transition "with the urgency
of the Manhattan project." The lead author of the study, Dr. Martin Hoffert
of New York University, explained that, according to the team’s
calculations, the world must get half its energy from non-carbon sources by 2018.
Otherwise, he said, the concentrations of heat-trapping carbon in the
atmosphere will quadruple early next century. That would clearly be
The United States has been especially slow to respond to the challenge.
After eight years of foot-dragging by the Clinton-Gore Administration in the
international climate negotiations, a number of European countries decided
to go it alone. Holland has completed a plan to cut emissions by 80 percent in
the next 40 years. A Royal Commission in Britain is recommending 60 percent
reductions in 50 years. Germany is making plans to reduce emissions 25
percent by 2010 – and 50 percent thereafter.
By contrast, the position of the Bush Administration is truly dismal.
Last spring, President Bush reneged on a campaign promise to cap carbon
emissions for coal-burning power plants. He then unveiled his administration’s energy plan – basically a shortcut
to climate hell. Finally, Bush put severe strains on our relations with the EU when he
withdrew the country from the Kyoto climate negotiations.
In June, when the National Academy of Sciences affirmed the findings of
the IPCC, Bush made it clear that any solution to the climate crisis must
meet two criteria: it must involve the participation of developing
countries and it must be beneficial to the U.S. economy.
It seems at first glance the U.S. is on a collision course with nature.
There may, however, be an approach that could address both our newfound
national vulnerability as well as our increasingly inflamed atmosphere and
our reluctant President as well.
In the process, it would set a diplomatic tone for the U.S. which would
substantially reduce support in poor countries for anti-U.S. terrorism and,
at the same time, jump start a withering global economy.
One approach – a World Energy Modernization Plan – contains a system of
three interacting strategies which are designed to reduce emissions by the
required 70 percent at the same time that it would create millions of new
jobs and expand markets, especially in developing countries.
The plan involves:
* a change of energy subsidy policies in industrial countries;
* the creation of a large fund to transfer renewable energy technologies
to developing countries; and,
* the substitution globally of a progressively more stringent Fossil
Fuel Efficiency Standard – which is a equitable, simple to negotiate and easily
monitorable -- for the ineffectual and inequitable mechanism of emissions
trading which has been a central mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol.
While each of these strategies can be viewed as a stand-alone policy,
the potential elegance of the plan is better understood if they are conceived as
a systemic set of interactive policies which could speed the energy
transition far more rapidly than were they to be implemented in piecemeal
As for the subsidy switch, the federal government currently spends $20
billion a year to subsidize fossil fuels and another $10 billion to
subsidize nuclear power. Globally, subsidies for fossil fuels have been estimated at
$200 to $300 billion a year. Under the Energy Modernization Plan,
industrial countries would withdraw those subsidies from fossil fuels and create
equivalent subsidies to promote the development of clean energy sources.
Those re-directed subsidies would be used by the oil companies to
re-tool and retrain their workers to become aggressive developers of
hydrogen-powered fuel cells, wind farms, and solar systems. At the same time, a portion of
those subsidies must be used to retrain the nation’s approximately 50,000
coal miners and to site clean-energy manufacturing plants in poor mining
regions. (Because coal emits twice as much carbon per unit of energy as
natural gas, and about a third more than oil, the world’s coal use must be
phased out especially quickly).
The second element of the plan involves an Energy Modernization Fund of
about $300 billion a year to transfer renewable energy technologies to developing
countries. Virtually all poor countries would love to go solar; virtually
none can afford it. The most air-polluted cities in the world today are in
China, Mexico, Thailand, Chile and other developing and transitional
countries.An attractive source of revenue to fund the transfer lies in a "Tobin tax"
on international currency transactions, named after its developer, Nobel
prize-winning economist Dr. James Tobin. While Tobin initially conceived
his tax as a way of damping the volatility in capital markets, it would also
generate enormous revenues. Today the commerce in currency swaps by banks
and speculators amounts to $1.5 trillion per day. A tax of a quarter-penny
on the dollar would net about $300 billion a year, according to economists, for
wind farms in India, fuel-cell factories in South Africa, solar assemblies
in El Salvador, and vast, solar-powered hydrogen farms in the Middle East.
Since currency transactions are electronically tracked by the private
banking system, the need for a large, new bureaucracy could be avoided simply by
paying the banks a fee to administer the fund. That administrative fee
would, to some extent, offset the banks’ loss of income from the contraction
in currency trading that would result from the imposition of the tax.
The only new bureaucracy envisioned would be an international auditing
agency to monitor transactions to ensure equal access for all energy vendors
and to minimize corruption in recipient countries. Corruption among
recipient countries might be further minimized by democratizing the
formulation of new energy plans by requiring governments to include in their
deliberations representatives of universities, NGOs, ethnic minorities and
labor unions.
A carbon tax could fulfill the same function, according to economists
Florentin Krause, director of the International Project for Sustainable
Energy Paths and Stephen DeCanio, former staff economist for the President’s
Council of Economic Advisers who currently teaches the University of
California at Santa Barbara. If carbon emissions were taxed at the rate of
$50 a ton, the revenue would approximate the $300 billion from a tax on
currency transactions, according to those economists.
While a carbon tax would be regressive, several economists, including
Krause and DeCanio, have suggested that it could be offset by a reduction in
payroll taxes – so that consumers would ultimately lose little – or perhaps
even gain from the combination of low energy prices and bigger paychecks.
Finally, To harmonize the transformation of national energy systems,
ensure the participation of developing countries and provide an orderly
mechanism for a global energy change, the parties to the Kyoto talks should
replace international "emissions trading" with a truly equitable and
effective progressive Fossil Fuel Efficiency Standard.
The mechanism of emissions trading – under which a company that exceeds
its emissions allocation can buy additional emission rights from a company
which emits less than its allocation – can work relatively well within
nations. Domestic cap-and-trade programs -- like the U.S. sulfur dioxide
trading program to reduce acid rain emissions – were relatively successful
