Column: Dispatches From The Edge: Scary Words, Wolf Tracks and Orange Swastikas By Conn Hallinan

Friday February 17, 2006

In the past two weeks the rhetoric on Iran has taken a chilling turn, in part because it doesn’t all come from the White House. Consider the following statements: 

President George W. Bush, subsequent to the Feb. 3 vote by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council: “The world will not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons.”  

On Feb. 4, U.S. Senator (and presidential hopeful) John McCain said at the Munich Conference on Security Policy, “There is only one thing worse than military action, and that is a nuclear-armed Iran.” 

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte testifying before the Senate Feb. 3: “Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militants with the capacity to build improvised explosive devices with explosively formed projectiles similar to those developed by Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah.”  

Robert G. Joseph, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security before the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee on Feb. 1: “A nuclear-armed Iran could embolden the leadership in Tehran to advance its aggressive ambitions in and outside the region, both directly and through the terrorists it supports.” Once so armed, it “would represent a direct threat to U.S. forces and allies in the region” “could provide the fuse for further proliferation,” and “would represent an existential threat to the state of Israel. Finally, Iran is at the nexus of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.” 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Munich security conference on Feb. 4: “We want, we must prevent Iran from developing its nuclear program further.” Merkel went on to compare Iran to the rise of Hitler Germany, arguing, “Now we see there were times when we could have acted differently. For that reason Germany is obligated to make clear what is permissible and what isn’t.” 

Quick analysis:  

Bush: The use of “the world” sounds a lot like the green light the White House took from the first U.N. vote on Iraq. Might the administration now argue that the IAEA referral means the “world” has condemned Iran, making it legal for the U.S. to put together a “coalition of the willing” to attack Tehran? 

McCain: The man had no problems bombing Vietnamese, why would anyone be surprised that he wants to pound Iranians? 

Negroponte: Iran is making bombs to attack U.S. and British troops, who are arming and protecting Iran’s clients in the Shia community? Come again? Of course John was the guy who covered for the Contra war against Nicaragua when he was ambassador to Honduras, so making things up—like the Sandinistas were a threat to the U.S.—is old hat for him. 

Joseph: Substitute the word “Iraq” for “Iran.” Then be afraid. 

Merkel: Her remarks may be the most troublesome. Add them to French President Jacques Chirac’s recent threat to use nuclear weapons against “terrorist states,” toss in Tony “The Poodle” Blair, and suddenly Washington has a coalition with considerably more clout than the one that invaded Iraq. 

The Beirut Daily Star is reporting that the United States plans to close the Straits of Hormuz and seize Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province on the pretext of cutting off supplies to the Iranian military. Khuzestan was the target of Saddam Hussein’s 1980 attack on Iran. 

Stay tuned. 


World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is under fire by staff for bypassing World Bank hiring procedures, stacking the deck with Republican stalwarts, and concentrating power in the hands of a small cabal around the president’s office. 

The bank’s internal investigations unit is examining Wolfowitz’s appointments of Robin Cleveland, Kevin Kellems, and Suzanne Rich Folsom, who the staff charges were handed open-ended contracts at excessive salaries. Cleveland was formerly the associate director of the White House Office of Budget and Management and used to work for Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. Kellems worked for Wolfowitz when he was undersecretary of defense, and for Vice President Dick Cheney. 

According to staff complaints, one of Folsom’s first acts as head of the Department of Institutional Integrity was to bypass the bank’s rules and snoop through e-mail accounts. 

In a Jan. 24 editorial, the Financial Times chided Wolfowitz for “draining authority upwards from those beneath him in the hierarchy to his clique of advisers.” 

After “almost eight months…Paul Wolfowitz has yet to set a course for his presidency, and staff disquiet is reaching deafening levels,” opined the Times. 

Institutional incompetence, breaking bylaws, and concentrating power in the hands of right-wing ideologues? Who would have thought? 


When Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko and his “Orange Revolution” toppled the corrupt regime of Leonard Kuchma, they were the toast of the Bush administration, the neo-cons, the Freedom House gang, and the European Union. But according to reporter and essayist Doug Ireland, the West was hiding a dirty little secret: the “Orange Revolution” was riddled with anti-Semites and was apparently as corrupt as the people it tossed out. 

On the eve of the International Day of Commemoration for Holocaust victims, Yuschenko awarded the “Hero of the Ukraine”—Ukraine’s highest honor—to Ivan Spodarenko, editor of the anti-Semitic mass circulation newspaper, Silski Visti. Silski Visti, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, once asserted, “400,000 Jews served in Nazi SS forces during the German invasion of the Ukraine during World War II.”  

Silski Visti, with a circulation of 500,000, is widely read in rural areas, and was sued for publishing anti-Semitic articles in 2004. The cases were dismissed in 2005. 

At the same time as Yushchenko was being hailed as a great democrat, the British Helsinki Human Rights organization reported “Western media and governments…edited out the manifestations of extreme nationalism and anti-Semitism,” but “key opposition leaders, including Viktor Yushchenko, Julia Timoshenko and Alexander Moroz defended anti-Semitic publications and accepted the backing of neo-Nazi groups.” 

Headed into March elections, Yushchenko is mired in corruption charges and his party is polling at around 15 percent. Kuchma’s handpicked candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, who lost to Yushchenko in the last election, is polling 25 percent. Julia Timoshenko, Yushchenko’s former coalition partner, and the person who blew the whistle on the president’s corruption, is polling at 12 percent. 


Quebec Solidarire, a new left-wing party recently formed in Quebec, is challenging the separatist and more conservative Parti Quebeçois. Formed by a merger of the L’Union des Forces Progressives and Option Citoyenne, the new party, according to one of its leaders, Françoise David, will “bring values like solidarity, ecology, equality between men and women” to the province’s voters. 

The party will support sovereignty, but according to Amir Kahdir of the L’Union des Forces Progressives, “Separatism is not a goal… It’s not an end in itself. What we are here for is social justice.” 

Parti Quebeçois has been accused of hostility toward immigrants in the past—even accusing the immigrants of torpedoing a sovereignty referendum—and it tends to be conservative on economic issues. But because it stood for sovereignty, it could depend on a solid bloc of voters. That bloc is now up for grabs, and with the new conservative government gearing up for an attack on social services, Parti Quebeçois will either have to shed its neo-liberal economic policies or lose some of its base to the new kid on the block.