Z Magazine

Moody Is the New Bipolar

In Eugene Jarecki's documentary film Why We Fight, about the U.S. military-industrial complex, U.S. foreign policy critic Chalmers Johnson states: "I guarantee you when war becomes that profitable, you are going to see more of it." Similarly, as mental illness has become extremely profitable, we are seeing more of it.

On September 4, 2007, the New York Times reported, "The number of American children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder increased 40-fold from 1994 to 2003 ... Drug makers and company-sponsored psychiatrists have been encouraging doctors to look for the disorder."

Not too long ago, a child who was irritable, moody, and distractible and who at times sounded grandiose or acted without regard for consequences was considered a "handful." In the U.S. by the 1980s, that child was labeled with a "behavioral disorder" and today that child is being diagnosed as "bipolar" and "psychotic" -- and prescribed expensive antipsychotic drugs. Bloomberg News, also on September 4, 2007, reported, "The expanded use of bipolar as a pediatric diagnosis has made children the fastest-growing part of the $11.5 billion U.S. market for antipsychotic drugs."

Psychopathologizing young people is not the only reason for the dramatic rise in sales of such antipsychotics as Eli Lilly's Zyprexa and Johnson & Johnson's Risperdal (each, in recent years, grossing annually from $3 to $4 billion). Much of Big Pharma's antipsychotic boon is attributable to generous U.S. government agencies, especially Medicaid. The Medicaid gravy train has been fueled by Big Pharma corruption so over-the-top that it has been the subject of recent media exposures.

The Associated Press, on August 21, 2007, reported, "A groundbreaking Minnesota law is shining a rare light into the big money that drug companies spend on members of state advisory panels who help select which drugs are used in Medicaid programs for the poor and disabled." Those advisory panels -- dominated by physicians -- have great influence over the $28 billion spent by Medicaid on drugs, but only Minnesota, Vermont, and Maine require drug companies to report monies paid to physicians. The AP article focused on John E. Simon, a psychiatrist on the Minnesota advisory panel since 2004, who received $489,000 from Eli Lilly between 1998 and 2006. The top drugs paid for by Minnesota Medicaid, according to the AP article, have been antipsychotic drugs, especially Eli Lilly's Zyprexa.

Serotonin Deficiency and WMDs

With the advent of Eli Lilly's serotonin-enhancer Prozac at the end of 1987, the general public and doctors began receiving a multi-billion dollar marketing blitz proclaiming that depression is caused by a deficiency of serotonin, and that this deficiency could be corrected by Prozac (and, later, other serotonin-enhancer antidepressants such as Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, and Luvox). Between 1987 and 1997, the percentage of Americans in outpatient treatment for depression more than tripled. Of those in treatment, the percentage prescribed medication almost doubled. In 1985 the total annual sales for all antidepressants in the U.S. was approximately $240 million, while today it is approximately $12 billion. In 2006, the American Journal of Psychiatry reported that the percentage of American adults with major depression in 1991 was 3.33 percent, but by 2001, the percentage had more than doubled to 7.06 percent.

The serotonin-deficiency theory of depression was so successfully marketed that it was news to many Americans when Newsweek's February 26, 2007 cover story, "Men and Depression," mentioned that scientists now reject the theory that depression is caused by low levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, told Newsweek that "a depressed brain is not necessarily underproducing something."

The demise of the serotonin-deficiency theory of depression should not be considered news in 2007 because in 1998 The American Medical Association Essential Guide to Depression was already stating: "The link between low levels of serotonin and depressive illness is unclear, as some depressed people have too much serotonin." That same year Elliot Valenstein, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan, in his book Blaming the Brain pointed out, "Furthermore, there is no convincing evidence that depressed people have a serotonin or norepinephrine deficiency." (Antidepressants that increase the neurotransmitter norepinephrine as well as serotonin include Effexor and Cymbalta). In 2002 the New York Times reported: "Researchers knew that antidepressants seemed to raise the brain's levels of messenger chemicals called neurotransmitters, so they theorized that depression must result from a deficiency of these chemicals. Yet a multitude of studies failed to prove this precept." Unfortunately, that fact was buried under more than fifty preceding paragraphs.