because they are easy to monitor and enforce. Most of the SO2 emissions
came from about 2,000 smokestacks in the Midwest -- a manageable number to
monitor. The program, moreover, was subject to an enforceable system of
national regulation.
At the international level, however, the system of "cap-and-trade" –
promoted by former Vice President Al Gore and Environmental Defense, a
private environmental group – totally breaks down. It is not monitorable.
It is not enforceable. Moreover, it is plagued by irreconcilable equity
disputes between the countries of the North and South.
At one level, there is a profound controversy between industrial and
developing countries over how to allocate emission rights. The industrial
nations want each country’s emission rights based on its 1990 levels to
ensure continuity of their economies. By contrast, developing countries
contend that only a per capita allocation is fair and democratic. But if
the emission quota for each U.S. citizen were no higher than for each citizen of
India, that would decimate the U.S. economy. There is moral justice on both
sides of this argument.
A second equity issue, articulated by Anil Agarwal, director of the
Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi, focuses on provisions in
the Kyoto Protocol which would allow industrial nations to buy limitless amounts
of cheap emission reductions in poor countries and to bank them indefinitely
into the future. This means that when developing nations eventually become
obligated to cut their own emissions (under the next phase of the Protocol),
they will be left with only the most expensive options. This clearly
constitutes a form of environmental colonialism.
Finally, even if all the shortcomings involving monitoring, enforcement
and equity could be resolved, international carbon trading would most
appropriately be used as a fine-tuning instrument – to help countries attain
the final 10 to 15 percent of their obligations. It is not the workhorse
vehicle required to propel a worldwide energy transition.
By contrast, the adoption by climate negotiators of a progressively more
stringent Fossil Fuel Efficiency Standard would be far more effective and
equitable. Under this mechanism, every country would start at its current
baseline and commit to improving its Fossil Fuel energy efficiency by, say,
5 percent every year until the global 70 percent reduction is attained. That
means a country would produce the same amount of goods as the previous year
with five percent less carbon fuel. Alternatively, it would produce five
percent more goods with the same carbon fuel use as the previous year.
Since no economy can grow at five percent for long, the progressive efficiency
standard would continue to drive down emissions even as it outpaced economic
growth.The fact that every country would begin at its current energy baseline would
eliminate the equity controversies inherent in the "cap-and-trade" system.
For the first few years of the efficiency standard, most countries would
likely meet their goals by implementing low-cost or even profitable
efficiencies in their current energy systems. After a few years, however,
as those efficiencies become more expensive to capture, countries would meet
the progressively more stringent standard by drawing more and more energy
from non-carbon sources.That, in turn, would create the mass markets and economies of scale for
renewables that would bring down their prices and make them competitive with
coal and oil. (Under a Fossil Fuel standard any non-carbon energy source –
solar, hydrogen, wind -- is 100 percent efficient.)
This approach would be far easier to negotiate than the current Protocol,
with its excruciating morass of contentious and mind-numbing details
involving trading, reviews of the adequacy of the Protocol’s goals and
It would also be far easier to monitor and enforce. A nation's compliance
would be measured simply by calculating the annual change in the ratio of
its carbon fuel use to its gross domestic product.
This approach has a precedent in the Montreal Protocol, under which
companies phased out ozone-destroying chemicals. That protocol was successful because
the same companies that made the destructive chemicals were able to produce
their substitutes – with no loss of competitive standing within the
industry.Governments must reconfigure the energy industry in the same way. Several
oil executives have said in private conversations that they can, in an orderly
fashion, decarbonize their energy supplies. But they need the governments of
the world to regulate the process so all companies can make the transition
in lockstep, without losing market share to competitors. A progressive Fossil
Fuel Efficiency Standard would seem to provide that type of regulation.
This progressive efficiency standard would best not be established in
isolation. If it were implemented in tandem with the provision of $20
billion a year in new subsidies and the creation of a new $300 billion a
year market for clean energy, the global transition would take place far more
quickly than under a stand-alone progressive efficiency standard.
On the ground, the fund would be allocated according to a United Nations
formula based on climate, energy use, population, economic growth rates,
etc.to determine what percentage of each year’s fund would go to each developing
country.If India, for instance, were to receive $5 billion in the first year, it
would decide what mix of wind farms, village solar installations, fuel cell
generators and biogas facilities it wanted.Following that process, India (in this hypothetical example) would then
entertain bids for the windfarms, solar panels and fuel cells it wanted. As
contractors reached specified development and construction benchmarks, they
would then be paid directly by the banks. And the banks, as noted, would
receive a fee for administering the fund. As self-replicating renewable infrastructures took root in developing
countries, the fund could be phased out. Alternatively, progressively
larger amounts could be diverted to other global environmental and development
The fund is not a traditional North-South giveaway. Rather it represents the
transfer of resources from the finance sector -- in the form of speculative,
non-productive transactions -- to the industrial sector -- in the form of
intensely productive, wealth-generating, job-creating investments.
The fund also represents a critical investment in our own national security.
The global climate envelops us all. No matter how drastically the US, EU,
Japan, Canada and Australia were to reduce emissions, those cuts would be
overwhelmed by the coming pulse of carbon from the developing world. A fund
of this magnitude would follow the kind of thinking that gave rise to the
Marshall Plan after World War II. Without that investment, the nations of
Europe would be a collection of impoverished, dependent allies rather than
the prosperous and robust trading partners they are today. This fund would
have a similar effect on the world’s developing economies.
At first glance, the losers in this transition, of course, would be the oil
exporting countries of the Middle East. But they could easily maintain their
geopolitical role as energy producers were they to use the resources on top
of their lands instead of the oil beneath their deserts.
The central fuel of a new energy economy is hydrogen – which is produced by
putting electricity into water. If the Middle Eastern nations were to cover
