TEHRAN (FNA)- Prominent American peace activist and FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley believes that the United States is violating the international law by supporting the rebels and terrorists in Syria.
“Even threats to bomb are supposed to be illegal under international law, i.e. under the Kellogg-Briand Treaty, later engrained in the Nuremberg Principle that wars of aggression be considered the ‘supreme crime’, and the UN Charter,” she said.
In an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency, Rowley said that the Israeli lobby is pushing the US government to new wars the costs of which would be imposed on the American taxpayers. She also said that the US government is using the instrument of mass media to justify and rationalize its wars and portray a lopsided and false image of the target countries in the eyes of its citizens.
“Since all wars are made possible through lies; they are begun, sustained and ended accompanied by various types of war propaganda, it seems to me that each of us have a duty to speak truth to power to expose these lies, as quickly as possible,” Rowley noted.
Coleen Rowley is a former FBI agent, whistleblower and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s 2nd congressional district in the 2006 congressional elections. She was jointly titled the Time Person of the Year in 2002 with Sherron Watkins and Cynthia Cooper. Rowley is a vocal critic of the US foreign policy and its military expeditions. She has testified in front of the Senate and for the 9/11 Commission about “the FBI’s internal organization and mishandling of information related to the September 11, 2001, attacks.”
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Ms. Rowley accepted FNA’s request for an exclusive interview and responded to our questions regarding the US foreign policy, the post-9/11 War on Terror and the AIPAC and Israeli lobby’s influence over the US administration. What follows is the text of the interview.
Q: In one of your writings, you talked of AIPAC as the most powerful force on the US foreign policy in recent decades, which drives the United States to new wars and military adventures on behalf of Tel Aviv. Do you think that the US government is unable to resist the pressures of AIPAC and maintain an independent, self-reliant foreign policy that is not oriented on militarism and warmongering?
A: Yes, I tend to agree with the increasing number of foreign policy, government experts, typified by realist scholars Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer and former government officials (i.e. former congressmen Paul Findley and James Abourezk and even former President Jimmy Carter to some degree) who have gone public with their concerns about the undue power and motivations of the Israel Lobby upon the US government. Even former AIPAC officials are now on record about the Lobby’s enormous power and the pressures it can bring to bear upon US politicians through its system of threats and legalized bribery of campaign contributions. This is confirmed by the history of lopsided congressional voting records where only a handful of elected Congresspersons vote “no” to AIPAC or usually the best they can do is go “absent.”
Such votes on behalf of any foreign country’s interest diverge from US’ interests. AIPAC propaganda, however, is that Israel and the US have perfectly aligned interests and most US politicians are forced to constantly mouth this assertion.
Of course AIPAC is just my shorthand for the entire Israel Lobby apparatus with its tentacles effectively controlling politicians of both parties and which also involves Israel’s aggressive spy operation targeted at US government officials. The neo-conservative warmongering powerhouse made public through signers of the 1990s “Project for the New American Century (PNAC)” which pushed for and planned the war on Iraq, and now renamed by one of its founders, Bill Kristol, as the “Foreign Policy Initiative” is part and parcel of this same Lobby. Numerous think tanks like WINEP and organizations like the JCRC and ADL are either AIPAC spin-offs, fronts or just highly affiliated.
A bit of hope does exist as a result of this wider exposure of the Lobby and better understanding by war-weary Americans of the neocons’ war agenda. Evidence that their power may have been somewhat dented exists in the souring of Congress in September 2013 for Obama-Kerry’s announced plan to bomb Syria to “punish” Assad for his alleged and still unproven use of chemical weapons. AIPAC and its affiliates went to work immediately, pulling out the stops to twist Congress into support for a new war on Syria but they were unsuccessful this time—almost the first time they’ve been unsuccessful. However, there’s now reason to believe that the US unfortunate meddling in Ukraine, dangerously provoking Russia, which stemmed from orchestrated activities and collaborations of neo-cons like Victoria Nuland, married to PNAC founder Robert Kagan, is a kind of “payback” for the US failure to follow through and bomb Syria.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Israel_Lobby_and_U.S._Foreign_Policy (re Walt and Mearsheimer)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They_Dare_to_Speak_Out (1985, by former Congressman Paul Findley)
Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly, counterspies have told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, going far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan. A congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony “very sobering…alarming…even terrifying.” Another staffer called it “damaging.”
