Good kill: Attention, un pilote de drones peut en cacher un autre (No kill lists and Terror Tuesdays, please, we’re Hollywood)

8 mai, 2015
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L’ennemi n’est pas identifiable en tant que tel dans le sens où ce sont des gens qui se mêlent à la population. Donc ils sont habillés comme n’importe qui. Il n’y a pas d’uniforme donc comment savoir si c’est l’ennemi ou juste des personnes normales ? C’est juste d’après le comportement qu’on peut le voir. Bernard Davin (pilote belge au retour d’Afghanistan, RTBF, 13.01.09)
La majorité du temps, ce n’est pas une décision qui est difficile puisque en fait, c’est l’ennemi qui nous met dans une situation difficile au sol. Didier Polomé (commandant belge)
On n’en saura pas plus. Les détails des opérations OTAN sont couvertes par le secret militaire pour éviter les représailles contre les pays impliqués et contre les familles des pilotes en mission en Afghanistan. Journaliste belge (RTBF, 13.01.09)
Le bien et le mal se mélangent un peu (…) et ça devient un peu comme un jeu vidéo. Soldat israélien
Les frères Jonas sont ici ; ils sont là quelque part. Sasha et Malia sont de grandes fans. Mais les gars, allez pas vous faire des idées. J’ai deux mots pour vous: « predator drones ». Vous les verrez même pas venir. Vous croyez que je plaisante, hein ? Barack Obama (2010)
Les drones américains ont liquidé plus de monde que le nombre total des détenus de Guantanamo. Pouvons nous être certains qu’il n’y avait parmi eux aucun cas d’erreurs sur la personne ou de morts innocentes ? Les prisonniers de Guantanamo avaient au moins une chance d’établir leur identité, d’être examinés par un Comité de surveillance et, dans la plupart des cas, d’être relâchés. Ceux qui restent à Guantanamo ont été contrôlés et, finalement, devront faire face à une forme quelconque de procédure judiciaire. Ceux qui ont été tués par des frappes de drones, quels qu’ils aient été, ont disparu. Un point c’est tout. Kurt Volker
The drone operation now operates out of two main bases in the US, dozens of smaller installations and at least six foreign countries. There are « terror Tuesday » meetings to discuss targets which Obama’s campaign manager, David Axelrod, sometimes attends, lending credence to those who see naked political calculation involved. The New York Times
Foreign Policy a consacré la une de son numéro daté de mars-avril aux “guerres secrètes d’Obama”. Qui aurait pu croire il y a quatre ans que le nom de Barack Obama allait être associé aux drones et à la guerre secrète technologique ? s’étonne le magazine, qui souligne qu’Obama “est le président américain qui a approuvé le plus de frappes ciblées de toute l’histoire des Etats-Unis”. Voilà donc à quoi ressemblait l’ennemi : quinze membres présumés d’Al-Qaida au Yémen entretenant des liens avec l’Occident. Leurs photographies et la biographie succincte qui les accompagnait les faisaient ressembler à des étudiants dans un trombinoscope universitaire. Plusieurs d’entre eux étaient américains. Deux étaient des adolescents, dont une jeune fille qui ne faisait même pas ses 17 ans. Supervisant la réunion dédiée à la lutte contre le terrorisme, qui réunit tous les mardis une vingtaine de hauts responsables à la Maison-Blanche, Barack Obama a pris un moment pour étudier leurs visages. C’était le 19 janvier 2010, au terme d’une première année de mandat émaillée de complots terroristes dont le point culminant a été la tentative d’attentat évitée de justesse dans le ciel de Detroit le soir de Noël 2009. “Quel âge ont-ils ? s’est enquis Obama ce jour-là. Si Al-Qaida se met à utiliser des enfants, c’est que l’on entre dans une toute nouvelle phase.” La question n’avait rien de théorique : le président a volontairement pris la tête d’un processus de “désignation” hautement confidentiel visant à identifier les terroristes à éliminer ou à capturer. Obama a beau avoir fait campagne en 2008 contre la guerre en Irak et contre l’usage de la torture, il a insisté pour que soit soumise à son aval la liquidation de chacun des individus figurant sur une kill list [liste de cibles à abattre] qui ne cesse de s’allonger, étudiant méticuleusement les biographies des terroristes présumés apparaissant sur ce qu’un haut fonctionnaire surnomme macabrement les “cartes de base-ball”. A chaque fois que l’occasion d’utiliser un drone pour supprimer un terroriste se présente, mais que ce dernier est en famille, le président se réserve le droit de prendre la décision finale. (…) Une série d’interviews accordées au New York Times par une trentaine de ses conseillers permettent de retracer l’évolution d’Obama depuis qu’il a été appelé à superviser personnellement cette “drôle de guerre” contre Al-Qaida et à endosser un rôle sans précédent dans l’histoire de la présidence américaine. Ils évoquent un chef paradoxal qui approuve des opérations de liquidation sans ciller, tout en étant inflexible sur la nécessité de circonscrire la lutte antiterroriste et d’améliorer les relations des Etats-Unis avec le monde arabe. (…) C’est le plus curieux des rituels bureaucratiques : chaque semaine ou presque, une bonne centaine de membres du tentaculaire appareil sécuritaire des Etats-Unis se réunissent lors d’une visioconférence sécurisée pour éplucher les biographies des terroristes présumés et suggérer au président la prochaine cible à abattre. Ce processus de “désignation” confidentiel est une création du gouvernement Obama, un macabre “club de discussion” qui étudie soigneusement des diapositives PowerPoint sur lesquelles figurent les noms, les pseudonymes et le parcours de membres présumés de la branche yéménite d’Al-Qaida ou de ses alliés de la milice somalienne Al-Chabab. The New York Times (07.06.12)
Rarement moment politique et innovation technologique auront si parfaitement correspondu : lorsque le président démocrate est élu en 2008 par des Américains las des conflits, il dispose d’un moyen tout neuf pour poursuivre, dans la plus grande discrétion, la lutte contre les « ennemis de l’Amérique » sans risquer la vie de citoyens de son pays : les drones. (…) George W. Bush, artisan d’un large déploiement sur le terrain, utilisera modérément ces nouveaux engins létaux. Barack Obama y recourra six fois plus souvent pendant son seul premier mandat que son prédécesseur pendant les deux siens. M. Obama, qui, en recevant le prix Nobel de la paix en décembre 2009, revendiquait une Amérique au « comportement exemplaire dans la conduite de la guerre », banalisera la pratique des « assassinats ciblés », parfois fondés sur de simples présomptions et décidés par lui-même dans un secret absolu. Tandis que les militaires guident les drones dans l’Afghanistan en guerre, c’est jusqu’à présent la très opaque CIA qui opère partout ailleurs (au Yémen, au Pakistan, en Somalie, en Libye). C’est au Yémen en 2002 que la campagne d' »assassinats ciblés » a débuté. Le Pakistan suit dès 2004. Barack Obama y multiplie les frappes. Certaines missions, menées à l’insu des autorités pakistanaises, soulèvent de lourdes questions de souveraineté. D’autres, les goodwill kills (« homicides de bonne volonté »), le sont avec l’accord du gouvernement local. Tandis que les frappes de drones militaires sont simplement « secrètes », celles opérées par la CIA sont « covert », ce qui signifie que les Etats-Unis n’en reconnaissent même pas l’existence. Dans ce contexte, établir des statistiques est difficile. Selon le Bureau of Investigative Journalism, une ONG britannique, les attaques au Pakistan ont fait entre 2 548 et 3 549 victimes, dont 411 à 884 sont des civils, et 168 à 197 des enfants. En termes statistiques, la campagne de drones est un succès : les Etats-Unis revendiquent l’élimination de plus d’une cinquantaine de hauts responsables d’Al-Qaida et de talibans. D’où la nette diminution du nombre de cibles potentielles et du rythme des frappes, passées de 128 en 2010 (une tous les trois jours) à 48 en 2012 au Pakistan. Car le secret total et son cortège de dénégations ne pouvaient durer éternellement. En mai 2012, le New York Times a révélé l’implication personnelle de M. Obama dans la confection des kill lists. Après une décennie de silence et de mensonges officiels, la réalité a dû être admise. En particulier au début de l’année, lorsque le débat public s’est focalisé sur l’autorisation, donnée par le ministre de la justice, Eric Holder, d’éliminer un citoyen américain responsable de la branche yéménite d’Al-Qaida. L’imam Anouar Al-Aulaqi avait été abattu le 30 septembre 2011 au Yémen par un drone de la CIA lancé depuis l’Arabie saoudite. Le droit de tuer un concitoyen a nourri une intense controverse. D’autant que la même opération avait causé des « dégâts collatéraux » : Samir Khan, responsable du magazine jihadiste Inspire, et Abdulrahman, 16 ans, fils d’Al-Aulaqui, tous deux américains et ne figurant ni l’un ni l’autre sur la kill list, ont trouvé la mort. Aux yeux des opposants, l’adolescent personnifie désormais l’arbitraire de la guerre des drones. La révélation par la presse des contorsions juridiques imaginées par les conseillers du président pour justifier a posteriori l’assassinat d’un Américain n’a fait qu’alimenter les revendications de transparence. La fronde s’est concrétisée par le blocage au Sénat, plusieurs semaines durant, de la nomination à la tête de la CIA de John Brennan, auparavant grand ordonnateur à la Maison Blanche de la politique d’assassinats ciblés. (…) Très attendu, le grand exercice de clarification a eu lieu le 23 mai devant la National Defense University de Washington. Barack Obama y a prononcé un important discours sur la « guerre juste », affichant enfin une doctrine en matière d’usage des drones. Il était temps : plusieurs organisations de défense des libertés publiques avaient réclamé en justice la communication des documents justifiant les assassinats ciblés. Une directive présidentielle, signée la veille, précise les critères de recours aux frappes à visée mortelle : une « menace continue et imminente contre la population des Etats-Unis », le fait qu' »aucun autre gouvernement ne soit en mesure d'[y] répondre ou ne la prenne en compte effectivement » et une « quasi-certitude » qu’il n’y aura pas de victimes civiles. Pour la première fois, Barack Obama a reconnu l’existence des assassinats ciblés, y compris ceux ayant visé des Américains, assurant que ces morts le « hanteraient » toute sa vie. (…) Six jours après ce discours, l’assassinat par un drone de Wali ur-Rehman, le numéro deux des talibans pakistanais, en a montré les limites. Ce leader visait plutôt le Pakistan que « la population des Etats-Unis ». Tout porte donc à croire que les critères limitatifs énoncés par Barack Obama ne s’appliquent pas au Pakistan, du moins aussi longtemps qu’il restera des troupes américaines dans l’Afghanistan voisin. Et que les « Signature strikes », ces frappes visant des groupes d’hommes armés non identifiés mais présumés extrémistes, seront poursuivies. Les drones n’ont donc pas fini de mettre en lumière les contradictions de Barack Obama : président antiguerre, champion de la transparence, de la légalité et de la main tendue à l’islam, il a multiplié dans l’ombre les assassinats ciblés, provoquant la colère de musulmans. Le Monde (18.06.13)
Aucun soldat n’avait vécu cela jusqu’ici. Avant, on se rendait dans le pays avec lequel on était en conflit. Aujourd’hui, plus besoin : la guerre est télécommandée. Avant, le pilote prenait son jet, lâchait une bombe et rentrait. Aujourd’hui, il lâche sa bombe, attend dans son fauteuil et compte le nombre de morts. Il passe douze heures à tuer des talibans avant d’aller chercher ses enfants à l’école. (…) Obama est démocrate. Et l’emploi des drones a augmenté depuis qu’il est au pouvoir. Mon film parle de l’ »American sniper » ultime. J’ai juste tenté d’être honnête vis-à-vis du sujet. De montrer les choses telles qu’elles sont sans imposer une manière de penser. Il serait naïf de dire « je suis anti-drone ». Ce serait comme dire « je suis anti-internet ». Mais avec cette technologie, la guerre peut être infinie. Le jour où l’armée américaine quittera le Moyen-Orient, les drones, eux, y resteront. (…) L’état-major américain était sur le point d’attribuer une médaille à certains pilotes de drones. Cela a soulevé un tel tollé de la part des vrais pilotes qu’ils ont abandonné l’idée. Ces médailles sont censées célébrer les valeurs et le courage. Comment les décerner à des types qui tuent sans courir le moindre danger ? (…) J’ai aussi pas mal filmé les scènes extérieures au conflit, celles de la vie quotidienne du personnage à Las Vegas, d’un point de vue culminant, pour créer une continuité et un sentiment de paranoïa. Comme si un drone le suivait en permanence. Ou le point de vue de Dieu. Andrew Niccol
Tout ce que je montre est vrai: un type près de Las Vegas peut détruire une maison pleine de talibans en Afghanistan. Encore faut-il être sûr que ceux qui y sont réunis sont vraiment des talibans. Et il est arrivé que des missiles américains soient lancés contre des enterrements. Andrew Niccol
J’étais plus intéressé par le personnage, par cette nouvelle manière de faire la guerre. On n’a jamais demandé à un soldat de faire ça. De combattre douze heures et de rentrer chez lui auprès de sa femme et de ses enfants, il n’y a plus de sas de décompression. (…) J’ai engagé d’anciens pilotes de drones comme consultants, puisque l’armée m’avait refusé sa coopération. J’en aurais bien voulu, ç’aurait été plus facile si on m’avait donné ces équipements, ces installations. J’ai dû les construire. (…) je me suis souvenu aujourd’hui d’une conférence de presse du général Schwartzkopf pendant la première guerre d’Irak, il avait montré des vidéos en noir et blanc, avec une très mauvaise définition, de frappes de précision et on voyait un motocycliste échapper de justesse à un missile. Il l’avait appelé « l’homme le plus chanceux d’Irak ». On le voit traverser un pont, passer dans la ligne de mire et sortir du champ au moment où le panache de l’explosion éclot. Aujourd’hui on sait qu’il existe une vidéo pour chaque frappe de drone, c’est la procédure. Mais on ne les montre plus comme au temps du général Schwartzkopf. Expliquez-moi pourquoi. (…) Je vais vous dire pourquoi. Les humains ont tendance à l’empathie – et même si vous êtes mon ennemi, même si vous êtes une mauvaise personne, si je vous regarde mourir, je ressentirai de l’empathie. Ce qui n’est pas bon pour les affaires militaires. (…) Je crois que ça a tendance à insensibiliser. On n’entend jamais une explosion, on ne sent jamais le sol se soulever. On est à 10 000 kilomètres. (…) L’armée l’a mise là pour des raisons de commodité: les montagnes autour de Las Vegas ressemblent à l’Afghanistan, ce qui permet aux pilotes de drones à l’entraînement de se familiariser avec le terrain. Ils s’exercent aussi à suivre des voitures. Andrew Niccol
Je voulais montrer que plus on progresse technologiquement, plus on régresse humainement. Derrière sa télécommande, le pilote n’entend rien, ne sent pas le sol trembler, ne respire pas l’odeur de brûlé… Il fait exploser des pixels sans jamais être dans le concret de la chair et du sang. Andrew Nicool
I get to play a character I’ve never seen on screen before. He’s spending the bulk of the day fighting the Taliban; leaves work, picks up some eggs and orange juice, helps his son with his homework and fights with his wife about what TV show to watch. And then the next day does the same thing again. This is a new situation we’ve never been in: Soldiers who take people’s lives whose own life isn’t in danger. A lot of these people go into the military because they have the mentality of a warrior. They want to put their life on the line for their beliefs to make people safe, but what does it mean when your life isn’t on the line? It seems like the stuff of sci-fi but it’s arrived. (…) We can’t have a serious conversation about a drone strike unless people have more information. Most people don’t know what a drone looks like, or how it’s operated. I learned a lot – I had no idea [the US] would strike a funeral or rescuers. There’s a certain logic to doing it – you could say perhaps it is proportionate. Perhaps we’re stopping more death than we’re creating, but we are killing innocent people. Am I sure I want our soldiers doing that? An interesting example is on Obama’s third day in office he ordered a drone strike – it was surgical, but they had the wrong information and they murdered a family that had nothing to do with anything. When these tools are available accidents happen. It’s ripe for dialogue. I’m not in politics, I don’t have an agenda for the audience, but I think it’s a really interesting conversation. I don’t think we should let our governments run willy-nilly and kill whoever and spy on whoever they want to without asking any questions. Ethan Hawke
Every strike Tom does in the movie there is a precedent for, but his character is fictitious. There were some things I didn’t put in the movie because I thought they were too outrageous. I was told about drone pilots who were younger than Ethan’s character – they would work with a joystick for 12 hours over Afghanistan, take out a target and go home to their apartment and play video games. The military modelled the workstation on computer games because it’s the joystick that’s the easiest to use. They want gamers to join the Air Force because they’re good and can manoeuvre a drone perfectly. But how can they possibly separate playing one joystick game one moment, and then playing real war the next? Andrew Nicool
His control bunker looks a bit like a shipping container from the outside, boxy and portable. ‘The troops are going to withdraw from Afghanistan, but the drones won’t leave’ “The reason is that they used to wheel them into a Hercules and fly them around the world,” says Niccol. “But then realized they didn’t have to go anywhere; they had satellites.” Hawke’s character kills enemies in Afghanistan from half a world away, but struggles with the moral implications of such precise, emotionless combat. The cinematography in Good Kill calls attention to the similarities in geography between the U.S. and Afghan deserts, and the walled residences that exist in both locations. “It’s not my choice; it’s the military’s choice,” says Niccol. They can train drone pilots locally over terrain similar to what they’ll see while on duty. “If you’re going on a weekend trip to Vegas in your car,” he adds, “you may not know it — in fact you won’t know it — but they’ll follow a car with a drone just as practice.” Good Kill airs both sides of the debate over unmanned drone strikes — on the one hand, it risks fewer American lives; on the other, it risks dehumanizing war — but it’s clear on which side Niccol and Hawke stand. “Say what you like about the United States,” says the New Zealand-born Niccol, “but you’re allowed to make that movie. Some people are going to hate it and think it’s unpatriotic, and some people are going to love it, but if it causes some kind of debate — great.” “That’s the point of making a movie like this,” says Hawke, “is to not let all this stuff happen in our name without us having any awareness or knowledge or interest in what’s being done.” He likes the idea of a war film “that isn’t glorifying the past; something that shows us where we are right now. The troops are going to withdraw from Afghanistan, but the drones won’t leave.” National Post
Needless to say, however, this particular world is no product of Niccol’s imagination: The apparent future of warfare is in fact, as Bruce Greenwood’s hardened commander likes to bark at awestruck new arrivals, “the fucking here and now.” Pilots are recruited in shopping malls on the strength of their gaming expertise; joysticks are the new artillery. The film opens on the Afghan desert, as caught through a drone’s viewfinder and transmitted to Egan’s monitor. A terrorist target is identified, the missile order is given and, within 10 seconds of Egan hitting the switch 7,000 miles away, a life ends in a silent explosion of dust and rubble. (The title refers to Egan’s regular, near-involuntary verbal reaction to each successful hit.) Another day’s work done, Egan hops in his sports car and heads home to his military McMansion, where his wife, Molly (January Jones), and two young children await. It’s an existence that theoretically combines the gung-ho ideals of American heroism and the domestic comforts of the American Dream. Niccol forges this connection with one elegantly ironic long shot of Egan’s car leaving the arid middle-of-nowhere surrounds of the control center (which have an aesthetic proximity to the Middle East, if nothing else) and approaching the glistening urban heights of Vegas — hardly the city to anchor this uncanny setup in any greater sense of reality. For all intents and purposes, Egan, who previously risked life and limb flying F-16 planes in Iraq, has lucked out. It doesn’t feel that way to him, however, as he finds it increasingly impossible to reconcile the immense power he wields from his planeless cockpit with the lack of any attendant peril or consequence on his end. Niccol’s script and Hawke’s stern, buttoned-down performance keep in play the question of whether it’s adrenaline or moral accountability that he misses most in his new vocation, but either way, as new, more ruthless orders come in from the CIA, it’s pushing him to the brink of emotional collapse. Egan finds a measure of solidarity in rookie co-pilot Suarez (a fine, flinty Zoe Kravitz), who challenges authority more brazenly than he does, but can’t explain his internal crisis to his increasingly alienated family. It’s the peculiar mechanics of drone warfare that enable “Good Kill” to be at once a combat film and a war-at-home film, two familiar strains of military drama given a bracing degree of tension by their parallel placement in Niccol’s tightly worked script: The pressures of Egan’s activity in the virtual field bounce off the volatile battles he fights in the bedroom and vice versa, as the film’s intellectual deliberations over the rights and wrongs of this new military policy are joined by the more emotive question of just what type of man, if any, is mentally fit for the task. (Or, indeed, woman: One thing to be said for the new technology is that it expands the demographic limits of combat.) Rife as it is with heated political questioning, this essentially human story steers clear of overt rhetorical side-taking: The Obama administration comes in for some implicit criticism here, but the film’s perspective on America’s ongoing Middle East presence isn’t one the right is likely to take to heart. Just as Niccol’s narrative structure is at once fraught and immaculate in its escalation of ideas and character friction, so his arguments remain ever-so-slightly oblique despite the tidiness of their presentation: How much viewers wish to accept the pic as a single, tragic character study or a broader cautionary tale is up to them. He overplays his hand, however, with a needlessly melodramatic subplot that finds Egan growing personally invested in the fate of a female Afghan civilian living on their regular surveillance route, while Greenwood’s character is given one pithy slogan too many (“fly and fry,” “warheads on foreheads”) to underline the detachment of empathy from the act of killing. Happily, such instances of glib overstatement are rare in a film that trusts its audience both to recognize Niccol’s interpretations of current affairs as such, and to arrive at their own without instruction. Variety
Implacable et documenté, Good kill décrit avec précision les pratiques de l’armée américaine : par exemple, le principe de la double frappe. Vous éliminez d’un missile un foyer de présumés terroristes, mais vous frappez dans les minutes qui suivent au même endroit pour éliminer ceux qui viennent les secourir, et tant pis si ce sont clairement des civils. L’un des sommets du film est le récit d’une opération visant l’enterrement d’ennemis tués plus tôt dans la journée, la barbarie à son maximum – et on est sûr que Andrew Niccol, scénariste et réalisateur, n’a rien inventé. Bien sûr, à tuer quasiment à l’aveugle, ou sur la foi de renseignements invérifiables, on crée une situation de guerre permanente, et on fabrique les adversaires que l’on éliminera plus tard. (…) Good Kill est un film important parce qu’il montre pour la première fois le vrai visage des guerres modernes, et à quel point ont disparu les notions de patriotisme et d’héroïsme – que risque ce combattant planqué à part de se détruire lui-même ? C’est aussi un réquisitoire courageux contre l’american way of life, symbolisée ici par Las Vegas, ville sans âme que les personnages traversent sur leur chemin entre base militaire et pavillon sinistre. Ce n’est pas un film d’anticipation. L’horreur que l’on fait subir aux victimes et, en un sens, à leurs bourreaux, c’est ici et maintenant. Une sale guerre, un sale monde. Aurélien Ferenczi
Ce qui pose vraiment problème n’est toutefois pas d’ordre artistique, mais politique. Paré des oripeaux de la fiction de gauche, The Good Kill s’inscrit pleinement (comme le faisait la troisième saison de « Homeland ») dans le paradigme de la guerre contre le terrorisme telle que la conduisent les Etats-Unis depuis le 11 septembre 2001. Les Afghans ne sont jamais représentés autrement que sous la forme des petites silhouettes noires mal définies, évoluant erratiquement sur l’écran des pilotes de drones qui les surveillent. La seule action véritablement lisible se déroule dans la cour d’une maison, où l’on voit, à plusieurs reprises, un barbu frapper sa [?] femme et la violer. C’est l’argument imparable, tranquillement anti-islamiste, de la cause des femmes, que les avocats de la guerre contre le terrorisme ont toujours brandi sans vergogne pour mettre un terme au débat. La critique que fait Andrew Niccol, dans ce contexte, de l’usage des drones ne pouvait qu’être cosmétique. Elle est aussi inepte, confondant les questions d’ordre psychologique (comment se débrouillent des soldats qui rentrent le soir dans leur lit douillet après avoir tué des gens – souvent innocents), et celles qui se posent sur le plan du droit de la guerre (que Grégoire Chamayou a si bien expliqué dans La Théorie du drone, La Fabrique, 2013), dès lors que ces armes autorisent à détruire des vies dans le camp adverse sans plus en mettre aucune en péril dans le sien. Si l’ancien pilote de chasse ne va pas bien, explique-t-il à sa femme, ce n’est pas parce qu’il tue des innocents, ce qu’il a toujours fait, c’est qu’il les tue sans danger. Pour remédier à son état, s’offre une des rédemptions les plus ahurissantes qu’il ait été donné à voir depuis longtemps au cinéma. S’improvisant bras armé d’une justice totalement aveugle, il dégomme en un clic le violeur honni, rendant à sa [?] femme, après un léger petit suspense, ce qu’il imagine être sa liberté. La conscience lavée, le pilote peut repartir le cœur léger, retrouver sa famille et oublier toutes celles, au loin, qu’il a assassinées pour la bonne cause. Le Monde
Semblable à l’œil de Dieu, sa caméra voit tout lorsqu’elle descend du ciel : la femme qui se fait violer par un taliban sans qu’il puisse intervenir, les marines dont il assure la sécurité durant leur sommeil, mais aussi l’enfant qui surgit à vélo là où il vient d’envoyer son missile… (…) Dans cet univers orwellien où toutes sortes d’euphémismes – « neutraliser », « incapaciter », « effacer » – sont utilisés pour éviter de prononcer le mot « tuer », le décalage entre la réalité et le virtuel prend encore plus de sens quand on apprend que les très jeunes pilotes de drone sont repérés dans les arcades de jeux vidéo. D’autres, comme l’ancien pilote de chasse interprété par Ethan Hawke, culpabilisent d’être si loin du danger. Paris Match

 Vous avez dit deux poids deux mesures ?

Au lendemain de l’annonce de l’élimination ô combien méritée, par un drone américain au Yémen, du commanditaire des attentats de Paris de janvier dernier …

Et après le courageux abandon l’Afghanistan à son triste sort, l’Europe a depuis longtemps oublié ce que ses soldats ont bien pu y faire …

Comment ne pas voir …

Alors que, pour défendre ses soldats face aux pires perfidies du Hamas, Israël se voit à nouveau soupçonné des pires crimes de guerre

L’étonnante retenue de nos journalistes comme de nos cinéastes (une seule allusion indirecte et non-nominative dans un film par ailleurs présenté absurdement comme l’anti-American sniper)  …

Qu’on avait naguère connus autrement plus virulants contre une certaine prison cubaine …

Depuis l’inauguration d’un certain prix Nobel 2009 …

Face à l’élimination, dans la plus grande discrétion, de quelque 2 500 cibles …

« Femmes et enfants » compris, comme le veut la formule …

Par quelqu’un qui peut même, cerise sur le gâteau, se permettre de plaisanter devant un parterre de journalistes …

D’une nouvelle arme pouvant abattre n’importe qui à 10 000  km de distance Américains inclus ?  …

Rencontre
Andrew Niccol : “’Good Kill’ dit une vérité inconfortable”

Aurélien Ferenczi
Télérama

22/04/2015
Œil pour œil, le débat des critiques ciné #331 : “Caprice” d’Emmanuel Mouret et “Good Kill” d’Andrew Niccol

“Good-Kill”, avec Ethan Hawke, son film-brûlot basé sur des faits réels, interroge le drone, une nouvelle arme de guerre. Andrew Niccol (“Bienvenue à Gattaca”, “Lord of war”) livre ses secrets de réalisation et revient sur sa carrière.
Il a toute prête une jolie citation de John Lennon, qu’il sort promptement au journaliste ayant tenté d’établir un lien entre son premier film, Bienvenue à Gattaca (1998) et son sixième – seulement –, Good Kill, sur les écrans cette semaine. « Plus vous mettez le doigt sur ce que vous faites, plus vous l’éloignez. Si je réfléchis trop à ce que je fais, j’ai peur de ne plus pouvoir le faire. » Andrew Niccol, 50 ans, costume chic de businessman, regard bleu, a l’air un peu fatigué (le jet lag ?) et la parole prudente. L’inquiétude, sans doute, d’avoir signé un film-brûlot, qui, en décrivant la vie d’un manipulateur de drone (Ethan Hawke), ex-pilote de l’armée de l’air cloué au sol sur une base du Nevada, raconte la guerre d’aujourd’hui : une guerre à distance, à armes inégales, un conflit sans fin où n’importe quel suspect – aux yeux de qui ? c’est tout le problème – peut être cliniquement dézingué d’un tir à la précision chirurgicale par un soldat en poste à l’autre bout du monde.

« Quand j’ai écrit le film, lâche-t-il, un de mes amis m’a tout de suite dit que je devrais réunir le budget en euros plutôt qu’en dollars. » De fait, le projet, qui n’a pas intéressé les majors d’Hollywood, est produit notamment par le Français Nicolas Chartier (qui avait financé Démineurs, de Kathryn Bigelow). Et quand la production est allée demander le soutien logistique de l’armée américaine, on lui a répondu un cinglant « Classifié »… « C’est ce qui nous différencie d’American Sniper, ajoute malicieusement Andrew Niccol, qui a reçu une aide conséquente de l’armée. »  Sur le film d’Eastwood, il refuse de porter un jugement, se contentant de signaler que le pilote de drone est « le sniper ultime, qui tue sans être vu… »

“Good Kill dit une vérité inconfortable”
Les infos, il les a trouvées alors auprès d’ex-pilotes de drone de l’US Air Force, et aussi dans les documents transmis par Bradley/Chelsea Manning à Wikileaks. « Tout ce que je montre est vrai, assure-t-il : un type près de Las Vegas peut détruire une maison pleine de talibans en Afghanistan. Encore faut-il être sûr que ceux qui y sont réunis sont vraiment des talibans. Et il est arrivé que des missiles américains soient lancés contre des enterrements. » Good kill dédouane un peu l’armée américaine, la soumettant aux ordres obscurs d’une mystérieuse agence gouvernementale – de fait, la CIA – pour qui la mort d’innocents ne semble pas un problème majeur. « Good Kill dit une vérité inconfortable. Après la première projection au Festival de Venise, j’ai entendu des échos contradictoires : certains spectateurs accusaient le film d’être anti-américain, d’autres d’être pro-américain. Moi, je ne juge pas. Et on ne peut pas être « anti-drone » : c’est l’usage qu’on en fait qui peut être répréhensible. »

En 2005, déjà, Andrew Niccol avait abordé un sujet sérieusement contemporain dans l’excellent (et souvent sous-estimé) Lord of war : les trafics d’armes internationaux et leur impact sur les guerres civiles africaines. Le personnage principal, joué par Nicholas Cage, était directement inspiré du trafiquant d’origine russe Victor Bout. Lequel, lors de son procès, se plaignit de la mauvaise image que le film donnait de lui… Après la sortie, Niccol reçut même la visite du FBI. « Parce que nous avions dû louer l’avion-cargo de Victor Bout, impossible autrement de trouver un Antonov en Afrique. Alors que nous mettions en soute des armes factices, l’équipage se fichait de nous : « Nous transportions de vraies armes il y a quelques jours, on aurait pu vous les garder »… Depuis, je sais que je suis sous surveillance ! »

Né en Nouvelle-Zélande, Andrew Niccol a débuté dans la publicité à Londres, qui fut, « comme pour Ridley Scott », son école de cinéma. Il part pour les Etats-Unis au début des années 90, écrit un premier script qu’il ne pourra réaliser, mais qui lui vaudra une nomination à l’Oscar : The Truman show. Sa version à lui, qui se situe entièrement à New York est plus noire que le film signé Peter Weir en 1998. Et à la place de Jim Carrey, Niccol aurait bien vu Jeff Bridges… Mais, dans la foulée, on le laisse réaliser son premier film, déjà avec Ethan Hawke, Bienvenue à Gattaca. « Je suppose que Sony a dit oui sur un malentendu. Une fois le film fini, ils ne savaient pas quoi en faire. Ils l’ont enterré. Cette année-là, ils croyaient beaucoup plus à un petit film d’horreur : Souviens-toi l’été dernier… »

“J’ai des idées non conventionnelles et coûteuses”
Bienvenue à Gattaca est (presque) devenu un classique, et la science-fiction a gagné ses lettres de noblesse auprès des studios. Sans que Niccol en profite réellement. « J’ai des idées non conventionnelles et coûteuses. L’un ou l’autre – des idées conventionnelles exigeant un gros budget, ou des idées non conventionnelles bon marché – ça peut passer. Les deux ensemble, c’est plus dur. » Il a refusé de mettre en scène des films de super-héros, et écrit plusieurs scénarios qui n’ont jamais vu le jour. « Peut-être que je vais enfin pouvoir réaliser The Cross, l’histoire de personnages qui veulent échapper à la société dans laquelle ils vivent… » Le thème central de son œuvre ? Le film avait déjà failli se faire en 2009, avec Vincent Cassel. « Cinéaste aux Etats-Unis, c’est épuisant : il faut savoir faire tourner au-dessus de sa tête plusieurs assiettes en même temps », explique-t-il en empruntant une métaphore circassienne. « Si tant est qu’on ne me chasse pas du pays. Dans ce cas, j’irai au Canada, le pays de ma femme… »

Voir aussi:

‘Good Kill’ Review: Ethan Hawke Stars
Andrew Niccol takes on the topical issue of drone strikes in a tense war drama notable for its tact and intelligence.
Guy Lodge
Variety

September 5, 2014

Sci-fi futures characterized by complex moral and political architecture have long been writer-director Andrew Niccol’s stock-in-trade. Yet while there’s not a hint of fantasy in “Good Kill,” a smart, quietly pulsating contempo war drama, it could hardly feel more typical of Niccol’s strongest work. To many, after all, drone strikes — the controversial subject of this tense but appropriately tactful ethics study — still feel like something that should be a practical and legal impossibility. Those who haven’t considered its far-reaching implications, meanwhile, will be drawn into consciousness by Niccol’s film, which sees Ethan Hawke’s former U.S. fighter pilot wrestling with the psychological strain of killing by remote control. At once forward-thinking and exhilaratingly of the moment, this heady conversation piece could yield substantial commercial returns with the right marketing and release strategy.