their deserts with saltwater pipelines and solar-electric panels, they could
become the hydrogen suppliers for Europe and north Africa. While they would
probably make less than they do on their oil, they would still maintain
their role as energy supplier to much of the world.
Overall, the plan would be driven by three engines: the subsidy switch would
propel the metamorphosis of oil companies into energy companies; the
progressive fossil fuel efficiency standard would harmonize the
transformation of national energy structures and create a level field of
predictable regulation for the major energy companies; the competition for
the new $300 billion a year market in clean energy would power the process.
The plan was developed by a small informal group of energy company
presidents, economists, energy policy experts and others (including the
author) two years ago. Following its presentation at side conferences to
two rounds of climate negotiations, it received endorsements from numerous
developing country environmental groups. It has also been presented to
several Congressmen and Senators and is being considered by a new G-8 Task
Force on Renewable Energy.
While the plan would need refinement in its implementation, it seems,
at this point, the only coherent set of strategies which are appropriate to the
scale of the climate crisis. On economic grounds, there would seem to be no basis for argument.
Last year, the largest property re-insurance company in Britain
projected that, unchecked, the impacts of climate change could bankrupt the global
economy within 65 years. In January, Munich Re-Insurance, one of the world’s
largest reinsurers, estimated that within several decades, the damages from
climatic instability will average $300 billion a year from losses to the
banking and insurance industries, property damage, climate-related health
care costs, crop losses and destruction of energy, communications and
transportation infrastructures.
By contrast, the dramatic expansion of the overall wealth in the global
economy from a worldwide energy transition would create new markets and
significantly invigorate existing ones.Nor would this kind of transition lower our living standards. No one is
suggesting we all sit in the dark and ride bicycles. An economy based on
wind, solar and hydrogen could give us all the energy we use today and more.
The problem with these sources is not technological – it is economic. They
are too expensive. What they require is mass markets and economies of scale
to become economically competitive with fossil fuels.
Politically, these strategies should also hold a distinct appeal for the
most energetic political movement of the day – the coalition of
environmental, human rights and labor activists who are opposing the World
Trade Organization and the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement.
The transfer of $300 billion a year in energy resources to developing
countries will raise baseline economic levels and fund new infrastructures
in health care, education and housing – all central objectives of the human
rights movement.
Since production of renewable technologies is far more labor-intensive
than the extractive industries, the huge surge in jobs involved in creating
and installing clean energy devices around the world would provide a large
infusion of new workers for the labor movement.
Given its catastrophic potentials, climate change is already on the top
of the agenda of most environmental groups.
Finally, a global energy transition requires the governments of the
world to regulate some of the largest corporations on the planet. On the record,
corporations normally resist any move toward new regulation. But history
indicates that if the regulations are non-discriminatory, industry-wide and,
most important, predictable -- so corporations can depend on them in
formulating strategic plans – business leaders will accept them. Seen
from the perspective of those activists who would like to bring corporations
under more democratic accountability, these climate solution strategies present a
clear deal to some of the largest corporations on the planet: the
subordination of a measure of corporate autonomy in exchange for a new $300
billion a year market.
Finally, there is the issue of sustainable development in a rapidly
deteriorating biosphere. With our burning of coal and oil, we have
unintentionally set in motion massive systems of the planet with huge
amounts of inertia that have kept it relatively hospitable to civilization for the
last 10,000 years. We have reversed the carbon cycle by more than 400,000
years. We have heated the deep oceans. We have loosed a wave of violent and
chaotic weather. We have altered the timing of the seasons. We are living on
a very precarious margin of stability and the evidence is all around us.
It is not only the delicate balance of our atmospheric gases that is at
risk. The health of the oceans is increasingly compromised. Many of the
world’s forests are rapidly losing their resilience and diversity. Most of
the world’s glaciers are melting at accelerating rates. Some
environmentalists feel that the rapid deterioration of our species home
requires less – not more – global commerce. But given the age in which we
live – with its enormous inequities and its fascination with markets – that
seems unrealistic.
And given the fact that most anti-U.S. sentiment is nurtured by
generations of unending poverty in the developing world, the perpetuation of
global inequity seems a recipe for more terrorism.
By contrast, there may be an unanticipated positive consequence that
would accompany the surge of economic growth that would accompany an energy
The very act of addressing the true proportions of the climate crisis
would bring home to everyone around the world the realization that we are
living on a planet with limits – and that we are now bumping up against
those limits.
Ultimately a worldwide crash program to rewire the world with clean
energy could well yield far more than a fuel switch. It could very easily
lead to closed-loop industrial processes, "smart-growth" planning,
sustainable agricultural practices, far more recycling and reuse, the
incorporation of "environmental accounting" into the way we calculate GDPs –
in short, a whole new ethic of sustainability that would transform our
institutions and practices and dynamics in ways we cannot begin to imagine.
This perspective may well be overly visionary. But the alternative –
given the escalating instability of the climate system, the revelation of
our national vulnerability and the prospect of tides of new homeless people
around the world – is truly horrible to contemplate.
The hope is that a meaningful solution to the climate crisis could
potentially be the beginning of a larger transformation of our social and
economic dynamics. Our modern history has been marked by the dichotomy
between the totalitarianism of command-and-control economies and the opulent
and brutal chaos of unregulated markets and runaway globalization.
It is just possible that the act of rewiring of the planet could begin
to point us toward that optimal calibration of competition and cooperation that
would maximize our energy, creativity and productivity while, at the same
time, dramatically extending the baseline conditions for peace – peace among
people and peace between people and nature.
© Ross Gelbspan, November, 2001