Q: The US government and its allies haven’t yet declared a military strike on Syria, but they’re indirectly involved in the conflict through sending suicidal fighters to Syria, funding and arming the rebels and providing the terrorist groups such as Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant with advanced weaponry. So it seems that the war on Syria is already underway. What’s your viewpoint on that?
A: Yes, the US funding and arming and other actions you list—mostly through US’ ties with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, to help the Syrian opposition fighters topple Assad, are all acts of war and actually also violate international law. Even threats to bomb are supposed to be illegal under international law, i.e. under the Kellogg-Briand Treaty, later engrained in the Nuremberg Principle that wars of aggression be considered the “supreme crime”, and the UN Charter. The US has repeatedly announced that it only provides “non-lethal” assistance to Syrian rebel groups but throughout history, it has relied on covert actions to violate international law. So I don’t think we know the full extent of the types of assistance that have been given to the Syrian opposition fighters.
Most recently there has been controversy as to whether the US has provided or should provide “MANPADS” surface to air missiles, or merely acquiesce in Saudi Arabia’s providing of such lethal arms. I don’t think the US is actually trying to arm the most extreme of the jihadist groups fighting in Syria. There seems to be genuine controversy as some US officials realize the danger that such weapons would be transferred, or otherwise find their way, from the “good – US chosen – rebels” into the hands of the Al Qaeda-linked “bad jihadist” groups that the US says it doesn’t approve of.
It’s been wisely observed that “a poor man’s war is terrorism while a rich man’s terrorism is war.” Terrorism and war are thus the flip sides of each other, with the use of either side serving to ratchet up the other. The cynic in me thinks US foreign policy strategists are very much cognizant of this dynamic and actually believe they can use both sides of the equation as their tools of control. Such hubris is not healthy.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1505 (re MANPADs)
Q: In 2002, the New York Times writers, including the notorious Judith Miller, cooperated with the neo-conservative lobbies in the United States and laid the groundwork for the invasion of Iraq by presenting false evidence of the non-existent Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction. Do you believe that the same plans were going to be implemented against Iran by fallaciously pretending that Iran possessed nuclear weapons?
A: Yes. Of course it’s well known that WINEP Director of Research, and Israel Lobbyist Patrick Clawson gave a speech openly admitting and discussing how a “false flag” was needed to provoke the US to launch war on Iran.
Additionally retired General Wesley Clark is on record, as having heard the list of seven countries (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran) in the Mideast that the US planned to attack or otherwise effect “regime change” in the next five years after 9/11. Clark said he was told: “We learned that we can use our military without being challenged …. We’ve got about five years to clean up the Soviet client regimes before another superpower comes along and challenges us.” Some of this plan that Clark heard about did already come to pass but also not without encountering greater obstacles than originally planned on.
A comprehensive history of US actions since the 1980’s, including various false information that led to reports, including those of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the existence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran is contained in the recent book Manufactured Crisis by Gareth Porter. Porter recently spoke here in the Twin Cities in Minnesota (link below). It should be noted however that the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of 2007 found no current evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. This NIE was later re-confirmed in successive NIE.
http://youtu.be/PfoaLbbAix0 (Israel Lobbyist Patrick Clawson discusses need for “false flag” to initiate war on Iran)
http://justworldbooks.com/manufactured-crisis/ (recently published book by historian Gareth Porter)
https://vimeo.com/94519835 (talk by Gareth Porter in Minneapolis, May 7, 2014)
Q: As you note in your writings, the concepts of humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) have been long abused by the imperial powers to wage wars, invade other countries, kill their people and plunder their resources. What should be done to prevent such bloodlettings, unrestrained killings and confiscation of the natural resources and energy reserves of the target countries, which are perchance mostly located in the Middle East?