Niccol has, of course, covered this kind of topical dramatic territory before in 2005’s Amnesty Intl.-approved underperformer “Lord of War,” which starred Nicolas Cage as a faintly disguised incarnation of Soviet arms dealer Viktor Bout. “Good Kill,” however, feels closer in tone and texture to the stately speculative fiction of his 1997 debut, “Gattaca,” and not merely because of Hawke’s presence in the lead. The spartan Las Vegas airbase where Major Thomas Egan (Hawke) wages war against the Taliban from the comfort of an air-conditioned cubicle seems, in terms of its bleak function and lab-like appearance, a faintly dystopian creation — one where distant life-and-death calls are made at the touch of a button. The perils of playing God, of course, were also explored in Niccol’s prescient screenplay for “The Truman Show,” with which “Good Kill” shares profound concerns about a growing culture of extreme surveillance that itself goes unmonitored.

Needless to say, however, this particular world is no product of Niccol’s imagination: The apparent future of warfare is in fact, as Bruce Greenwood’s hardened commander likes to bark at awestruck new arrivals, “the fucking here and now.” Pilots are recruited in shopping malls on the strength of their gaming expertise; joysticks are the new artillery. The film opens on the Afghan desert, as caught through a drone’s viewfinder and transmitted to Egan’s monitor. A terrorist target is identified, the missile order is given and, within 10 seconds of Egan hitting the switch 7,000 miles away, a life ends in a silent explosion of dust and rubble. (The title refers to Egan’s regular, near-involuntary verbal reaction to each successful hit.)

Another day’s work done, Egan hops in his sports car and heads home to his military McMansion, where his wife, Molly (January Jones), and two young children await. It’s an existence that theoretically combines the gung-ho ideals of American heroism and the domestic comforts of the American Dream. Niccol forges this connection with one elegantly ironic long shot of Egan’s car leaving the arid middle-of-nowhere surrounds of the control center (which have an aesthetic proximity to the Middle East, if nothing else) and approaching the glistening urban heights of Vegas — hardly the city to anchor this uncanny setup in any greater sense of reality.

For all intents and purposes, Egan, who previously risked life and limb flying F-16 planes in Iraq, has lucked out. It doesn’t feel that way to him, however, as he finds it increasingly impossible to reconcile the immense power he wields from his planeless cockpit with the lack of any attendant peril or consequence on his end. Niccol’s script and Hawke’s stern, buttoned-down performance keep in play the question of whether it’s adrenaline or moral accountability that he misses most in his new vocation, but either way, as new, more ruthless orders come in from the CIA, it’s pushing him to the brink of emotional collapse. Egan finds a measure of solidarity in rookie co-pilot Suarez (a fine, flinty Zoe Kravitz), who challenges authority more brazenly than he does, but can’t explain his internal crisis to his increasingly alienated family.

It’s the peculiar mechanics of drone warfare that enable “Good Kill” to be at once a combat film and a war-at-home film, two familiar strains of military drama given a bracing degree of tension by their parallel placement in Niccol’s tightly worked script: The pressures of Egan’s activity in the virtual field bounce off the volatile battles he fights in the bedroom and vice versa, as the film’s intellectual deliberations over the rights and wrongs of this new military policy are joined by the more emotive question of just what type of man, if any, is mentally fit for the task. (Or, indeed, woman: One thing to be said for the new technology is that it expands the demographic limits of combat.) Rife as it is with heated political questioning, this essentially human story steers clear of overt rhetorical side-taking: The Obama administration comes in for some implicit criticism here, but the film’s perspective on America’s ongoing Middle East presence isn’t one the right is likely to take to heart.

Just as Niccol’s narrative structure is at once fraught and immaculate in its escalation of ideas and character friction, so his arguments remain ever-so-slightly oblique despite the tidiness of their presentation: How much viewers wish to accept the pic as a single, tragic character study or a broader cautionary tale is up to them. He overplays his hand, however, with a needlessly melodramatic subplot that finds Egan growing personally invested in the fate of a female Afghan civilian living on their regular surveillance route, while Greenwood’s character is given one pithy slogan too many (“fly and fry,” “warheads on foreheads”) to underline the detachment of empathy from the act of killing. Happily, such instances of glib overstatement are rare in a film that trusts its audience both to recognize Niccol’s interpretations of current affairs as such, and to arrive at their own without instruction.

It can’t be a coincidence that Hawke’s styling — aviators, snug leather bomber, Ivy League haircut — gives him the appearance of Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun” hero Maverick Mitchell gone somewhat to seed. His nuanced, hard-bitten performance, too, bristles with cracked machismo and seething self-disappointment; the actor has had a good run of form recently, though his brittle, closed manner here still surprises. Supporting ensemble work is uniformly strong, with Jones, who has form when it comes to playing the repressed wives of inscrutable men, finally landing a film role worthy of her work in “Mad Men.”

The filmmaking here is as efficient and squared-off as the storytelling, with Amir Mokri’s sturdy lensing capturing the hard, unforgiving light of the Nevada desert, and foregrounding every sharp angle of Guy Barnes’ excellent production design — which makes equally alien spaces of a pod-like military boardroom and the beige, under-loved walls of Egan’s home. Sound work throughout is aces, making a virtue of the sound effects that are eerily absent as those present: In drone warfare, at least in Vegas, no one can hear you scream.

Venice Film Review: ‘Good Kill’
Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Sept. 3, 2014. (Also in Toronto Film Festival — Special Presentations.) Running time: 102 MIN.

Voir également:

Frame of drones: Ethan Hawke is a conflicted fighter pilot in Andrew Niccol’s Good Kill
Chris Knight

National Post

September 11, 2014

Andrew Niccol can remember a time when U.S. involvement in Iraq included televised media briefings in which Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf would show video clips that demonstrated the accuracy of so-called smart bombs. Then, they were launched from piloted aircraft. Now they’re as likely to be fired from unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.

“Now that picture is a lot better, and there is obviously video for every one of the drone strikes,” he says. “But you haven’t seen one recently, have you?”

Ethan Hawke jumps in at this point. “Nobody has,” he says darkly. “They don’t want you to see this.”

Hawke is starring in Niccol’s Good Kill, which had its North American premiere this week at the Toronto International Film Festival after screening in Venice. The actor plays Maj. Thomas Egan, a former fighter pilot who now flies unmanned drones from a military base outside Las Vegas. His control bunker looks a bit like a shipping container from the outside, boxy and portable.

‘The troops are going to withdraw from Afghanistan, but the drones won’t leave’

“The reason is that they used to wheel them into a Hercules and fly them around the world,” says Niccol. “But then realized they didn’t have to go anywhere; they had satellites.” Hawke’s character kills enemies in Afghanistan from half a world away, but struggles with the moral implications of such precise, emotionless combat.

The cinematography in Good Kill calls attention to the similarities in geography between the U.S. and Afghan deserts, and the walled residences that exist in both locations. “It’s not my choice; it’s the military’s choice,” says Niccol. They can train drone pilots locally over terrain similar to what they’ll see while on duty.

“If you’re going on a weekend trip to Vegas in your car,” he adds, “you may not know it — in fact you won’t know it — but they’ll follow a car with a drone just as practice.”

Good Kill airs both sides of the debate over unmanned drone strikes — on the one hand, it risks fewer American lives; on the other, it risks dehumanizing war — but it’s clear on which side Niccol and Hawke stand.

“Say what you like about the United States,” says the New Zealand-born Niccol, “but you’re allowed to make that movie. Some people are going to hate it and think it’s unpatriotic, and some people are going to love it, but if it causes some kind of debate — great.”

“That’s the point of making a movie like this,” says Hawke, “is to not let all this stuff happen in our name without us having any awareness or knowledge or interest in what’s being done.”

He likes the idea of a war film “that isn’t glorifying the past; something that shows us where we are right now. The troops are going to withdraw from Afghanistan, but the drones won’t leave.”

Niccol and Hawke have worked together, albeit sporadically, on Gattaca (1997) and Lord of War (2005), before this film. They share a favourite movie (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and a shorthand that the writer/director says was invaluable given the movie’s tight budget and timeline.

That extended to Hawke’s agreement to star in the film, which took place over the phone. “I was walking my dog and I called you after reading the script,” he recalls. “I think I walked my dog for two hours as we talked. We were already making the movie that night!”

Voir également:

Entertainment & Arts
Good Kill: Tackling the ethics of drone warfare on film
Genevieve Hassan Entertainment reporter
BBC

10 April 2015

Ethan Hawke’s drone pilot begins to question his orders – and his job
Actor Ethan Hawke and director Andrew Niccol discuss their latest film, Good Kill, about an Air Force drone pilot who begins to question the ethics of his job.

The first time Hawke worked with Niccol, they made 1997 sci-fi film Gattaca. The second occasion, they made 2005’s Lord of War, about an arms dealer with a conscience. Now they’ve made it a hat-trick, reuniting once again to tackle the timely issue of using drones in modern warfare.

Set in 2010, Good Kill sees Hawke play Air Force pilot Tom Egan, who spends eight hours a day fighting the Taliban. But instead of being out on the front line, he’s in a Las Vegas bunker remotely dropping bombs in the Middle East as part of the US’s War on Terror.

Distanced from close combat from the safety of his joystick control half a world away, when the civilian casualties start mounting up, Egan begins to question his orders – and his job.

Hawke and Niccol spoke to the BBC News website about the inspiration behind the film and the moral questions it raises.

Why did you decide to make this project now?
Andrew Niccol: Now is almost a few years too late. I could have made this film a few years ago because this war has been going on in Afghanistan for 13 years. It’s stunning to me it’s America’s longest war and still counting – it beats Vietnam, the first Iraq war and World War Two.

It was all in response to 9/11 and I completely understand why we began it because that’s where Bin Laden was. But it gets to a point where it’s overkill. Are we ever going to leave that part of the planet? Are we really going to stay over the top of the Middle East forever?

Ethan Hawke: The troops are going to come out of Afghanistan, but the drones will still be there. It’s not a question of right or wrong, or how I feel about it – it’s the truth. This is the nature of warfare right now.

Do we want drones to be the international police? Is it a good idea? Is it creating more terror than stopping? They’re valuable questions.

For me as an actor and a fan of storytelling, I get to play a character I’ve never seen on screen before. He’s spending the bulk of the day fighting the Taliban; leaves work, picks up some eggs and orange juice, helps his son with his homework and fights with his wife about what TV show to watch. And then the next day does the same thing again.

This is a new situation we’ve never been in: Soldiers who take people’s lives whose own life isn’t in danger. A lot of these people go into the military because they have the mentality of a warrior. They want to put their life on the line for their beliefs to make people safe, but what does it mean when your life isn’t on the line? It seems like the stuff of sci-fi but it’s arrived.

Did you intend to push a specific political agenda with this film?
Ethan Hawke: No, I’m allergic to that. We can’t have a serious conversation about a drones strike unless people have more information. Most people don’t know what a drone looks like, or how it’s operated.

I learned a lot – I had no idea [the US] would strike a funeral or rescuers. There’s a certain logic to doing it – you could say perhaps it is proportionate. Perhaps we’re stopping more death than we’re creating, but we are killing innocent people. Am I sure I want our soldiers doing that?

An interesting example is on Obama’s third day in office he ordered a drone strike – it was surgical, but they had the wrong information and they murdered a family that had nothing to do with anything. When these tools are available accidents happen. It’s ripe for dialogue.

I’m not in politics, I don’t have an agenda for the audience, but I think it’s a really interesting conversation. I don’t think we should let our governments run willy-nilly and kill whoever and spy on whoever they want to without asking any questions.

Andrew Niccol: I’m not anti or pro, I’m just saying this is what is, and now you have that information perhaps it can provoke thought and conversation.

The US military want computer gamers to join the Air Force because they are equipped with the dexterity and speed needed to operate a drone efficiently, like Ethan Hawke’s character in Good Kill
Are all the events depicted in the film real?
Andrew Niccol: Every strike Tom does in the movie there is a precedent for, but his character is fictitious.

There were some things I didn’t put in the movie because I thought they were too outrageous. I was told about drone pilots who were younger than Ethan’s character – they would work with a joystick for 12 hours over Afghanistan, take out a target and go home to their apartment and play video games.

The military modelled the workstation on computer games because it’s the joystick that’s the easiest to use. They want gamers to join the Air Force because they’re good and can manoeuvre a drone perfectly.

But how can they possibly separate playing one joystick game one moment, and then playing real war the next?

Good Kill is released in UK cinemas on 10 April.

Voir encore:

Barack Obama, président des drones
LE MONDE GEO ET POLITIQUE

Philippe Bernard

18.06.2013

De même que George W. Bush restera dans l’histoire comme le  » président des guerres  » de l’après-11-Septembre en Afghanistan et en Irak, Barack Obama pourrait passer à la postérité comme le  » président des drones « , autrement dit le chef d’une guerre secrète, menée avec des armes que les Etats-Unis sont, parmi les grandes puissances, les seuls à posséder.

Rarement moment politique et innovation technologique auront si parfaitement correspondu : lorsque le président démocrate est élu en 2008 par des Américains las des conflits, il dispose d’un moyen tout neuf pour poursuivre, dans la plus grande discrétion, la lutte contre les « ennemis de l’Amérique » sans risquer la vie de citoyens de son pays : les drones.

L’utilisation militaire d’engins volants téléguidés par les Américains n’est pas nouvelle : pendant la guerre du Vietnam, des drones de reconnaissance avaient patrouillé. Mais l’armement de ces avions sans pilote à partir de 2001 en Afghanistan marque un changement d’époque. Au point que le tout premier Predator armé à avoir frappé des cibles après les attaques du 11-Septembre, immatriculé 3034, a aujourd’hui les honneurs du Musée de l’air et de l’espace, à Washington. Leur montée en puissance aura été fulgurante : alors que le Pentagone ne disposait que de 50 drones au début des années 2000, il en possède aujourd’hui près de 7 500. Dans l’US Air Force, un aéronef sur trois est sans pilote.

George W. Bush, artisan d’un large déploiement sur le terrain, utilisera modérément ces nouveaux engins létaux. Barack Obama y recourra six fois plus souvent pendant son seul premier mandat que son prédécesseur pendant les deux siens. M. Obama, qui, en recevant le prix Nobel de la paix en décembre 2009, revendiquait une Amérique au « comportement exemplaire dans la conduite de la guerre », banalisera la pratique des « assassinats ciblés », parfois fondés sur de simples présomptions et décidés par lui-même dans un secret absolu.

LES FRAPPES OPÉRÉES PAR LA CIA SONT « COVERT »

Tandis que les militaires guident les drones dans l’Afghanistan en guerre, c’est jusqu’à présent la très opaque CIA qui opère partout ailleurs (au Yémen, au Pakistan, en Somalie, en Libye). C’est au Yémen en 2002 que la campagne d' »assassinats ciblés » a débuté. Le Pakistan suit dès 2004. Barack Obama y multiplie les frappes. Certaines missions, menées à l’insu des autorités pakistanaises, soulèvent de lourdes questions de souveraineté. D’autres, les goodwill kills (« homicides de bonne volonté »), le sont avec l’accord du gouvernement local. Tandis que les frappes de drones militaires sont simplement « secrètes », celles opérées par la CIA sont « covert », ce qui signifie que les Etats-Unis n’en reconnaissent même pas l’existence.

Dans ce contexte, établir des statistiques est difficile. Selon le Bureau of Investigative Journalism, une ONG britannique, les attaques au Pakistan ont fait entre 2 548 et 3 549 victimes, dont 411 à 884 sont des civils, et 168 à 197 des enfants. En termes statistiques, la campagne de drones est un succès : les Etats-Unis revendiquent l’élimination de plus d’une cinquantaine de hauts responsables d’Al-Qaida et de talibans. D’où la nette diminution du nombre de cibles potentielles et du rythme des frappes, passées de 128 en 2010 (une tous les trois jours) à 48 en 2012 au Pakistan.

Car le secret total et son cortège de dénégations ne pouvaient durer éternellement. En mai 2012, le New York Times a révélé l’implication personnelle de M. Obama dans la confection des kill lists. Après une décennie de silence et de mensonges officiels, la réalité a dû être admise. En particulier au début de l’année, lorsque le débat public s’est focalisé sur l’autorisation, donnée par le ministre de la justice, Eric Holder, d’éliminer un citoyen américain responsable de la branche yéménite d’Al-Qaida. L’imam Anouar Al-Aulaqi avait été abattu le 30 septembre 2011 au Yémen par un drone de la CIA lancé depuis l’Arabie saoudite. Le droit de tuer un concitoyen a nourri une intense controverse. D’autant que la même opération avait causé des « dégâts collatéraux » : Samir Khan, responsable du magazine jihadiste Inspire, et Abdulrahman, 16 ans, fils d’Al-Aulaqui, tous deux américains et ne figurant ni l’un ni l’autre sur la kill list, ont trouvé la mort. Aux yeux des opposants, l’adolescent personnifie désormais l’arbitraire de la guerre des drones.

La révélation par la presse des contorsions juridiques imaginées par les conseillers du président pour justifier a posteriori l’assassinat d’un Américain n’a fait qu’alimenter les revendications de transparence. La fronde s’est concrétisée par le blocage au Sénat, plusieurs semaines durant, de la nomination à la tête de la CIA de John Brennan, auparavant grand ordonnateur à la Maison Blanche de la politique d’assassinats ciblés. Une orientation pourfendue, presque treize heures durant, le 6 mars, par le spectaculaire discours du sénateur libertarien Rand Paul.

UN IMPORTANT DISCOURS SUR LA « GUERRE JUSTE »

Très attendu, le grand exercice de clarification a eu lieu le 23 mai devant la National Defense University de Washington. Barack Obama y a prononcé un important discours sur la « guerre juste », affichant enfin une doctrine en matière d’usage des drones. Il était temps : plusieurs organisations de défense des libertés publiques avaient réclamé en justice la communication des documents justifiant les assassinats ciblés.

Une directive présidentielle, signée la veille, précise les critères de recours aux frappes à visée mortelle : une « menace continue et imminente contre la population des Etats-Unis », le fait qu' »aucun autre gouvernement ne soit en mesure d'[y] répondre ou ne la prenne en compte effectivement » et une « quasi-certitude » qu’il n’y aura pas de victimes civiles. Pour la première fois, Barack Obama a reconnu l’existence des assassinats ciblés, y compris ceux ayant visé des Américains, assurant que ces morts le « hanteraient » toute sa vie. Le président a annoncé que les militaires, plutôt que la CIA, auraient désormais la main. Il a aussi repris l’idée de créer une instance judiciaire ou administrative de contrôle des frappes. Mais il a renvoyé au Congrès la mission, incertaine, de créer cette institution. Le président, tout en reconnaissant que l’usage des drones pose de « profondes questions » – de « légalité », de « morale », de « responsabilité « , sans compter « le risque de créer de nouveaux ennemis » -, l’a justifié par son efficacité : « Ces frappes ont sauvé des vies. »

Six jours après ce discours, l’assassinat par un drone de Wali ur-Rehman, le numéro deux des talibans pakistanais, en a montré les limites. Ce leader visait plutôt le Pakistan que « la population des Etats-Unis ». Tout porte donc à croire que les critères limitatifs énoncés par Barack Obama ne s’appliquent pas au Pakistan, du moins aussi longtemps qu’il restera des troupes américaines dans l’Afghanistan voisin. Et que les « Signature strikes », ces frappes visant des groupes d’hommes armés non identifiés mais présumés extrémistes, seront poursuivies.

Les drones n’ont donc pas fini de mettre en lumière les contradictions de Barack Obama : président antiguerre, champion de la transparence, de la légalité et de la main tendue à l’islam, il a multiplié dans l’ombre les assassinats ciblés, provoquant la colère de musulmans.

Or les drones armés, s’ils s’avèrent terriblement efficaces pour éliminer de véritables fauteurs de terreur et, parfois, pour tuer des innocents, le sont nettement moins pour traiter les racines des violences antiaméricaines. Leur usage opaque apparaît comme un précédent encourageant pour les Etats (tels la Chine, la Russie, l’Inde, le Pakistan ou l’Iran) qui vont acquérir ces matériels dans l’avenir. En paraissant considérer les aéronefs pilotés à distance comme l’arme fatale indispensable, le « président des drones » aura enclenché l’engrenage de ce futur incertain.

Voir encore:

US national security
Obama’s secret kill list – the disposition matrix
The disposition matrix is a complex grid of suspected terrorists to be traced then targeted in drone strikes or captured and interrogated. And the British government appears to be colluding in it
US President Barack Obama
Barack Obama, chairing the ‘Terror Tuesday’ meetings, agrees the final schedule of names on the disposition matrix. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Ian Cobain

The Guardian

14 July 2013

When Bilal Berjawi spoke to his wife for the last time, he had no way of being certain that he was about to die. But he should have had his suspicions.

A short, dumpy Londoner who was not, in the words of some who knew him, one of the world’s greatest thinkers, Berjawi had been fighting for months in Somalia with al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group. His wife was 4,400 miles away, at home in west London. In June 2011, Berjawi had almost been killed in a US drone strike on an al-Shabaab camp on the coast. After that he became wary of telephones. But in January last year, when his wife went into labour and was admitted to St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, he decided to risk a quick phone conversation.

A few hours after the call ended Berjawi was targeted in a fresh drone strike. Perhaps the telephone contact triggered alerts all the way from Camp Lemmonier, the US military’s enormous home-from-home at Djibouti, to the National Security Agency’s headquarters in Maryland. Perhaps a few screens also lit up at GCHQ in Cheltenham? This time the drone attack was successful, from the US perspective, and al-Shabaab issued a terse statement: « The martyr received what he wished for and what he went out for. »

The following month, Berjawi’s former next-door neighbour, who was also in Somalia, was similarly « martyred ». Like Berjawi, Mohamed Sakr had just turned 27 when he was killed in an air strike.

Four months later, the FBI in Manhattan announced that a third man from London, a Vietnamese-born convert to Islam, had been charged with a series of terrorism offences, and that if convicted he would face a mandatory 40-year sentence. This man was promptly arrested by Scotland Yard and is now fighting extradition to the US. And a few weeks after that, another of Berjawi’s mates from London was detained after travelling from Somalia to Djibouti, where he was interrogated for months by US intelligence officers before being hooded and put aboard an aircraft. When 23-year-old Mahdi Hashi next saw daylight, he was being led into a courtroom in Brooklyn.

That these four men had something in common is clear enough: they were all Muslims, all accused of terrorism offences, and all British (or they were British: curiously, all of them unexpectedly lost their British citizenship just as they were about to become unstuck). There is, however, a common theme that is less obvious: it appears that all of them had found their way on to the « disposition matrix ».

The euphemisms of counter-terrorism

When contemplating the euphemisms that have slipped into the lexicon since 9/11, the adjective Orwellian is difficult to avoid. But while such terms as extraordinary rendition, targeted killing and enhanced interrogation are universally known, and their true meanings – kidnap, assassination, torture – widely understood, the disposition matrix has not yet gained such traction.

Since the Obama administration largely shut down the CIA’s rendition programme, choosing instead to dispose of its enemies in drone attacks, those individuals who are being nominated for killing have been discussed at a weekly counter-terrorism meeting at the White House situation room that has become known as Terror Tuesday. Barack Obama, in the chair and wishing to be seen as a restraining influence, agrees the final schedule of names. Once details of these meetings began to emerge it was not long before the media began talking of « kill lists ». More double-speak was required, it seemed, and before long the term disposition matrix was born.

In truth, the matrix is more than a mere euphemism for a kill list, or even a capture-or-kill list. It is a sophisticated grid, mounted upon a database that is said to have been more than two years in the development, containing biographies of individuals believed to pose a threat to US interests, and their known or suspected locations, as well as a range of options for their disposal.

It is a grid, however, that both blurs and expands the boundaries that human rights law and the law of war place upon acts of abduction or targeted killing. There have been claims that people’s names have been entered into it with little or no evidence. And it appears that it will be with us for many years to come.

The background to its creation was the growing realisation in Washington that the drone programme could be creating more enemies than it was destroying. In Pakistan, for example, where the government estimates that more than 400 people have been killed in around 330 drone strikes since 9/11, the US has arguably outstripped even India as the most reviled foreign country. At one point, Admiral Mike Mullen, when chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, was repo rted to be having furious rows over the issue with his opposite number in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Kayani.
matrix mike mullen and ashfaq Kayani

The term entered the public domain following a briefing given to the Washington Post before last year’s presidential election. « We had a disposition problem, » one former counter-terrorism official involved in the development of the Matrix told the Post. Expanding on the nature of that problem, a second administration official added that while « we’re not going to end up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying ‘we love America' », there needed to be a recognition that « we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us ».

Drawing upon legal advice that has remained largely secret, senior officials at the US Counter-Terrorism Center designed a grid that incorporated the existing kill lists of the CIA and the US military’s special forces, but which also offered some new rules and restraints.

Some individuals whose names were entered into the matrix, and who were roaming around Somalia or Yemen, would continue to face drone attack when their whereabouts become known. Others could be targeted and killed by special forces. In a speech in May, Obama suggested that a special court could be given oversight of these targeted killings.

An unknown number would end up in the so-called black sites that the US still quietly operates in east Africa, or in prisons run by US allies in the Middle East or Central Asia. But for others, who for political reasons could not be summarily dispatched or secretly imprisoned, there would be a secret grand jury investigation, followed in some cases by formal arrest and extradition, and in others by « rendition to justice »: they would be grabbed, interrogated without being read their rights, then flown to the US and put on trial with a publicly funded defence lawyer.

Orwell once wrote about political language being « designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable ». As far as the White House is concerned, however, the term disposition matrix describes a continually evolving blueprint not for murder, but for a defence against a threat that continues to change shape and seek out new havens.

As the Obama administration’s tactics became more variegated, the British authorities co-operated, of course, but also ensured that the new rules of the game helped to serve their own counter-terrorism objectives.

Paul Pillar, who served in the CIA for 28 years, including a period as the agency’s senior counter-terrorism analyst, says the British, when grappling with what he describes as a sticky case – « someone who is a violence-prone anti-western jihadi », for example – would welcome a chance to pass on that case to the US. It would be a matter, as he puts it, of allowing someone else to have their headache.

« They might think, if it’s going to be a headache for someone, let the Americans have the headache, » says Pillar. « That’s what the United States has done. The US would drop cases if they were going to be sticky, and let someone else take over. We would let the Egyptians or the Jordanians or whoever take over a very sticky one. From the United Kingdom point of view, if it is going to be a headache for anyone: let the Americans have the headache. »

The four young Londoners – Berjawi, Sakr, Hashi and the Vietnamese-born convert – were certainly considered by MI5 and MI6 to be something of a headache. But could they have been seen so problematic – so sticky – that the US would be encouraged to enter their names into the Matrix?
The home secretary’s special power

Berjawi and Sakr were members of a looseknit group of young Muslims who were on nodding terms with each other, having attended the same mosques and schools and having played in the same five-a-side football matches in west London.

A few members of this group came to be closely scrutinised by MI5 when it emerged that they had links with the men who attempted to carry out a wave of bombings on London’s underground train network on 21 July 2005. Others came to the attention of the authorities as a result of their own conduct. Mohammed Ezzouek, for example, who attended North Westminster community school with Berjawi, was abducted in Kenya and interrogated by British intelligence officers after a trip to Somalia in 2006; another schoolmate, Tariq al-Daour, has recently been released from jail after serving a sentence for inciting terrorism.

As well as sharing their faith and, according to the UK authorities, jihadist intent, these young men had something else in common: they were all dual nationals. Berjawi was born in Lebanon and moved to London with his parents as an infant. Sakr was born in London, but was deemed to be a British-Egyptian dual national because his parents were born in Egypt. Ezzouek is British-Moroccan, while al-Daour is British-Palestinian.

This left them vulnerable to a little-known weapon in the government’s counter-terrorism armoury, one that Theresa May has been deploying with increasing frequency since she became home secretary three years ago. Under the terms of a piece of the 2006 Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act, and a previous piece of legislation dating to 1981, May has the power to deprive dual nationals of their British citizenship if she is « satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good ».

This power can be applied only to dual nationals, and those who lose their citizenship can appeal. The government appears usually to wait until the individual has left the country before moving to deprive them of their citizenship, however, and appeals are heard at the highly secretive special immigration appeals commission (SIAC), where the government can submit evidence that cannot be seen or challenged by the appellant.

The Home Office is extraordinarily sensitive about the manner in which this power is being used. It has responded to Freedom of Information Act requests about May’s increased use of this power with delays and appeals; some information requested by the Guardian in June 2011 has still not been handed over. What is known is that at least 17 people have been deprived of their British citizenship at a stroke of May’s pen. In most cases, if not all, the home secretary has taken action on the recommendation of MI5. In each case, a warning notice was sent to the British home of the target, and the deprivation order signed a day or two later.

One person who lost their British citizenship in this way was Anna Chapman, a Russian spy, but the remainder are thought to all be Muslims. Several of them – including a British-Pakistani father and his three sons – were born in the UK, while most of the others arrived as children. And some have been deprived of their citizenship not because they were assessed to be involved in terrorism or any other criminal activity, but because of their alleged involvement in Islamist extremism.

Berjawi and Sakr both travelled to Somalia after claiming that they were being harassed by police in the UK, and were then stripped of their British citizenship. Several months later they were killed. The exact nature of any intelligence that the British government may have shared with Washington before their names were apparently entered into the disposition matrix is deeply secret: the UK has consistently refused to either confirm or deny that it shares intelligence in support of drone strikes, arguing that to do so would damage both national security and relations with the US government.

More than 12 months after Sakr’s death, his father, Gamal, a businessman who settled in London 37 years ago, still cannot talk about his loss without breaking down and weeping. He alleges that one of his two surviving sons has since been harassed by police, and suspects that this boy would also have been stripped of his citizenship had he left the country. « It’s madness, » he cries. « They’re driving these boys to Afghanistan. They’re making everything worse. »

Last year Gamal and his wife flew to Cairo, formally renounced their Egyptian citizenship, and on their return asked their lawyer to let it be known that their sons were no longer dual nationals. But while he wants his family to remain in Britain, the manner in which his son met his death has shattered his trust in the British government. « It was clearly directed from the UK, » he says. « He wasn’t just killed: he was assassinated. »
The case of Mahdi Hashi

Mahdi Hashi was five years old when his family moved to London from Somalia. He returned to the country in 2009, and took up arms for al-Shabaab in its civil war with government forces. A few months earlier he had complained to the Independent that he been under pressure to assist MI5, which he was refusing to do. Hashi was one of a few dozen young British men who have followed the same path: in one internet video clip, an al-Shabaab fighter with a cockney accent can be heard urging fellow Muslims « living in the lands of disbelief » to come and join him. It is thought that the identities of all these men are known to MI5.

After the deaths of Berjawi and Sakr, Hashi was detained by al-Shabaab, who suspected that he was a British spy, and that he was responsible for bringing the drones down on the heads of his brothers-in-arms. According to his US lawyer, Harry Batchelder, he was released in early June last year. The militants had identified three other men whom they believed were the culprits, executing them shortly afterwards.

Within a few days of Hashi’s release, May signed an order depriving him of his British citizenship. The warning notice that was sent to his family’s home read: « The reason for this decision is that the Security Service assess that you have been involved in Islamist extremism and present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom due to your extremist activities. »

Hashi decided to leave Somalia, and travelled to Djibouti with two other fighters, both Somali-Swedish dual nationals. All three were arrested in a raid on a building, where they had been sleeping on the roof, and were taken to the local intelligence agency headquarters. Hashi says he was interrogated for several weeks by US intelligence officers who refused to identify themselves. These men then handed him over to a team of FBI interrogators, who took a lengthy statement. Hashi was then hooded, put aboard an aircraft, and flown to New York. On arrival he was charged with conspiracy to support a terrorist organisation.