Similar to the Bush administration, which knew it is was far easier to sell a war when Americans believed they were threatened by weapons of mass destruction, antidepressant manufacturers know it is much easier to sell serotonin-enhancer drugs when people believe depression is caused by a deficiency of serotonin. The Bush Administration and the mental health establishment (including the National Institute of Mental Health) have retreated from their respective theories, but neither has spent a great deal of time or energy getting the word out. Since each officialdom's earlier claims were so loudly trumpeted and their later retractions so quietly whispered, many Americans continue to believe in mistaken rationales for policies and treatments that continue to affect millions of lives.

The reality is that when patients report Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft as "working," it is not because these drugs are correcting any kind of chemical imbalance. These drugs can temporarily "take the edge off" -- as is the case with many psychotropic drugs, legal or illegal. But for a significant number of people, these drugs produce extremely unpleasant side effects, while for many others, these drugs have little or no effect. So, overall, the difference in effectiveness between antidepressants and a sugar-pill placebo is "clinically negligible." This was the conclusion of University of Connecticut professor of psychology Irving Kirsch, who used the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to 47 antidepressant studies sponsored by drug companies on Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Celexa, and Serzone that had been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (but many of which had not been published). Kirsch discovered that in the majority of the trials, the antidepressant failed to outperform a sugar-pill placebo.

Why now are we hearing more from the corporate media about the demise of the serotonin-deficiency theory of depression? Perhaps it is because the blockbuster serontin-enhancer drugs have either lost their patent protection or are soon to lose it and drug companies are preparing us for the next wave of patent-protected drugs and biochemical justifications for them. The Newsweek article on "Men and Depression" went on to state, "Instead of focusing on boosting neurotransmitters (the function of the antidepressants in the popular SSRI category such as Prozac and Zoloft), scientists are developing medications that block the production of excess stress chemicals."

Big Pharma, FDA, NIMH, and Congress

There are other parallels between the military-industrial complex and the psychopharmaceutical-industrial complex. Vital to the profits of both are supportive U.S. government regulatory, research, and purchasing agencies.

There is nothing more important for a drug manufacturer than FDA approval and so it is common sense that a pharmaceutical company will spend whatever it takes to ensure FDA approval.

In 2000 an article in USA Today, "FDA Advisors Tied to Industry," reported that in 55 percent of the FDA advisory meetings on drug approvals, half or more of the FDA advisers had financial connections to the interested drug company; and in 92 percent of these advisory meetings, at least one FDA adviser had a financial conflict of interest. Joseph Glenmullen, in Prozac Backlash, notes that Paul Leber, director of the FDA's division of neuropharmacological drug products, left the FDA in the late 1990s to direct a consulting firm that specializes in advising pharmaceutical companies attempting to gain FDA approval for new psychiatric drugs.

The revolving door of employment is also used by Big Pharma to maintain influence over the National Institute of Mental Health. In Talking Back to Prozac, Peter and Ginger Breggin report that in 1993 Steven Paul, scientific director of NIMH, resigned to become vice president of Eli Lilly (maker of Prozac and Zyprexa). In 2001 Roche Pharmaceutical (manufacturer of Valium, Klonopin, and other psychiatric drugs) proudly announced that Lewis Judd, a former NIMH director, had joined its scientific advisory board.

To the delight of Big Pharma, NIMH uses taxpayer monies to fund researchers who are financially connected to pharmaceutical companies. One important example is the "Sequential Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D)," a $35 million U.S. taxpayer-funded study that proclaimed the effectiveness of antidepressant treatment. The results of STAR*D were widely reported by the corporate media. Unfortunately, the NIMH press release about STAR*D excluded the fact that STAR*D researchers received consulting and speaker fees from the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the antidepressants studied in STAR*D -- and this fact went unreported by the corporate media. Also not in the press release and unreported is the fact that STAR*D researchers failed to include a placebo control and failed to incorporate relapse rates in the overall results. So in reality, STAR*D antidepressant results were no better than the customary placebo results or the results of no treatment at all -- this also unreported by the corporate media.