Can their war plan work?

Posted 2001-12-24
In November of 1993, Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, an opposition group devoted to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, presented the Clinton Administration with a detailed, four-phase war plan entitled "The End Game," along with an urgent plea for money to finance it. "The time for the plan is now," Chalabi wrote. "Iraq is on the verge of spontaneous combustion. It only needs a trigger to set off a chain of events that will lead to the overthrow of Saddam." It was a message that Chalabi would repeat for the next eight years.
Chalabi, who is fifty-six, was born into a wealthy Iraqi Shiite banking family and earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago. He received money and authorization from the Clinton Administration to put his plan into effect, and by October, 1994, a small C.I.A. outpost had been set up in an area in northern Iraq controlled by the Kurds. Chalabi's headquarters were nearby. His plan called for simultaneous insurrections in Basra, the largest city in southern Iraq, which is dominated by disaffected Shiites (Saddam and his followers are Sunnis), and in Mosul and Kirkuk, Kurdish cities in the north. Massive Iraqi military defections would follow. "We called it Chalabi's rolling coup," Bob Baer, the C.I.A. agent in charge, recounted.
At the time, Baer has written in "See No Evil," a memoir to be published next month, "the C.I.A. didn't have a single source in Iraq. . . . Not only were there no human sources in country, the C.I.A. didn't have any in the neighboring countries—Iran, Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia—who reported on Iraq. Like the rest of the U.S. government, its intelligence-gathering apparatus was blind when it came to Iraq."
In March, 1995, Chalabi's insurrection was launched, and failed dramatically. "There was nothing there," Baer told me. "No one moved except one Kurdish leader acting on his own—three days too late. Nothing happened." As far as recruiting agents from inside the Iraqi military, "Chalabi didn't deliver a single lieutenant, let alone a colonel or a general." Baer emphasized that he wasn't dismissive of Chalabi himself, because, as he put it, "Chalabi was trying." Even so, Baer said, "he was bluffing—he thought it was better to bluff and try to win. But he was forced to play bridge with no trump cards." Baer went on, "He always thought it was a psychological war, and that if Clinton would stand up and say, 'It's time for the guy to go,' people would do it."
Chalabi had written in his war plan that if there was "no movement" and if Saddam was permitted to export oil, "then the psychology of the people will turn. Saddam will appear to open [for] them hope for the future. At that point he will have escaped." A month after the failed insurrection, the United Nations Security Council allowed Iraq to resume oil sales under its Oil for Food program, insuring a flow of money to the regime.
By late 1996, the Iraqi Army had all but driven Chalabi's operation out of northern Iraq. A hundred and thirty Iraqi National Congress members were executed. Chalabi managed to maintain his hold on the I.N.C., despite repeated charges from the coalition's members of mismanagement, corruption, and self-aggrandizement, and he moved his anti-Saddam base to London. His plans were largely written off by the State Department and the C.I.A. America's goal would be to pursue Saddam's removal by military or political coup, and not by open rebellion. "I don't see an opposition group that has the viability to overthrow Saddam," Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, the commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), who is now serving as the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, later told a Senate committee. "Even if we had Saddam gone, we could end up with fifteen, twenty, or ninety groups competing for power."
Chalabi bore his fall from official favor gracefully. Disdainful of the Clinton Administration, which he felt had abandoned him in northern Iraq, he took his campaign to the press and to Congress, and the I.N.C. soon emerged as a rallying point for political conservatives and for many of the former senior officials who had run the Gulf War for the first President Bush.
In February of 1998, forty prominent Americans—including Caspar Weinberger, Frank Carlucci, and Donald Rumsfeld, all former Secretaries of Defense—signed an open letter to President Clinton warning that Saddam Hussein still posed an immediate threat, because of his stockpile of biological and chemical weapons. They urged that the government once again consider fostering a popular uprising against the Iraqi government. Echoing Chalabi's 1993 war plan, the letter writers argued that Saddam's weakness was his lack of popular support: "He rules by terror. The same brutality which makes it unlikely that any coups or conspiracies can succeed makes him hated by his own people. . . . Iraq today is ripe for a broad-based insurrection." Their first two recommendations were that the I.N.C. be recognized as the provisional government of Iraq and be reinstalled in northern Iraq. Another recommendation urged the Clinton Administration to release Iraqi assets frozen at the time of the Gulf War, which total more than $1.5 billion, to help fund the provisional government.
The letter, like similar pleas from congressional Republicans, failed to bring about a change in policy, although eight months later President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which allocated ninety-seven million dollars for training and military equipment for the Iraqi opposition. Because of continued skepticism within the government, the I.N.C. has received less than a million dollars of that money, but the State Department has provided the group with roughly ten million dollars in routine operating funds.
During the Presidential campaign last year, George W. Bush and Al Gore both promised support for the opposition to Saddam—Bush said he would "take him out"—if he continued to develop weapons of mass destruction. Most arms-control experts believe that Iraq has in fact continued to develop such weapons, but after the election Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser, made it clear, according to a former government official, that the new Administration would not make Iraq a priority. "Her feeling was that Saddam was a small problem—chump change—that we needed to wall him into a corner so we could get on with the big issues: Russia, China, NATO expansion, a new relationship with India and, down the road, with Africa," the former official said.
Before September 11th, according to one of Chalabi's advisers, the I.N.C.'s war plan revolved around training, encouraging defectors, and American enforcement of the no-fly zone in southern Iraq. The idea was to recruit two hundred instructors and put them to work training a force of five thousand or more dissident Iraqis, reinforced by soldiers of fortune, some of whom, inevitably, would be retired Americans who had served in Special Forces units. The United States would also be asked to institute a no-drive zone, backed up by air strikes, to protect the insurgents from attack by Iraqi tanks.
A Chalabi adviser explained, "You insert this force into southern Iraq"—the site of most of Iraq's oil fields—"perhaps at an abandoned airbase west of Basra, and you sit there and let Saddam come to you. And if he doesn't come you go home and say we failed. This is not the Bay of Pigs." On the other hand, the adviser said, "if the insurgent force took Basra—that's the end. You don't have to go to Baghdad. You tie up his oil and he'll collapse."
Then came September 11th, and the quick victories in Afghanistan, where the combination of internal rebellion, intense bombing, and Special Forces deployment turned the Taliban out of power within weeks. Ahmad Chalabi has now given the Bush Administration an updated war plan, which calls not only for bombing but for the deployment of thousands of American Special Forces troops.