Hashi has since been quoted in a news report as saying he was tortured while in custody in Djibouti. There is reason to doubt that this happened, however: a number of sources familiar with his defence case say that the journalist who wrote the report may have been misled. And the line of defence that he relied upon while being interrogated – that Somalia’s civil war is no concern of the US or the UK – evaporated overnight when al-Shabaab threatened to launch attacks in Britain.

When Hashi was led into court in Brooklyn in January, handcuffed and dressed in a grey and orange prison uniform, he was relaxed and smiling. The 23-year-old had been warned that if he failed to co-operate with the US government, he would be likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars. But he appeared unconcerned.

At no point did the UK government intervene. Indeed, it cannot: he is no longer British.

When the Home Office was asked whether it knew Hashi was facing detention and forcible removal to the US at the point at which May revoked his citizenship, a spokesperson replied: « We do not routinely comment on individual deprivation cases, nor do we comment on intelligence issues. »

The Home Office is also refusing to say whether it is aware of other individuals being killed after losing their British citizenship. On one point it is unambiguous, however. « Citizenship, » it said in a statement, « is a privilege, not a right. »

The case of ‘B2’

A glimpse of even closer UK-US counter-terrorism co-operation can be seen in the case of the Vietnamese-born convert, who cannot be named for legal reasons. Born in 1983 in the far north of Vietnam, he was a month old when his family travelled by sea to Hong Kong, six when they moved to the UK and settled in London, and 12 when he became a British citizen.

While studying web design at a college in Greenwich, he converted to Islam. He later came into contact with the banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun, and was an associate of Richard Dart, a fellow convert who was the subject of a TV documentary entitled My Brother the Islamist, and who was jailed for six years in April after travelling to Pakistan to seek terrorism training. In December 2010, this man told his eight-months-pregnant wife that he was going to Ireland for a few weeks. Instead, he travelled to Yemen and stayed for seven months. MI5 believes he received terrorism training from al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula and worked on the group’s online magazine, Inspire.

He denies this. Much of the evidence against him comes from a man called Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali who once lived in the English midlands, and who was « rendered to justice » in much the same way as Hashi after being captured in the Gulf of Aden two years ago. Warsame is now co-operating with the US Justice Department.

On arrival back at Heathrow airport, the Vietnamese-born man was searched by police and arrested when a live bullet was found in his rucksack. A few months later, while he was free on bail, May signed an order revoking his British citizenship. Detained by immigration officials and facing deportation to Vietnam, he appealed to SIAC, where he was given the cipher B2. He won his case after the Vietnamese ambassador to London gave evidence in which he denied that he was one of their citizens. Depriving him of British citizenship at that point would have rendered him stateless, which would have been unlawful.

Within minutes of SIAC announcing its decision and granting B2 unconditional bail, he was rearrested while sitting in the cells at the SIAC building. The warrant had been issued by magistrates five weeks earlier, at the request of the US Justice Department. Moments after that, the FBI announced that B2 had been charged with five terrorism offences and faced up to 40 years in jail. He was driven straight from SIAC to Westminster magistrates’ court, where he faced extradition proceedings.

B2 continues to resist his removal to the US, with his lawyers arguing that he could have been charged in the UK. Indeed, the allegations made by the US authorities, if true, would appear to represent multiple breaches of several UK laws: the Terrorism Act 2000, the Terrorism Act 2006 and the Firearms Act 1968. Asked why B2 was not being prosecuted in the English courts – why, in other words, the Americans were having this particular headache, and not the British – a Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said: « As this is a live case and the issue of forum may be raised by the defence in court, it would be inappropriate for us to discuss this in advance of the extradition hearing. »

The rule of ‘imminent threat’

In the coffee shops of west London, old friends of Berjawi, Sakr, Hashi and B2 are equally reluctant to talk, especially when questioned about the calamities that have befallen the four men. When they do, it is in a slightly furtive way, almost in whispers.

Ezzouek explains that he never leaves the country any more, fearing he too will be stripped of his British citizenship. Al-Daour is watched closely and says he faces recall to prison whenever he places a foot wrong. Failing even to tell his probation officer that he has bought a car, for example, is enough to see him back behind bars. A number of their associates claim to have learned of the deaths of Berjawi and Sakr from MI5 officers who approached them with the news, and suggested they forget about travelling to Somalia.

Last February, a 16-page US justice department memo, leaked to NBC News, disclosed something of the legal basis for the drone programme. Its authors asserted that the killing of US citizens is lawful if they pose an « imminent threat » of violent attack against the US, and capture is impossible. The document adopts a broad definition of imminence, saying no evidence of a specific plot is needed, and remains silent on the fate that faces enemies who are – or were – citizens of an allied nation, such as the UK.
matrix drone in flight

But if the Obama administration is satisfied that the targeted killing of US citizens is lawful, there is little reason to doubt that young men who have been stripped of their British citizenship, and who take up arms in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere, will continue to find their way on to the disposition matrix, and continue to be killed by missiles fired from drones hovering high overhead, or rendered to courts in the US.

And while Obama says he wants to curtail the drone programme, his officials have been briefing journalists that they believe the operations are likely to continue for another decade, at least. Given al-Qaida’s resilience and ability to spread, they say, no clear end is in sight.

Voir encore:

La dérive morale de l’armée israélienne à Gaza
Piotr Smolar (Jérusalem, correspondant)

Le Monde

04.05.2015

Eté 2014, bande de Gaza. Un vieux Palestinien gît à terre. Il marchait non loin d’un poste de reconnaissance de l’armée israélienne. Un soldat a décidé de le viser. Il est grièvement blessé à la jambe, ne bouge plus. Est-il vivant ? Les soldats se disputent. L’un d’eux décide de mettre fin à la discussion. Il abat le vieillard.

Cette histoire, narrée par plusieurs de ses acteurs, s’inscrit dans la charge la plus dévastatrice contre l’armée israélienne depuis la guerre, lancée par ses propres soldats. L’organisation non gouvernementale Breaking the Silence (« rompre le silence »), qui regroupe des anciens combattants de Tsahal, publie, lundi 4 mai, un recueil d’entretiens accordés sous couvert d’anonymat par une soixantaine de participants à l’opération « Bordure protectrice ».

Une opération conduite entre le 8 juillet et le 26 août 2014, qui a entraîné la mort de près de 2 100 Palestiniens et 66 soldats israéliens. Israël a détruit trente-deux tunnels permettant de pénétrer clandestinement sur son territoire, puis a conclu un cessez-le-feu avec le Hamas qui ne résout rien. L’offensive a provoqué des dégâts matériels et humains sans précédent. Elle jette, selon l’ONG, « de graves doutes sur l’éthique » de Tsahal.

« Si vous repérez quelqu’un, tirez ! »

Breaking the Silence n’utilise jamais l’expression « crimes de guerre ». Mais la matière que l’organisation a collectée, recoupée, puis soumise à la censure militaire comme l’exige toute publication liée à la sécurité nationale, est impressionnante. « Ce travail soulève le soupçon dérangeant de violations des lois humanitaires, explique l’avocat Michael Sfard, qui conseille l’ONG depuis dix ans. J’espère qu’il y aura un débat, mais j’ai peur qu’on parle plus du messager que du message. Les Israéliens sont de plus en plus autocentrés et nationalistes, intolérants contre les critiques. »

Environ un quart des témoins sont des officiers. Tous les corps sont représentés. Certains étaient armes à la main, d’autres dans la chaîne de commandement. Cette diversité permet, selon l’ONG, de dessiner un tableau des « politiques systémiques » décidées par l’état-major, aussi bien lors des bombardements que des incursions au sol. Ce tableau contraste avec la doxa officielle sur la loyauté de l’armée, ses procédures strictes et les avertissements adressés aux civils, pour les inviter à fuir avant l’offensive.

« Ce travail soulève le soupçon dérangeant de violations des lois humanitaires, explique l’avocat Michael Sfard, qui conseille l’ONG Breaking the Silence. J’espère qu’il y aura un débat »
Les témoignages, eux, racontent une histoire de flou. Au nom de l’obsession du risque minimum pour les soldats, les règles d’engagement – la distinction entre ennemis combattants et civils, le principe de proportionnalité – ont été brouillées. « Les soldats ont reçu pour instructions de leurs commandants de tirer sur chaque personne identifiée dans une zone de combat, dès lors que l’hypothèse de travail était que toute personne sur le terrain était un ennemi », précise l’introduction. « On nous a dit, il n’est pas censé y avoir de civils, si vous repérez quelqu’un, tirez ! », se souvient un sergent d’infanterie, posté dans le nord.

Les instructions sont claires : le doute est un risque. Une personne observe les soldats d’une fenêtre ou d’un toit ? Cible. Elle marche dans la rue à 200 mètres de l’armée ? Cible. Elle demeure dans un immeuble dont les habitants ont été avertis ? Cible. Et quand il n’y a pas de cible, on tire des obus ou au mortier, on « stérilise », selon l’expression récurrente. Ou bien on envoie le D-9, un bulldozer blindé, pour détruire les maisons et dégager la vue.

« Le bien et le mal se mélangent »
Un soldat se souvient de deux femmes, parlant au téléphone et marchant un matin à environ 800 mètres des forces israéliennes. Des guetteuses ? Un drone les survole. Pas de certitude. Elles sont abattues, classées comme « terroristes ». Un sergent raconte le « Bonjour Al-Bourej ! », adressé un matin par son unité de tanks à ce quartier situé dans la partie centrale du territoire. Les tanks sont alignés puis, sur instruction, tirent en même temps, au hasard, pour faire sentir la présence israélienne.

Beaucoup de liberté d’appréciation était laissée aux hommes sur le terrain. Au fil des jours, « le bien et le mal se mélangent un peu (…) et ça devient un peu comme un jeu vidéo », témoigne un soldat. Mais cette latitude correspondait à un mode opérationnel. Au niveau de l’état-major, il existait selon l’ONG trois « niveaux d’activation », déterminant notamment les distances de sécurité acceptées par rapport aux civils palestiniens. Au niveau 3, des dommages collatéraux élevés sont prévus. « Plus l’opération avançait, et plus les limitations ont diminué », explique l’ONG. « Nos recherches montrent que pour l’artillerie, les distances à préserver par rapport aux civils étaient très inférieures à celles par rapport à nos soldats », souligne Yehuda Shaul, cofondateur de Breaking the Silence.

Un lieutenant d’infanterie, dans le nord de la bande de Gaza, se souvient : « Même si on n’entre pas [au sol], c’est obus, obus, obus. Une structure suspecte, une zone ouverte, une possible entrée de tunnel : feu, feu, feu. » L’officier évoque le relâchement des restrictions au fil des jours. Lorsque le 3e niveau opératoire est décidé, les forces aériennes ont le droit à un « niveau raisonnable de pertes civiles, dit-il. C’est quelque chose d’indéfinissable, qui dépend du commandant de brigade, en fonction de son humeur du moment ».

Fin 2014, le vice-procureur militaire, Eli Bar-On, recevait Le Monde pour plaider le discernement des forces armées. « On a conduit plus de 5 000 frappes aériennes pendant la campagne. Le nombre de victimes est phénoménalement bas », assurait-il. A l’en croire, chaque frappe aérienne fait l’objet d’une réflexion et d’une enquête poussée. Selon lui, « la plupart des dégâts ont été causés par le Hamas ». Le magistrat mettait en cause le mouvement islamiste pour son utilisation des bâtiments civils. « On dispose d’une carte de coordination de tous les sites sensibles, mosquées, écoles, hôpitaux, réactualisée plusieurs fois par jour. Quand on la superpose avec la carte des tirs de roquettes, on s’aperçoit qu’une partie significative a été déclenchée de ces endroits. »

Treize enquêtes pénales ouvertes
L’armée peut-elle se policer ? Le parquet général militaire (MAG) a ouvert treize enquêtes pénales, dont deux pour pillages, déjà closes car les plaignants ne se sont pas présentés. Les autres cas concernent des épisodes tristement célèbres du conflit, comme la mort de quatre enfants sur la plage de Gaza, le 16 juillet 2014. Six autres dossiers ont été renvoyés au parquet en vue de l’ouverture d’une enquête criminelle, après un processus de vérification initial.

Ces procédures internes n’inspirent guère confiance. En septembre, deux ONG israéliennes, B’Tselem et Yesh Din, ont annoncé qu’elles cessaient toute coopération avec le parquet. Les résultats des investigations antérieures les ont convaincues. Après la guerre de 2008-2009 dans la bande de Gaza (près de 1 400 Palestiniens tués), 52 enquêtes avaient été ouvertes. La sentence la plus sévère – quinze mois de prison dont la moitié avec sursis – concerna un soldat coupable du vol d’une carte de crédit. Après l’opération « Pilier de défense », en novembre 2012 (167 Palestiniens tués), une commission interne a été mise en place, mais aucune enquête ouverte. Le comportement de l’armée fut jugé « professionnel ».

Voir par ailleurs:

“Good Kill”, ce film digne qu’Eastwood n’a pas signé

Aurélien Ferenczi
Cinécure

24/02/2015

L’unique statuette ramassée l’autre nuit par American Sniper, le dernier Clint Eastwood, a valeur de symbole : l’Oscar du meilleur montage son est allé comme une médaille du courage aux deux types qui ont passé de longues semaines à recueillir, puis à caler sur les images du film des bruits de fusils d’assaut, mitraillettes, fusils de chasse, lance-roquettes, grenades, etc. Des techniciens à l’ouïe fine, sans doute capables de différencier le son d’une balle amie à celui d’une balle ennemie…

Mais ce sont aussi les petits malins responsables (sous les ordres de Papy Clint) de la première faute de goût du film, impardonnable péché originel : dès la première seconde de projection, sur le logo de la Warner (pas encore passée sous contrôle qatari pourtant), une voix psalmodie « Allah Akbar ». Une prière qui ouvre clairement les hostilités, dit à qui on aura affaire, jouerait presque à faire peur. Pas très digne, vraiment…

American Sniper cartonne des deux côtés de l’Atlantique (plus d’un million de spectateurs en France au terme de sa première semaine d’exploitation) : les « eastwoodiens » de longue date s’en félicitent (à tous lessens du mot), sans s’apercevoir que c’est l’un des films les plus faibles de leur auteur-fétiche. Outre les libertés bien commodes qu’il prend avec la vraie biographie de Chris Kyle (un type assez malin pour penser que des séances de tir sont le meilleur remède au syndrome post-traumatique des soldats éclopés), le scénario alterne mécaniquement scènes de guerre banales – moins spectaculaires que celles de La Chute du Faucon noir, par exemple – et vie de famille troublée, montrée avec une finesse éléphantesque. Exemple : Intérieur jour. Chris Kyle est assis dans son fauteuil, inerte. La télévision est éteinte, mais il entend des rafales d’armes automatiques (merci les monteurs son). C’est comme s’il était encore à la guerre… Non, vraiment ? Difficile de reconnaître l’auteur de Josey Wales dans ces gros sabots bellicistes.

Eastwood parachute un héros américain dans une époque où le manichéisme n’est plus possible. Chacun sait qu’il n’y a plus de guerre propre et que le défi « à l’ancienne » que s’impose le héros eastwoodien – avoir la peau du sniper adverse, et puis rentrer chez lui – est pure fiction. L’impossibilité de l’héroïsme est au cœur d’un autre film sur les conflits d’aujourd’hui, qui sonne autrement juste. Good Kill, d’Andrew Niccol (le réalisateur de Bienvenue à Gattaca et Lord of War), qui sortira en France le 22 avril, raconte la guerre d’un type qui tue de très loin. Un ancien pilote de chasse de l’US Air force, désormais aux commandes de drones qu’il dirige à des milliers de kilomètres de distance.

Il agit depuis sa base de Las Vegas, au sein de petites cabines frappées d’extra-territorialité, des habitacles immobiles comme ceux des jeux vidéos, et il appuie sur le lance-roquettes quand les cibles se précisent. Quelles cibles ? C’est le problème, a fortiori quand la CIA s’en mêle, réquisitionnant les unités d’élite de l’armée pour éliminer des suspects : les drones survolent par exemple le Waziristan, au nord-ouest du Pakistan, et il faut obéir aux ordres, imaginer que ces villageois réunis sont bien des terroristes en puissance, et les éliminer, tant pis si des femmes ou des enfants sont dans la zone de tir.

Implacable et documenté, Good kill décrit avec précision les pratiques de l’armée américaine : par exemple, le principe de la double frappe. Vous éliminez d’un missile un foyer de présumés terroristes, mais vous frappez dans les minutes qui suivent au même endroit pour éliminer ceux qui viennent les secourir, et tant pis si ce sont clairement des civils. L’un des sommets du film est le récit d’une opération visant l’enterrement d’ennemis tués plus tôt dans la journée, la barbarie à son maximum – et on est sûr que Andrew Niccol, scénariste et réalisateur, n’a rien inventé. Bien sûr, à tuer quasiment à l’aveugle, ou sur la foi de renseignements invérifiables, on crée une situation de guerre permanente, et on fabrique les adversaires que l’on éliminera plus tard.

Le personnage joué par Ethan Hawke, avec autrement d’intensité que la bonhomie irresponsable de Bradley Cooper chez Eastwood, peut difficilement ne pas être traversé d’un trouble terrible – a fortiori en retrouvant sa femme et ses enfants le soir chez lui, juste après avoir détruit des familles dans la journée.

Good Kill est un film important parce qu’il montre pour la première fois le vrai visage des guerres modernes, et à quel point ont disparu les notions de patriotisme et d’héroïsme – que risque ce combattant plaqué à part de se détruire lui-même ? C’est aussi un réquisitoire courageux contre l’american way of life, symbolisée ici par Las Vegas, ville sans âme que les personnages traversent sur leur chemin entre base militaire et pavillon sinistre. Ce n’est pas un film d’anticipation. L’horreur que l’on fait subir aux victimes et, en un sens, à leurs bourreaux, c’est ici et maintenant. Une sale guerre, un sale monde.

Voir aussi:

Good Kill », un film édifiant sur l’utilisation des drones
Nicolas Schaller

L’Obs
26-04-2015
« Good Kill », c’est l’anti-« American Sniper ». Rencontre avec son réalisateur, Andrew Niccol

L’OBS. « Good Kill » suit un pilote de l’U.S. Air Force, interprété par Ethan Hawke, qui pilote des drones et bombarde le Moyen-Orient depuis une base de Las Vegas, à plus de 10.000 km.

Andrew Niccol. Tout ce que vous voyez dans le film est réel. L’utilisation militaire des drones a commencé après le 11-Septembre et n’a jamais cessé depuis. Les Républicains comme les Démocrates y sont favorables. Cela leur évite d’envoyer des soldats dans la zone de conflit. Les stations de contrôle des drones sont à l’intérieur de remorques. Avant, ces remorques étaient emmenées sur place par hélicoptère. Puis ils se sont rendu compte qu’ils n’avaient pas besoin d’y être. « Good Kill » se déroule en 2010, année où les frappes de drones ont atteint des proportions jamais connues.

Une manière de dire aux familles : « nous n’envoyons pas vos enfants là-bas ».

– C’est sans danger. On ne voit pas revenir de cercueils.

En revanche, les morts de l’autre côté sont hasardeuses.

– Les drones sont très précis. Si vous voulez détruire tel immeuble, vous l’aurez sans problème. Reste à savoir si c’est le bon. Trois jours après son accession au pouvoir, Obama a ordonné une frappe sur un repaire taliban. Qui s’est avéré ne pas en être un. Neuf civils sont morts. Au moment où on tournait, l’armée américaine a accidentellement bombardé une cérémonie de mariage au Yémen. On en a à peine parlé aux infos. Ce n’était pas le premier mariage pris pour cible par erreur. Là-bas, la tradition veut que l’on tire des coups de feu durant la fête et il est arrivé à plusieurs reprises que les Américains prennent ça pour des attaques.

Avez-vous bénéficié du concours de l’armée américaine ?

– Non. Le film raconte une vérité trop dérangeante. Mais j’ai pu parler à d’ex-pilotes de drones tels que Brandon Bryant…

… lequel a déclaré dans les médias américains avoir tué plus de 1600 personnes. Cela n’a choqué personne ?

– Pas vraiment. Les Etats-Unis sont le seul pays où la guerre menée par drones est plus populaire que l’inverse. WikiLeaks m’a été très précieux : c’est le seul moyen de voir des images de frappes de drones. Grâce à Chelsea Manning [ex-analyste militaire condamnée en 2013 à 35 ans de prison pour avoir divulguer des documents classés Secret Défense, ndlr].

« Good Kill » se focalise sur les missions confidentielles menées par l’armée sous le commandement de la C.I.A.

– Je n’ai rien inventé. Comme on le voit dans mon film, l’armée américaine a délibérément bombardé un enterrement. La CIA ne fait plus dans l’espionnage mais dans l’assassinat. Depuis le 11 septembre et la guerre contre le terrorisme, tout lui est permis. Mais comme elle n’a pas de pilotes, elle doit faire appel à l’armée. Bien sûr, l’assassinat est illégal aux Etats-Unis. Sauf qu’ils emploient des termes différents. Ils ont mis au point tout un lexique qui ferait bien rire George Orwell. Ils parlent d’ « auto-défense préventive ». Comme dans « Minority Report » : on tue le coupable présumé avant qu’il n’ait agi ! Il y a aussi la « frappe signature » qui consiste à tirer sur tout un groupe de gens dont vous ne connaissez pas forcément l’identité. Ils justifient cela par l’idée de « proportionalité ». Traduction : il est si important d’éliminer la personne ciblée que peu importe si on tue les types d’à côté. Et puis d’ailleurs, que font-ils là ? S’ils ne sont pas loin d’un terroriste, c’est qu’ils ne doivent pas être innocents.

On imagine les répercussions au Moyen Orient.

– Dans le film, j’ai choisi de ne montrer que le point de vue du drone, si j’ose dire, car c’est le seul à la portée du pilote qu’interprète Ethan Hawke. Une chose m’a marqué : aujourd’hui, les habitants des pays du Moyen-Orient où l’Amérique est en guerre détestent le ciel bleu. Ils sont heureux quand la météo se couvre : cela signifie que les drones ne peuvent pas voler. Cette guerre est une usine à terroristes. A chaque innocent qu’elle tue, l’armée américaine crée dix nouveaux terroristes.

Il est dit dans le film que la console de jeu X-Box a servi de modèle pour les drones. Vrai ?

– Oui, l’armée s’en est inspirée pour concevoir les joysticks de téléguidage. Elle ne veut plus de vrais pilotes, elle les embauche dans les salles d’arcades des centres commerciaux. Comme ce sont des civils, ils n’ont pas le droit d’actionner la bombe. Un officier doit être là pour appuyer sur le bouton de tir. Il y a une chose que je n’ai pas mise dans le film car cela n’aurait pas eu l’air crédible et pourtant, c’est vrai : des jeunes pilotes de drones m’ont raconté qu’après leur journée à tuer des talibans de derrière leur joystick, ils rentraient chez eux et jouaient aux jeux vidéo !

On imagine que la guerre menée avec des drones est moins onéreuse ?

– Un tir de drone coûte 68.000 $. C’est bien moins cher qu’un tir de jet. Un drone est très lent mais il peut tenir en l’air 24 heures d’affilée. On en produit davantage aujourd’hui que des jets. Et bientôt, il y aura des drones-jets. Le personnage d’Ethan Hawke souffre de ça. Il a grandi avec l’image de « Top Gun », rêvait d’être Tom Cruise dans le film et voilà à quoi il en est réduit.

Le syndrome de stress post-traumatique dont il souffre est très particulier.

– Parce qu’aucun soldat n’avait vécu cela jusqu’ici. Avant, on se rendait dans le pays avec lequel on était en conflit. Aujourd’hui, plus besoin : la guerre est télécommandée. Avant, le pilote prenait son jet, lâchait une bombe et rentrait. Aujourd’hui, il lâche sa bombe, attend dans son fauteuil et compte le nombre de morts. Il passe douze heures à tuer des talibans avant d’aller chercher ses enfants à l’école.

« J’ai tué six talibans cet après-midi et là, je rentre chez moi préparer un barbecue », dit le personnage d’Ethan Hawke à l’épicier auquel il achète sa bouteille de vodka quotidienne.

– Et le type croit qu’il blague. Le fait que les pilotes soient basés près du clinquant Las Vegas est obscène. Vous savez pourquoi ils ont choisi cette zone ?Parce que le paysage et les montagnes alentour ressemblent à ceux d’Afghanistan. Cela facilite l’entraînement.

L’héroïsme, la famille, le fantasme d’une Amérique gendarme du monde… « Good Kill » traite des mêmes sujets qu’ « American Sniper ». Jusqu’à sa fin ambiguë. Est-ce la version démocrate du film de Clint Eastwood ?

– Même pas : Obama est démocrate. Et l’emploi des drones a augmenté depuis qu’il est au pouvoir. Mon film parle de l’ »American sniper » ultime. J’ai juste tenté d’être honnête vis-à-vis du sujet. De montrer les choses telles qu’elles sont sans imposer une manière de penser. Il serait naïf de dire « je suis anti-drone ». Ce serait comme dire « je suis anti-internet ». Mais avec cette technologie, la guerre peut être infinie. Le jour où l’armée américaine quittera le Moyen-Orient, les drones, eux, y resteront.

Qu’avez-vous pensé d’ « American Sniper » ?

– J’ai pour règle de ne jamais m’exprimer sur les films des autres, mais son succès m’a un peu surpris. En fait, il est tombé pile au bon moment et a permis aux Américains de se sentir mieux vis-à-vis d’eux-mêmes. Mon « sniper » est très différent. Ce qui m’intéresse chez lui, c’est sa schizophrénie. L’état-major américain était sur le point d’attribuer une médaille à certains pilotes de drones. Cela a soulevé un tel tollé de la part des vrais pilotes qu’ils ont abandonné l’idée. Ces médailles sont censées célébrer les valeurs et le courage. Comment les décerner à des types qui tuent sans courir le moindre danger ?

Je crains que « Good Kill » ne rencontre pas le même succès qu’ « American Sniper » aux Etats-Unis.

– Je n’en doute pas.

Votre film est moins roublard que celui d’Eastwood.

– Et c’est une petite compagnie indépendante qui le sort, pas la Warner.

Avez-vous utilisé de vrais drones lors du tournage ?

– On peut effectuer des prises de vue aériennes à l’aide de drones mais, étrangement, ils sont trop petits et pas assez stables pour soutenir une caméra de cinéma. J’ai donc utilisé un hélicoptère ainsi qu’une grue de 60 mètres en balançant légèrement la caméra pour donner l’impression qu’elle vole. J’ai aussi pas mal filmé les scènes extérieures au conflit, celles de la vie quotidienne du personnage à Las Vegas, d’un point de vue culminant, pour créer une continuité et un sentiment de paranoïa. Comme si un drone le suivait en permanence. Ou le point de vue de Dieu.

Salle de contrôle (Voltage Pictures / Sobini films)

« Truman Show », « S1m0ne », « Lord of War » : dans tous vos films, les hommes sont prisonniers de la technologie…

– L’interaction entre les humains et la technologie me passionne.

… Et un individu se retrouve doté du pouvoir d’un dieu.

– Dans « Bienvenue à Gattaca » aussi : la manipulation génétique, c’est jouer à être Dieu. J’ai toujours vu le personnage de Nicolas Cage dans « Lord of War » comme quelqu’un d’invincible. Je l’imaginais traversant un champ de bataille sans baisser la tête, inatteignable. C’est sa malédiction.

Vous aimez gratter les sujets qui fâchent ?

– Je suis sur la « watch list » des autorités américaines depuis « Lord of War ».

Comment le savez-vous ?

– Le FBI m’a rendu visite pour savoir pourquoi j’avais fait jouer un vrai trafiquant d’armes dans le film. Parce que le seul moyen d’obtenir un avion-cargo russe en Afrique est de passer par un trafiquant d’armes. Celui que l’on voit dans « Lord of War » transportait de vraies armes au Congo une semaine avant qu’on le filme rempli de fausses armes. L’équipage russe se foutait de moi en me disant : « Pourquoi t’es pas venu la semaine dernière, on t’en aurait filées des vraies ». Vous vous souvenez du plan avec tous les tanks ? Les cinquante ont été vendus à Kadhafi un mois plus tard.

Propos recueillis par Nicolas Schaller

Voir de même:

« Good Kill » : au temps des drones, un nouvel art de la guerre
Thomas Sotinel
Le Monde

21.04.2015

L’American Sniper de Clint Eastwood était capable d’abattre sa cible à plusieurs centaines de mètres de distance. Le major Tom Egan peut le faire à des milliers de kilomètres. Le major est un as de l’US Air Force, le descendant des pilotes de biplan de la première guerre mondiale, qui fascinaient les Howard, Hawks et Hughes, des héros que filmait John Ford pendant la bataille de Midway en 1942. Mais la vie de guerrier de Tom Egan n’a rien à voir avec celle de ses ancêtres chevaleresques, qui ne savaient jamais le matin s’ils reverraient un jour leur patrie. Le soir, quand le service est fini, le major du XXIe siècle pousse la porte de l’espèce de container dans lequel il a passé sa journée, marche jusqu’au parking, monte dans sa voiture et regagne la périphérie de Las Vegas, sa maison entourée d’un carré de pelouse aussi verte que le désert est poussiéreux. Tom Egan ne pilote plus d’avions depuis longtemps mais dirige des drones qui survolent l’Afghanistan, le Waziristan, le Yémen, la Somalie pour surveiller et punir les ennemis des Etats-Unis.

Andrew Niccol, le réalisateur de Good Kill, est fasciné par les mutations de l’humanité : l’intervention de la génétique dans la définition des rapports sociaux (Bienvenue à Gattaca), la mondialisation – vue à travers le commerce des armes (Lord of War). Ici, il se lance dans une entreprise presque impossible : la mise en scène de la guerre contemporaine, dont l’asymétrie repose sur la disparition physique de l’une des parties en présence, remplacée par des machines. Comme cette ambition s’accompagne d’un souci très américain d’offrir un spectacle correspondant au prix du billet, Good Kill n’est pas tout à fait le film analytique, froid et fascinant que l’on entrevoit lors des premières séquences.

Elles montrent Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke) abruti d’ennui, devant un écran qui offre des images d’une netteté et d’une platitude presque insupportables. On y voit des cours orientales dans lesquelles des gens sans intérêt vaquent à des occupations triviales. Une fois que le renseignement a assigné à ces silhouettes la qualité d’ennemi, Egan peut faire tomber la foudre sur elles. Ce processus clinique, à l’opposé de la fureur guerrière que chérit le cinéma, trouve sa contrepartie civile dans le paysage synthétique de Las Vegas que traverse le soldat pour rentrer chez lui.

Une volonté d’analyse froide
Ethan Hawke est parfait pour le rôle, trouvant un nouvel emploi à cette faille constitutive qui fait qu’on sait toujours qu’il ne sera pas le héros qu’on attendait. Ici, sa frustration d’ancien combattant de terrain (on suppose qu’il a mitraillé et bombardé en Irak et en Afghanistan) honteux de son travail de bourreau à distance qu’il ressent comme une espèce d’impuissance martiale.

Cette description clinique, photographiée avec un soin maniaque du détail et un refus admirable de l’esthétique habituelle des films situés à Las Vegas, est assez vigoureuse et singulière pour empêcher Good Kill de succomber à ses nombreux défauts. Telles les figures dramatiques usées – les disputes conjugales en écho aux drames guerriers (Ethan Hawke a pour épouse January Jones, qui incarne Betty Draper dans la série « Mad Men ») –, la galerie sommaire de stéréotypes qui entourent le major Egan à la base de l’US Air Force, répartis équitablement entre militaires soucieux de leur honneur et ruffians qui voient des ennemis partout.

Malgré ces maladresses (et une fin qui menace de saper le travail intellectuel qui a précédé), Good Kill reste un film passionnant, soulevant (parfois avec beaucoup de raideur) une bonne part des questions posées par les mutations de l’art de la guerre.

On voit les contrôleurs de drones se soumettre aux ordres des services secrets, on les voit tentés par la toute-puissance que leur confère ce pouvoir de voir et de tuer sans être vus ni menacés. Dans les moments où la mise en scène s’accorde avec cette volonté d’analyse froide, Good Kill devient comme une version réaliste de ce qui reste à ce jour le meilleur film d’Andrew Niccol, le cauchemar futuriste de Bienvenue à Gattaca : le portrait d’un monde dont l’homme a exclu sa propre humanité.
Film américain d’Andrew Niccol avec Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoë Kravitz (1 h 42).

Toronto: le drame de drones d’Andrew Niccol

Thomas Sotinel

10 septembre 2014

« Good Kill », c’est l’interjection qu’éructent les pilotes de drones une fois leur objectif détruit. Coincés à l’intérieur d’une espèce de caravane, dans le désert du Nevada, ils contrôlent à distance de petits avions sans pilotes qui frappent sans relâches les ennemis des Etats-Unis, en Afghanistan, au Waziristan, au Yemen. Good Kill, le film, raconte le voyage dans la folie d’un ces pilotes, incarné par Ethan Hawke, qui n’arrive pas à faire le deuil de la guerre, la vraie, celle qui révèle la vérité d’un homme.