The corruption by Big Pharma of the FDA and NIMH is not difficult when these agencies' overseer, the U.S. Congress, has also been corrupted by Big Pharma. Billy Tauzin, a former Republican congressperson from Louisiana, is one example. Tauzin, as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, helped shepherd passage of the Medicare prescription drug law -- a bonanza for Big Pharma. Soon after this favor to Big Pharma, Tauzin became head of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Big Pharma's trade organization. Tauzin's annual salary as head of PhRMA is $2 million.

Psychiatry's Officialdom

Robert Whitaker, in his book Mad in America, summarized the beginnings of Big Pharma's corruption of America's psychiatrists and their professional organization, the American Psychiatric Association (APA): By the early 1970s, all of psychiatry was in the process of being transformed by the influence of drug money. Pill-oriented shrinks could earn much more than those who relied primarily on psychotherapy (prescribing a pill takes a lot less time than talk therapy); drug-company sales representatives who came to their offices often plied them with little gifts (dinners, tickets to entertainment, and the like); and their trade organization, the APA, had become ever more fiscally dependent on drug companies. 30 percent of the APA's annual budget came from drug advertisements to its journals."

Whitaker also reported that the APA relied on drug company grants to fund its "educational" programs. Such grants have continued and in the first quarter of 2007, Eli Lilly reported providing grants of over $412,000 for two APA programs: "Improving Depression Treatments" and "Understanding the Complexity of Bipolar Mixed Episodes."

Drug companies have also been successful hijacking university psychiatry departments. In 2005 the Boston Globe reported that Harvard Medical School's psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital received $6.5 million from four drug companies. Marcia Angell, physician and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and author of The Truth About the Drug Companies, reported that the head of the psychiatry department at Brown University Medical School made over $500,000 in one year consulting for drug companies that make antidepressants. Angell remarked, "When the New England Journal of Medicine, under my editorship, published a study by him and his colleagues of an antidepressant agent, there wasn't enough room to print all the authors' conflict-of-interest disclosures. The full list had to be put on the website."

Drug companies also provide major funding for so-called "mental health consumer organizations," the most well-known of which is the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). NAMI received $11.72 million from drug companies between 1996 and mid-1999, according to Mother Jones in 1999, which also reported that Eli Lilly was NAMI's leading drug company funder and that "in the case of Lilly, at least, 'funding' takes more than one form. Jerry Radke, a Lilly executive, is 'on loan' to NAMI, working out of the organization's headquarters."

Exposés of Big Pharma methods of influencing NAMI have not stopped the practice. In the first quarter of 2007, Eli Lilly's "Grant Office 2007" posted that Lilly provided NAMI with a grant of $450,000 for NAMI's "Campaign for the Mind of America 2007." For those troubled by the success of the psycho-pharmaceutical-industrial complex at manufacturing consent in the United States, the title "Campaign for the Mind of America 2007" is a chilling one.

Lighting the Nuclear Fire

A nuclear war is said to have no winners, but Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee seems to think otherwise.

His exhortations to Indian troops in Kashmir to prepare for sacrifices and "decisive victory" have set off widespread alarm. It seems plausible that India is preparing for a "limited war" to flush out Islamic militant camps in Pakistan administered Kashmir. But with swift reaction and counter-reaction, it is far from clear whether the combat can remain confined.

Events shall take their course in the days and weeks ahead, but there is much to reflect upon as we cross the fourth anniversary of the Pokhran and Chaghai nuclear tests.

With free debate on sensitive issues largely proscribed in both countries - particularly on national television - the only voices to be heard are those of militarists and establishment strategic analysts. Not surprisingly, nuclear affairs are now being guided by wishful, delusional, thinking.

The most frightening delusion is India's trivialization of Pakistan's nuclear capability. This relatively new phenomenon has gained astonishingly wide currency in Indian ruling circles. Although Pakistan's nuclear tests had dispelled earlier scepticism, senior Indian military and political leaders continue to express doubts on the operational capability and usability of the Pakistani arsenal.