There is a second significant addition to the plan: the participation of Iran, which fought a protracted war with Iraq during the nineteen-eighties. The government of President Mohammad Khatami, America's newfound partner in the war against the Taliban, has agreed to permit I.N.C. forces and their military equipment to cross the Iranian border into southern Iraq. An I.N.C. official told me that the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control gave the organization special approval to open a liaison office in Tehran. (American companies are forbidden under federal sanctions law to do business with Iran.) The office opened in April. "We did it with U.S. government money, and that's what convinced them in Tehran," the I.N.C. official said. "They took it as a sign from the United States of a common interest—getting rid of Saddam. The way to get to him is through Iran."
Once inside Iraq, according to Chalabi's scenario, the I.N.C. would establish a firebase and announce the creation of a provisional Iraqi government, which the Bush Administration would quickly recognize. Nearly two-thirds of the Iraqi population are Shiites, and they are seen as potential allies in a political uprising. The United States would then begin an intense bombing campaign, as it did in Afghanistan, and airlift thousands of Special Forces troops into southern Iraq. At the same time, I.N.C. supporters in the north, in the areas under Kurdish control, would begin signalling that they were about to attack. If all went as planned, dissent would quickly break out inside the Iraqi military, and Saddam Hussein would be confronted with a dilemma: whether to send his élite forces south to engage the Americans or, for his own protection, keep all his forces nearby to guard against an invasion from the north.
Chalabi's new plan also calls for the United States to provide funding for an I.N.C. mobile assault force of six battalions of armed Toyota four-by-fours, equipped with machine guns, recoilless cannons, and antitank missiles. "If you did that, there would be massive defections," the I.N.C. official told me. The six battalions, he said, could stop an Iraqi counterattack by two armored divisions. Two preliminary target areas have been isolated, both near airbases that, once secured, could be used to fly in American Special Forces troops. The attack plan was worked out with the help of a retired four-star Army general, Wayne Downing, and a former C.I.A. officer, Duane (Dewey) Clarridge, who have served as unpaid consultants to the I.N.C. (Downing was appointed by President Bush in October to be the deputy national-security adviser for combatting terrorism.)
Downing, who ran a Special Forces command during the Gulf War, was convinced that the I.N.C., with airpower and a small contingent of well-trained Special Forces, could do the job inside Iraq. He was privy to one of the most astonishing engagements of the Gulf War: In mid-February of 1991, a Delta Force troop of sixteen men on night patrol south of Al-Qaim, near the Syrian border in western Iraq, was overrun by a large enemy force, and the Iraqis wounded two Americans. The Delta troops, operating from heavily armed vehicles, counterattacked with grenade launchers and machine guns (a maneuver known as Final Protective Fire) and killed or wounded an estimated hundred and eighty Iraqis, with no further injury to themselves. One American veteran of the Gulf War told me, "In the west"—where Delta operated—"there was little opposition, and we had freedom of movement"; that is, the troops were operating on their own. "Downing loved it."
America's success in routing the Taliban has improved Chalabi's standing with some elements of Washington's defense community. "They believe they have found the perfect model, and it works," a defense analyst said of the updated war plan. "The model is bombing, a modest insertion of Special Forces, plus an uprising." Similarly, Tim McCarthy, a former United Nations weapons inspector, acknowledged that "the one thing the I.N.C. has going for it is that, once someone puts their stake down, the Iraqis will have to go after them. Saddam will have to send his Hammurabi after them"—the Iraqi Army's élite armored-tank division. Once Saddam made his move, McCarthy said, his forces would be exposed to American air strikes, "and then they are toast."
Many of the people who signed the 1998 open letter to Clinton urging American support for Iraqi insurgents are now in positions of authority in the Bush Administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and Douglas Feith, an Under-Secretary of Defense. Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State, was also a signatory. One of the drafters of the letter was Richard Perle, the longtime conservative foreign-policy adviser in Washington, who has turned the obscure Defense Policy Board, which he chairs, into a powerful platform for advancing policies dear to the Republican right. In the past few weeks, Perle and another I.N.C. supporter, James Woolsey, a former director of the C.I.A., have inspired a surge of articles and columns calling for the extension of the Afghan war into Iraq.
The Pentagon officials, buttressed by Perle and Woolsey, are at odds with the State Department—specifically, with their fellow letter-signer Richard Armitage, who has now become, in private, an opponent of the revised Chalabi plan. "I've got to believe that Wolfowitz and Feith are angry" at Armitage, one friend of all three men told me. "They feel he's betrayed a fundamental conviction they shared."
"September 11th changed the whole equation," said the former New York congressman Stephen Solarz, who helped Perle draft the 1998 letter. "Before then, an argument could be made that deterrence worked." In recent speeches and articles, Perle has dwelled on the potential threat from Iraq. Last month, at a meeting in Philadelphia of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, Perle said, "The question in my mind is: Do we wait for Saddam and hope for the best? Do we wait and hope he doesn't do what we know he is capable of, which is distributing weapons of mass destruction to anonymous terrorists, or do we take preëmptive action? . . . What is essential here is not to look at the opposition to Saddam as it is today, without any external support, without any realistic hope of removing that awful regime, but to look at what could be created."
One of Armitage's supporters in the internal debate, a former high-level intelligence official, wondered scornfully if the Perle circle's enthusiasm for Chalabi's plan grew out of their unease about the first Bush Administration's decision in early 1991, when they were in power, not to seek Saddam's demise at the end of the Gulf War. "It's the revenge of the nerds," he said. Also, he said, "They won in Afghanistan when everybody said it wouldn't work, and it's got them in a euphoric mood of cockiness. They went against the established experts on the Middle East who said it would lead to fundamental insurrections in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Not so, and anyone who now preaches any approach of solving problems with diplomacy is scoffed at. They're on a roll."
Armitage views the I.N.C.'s eagerness to confront Saddam, the former official told me, as ill-considered. "We have no idea what could go wrong in Iraq if the crazies took over that country," the former official said, referring to religious fundamentalists. "Better the devil we know than the one we don't." He described Armitage as confident that he could block the plan, and frustrated by the amount of time he has been forced to spend on the issue. "Dick says no way. He's going to win it." Otherwise, he added, "he knows it's going to be a political disaster."
A senior Administration official depicted Chalabi as "totally charming," but said that the Administration had no intention of allowing "a bunch of half-assed people to send foreigners into combat." Of Chalabi and his supporters in and out of government, the senior official said, "Who among them has ever smelled cordite? These are pissants who can't get the President's ear and have to blame someone else. We're not going to let them lead others down the garden path." The I.N.C., he added, is not the only Iraqi opposition group being funded by the Bush Administration, and not the only group capable of "working through Iran."