Ethan Hawke dans Good Kill, d’Andrew Niccol
Andrew Niccol a présenté son film à la Mostra, comme vous l’avez peut-être lu sur ce site. Je ne partage pas la répulsion de ma camarade vénitienne, au contraire. De Bienvenue à Gattaca en Lord of War, Niccol a toujours mis en scène avec précision l’interaction entre l’homme et les machines qu’il crée. Il est peut-être moins à l’aise lorsqu’il s’agit de filmer les relations entre humains, mais comme l’essentiel de Good Kill est consacré à ces machines invisibles dont les victimes n’apprennent la présence qu’au moment exact de leur mort, ce n’est pas très grave.

Pour l’instant, le film n’a pas trouvé de distributeur en France. En attendant, voici ce que le réalisateur a à en dire.

Qu’est ce qui vous a intéressé dans les drones?

J’étais plus intéressé par le personnage, par cette nouvelle manière de faire la guerre. On n’a jamais demandé à un soldat de faire ça. De combattre douze heures et de rentrer chez lui auprès de sa femme et de ses enfants, il n’y a plus de sas de décompression.

Vous avez imaginé la psychologie de ces pilotes?

J’ai engagé d’anciens pilotes de drones comme consultants, puisque l’armée m’avait refusé sa coopération. J’en aurais bien voulu, ç’aurait été plus facile si on m’avait donné ces équipements, ces installations. J’ai dû les construire.

Vous pensez que ce souci de discrétion, de secret même, fait partie la stratégie d’emploi des drones?

Oui, je me suis souvenu aujourd’hui d’une conférence de presse du général Schwartzkopf pendant la première guerre d’Irak, il avait montré des vidéos en noir et blanc, avec une très mauvaise définition, de frappes de précision et on voyait un motocycliste échapper de justesse à un missile. Il l’avait appelé « l’homme le plus chanceux d’Irak ». On le voit traverser un pont, passer dans la ligne de mire et sortir du champ au moment où le panache de l’explosion éclot. Aujourd’hui on sait qu’il existe une vidéo pour chaque frappe de drone, c’est la procédure. Mais on ne les montre plus comme au temps du général Schwartzkopf. Expliquez-moi pourquoi.

Je préfèrerais que vous le fassiez.

Je vais vous dire pourquoi. Les humains ont tendance à l’empathie – et même si vous êtes mon ennemi, même si vous êtes une mauvaise personne, si je vous regarde mourir, je ressentirai de l’empathie. Ce qui n’est pas bon pour les affaires militaires.

Vous pensez que l’emploi des drones permet de surmonter cet inconvénient?

Je crois que ça a tendance à insensibiliser. On n’entend jamais une explosion, on ne sent jamais le sol se soulever. On est à 10 000 kilomètres.

Il doit y avoir plusieurs bases de pilotages de drones aux Etats-Unis, pourquoi avez vous situé celle du film près de Las Vegas?

L’armée l’a mise là pour des raisons de commodité: les montagnes autour de Las Vegas ressemblent à l’Afghanistan, ce qui permet aux pilotes de drones à l’entraînement de se familiariser avec le terrain. Ils s’exercent aussi à suivre des voitures.

« Good Kill », par Andrew Niccol, en salles actuellement

« The Good Kill » à la Mostra de Venise : le film américain de trop
Isabelle Regnier (Venise, envoyée spéciale)

Le Monde

06.09.2014

(…)

LA QUESTION DES DRONES

Mais il a fallu attendre vendredi 5 septembre pour découvrir, en compétition, le plus problématique des films américains. Très attendu, The Good Kill d’Andrew Niccol (auteur du très élégant Bienvenue à Gattacca, et du plus englué Master of War) promettait d’interroger la question hautement politique et morale des drones, en suivant un ancien pilote de chasse reconverti en pilote à distance de ces machines meurtrières.

Le film est si mauvais qu’on peine à y croire. À partir d’un scénario qui lorgne du côté de la série Homeland (malaise du pilote de guerre de retour dans la vie civile, cynisme de la CIA, suprématie de la raison d’Etat dans la guerre contre le terrorisme…), Andrew Niccol met en scène des personnages sans épaisseur, sans qualité. Enveloppe vide qui tire la gueule du début à la fin du film, celui d’Ethan Hawke est défini par les rasades de vodka qu’il s’envoie en douce dans la salle de bains ; déambulant en robe cocktail et talons aiguilles dans son pavillon de la banlieue de Las Vegas comme si elle n’était pas tout à fait sortie de la série Mad Men, sa femme, interprétée par l’actrice January Jones, répète en boucle la même réplique : « tu as l’air d’être à des kilomètres… » ; quant à la jeune Zoe Kravitz, qui restera peut-être dans l’histoire comme la femme officier la plus sexy de toute l’histoire de l’armée, elle s’adonne, faute d’avoir plus intéressant à faire, à un festival de moues boudeuses qui pourrait lui valoir un prix dans un festival un peu en pointe. Le reste – monologues didactiques sur l’enjeu militaire et moral des drones, dialogues téléphonés, blagues pas drôles, musique de bourrin – est à l’avenant.

CRITIQUE COSMÉTIQUE

Ce qui pose vraiment problème n’est toutefois pas d’ordre artistique, mais politique. Paré des oripeaux de la fiction de gauche, The Good Kill s’inscrit pleinement (comme le faisait la troisième saison de « Homeland ») dans le paradigme de la guerre contre le terrorisme telle que la conduisent les Etats-Unis depuis le 11 septembre 2001. Les Afghans ne sont jamais représentés autrement que sous la forme des petites silhouettes noires mal définies, évoluant erratiquement sur l’écran des pilotes de drones qui les surveillent. La seule action véritablement lisible se déroule dans la cour d’une maison, où l’on voit, à plusieurs reprises, un barbu frapper sa femme et la violer. C’est l’argument imparable, tranquillement anti-islamiste, de la cause des femmes, que les avocats de la guerre contre le terrorisme ont toujours brandi sans vergogne pour mettre un terme au débat.

La critique que fait Andrew Niccol, dans ce contexte, de l’usage des drones ne pouvait qu’être cosmétique. Elle est aussi inepte, confondant les questions d’ordre psychologique (comment se débrouillent des soldats qui rentrent le soir dans leur lit douillet après avoir tué des gens – souvent innocents), et celles qui se posent sur le plan du droit de la guerre (que Grégoire Chamayou a si bien expliqué dans La Théorie du drone, La Fabrique, 2013), dès lors que ces armes autorisent à détruire des vies dans le camp adverse sans plus en mettre aucune en péril dans le sien. Si l’ancien pilote de chasse ne va pas bien, explique-t-il à sa femme, ce n’est pas parce qu’il tue des innocents, ce qu’il a toujours fait, c’est qu’il les tue sans danger.

RÉDEMPTION AHURISSANTE

Pour remédier à son état, s’offre une des rédemptions les plus ahurissantes qu’il ait été donné à voir depuis longtemps au cinéma. S’improvisant bras armé d’une justice totalement aveugle, il dégomme en un clic le violeur honni, rendant à sa femme, après un léger petit suspense, ce qu’il imagine être sa liberté. La conscience lavée, le pilote peut repartir le cœur léger, retrouver sa famille et oublier toutes celles, au loin, qu’il a assassinées pour la bonne cause.

Good Kill
Thriller réalisé en 2014 par Andrew Niccol
Avec Ethan Hawke , Stafford Douglas , Michael Sheets …
Date de sortie : 22 avril 2015

Good Kill – Bande Annonce VOST
SYNOPSIS
Le commandant Tom Egan est un ancien pilote de chasse de l’US Army qui, après de nombreuses missions sur le terrain, se retrouve en service dans une petite base du Nevada où il s’est reconverti en pilote de drones, des machines meurtrières guidées à distance. Derrière sa télécommande Tom opère ses missions douze heures par jour : surveillance des terrains à risque, protection des troupes et exécution des cibles terroristes. Mais de retour chez lui, ses relations avec sa famille sont exécrables. Progressivement confronté à des problèmes de conscience, Tom remet bientôt sa mission en question…

LA CRITIQUE LORS DE LA SORTIE EN SALLE DU 22/04/2015

Pour

Un héros américain déchu : pilote de chasse, le commandant Tommy Egan ne fait plus voler que des drones. Enfermé dans un conteneur banalisé, sur une base militaire près de Las Vegas, son écran de contrôle lui montre la Terre, quelque part au Moyen-Orient, filmée de si haut qu’elle en devient presque abstraite. Mais pas pour lui. On lui ­désigne des cibles à bombarder, il voit des humains qu’il doit détruire. Et ça le détruit, comme l’alcool dont il abuse… Il est beau, ce personnage, cet oiseau blessé interprété par Ethan Hawke avec un désenchantement fiévreux digne de Montgomery Clift. Pour mener la guerre d’aujourd’hui, technologique et furtive, il faudrait que le commandant Egan devienne lui-même une machine. Au lieu de quoi, il résiste, pense, souffre. Le film trouve là une dimension mentale séduisante et pleine de tension. Car les états d’âme du militaire surgissent dans une réalité qui semble simplifiée, géométrique, comme les maisons du lotissement où il vit avec sa famille.

La superbe mise en scène d’Andrew Niccol donne toute sa complexité au personnage. Filmé à plusieurs reprises avec un crucifix derrière lui, accroché au mur de la chambre à coucher, il est désigné comme un croyant possible. En tout cas, un homme honnête qui veut rester fidèle à sa femme — alors que tout le pousse vers une charmante collègue — et à son idée du bien. Les autres pilotes de drones, après avoir fait feu, s’exclament « Good kill ! » (« en plein dans le mille ! »). Pour lui, cette logique entre le « good » et le « kill » soulève des interrogations morales. Nobles, assurément, mais qui, dans ce monde explosif et martial, passent par la violence. La guerre, c’est ça. — Frédéric Strauss

Contre

La guerre moderne qui transforme les soldats en snipers de jeux vidéo : un sujet en or pour le réalisateur de Bienvenue à Gattaca et Lord of war. Hélas, Andrew Niccol accumule les archétypes : l’ancien pilote, partagé entre le devoir et la cul­pabilité, sa collègue féminine qui verse une larme en gros plan en appuyant sur le bouton de la mort, le ­supérieur galonné qui débite des discours lourdement explicatifs… Dans American Sniper, Clint Eastwood filmait un homme formé à obéir et à tuer sans chercher à définir ce qu’est un « bon » ou un « mauvais » soldat. Andrew Niccol, lui, s’arroge ce droit et plonge dans la complaisance. Pendant tout le film, il prépare le terrain, il montre plusieurs fois, sur l’écran de contrôle, un salaud, un violeur, la pire des ordures. Enfin une cible que le sniper pourra dégommer sans remords — depuis son scénario du Truman Show, il n’a qu’une obsession : l’homme qui se prend pour Dieu. Mais à aucun moment, ici, il ne condamne le geste de ce soldat qui, à force d’exercer le droit de vie et de mort à distance, se change en justicier. Le film réquisitoire contre la sale guerre devient, dès lors, un thriller qui crée le malaise et met en rage. — Guillemette Odicino

Frédéric Strauss;Guillemette Odicino

Ethan Hawke et Andrew Niccol
« Good Kill », une drone de guerre
Ethan et Andrew posent pour Paris Match. © Patrick Fouque
Le 23 avril 2015 | Mise à jour le 23 avril 2015
Christine Haas

Dans «Good Kill», tuer à distance provoque des dégâts qui n’ont rien de virtuel…

«Good Kill ! » est la phrase glaçante que prononce le pilote de drone en atteignant sa cible quelque part en Afghanistan, à 11 000 kilomètres de la base militaire de Las Vegas où il « combat » douze heures par jour, installé dans un compartiment climatisé. Semblable à l’œil de Dieu, sa caméra voit tout lorsqu’elle descend du ciel : la femme qui se fait violer par un taliban sans qu’il puisse intervenir, les marines dont il assure la sécurité durant leur sommeil, mais aussi l’enfant qui surgit à vélo là où il vient d’envoyer son missile…

Face à cette inconfortable vérité, l’armée américaine n’a pas soutenu le projet du subversif Andrew Niccol, qui avait déjà agacé avec sa leçon de géopolitique dans « Lord of War ». Pour son scénario, le cinéaste s’est nourri des conseils d’anciens pilotes de drone. « Je voulais montrer que plus on progresse technologiquement, plus on régresse humainement, explique-t-il. Derrière sa télécommande, le pilote n’entend rien, ne sent pas le sol trembler, ne respire pas l’odeur de brûlé… Il fait exploser des pixels sans jamais être dans le concret de la chair et du sang. »

Dans cet univers orwellien où toutes sortes d’euphémismes – « neutraliser », « incapaciter », « effacer » – sont utilisés pour éviter de prononcer le mot « tuer », le décalage entre la réalité et le virtuel prend encore plus de sens quand on apprend que les très jeunes pilotes de drone sont repérés dans les arcades de jeux vidéo. D’autres, comme l’ancien pilote de chasse interprété par Ethan Hawke, culpabilisent d’être si loin du danger. « Il combat les talibans tout l’après-midi, explique l’acteur, puis il rentre chez lui, passe la soirée en famille et, le lendemain matin, retourne faire la guerre. Sa psychose traumatique s’accentue lorsqu’il se demande si l’Amérique ne suscite pas plus le terrorisme qu’elle ne l’éradique. C’est la triste possibilité d’une guerre sans fin qui semble se dessiner… »

«Good Kill», en salle actuellement.

Voir encore:

« Good Kill », les drones noyés sous le pathos
Andrew Niccol fait mine de s’attaquer aux questions posées par la suprématie technologique de l’armée américaine, mais déçoit avec un film caricatural.
La Croix
21/4/15

GOOD KILL

d’Andrew Niccol Film américain, 1 h 42

Présenté lors de la dernière Mostra de Venise, au mois de septembre 2014, Good Kill avait, sur le papier, de quoi retenir l’attention. D’abord pour son thème – l’utilisation massive de drones par l’armée américaine –, encore très peu exploité par le cinéma hollywoodien.

Ensuite pour la personnalité de son réalisateur, Andrew Niccol, scénariste de The Truman Show à ses débuts, à qui l’on doit un film d’anticipation très réussi, Bienvenue à Gattaca (1998), mais aussi Simone (2002), Lord of War (2005), Les Ames Vagabondes (2013)…

Autant de longs-métrages qui, s’ils ne révèlent pas à toute force la personnalité d’un auteur, proposent de réfléchir par-delà le simple divertissement. Dans le cas présent, il faut hélas déchanter.

Voici donc l’histoire du commandant Tommy Egan (Ethan Hawke), pilote de chasse de l’armée de l’air américaine, affecté au guidage de drones en attendant de retrouver une affectation digne de son rang. Depuis sa base située dans les environs de Las Vegas, avec des horaires de fonctionnaire, il traque les Talibans afghans à l’aide de ces aéronefs sans équipage, concentrés de technologies censés permettre des « frappes chirurgicales ».

Supportant mal de délivrer la mort sans être lui-même engagé physiquement, Tommy Egan vit des heures d’autant plus difficiles que les services secrets américains s’immiscent souvent dans son travail, désignant des cibles sans donner de raisons et faisant peu de cas des éventuels dommages collatéraux.

Le questionnement moral du soldat se trouve décuplé par la toute-puissance et l’omniscience dont il semble jouir derrière ses manettes. Son malaise, son impuissance à agir, l’incitent à se transformer en justicier solitaire, en dépit de sa hiérarchie et des procédures d’encadrement existantes.

Un scénario caricatural

Good Kill ne fait pas longtemps illusion : si le sujet autorisait une réflexion intéressante sur la guerre technologique, ses risques et limites, le scénario se charge de la caricaturer et de l’étouffer sous une épaisse couche de pathos.

Le pilote de drone cache ses bouteilles de vodka et, incapable de s’extraire de ses obsessions, voit son couple et sa famille se déliter sous ses yeux. Sempiternelle rengaine. Hollywood, dont on connaît la capacité à s’emparer du réel, donne ici plutôt l’impression de faire du vieux avec du neuf. La portée critique du film s’en trouve considérablement réduite.

Voir enfin:

«Charlie Hebdo»: un chef d’al-Qaïda tué par un drone au Yémen
RFI
07-05-2015

Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi avait revendiqué l’attentat de «Charlie Hebdo» en janvier 2015. AFP PHOTO / HANDOUT / SITE Intelligence Group
Un haut responsable d’al-Qaïda dans la péninsule arabique (Aqpa) a été tué par un tir de drone américain au Yémen. L’information est donnée par l’organisation elle-même, selon le centre américain de surveillance des sites islamistes. Nasser al-Ansi est connu pour avoir revendiqué l’attaque contre Charlie Hebdo, le 7 janvier dernier en France.

Nasser al-Ansi, stratège militaire du réseau extrémiste, était apparu dans plusieurs vidéos d’Aqpa. C’est lui qui, le 14 janvier, affirmait que son groupe avait mené, par l’intermédiaire des frères Kouachi, la tuerie de Charlie Hebdo une semaine plus tôt, pour « venger » Mahomet, caricaturé par le journal satirique français. L’homme est aussi connu pour ses discours faisant l’apologie des attaques en Europe et aux Etats-Unis. Il avait rendu Barack Obama responsable de la mort de deux otages occidentaux que son groupe détenait, lors d’une tentative de libération.

La mort d’Ansi a été annoncée par un responsable d’Aqpa, Abou al-Miqdad al-Kindi dans une vidéo diffusée sur Twitter, selon SITE. Le centre américain de surveillance des sites islamistes précise que « selon des informations de presse, Ansi a été tué par un raid de drone à Moukalla, une ville du gouvernorat du Hadramout au Yémen, en avril avec son fils et six autres combattants ». Le Pentagone, comme à l’habitude, n’a pas souhaité commenter ces informations.

Selon une biographie fournie en novembre 2014 par Aqpa, Nasser ben Ali al-Ansi est né en octobre 1975 à Taëz, au Yémen. Il a participé au « jihad » en Bosnie en 1995, avant de retourner au Yémen puis de se rendre au Cachemire et en Afghanistan. Il avait rencontré Oussama ben Laden qui l’avait chargé de questions administratives, avant de participer à davantage de camps d’entraînement où il avait excellé. Il a été emprisonné six mois au Yémen puis avait rejoint Aqpa en 2011.

Sa mort, pour laquelle Washington offrait une récompense de cinq millions de dollars, est un coup réel porté à l’organisation, qui a profité de la guerre civile au Yémen pour reprendre des positions. Cela signifie aussi que le Pentagone a continué de recevoir des informations en provenance de ce pays malgré la crise, et le retrait de ses marines.


Centenaire du génocide arménien: A quand un Yad Vashem palestinien ? (US Nabka Memorial Museum: It’s genocide envy, stupid !)

27 avril, 2015
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Vous aimerez l’étranger, car vous avez été étrangers dans le pays d’Égypte. Deutéronome 10: 19
Et je leur donnerai dans ma maison et dans mes murs une place et un nom (…) qui ne seront pas effacés. Esaïe 56: 5
Requiem pour six millions d’âmes Qui n’ont pas leur mausolée de marbre Et qui malgré le sable infâme Ont fait pousser six millions d’arbres … Salvatore Adamo (Inch’ Allah, version 1967)
Requiem pour LES millions d’âmes de ces enfants, ces femmes, ces hommes, tombés DES DEUX CÔTÉS du drame… Assez de sang, Salam, Shalom… Salvatore Adamo (Inch’ Allah, version 1993)
Aujourd’hui, les gens redécouvrent les chansons des années soixante où on pouvait afficher de bons sentiments, sans engendrer l’ironie. Ce qui n’empêchait pas de chanter des choses plus graves. Je pense à Inch’Allah, que j’ai écrite en octobre 1966. C’était bien la preuve qu’on pouvait être fleur bleue et s’intéresser aux malheurs du monde. Cette chanson, je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de l’enlever de mon répertoire, parce qu’elle est toujours d’actualité. À tel point que j’ai dû la nuancer au gré des quelques espoirs de paix. J’ai changé quelques strophes, mais je me suis rendu compte que je n’allais pas jusqu’au bout du message. J’ai ainsi réécrit une autre chanson dans l’album Zanzibar sur le problème du Moyen-Orient, Mon douloureux Orient, où je fais allusion à la souffrance du côté palestinien. Une chanson qui dit : quelles qu’aient été les raisons de cette haine ancestrale, il faut l’oublier pour vivre l’un à côté de l’autre. Salvatore Adamo
Au sommet de sa gloire avec huit chansons au hit-parade en un an, Salvatore Adamo ne s’arrête pas là et continu de travailler. Préoccupé par les problèmes du monde, il écrit et enregistre Inch’Allah. Elle lui a été inspirée par sa vision d’une Jérusalem meurtrie par la guerre des six jours. A sa sortie, en 1967, la plupart des pays arabes condamnent cette chanson à connotation pro-israélienne, et la censure pendant dix ans. En dépit d’un titre et d’un refrain arabo-musulman, cette chanson, à tous point exceptionnelle, racontait Israël et Jérusalem, tels qu’ils pouvaient alors apparaître à un jeune visiteur européen : un pays fragilisé par la guerre. Une ville divisée entre l’Ancien et le Nouveau Testament.  On ne saurait exagérer l’impact que cette chanson eut sur les esprits, en France, et dans le monde en général. Si les opinions publiques européennes furent massivement du côté d’Israël quelques mois plus tard, pendant la guerre de juin 1967, cela fut en partie à cause d’elle. Et les juifs de France mêlèrent spontanément, au lendemain de l’épreuve et de la victoire, les paroles si vraies d’Adamo avec un nouveau refrain qui venait cette fois d’Israël et qu’une toute petite jeune fille, Shuli Nathan, chantait en hébreu : Yerushalayyim shel Zahav, Jérusalem, la Ville d’Or…  Sixties story
Sa chanson Inch’Allah, écrite avant la Guerre des Six-Jours, est interdite dans la plupart des pays arabes, car elle associe un texte pro-israélien à une mélopée et un titre arabo-musulman. L’artiste affirme que sa chanson est une chanson de paix, et veut le prouver en en publiant, en 1993, un texte modifié, dans laquelle les références négatives, aux ennemis d’Israël sont estompées. La strophe conclusive, qui était un « requiem pour six millions d’âmes (…) qui malgré le sable infâme, ont fait pousser six millions d’arbres », devient un « requiem aux millions d’âmes (…) tombées des deux côtés du drame. Assez de sang. Salam, Shalom ». Wikipedia
Au cours de la « Grande soirée du Télévie 2015 », le chanteur-vedette Salvatore Adamo (71 ans) a interprété, en duo avec Julie Zenatti, sa célèbre chanson « Inch’Allah », dans la version revue et corrigée par ses soins en 1993 pour la rendre plus géopolitiquement correcte. Cette ré-audition m’a rappelé la mise au point sévère que j’avais publiée, en avril 2008, sur un site juif. J’y donnais suite à l’interpellation d’un internaute qui rappelait amèrement que le chanteur avait rédigé, en 1993, une deuxième version de son ‘tube’, expurgée du parti pris pro-israélien que lui reprochaient ses détracteurs (…) « Cette chanson, je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de l’enlever de mon répertoire, parce qu’elle est toujours d’actualité… j’ai dû la nuancer… ». Qu’avons-nous besoin d’un autre aveu. Le message du boycott arabe, vous l’avez reçu 5 sur 5, Monsieur Adamo. Personnellement, j’eusse préféré que vous supprimiez carrément cette chanson de votre répertoire, plutôt que de vous voir la profaner de votre propre initiative. D’autant que le résultat, permettez-moi de vous le dire, sent le labeur et non l’inspiration, et en tout cas, pas la sincérité. (…) Monsieur Salvatore Adamo s’est fait, de longue date, une réputation de « gentil garçon ». Ses manières gauches et timides (spontanées ou étudiées? nul ne le sait…), sa simplicité, sa discrétion, sa pudeur et sa modestie (même remarque), ont fait de lui une star très populaire. Et chacun sait que les stars font souvent la pluie et le beau temps en matière d’opinion. Alors, malheur à celui ou celle (personne privée, institution ou nation), que la vedette fustige, ou simplement à qui il fait les gros yeux ! Malheur, donc, à Israël, qui a eu la malchance de se voir supplanté, dans l’estime d’Adamo, par les « gentils » Palestiniens. Du coup, oubliés, les enfants d’Israël qui tremblent, disparu, le Requiem, éludés, les Six Millions de Juifs, submergés, les mausolées de marbre, passés sous silence, les Six Millions d’arbres… Menahem Macina
Mahomet s’est établi en tuant ; Jésus-Christ en faisant tuer les siens. Mahomet en défendant de lire; Jésus-Christ en ordonnant de lire. Enfin cela est si contraire, que si Mahomet a pris la voie de réussir humainement, Jésus-Christ a pris celle de périr humainement. Et au lieu de conclure, que puisque Mahomet a réussi, Jésus-Christ a bien pu réussir ; il faut dire, que puisque Mahomet a réussi, le Christianisme devait périr, s’il n’eût été soutenu par une force toute divine. Pascal
Depuis que l’ordre religieux est ébranlé – comme le christianisme le fut sous la Réforme – les vices ne sont pas seuls à se trouver libérés. Certes les vices sont libérés et ils errent à l’aventure et ils font des ravages. Mais les vertus aussi sont libérées et elles errent, plus farouches encore, et elles font des ravages plus terribles encore. Le monde moderne est envahi des veilles vertus chrétiennes devenues folles. Les vertus sont devenues folles pour avoir été isolées les unes des autres, contraintes à errer chacune en sa solitude.  G.K. Chesterton
C’était une cité fortement convoitée par les ennemis de la foi et c’est pourquoi, par une sorte de syndrome mimétique, elle devint chère également au cœur des Musulmans. Emmanuel Sivan
Le point intéressant est l’attitude des Palestiniens. Il me semble que ceux-ci sont attirés par deux attitudes extrêmes: l’une est la négation pure et simple de la Shoah, dont il y a divers exemples dans la littérature palestinienne ; l’autre est l’identification de leur propre destin à celui du peuple juif. Tout le monde a pu remarquer, par exemple, que la Déclaration d’indépendance des Palestiniens en novembre 1988 était calquée sur la Déclaration d’indépendance d’Israël en 1948. C’est dans cet esprit qu’il arrive aux dirigeants palestiniens de dire que la Shoah, ils savent ce que c’est, puisque c’est ce qu’ils subissent au quotidien. J’ai entendu M. Arafat dire cela, en 1989, à un groupe d’intellectuels, dont je faisais partie. Pierre Vidal-Naquet

Pierre Vidal-NaquetImaginons deux enfants dans une pièce pleine de jouets identiques. Le premier prend un jouet, mais il ne semble pas fort intéressé par l’objet. Le second l’observe et essaie d’arracher le jouet à son petit camarade. Celui-là n’était pas fort captivé par la babiole, mais – soudain – parce que l’autre est intéressé cela change et il ne veut plus le lâcher. Des larmes, des frustrations et de la violence s’ensuivent. Dans un laps de temps très court un objet pour lequel aucun des deux n’avait un intérêt particulier est devenu l’enjeu d’une rivalité obstinée. René Girard