A: Yes, there are a few of us who see through the “Right to Protect” and human rights/democracy-promotion propaganda (see Humanitarian Imperialism book by Jean Bricmont). Although this rationale for use of military force relies on stupid and psychopathic “ends justify the means” utilitarianism, as in the “bomb the village to save it” rationale, it’s proven quite effective in pressing the emotional buttons of a great many “liberals” who pride themselves on being more altruistic and “humanitarian” than their “conservative” opponents. When there are no real US interests, or as you say, when there are some strategic interests in getting control of markets and resources but these interests can’t be admitted publicly, when the macho call for vengeance doesn’t apply, as in the case of Libya and Syria, then R2P propaganda is rolled out. It’s a perfect fit for the feminist warhawks that I’ve written to expose. It almost enabled the US to engage in a massive bombing attack on Syria last September and feminist warhawks used it to launch the bombing of Libya. “Right to Protect” posits noble intentions, justifications and goals for US-NATO-Israel wars to bring democracy, freedom and/or human rights to foreign peoples but it is just the 2.0 version of the British Empire’s “white man’s burden” made famous by Rudyard Kipling in the late 1800’s.
Since all wars are made possible through lies; they are begun, sustained and ended accompanied by various types of war propaganda, it seems to me that each of us have a duty to speak truth to power to expose these lies, as quickly as possible.
I don’t have all the answers but I can tell you what I don’t think is the answer and that is for the US to embrace its notion of “exceptionalism” and take on this “responsibility” of becoming policeman of the world. The argument goes that the longstanding failure of international law is due to the lack of any international judicial authority and enforcement mechanism. So “superpowers” like the US-NATO should step into this void and take on the duty of benign world policeman! Now of course that’s a seductive argument to those who reside in the militarily powerful countries which, in becoming “policeman of the world” would inherently be “authorized” to use force as the enforcer sees fit on the “global battlefield.” At the same time, those enforcing the law inherently set themselves above the international legal principles that apply to everyone else just as domestic police have greater authority to use deadly force and are allowed to break some lesser laws while enforcing others. However even domestic police are not capable of totally adhering to the “community policing” model as benign forces for good as they are only human. Power and secrecy always serve to corrupt—see quotes below.
Since Lord Acton was correct that power corrupts, such a “one world” accumulation of power would be worse and more dangerous than the current system of nation-state sovereigns, albeit one lacking any consistent, strong international law enforcement mechanism. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Don’t let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world.”
While I’m therefore opposed to this push for “one world governance” with even greater hierarchal power concentrated at the top, that’s not to be confused with the need for ordinary people all around the world to “think globally” due to how everyone is now so interconnected in an ever-expanding variety of ways. Think globally but act locally is good advice. Rather than subscribing to the “one world” movement, join the “World Beyond War” one that people in 57 countries, so far, have joined.
http://consortiumnews.com/2012/06/18/amnestys-shilling-for-us-wars (re exploitation of “human rights” to shill for war)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/coleen-rowley/militarization-of-the-mot_b_1512297.html (re feminist warhawks)
http://warisacrime.org/content/honestly-war-over (by David Swanson, contains description and link to World Beyond War)
Q: Speaking out against injustice and telling the truth about the violations of the Constitution and the international law have become costly in the United States, and those like Edward Snowden or Bradley Manning who reveal the US government’s illegal practices and furtive espionage on its own citizens and the restrictions it imposes on the civil liberties of the American people are treated like felons and criminals, imprisoned and vilified. Isn’t such treatment of the whistleblowers and freedom heroes contrary to the principles of the US Constitution and the values upon which it was founded?
A: Yes. After suffering under and then fighting for freedom from King George, the Founding Fathers and American revolutionaries were cognizant of the dangers of a powerful executive launching wars for nefarious ends and to boost his domestic power. James Madison was especially astute that any country engaged in perpetual war could not possibly maintain its freedom or its citizens’ liberties. Thomas Jefferson was mindful of the need for an independent press that could find out the truth and then educate citizens since the bedrock of democracy rests upon an informed citizenry. It’s easy to see that throughout history, times of war have brought on censorship and persecution of all kinds of groups – “communists,” Japanese Americans and even war dissenters and newspaper editors – under sedition and espionage acts, suspected of support for “the enemy.” The repression and censorship that existed in cases citing the “law of war” during the Civil War as well as the Espionage Act of 1917, during WWI, have now officially reemerged in the US as well as passage of new laws or novel interpretations of old laws that allow for indefinite detention, drone assassination, massive warrantless data collection and surveillance of innocent people, American citizens and non-citizens alike.