Still more seriously, many Indians believe that, as a client state of the U.S., Pakistan's nuclear weapons are under the control of the United States. The assumption is that, in case of extreme crisis, the U.S. would either restrain their use by Pakistan or, if need be, destroy them. At a recent meeting, I heard senior Indian analysts say that they are "bored" by Pakistan's nuclear threats and no longer believe them. Should one laugh or cry?

Wishes are being confused here with facts, and expediency with truth. Four years ago, to their chagrin, Indian militarists realized that they had shot themselves in the foot by forcing Pakistan's nuclear weapons out of the closet. This had been subsequently rationalized by claiming that a stable peace based upon a "balance of mutual terror" was now imminent. But after the upsurge of Kashmir militancy, denying the potency of Pakistan's nuclear weapons has become more convenient because it clears the road to a limited war.

One notes another massive change in the attitude of Indian militarists. For years they had insisted that all matters, including nuclear issues, be settled only bilaterally. Suggestions that nuclear weapons in the possession of India and Pakistan were more dangerous than those possessed by the West, Russia, and China had been angrily rejected. How dare anyone suggest that India and Pakistan are in any way less responsible, reasonable, and rational?

Bilateralism has now bit the dust. Having cut off direct communications with each other, both adversaries have thrust disaster prevention into the hands of diplomats and third-tier leaders of western countries. A continuous stream of officials from America and Britain has passed, or is due to pass, through Islamabad and Delhi. These include Christina Rocca, Chris Patten, Jack Straw, and Richard Armitage The subcontinent's fate now hangs in their hands.

Pakistani nuclear misperceptions and miscalculations have been no less severe than India's.

Pushed into the nuclear arena first by India's tests in 1974, and then again in 1998, Pakistan soon became addicted to nuclear weapons. Countering India's nukes became secondary. Instead, Pakistani nukes became tools for achieving foreign policy objectives. They created euphoric hyper-confidence and a spirit of machoism that led to breath-taking adventurism in Kashmir.

The subsequent Kargil war of 1999 will be recorded by historians as the first actually caused by nuclear weapons. Believing that a nuclear shield made Indian retaliation impossible, Pakistan coyly disclaimed any connection with the attackers who were extracting heavy Indian casualties from their high mountain posts in Kargil.

These illusions were soon to be dispelled. As India counter-attacked, a deeply worried Nawaz Sharif flew to Washington on 4 July 1999, where he was bluntly told to withdraw Pakistani forces or be prepared for full-scale war with India. In an article published last month, Bruce Reidel, Special Assistant to President Clinton, writes that he was present in person when Clinton informed Nawaz Sharif that the Indian Army had mobilized its nuclear-tipped missile fleet. Unnerved by this revelation and the closeness to disaster, Nawaz Sharif agreed to immediate withdrawal, shedding all earlier pretensions that Pakistan had no control over the attackers.

Other pretensions continued. Today, in spite of General Musharraf's soothing statements, there is little doubt that militant camps shelter under Pakistan's nuclear umbrella. Having operated openly for over a decade in full public view, and with obvious state backing, only magic -- or massive military action -- can eliminate them.

Whatever Pakistanis might choose to think, the rest of the world remains incredulous of the continuing official Pakistani position that it provides "only diplomatic and moral support" to the people of Kashmir. Earlier denials of military involvement in Kargil, or of providing military support to the Taliban regime, have hugely diminished Pakistan's international credibility.

It is now a matter of survival for Pakistan to visibly demonstrate that it has severed all links with the militant groups it had formerly supported, to be firm about providing "only diplomatic and moral support", and to implement what General Musharraf promised in his Jan 12 speech. To run with the hares and hunt with the hounds -- and imagine that the world will not know -- has become impossible. War is around the corner.

Difficult though this course of action is, it is also essential if the people of Kashmir are to be spared from the brutal rapaciousness of Indian occupying forces. Although our generals have yet to swallow this bitter pill, the fact is that Kashmir cannot be liberated by force. The "bleed India" policy, an apparently cheap option for Pakistan, was vociferously advocated for over a decade. This has totally collapsed -- Pakistan has bled no less than India.