On admet généralement que toutes les civilisations ou cultures devraient être traitées comme si elles étaient identiques. Dans le même sens, il s’agirait de nier des choses qui paraissent pourtant évidentes dans la supériorité du judaïque et du chrétien sur le plan de la victime. Mais c’est dans la loi juive qu’il est dit: tu accueilleras l’étranger car tu as été toi-même exilé, humilié, etc. Et ça, c’est unique. Je pense qu’on n’en trouvera jamais l’équivalent mythique. On a donc le droit de dire qu’il apparaît là une attitude nouvelle qui est une réflexion sur soi. On est alors quand même très loin des peuples pour qui les limites de l’humanité s’arrêtent aux limites de la tribu. (…)  Mais il faut distinguer deux choses. Il y a d’abord le texte chrétien qui pénètre lentement dans la conscience des hommes. Et puis il y a la façon dont les hommes l’interprètent. De ce point de vue, il est évident que le Moyen Age n’interprétait pas le christianisme comme nous. Mais nous ne pouvons pas leur en faire le reproche. Pas plus que nous pouvons faire le reproche aux Polynésiens d’avoir été cannibales. Parce que cela fait partie d’un développement historique. (…) Il faut commencer par se souvenir que le nazisme s’est lui-même présenté comme une lutte contre la violence: c’est en se posant en victime du traité de Versailles que Hitler a gagné son pouvoir. Et le communisme lui aussi s’est présenté comme une défense des victimes. Désormais, c’est donc seulement au nom de la lutte contre la violence qu’on peut commettre la violence. Autrement dit, la problématique judaïque et chrétienne est toujours incorporée à nos déviations. (…)  Et notre souci des victimes, pris dans son ensemble comme réalité, n’a pas d’équivalent dans l’histoire des sociétés humaines. (…) Le souci des victimes a (…) unifié le monde. René Girard
La condition préalable à tout dialogue est que chacun soit honnête avec sa tradition. (…) les chrétiens ont repris tel quel le corpus de la Bible hébraïque. Saint Paul parle de  » greffe » du christianisme sur le judaïsme, ce qui est une façon de ne pas nier celui-ci . (…) Dans l’islam, le corpus biblique est, au contraire, totalement remanié pour lui faire dire tout autre chose que son sens initial (…) La récupération sous forme de torsion ne respecte pas le texte originel sur lequel, malgré tout, le Coran s’appuie. René Girard
Dans la foi musulmane, il y a un aspect simple, brut, pratique qui a facilité sa diffusion et transformé la vie d’un grand nombre de peuples à l’état tribal en les ouvrant au monothéisme juif modifié par le christianisme. Mais il lui manque l’essentiel du christianisme : la croix. Comme le christianisme, l’islam réhabilite la victime innocente, mais il le fait de manière guerrière. La croix, c’est le contraire, c’est la fin des mythes violents et archaïques. René Girard
L’existence d’Israël pose le problème du droit de vivre en sujets libre et souverains des nations non musulmanes dans l’aire musulmane. L’extermination des Arméniens, d’abord par l’empire ottoman, puis par le nouvel Etat turc a représenté la première répression d’une population dhimmie en quête d’indépendance nationale. Il n’y a quasiment plus de Juifs aujourd’hui dans le monde arabo-islamique et les chrétiens y sont en voie de disparition. Shmuel Trigano
En 1453, immédiatement après la prise de Constantinople, la basilique fut convertie en mosquée, conservant le même nom, Ayasofya, comme symbole de la conquête. À cette époque, le bâtiment était très délabré : plusieurs de ses portes ne tenaient plus. (…) Le sultan Mehmed II ordonna le nettoyage immédiat de l’église et sa conversion en une mosquée. Contrairement aux autres mosaïques et peintures murales des églises de la ville, la mosaïque de Marie dans l’abside de Sainte-Sophie ne fut pas, pour des raisons obscures, recouverte de lait de chaux par ordre de Mehmed II[. Pendant cent ans, elle fut couverte d’un voile puis eut le même traitement que les autres. Wikipedia
En 2004, la Commission islamique d’Espagne, soutenue par le parti socialiste espagnol, réclame officiellement au Vatican le droit pour les musulmans de prier au sein de la mosquée-cathédrale. Le Saint-Siège oppose un refus catégorique. En 2006, l’archevêque de Cordoue ne change pas de position. Il assure que «l’utilisation partagée de la cathédrale par les catholiques et par les musulmans ne contribuerait en rien à la coexistence pacifique des différentes confessions religieuses». En octobre 2007, c’est la Ligue arabe qui revendique ce droit à la conférence de l’OSCE, avant que la Commission Islamique d’Espagne n’appelle en novembre 2008, l’UNESCO à se prononcer, toujours sans succès. Le Figaro (29.04.10)
Des responsables de l’Eglise grecque orthodoxe qui essaient de reconstruire la seule église détruite dans les attentats du 11/9 ont exprimé leur consternation cette semaine en apprenant par Fox News que des officiels du gouvernement avait enterré un projet de reconstruire l’église un peu plus loin. Fox News
Personne n’a rien contre les centres culturels japonais, mais en construire un à Pearl Harbor serait une offense. (…) Le lieu choisi a son importance. (…) Pas de passerelle pour les touristes au-dessus de Gettysburg, pas de couvent à Auschwitz – et pas de mosquée à Ground Zero. Charles Krauthammer
Il n’y a aucune différence entre les Jordaniens, les “Palestiniens”, les Syriens et les Libanais. Nous faisons tous partie de la même nation. C’est seulement pour des raisons politiques que nous soulignons soigneusement notre identité “palestinienne”. L’existence d’une identité “palestinienne” distincte sert seulement un objectif tactique. La création d’un état “palestinien” est un nouvel outil dans la bataille continue contre Israël et pour l’unité arabe. Zuheir Muhsin (interview au Pakistan, 2006?)
Le peuple palestinien n’existe pas. La création d’un État palestinien n’est qu’un moyen pour continuer la lutte contre l’Etat d’Israël afin de créer l’unité arabe. En réalité, aujourd’hui, il n’y a aucune différence entre les Jordaniens, les Palestiniens, les Syriens et les Libanais. C’est uniquement pour des raisons politiques et tactiques, que nous parlons aujourd’hui de l’existence d’un peuple palestinien, étant donné que les intérêts arabes demandent que nous établissions l’existence d’un peuple palestinien distinct, afin d’opposer le sionisme. Pour des raisons tactiques, la Jordanie qui est un Etat souverain avec des frontières bien définies, ne peut pas présenter de demande sur Haifa et Jaffa, tandis qu’en tant que palestinien, je peux sans aucun doute réclamer Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheba et Jérusalem. Toutefois, le moment où nous réclamerons notre droit sur l’ensemble de la Palestine, nous n’attendrons pas même une minute pour unir la Palestine à la Jordanie.  Zahir Muhsein (membre du comité exécutif de l’OLP, proche de la Syrie, « Trouw », 31.03. 77)
Il n’y a pas de preuve tangible qu’il y ait la moindre trace ou le moindre vestige juif que ce soit dans la vieille ville de Jérusalem ou dans le voisinage immédiat. Communiqué du ministère palestinien de l’Information (10 décembre 1997)
Abraham n’était pas juif, pas plus que c’était un Hébreu, mais il était tout simplement irakien. Les Juifs n’ont aucun droit de prétendre disposer d’une synagogue dans la tombe des patriarches à Hébron, lieu où est inhumé Abraham. Le bâtiment tout entier devrait être une mosquée. Yasser Arafat (Jerusalem Report, 26 décembre 1996)
[La Shoah] est un mensonge des Sionistes concernant de soi-disant massacres perpétrés contre les Juifs. Al Hayat Al Jadeeda ( journal de l’Autorité palestinienne, 3 septembre 1997)
[Notre but est] d’éliminer l’Etat d’Israël et d’établir un Etat qui soit entièrement palestinien. Yasser Arafat (session privée avec des diplomates arabes en Europe, 30 janvier 1996)
La lutte contre l’ennemi sioniste n’est pas une question de frontières, mais touche à l’existence même de l’entité sioniste. Bassam-abou-Sharif (porte-parole de l’OLP, Kuwait News Agency – Agence de presse koweïtienne, 31 mai 1996)
A document found in the Cairo Geniza describes the way in which Umar I brought a group of Jews to the site of the Temple in order to clean it. The Jewish elders were asked to identify the stone known as the Foundation Stone. When it was found and identified, Umar ordered « a sanctuary to be built and a dome to be erected over the stone and overlaid with gold. » As a reward, Umar permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem and establish the Jewish Quarter. Reuven Hammer
Le choix du lieu lui-même est extrêmement symbolique : lieu sacré juif, où restent encore des ruines des temples hérodiens, laissé à l’abandon par les chrétiens pour marquer leur triomphe sur cette religion, il est à nouveau utilisé sous l’Islam, marquant alors la victoire sur les Chrétiens et, éventuellement, une continuité avec le judaïsme. (…) Enfin, l’historien Al-Maqdisi, au Xe siècle, écrit que le dôme a été réalisé dans la but de dépasser le Saint-Sépulcre, d’où un plan similaire, mais magnifié. De cette analyse on a pu conclure que le dôme du Rocher peut être considéré comme un message de l’Islam et des Umayyades en direction des chrétiens, des Juifs, mais également des musulmans récemment convertis (attirés par les déploiements de luxe des églises chrétiennes) pour marquer le triomphe de l’Islam. Wikipedia 
Je n’arrive pas à imaginer que les musulmans veuillent réellement une mosquée à cet endroit particulier, parce que ce deviendra une arène pour les promoteurs de la haine et un monument à ceux qui ont commis ce crime. D’ailleurs, il n’y a pas de fidèles musulmans dans le quartier qui aient besoin d’un lieu de culte parce que c’est une zone commerciale. (…) Ce que les Américains n’arrivent pas à comprendre, c’est que la bataille contre les terroristes du 11/9 n’est pas leur bataille. C’est une bataille de musulmans – une bataille dont les flammes continuent à faire rage dans plus de 20 pays musulmans… Je ne pense pas que la majorité des musulmans veuillent bâtir un monument ou un lieu de culte qui demain peut devenir source de fierté pour les terroristes et leurs disciples musulmans, ni qu’ils veulent une mosquée qui deviendra un lieu de pèlerinage pour ceux qui haïssent l’islam… Ceci a déjà commencé à se produire: ils prétendent qu’une mosquée va être construite au-dessus des cadavres des 3 000 Américains qui furent enterrés vivants par des personnes criant Allah akbar’  – le même appel qu’on entendra dans la mosquée… Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (PDG d’Al-Arabiya)
Je n’aimerais pas entendre Obama dire quelque chose comme ça, et je ne m’y attends pas de toute façon. Pour la Turquie, la position américaine est très claire, elle est contre » la reconnaissance du génocide. (…) Tout au long de ces six années depuis qu’il est président, nous avons longuement parlé de cette question et convenu qu’elle devait être laissée aux historiens, pas aux dirigeants politiques (…) Ils vont parler, parler et insulter la Turquie. Nous serons à Canakkale ce jour-là, mais l’Arménie n’est pas à notre programme. Recep Tayyip Erdogan (conférence de presse avec le président irakien Fouad Massoum, 2015)
Khamenei.ir @khamenei_ir  This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated. 7/23/14 1:15 PM – 8 Nov 2014
Nous soutenons la Turquie contre la campagne de propagande à laquelle elle fait face au sujet du prétendu génocide arménien. Ismail Haniyeh (chef du Hamas, 24.04.15)
This year we mark the centennial of the Meds Yeghern, the first mass atrocity of the 20th Century.  Beginning in 1915, the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths.  Their culture and heritage in their ancient homeland were erased. Amid horrific violence that saw suffering on all sides, one and a half million Armenians perished.  As the horrors of 1915 unfolded, U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. sounded the alarm inside the U.S. government and confronted Ottoman leaders.  Because of efforts like his, the truth of the Meds Yeghern emerged and came to influence the later work of human rights champions like Raphael Lemkin, who helped bring about the first United Nations human rights treaty.  Against this backdrop of terrible carnage, the American and Armenian peoples came together in a bond of common humanity.   Ordinary American citizens raised millions of dollars to support suffering Armenian children, and the U.S. Congress chartered the Near East Relief organization, a pioneer in the field of international humanitarian relief. Thousands of Armenian refugees began new lives in the United States, where they formed a strong and vibrant community and became pillars of American society.  Rising to great distinction as businesspeople, doctors, scholars, artists, and athletes, they made immeasurable contributions to their new home. This centennial is a solemn moment.  It calls on us to reflect on the importance of historical remembrance, and the difficult but necessary work of reckoning with the past.  I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed.  A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests.  Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past.  We welcome the expression of views by Pope Francis, Turkish and Armenian historians, and the many others who have sought to shed light on this dark chapter of history.  On this solemn centennial, we stand with the Armenian people in remembering that which was lost.  We pledge that those who suffered will not be forgotten.  And we commit ourselves to learn from this painful legacy, so that future generations may not repeat it. Statement by the President on Armenian Remembrance Day
Nassar, a former Arab American Institute intern, grew up near the outskirts of Bethlehem under the Israeli occupation with the constant threat of displacement from his family’s historic land. Despite his circumstances, he always wanted to be a peace builder and came to embrace non-violent methods to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Nassar recounts the first hand impact of the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic, referring to the 1948 war) in the refugee camp near his home which he frequently visited. “I saw what it was like to be a refugee and what I saw was that the Nakba did not just happen in 1948, but is happening today.” When Nassar met Sam Feigenbaum, an American Jew, at the Tent of Nations farm in Palestine his ambition to open the Nakba museum became a reality. (…) After discussing ideas and strategies they realized that they could make their idea a digital project. Nassar would help gather the stories and artwork for the museum and Feigenbaum would do the graphic design and post the content on the newly fashioned website. They hope that the museum will serve as a safe space to start deep conversations about the impact the Nakba has had on millions of people. Nassar and Feigenbaum plan to move the museum to a permanent space in the future, and they’ve set up an IndieGoGo campaign to support their vision. The opening exhibit will be hosted on June 12-27th at the Festival Center in Washington, D.C. The opening exhibit will feature photos and prints of the Nakba as well as video interviews with refugees. Arab American institute
For the sake of clarity and decency, one must delineate between (a) genocides (documented attempts to wipe off a race or a nation); (b) non-genocidal mass murders; (c) enslavement of large numbers of people; (d) planned dispossession and expulsion of large numbers of people; and (e) secondary effects of wars and other crises. In that order. The Holocaust qualifies under point (a). So does the starvation program against the Hereros (in German Southwest Africa shortly before WW1), and the further genocidal operations against the Armenians, the Iraqi Chaldeans, the black minority in the Dominican Republic, the Roma/Sinti in Europe, and the Tutsis in Rwanda. The « Nakba » does not compare to most other collective tragedies in the last century. The Soviet, Red Chinese, and Khmer Rouge domestic massacres qualify under point (b), as well as the Nazi treatment of European nations (like the Poles), the Japanese atrocities in China, and many further ethnic and religious massacres in the Balkans, South Asia, and Africa. The African slave trade and the slavery regimes in both Islamic countries and the Christian colonies in the Americas and elsewhere qualify under point (c). So do massive slave work programs in the Soviet Union, in Nazi Germany, in Maoist China, and in present-day North Korea. Qualifying under point (d): The U.S. treatment of many Native Americans in the 19th century; the French treatment of Kabyles in Algeria in 1871; the alternate expulsion of Turks, Greeks, and Turks again between 1912 and 1923; the expulsion of Poles and French from areas slated for German colonization during WW2; the expulsion of ethnic Germans from East Prussia, Transoderian Germany, and Czechoslovakia in 1945; the mass anti-Christian pogroms in Turkey in 1955; the expulsion of Christians and Jews from Arab or Islamic countries from 1956 on (Egypt, North Africa, the Middle East); and the expulsion of ethnic Greeks from Northern Cyprus. UNRWA has evolved from a temporary relief and works program into a broad social welfare organization. The Nakba should be chiefly considered under point (e): the mass flight of Arab Palestinians was a collateral outcome of the first Arab-Israeli war, which was initiated by the Arab Palestinian leadership of the day and six Arab nations. Even so, Arab Palestinian refugees, while often unwelcome in neighboring Arab countries, were given a privileged status by the United Nations and have been able to retain it on a hereditary basis to this day. As an average, UNRWA — the United Nations agency that deals exclusively with Palestinian refugees — has been getting one third of the global United Nations budget for refugees over a period of almost seventy years. It is noteworthy that most Muslim victims come also under point (e), whereas Muslim powers acted criminally in many instances under points (a), (c) and (d). Likewise, it should be stressed that throughout the 1915-2015 period, Christians have been the largest victim group in the Middle East under points (a), (d) and (e), followed by Jews under points (d) and (e). Again, comparison of the Nakba with the Holocaust or with much of the above criminality of the past 100 years is parody rooted in anti-Israeli sentiment. Michel Gurfinkiel

Bible falsifiée, mosquées-coucou sur l’esplanade du Temple, « Palestine » terre du « peuple palestinien », « diaspora », contre-sionisme, « exode », « exil », « droit du retour »,   Jésus « premier résistant palestinien qui voulait chasser l’occupant » , « Jérusalem perle du monde arabe et « sommet de toutes ses joies », Gaza « camp de concentration à ciel ouvert », « génocide de Gaza »,  « Jour de la Nakba » avec minute de silence et sirènes …

A quand un Yad Vashem palestinien ?

En ces temps d’idées chrétiennes devenues folles

Où, lieux de culte et génocide compris, chacun revendique son droit à la victimisation …

En ce lendemain du centenaire du génocide des chrétiens turcs dit génocide arménien …

Où, fidèle à lui-même après Auschwitz et Paris, le Golfeur en chef de la Maison Blanche a à nouveau brillé par son absence et sa casuistique

Et où, sentant le vent tourner, même nos chanteurs « fleur bleue » recyclent leurs vieux tubes à la sauce géopolitiquement correcte …

Alors qu’à Gallipoli aux côtés du Négationniste en chef d’Ankara, le prince Charles et les premiers ministres australien, néo-zélandais et irlandais se prêtaient à la pire des mascarades …

Pendant que sur les lieux mêmes du génocide des chrétiens de l’Empire ottoman ou sur les plages ou au large des côtes libyennes et à coup de sacrifices humains aux couteau de boucher ou au vieux rafiot pourri abandonné en pleine mer, nos amis musulmans s’évertuent et se tuent littéralement à nous ouvrir les yeux sur la réalité de la Religion de paix …

Et qu’entre Téhéran et Washington, on prépare l’Arme de la Solution finale …

Comment ne pas voir …

Avec le projet, comme le rappelle Michel Gurfinkiel, d’un Holocaust Memorial Museum palestinien (pardon: un « Nabka Memorial Museum » !) à Washington …

Le véritable moteur de toute l’entreprise de désinformation palestinienne en particulier et de l’islam en général …

A savoir la concurrence victimaire et la bonne vieille rivalité mimétique ?

1915-2015 : A Century Of Barbarity
In the Middle East, the main victims were Christians and Jews.
Michel Gurfinkiel
PJMedia
April 24 2015

Bshara Nassar – a self-described « peacebuilder and social entrepreneur, a graduate of Bethlehem University, Palestine », with « a master’s degree in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University » – leads a campaign for a « Nakba Museum Project of Memory and Hope » in order to « bring the Palestinian refugee story to Washington, DC ».

The campaign, supported by Nonviolence International With Nakba Museum and Indiegogo, a crowd-funding organization, was launched in 2014 and seems to enjoy

Crime, including political crime and politically or militarily motivated mass murder, is usually a mean to achieve some higher purpose or to bring about some practical benefit. For instance, the Ottoman rationale in 1915 was to « remove » the Armenian minority from Turkish Anatolia, in order to prevent a pro-Russian Armenian uprising and to achieve geostrategic cohesion. They had no further « racial » or metaphysical concern : the few Armenians who converted to islam were spared ; many Armenian orphans were adopted by Turkish families and raised as Turks.

As far as the Holocaust was concerned, however, crime was an end unto itself. No Jew, under the Nazi genocidal project, was allowed to survive, neither by renouncing Judaism nor even as a pariah or a slave ; and in fact, very few Jews, in the Nazi-controled areas, managed to survive. Moreover, the annihilation of the Jews was to take precedence over Germany’s strategic considerations, and did actually divert and waste throughout WW2 crucial resources in manpower, energy and transportation needed by German forces. Finally, the Jews were not just to be murdered : they had to be murdered in the most gruesome and sadistic way, not just with physical crualty but with moral or mental cruelty as well.

This is why the memory of the Holocaust – and knowledge of the Holocaust – is so important today ; why so many nations, including present day Germany, devote so much attention to it ; and why there is an U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The more one remembers such an ultimate tragedy and crime,  the more one remembers – and understands – other tragedies and other crimes.

Pope Francis rightly marked, on April 12, the one hundredth anniversary of the Armenian genocide. So did, on April 15, the European Parliament.  The Armenian tragedy was however almost forgotten or ignored for decades, even among European Christians : it took the new context shaped by the Holocaust memorial effort to bring it back to full exposure. In fact, Holocaust Memorial Museums all over the world tend by now to educate the public about all genocides. An exhibition about the Armenians was just inaugurated at the French National Shoah Museum in Paris.

Indeed, Arab Palestinians underwent tremendous ordeals in the 20th century. Still, the Nakba was not the Holocaust. It does not even compare to most other collective tragedies in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

For the sake of clarity and decency, one must delineate between : (a) genocides (documented attempts to wipe off a race or a nation) ; (b) non-genocidal mass murders ; (c) enslavement of large numbers of people ; (d) planned dispossession and expulsion of large numbers of people ; (e) secondary effects of wars and other crisis. In that order.

The Holocaust qualifies under point (a). So do the starvation program against the Hereros (in German South West Africa shortly before WW1), and the further genocidal operations against the Armenians, the Iraqi Chaldeans, the Black minority in the Dominican Republic, the Roma/Sinti in Europe, the Tutsis in Rwanda.

The Soviet, Red Chinese and Khmer Rouge domestic massacres qualify under point (b), as well as the Nazi treatment of « inferior » European nations (like the Poles), the Japanese atrocities in China, and many further ethnic and religious massacres in the Balkans, South Asia and Africa.

The African trade slave and the slavery regimes in both the Islamic countries and the Christian colonies in the Americas and elsewhere qualify under point (c). So do massive slave work programs in the Soviet Union, in Nazi Germany, in Maoist China and in present day North Korea.

The US treatment of many Native Americans in the 19th century, the French treatment of Kabyles in Algeria in 1871, the alternate expulsion of Turks, Greeks and Turks again between 1912 and 1923, the expulsion of Poles and French from areas slated for German colonization during WW2, the expulsion of ethnic Germans from East Prussia, Transoderian Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1945, the mass anti-Christian pogroms in Turkey in 1955, the expulsion of Christians and Jews from Arab or Islamic countries from 1956 on (Egypt, North Africa, the Middle East), the expulsion of ethnic Greeks from Northern Cyprus, qualify under point (d).

The Nakba should be chiefly considered under point (e) : the mass flight of Arab Palestinians was a collateral outcome of the first Arab-Israeli war, which was initiated by the Arab Palestinian leadership of the day and six Arab nations. Even so, Arab Palestinian refugees, while often unwelcome in neighboring Arab countries, were given a privileged status by the United Nations and have been able to retain it on an hereditary basis to this day. As an average, UNRWA, the United Nations agency that deals exclusively with Palestinian refugees, has been getting one third of the global United Nations budgets for refugees over a period of almost seventy years.

It is noteworthy that most Muslim victims come also under point (e), whereas Muslim powers acted criminally in many instances under points (a), (c) and (d). Likewise, it should be stressed that, throughout the 1915-2015 period, Christians have been the largest victim group in the Middle East under points (a), (d) and (e), followed by Jews under points (d) and (e).

© Michel Gurfinkiel & PJMedia, 2015

Michel Gurfinkiel is the Founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think-thank in France, and a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at Middle East Forum.

Voir aussi:

Nakba Museum: Of Memory and Hope

Shadi Matar

Arab American institute

February 20, 2015

In 2011, Bshara Nassar participated in a New Story Leadership program that brought together young Israelis and Palestinians in a powerful learning experience. The program took 10 participants to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which certainly seemed like an appropriate site for reflection. However, he realized that there was not a museum dedicated to showing the suffering of the Palestinian people. Although the program aspired to fairly expose participants to the historical underpinnings of the Israeli and Palestinian narratives on modern history and conflict, Nassar realized that it was missing a key element of the Palestinian experience – which inspired him to launch the Nakba Museum, which is live online and will open its first physical exhibit in Washington, D.C. this June.

Nassar, a former Arab American Institute intern, grew up near the outskirts of Bethlehem under the Israeli occupation with the constant threat of displacement from his family’s historic land. Despite his circumstances, he always wanted to be a peace builder and came to embrace non-violent methods to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Nassar recounts the first hand impact of the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic, referring to the 1948 war) in the refugee camp near his home which he frequently visited. “I saw what it was like to be a refugee and what I saw was that the Nakba did not just happen in 1948, but is happening today.”

When Nassar met Sam Feigenbaum, an American Jew, at the Tent of Nations farm in Palestine his ambition to open the Nakba museum became a reality. Both Nassar and Feigenbaum studied conflict resolution and whole heartedly endorse the motto made famous by Nassar’s family farm, “We refuse to be enemies,” and have made it their mission to share stories of the Nakba that have been silenced. Both Nassar and Feigenbaum are not interested in creating competing narratives, but they both hope that this museum will focus on the human suffering caused by the events of 1948. Nassar commented that “There is no political agenda here, we just want to tell the story”.

After discussing ideas and strategies they realized that they could make their idea a digital project. Nassar would help gather the stories and artwork for the museum and Feigenbaum would do the graphic design and post the content on the newly fashioned website. They hope that the museum will serve as a safe space to start deep conversations about the impact the Nakba has had on millions of people. Nassar and Feigenbaum plan to move the museum to a permanent space in the future, and they’ve set up an IndieGoGo campaign to support their vision.

The opening exhibit will be hosted on June 12-27th at the Festival Center in Washington, D.C. The opening exhibit will feature photos and prints of the Nakba as well as video interviews with refugees.

Voir par ailleurs:

Adamo recycle «Inch’Allah»
Menahem Macina

28 avril 2015

Au cours de la « Grande soirée du Télévie 2015 », Le chanteur-vedette Salvatore Adamo (71 ans) a interprété, en duo avec Julie Zenatti, sa célèbre chanson « Inch’Allah », dans la version revue et corrigée par ses soins en 1993 pour la rendre plus géopolitiquement correcte.

Cette ré-audition m’a rappelé la mise au point sévère que j’avais publiée, en avril 2008, sur un site juif. J’y donnais suite à l’interpellation d’un internaute qui rappelait amèrement que le chanteur avait rédigé, en 1993, une deuxième version de son ‘tube’, expurgée du parti pris pro-israélien que lui reprochaient ses détracteurs [1].

Deux explications principales de ce revirement ont été données par les critiques. La plus positive (c’est la version du chanteur lui-même), les accords d’Oslo avaient changé la donne ; l’espoir d’une paix prochaine et donc de la cessation du conflit palestino-israélien méritait une illustration poétique, et plutôt que d’écrire une nouvelle chanson sur ce thème, pourquoi ne pas transformer l’originale par quelques touches littéraires bien venues?

Les tenants de l’explication négative, eux, ricanaient en faisant remarquer que, sur le plan de l’image de marque du chanteur et du marketing de son ‘tube’, c’était une bonne affaire, puisque – ô miracle ! – après ce rafistolage, « Inch’Allah » devenait arabo-correcte et valait à la vedette des concerts dans tout le Proche-Orient (à l’exception du Liban).

Je donnerai mon avis sur la question dans la dernière partie du présent billet. En attendant, pour permettre à qui le souhaite de se faire une religion, voici une brève leçon de texte. Ne pouvant, en raison des contraintes éditoriales de ce Blog, disposer les deux versions en synopse pour permettre la visualisation immédiate des différences entre les deux textes, je me limiterai à quelques remarques et commentaires successifs.

Le fait le plus massif est la disparition pure et simple, dans la version recyclée, des strophes 7 à 9, dont voici le texte :

« Dieu de l’enfer ou Dieu du ciel
Toi qui te trouves où bon te semble
Sur cette terre d’Israël
Il y a des enfants qui tremblent…»

« Les femmes tombent sous l’orage
Demain le sang sera lavé
La route est faite de courage
Une femme pour un pavé… »

« Mais oui j’ai vu Jérusalem
Coquelicot sur un rocher
J’entends toujours ce Requiem
Lorsque sur lui je suis penché… »

Intéressant également est le remaniement de la strophe 4 :

« Le chemin mène à la fontaine
Tu voudrais bien remplir ton seau
Arrête-toi Marie-Madeleine
Pour eux ton corps ne vaut pas l’eau… »

Qui devient :

« Mais voici qu’après tant de haine
Fils d’Ismaël et fils d’Israël
Libèrent d’une main sereine
Une colombe dans le ciel… »

Mais le plus choquant, semble-t-il, ce sont les « SIX millions d’âmes » (juives) du texte original, diluées’ (à parts égales ?) dans la strophe 10 de la version amendée :

Requiem pour LES millions d’âmes
de ces enfants, ces femmes, ces hommes,
tombés DES DEUX CÔTÉS du drame…
Assez de sang, Salam, Shalom…

Des deux côtés? Attendez ! Je croyais savoir compter…

Où sont les MILLIONS de Palestiniens « tombés »?…

Cette strophe 10 est la dernière de la version rédimée et en constitue le bouquet final.

Mon avis, à présent, sur cette opération « chanson propre ».

Monsieur Salvatore Adamo s’est fait, de longue date, une réputation de «gentil garçon»

Ses manières gauches et timides (spontanées ou étudiées? nul ne le sait…), sa simplicité, sa discrétion, sa pudeur et sa modestie (même remarque), ont fait de lui une star très populaire.

Et chacun sait que les stars font souvent la pluie et le beau temps en matière d’opinion. Alors, malheur à celui ou celle (personne privée, institution ou nation), que la vedette fustige, ou simplement à qui elle fait les gros yeux!

Du coup,

oubliés, les « enfants d’Israël qui tremblent »…
disparu, le « Requiem »…
éludés, les « Six Millions d’âmes » (juives)…
submergés, les « mausolées de marbre »…
passés sous silence, les « Six Millions d’arbres »…

Après cet exercice, Adamo pourrait, sans problème, pasticher les «Trompettes de la renommée» de Brassens. Cela donnerait à peu près ceci :

« Les gens de bon conseil ont su me faire comprendre
qu’à l’homme de la rue [arabe] j’avais des comptes à rendre, et que, sous peine de choir dans un oubli complet, j’devais mettre au rancart mes sionistes couplets ! »

Pauvre Adamo! Il faut le comprendre. Il nous l’a expliqué lui-même: «On m’a reproché d’avoir choisi mon camp» – entendez : Israël. Pas très politiquement correct, il est vrai…

Alors, tant pis pour le peuple aux Six Millions de victimes : intimidé, honteux de sa partialité, Adamo le doux (non, je n’ai pas dit « le mou »!), incapable de peiner le dernier interlocuteur qui le remet en cause, s’est remis au travail… Vous avez lu, plus haut, ce que cela a donné. C’est médiocre, poussif, absolument pas convaincant.

Moi, à la place des Arabes et des Palestiniens (victimes eux aussi, ne l’oubliez pas… (Quoi, Six Millions?… Lâchez-nous les baskets avec vos «Six Millions»! Vous n’avez donc que «ça» à la bouche !?)… Donc, à la place des Arabes et des Palestiniens, je serais horriblement vexé…

Alors, ma conclusion personnelle? Après les analyses qui précèdent, elles ne font certainement plus de doute pour vous :

Malgré l’affirmation contraire de Monsieur Adamo, la cure d’amaigrissement et la ’révision’ qu’il a infligées à sa chanson de 1966, n’ont rien d’un «rééquilibrage», comme on l’a écrit. C’est du pur recyclage révisionniste, après les titillements d’une conscience mal éclairée.

Résultat recherché: l’équivalence morale [2] ! La tarte à la crème des «belles âmes» qui veulent être du bon côté du manche. Selon cette morale de chapon, (ou, si vous préférez, émasculée), une partie qui a raison et l’autre qui a tort, ça n’existe pas, alors, partageons les torts.

Il faut savoir que ceux qui pratiquent ce genre de ‘philosophie’ « droit-de-l’hommiste » s’estiment moraux, parce que non-partisans. On a vu ce que cela a donné au cours des décennies écoulées :

Loi du retour pour les Juifs = Droit au retour en Israël pour les Palestiniens ;
Implantations sur le sol de l’antique patrie des Juifs = Grand Israël, colonisation, occupation ;
Barrière de sécurité = Apartheid ;
Autodéfense armée = Réaction disproportionnée ;
État Juif = Racisme et Théocratie;
Holocauste = Nakba, etc.

Il y a beau temps que j’ai ôté le « gentil» Adamo de mes podcasts préférés. Si quelqu’un cherche une chanson sioniste équivalente de l’ »Inchallah » première époque, j’ai une bonne nouvelle : il existe un « tube » bien meilleur que celui d’Adamo, et surtout plus sincère.

Il s’appelle « Terre promise ». Les paroles, simplissimes et percutantes, sont de Pierre Delanoé. La musique est une adaptation du « tube » populaire international du groupe The Mamas & Papas, intitulé « California Dreamin’ », et il est interprété par la belle voix, chaude, rythmée, et bien timbrée, du regretté Richard Anthony, récemment décédé.

Cette chanson date de 1966 (tiens, la date où Adamo créait « Inch’Allah » première mouture !). Contrairement à celle d’Adamo, elle n’a pas eu besoin de recyclage. Hélas, il n’y a pas eu non plus de vedette pour la reprendre, faisant chaud au cœur à qui veut l’entendre ou la ré-entendre.

Vous la trouverez ICI.

Enfin – pardonnez ce jeu de mots facile – :

aucun Adamo au monde ne nous séparera de notre Adamah, notre terre à nous, Eretz Israel !

———————————————————————————————-

[1] Titre de l’article, que j’ai repris sur mon site personnel debriefing : « L’ »Inch’Allah » d’Adamo (1966-1993): rééquilibrage ou recyclage islamiquement correct ? »

[2] «Concrètement, l’équivalence morale signifie une culpabilité également partagée, une mauvaise foi également répartie, une intransigeance également intraitable. Vous voyez le topo: Israéliens et Palestiniens, tous dans le même sac! Ils sont tous fautifs, pleins de haine. C’est là, reconnaissez-le, une posture facile et combien rassurante puisque ça vous dispense de prendre parti. C’est cependant une attitude parfaitement odieuse et méprisable.» (D’après Jacques Brassard, «L’équivalence morale, ou l’hypocrisie occidentale».

Voir encore:

L’ »Inch’Allah » d’Adamo (1966-1993): rééquilibrage ou recyclage islamiquement correct ?

M. Macina

6 avril 2008

upjf.org

07/04/2008

Un internaute rappelle ce que les observateurs avertis savent depuis longtemps, mais dont ils évitent de parler afin de ne pas passer pour des paranoïaques, à savoir qu’il y a deux versions de la chanson de Salvatore Adamo, « Inch’Allah ». Notre correspondant précise que, dans la version de 1993, « les strophes évoquant les enfants tremblants de Jérusalem et les six millions d’âmes sont parties en …fumée ». Il intitule amèrement la mise au point qu’il nous adresse : « La version de 1993 et le politiquement correct (un gilet pare-balles, en quelque sorte) ». Il joint ensuite les deux versions de cette célèbre chanson. Avant de les mettre, à mon tour, sous les yeux de nos internautes, j’ai tenu à vérifier soigneusement l’une et l’autre et à resituer les choses dans leur contexte. (Menahem Macina).
06/04/08

Avant d’examiner si l’accusation ou le soupçon qu’évoque mon titre, sont fondés ou non, j’ai reproduit, en synopse, les deux versions que séparent 27 années… En rouge, les différences.

On remarquera que les strophes 7 à 9 ont disparu de la version ’recyclée’. J’en ignore la cause.
Mais le plus choquant, à mes yeux, ce sont les « SIX millions d’âmes » (juives), ’diluées’ (à parts égales ?) dans LES millions « de ces enfants, ces femmes, ces hommes, tombés DES DEUX CÔTES du drame »…
Deux côtés? Attendez, je croyais savoir compter… Où sont les millions de Palestiniens « tombés »…
« On était en plein processus d’Oslo » (voir 4ème strophe), me dira-t-on sans doute, « tout le monde (ou presque), y compris en Israël, planait sur son petit nuage »… Peut-être, mais examinez bien les changements, mis en rouge (modifications effectuées pour ’coller’ au ’rêve’ d’Oslo), et en MAJUSCULES (ce qui ne pouvait pas être conservé dans la nouvelle version, parce que trop marqué Juif et Israélien, donc potentiellement blessant ou frustrant pour le « partenaire de paix »). Puis, lisez les deux extraits d’interviews d’Adamo, qui suivent. Vous serez alors en mesure de vous forger une opinion, avant de lire la mienne, à la fin du présent article

1. Aperçu synoptique des deux versions et des modifications du texte de l’original

    Version originale (1966)                                         Version recyclée (1993)

J’ai vu l’Orient dans son écrin                             J’ai vu l’Orient dans son écrin

Avec la lune pour bannière                                  Avec la lune pour bannière

Et je comptais en un quatrain                             Et je comptais en un quatrain

Chanter au monde sa lumière                             Chanter au monde sa lumière

Mais quand j’ai vu Jérusalem                              Mais quand j’ai vu Jérusalem

Coquelicot sur un rocher                                      Coquelicot sur un rocher

J’ai entendu un Requiem                                      J’ai entendu un Requiem

Quand sur lui je me suis penché                         Quand sur lui je me suis penché

Ne vois-tu pas, humble Chapelle                        Ne vois-tu pas humble Chapelle

Toi qui murmures paix sur la terre                     Toi qui murmures paix sur la terre

Que les oiseaux cachent de leurs ailes             Que les oiseaux cachent de leurs ailes

Ces lettres de feu: « Danger frontière »               Ces lettres de feu: « Danger frontière »

Le chemin mène à la fontaine                             Mais voici qu’après tant de haine

Tu voudrais bien remplir ton seau                      Fils d’Ismaël et fils d’Israël

Arrête-toi Marie-Madeleine                                 Libèrent d’une main sereine

Pour eux ton corps ne vaut pas l’eau                 Une colombe dans le ciel

Inch’Allah, Inch’Allah, Inch’Allah, Inch’Allah

Et l’olivier pleure son ombre                                Et l’olivier retrouve son ombre

Sa tendre épouse son amie                                 Sa tendre épouse son amie

Qui repose sur les décombres                             Qui reposait sur les décombres

Prisonnière en terre ennemie                              Prisonnière en terre ennemie

Sur une épine de barbelés                                    Et par dessus les barbelés

Le papillon guette la rose                                     Le papillon vole vers la rose

Les gens sont si écervelés                                   Hier on l’aurait répudié

Qu’ils me répudieront si j’ose                              Mais aujourd’hui, enfin il ose

Dieu de l’enfer ou Dieu du ciel

Toi qui te trouves où bon te semble

SUR CETTE TERRE D’ISRAËL

IL Y A DES ENFANTS QUI TREMBLENT

Inch’Allah, Inch’Allah, Inch’Allah, Inch’Allah

Les femmes tombent sous l’orage

Demain le sang sera lavé

La route est faite de courage

Une femme pour un pavé

Mais oui j’ai vu Jérusalem

Coquelicot sur un rocher

J’ENTENDS TOUJOURS CE REQUIEM

Lorsque sur lui je suis penché

Requiem pour SIX millions d’âmes                      Requiem pour LES millions d’âmes

QUI N’ONT PAS LEUR MAUSOLEE DE MARBRE     De ces enfants, ces femmes, ces hommes

Et qui malgré le sable infâme                               Tombés DES DEUX CÔTES du drame

ONT FAIT POUSSER SIX MILLIONS D’ARBRES      Assez de sang, Salam, Shalom

Inch’Allah, Inch’Allah, Inch’Allah, Inch’Allah

2. Le témoignage du recycleur/rééquilibreur lui-même

(1) « Je revendique mon côté fleur bleue », entretien avec S. Adamo, L’Humanité, 16 février 2007

Q. – Vous venez de fêter vos soixante-trois ans. Quel regard portez-vous sur votre parcours ?

Adamo – « …Aujourd’hui, les gens redécouvrent les chansons des années soixante où on pouvait afficher de bons sentiments, sans engendrer l’ironie. Ce qui n’empêchait pas de chanter des choses plus graves. Je pense à Inch’Allah, que j’ai écrite en octobre 1966. C’était bien la preuve qu’on pouvait être fleur bleue et s’intéresser aux malheurs du monde. Cette chanson, je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de l’enlever de mon répertoire, parce qu’elle est toujours d’actualité. À tel point que j’ai dû la nuancer au gré des quelques espoirs de paix. J’ai changé quelques strophes, mais je me suis rendu compte que je n’allais pas jusqu’au bout du message. J’ai ainsi réécrit une autre chanson dans l’album Zanzibar sur le problème du Moyen-Orient, « Mon douloureux Orient », où je fais allusion à la souffrance du côté palestinien. Une chanson qui dit : quelles qu’aient été les raisons de cette haine ancestrale, il faut l’oublier pour vivre l’un à côté de l’autre. »

Mon commentaire

« Cette chanson, je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de l’enlever de mon répertoire, parce qu’elle est toujours d’actualité… j’ai dû la nuancer… ». Qu’avons-nous besoin d’un autre aveu. Le message du boycott arabe, vous l’avez reçu 5 sur 5, Monsieur Adamo. Personnellement, j’eusse préféré que vous supprimiez carrément cette chanson de votre répertoire, plutôt que de vous voir la profaner de votre propre initiative. D’autant que le résultat, permettez-moi de vous le dire, sent le labeur et non l’inspiration, et en tout cas, pas la sincérité.