Secretary of State Colin Powell, known to be skeptical of the I.N.C., has "backed away from the infighting," a senior general explained, and left it to Armitage, his trusted colleague, "to stall them off four or five months. There's a lot of ways to squeeze Saddam without using military force." More focussed sanctions would be one logical step, but the Bush Administration last month agreed to delay for six months its insistence on "smart sanctions," which would enable the United Nations to crack down on "dual use" goods, which could be employed for military or civilian purposes, while allowing medicine, food, and other essentials to flow. The Iraqi regime now exports an estimated two million barrels of oil daily under the Oil for Food program. Major purchasers include ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other American companies, who routinely buy the oil through third parties. As many as eight hundred thousand barrels of that oil a day end up in the U.S. market.(emphasis mine)
In recent weeks, Chalabi's revised war plan, augmented and modified by a Pentagon planning group authorized by Paul Wolfowitz, has made its way to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for evaluation. It has left some military men cold, and prompted a debate about the lessons learned from Afghanistan and how they can be applied to Saddam. "There's no question we can take him down," a former government official told me. "But what do you need to do it? The J.C.S. is feeling the pressure. These guys are being squeezed so hard."
Some of the concerns were articulated by Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who has written widely on airpower. "The lesson from Afghanistan is less than meets the eye," Pape told me. "Airpower is becoming more effective, but the real lesson is that you need significant ground forces to make the strategy effective. The Taliban, which controlled fifty thousand troops, were thinly dispersed and never in total control of the country. We don't have an armed opposition already in Iraq like the Northern Alliance." A former senior State Department official depicted the I.N.C. proposal as "highly risky, because two things they can't control have to happen. There's got to be an uprising against Saddam, and our allies have to join us in country." A senior intelligence official similarly debunked the notion that what worked in Afghanistan would necessarily work in Iraq as equivalent to "taking the show from upstate New York to Broadway."
The military's response has been cautious and bureaucratic. A former official told me that the Joint Chiefs ordered their staff to "come up with a counterproposal," which is now in the planning stages. An Air Force consultant said that the I.N.C. is not included in the Pentagon's planning, adding, "Everything is going to happen inside Iraq, and Chalabi is going to be on the outside." According to a senior Bush Administration official, two senior American diplomats were recently sent to northern Iraq to talk to Kurdish opposition leaders and "check out who's got go and who's got no go."
Generals and admirals have been among the most outspoken critics of Chalabi's proposals. In his years of planning at CENTCOM, General Zinni concluded, according to a Clinton Administration official, that a prudent and successful invasion of Iraq would involve the commitment of two corps—at least six combat divisions, or approximately a hundred and fifty thousand soldiers—as well as the ability to fly bombing missions from nearby airfields. In an essay published last year in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Zinni, who was on the eve of retirement, wrote about what it would take to "drive a stake" through the heart of someone like Saddam:
You must have the political will—and that means the will of the administration, the Congress, and the American people. All must be united in a desire for action. Instead, however, we try to get results on the cheap. There are congressmen today who want to fund the Iraqi Liberation Act, and let some silk-suited, Rolex-wearing guys in London gin up an expedition. We'll equip a thousand fighters and arm them with ninety-seven million dollars' worth of AK-47s and insert them into Iraq. And what will we have? A Bay of Goats, most likely.
One of the officials currently involved in the Pentagon's planning said that he, too, had doubts about the efficacy of an I.N.C. armed insurrection, even one backed up by American warplanes and Special Forces. "If you go to war and don't address the root political problem, why bother?" he asked. "All we're going to get is another tyrant in five years. If this is the war to end all jihads, it's got to have a broad-based political agenda behind it."
One of Zinni's close aides told me, "Our question was 'What about the day after?' How do you deal with the long-term security aspects of Iraq? For example, do you take the Republican Guard"—the military unit most loyal to Saddam—"and disarm it? Or is it preferable to turn it from having a capability to protect Saddam to a capability to protect Iraq? You've got Kurds in the north, Arab Shia in the south, and the Baath Party in the middle, with great internal tribal divisions. There's potential for civil war. Layer on external opposition and you've got a potential for great instability. I'm a military planner and plan for the worst case. As bad as this guy is, a stable Iraq is better than instability."
When I asked James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director, about these concerns, he said, "Iraq has its tribal factions and regional loyalties, but it also has a very sophisticated and intellectual infrastructure of highly educated people. There's no reason they couldn't establish a federalized—or loosely federalized—democracy."
"The issue is not how nice it would be to get rid of Saddam," a former senior Defense Department official told me. "Everybody in the Middle East would be delighted to see him go. The problem is feasibility. We looked at all these plans and always came to the conclusion that the external opposition did not have the armed ability to deal with Saddam's police state."
President Bush has not yet decided what to do about Iraq, according to the senior Administration official. Until he has, he said, the State Department will continue to give financial support to opposition groups, including the I.N.C. In a Washington Post interview earlier this fall, Condoleezza Rice used a football metaphor to indicate that all options remain open. "We will be calling audibles every time we come to the line," she told the columnist Jim Hoagland.
There is evidence that Saddam Hussein is rattled by the war talk in Washington. "The Iraqis are scared to death," one intelligence source said. The intelligence community, according to a former official, has also received hints—however hard to credit—that the Iraqis might be willing to join in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Conciliatory messages were relayed through diplomatic channels in Canada, and eventually reached the White House.
Inside the Administration, there is a general consensus on one issue, officials told me: there will be no further effort to revive the U.N. inspection regime in Iraq. The inspectors were withdrawn in late 1998, after seven years of contentious and sometimes very successful inspections, and Iraq has refused since then to accept a new wave of inspectors. "I've been told that senior U.S. officials have little faith in the viability of the new inspection regime," one disarmament expert told me.
There is every indication that the next few months, as the President struggles to reach a decision, will produce more, perhaps much more, of the same: continued American patrolling of the no-fly zones in the south and north of Iraq and occasional bombing of military targets. A retired flag officer described the approach as deterrence: "We have to make sure that Saddam knows that if he sticks his head up he'll get whacked."

