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5 Aug, 2007

As Speaker Flags “Islamism”, FCCT Moderator Tries to Silence Questions On Israeli Policy

Originally Published: 5 Aug 2007

The Arab-Israeli conflict erupted by proxy in full force at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand last week as an Israeli propaganda effort to highlight the “Islamist” threat in Asia ran into some unexpectedly belligerent skepticism and opposition.

In one of the stormiest meetings ever seen at the FCCT, the normally polite club members, both correspondents and non-correspondents, ripped into Prof Barry Rubin with such fury that the professor himself declared that he would take no more questions and left the floor. A fight nearly broke out between one of the questioners and the moderator, journalist Henry Silverman.

Clearly, attempts by the Israeli government and Jewish neocons to smear the name of Islam (even through usage of euphemistic terminology like “Islamist” and “Islamism”) in an apparent buildup to an attack on Iran are running into deep trouble.

Prof Rubin went out of his way to portray himself as a “moderate”. He insisted he was not a neocon, but a member of the Labour Party and hence left-leaning. He claimed he had opposed the attack on Iraq and that he had “cried more (on the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing Jewish zealot) than upon the death of my own parents.”

He also sought to burnish his credentials on “Islamism” by citing his numerous books, the high-level meetings he has attended and his various friends on all sides of the political spectrum.

But his prepared remarks, as per the topic, were unequivocally designed to establish a link between the nuclear programmes of North Korea and Iran and paint Islamist groups as being a threat throughout Asia, ranging from Bangladesh to the Philippines and China and Indonesia.

However, none of that held any water with the roughly four questioners all of whom ripped into the Israeli government’s policies as a source of the continuing violence.

One clearly reminded him of the cause and effect theory. Another noted that Asia was becoming a battleground between “radical Islamism” and “radical Zionism”, a term the professor did not seem to like because it placed Zionism in the same league as Islamism.

One questioner assailed the Israeli government’s history of occupation, state terrorism (aka “extra-judicial killings”), attacks on Lebanon, expansion of illegal settlements, violation of UN resolutions, etc – all of which the Professor sought to justify even as he vainly tried to redirect the discussion back to “Islamism.”

A furious slanging match ensued. At one stage, the questioner’s microphone was switched off (so much for “freedom and democracy” at the FCCT), and the Professor left the podium of his own accord.

Looking beyond the immediate fracas, the professor’s appearance clearly is part of an attempt by the Israeli government and Jewish neocons to prepare global public opinion for an attack on Iran. As I reported in a previous column, Jewish neocon Norman Podhoretz has already publicly called on the US to do just that.

The “enabling factors” are quickly falling into place.

To win over the Arab street, a flurry of diplomatic activity is underway to produce a settlement in Palestine. The Palestinians are being showered with generous aid and investment, their government salaries are being paid, and prisoners released.

The Shia and Sunni divisions have been exacerbated, the Arab leaders are being bought off with arms sales, and a calculated propaganda blitz to blame Iran as the source of the arms and training for the Iraqi resistance is in full swing.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is gradually unveiling his pro-US credentials. In a recent policy speech, he replaced the Middle East conflict with Darfur at the top of his policy agenda.

Massive American naval firepower is now ready in the Gulf. The US/Israeli governments are only awaiting the necessary wink-and-nod from the depraved Arab leaders.

By all indications, the “trigger” will be another act of terrorism which will be immediately blamed on Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and/or Al Qaeda. This accusation will be just as quickly believed by the gullible American public, unleashing the politics of fear and the rallying cry of patriotism, nationalism and ethnocentricism that all dictators know are absolutely vital prerequisites for going to war.

To assuage the world’s economic decision-makers, the Heritage Foundation, a Jewish-supported conservative think-tank, has published the results of a “computer simulation and gaming exercise that examined the likely economic and policy consequences of a major oil disruption in the Persian Gulf.” [http://www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/CDA07-03.cfm].

The most repugnant aspect of this “simulation exercise” is that it’s all about oil prices, economic fallout and gross domestic product, all clinical stuff that callously ignores the horrendous deaths and injuries that more global bloodshed will cause.

Indeed, the Bush administration needs to attack Iran for reasons beyond its nuclear programme.

The real stories about the lie-based campaign of mass deception to justify the earlier war in Iraq will emerge after Bush and Cheney exit office. Many whistle-blowers deep in the US government are biding their time. Investigative reporters who missed the boat the first time are just waiting for these ripe apples to fall.

The Bush administration cannot afford, under any circumstances, to have the real story ever told about one of the most inept, incompetent and possibly corrupt governments in US history. It needs a distraction, and badly. Remember the movie “Wag the Dog?”

A clue to how the justification for a war will be created is contained in a July 2007 US congressional report which hints that staging terrorist attacks is a done thing in order to influence public opinion. Except that the report says it will be Al Qaeda in Iraq that “will attempt to increase its tempo of attacks as September approaches — in an effort to influence U.S. domestic opinion about sustained U.S. engagement in Iraq.”

Hence, if a US report can claim that Al Qaeda will attempt to boost its attacks in order to weaken US public opinion on Iraq, is it beyond the realm of possibility for the US/Israeli governments to stage an attack in order to rally public opinion against Iran?

Prof Barry Rubin’s presence at the FCCT was part of that global public opinion massaging effort. It backfired big time. Let’s hope plans to attack Iran suffer a similar fate.