(2) « Adamo, un sentimental engagé », Sur le site RFI/Musique (6 novembre 2003)

Q. – On remarque aussi, sur votre nouvel album, trente-sept ans après Inch Allah, une nouvelle chanson sur les drames d’Israël, Mon douloureux Orient…

Adamo – « On peut se demander pourquoi, moi qui suis catholique d’éducation, je suis resté fidèle à une émotion de 1966, que j’ai traduite d’une façon qui a été malheureusement mal interprétée dans pas mal de pays arabes où j’ai été interdit. Cet été, le 15 août [2003], pour la première fois depuis cette époque, j’ai pu chanter dans un pays arabe, en Tunisie. J’ai chanté Mon douloureux Orient et les gens applaudissaient à certains mots pendant la chanson. J’ai voulu dire qu’il est temps que ces deux peuples vivent en paix. On ne leur demande pas de s’aimer, mais d’arrêter de s’entretuer. Avec le recul, je me suis rendu compte de quelle strophe avait valu [sic] mon interdiction: « Sur cette terre d’Israël/J’ai vu des enfants qui tremblent ». On m’a dit que c’était choisir un camp. Mais je voulais parler de la terre biblique tout entière, Israël et Palestine ensemble. Je n’ai pas fait cette nouvelle chanson pour «rattraper» quoi que ce soit, mais pour avoir la conscience en paix. »

Mon commentaire :

« Israël et Palestine ensemble ! » Monsieur Adamo, soit vous nous prenez pour des bœufs, soit vous êtes un ignare. En 1966, les Arabes d’Israël n’avaient pas conscience de former un peuple, il n’y avait pas encore d’Autorité Palestinienne, la Guerre des Six Jours n’avait pas eu lieu, le monde arabe constituait bien une menace, mais pas pour « la Palestine ». A l’époque et dans les années qui suivirent, les seuls enfants qui tremblaient étaient Israéliens. Bien avant que vous ne procédiez au recyclage de votre chanson et que vous en effaciez, purement et simplement, la phrase que l’on vous reprochait (« Sur cette terre d’Israël, il y a des enfants qui tremblent »), elle s’est malheureusement avérée prophétique. En effet, le 11 avril 1974, sept mois après la Guerre de Kippour, des terroristes s’infiltrent du Liban à Maalot, ville du nord d’Israël. Ils pénètrent dans la maison de la famille Cohen, tuent le mari, la femme et leur fils de quatre ans. Ils prennent ensuite le contrôle de l’école Nativ Méir. 105 élèves sont retenus en otage. Finalement devant l’intransigeance des terroristes et après que des rafales d’armes automatiques aient été entendues à l’intérieur de l’école, les forces de sécurité donnent l’assaut. Au total, vingt-deux adolescents et cinq adultes trouveront la mort dans cette tragédie.

Conclusion

Monsieur Salvatore Adamo s’est fait, de longue date, une réputation de « gentil garçon ». Ses manières gauches et timides (spontanées ou étudiées? nul ne le sait…), sa simplicité, sa discrétion, sa pudeur et sa modestie (même remarque), ont fait de lui une star très populaire. Et chacun sait que les stars font souvent la pluie et le beau temps en matière d’opinion. Alors, malheur à celui ou celle (personne privée, institution ou nation), que la vedette fustige, ou simplement à qui il fait les gros yeux ! Malheur, donc, à Israël, qui a eu la malchance de se voir supplanté, dans l’estime d’Adamo, par les « gentils » Palestiniens. Du coup,

oubliés, les enfants d’Israël qui tremblent,
disparu, le Requiem,
éludés, les Six Millions de Juifs,
submergés, les mausolées de marbre,
passés sous silence, les Six Millions d’arbres…
Après cet exercice, Adamo pourrait bien pasticher les « Trompettes de la renommée » de Brassens. Cela donnerait à peu près cela :

 » Les gens de bon conseil ont su me faire comprendre
qu’à l’homme de la rue [arabe] j’avais des comptes à rendre,
et que sous peine de choir dans un oubli complet,
j’devais mettre au rancart mes sionistes couplets !  »
Pauvre Adamo, il faut le comprendre. Il nous l’a expliqué lui-même : « On m’a reproché d’avoir choisi mon camp » – entendez : Israël. Pas très politiquement correct, n’est-ce pas?… Alors, tant pis pour le peuple aux Six Millions de victimes : intimidé, honteux de sa partialité, Adamo le doux (non, je n’ai pas dit « le mou »!), incapable de peiner le dernier interlocuteur qui le remet en cause, s’est mis au travail… Vous avez lu, plus haut, ce que cela a donné. C’est médiocre, poussif, absolument pas convaincant. Moi, à la place des Arabes et des Palestiniens (victimes eux aussi, ne l’oubliez pas… Quoi Six Millions? Oh! lâchez-nous les baskets avec vos « Six Millions »! Vous n’avez donc que « ça » à la bouche !?), donc, moi, à la place des Arabes et des Palestiniens, je serais horriblement vexé…

Alors, ma conclusion personnelle? Après les analyses qui précèdent, elles ne font certainement plus de doute pour vous :

Malgré l’affirmation contraire de Monsieur Adamo, la cure d’amaigrissement et la ’révision’ qu’il a infligées à sa chanson de 1966, n’a rien d’un « rééquilibrage ». C’est du pur recyclage révisionniste, après titillage d’une conscience mal éclairée. Résultat recherché: l’équivalence morale * ! La tarte à la crème des « belles âmes » qui veulent être du bon côté du manche. Selon cette morale de chapon, (ou, si vous préférez, émasculée), une partie qui a raison et l’autre qui a tort, ça n’existe pas, alors, partageons les torts. Et ceux qui pratiquent ce genre de ’philosophie’ « droit de l’hommiste » s’estiment moraux, non partisans. On a vu ce que cela a donné au cours des deux décennies écoulées :
Loi du retour pour les Juifs = Droit au retour en Israël pour les Palestiniens;
Implantations sur le sol de l’antique patrie des Juifs = Grand Israël, colonisation, occupation;
Barrière de sécurité = Apartheid;
Autodéfense armée = Réaction disproportionnée;
Etat Juif = Racisme et Théocratie;
Holocauste = Nakba, etc.

Il y a beau temps que j’ai ôté le « gentil » Adamo de mes podcasts préférés. Si vous cherchez une chanson sioniste équivalente, amis internautes, j’ai une bonne nouvelle pour ceux qui l’ignorent : il existe un « tube » bien meilleur que celui d’Adamo, et surtout plus sincère. Il s’appelle « Terre promise » : les paroles, simplissimes, sont de Pierre Delanoé. La musique est une adaptation du « tube » populaire international du groupe The Mamas & Papas, intitulé « California Dreamin’ », et il est interprété par la belle voix, chaude, rythmée, et bien timbrée, de Richard Anthony. Cette chanson date de 1966 (tiens, la date où Adamo créait « Inch’Allah », première mouture – sincère !), mais, croyez-moi, elle n’a pas pris une ride et cela fait chaud au cœur de l’entendre. Vous la trouverez ici, et ici.

Et puis – pardonnez ce jeu de mots facile -,

aucun Adamo au monde ne nous séparera de notre Adamah, notre terre à nous, Eretz Israel !

* Note sur l’équivalence morale.

Voir, entre autres, Yossi Alpher, « Gaza : le dilemme d’Israël ». Extrait :

 » La plupart des Israéliens… croient qu’il n’existe pas d’équivalence morale entre des civils israéliens délibérément visés par des terroristes palestiniens et des civils palestiniens tués par inadvertance lors d’attaques ripostant au terrorisme…. Je crois que l’argument israélien de l’équivalence morale est un argument fort : les terroristes visent délibérément des civils ; nous pas. Lorsque nous nous protégeons nous-mêmes, nous hésitons longuement avant de toucher des civils. Il y a un élément du « choc des civilisations » dans cette équation. Nous pourrions avoir à l’invoquer pour expliquer au monde les représailles massives des F.D.I. [Tsahal] contre le Hamas et les autres groupes terroristes à Gaza. « 

Voir enfin:

« Je revendique mon côté fleur bleue »
L’Humanité
6 Février, 2007

Chanson . À soixante-trois ans, Salvatore Adamo sort la Part de l’ange. Un album aux arrangements élégants dans lequel il privilégie le sentiment amoureux.
D’un naturel timide, Salvatore Adamo n’a jamais aimé faire parler de lui. Cela ne l’empêche pas d’être dans le coeur de tous les Français grâce aux inoubliables chansons que sont Vous permettez monsieur,Tombe la neige ou encore Inch’Allah. On le trouve fleur bleue. Il est surtout un chanteur romantique qui ne craint pas d’afficher ses sentiments pour mieux se jouer de la laideur du monde. Après Zanzibar, il revient avec la Part de l’ange, album aux arrangements élégants signés Fabrice-Ravel-Chapuis et édith Fambuena. Un enregistrement teinté de mélancolie où l’on croise la voix acidulée de la piquante Olivia Ruiz, à l’occasion d’un duo (Ce Georges) plein d’humour, faisant allusion à Georges Clooney. Depuis plus de quarante ans, le chanteur belge va où son coeur le porte, offrant le meilleur d’un répertoire qui a bien peu d’équivalent émotionnel. En 1963, il avait vingt ans et sortait son premier disque. À soixante-trois ans, il signe son 20e album, enregistré après son accident cérébral.

On sent que vous aimez privilégier l’émotion…

Salvatore Adamo. Je voulais éviter les fioritures de style et laisser l’âme s’exprimer. C’est un disque que j’ai eu le temps de préparer, après ma convalescence. Dès que j’ai senti que l’envie d’écrire se réveillait en moi, ça a été comme une renaissance. J’avais des doutes après mon accident cérébral. J’avais le cerveau en désordre. Étant à Bruxelles, je prétendais être dans le midi de la France. J’avais oublié beaucoup de choses, les numéros de téléphone… D’ailleurs, dans la première chanson, les Anges de l’ombre, que j’ai réécrite, et que je n’ai pas voulu enregistrer pour l’album, je m’adresse au corps médical, pour le remercier de m’avoir sauvé.

Comment se sent-on après un tel accident ?

Salvatore Adamo. En phase avec la vie. J’ai vécu ces quelques mois en planant un peu. Les premiers mois après l’accident, je pensais des choses absurdes. Petit à petit les boulons se sont resserrés, j’ai repris goût à l’existence. J’étais heureux de faire ce que j’ai toujours fait parce que sans écrire de chansons, je n’existe pas tout à fait.

D’où vient ce titre la Part de l’ange?

Salvatore Adamo. À l’origine, c’est une expression viticole. C’est la part du vin qui s’évapore des fûts. Moi, je considère que c’est la part de magie qu’il ne faut pas laisser filer dans un couple. C’est la faculté de s’étonner l’un l’autre pour ne pas laisser la routine s’installer. C’est respecter les jardins secrets de l’autre, ne pas vouloir imposer ses rêves. C’est un peu ce que je dis dans le Féminin sacré où l’homme pense toujours qu’il faut qu’il épate et qu’il décroche la lune pour sa compagne, alors qu’elle ne demande pas tout cela. Elle veut, peut-être, plus simplement un peu de tendresse, un petit rêve à deux.

Toujours aussi fleur bleue ?

Salvatore Adamo. Je le revendique. J’ai d’ailleurs voulu commencer par une chanson Fleur, car c’est désuet de chanter les fleurs aujourd’hui. Pendant des années, au vu de mon image fleur bleue, j’avais presque un complexe. Dans la Part de l’ange, il y a un message ou deux pour montrer que je suis quand même concerné par ce qui se passe sur terre, mais je suis revenu à ce que j’aime, à des chansons d’amour, tout simplement. À dix-huit ans, j’ai écrit Tombe la neige, à cet âge, on a toujours tendance à faire un drame de tout, dès qu’il y en a un qui ne vient pas au rendez-vous. À mon âge, je chante un amour serein, un amour trouvé en quelque sorte.

Vous venez de fêter vos soixante-trois ans. Quel regard portez-vous sur votre parcours ?

Salvatore Adamo. J’ai eu cet immense privilège de pouvoir vivre en faisant ce que j’aime. Cette voie, que j’ai suivie, je n’aurais pas osé la rêver. Adolescent, je jouais au football, mon rêve était de faire se lever un stade en marquant un but. La musique, c’était vraiment dans l’air que l’on respire. Mon père adorait la musique. J’ai été ballotté entre la chanson italienne, napolitaine et la chanson française que j’entendais à la radio. Aujourd’hui, les gens redécouvrent les chansons des années soixante où on pouvait afficher de bons sentiments, sans engendrer l’ironie. Ce qui n’empêchait pas de chanter des choses plus graves. Je pense à Inch’Allah, que j’ai écrite en octobre 1966. C’était bien la preuve qu’on pouvait être fleur bleue et s’intéresser aux malheurs du monde. Cette chanson, je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de l’enlever de mon répertoire, parce qu’elle est toujours d’actualité. À tel point que j’ai dû la nuancer au gré des quelques espoirs de paix. J’ai changé quelques strophes, mais je me suis rendu compte que je n’allais pas jusqu’au bout du message. J’ai ainsi réécrit une autre chanson dans l’album Zanzibar sur le problème du Moyen-Orient, Mon douloureux Orient, où je fais allusion à la souffrance du côté palestinien. Une chanson qui dit : quelles qu’aient été les raisons de cette haine ancestrale, il faut l’oublier pour vivre l’un à côté de l’autre. J’ai aussi écrit une chanson contre le franquisme qui s’appelle Manuel. Je suis toujours redescendu de mon nuage !

Album la Part de l’ange chez Polydor. Au Bataclan

du 13 au 24 mars,

boulevard Voltaire, Paris11e. Tél. : 01 43 14 35 35.

Entretien réalisé par Victor Hache


Centenaire du génocide arménien: L’Arménie n’est pas à notre programme (Nothing happened at Gallipoli on April 24: How America, Britain, Australia and New Zealand helped Turkey hide the Armenian Holocaust)

25 avril, 2015
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Armenian genocide map
Après tout, qui parle encore aujourd’hui de l’annihilation des Arméniens? Hitler (le 22 août 1939)
Je n’aimerais pas entendre Obama dire quelque chose comme ça, et je ne m’y attends pas de toute façon. Pour la Turquie, la position américaine est très claire, elle est contre » la reconnaissance du génocide. (…) Tout au long de ces six années depuis qu’il est président, nous avons longuement parlé de cette question et convenu qu’elle devait être laissée aux historiens, pas aux dirigeants politiques (…) Ils vont parler, parler et insulter la Turquie. Nous serons à Canakkale ce jour-là, mais l’Arménie n’est pas à notre programme. Recep Tayyip Erdogan (conférence de presse avec le président irakien Fouad Massoum, 2015)

This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated. 7/23/14

Nous soutenons la Turquie contre la campagne de propagande à laquelle elle fait face au sujet du prétendu génocide arménien. Ismail Haniyeh (chef du Hamas, 24.04.15)
Il y a deux ans, j’ai critiqué la secrétaire d’état pour le renvoi de l’ambassadeur des États-Unis en Arménie John Evans, après qu’il a correctement employé le terme de  « génocide » pour décrire le massacre par la Turquie  de milliers d’Arméniens à partir de 1915. Je partageais avec la secrétaire d’Etat Rice ma conviction fermement tenue que le génocide arménien n’est pas une allégation, une opinion personnelle, ou un point de vue, mais un fait largement documenté et appuyé par un irréfutable faisceau de preuves historiques. Les faits sont indéniables. Une politique officielle qui contraint les diplomates à tordre les faits historiques n’est pas une politique viable. En tant que sénateur, je soutiens fortement le passage de la résolution du génocide arménien et en tant que président je reconnaitrai le génocide arménien. (…) L’Amérique mérite un dirigeant qui parle avec véracité du génocide arménien et qui condamne fermement tous les génocides. J’ai l’intention d’être ce président. Candidat Obama (janvier 2008)
Nous exprimerons notre appréciation profonde de la foi musulmane qui a tant fait au long des siècles pour améliorer le monde, y compris mon propre pays. Barack Hussein Obama (Ankara, avril 2009)
This year we mark the centennial of the Meds Yeghern, the first mass atrocity of the 20th Century.  Beginning in 1915, the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths.  Their culture and heritage in their ancient homeland were erased. Amid horrific violence that saw suffering on all sides, one and a half million Armenians perished.  As the horrors of 1915 unfolded, U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. sounded the alarm inside the U.S. government and confronted Ottoman leaders.  Because of efforts like his, the truth of the Meds Yeghern emerged and came to influence the later work of human rights champions like Raphael Lemkin, who helped bring about the first United Nations human rights treaty.  Against this backdrop of terrible carnage, the American and Armenian peoples came together in a bond of common humanity.   Ordinary American citizens raised millions of dollars to support suffering Armenian children, and the U.S. Congress chartered the Near East Relief organization, a pioneer in the field of international humanitarian relief. Thousands of Armenian refugees began new lives in the United States, where they formed a strong and vibrant community and became pillars of American society.  Rising to great distinction as businesspeople, doctors, scholars, artists, and athletes, they made immeasurable contributions to their new home. This centennial is a solemn moment.  It calls on us to reflect on the importance of historical remembrance, and the difficult but necessary work of reckoning with the past.  I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed.  A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests.  Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past.  We welcome the expression of views by Pope Francis, Turkish and Armenian historians, and the many others who have sought to shed light on this dark chapter of history.  On this solemn centennial, we stand with the Armenian people in remembering that which was lost.  We pledge that those who suffered will not be forgotten.  And we commit ourselves to learn from this painful legacy, so that future generations may not repeat it. Statement by the President on Armenian Remembrance Day
In the government’s opinion, this is a historical question that should be left up to the historians. Per Stig Moeller (Danish Foreign Minister, 01.12.08)
Ces actes de reconnaissance sont très divers: parmi les 24 Etats, seuls quatre -la France, l’Uruguay, l’Argentine et Chypre- ont promulgué des lois en ce sens. La plupart du temps, il s’agit de résolutions adoptées par le Parlement ou une des chambres du Parlement. Les termes employés dans les déclarations ne sont pas toujours les mêmes: 22 pays nomment bien un « génocide » -contrairement à l’Uruguay, placé dans la catégorie « reconnaissance partielle » de la carte. En Allemagne, le texte adopté par le Parlement en 2005 n’emploie pas le terme mais le président Joachim Gauck l’a prononcé jeudi 23 avril, reconnaissant dans la foulée une « coresponsabilité » de son pays dans les massacres. Des variations existent aussi sur l’identification de la responsabilité du génocide. Tous les pays n’évoquent pas la Turquie. Ainsi, la France et le Vatican ne mentionnent pas du tout Ankara, quand la Belgique, l’Italie, la Suisse, le Liban, la Syrie ou le Chili parlent de « l’Empire ottoman ». L’Express
Nous n’avons pas l’intention de faire de ces manifestations une sorte d’hystérie anti-turque. L’un de nos objectifs est de faire un appel à l’humanité toute entière pour lutter contre les génocides. Nous voudrions commémorer le génocide arménien en commun avec le peuple turc. C’est cet objectif qui était à la base des protocoles signés en 2009 pour le rétablissement des relations. Un objectif que je visais aussi avec mon invitation à la Turquie de se rendre au Mémorial en Arménie, le 24 avril. Malheureusement, nous nous sommes heurtés à une démarche négationniste qui a trouvé – pardon de le dire ainsi – une expression particulièrement cynique cette année. La bataille de Gallipoli n’a pas commencé et s’est encore moins achevée le 24 avril. C’est une sorte de blessure adressée au peuple arménien. En même temps, il est évident que c’est une démarche qui vise à créer des obstacles à la commémoration du génocide arménien. Serge Sarkissian (président arménien, 23.03.15)
Cette année, nous allons commémorer le centième anniversaire des batailles des Dardanelles. Nous n’allions pas demander la permission à l’Arménie. La date est établie. Nous connaissons la date. C’est le centième anniversaire de ces batailles des Dardanelles. Et il n’y a aucun rapport de près ou de loin avec les cérémonies qui vont être organisées en Arménie. Au contraire, je pense que c’est eux qui ont fait une indexation sur notre date à nous. (…) Le 24 avril, nous allons essayer d’apporter une contribution à la paix mondiale. Le 18 et le 24 avril, nous allons organiser ces cérémonies (…) Et le 25 avril, nos invités vont participer aux cérémonies de l’Aurore. Erdogan (27.03.15)
This is a very indecent political manoeuvre. It’s cheap politics to try to dissolve the pressure on Turkey in the year of the centennial by organising this event. Everybody knows that the two memorials around Gallipoli have been held on 18 March and 25 April every year. Ohannes Kılıçdağı (Agos, Armenian weekly)
Winston Churchill described it as « an administrative holocaust . . . there is no reasonable doubt that this crime was executed for political reasons. New statesman
HMG is open to criticism in terms of the ethical dimension, but given the importance of our relations (political, strategic and commercial) with Turkey . . . the current line is the only feasible option. British internal memorandum to ministers (Joyce Quin and Baroness Symons)
Vous voulez dire reconnaître la version arménienne de cette histoire ? Il y avait un problème arménien pour les Turcs, à cause de l’avance des Russes et d’une population anti-ottomane en Turquie, qui cherchait l’indépendance et qui sympathisait ouvertement avec les Russes venus du Caucase. Il y avait aussi des bandes arméniennes – les Arméniens se vantent des exploits héroïques de la résistance -, et les Turcs avaient certainement des problèmes de maintien de l’ordre en état de guerre. Pour les Turcs, il s’agissait de prendre des mesures punitives et préventives contre une population peu sûre dans une région menacée par une invasion étrangère. Pour les Arméniens, il s’agissait de libérer leur pays. Mais les deux camps s’accordent à reconnaître que la répression fut limitée géographiquement. Par exemple, elle n’affecta guère les Arméniens vivant ailleurs dans l’Empire ottoman.  » Nul doute que des choses terribles ont eu lieu, que de nombreux Arméniens – et aussi des Turcs – ont péri. Mais on ne connaîtra sans doute jamais les circonstances précises et les bilans des victimes. Songez à la difficulté que l’on a de rétablir les faits et les responsabilités à propos de la guerre du Liban, qui s’est pourtant déroulée il y a peu de temps et sous les yeux du monde ! Pendant leur déportation vers la Syrie, des centaines de milliers d’Arméniens sont morts de faim, de froid… Mais si l’on parle de génocide, cela implique qu’il y ait eu politique délibérée, une décision d’anéantir systématiquement la nation arménienne. Cela est fort douteux. Des documents turcs prouvent une volonté de déportation, pas d’extermination. Bernard Lewis
Nous avons été consternés de découvrir, au milieu de l’entretien érudit et pertinent sur le fondamentalisme islamique que Bernard Lewis a accordé au Monde du 16 novembre, des jugements d’une teneur bien différente au sujet du génocide arménien de 1915. Qualifier ces massacres de génocide, c’est-à-dire de politique délibérée de destruction d’une population, c’est, dit-il, la  » version arménienne de l’Histoire « . Bernard Lewis ne peut ignorer que, dès le 24 mai 1915, les gouvernements alliés, russe mais aussi français et britannique, ont fait savoir publiquement à la Sublime Porte qu’ils tiendraient pour personnellement responsables tous les membres du gouvernement ottoman et leurs agents impliqués dans ce  » crime de lèse-humanité « . Que les diplomates allemands et autrichiens, alliés de la Turquie et présents sur les lieux, ainsi que les diplomates américains neutres, ont envoyé des dizaines de télégrammes dénonçant la  » campagne d’extermination  » menée par le gouvernement jeune-turc pour  » liquider définitivement  » la question arménienne, en se servant, déjà, de la guerre comme prétexte. Ceux-là mêmes qui ne veulent tenir compte que des documents turcs ne peuvent passer sous silence le procès mené en 1919 par le gouvernement libéral de Constantinople, qui a établi les responsabilités des ministres, du parti au pouvoir et des bandes d’assassins qu’ils avaient spécialement recrutés dans les prisons. L’historien ne peut récuser les témoignages convergents des survivants, à qui on ne saurait dénier le droit de dire leur souffrance. Les preuves abondent aussi bien du massacre sur place d’une partie de la population que des multiples formes de tueries qui ont accompagné la déportation des autres. Les victimes ont été livrées à toutes les morts, sauf celle, que cite Bernard Lewis, par le froid puisque la déportation a eu lieu à la saison chaude. Loin d’être limitée géographiquement, l’éradication de la présence arménienne s’est étendue à l’ouest jusqu’à Bursa, au sud jusqu’à Alep, à 800 kilomètres du front russe. Elle a été conduite par un gouvernement contre une partie de ses sujets, un groupe défini religieusement et ethniquement, et détruit comme tel. Ces actes caractérisent un génocide. Et c’est précisément parce qu’il est dangereux d’abuser du terme qu’il est important de reconnaître le génocide quand il ne fait pas de doute. C’est d’ailleurs l’entreprise de destruction des Arméniens de l’Empire ottoman qui a servi de référence aux juristes des années 30 alarmés par la montée du nazisme, comme le Polonais Lemkin, pour fixer le concept de génocide. Toute tentative de comparaison entre cette extermination planifiée et la guerre civile libanaise, où tout Etat avait disparu, est dénuée de fondement. Nier les faits, effacer le crime, c’est à quoi s’emploient les gouvernements turcs depuis Mustafa Kemal. Qu’un savant de l’autorité de Bernard Lewis accrédite cette thèse officielle, qui réitère elle-même le mensonge des criminels d’hier, rien ne le justifie. Autant il est légitime de soutenir la laïcité contre l’intégrisme, autant il importe de ne pas dissimuler des responsabilités connues de tous. Déclaration collective de trente universitaires et intellectuels (dont André Chouraqui, Jacques Ellul, Alain Finkielkraut, André Kaspi, Yves Ternon et Jean-Pierre Vernant, Le Monde, 27 novembre 1993)
Comparer, c’est différencier. (…) Selon moi, le génocide caractérise un processus spécifique de destruction qui vise à l’éradication totale d’une collectivité. (…) Dans un nettoyage ethnique, on tue les gens en partie, mais on leur dit : par ici la sortie. Dans un génocide, on ferme toutes les portes. Jacques Sémelin
There are few genocides more clearly established than that suffered by the Armenians in 1915-16, when half the race was extinguished in massacres and deportations directed by the Young Turk government. Today you can be prosecuted in France and other European countries for denying the slaughter. But the world’s most influential genocide denier – other than Turkey itself – is the British government, which has  repeatedly asserted that there is insufficient evidence that what it terms a « tragedy » amounted to genocide. Now, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we learn that (in the words of Foreign Office memos) commercial and political relations with Turkey have required abandoning « the ethical dimension ». The Armenian Centre in London obtained hundreds of pages of hitherto secret memorandums, bearing the astonishing admission that there was no « evidence » that had ever been looked at and there had never been a « judgment » at all. Parliament had been misinformed: as the Foreign Office now admits, « there is no collection of documents, publications and reports by historians, held on the relevant files, or any evidence that a series of documents were submitted to ministers for consideration ». In any case, ministers repeatedly asserted that, « in the absence of unequivocal evidence to show that the Ottoman administration took a specific decision to eliminate the Armenians under their control at the time, British governments have not recognised the events of 1915-16 as genocide ». That was the answer given by the government during the House of Lords debate on the subject in 1999. (…) The other routine excuse for denying the genocide has been that « it is for historians, not governments, to interpret the past ». This « line » was described in 1999 as « long-standing ». But genocide is a matter for legal judgment, not a matter for historians, and there is no dispute about the Armenian genocide among legal scholars. Yet Foreign Office ministers insist that the « interpretation of events is still the subject of genuine debate among historians ». This « line » was stoutly maintained until last year, when it was placed on the Downing Street website in response to an e-petition and provoked angry replies from the public. The minister, by now Jim Murphy, was displeased, and became the first to demand to know just what evidence the Foreign Office had looked at. The Eastern Department had looked at no evidence at all. In great haste, it came up with three historians – Bernard Lewis (who had been prosecuted in France for denying the genocide, but then told Le Monde that he did not dispute that hundreds of thousands of Armenians had died), Justin McCarthy (a Kentucky professor whose pro-Turkish work was sent to Keith Vaz, then a minister at the Foreign Office, by the Turkish ambassador) and Heath Lowry, who, although he does not put his own name to denials of the genocide, provoked dispute at Princeton after it accepted funds from the Turkish government to endow his « Atatürk Chair » and he was then exposed as having helped draft a letter in which the Turkish ambassador denounced a scholar for writing about the genocide. It is astonishing, given the number of British historians, from Arnold Toynbee onwards, who have no doubts on the subject, that the Foreign Office should grasp at the straw of three controversial Americans. (…) In August 1939, Adolf Hitler exhorted his generals to show no mercy to the Polish people they were preparing to blitzkrieg because, « After all, who now remembers the annihilation of the Armenians? » If the ethics-free zone in the Foreign Office has its way, nobody in the UK will remember them either. Geoffrey Robertson
Ce n’est pas pour condamner la Turquie moderne, pas plus qu’à Nuremberg on a voulu condamner l’Allemagne qui naîtrait des ruines du IIIe Reich. D’ailleurs, l’Allemagne fédérale dès sa naissance, la République démocratique allemande peu avant sa chute et l’Allemagne enfin réunifiée ont reconnu le génocide commis par l’Allemagne hitlérienne et, en en assumant les conséquences sur tous les plans, ont libéré le peuple allemand d’une partie de son fardeau moral. Les dirigeants de la Turquie doivent suivre cet exemple. Tant qu’ils nieront la vérité historique, tant qu’ils essaieront d’échapper à leurs responsabilités et qu’ils continueront à prétendre que les Arméniens les ont trahis pendant la première guerre mondiale et qu’eux ont seulement riposté, ils seront tenus à l’écart par la communauté internationale, et en priorité par l’Union européenne. Tant qu’Israël ne reconnaîtra pas le génocide arménien, la Turquie se refusera à le faire. L’Etat juif sait que les nazis ont pu se risquer à commettre au XXe siècle un second génocide parce que les auteurs du premier n’avaient pas été punis. Serge et Arno Klarsfeld
L’un des documents des archives des essais de Nurenberg révèle que l’apathie de la communauté internationale, l’oubli du massacre des Arméniens par les Turcs pendant la Première Guerre mondiale et l’absence de réponse appropriée ont encouragé Adolf Hitler à conquérir des territoires et à anéantir les Juifs d’Europe. « Qui se souvient de ces Arméniens? », a déclaré Hitler à son personnel, pour les informer de sa décision d’envahir la Pologne, ajoutant qu’ils ne devaient pas craindre une réaction internationale, en utilisant le massacre des Arméniens comme preuve. (…) Aujourd’hui, lorsque le président turc, qui a été Premier ministre pendant une décennie, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, maintient une ligne anti-israélienne et antisémite claire, le ministère des Affaires étrangères continue d’ignorer l’holocauste arménien et de maintenir vcette basse politique sur la base de mauvaises considérations. Il y a une justification morale et historique à reconnaître la genocide arménien. L’holocauste arménien doit être enseigné dans les écoles. Dans un mois, le 24 avril 2015 nous allons commémorer les 100 ans de l’assassinat de 1,5 million d’Arméniens. Edy Cohen
For years, close ties between Israel and Turkey were understood to be the reason Jerusalem has avoided the repeated requests of Armenians for the international community to recognize the genocide their community suffered at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during World War I. (…) Given the deterioration of its relationship with Turkey, this occasion would seem to provide Israel with a golden opportunity to respond to the moral claim that it recognize the Armenian genocide, just as Pope Francis recently did, followed by the European Parliament. In fact, dozens of prominent Israeli artists and academics recently signed a petition calling on the Israeli government and Knesset to recognize the Armenian genocide. Nevertheless, officially, Israel continues to squirm. The Foreign Ministry recommends showing greater empathy to the Armenian issue, and this will be the first year that Israel will send an official delegation to participate in the memorial ceremony to take place in Yerevan. It will, however, be a low-ranking delegation, made up of Knesset members. (…) A few senior Israeli officials dealing with the issue spoke to Al-Monitor about it on condition of anonymity. They emphasized that this doesn’t just involve susceptibility toward Turkish sensitivities, but also sensitivity that Israel wants to show toward Azerbaijan, which is a neighbor of both Turkey and Armenia. Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, the borders in the Caucasus region have been redefined. One consequence is a continuing state of war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. One of the pillars of Azerbaijan’s new national narrative is the “Khojaly massacre,” which refers to a battle in the village of Khojaly, located in the disputed Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, on Feb. 26, 1992. According to the Azeri narrative, Armenian forces killed 600 Azeri civilians there, including 169 women and children. In this instance, the Armenians deny responsibility for the massacre of civilians, just as they do for a long list of atrocities that the Azeris have blamed on them since WWI. (…) Gallia Lindenstrauss of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies says that Azerbaijan is the Muslim country with which Israel currently has the closest ties. Trade between Israel and Azerbaijan is estimated at over $5 billion. Israel imports some 40% of its oil from there, and exports mainly weapons and sophisticated defense systems to it. In 2012, when talk of an Israel strike against Iran was at its peak, Foreign Policy quoted a senior US official as saying (apparently with considerable hyperbole), “The Israelis have bought an airfield … and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.” (…) Azerbaijan, like the Israeli government, considers Iran’s nuclear capacity to be an existential threat. Azerbaijan’s border with Iran stretches for 611 kilometers (380 miles), making it longer even than Turkey’s border with Iran, which is 499 kilometers (310 miles) long. Meanwhile, Armenia’s border with Iran stretches for just 35 kilometers (22 miles). If the length of their borders can be used to determine the importance of relations with those countries, then Armenia is the least important of all of them. And in general, it is considered an ally of the country that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compares to Hitler’s Germany. Coming back to the official position presented by the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, it would seem that the call to the international community “to prevent humanitarian tragedies in the future” might not refer only to the incidents of mass murder committed daily by the Islamic State against anyone who is not one of them — Yazidis, Christians or Alawites. It is mainly directed against Iran’s “explicit intent of obliterating the Jewish state,” as Netanyahu reiterated April 16 at Yad Vashem during a memorial service for the victims of the Holocaust. Herein lies the real reason for Israel’s policy concerning whether it will recognize the Armenia genocide. The reason isn’t Turkey; it’s Iran. Arad Nir
The first world war operations in Gallipoli – Çanakkale in Turkish – began on 18 March 1915 with the British naval bombardment of the peninsula. Turks have used that date to celebrate their victory against the Allied attack and mourn the soldiers who died in battle. The naval landings on the shores of Gallipoli ended in devastating defeat and are remembered by Australians and New Zealanders on 25 April, known as Anzac Day. After Ankara’s announcement to shift all official commemorations of Gallipoli to 24 April, critics were quick to point out that no significant military event took place at Gallipoli that day and that Armenians had greater claim to it because 24 April 1915 was when Ottoman authorities started to arrest Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul. Guardian
When world leaders, including Prince Charles and the Australian and New Zealand prime ministers, gather at Gallipoli to commemorate the First World War battle at the invitation of the Turkish government in April, the ghosts of one and half million slaughtered Christian Armenians will march with them. For in an unprecedented act of diplomatic folly, Turkey is planning to use the 100th anniversary of the Allied attempt to invade Turkey in 1915 to smother memory of its own mass killing of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire, the 20th century’s first semi-industrial holocaust. The Turks have already sent invitations to 102 nations to attend the Gallipoli anniversary on 24th April — on the very day when Armenia always honours its own genocide victims at the hands of Ottoman Turkey. (…) The irony of history has now bequeathed these very same killing fields to the victorious forces of the ‘genocidal’ Islamist ISIS army, which has even destroyed the Armenian church commemorating the genocide in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zour. Armenians chose 24th April to remember their genocide victims because this was the day on which Turkish police rounded up the first Armenian academics, lawyers, doctors, teachers and journalists in Constantinople. (…) Armenians hold their commemorations on April 24th – when nothing happened at Gallipoli – because this was the day on which the Armenian intellectuals were rounded up and jailed in the basement of Constantinople’s police headquarters prior to their deportation and — in some cases — execution. These were the first ‘martyrs’ of the Armenian genocide. By another cruel twist of history, the place of their incarceration is now the Museum of Islamic Arts – a tourist location to which Prince Charles and other dignitaries will presumably not be taken on 24th April. These killings marked the start of the Armenian people’s persecution and exile to the four corners of the earth. (…) The Turkish hero of Gallipoli, of course, was Lieutenant Colonel Mustapha Kemal – later Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish state – and his own 19th Division at Gallipoli was known as the ‘Aleppo Division’ because of the number of Arabs serving in it. Ataturk did not participate in the mass killings of Armenians in 1915, but some of his associates were implicated – which still casts a shadow over the history of the Turkish state. The bloody Allied defeat at Gallipoli was to cast a shadow over the rest of Winston Churchill’s career, a fact well known to the tens of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who plan to come to the old battlefield this April. How much they will know about an even more horrific anniversary on April 24th is another matter. Liveleak