Lev Grinberg

( Lev Grinberg is a political sociologist, and the Director of the Humphrey Institute for Social Research at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel)

This last month has been marked by a dramatic change in the US and European attitudes towards the Israeli occupation. The US first, and subsequently the EU, have adopted the Israeli view that the core of the problem is Yasir Arafat. Bombing Arafat helicopters, confining him to the besieged city of Ramalla, and the recent occupation of parts of the city, have nothing to do with Israeli security or " the struggle against terror". The Israeli Government targeted Arafat, and succeeded to convince first the Israeli public and now the international community that this policy is legitimate.

Present Israeli action against Arafat was preceded by the construction of an arrogant and paternalist discourse on the "character of Arafat". We, Israelis, are at liberty to dismiss one leader and appoint another in his place. This arrogance, in relation to Arafat, highlights the underlying dimension of the failed Oslo peace process and the Camp David Summit. The discourse labeling Arafat as the essence of the Palestinian problem did not achieve predominance by virtue of the campaign waged by the settlers' leaders in the occupied territories and the extreme right. Rather, it is the discourse of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his foreign minister, Shlomo Ben Ami, developed after the Camp David Summit aiming to hide their resounding failure. The over-simplified reduction of the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the character of Arafat, and hence the self-evident magic-wand solution of "removing the obstacle", was constructed by the leaders of the "Left", following their need to explain away the fiasco of their term of office.

The arrogant discourse is reflected in the urge to enthrone in Arafat's place an alternative, more "obliging" leader, and in the paternalistic argument that "we know what is better for the Palestinians". In effect, each wing of Israel's political spectrum opts for a leader who would best serve its respective purposes. The "moderates" in the Government prefer a moderate, dressed in a business suit who would consent to deal in a rational Western manner, and the "extremists" fancy a Hamas type who could legitimize an open and sanguinous war against "the Palestinian evil". The two camps share the same discourse that the burden for resolving the crisis is on Arafat's shoulders, while simultaneously avoiding Israel's own responsibility. In fact the Government is fighting Arafat and his forces, preventing him and the Palestinian authorities from succeeding in any possible effective struggle against extremist Islam, because Palestinian extremism and terror facilitates hiding the core problem of occupation.

Arrogance and paternalism is the underlying effect of occupation, which is not peculiar to the Israeli situation. European settlers that occupied regions inhabited by non-Europeans have developed similar discourses. The local inhabitants were classified as inferior and primitive, and deserving no individual rights, certainly no collective right to their homeland. Such has been the state of affairs in Israel\Palestine since the onset of the colonization, and the Oslo peace accords introduced no fundamental change. The land belongs to us, Israelis, we are its masters, and the Palestinians must accept whatever we are benevolent enough to offer them. The indignation of the "Left" towards the Palestinians following Camp David is over their ingratitude and their refusal to accept Barak's "generous" offer. The support of the US for the Israeli attitude caused despair among the Palestinians.

The Oslo accords were shaped according to the hegemonic arrogance of occupation. Having been initially "granted" Jericho and Gaza, Arafat was placed "on probation". If he passed the test, he would be awarded additional territory; if not, the process would be halted, as Rabin proclaimed (Netanyahu was more direct, as in the slogan he coined: "If they provide results, they'll get more, if they don't, they won't!"). Resumption of the Oslo process depended upon Arafat's "good conduct", his grades to be determined by Israel. Arafat was expected to deliver what the Israeli army had failed to: security to the Israelis. However, he wasn't entitled to protect the security or independence of his people. Hence Arafat's authority was not derived from the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights, rather from Israel's consent to his presence; hence it is also feasible to expel him.

What did Israel undertake in return? Merely to vacate the larger Palestinian towns (and some land in their vicinity, as Israel found fit) thus, allowing Arafat to appoint governors and policemen, but not enabling territorial contiguity or sovereignty. Israel did not take upon itself relinquishment of military control, the creation of a Palestinian state, the granting of economic independence, withdrawal to 1967 borders, and certainly not the resolution of volatile issues such as Jerusalem or the Palestinian refugees. Israel did not even halt or slow down its colonization drive in the occupied territories. The entire agreement rested upon Israeli goodwill. Thus, the second indispensable pre- condition for the success of the Oslo accords was Rabin's retention of power. Rabin's assassination and Arafat's failure to provide for Israel's security rendered the Oslo accords doomed.

Ariel Sharon is completing now the historical project that he started in 1982 with the occupation of Lebanon. He is working with the same logic based on military power used to destroy the legitimate representation of the Palestinian people. In the case of Lebanon, he was stopped by the international community that prevented him from entering the besieged Beirut. However, he succeeded to enthrone Bashir Jumayel as president of Lebanon. As will be recalled, Jumayel was assassinated within days after his appointment, while the Israeli army was drawn into the 18-year occupation and fight against Lebanese militias that ended in Israel's forcible removal from Lebanon.

The Palestinians learned well the lessons of Lebanon, and are weary of the Oslo accords that they regard as an alibi for continued occupation. Arafat did not instigate the Intifada, although he may endeavor to lead it so as to retain his status as the leader of the people for whom he is accountable. Unless we, the Israelis, cast off our arrogant mode of thinking, and our position as an occupying power, the present cycle of bloodshed can only intensify, with Arafat and even more so, in his absence. Europe, that has witnessed the arrogance of colonialism as a dominant power, should not return now to adopt similar attitudes even when their source is the Jewish State. International intervention to stop Sharon is urgently needed for the sake of the Palestinians and the Israelis as well.


Settler Violence and September 11
A Report from the Mean Streets of Hebron


Kathleen Kern

As the four teenagers in kippot approached the bus stop in Jerusalem where I was waiting for an Israeli friend, I instinctively whipped off the red hat that identified me as an international observer. A British friend visiting our team in Hebron had been wearing one when a settler assaulted her recently. The young men drew closer, and I realized with some panic that I had forgotten about the red Christian Peacemaker Team armband pinned to my sleeve. I looked at the ground to avoid making eye contact, but they stopped in front of me.