Even more important than the fate of a few million Kashmiris is that of India's huge Muslim minority, which equals or exceeds the population of Pakistan. Without Pakistan's decisive action on cross-border insurgency, the Muslims of India will become the target of state-sponsored pogroms and ethnic cleansing. The massacres of Gujarat provide a chilling preview of what may lie ahead at the hands of a fundamentalist Hindu government.

Terrible dangers lie ahead. Lacking any desire for political settlement or accommodation, or even a strategy for achieving victory, jihadists in Kashmir now operate as a third force independent of the Pakistani state. Their goal is to provoke full-scale war between India and Pakistan, destabilize Musharraf, and settle scores with America. Hence the possibility that they will soon commit some huge atrocity -- such as a mass murder of Indian civilians -- which would turn India into a mad bull dashing blindly into a nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Many observers have noted that the Srinagar, Delhi, and Jammu attacks on Indian civilians coincided with the visits of high officials from Western countries. Could the forthcoming visit by Richard Armitage provide a trigger for the next atrocity and a nuclear war?

Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy is professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Head Cheerleader For the War on Terror

It's hard to turn on the television or pick up a newspaper or go into a bookstore without seeing Thomas Friedman blaring at you.

Friedman writes a nationally syndicated column for the New York Times. His books on globalization and the Middle East are bestsellers -- and are often praised by politicians and scholars. "Nobody understands the world the way he does," NBC's Tim Russert recently said of Friedman.

In April, Friedman won his third Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award in journalism, "for his clarity of vision, based on extensive reporting, in commenting on the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat [after September 11]." He shared a Pulitzer in 1983 for the New York Times' international reporting and won another in 1988 for his coverage of Israel.

So you might think that the much-praised Friedman had something interesting or challenging to say -- or that he was an exceptional journalist.

You would be wrong. In truth, Friedman is a hack who specializes in popularizing a set of ideas that have destroyed the lives of millions of people around the world.

Over the past few years, he's become the main establishment apostle of "globalization" -- the spread of the unhindered free market and pro-business government policies around the globe. What Friedman calls the "golden straightjacket" of U.S.-style capitalism may be restraining for countries that put it on. But for him, there's no alternative to adopting neoliberalism and letting the free market rip. Like the "hired prize fighters" of capitalism that Karl Marx wrote about in 1873, for Friedman, the devastation of workers, peasants and the environment by global capitalism is so much "collateral damage" in the necessary pursuit of high productivity rates and profit.

His book The Lexus and the Olive Tree reads like a love letter to corporate power -- which is why it's no surprise that Friedman has cozied up to businesspeople and politicians around the world in pursuit of his stories.

But Friedman is at his worst when writing about U.S. imperialism -- especially in the Middle East. Serving as both an armchair general and a cheerleader urging on more destruction, he routinely advocates committing war crimes -- as long as the U.S. or its allies are pulling the trigger.

In 1998, Friedman advocated "bombing Iraq, over and over and over again." In an article titled "Craziness Pays," Friedman explained that "the U.S. has to make clear to Iraq and U.S. allies that America will use force, without negotiation, hesitation, or UN approval." He went on to add, "We have to be ready to live with our own contradictory policy. Sure, it doesn't make perfect sense."

Friedman never tires of using "we" when describing the actions of the U.S. military. In 1997, he wrote: "[I]f and when Saddam pushes beyond the brink, and we get that one good shot, let's make sure it's a head shot." Two years later, Friedman suggested that the U.S. should "[b]low up a different power station in Iraq every week, so no one knows when the lights will go off or who's in charge."

Friedman couldn't care less that every power station targeted in Iraq means more food and medicine that will spoil without refrigeration, more hospitals that will lack electricity, more water that will be contaminated -- and more people who will die.

The U.S.-led NATO war on Yugoslavia found Friedman repeating himself: "It should be lights out in Belgrade: every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too."

Friedman has never tried to camouflage his strong support for Israel -- even when he feels that he sometimes has to criticize the "excesses" of settlers or the Israeli right wing to defend Israel's best interests.