Attention: un déni peut en cacher bien d’autres !

Etats-Unis, Royaume-Uni, Irlande, Australie, Nouvelle Zélande, Danemark, Espagne

En ces temps étranges où, triste ironie de l’histoire, les djiahdistes de l’Etat islamique terminent sur les mêmes territoires le travail commencé il y a cent ans par leurs prédécesseurs de l’Etat turc …

Et que fidèle à ses habitudes, le Golfeur-en-chef de la Maison Blanche a non seulement encore laissé dans sa poche les promesses répétées, vote arménien oblige, sur la question …

Mais après Paris et Auschwitz, ajouté Erevan à la longue liste de ses absences remarquées …

Pendant qu’avec le refroidissement de ses relations avec une Turquie qui cache de moins en moins son antisémitisme, la prochaine victime sur la liste des génocidaires se voit seule sommer, pour une reconnaissance largement parlementaire et notoirement à géométrie variable voire inexistante selon les termes utilisés et les pays ou même les régions, y compris au sein de l’Etat juif lui-même et dans la France donneuse de leçons en chef et maitresse es lois liberticides, de sacrifier son dernier soutien dans le monde musulman …

Comment s’étonner encore …

Au nom de leur intérêt bien compris et aux côtés du maitre-négationniste d’Ankara …

De l’incroyable contribution des princes Charles et Harry comme des premiers ministres irlandais, australien et néo-zélandais …

A non seulement la célébration du héros génocidaire d’une des plus tragiques défaites de l’Empire britannique …

Mais via la date complètement fictive du 24 avril, les dates officielles turque et britannique étant respectivement les 18 et 25 avril …

A rien de moins qu’une énième répétition du premier déni d’un génocide

Qui inspira à Hitler sa Solution finale à lui ?

Massacres d’Arméniens: Erdogan se réjouit que Washington évite le mot « génocide »

France 24

22 avril 2015

ANKARA (AFP) – Le président turc Recep Tayyip Erdogan s’est ostensiblement réjoui mercredi de la volonté des Etats-Unis de ne pas qualifier de génocide les massacres d’Arméniens perpétrés en 1915, assurant avoir le plein « soutien » de son homologue Barack Obama.

« Je n’aimerais pas entendre Obama dire quelque chose comme ça, et je ne m’y attends pas de toute façon. Pour la Turquie, la position américaine est très claire, elle est contre » la reconnaissance du génocide, a déclaré M. Erdogan lors d’une conférence de presse avec le président irakien Fouad Massoum.

La Maison Blanche a appelé mardi à une reconnaissance « pleine, franche et juste » des massacres de centaines de milliers d’Arméniens perpétrés par l’Empire ottoman à partir de 1915, mais elle a comme toujours évité d’utiliser le mot « génocide ».

« Tout au long de ces six années depuis qu’il (M. Obama) est président, nous avons longuement parlé de cette question et convenu qu’elle devait être laissée aux historiens, pas aux dirigeants politiques », a poursuivi M. Erdogan.

La Turquie nie catégoriquement que l’Empire ottoman ait organisé le massacre systématique de sa population arménienne pendant la Première guerre mondiale et récuse le terme de « génocide » repris par l’Arménie, de nombreux historiens et une vingtaine de pays dont la France, l’Italie et la Russie.

Le président turc a aussi dénoncé les commémorations organisées en Arménie le 24 avril pour commémorer le « génocide ». « Ils vont parler, parler et insulter la Turquie. Nous serons à Canakkale (sur les rives du détroit des Dardanelles: ndlr) ce jour-là, mais l’Arménie n’est pas à notre programme », a-t-il ajouté.

La Turquie célèbre vendredi en grande pompe le 100e anniversaire de la meurtrière bataille de Gallipoli, ou des Dardanelles, qui a opposé d’avril 1915 à janvier 1916 les troupes de l’Empire ottoman à celles de l’Empire britannique et de la France.

Voir aussi:

Génocide arménien : le président Sarkissian dénonce le « négationnisme » d’Erdogan
France 24

23/03/2015

Dans une interview exclusive accordée à France 24, le président arménien Serge Sarkissian a regretté le choix de son homologue turc de commémorer la bataille de Gallipoli le jour des cérémonies entourant le 100e anniversaire du génocide arménien.

À un mois des commémorations du 100e anniversaire du génocide arménien de 1915, le président Serge Sarkissian a dénoncé le « négationnisme » du president turc Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dans une interview exclusive à France 24. Il affirme que la décision d’Erdogan d’organiser en Turquie des commémorations de la bataille de Gallipoli, le jour même des commémorations du génocide, est une « provocation ».

« Nous n’avons pas l’intention de faire de ces manifestations une sorte d’hystérie anti-turque. L’un de nos objectifs est de faire un appel à l’humanité toute entière pour lutter contre les génocides », a affirmé le président arménien. « Nous voudrions commémorer le génocide arménien en commun avec le peuple turc. C’est cet objectif qui était à la base des protocoles signés en 2009 pour le rétablissement des relations. Un objectif que je visais aussi avec mon invitation à la Turquie de se rendre au Mémorial en Arménie, le 24 avril. Malheureusement, nous nous sommes heurtés à une démarche négationniste qui a trouvé – pardon de le dire ainsi – une expression particulièrement cynique cette année. La bataille de Gallipoli n’a pas commencé et s’est encore moins achevée le 24 avril. C’est une sorte de blessure adressée au peuple arménien. En même temps, il est évident que c’est une démarche qui vise à créer des obstacles à la commémoration du génocide arménien », a-t-il regretté.

Les cérémonies du 24 avril en Arménie, auxquelles assisteront François Hollande et Vladimir Poutine notamment, doivent être l’occasion de dire non aux crimes contre l’humanité. Le président Sarkissian regrette que la Turquie préfére « saboter » ce moment de solidarité plutôt que de s’y joindre.

Le chef d’État arménien a également souligné « avoir peur » d’une nouvelle guerre contre l’Azerbaïdjan à propos de la région disputée du Haut-Karabakh, où les tensions se sont accentuées ces derniers mois. Mais il a affirmé que l’Arménie était « prête a se battre » s’il le fallait.

Enfin, le président Sarkissian a dit craindre une « nouvelle guerre froide » entre la Russie et l’Occident, tout en affirmant avoir de « très bonnes relations » avec Vladimir Poutine. Le chef d’État arménien a souligné ne pas craindre que son homologue russe ait des vues sur les ex-républiques soviétiques comme l’Arménie.

Voir également:

Turkey eclipses centenary of Armenian massacre by moving Gallipoli memorial

Change of date by Ankara, which leads to a clash of commemoration ceremonies, condemned as ‘indecent manoeuvre’
Constanze Letsch in Istanbul

The Guardian

16 April 2015

Turkey has been accused of belittling the imminent centenary of the Armenian genocide by advancing its Gallipoli commemorations to the same day.

The anniversary of the 1915 military operations on the Gallipoli peninsula has always been marked on 25 April, the day after commemorations of the massacre of more than 1 million Armenians in the Ottoman empire. This year, however, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has invited state leaders to join him in Gallipoli on 24 April.

“This is a very indecent political manoeuvre,” said Ohannes Kılıçdağı, a researcher and writer for Agos, an Armenian weekly. “It’s cheap politics to try to dissolve the pressure on Turkey in the year of the centennial by organising this event.

“Everybody knows that the two memorials around Gallipoli have been held on 18 March and 25 April every year.”

Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, and John Key, New Zealand’s prime minister, have confirmed they will attend events at Gallipoli. As part of the programme on 24 April, services will be held at several military cemeteries. A Foreign Office spokesman said annual Gallipoli commemorations had taken place on both 24 and 25 April “for a number of years”.
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At the same time, hundreds will gather on Istanbul’s Taksim Square, where a commemoration of the Armenian genocide has been held since 2010. Another rally will be held in the eastern city of Diyarbakır, an important centre from where the state governor oversaw the mass killings in 1915. The main event will be held in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, with a number of foreign dignitaries from Russia, France, the UK and elsewhere.

The Turkish government’s efforts to divert international attention from the commemoration of the massacre have been called “disgraceful” by Armenians.

“It’s not just Gallipoli,” said Nazar Büyüm, an Armenian columnist and writer. “Someone also had the audacity to suggest the organisation of a Gallipoli memorial concert in an Armenian church in Istanbul for 24 April. The government does everything to overshadow the centennial of the genocide this year.”

Turkey refuses to accept responsibility for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the Ottoman empire. In recent days, senior officials have lashed out at the pope and the EU for labelling the events of 1915 a genocide.

The plot thickened on Thursday when it was announced that a senior Turkish government adviser, Etyen Mahçupyan, had stepped down just months after he took on the job – and days after he too used the word “genocide”. Officials said he had retired because he had turned 65.

There are as many as 100,000 Armenians living in Turkey today, but many are too wary of local hostilities to openly project their ethnicity, still less confess their Christian faith.

Professor Ayhan Aktar of Bilgi University in Istanbul, who has long researched the denial of the Armenian genocide in Turkey, was not surprised by the government’s decision to move the date of the Gallipoli events.

“Turkey has been putting forward the Turks dying on world war one battlefields for 97 years, arguing that, yes, Armenians might have died, but so did our ancestors,” he said. “This move just continues this line of defence. It’s indecent, and a disgrace.”

While the Armenian state leader and many Armenians abroad expressed outrage at Turkey’s diplomatic gamble, the reaction in Turkey has been rather mute. Part of the reason, Kılıçdağı says, is the persistent fear of violence against the Armenian community in Turkey.

“Even though the situation has somewhat improved, and even though solidarity with the Armenian community has increased, many have learned to live with the constant fear,” he said. “It has become almost a reflex. Armenians are still a vulnerable group in Turkey.”

The first world war operations in Gallipoli – Çanakkale in Turkish – began on 18 March 1915 with the British naval bombardment of the peninsula. Turks have used that date to celebrate their victory against the Allied attack and mourn the soldiers who died in battle. The naval landings on the shores of Gallipoli ended in devastating defeat and are remembered by Australians and New Zealanders on 25 April, known as Anzac Day.

After Ankara’s announcement to shift all official commemorations of Gallipoli to 24 April, critics were quick to point out that no significant military event took place at Gallipoli that day and that Armenians had greater claim to it because 24 April 1915 was when Ottoman authorities started to arrest Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul.

Hopes of an Armenian-Turkish thaw were raised last year, when Erdogan extended condolences to the grandchildren of all killed Armenians. But this year’s actions have alienated the 100,000-strong Armenian community in Turkey.

“After Erdoğan’s words last year, this was a big disappointment,” said Nayat Karaköse, programme coordinator at the Hrant Dink Foundation, an Istanbul organisation named after an Armenian-Turkish journalist murdered in 2007, which promotes Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, research and culture.

“We expected a more positive step than to try and shift the international focus away from Armenia’s effort to raise awareness about the genocide.”

Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a Turkish journalist and human rights activist, said the forthcoming parliamentary elections made any meaningful concessions by the ruling Justice and Development party impossible.

“They are trying to rally more nationalist votes. Erdoğan is a very pragmatic politician, who is very conscious of political advantages he can gain by any move he makes,” Cengiz said. “But the Armenian issue is a matter of conscience and of morality, which is why Erdoğan is not the leader who will solve it.”

Voir également:

The Gallipoli centenary is a shameful attempt to hide the Armenian Holocaust

Robert Fisk

The Independent

19 January 2015

When world leaders, including Prince Charles and the Australian and New Zealand prime ministers, gather at Gallipoli to commemorate the First World War battle at the invitation of the Turkish government in April, the ghosts of one and half million slaughtered Christian Armenians will march with them.

For in an unprecedented act of diplomatic folly, Turkey is planning to use the 100th anniversary of the Allied attempt to invade Turkey in 1915 to smother memory of its own mass killing of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire, the 20th century’s first semi-industrial holocaust. The Turks have already sent invitations to 102 nations to attend the Gallipoli anniversary on 24th April — on the very day when Armenia always honours its own genocide victims at the hands of Ottoman Turkey.

In an initiative which he must have known would be rejected, Turkish President Recep Erdogan even invited the Armenian President, Serge Sarkissian, to attend the Gallipoli anniversary after himself receiving an earlier request from President Sarkissian to attend ceremonies marking the Armenian genocide on the same day.

This is not just diplomatic mischief. The Turks are well aware that the Allied landings at Gallipoli began on 25th April – the day after Armenians mark the start of their genocide, which was ordered by the Turkish government of the time – and that Australia and New Zealand mark Anzac Day on the 25th. Only two years ago, then-president Abdullah Gul of Turkey marked the 98th anniversary of the Great War battle on 18th March 2013 — the day on which the British naval bombardment of the Dardanelles Peninsular began on the instructions of British First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. At the time, no-one in Turkey suggested that Gallipoli – Canakkale in Turkish — should be remembered on 24th April.

The Turks, of course, are fearful that 1915 should be remembered as the anniversary of their country’s frightful crimes against humanity committed during the Armenian extermination, in which tens of thousands of men were executed with guns and knives, their womenfolk raped and then starved with their children on death marches into what was then Mesopotamia. The irony of history has now bequeathed these very same killing fields to the victorious forces of the ‘genocidal’ Islamist ISIS army, which has even destroyed the Armenian church commemorating the genocide in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zour. Armenians chose 24th April to remember their genocide victims because this was the day on which Turkish police rounded up the first Armenian academics, lawyers, doctors, teachers and journalists in Constantinople.

Like Germany’s right wing and revisionist historians who deny the Jewish Holocaust, Turkey has always refused to accept the Ottoman Turkish Empire’s responsibility for the greatest crime against humanity of the 1914-18 war, a bloodletting which at the time upset even Turkey’s German allies. Armenia’s own 1915 Holocaust – which lasted into 1917 — has been acknowledged by hundreds of international scholars, including many Jewish and Israeli historians, and has since been recognized by many European states. Only Tony Blair’s government tried to diminish the suffering of the Armenians when it refused to regard the outrages as an act of genocide and tried to exclude survivors from commemorating their dead during Holocaust ceremonies in London. Turkey’s claim – that the Armenians were unfortunate victims of the social upheavals of the war – has long been discredited.

Several brave Turkish scholars – denounced for their honesty by their fellow countrymen – have researched Ottoman documents and proved that instructions were sent out from Constantinople (now Istanbul) to regional officials to destroy their Armenian communities. Professor Ayhan Aktar of Istanbul Bilgi University, for example, has written extensively about the courage of Armenians who themselves fought in uniform for Turkey at Gallipoli, and has publicised the life of Captain Sarkis Torossian, an Armenian officer who was decorated by the Ottoman state for his bravery but whose parents and sister were done to death in the genocide. Professor Aktar was condemned by Turkish army officers and some academics who claimed that Armenians did not even fight on the Turkish side. Turkish generals officially denied – against every proof to the contrary, including Torossian’s photograph in Ottoman uniform — that the Armenian soldier existed.
But now Turkey has changed its story. Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently acknowledged that other ethnic groups – including many Arabs as well as Armenians – also fought at Gallipoli. “We [Turks and Armenians] fought together at Gallipoli,” he said. “That’s why we have extended the invitation to President Sarkissian as well.” The Armenian president’s reply to Erdogan’s invitation even mentioned Captain Torossian – although he sadly claimed that the soldier was also killed in the genocide when he in fact died in New York in 1954 after writing his memoirs – and reminded the Turkish president that “peace and friendship must first be hinged on the courage to confront one’s own past, historical justice and universal memory… Each of us has a duty to transmit the real story to future generations and prevent the repetition of crimes… and prepare the ground for rapprochement and future cooperation between peoples, especially neighbouring peoples.”

Armenians hold their commemorations on April 24th – when nothing happened at Gallipoli – because this was the day on which the Armenian intellectuals were rounded up and jailed in the basement of Constantinople’s police headquarters prior to their deportation and — in some cases — execution. These were the first ‘martyrs’ of the Armenian genocide. By another cruel twist of history, the place of their incarceration is now the Museum of Islamic Arts – a tourist location to which Prince Charles and other dignitaries will presumably not be taken on 24th April. These killings marked the start of the Armenian people’s persecution and exile to the four corners of the earth.

Professor Aktar’s contribution – along with that of historian Taner Akcam in the US — to the truth of Turkish-Armenian history is almost unique. They alone, through their academic research and under enormous political pressure to remain silent, forced thousands of Turks to debate the terrible events of 1915. Many Turks have since discovered Armenian grandmothers who were ‘Islamised’ or seized by Turkish militiamen or soldiers when they were young women. Aktar also points out that other Armenian soldiers – a First Lieutenant Surmenian, whose own memoirs were published in Beirut 13 years after Torossian’s death – fought in the Turkish army.

He has little time, however, for either the Turkish government or Armenian president Sarkissian. “If you want to honour the Armenian officers and soldiers who… died for the fatherland (Turkey) in 1915, then you should invite the Armenian patriarch of Istanbul,” Aktar told me. “Why do (they) invite President Sarkissian? His ancestors were probably fighting in the Russian Imperial Army in 1915. He is from Karabagh [Armenian-held territory that is part of Turkish Azerbaijan] as far as I know! This is a show of an ‘indecent proposal’ towards President Sarkissian… it is rather insulting!”

Many Armenians might share the same view. For several months, Sarkissian was prepared to sign a treaty with Turkey to open the Armenian-Turkish frontier in return for a mere formal investigation by scholars of the genocide. Then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported him, along with sundry politicians and some Western journalists based in Turkey. But the Armenian diaspora responded in fury, asking how Jews would feel if friendship with Germany was contingent upon an enquiry to discover if the Jewish Holocaust had ever occurred. In the First World War, American and European newspapers gave massive publicity to the savagery visited upon the Armenians, and the British Foreign Office published a ‘black book’ on the crimes against Armenians of the Turkish army. The very word ‘genocide’ was coined about the Armenian holocaust by Raphael Lemkin, an American lawyer of Polish-Jewish descent. Israelis use the word ‘Shoah’ – ‘Holocaust’ — when they refer to the suffering of the Armenians.

The Turkish hero of Gallipoli, of course, was Lieutenant Colonel Mustapha Kemal – later Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish state – and his own 19th Division at Gallipoli was known as the ‘Aleppo Division’ because of the number of Arabs serving in it. Ataturk did not participate in the mass killings of Armenians in 1915, but some of his associates were implicated – which still casts a shadow over the history of the Turkish state. The bloody Allied defeat at Gallipoli was to cast a shadow over the rest of Winston Churchill’s career, a fact well known to the tens of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who plan to come to the old battlefield this April. How much they will know about an even more horrific anniversary on April 24th is another matter.

Voir encore:

Denmark does not recognize Armenian genocide claims: Minister
Agence France Presse

1/12/2008

Denmark does not officially recognize that Ottoman-era killings of Armenians during World War I constitute genocide, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said Thursday.

« In the government’s opinion, this is a historical question that should be left up to the historians, » Moeller said in a written parliamentary answer, indicating that Denmark would not follow the lead of some 20 other countries, including France, that have labeled the killings genocide. Moeller’s note came in response to a question from parliamentary member, Morten Messerchmidt, of the far-right Danish People’s Party, on whether « Denmark had officially recognized this genocide. » « It is unfortunate that the Danish government refuses to join other countries in recognizing this genocide, » Messerschmidt told Agence France Presse. « It is as if they fear Turkey’s reactions, » he said. Copenhagen’s decision « to not recognize this genocide shows that the government indirectly supports Turkey’s cowardly refusal to take responsibility for its history the way the Germans did after World War II, » he said. The mass killing of Armenians is considered genocide by Armenians but not by Turkey, which rejects the term. According to the Armenian claims, 1.5 million of their kinsmen were killed from 1915 to 1917 under an Ottoman Empire campaign of deportation and murder. Rejecting the genocide label, Turkey states that 250,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia during World War I. A number of countries and official bodies, notably the European parliament, France, Canada and now a United States House of Representatives committee, have labeled the killings genocide.

 Voir de plus:

Bataille de Gallipoli : la Turquie se souvient
Le Point

24/04/2015

« Je veux redire à nouveau au nom de tous, devant la mémoire des centaines de milliers de jeunes qui reposent dans cette petite péninsule, notre détermination à assurer la paix et la prospérité dans le monde », a-t-il promis dans son discours. Entouré d’une vingtaine de dirigeants du monde entier réunis sur les rives du détroit des Dardanelles, le chef de l’État turc a honoré la mémoire des soldats de l’Empire ottoman et du corps expéditionnaire franco-britannique tombés pendant cet épisode meurtrier de la Première Guerre mondiale, et a prêché pour la paix.

« Un remède contre le terrorisme »

« J’espère que Canakkale (Dardanelles) servira d’exemple au monde entier et à toutes les communautés pour transformer notre peine commune en un outil de promotion de la fraternité, de l’amour et de la paix », a-t-il insisté, « un remède contre le terrorisme, le racisme, l’islamophobie et la haine ». « Nous devons honorer l’héroïsme des combattants de Gallipoli dans les deux camps », a renchéri sur le même ton le prince Charles, héritier de la couronne britannique. Malgré ce ton très oecuménique, le message délivré par l’homme fort de Turquie est resté largement brouillé par la polémique sur le génocide arménien. D’autres chefs d’État et de gouvernement, dont les présidents russe Vladimir Poutine et français François Hollande, ont ainsi boudé l’invitation de Gallipoli et préféré rendre vendredi hommage à Erevan aux centaines de milliers d’Arméniens massacrés par l’Empire ottoman à partir du 24 avril 1915.

Ces derniers jours, les Turcs ont vigoureusement dénoncé toutes les déclarations, du pape François au président allemand Joachim Gauck, les pressant de reconnaître un « génocide » arménien, et ont dénoncé une « campagne de dénigrement ». Pour la première fois cependant, un ministre turc a assisté vendredi à Istanbul à une messe en l’honneur des victimes arméniennes de 1915. « Nos coeurs sont ouverts aux descendants des Arméniens ottomans de par le monde », a déclaré M. Erdogan dans un message lu pendant cet office en leur renouvelant ses condoléances. Mais le chef de l’État turc n’est pas allé plus loin. Après la cérémonie internationale de Gallipoli, les anciens belligérants de 1915 ont commencé vendredi à honorer leurs morts dans des rendez-vous « nationaux ».

400 000 morts ou blessés dans les deux camps
Le plus célèbre, le fameux « service de l’aube » organisé par l’Australie et la Nouvelle-Zélande, se déroulera samedi au petit matin, à l’heure précise du débarquement des premières troupes alliées sur les plages turques. La bataille des Dardanelles a commencé en février 1915 par la tentative d’une flottille franco-britannique de forcer le détroit pour s’emparer d’Istanbul, capitale de l’Empire ottoman. Repoussés, les Alliés ont débarqué le 25 avril à Gallipoli mais ont été contraints à une humiliante retraite après neuf fois d’une guerre de tranchées qui a fait plus de 400 000 morts ou blessés dans les deux camps. Malgré la défaite, l’héroïsme des jeunes soldats australiens et néo-zélandais, dont c’était le baptême du feu, contribuera à former l’identité nationale des deux pays. « Leur persévérance, leur dévouement, leur courage et leur compassion nous ont définis en tant que nation », a déclaré le chef du gouvernement australien Tony Abbott.

Comme chaque année, de nombreux touristes ont fait le pèlerinage de Gallipoli depuis l’autre côté de la planète. « Il est très important de revenir ici pour leur rendre l’hommage qu’ils méritent », a déclaré Marjorie Stevens, 87 ans, venue d’Adelaïde (Australie). L’Empire ottoman a fini la guerre dans le camp des perdants et a été démantelé. Mais la bataille de Gallipoli est devenue un symbole de la résistance qui a abouti à l’avènement de la République turque moderne en 1923. À la tête d’un régiment, son père-fondateur Mustafa Kemal y a forgé sa légende de héros national. À un mois des élections législatives turques du 7 juin, M. Erdogan n’a pas manqué de faire vibrer la fibre patriotique nationale. « Nous avons payé un prix élevé pour la victoire de Gallipoli. Il ne faut pas oublier que nous devons à cet esprit et à cette persévérance notre indépendance d’aujourd’hui », a-t-il dit.

Voir de plus:

A genocide denied
Newly uncovered Foreign Office memos show how New Labour has played politics with the massacre of th
Geoffrey Robertson

New Statesman

10 December, 2009

There are few genocides more clearly established than that suffered by the Armenians in 1915-16, when half the race was extinguished in massacres and deportations directed by the Young Turk government. Today you can be prosecuted in France and other European countries for denying the slaughter. But the world’s most influential genocide denier – other than Turkey itself – is the British government, which has
repeatedly asserted that there is insufficient evidence that what it terms a « tragedy » amounted to genocide. Now, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we learn that (in the words of Foreign Office memos) commercial and political relations with Turkey have required abandoning « the ethical dimension ».

For the past ten years, various Foreign Office ministers, from Geoff Hoon to Mark Malloch Brown, have told parliament that « neither this government nor previous governments have judged that the evidence is sufficiently unequivocal to persuade us that these events should be categorised as genocide, as defined by the 1948 convention ». This would have come as a shock to the architects of the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide (for whom the Armenian genocide was second only to the Holocaust), as well as to the wartime British government, which accused the Turks of proceeding « systematically to exterminate a whole race out of their domain ». (Winston Churchill described it as « an administrative holocaust . . . there is no reasonable doubt that this crime was executed for political reasons ».)

What does the Foreign Office know that eluded our government at the time as well as the drafters of the Genocide Convention, not to mention the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the US House committee on foreign affairs and at least nine other European governments? The Freedom of Information Act has now unravelled this mystery.

The Armenian Centre in London obtained hundreds of pages of hitherto secret memorandums, bearing the astonishing admission that there was no « evidence » that had ever been looked at and there had never been a « judgment » at all. Parliament had been misinformed: as the Foreign Office now admits, « there is no collection of documents, publications and reports by historians, held on the relevant files, or any evidence that a series of documents were submitted to ministers for consideration ». In any case, ministers repeatedly asserted that, « in the absence of unequivocal evidence to show that the Ottoman administration took a specific decision to eliminate the Armenians under their control at the time, British governments have not recognised the events of 1915-16 as genocide ».