Those decent individuals who have tried to tell the truth are naturally labeled as traitors or spies and are charged under the new and archaic laws of war. As Cicero first stated, “during times of war, the law falls silent.”
Q: It’s undeniable that the 9/11 attacks were a heinous and condemnable crime and a warning that terrorists are still capable of undermining world peace and security through their despicable plans. But, don’t you believe that the 9/11 was used as a pretext for staging an all-out media, intelligence and military assault on the Muslim world and limiting the personal freedoms of the American Muslims?
A: That the 9/11 attacks were used as a pretext for launching the War on Iraq is well established and first confirmed by Richard Clarke’s and other Bush Administration insiders who were instructed, already in the days afterward, to find evidence of Iraq’s involvement even though there was zero indication that Iraq had anything to do with the attacks or with Al Qaeda generally. Warrantless monitoring was also quickly begun although the attacks were not due to lack of intelligence “dots” but were enabled due to the failure to “connect the dots.” Plans to begin indefinite detention on the “no man’s land” of Guantanamo and various secret “black sites” that were thought to be devoid of due process and plans to begin torturing detainees were also begun within a few months. The Bush Administration’s legal memo that falsely told him what he wanted to hear, that the US would not have to follow the Geneva Conventions when dealing with terrorist and Taliban suspects and other “non-state actors” was drafted on January 9, 2002, only 4 months after 9/11, and the first prisoners were sent to be held in perpetual limbo at Guantanamo just two days later, on January 11th. Meanwhile the FBI was “rounding up” nearly 1,000 innocent people without any evidence, who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, most of whom were immigrants in NYC.
An exception was carved out for the “war on terrorism” in the federal policy that Bush initiated a year later that prohibited racial, ethnic and religious profiling in other criminal investigations, for instance drug trafficking. Targeting and profiling of Muslims was then instituted in a variety of ways by different law enforcement agencies, some worse than others.
Q: In your interview with Code Pink, you talked of the importance of government accountability before the public. So far, the US government has not been held accountable over its suppressive campaign against the whistleblowers, its militarism and its war crimes and never presented any justification for its policies. Is there any powerful international entity that can hold the US government accountable?
A: As I alluded to before, there is at present no real international court or judicial enforcement mechanism that can bind and hold accountable all parties. It just doesn’t yet exist and I’m not sure we would want it to exist as it would entail a “one world government” with even more power accumulated at the top. The beginnings of an international court system have, however, begun, i.e. the ICC which the US refused to join as it would not give up any sovereignty to submit to any international court, and the courts at The Hague, Strasbourg, etc. As I mentioned, the beginnings of international enforcements also have begun via UN peacekeeping forces, and Interpol, extradition agreements, the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals, etc. But power is often more important than principle in the existing set-up producing a kind of “victor’s justice.”
Perfect justice is just never possible anyway, even in the most sophisticated of domestic criminal justice systems where longstanding, refined court and professionally trained law enforcement forces operate. Rough justice is, however, not only possible but has a way of eventually happening based on principles of “reap what you sow” reciprocity. This has been the only real force behind international law. If a country breaks a long-standing principle, i.e. the prohibition against torture, for instance, it sets a bad precedent that other countries will follow, eventually to the initial violating country’s detriment.
This has already happened in some ways. Independent observers immediately saw Obama and Kerry’s speeches denouncing Russia’s aggression in Crimea as hypocritical in light of prior US actions around the world. I reposted a not-so-funny cartoon showing a worried Obama who had lost the “moral high ground” because the principles broken by the US would now come in handy. Ultimately the universal legal principles that have stood the test of time such as search and seizure of a person only when there is probable cause, provision of due process, freedom of speech, press, religion, freedom from being a witness against oneself, some right to privacy and the prohibition of torture and cruel and unusual punishments exist and have withstood the test of time because they are not only rooted in long-standing morality and ethics but they also “work” based on pragmatic considerations and principles of reciprocity. Violations of law whether by an individual or by officials of a nation-state can often take years or decades or even generations to become recognized but the truth and some karma (or blowback) often eventually occurs. As they say, the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.”
Interview by Kourosh Ziabari