And he was an unabashed supporter as the Pentagon crushed Afghanistan -- at the cost of thousands of civilian lives -- in "self-defense." "My motto is simple," he wrote. "Give war a chance."

But because of his proximity to power, Friedman sometimes tells the truth. In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, he gives one of the most honest descriptions of the relationship between the U.S. military and corporate power.

"The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist," he wrote. "McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas.And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."

Of course, Thomas Friedman sees nothing wrong with the U.S. military making the world safe for U.S. capitalism -- and destroying everything in its wake. In his tiny corner of the world, Friedman has been amply rewarded for aligning himself with that kind of power.

Anthony Arnove is the editor of Terrorism and War, a new collection of interviews with Howard Zinn (Seven Stories Press). This article originally appeared in Socialist Worker.

Chomsky on the Middle East

Editor's Note: Noam Chomsky discusses the current conflict in the Middle East, the history of U.S.-Israeli relations, and the fate of Palestine.

MICHAEL ALBERT: Is there a qualitative change in what's happening now?

NOAM CHOMSKY: I think there is a qualitative change. The goal of the Oslo process was accurately described in 1998 by Israeli academic Shlomo Ben-Ami just before he joined the Barak government, going on to become Barak's chief negotiator at Camp David in summer 2000. Ben-Ami observed that "in practice, the Oslo agreements were founded on a neo-colonialist basis, on a life of dependence of one on the other forever."

With these goals, the Clinton-Rabin-Peres agreements were designed to impose on the Palestinians "almost total dependence on Israel," creating "an extended colonial situation," which is expected to be the "permanent basis" for "a situation of dependence."

The function of the Palestinian Authority (PA) was to control the domestic population of the Israeli-run neocolonial dependency. That is the way the process unfolded, step by step, including the Camp David suggestions. The Clinton-Barak stand (left vague and unambiguous) was hailed here as "remarkable" and "magnanimous," but a look at the facts made it clear that it was -- as commonly described in Israel -- a Bantustan proposal; that is presumably the reason why maps were carefully avoided in the US mainstream.

It is true that Clinton-Barak advanced a few steps towards a Bantustan-style settlement of the kind that South Africa instituted in the darkest days of Apartheid. Just prior to Camp David, West Bank Palestinians were confined to over 200 scattered areas, and Clinton-Barak did propose an improvement: consolidation to three cantons, under Israeli control, virtually separated from one another and from the fourth canton, a small area of East Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian life and of communications in the region. And of course separated from Gaza, where the outcome was left unclear.

But now that plan has apparently been shelved in favor of demolition of the PA. That means destruction of the institutions of the potential Bantustan that was planned by Clinton and his Israeli partners; in the last few days, even a human rights center. The Palestinian figures who were designated to be the counterpart of the Black leaders of the Bantustans are also under attack, though not killed, presumably because of the international consequences.

The prominent Israeli scholar Ze'ev Sternhell writes that the government "is no longer ashamed to speak of war when what they are really engaged in is colonial policing, which recalls the takeover by the white police of the poor neighborhoods of the blacks in South Africa during the apartheid era." This new policy is a regression below the Bantustan model of South Africa 40 years ago to which Clinton-Rabin-Peres-Barak and their associates aspired in the Oslo "peace process."

None of this will come as a surprise to those who have been reading critical analyses for the past 10 years, including plenty of material posted regularly on Znet, reviewing developments as they proceeded.

Exactly how the Israeli leadership intends to implement these programs is unclear -- to them too, I presume.

It is convenient in the US, and the West, to blame Israel and particularly Sharon, but that is unfair and hardly honest. Many of Sharon's worst atrocities were carried out under Labor governments. Peres comes close to Sharon as a war criminal. Furthermore, the prime responsibility lies in Washington, and has for 30 years. That is true of the general diplomatic framework, and also of particular actions. Israel can act within the limits established by the master in Washington, rarely beyond.

ALBERT: What's the meaning of Friday's Security Council Resolution?