Cheerfully, they explained that they were producing a new cable access show and wanted video blurbs encouraging people to watch. "You can say it in English, if you want," the one carrying the video camera said with an encouraging smile.

I obliged them with, "Without the Israel Bomberg show, my life would have no meaning." They laughed, after one boy translated it for the others, and thanked me as they moved on to find more testimonials.

My initial reaction disturbed me. Recent experiences in Hebron had made me assume that the young men, because they were wearing kippot, had wanted to hurt me. All my anti-racism training had been for naught.

I have worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron since 1995. Even if the end of my most recent tour of duty had not coincided with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I would have called the two months I spent there this summer among the most difficult of my experience.

Before the calamities in the United States happened, I would have characterized summer 2001 in Hebron as "Lord of the Flies: Book 2." Teenage settler girls without fail assaulted Palestinian vendors in the vegetable market on the infrequent occasions when the Israeli military lifted the curfew there. The military would then reimpose curfew. (The rules of the game in Hebron: If Israelis are attacked by Palestinians, Palestinians are punished. If Palestinians are attacked by Israelis, Palestinians are punished.)

Our British friend, a Ploughshares activist, had witnessed a girl heave a rock at a seventy-five-year-old man and then laugh as his white headscarf became soaked with blood. My friend pled with an adult male settler to stop the girls from throwing rocks. He proceeded to cover her Women in Black solidarity outfit with white globs of saliva, call her a Nazi, punch her in the head, and smash her camera.

Hebron settler boys between the ages of five and twelve wandered the streets in packs stoning Palestinian passersby.

Hebron settler boys between the ages of five and twelve wandered the streets in packs stoning Palestinian passersby, their homes, and their shops, while soldiers looked on. A group of these boys assaulted Sister Anne Montgomery (age seventy-four) and I when soldiers called us over to a checkpoint and asked to see our passports. The soldiers stood there as the group of about ten boys proceeded to stone us, hit us with sticks, and throw water at us from the soldiers' water bottle. Despite our requests that the soldiers call the police, they just stood there, sometimes smiling at the boys' behavior.

Using our cellphone (which the boys tried to snatch from my hands), we finally called an Israeli friend who called the police. As the blue flashing light drew near, the two oldest boys, ringleaders in the attack, ran into the settlement of Avraham Avinu. The first thing the Israeli police said to us as they got out of the van was, "We can't arrest them; they're under ten."

Anne and I then watched from the safety of the police van as the boys began to push the policemen and try to grab the video camera of the officer taping their antics. It almost frightened me more than getting attacked to see that the little boys, shouting "Naziim, Naziim," knew that they could push around police officers with complete impunity.

I have not seen this level of street violence since the months before the Rabin assassination in 1995. Then, we didn't take the innumerable threats to kill Rabin and Peres seriously, any more than we took offense at getting called Nazis. Now, we do.

Among Palestinians, we hear little that encourages us either. Friends who never used to make generalizations about what Jews and Israelis are like are beginning to spout the rhetoric of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Palestinian gunmen continue to shoot from the neighborhoods of Haret Sheik and Abu Sneineh with no regard for the people who will have their homes destroyed by Israeli military missile and tank fire. The nightly shooting in Hebron has killed both Israeli and Palestinian children.

Ironically, perhaps the one encouraging bit of news I brought home had to do with the reactions of Palestinians in Hebron to the terrorist attacks on September 11.

"I wanted to call to tell you how so, so sorry I am about what has happened to Americans this day," a Palestinian friend told me on the phone that evening. "I am watching what happened in New York on the television; it is so sad." I told him that my co-workers and I in Hebron did not have a television, and he said, "It is better. No one should see these pictures."

Other Hebronites echoed his sentiments a hundred times during the days following September 11, as I prepared to leave the country. Strangers approached us on the street to express condolences. Our Arabic teacher began crying as soon as we arrived for our lesson and embraced us. During the lesson she said there were no Arabic words she could give us for what she had seen on TV. I suggested "Nakhba" or "catastrophe"—the word Palestinians use to describe what happened to them in 1948 when 750,000 of them were turned into refugees. "Yes," she said. "You can say, 'nakhba' for this."

As our team was being flooded with sympathy calls, Israeli soldiers began breaking into our neighbors' homes at night. When we asked them why they were screaming at the Palestinians living there and throwing their furniture around, they snarled, "Didn't you see these people dancing?"

But we hadn't. At no time that week did I see a Palestinian dancing or hear one expressing approval for what the terrorists did to my fellow citizens in New York or Washington, DC. The Palestinians in Hebron know that my organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams, often criticizes U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and they had plenty of opportunity to express their own bitterness regarding U.S. policy to us. But they didn't. It seemed that everyone knew at some level that grief was the only appropriate response in the days immediately after the bombing .

As I sit here in front of the computer, back in the land of civility and hot showers, I am conscious of my chest tightening with unanswered questions—or perhaps in denial of the real answers. How can I persuade people that it's much easier to film several hundred Palestinians celebrating the attacks than it is to show two million Palestinians grieving in front of their television sets? It took the death of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 for the Israeli government to grant police and prosecutors the political power to crack down on settler violence. What will it take this time?

On a personal level, I wonder when I am going to regain my nerve. A couple days before I left the country, I saw a group of settler boys throwing stones at Palestinian shops while soldiers watched and laughed. A Palestinian family—father, mother, and two small girls—walked past them on the street. The father's face registered little emotion beyond anger and disgust as the boys began throwing stones at them. As he strode past without turning his head, his daughters clung to his arms, one girl's eyes wide with fear, the other's face crumpled with incipient tears.

They passed me without looking in my direction. I had not intervened, because I was afraid.


Kathleen Kern has worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams since 1993. Her chapter about CPT's work may be found in From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding (Oxford University Press, 2000).

WE WANT TO HEAR from you! Use our direct link to share your views. Or write to "Letters," Tikkun Magazine, 2107 Van Ness Ave., Suite 302, San Francisco, CA 94109; Fax: (415) 575-1434. Please include your name, address, and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for space and clarity.