CHOMSKY: The primary issue was whether there would be a demand for immediate Israeli withdrawal from Ramallah and other Palestinian areas that the Israeli army had entered in the current offensive, or at least a deadline for such withdrawal. The US position evidently prevailed: there is only a vague call for "withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities," no time frame specified.

The Resolution therefore accords with the official US stand, largely reiterated in the press: Israel is under attack and has the right of self-defense, but shouldn't go too far in punishing Palestinians, at least too visibly.

The facts -- hardly controversial -- are quite different. Palestinians have been trying to survive under Israeli military occupation, now in its 35th year. It has been harsh and brutal throughout, thanks to decisive US military and economic support, and diplomatic protection, including the barring of the long-standing international consensus on a peaceful political settlement. There is no symmetry in this confrontation, not the slightest, and to frame it in terms of Israeli self-defense goes beyond even standard forms of distortion in the interests of power. The harshest condemnations of Palestinian terror, which are proper and have been for over 30 years, leave these basic facts unchanged.

In scrupulously evading the central immediate issues, the Friday Resolution is similar to the Security Council Resolution of March 12, which elicited much surprise and favorable notice because it not only was not vetoed by the US, in the usual pattern, but was actually initiated by Washington. The Resolution called for a "vision" of a Palestinian state. It therefore did not rise to the level of South Africa 40 years ago when the Apartheid regime did not merely announce a "vision" but actually established Black-run states that were at least as viable and legitimate as what the US and Israel had been planning for the occupied territories.

ALBERT: What is the U.S. up to now? What U.S. interests are at stake at this juncture?

CHOMSKY: The U.S. is a global power. What happens in Israel-Palestine is a sidelight. There are many factors entering into US policies. Chief among them in this region of the world is control over the world's major energy resources. The US-Israel alliance took shape in that context.

By 1958, the National Security Council concluded that a "logical corollary" of opposition to growing Arab nationalism "would be to support Israel as the only strong pro-Western power left in the Middle East." That is an exaggeration, but an affirmation of the general strategic analysis, which identified indigenous nationalism as the primary threat (as elsewhere in the Third World); typically called "Communist," though it is commonly recognized in the internal record that this is a term of propaganda and that Cold War issues were often marginal, as in the crucial year of 1958.

The alliance became firm in 1967, when Israel performed an important service for US power by destroying the main forces of secular Arab nationalism, considered a very serious threat to US domination of the Gulf region. So matters continued, after the collapse of the USSR as well. By now the US-Israel-Turkey alliance is a centerpiece of US strategy, and Israel is virtually a US military base, also closely integrated with the militarized US high-tech economy.

Within that persistent framework, the US naturally supports Israeli repression of the Palestinians and integration of the occupied territories, including the neocolonial project outlined by Ben-Ami, though specific policy choices have to be made depending on circumstances.

Right now, Bush planners continue to block steps towards diplomatic settlement, or even reduction of violence; that is the meaning, for example, of their veto of the Dec. 15 2001 Security Council Resolution calling for steps towards implementing the US Mitchell plan and introduction of international monitors to supervise the reduction of violence. For similar reasons, the US boycotted the Dec. 5 international meetings in Geneva (including the EU, even Britain) which reaffirmed that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the occupied territories, so that critically important US-Israeli actions there are "grave breaches" of the Convention -- war crimes, in simple terms -- as the Geneva declaration elaborated. That merely reaffirmed the Security Council Resolution of October 2000 (US abstaining), which held once again that the Convention applied to the occupied territories. That had been the official US position as well, stated formally, for example, by George Bush I when he was UN Ambassador.

The US regularly abstains or boycotts in such cases, not wanting to take a public stand in opposition to core principles of international law, particularly in the light of the circumstances under which the Conventions were enacted: to criminalize formally the atrocities of the Nazis, including their actions in the territories they occupied. The media and intellectual culture generally cooperate by their own "boycott" of these unwelcome facts: in particular, the fact that as a High Contracting Party, the US government is legally obligated by solemn treaty to punish violators of the Conventions, including its own political leadership.

That's only a small sample. Meanwhile the flow of arms and economic support for maintaining the occupation by force and terror and extending settlements continues without any pause.

ALBERT: What's your opinion of the Arab summit?

CHOMSKY: The Arab summit led to general acceptance of the Saudi Arabian plan, which reiterated the basic principles of the long-standing international consensus: Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories in the context of a general peace agreement that would guarantee the right of every state in the region, including Israel and a new Palestinian State, to peace and security within recognized borders (the basic wording of UN 242, amplified to include a Palestinian state).

There is nothing new about this. These are the basic terms of the Security Council resolution of January 1976 backed by virtually the entire world, including the leading Arab states, the PLO, Europe, the Soviet bloc, the non-aligned countries -- in fact, everyone who mattered. It was opposed by Israel and vetoed by the US, thereby vetoed from history. Subsequent and similar initiatives from the Arab states, the PLO, and Western Europe were blocked by the US, continuing to the present. That includes the 1981 Fahd plan. That record too has been effectively vetoed from history, for the usual reasons.

US rejectionism in fact goes back 5 years earlier, to February 1971, when President Sadat of Egypt offered Israel a full peace treaty in return for Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory, not even bringing up Palestinian national rights or the fate of the other occupied territories. Israel's Labor government recognized this as a genuine peace offer, but decided to reject it, intending to extend its settlements to northeastern Sinai; that it soon did, with extreme brutality, was the immediate cause for the 1973 war.

The plan for the Palestinians under military occupation was described frankly to his Cabinet colleagues by Moshe Dayan, one of the Labor leaders more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. Israel should make it clear that "we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads." Following that recommendation, the guiding principle of the occupation has been incessant and degrading humiliation, along with torture, terror, destruction of property, displacement and settlement, and takeover of basic resources, crucially water.

Sadat's 1971 offer conformed to official US policy, but Kissinger succeeded in instituting his preference for what he called "stalemate": no negotiations, only force. Jordanian peace offers were also dismissed. Since that time, official US policy has kept to the international consensus on withdrawal (until Clinton, who effectively rescinded UN resolutions and considerations of international law); but in practice, policy has followed the Kissinger guidelines, accepting negotiations only when compelled to do so, as Kissinger was after the near-debacle of the 1973 war for which he shares major responsibility, and under the conditions that Ben-Ami articulated.

Official doctrine instructs us to focus attention on the Arab summit, as if the Arab states and the PLO are the problem, in particular, their intention to drive Israel into the sea. Coverage presents the basic problem as vacillation, reservations, and qualifications in the Arab world. There is little that one can say in favor of the Arab states and the PLO, but these claims are simply untrue, as a look at the record quickly reveals.

The more serious press recognized that the Saudi plan largely reiterated the Saudi Fahd Plan of 1981, claiming that that initiative was undermined by Arab refusal to accept the existence of Israel. The facts are again quite different. The 1981 plan was undermined by an Israeli reaction that even its mainstream press condemned as "hysterical," backed by the US. That includes Shimon Peres and other alleged doves, who warned that acceptance of the Fahd plan would "threaten Israel's very existence."

An indication of the hysteria is the reaction of Israel's President Haim Herzog, also considered a dove. He charged that the "real author" of the Fahd plan was the PLO, and that it was even more extreme than the January 1976 Security Council resolution that was "prepared by" the PLO, at the time when he was Israel's UN Ambassador. These claims can hardly be true, but they are an indication of the desperate fear of a political settlement on the part of Israeli doves, backed throughout by the US. The basic problem then, as now, traces back to Washington, which has persistently backed Israel's rejection of a political settlement in terms of the broad international consensus, reiterated in essentials in the current Saudi proposals.

Until such elementary facts as these are permitted to enter into discussion, displacing the standard misrepresentation and deceit, discussion is mostly beside the point. And we should not be drawn into it -- for example, by implicitly accepting the assumption that developments at the Arab summit are a critical problem. They have significance, of course, but it is secondary. The primary problems are right here, and it is our responsibility to face them and deal with them, not to displace them to others.
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