That was the answer given by the government during the House of Lords debate on the subject in 1999. The thinking behind the genocide denial is revealed in an internal memorandum to ministers (Joyce Quin and Baroness Symons) before the debate: « HMG is open to criticism in terms of the ethical dimension, but given the importance of our relations (political, strategic and commercial) with Turkey . . . the current line is the only feasible option. »

An inconvenient truth
Nobody noticed that this « current line » was a legal nonsense. To prove genocide, you do not need unequivocal evidence of a specific government decision to eliminate a race – neither the Nazis nor the Hutu government in Rwanda ever voted to do so or recorded any such decision. Genocidal intentions are inferred from what governments do and from what they knew at the time they did it; and it was obvious to everyone in Armenia (including diplomats and missionaries from Germany, then allied to Turkey, and to neutral US ambassadors) that the deportations had turned into death marches, and the massacres were influenced by race hatred fanned by the government’s « Turkification » campaign. The internal documents show that the Foreign Office has never had the slightest interest in the law of genocide: its stance throughout is that the UK cannot recognise this particular genocide, not because it had not taken place, but because realpolitik makes it inconvenient.

There is no suggestion in these documents that expert legal advice was ever sought before ministers were wrongly briefed on the law of genocide. The definition of the crime includes « deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part » – a precise description of the Ottoman government’s orders to deport two million Armenians to the Syrian Desert, in the course of which hundreds of thousands were murdered or died of starvation. Courts in The Hague have actively developed the law relating to genocide in recent years, but the Foreign Office memos make no reference to this – its only concern is that ministers should say nothing which might discomfort a Turkish government that it describes as « neuralgic » about its accountability.

The documents show how Foreign Office officials have discouraged ministers from attending memorial services for Armenian victims and from including any reference to this genocide at Holocaust Memorial Day. They advised Margaret Beckett, Geoff Hoon and Kim Howells to absent themselves from the Armenian genocide memorial day in 2007. It is no business of the Foreign Office to discourage ministers from attending memorial services for victims of crimes against humanity.Notable in these hitherto secret documents is how government ministers parrot their Foreign Office briefs in parliament word for word and never challenge the advice provided by diplomats. None of them has ever pointed out, for example, that the « not sufficiently unequivocal » test is oxymoronic – evidence is either equivocal or it is not. It cannot be a little bit unequivocal.

The other routine excuse for denying the genocide has been that « it is for historians, not governments, to interpret the past ». This « line » was described in 1999 as « long-standing ». But genocide is a matter for legal judgment, not a matter for historians, and there is no dispute about the Armenian genocide among legal scholars. Yet Foreign Office ministers insist that the « interpretation of events is still the subject of genuine debate among historians ». This « line » was stoutly maintained until last year, when it was placed on the Downing Street website in response to an e-petition and provoked angry replies from the public. The minister, by now Jim Murphy, was displeased, and became the first to demand to know just what evidence the Foreign Office had looked at.

The Eastern Department had looked at no evidence at all. In great haste, it came up with three historians – Bernard Lewis (who had been prosecuted in France for denying the genocide, but then told Le Monde that he did not dispute that hundreds of thousands of Armenians had died), Justin McCarthy (a Kentucky professor whose pro-Turkish work was sent to Keith Vaz, then a minister at the Foreign Office, by the Turkish ambassador) and Heath Lowry, who, although he does not put his own name to denials of the genocide, provoked dispute at Princeton after it accepted funds from the Turkish government to endow his « Atatürk Chair » and he was then exposed as having helped draft a letter in which the Turkish ambassador denounced a scholar for writing about the genocide. It is astonishing, given the number of British historians, from Arnold Toynbee onwards, who have no doubts on the subject, that the Foreign Office should grasp at the straw of three controversial Americans.

Will we remember?
The head of the department later told Murphy that it had stopped « deploying this line » because « we found that references to historians tended to raise further questions ». Malloch Brown proceeded to read out the old mantra that « neither this government nor previous governments have judged that the evidence is sufficiently unequivocal » on his behalf, even though no government had actually « judged » or received any evidence at all.Parliament has been routinely misinformed by ministers who have recited Foreign Office briefs without questioning their accuracy. The government’s only policy has been to evade giving any truthful answer about the Armenian genocide, because it has abandoned « the ethical dimension » in the interests of relations with a Turkish government that it acknowledges to be unbalanced in its attitude to this issue.

In August 1939, Adolf Hitler exhorted his generals to show no mercy to the Polish people they were preparing to blitzkrieg because, « After all, who now remembers the annihilation of the Armenians? » If the ethics-free zone in the Foreign Office has its way, nobody in the UK will remember them either.

Geoffrey Robertson, QC is the author of « Crimes Against Humanity: the Struggle for Global Justice » (Penguin, £14.99)
His full opinion on the Armenian genocide and the Foreign Office documents can be obtained for free from j.flint@doughtystreet.co.uk

Voir de même:

Israël doit reconnaître le génocide arménien
Serge et Arno Klarsfeld

Le Monde

20.04.2015

Il est temps pour les autorités les plus représentatives d’Israël, son président, le chef de son gouvernement, la Knesset, de reconnaître le génocide dont ont été victimes les Arméniens de l’Empire ottoman.

Dans moins de vingt-cinq ans, ce sera au tour du centenaire du génocide des juifs d’être célébré dans le monde entier, et – nous l’espérons – y compris dans le monde musulman. Comment cultiver cette espérance d’unanimité si l’Etat des juifs se refuse encore à cette reconnaissance formelle pour ne pas indisposer son puissant voisin turc ?

Le génocide arménien a été reconnu par de nombreux pays, et le président de la République, François Hollande, s’est engagé à ce qu’une loi sanctionne la négation du génocide arménien comme la loi Gayssot sanctionne depuis un quart de siècle la négation du génocide juif.

En un temps ou les massacres des chrétiens d’Orient se multiplient, la voix du pape s’est fait entendre pour le déplorer et pour, enfin, proclamer que les Arméniens ont été victimes d’un génocide.

Suivre l’exemple allemand

Ce n’est pas pour condamner la Turquie moderne, pas plus qu’à Nuremberg on a voulu condamner l’Allemagne qui naîtrait des ruines du IIIe Reich. D’ailleurs, l’Allemagne fédérale dès sa naissance, la République démocratique allemande peu avant sa chute et l’Allemagne enfin réunifiée ont reconnu le génocide commis par l’Allemagne hitlérienne et, en en assumant les conséquences sur tous les plans, ont libéré le peuple allemand d’une partie de son fardeau moral.

Les dirigeants de la Turquie doivent suivre cet exemple. Tant qu’ils nieront la vérité historique, tant qu’ils essaieront d’échapper à leurs responsabilités et qu’ils continueront à prétendre que les Arméniens les ont trahis pendant la première guerre mondiale et qu’eux ont seulement riposté, ils seront tenus à l’écart par la communauté internationale, et en priorité par l’Union européenne. Tant qu’Israël ne reconnaîtra pas le génocide arménien, la Turquie se refusera à le faire.

L’Etat juif sait que les nazis ont pu se risquer à commettre au XXe siècle un second génocide parce que les auteurs du premier n’avaient pas été punis. Aucun argument ne peut s’opposer valablement à la reconnaissance que nous demandons à Israël en ces jours ou nous commémorons Yom HaShoah (la Journée du souvenir de l’Holocauste en Israël).

Serge Klarsfeld préside Fils et filles des déportés juifs de France.

Arno Klarsfeld est l’ancien avocat des Fils et filles des déportés juifs de France.

Voir aussi:

Un siècle plus tard, Israël est moralement tenu de reconnaître le génocide arménien
Edy Cohen

i24news

44 membres du Congrès américain ont récemment présenté un projet de loi demandant à l’administration Obama de reconnaître l’holocauste arménien comme un « génocide ». On ne sait pas quand la proposition sera soumise au vote, mais il semble que les États-Unis pourraient très bientôt rejoindre la liste des 21 pays qui ont formellement reconnu le premier génocide du 21ème siècle.

Lorsque la Première Guerre mondiale a éclaté, l’Empire ottoman a déclaré la guerre à la Russie. Les Arméniens, qui cherchaient à réaliser leurs aspirations nationales et établir une autonomie arménienne dans l’Empire, ont été perçus comme des traîtres qui collaboraient avec les Russes. Les « Jeunes Turcs », le parti nationaliste turc qui a déposé le sultan Abdul Hamid II, avaient d’autres plans concernant les Arméniens sur son territoire. Le parti a « turquifié” les territoires sous son contrôle en menant un nettoyage ethnique contre la minorité chrétienne.

Les responsables du génocide arménien étaient les hauts gradés des Jeunes Turcs, soit le ministre de l’Intérieur Talaat Pacha et le ministre de la Guerre, Enver Pacha. Ces hauts responsables ont ordonné la création d’une organisation paramilitaire, l’ »Organisation spéciale » (Techkilat-i Mahsoussé), afin de résoudre le « problème arménien ». La mission confiée à l’organisation était de bannir et de détruire le peuple arménien. Des criminels et les détenus libérés ont été engagés spécialement pour exécuter le plan.

Dans la nuit du 23 au 24 avril 1915, l’armée turque est entrée dans les maisons des dirigeants de la minorité arménienne et a cruellement tué des centaines de personnes.

Par conséquent, le 24 avril symbolise le début du génocide arménien et a été fixé comme journée officielle du souvenir. Les enquêteurs ont estimé que, entre 1914 et 1918 entre 1 et 1.5 million d’Arméniens, hommes, femmes et enfants ont été cruellement et systématiquement assassinés. La Turquie moderne refuse avec véhémence d’admettre son implication historique dans l’assassinat du peuple arménien et investit beaucoup dans la propagande de négation de l’holocauste arménien.

L’un des documents des archives des essais de Nurenberg révèle que l’apathie de la communauté internationale, l’oubli du massacre des Arméniens par les Turcs pendant la Première Guerre mondiale et l’absence de réponse appropriée ont encouragé Adolf Hitler à conquérir des territoires et à anéantir les Juifs dans Europe. « Qui se souvient de ces Arméniens? », a déclaré Hitler à son personnel, pour les informer de sa décision d’envahir la Pologne, ajoutant qu’ils ne devaient pas craindre une réaction internationale, en utilisant le massacre des Arméniens comme preuve.

Israël n’a jamais formellement reconnu le génocide arménien. La politique du ministère israélien des Affaires étrangères a toujours été de « ne pas perturber » les Turcs. La presse a fait en sorte de ne pas publier des articles sur le sujet, les éditeurs craignaient d’affronter le ministère des Affaires étrangères et ont sciemment dissumulé au public israélien le droit de savoir et de se familiariser avec la tragédie arménienne. Une grande partie de la population israélienne n’est pas consciente de la question malgré son importance et son influence sur l’histoire juive.

Tout Israël et le peuple juif en particulier, ont le devoir moral de reconnaître le génocide arménien. Un peuple qui a perdu un tiers de ses membres dans la Shoah ne peut pas nier le génocide d’un autre peuple qui avaient perdu les deux tiers de son numéro. Toutes les tentatives faites ces dernières années pour reconnaître le génocide arménien ont échoué en raison des considérations étrangères et des raisons politiques, la plupart du temps sur l’insistance du ministère israélien des Affaires étrangères et de la peur de la réponse turque.

Aujourd’hui, lorsque le président turc, qui a été Premier ministre pendant une décennie, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, maintient une ligne anti-israélienne et antisémite claire, le ministère des Affaires étrangères continue d’ignorer l’holocauste arménien et de maintenircette basse politique sur la base de mauvaises considérations. Il y a une justification morale et historique à reconnaître la genocide arménien. L’holocauste arménien doit être enseigné dans les écoles. Dans un mois, le 24 avril 2015 nous allons commémorer les 100 ans de l’assassinat de 1,5 million d’Arméniens.

A cette occasion, en plus de la page Facebook que j’avais créé – « Reconnaître le génocide arménien » – La parole est au président d’Israël Reuven Rivlin, le Premier ministre Benyamin Netanyahou et le ministre des Affaires étrangères à venir devront prendre immédiatement des mesures pour reconnaître le génocide qui a eu lieu il y a 100 ans et a été ignoré par l’ensemble de leurs prédécesseurs.

Edy Cohen est chercheur au département d’études du Moyen-Orient de l’université de Bar-Ilan

Voir de même:

Why is Israel still silent on Armenian genocide?

Israel has not joined the EU Parliament and the pope in officially recognizing the Armenian genocide, partly because of its strategic alliance with Azerbaijan against Iran.
Arad Nir

Al Monitor

April 22, 2015

Translator Danny Wool
For years, close ties between Israel and Turkey were understood to be the reason Jerusalem has avoided the repeated requests of Armenians for the international community to recognize the genocide their community suffered at the hands of the Ottoman Turks during World War I. Not only has Israel refused to recognize that the massacre was premeditated and planned by the Ottoman government in Istanbul, it has also exerted its influence in Washington to prevent the United States from recognizing the genocide. This alone was a good enough reason for the various Turkish governments to maintain close ties with Israel. Ankara believed that Israel had almost mystical powers of influence over the White House and Capitol Hill.

Diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey have been foundering for over half a decade. During most of that time, there has been no Turkish ambassador to Israel, while the Israeli ambassador to Turkey was expelled from Ankara in disgrace. Pro-Israel lobbyists no longer meet with the Turkish ambassador in Washington, and the Israel Defense Forces have found apt and even successful alternatives to cooperation with the Turkish military, at least as far as Israel is concerned.

This year, Armenians are marking the centennial of the genocide. Given the deterioration of its relationship with Turkey, this occasion would seem to provide Israel with a golden opportunity to respond to the moral claim that it recognize the Armenian genocide, just as Pope Francis recently did, followed by the European Parliament. In fact, dozens of prominent Israeli artists and academics recently signed a petition calling on the Israeli government and Knesset to recognize the Armenian genocide.

Nevertheless, officially, Israel continues to squirm. The Foreign Ministry recommends showing greater empathy to the Armenian issue, and this will be the first year that Israel will send an official delegation to participate in the memorial ceremony to take place in Yerevan. It will, however, be a low-ranking delegation, made up of Knesset members. Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon presented Israel’s official position to Al-Monitor, saying: “Israel’s position has not changed. We are sensitive and attentive to the terrible tragedy of the Armenian people during the First World War, and express our empathy and solidarity. Most of the international community’s efforts must be focused on preventing humanitarian tragedies in the future.”

A few senior Israeli officials dealing with the issue spoke to Al-Monitor about it on condition of anonymity. They emphasized that this doesn’t just involve susceptibility toward Turkish sensitivities, but also sensitivity that Israel wants to show toward Azerbaijan, which is a neighbor of both Turkey and Armenia. Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, the borders in the Caucasus region have been redefined. One consequence is a continuing state of war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. One of the pillars of Azerbaijan’s new national narrative is the “Khojaly massacre,” which refers to a battle in the village of Khojaly, located in the disputed Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, on Feb. 26, 1992. According to the Azeri narrative, Armenian forces killed 600 Azeri civilians there, including 169 women and children.

In this instance, the Armenians deny responsibility for the massacre of civilians, just as they do for a long list of atrocities that the Azeris have blamed on them since WWI. Given this relationship, it’s no wonder that the Azeris describe Armenian claims of genocide as fabricated. Last week’s decision by the European Parliament to use the term “Armenian genocide” was described by a spokesman for the Azeri Foreign Ministry as “an attempt to falsify the history [and] its interpretation for political purposes” stemming from the parliament’s succumbing to Armenian pressure.

Gallia Lindenstrauss of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies says that Azerbaijan is the Muslim country with which Israel currently has the closest ties. Trade between Israel and Azerbaijan is estimated at over $5 billion. Israel imports some 40% of its oil from there, and exports mainly weapons and sophisticated defense systems to it. In 2012, when talk of an Israel strike against Iran was at its peak, Foreign Policy quoted a senior US official as saying (apparently with considerable hyperbole), “The Israelis have bought an airfield … and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.”

About six months ago, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon paid his first public visit to Azerbaijan. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has visited Baku, the capital, on several occasions. While there, both of them heard from their hosts that Azerbaijan, like the Israeli government, considers Iran’s nuclear capacity to be an existential threat.

Azerbaijan’s border with Iran stretches for 611 kilometers (380 miles), making it longer even than Turkey’s border with Iran, which is 499 kilometers (310 miles) long. Meanwhile, Armenia’s border with Iran stretches for just 35 kilometers (22 miles). If the length of their borders can be used to determine the importance of relations with those countries, then Armenia is the least important of all of them. And in general, it is considered an ally of the country that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compares to Hitler’s Germany.

Coming back to the official position presented by the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, it would seem that the call to the international community “to prevent humanitarian tragedies in the future” might not refer only to the incidents of mass murder committed daily by the Islamic State against anyone who is not one of them — Yazidis, Christians or Alawites. It is mainly directed against Iran’s “explicit intent of obliterating the Jewish state,” as Netanyahu reiterated April 16 at Yad Vashem during a memorial service for the victims of the Holocaust. Herein lies the real reason for Israel’s policy concerning whether it will recognize the Armenia genocide. The reason isn’t Turkey; it’s Iran.

Arad Nir
Contributor,  Israel Pulse
Arad Nir Is the head of the foreign news desk and international commentator for Channel 2 News, the largest news provider in Israel. Arad has covered international politics and diplomacy, ethnic conflicts around the world and interviewed various world leaders, decision-makers and opinion leaders. He teaches TV journalism at the IDC Herzliya and Netanya Academic College.
Original Al-Monitor Translations

Voir encore:

Le dilemme d’Israël face au génocide arménien
Cyrille Louis
Le Figaro

24/04/2015

L’Etat hébreu, soucieux de ne pas froisser la Turquie et l’Azerbaïdjan, s’est toujours refusé à qualifier ainsi les massacres survenus en 1915. Mais une partie de l’opinion israélienne réclame la remise en cause de cette posture.

Correspondant à Jérusalem

L’Etat hébreu, qui a toujours refusé de reconnaître le génocide arménien, ne sera pas pour autant absent des cérémonies organisées à Erevan pour en commémorer le centenaire. Sous pression d’une partie de son opinion publique, le gouvernement a décidé de s’y faire représenter par une délégation parlementaire. «Cette démarche reflète la sympathie et la solidarité que nous éprouvons vis-à-vis du peuple arménien», explique Emmanuel Nahshon, le porte-parole du ministère des Affaires étrangères, tout en soulignant qu’il n’est pas question, à ce stade, de remettre en cause la position israélienne. «Nous continuons d’évoquer une tragédie, et non pas un génocide, pour désigner les événements survenus en 1915», rappelle-t-il.

Avant de s’envoler pour Erevan, le député Nachman Shai (Union sioniste) et sa collègue Anat Berko (Likoud) ont ainsi été priés par les diplomates israéliens de choisir avec soin les mots qu’ils emploieront durant leur mission. Pas question, les a-t-on mis en garde, d’afficher des positions qui risqueraient de froisser la Turquie ou l’Azerbaïdjan. Mais la participation de ces deux parlementaires aux cérémonies d’Erevan laisse penser que la position israélienne n’est pas gravée dans le marbre. «Israël doit se demander si l’heure n’est pas venue de reconnaître qu’un génocide s’est déroulé en Arménie», explique Nachman Shai, qui, à titre personnel, parle d’un «holocauste arménien». «En tant que Juifs, nous avons la responsabilité de franchir ce pas, ajoute-t-il. Notre participation à ces commémorations traduit un engagement fort et clair de la Knesset, qui a régulièrement commémoré le souvenir des victimes, à réexaminer cette question.»

Une pétition pour la reconnaissance du génocide
Le gouvernement, soulignant que seuls une vingtaine de pays ont à ce jour reconnu le génocide arménien, considère qu’une telle démarche irait à l’encontre de ses intérêts stratégiques. Elle risquerait d’aggraver encore la brouille avec Ankara, l’un des rares alliés qu’Israël compte dans la région, avec lequel les relations sont des plus fraîches depuis l’assaut mortel contre le navire Mavi Marmara (2010). Elle ne manquerait pas, en outre, de froisser l’Azerbaïdjan. Or l’Etat hébreu entretient depuis les années 1990 un lien étroit avec Bakou, qui lui apporte une aide discrète mais essentielle dans ses efforts pour surveiller le programme nucléaire iranien. La relation entre les deux pays est «semblable à un iceberg», aurait jadis confié le président Ilham Aliyev, qui précisait alors: «Elles se déroulent à 90% sous la surface…»

Cent ans après le génocide arménien, de nombreuses voix appellent cependant les autorités israéliennes à ne pas sacrifier leurs principes à ces considérations géopolitiques. «En tant que descendants d’un peuple qui a connu l’Holocauste et qui se bat encore contre sa négation, il nous incombe de montrer une sensibilité particulière aux désastres subis par d’autres peuples», affirme une pétition récemment signée par une groupe d’universitaires, d’artistes, d’ex-officiers généraux et de responsables politiques israéliens. Le président Reuven Rivlin, élu au printemps 2014, est lui-même un partisan notoire de la reconnaissance du génocide arménien. Au nom de la raison d’Etat, il a récemment mis ce point de vue en sourdine. «Rouvrir ce débat au moment du centenaire n’a pas paru opportun, décrypte un responsable israélien, mais il ne serait pas surprenant qu’il revienne sur la table une fois les commémorations achevées…»

Voir enfin:

CARTE. La reconnaissance du génocide arménien dans le monde
Marie Le Douaran

L’Express

24/04/2015

Quelques jours avant la commémoration du centenaire des massacres, le Parlement autrichien et le Pape François ont reconnu publiquement le terme « génocide » que la Turquie nie catégoriquement.

Alors que l’Arménie commémore ce vendredi le centenaire des massacres perpétrés contre les Arméniens de Turquie au cours de la Première Guerre mondiale, 24 pays dans le monde reconnaissent actuellement le génocide arménien. Le Parlement européen et l’ONU qualifient aussi ces événements de « génocide ».

Ces actes de reconnaissance sont très divers: parmi les 24 Etats, seuls quatre -la France, l’Uruguay, l’Argentine et Chypre- ont promulgué des lois en ce sens. La plupart du temps, il s’agit de résolutions adoptées par le Parlement ou une des chambres du Parlement.

Les termes employés dans les déclarations ne sont pas toujours les mêmes: 22 pays nomment bien un « génocide » -contrairement à l’Uruguay, placé dans la catégorie « reconnaissance partielle » de la carte. En Allemagne, le texte adopté par le Parlement en 2005 n’emploie pas le terme mais le président Joachim Gauck l’a prononcé jeudi 23 avril, reconnaissant dans la foulée une « coresponsabilité » de son pays dans les massacres.

Des variations existent aussi sur l’identification de la responsabilité du génocide. Tous les pays n’évoquent pas la Turquie. Ainsi, la France et le Vatican ne mentionnent pas du tout Ankara, quand la Belgique, l’Italie, la Suisse, le Liban, la Syrie ou le Chili parlent de « l’Empire ottoman ».

La reconnaissance du génocide donne lieu à des tensions diplomatiques. Ainsi, la Turquie a rappelé son ambassadeur en Autriche cette semaine, après que Vienne a reconnu les massacres. Pour ne pas froisser la Turquie, Israël ne reconnaît toujours pas le génocide, mais évoque une « tragédie », et la Knesset n’a pas adopté de résolution. C’est également un des sujets qui ont pu freiner les discussions entre l’Union européenne et la Turquie, en vue d’une adhésion.


Doctrine Obama: Attention, un Münich peut en cacher un autre ! (Former British adviser to US troops: How Obama lost Iraq)

16 avril, 2015
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Notre contrat devient pire, à chaque instant. Lando Carlissian (murmurant entre ses dents)
If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow. Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he’ll use the arsenal. President Clinton (February 1998)
[La mission des forces armées américaines et britanniques est d’]attaquer les programmes d’armement nucléaires, chimiques et biologiques de l’Irak et sa capacité militaire à menacer ses voisins (…) On ne peut laisser Saddam Hussein menacer ses voisins ou le monde avec des armements nucléaires, des gaz toxiques, ou des armes biologiques. » (…) Il y a six semaines, Saddam Hussein avait annoncé qu’il ne coopérerait plus avec l’Unscom [la commission chargée du désarmement en Irak (…). D’autres pays [que l’Irak possèdent des armements de destruction massive et des missiles balistiques. Avec Saddam, il y a une différence majeure : il les a utilisés. Pas une fois, mais de manière répétée (…). Confronté au dernier acte de défiance de Saddam, fin octobre, nous avons mené une intense campagne diplomatique contre l’Irak, appuyée par une imposante force militaire dans la région (…). J’avais alors décidé d’annuler l’attaque de nos avions (…) parce que Saddam avait accepté nos exigences. J’avais conclu que la meilleure chose à faire était de donner à Saddam une dernière chance (…).  Les inspecteurs en désarmement de l’ONU ont testé la volonté de coopération irakienne (…). Hier soir, le chef de l’Unscom, Richard Butler, a rendu son rapport au secrétaire général de l’ONU [Kofi Annan. Les conclusions sont brutales, claires et profondément inquiétantes. Dans quatre domaines sur cinq, l’Irak n’a pas coopéré. En fait, il a même imposé de nouvelles restrictions au travail des inspecteurs (…). Nous devions agir et agir immédiatement (…).  J’espère que Saddam va maintenant finalement coopérer avec les inspecteurs et respecter les résolutions du Conseil de sécurité. Mais nous devons nous préparer à ce qu’il ne le fasse pas et nous devons faire face au danger très réel qu’il représente. Nous allons donc poursuivre une stratégie à long terme pour contenir l’Irak et ses armes de destruction massive et travailler jusqu’au jour où l’Irak aura un gouvernement digne de sa population (…). La dure réalité est qu’aussi longtemps que Saddam reste au pouvoir il menace le bien-être de sa population, la paix de la région et la sécurité du monde. La meilleure façon de mettre un terme définitif à cette menace est la constitution d’un nouveau gouvernement, un gouvernement prêt à vivre en paix avec ses voisins, un gouvernement qui respecte les droits de sa population. Bill Clinton (16.12.98)
 Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East, and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia. Don Rumsfeld (2005)
They will try to re-establish a caliphate throughout the entire Muslim world. Just as we had the opportunity to learn what the Nazis were going to do, from Hitler’s world in ‘Mein Kampf,’, we need to learn what these people intend to do from their own words. General Abizaid (2005)
The word getting the workout from the nation’s top guns these days is « caliphate » – the term for the seventh-century Islamic empire that spanned the Middle East, spread to Southwest Asia, North Africa and Spain, then ended with the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258. The term can also refer to other caliphates, including the one declared by the Ottoman Turks that ended in 1924. (…) A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq. In the view of John L. Esposito, an Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University, there is a difference between the ability of small bands of terrorists to commit attacks across the world and achieving global conquest. « It is certainly correct to say that these people have a global design, but the administration ought to frame it realistically, » said Mr. Esposito, the founding director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown. « Otherwise they can actually be playing into the hands of the Osama bin Ladens of the world because they raise this to a threat that is exponentially beyond anything that Osama bin Laden can deliver. » Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, said Al Qaeda was not leading a movement that threatened to mobilize the vast majority of Muslims. A recent poll Mr. Telhami conducted with Zogby International of 3,900 people in six countries – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon – found that only 6 percent sympathized with Al Qaeda’s goal of seeking an Islamic state. The notion that Al Qaeda could create a new caliphate, he said, is simply wrong. « There’s no chance in the world that they’ll succeed, » he said. « It’s a silly threat. » (On the other hand, more than 30 percent in Mr. Telhami’s poll said they sympathized with Al Qaeda, because the group stood up to America.) The term « caliphate » has been used internally by policy hawks in the Pentagon since the planning stages for the war in Iraq, but the administration’s public use of the word has increased this summer and fall, around the time that American forces obtained a letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 leader in Al Qaeda, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The 6,000-word letter, dated early in July, called for the establishment of a militant Islamic caliphate across Iraq before Al Qaeda’s moving on to Syria, Lebanon and Egypt and then a battle against Israel. In recent weeks, the administration’s use of « caliphate » has only intensified, as Mr. Bush has begun a campaign of speeches to try to regain support for the war. He himself has never publicly used the term, although he has repeatedly described the caliphate, as he did in a speech last week when he said that the terrorists want to try to establish « a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain. » Six days earlier, Mr. Edelman, the under secretary of defense, made it clear. « Iraq’s future will either embolden terrorists and expand their reach and ability to re-establish a caliphate, or it will deal them a crippling blow, » he said. « For us, failure in Iraq is just not an option. » NYT (2005)
They demand the elimination of Israel; the withdrawal of all Westerners from Muslim countries, irrespective of the wishes of people and government; the establishment of effectively Taleban states and Sharia law in the Arab world en route to one caliphate of all Muslim nations. Tony Blair (2005)
I remember having a conversation with one of the colonels out in the field, and although he did not believe that a rapid unilateral withdrawal would actually be helpful, there was no doubt that the US occupation in Iraq was becoming an increasing source of irritation. And that one of the things that we’re going to need to do – and to do sooner rather than later – is to transition our troops out of the day-to-day operations in Iraq and to have a much lower profile and a smaller footprint in the country over the coming year. On the other hand, I did also ask some people who were not particularly sympathetic to the initial war, but were now trying to make things work in Iraq – what they thought would be the result of a total withdrawal and I think the general view was that we were in such a delicate situation right now and that there was so little institutional capacity on the part of the Iraqi government, that a full military withdrawal at this point would probably result in significant civil war and potentially hundreds of thousands of deaths. This by the way was a message that was delivered also by the Foreign Minister of Jordan, who I’ve been meeting with while here in Amman, Jordan. The sense, I think, throughout the entire region among those who opposed the US invasion, that now that we’re there it’s important that we don’t act equally precipitously in our approach to withdrawal, but that we actually stabilize the situation and allow time for the new Iraqi government to develop some sort of capacity. Barack Obama (January 9, 2006)
Having visited Iraq, I’m also acutely aware that a precipitous withdrawal of our troops, driven by Congressional edict rather than the realities on the ground, will not undo the mistakes made by this Administration. It could compound them. It could compound them by plunging Iraq into an even deeper and, perhaps, irreparable crisis. We must exit Iraq, but not in a way that leaves behind a security vacuum filled with terrorism, chaos, ethnic cleansing and genocide that could engulf large swaths of the Middle East and endanger America. We have both moral and national security reasons to manage our exit in a responsible way. Barack Obama (June 21, 2006)
To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready … would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. George Bush (2007)
Sénateur Obama, je ne suis pas le président Bush. Si vous vouliez vous présenter contre le président Bush, il aurait fallu faire campagne il y a quatre ans. John McCain (2008)
The next president of the United States is not going to have to address the issue as to whether we went into Iraq or not. The next president of the United States is going to have to decide how we leave, when we leave, and what we leave behind. That’s the decision of the next president of the United States. Senator Obama said the surge could not work, said it would increase sectarian violence, said it was doomed to failure. Recently on a television program, he said it exceed our wildest expectations. But yet, after conceding that, he still says that he would oppose the surge if he had to decide that again today. Incredibly, incredibly Senator Obama didn’t go to Iraq for 900 days and never asked for a meeting with General Petraeus.(…) I’m afraid Senator Obama doesn’t understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy. (…) And this strategy, and this general, they are winning. Senator Obama refuses to acknowledge that we are winning in Iraq. (…) They just passed an electoral (…) law just in the last few days. There is social, economic progress, and a strategy, a strategy of going into an area, clearing and holding, and the people of the country then become allied with you. They inform on the bad guys. And peace comes to the country, and prosperity. (…) And that same strategy will be employed in Afghanistan by this great general. And Senator Obama, who after promising not to vote to cut off funds for the troops, did the incredible thing of voting to cut off the funds for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. (…) Now General Petraeus has praised the successes, but he said those successes are fragile and if we set a specific date for withdrawal — and by the way, Senator Obama’s original plan, they would have been out last spring before the surge ever had a chance to succeed.(…) But if we snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and adopt Senator Obama’s plan, then we will have a wider war and it will make things more complicated throughout the region, including in Afghanistan. (…) I won’t repeat the mistake that I regret enormously, and that is, after we were able to help the Afghan freedom fighters and drive the Russians out of Afghanistan, we basically washed our hands of the region. And the result over time was the Taliban, Al Qaida, and a lot of the difficulties we are facing today. So we can’t ignore those lessons of history. (…) My reading of the threat from Iran is that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is an existential threat to the State of Israel and to other countries in the region because the other countries in the region will feel compelling requirement to acquire nuclear weapons as well. (…) What I’d also like to point out the Iranians are putting the most lethal IEDs into Iraq which are killing young Americans, there are special groups in Iran coming into Iraq and are being trained in Iran. There is the Republican Guard in Iran, which Senator Kyl had an amendment in order to declare them a sponsor of terror. Senator Obama said that would be provocative. John McCain (26.09.08)
Well, let me just correct something very quickly. I believe the Republican Guard of Iran is a terrorist organization. I’ve consistently said so. What Senator McCain refers to is a measure in the Senate that would try to broaden the mandate inside of Iraq. To deal with Iran. And ironically, the single thing that has strengthened Iran over the last several years has been the war in Iraq. Iraq was Iran’s mortal enemy. That was cleared away. And what we’ve seen over the last several years is Iran’s influence grow. They have funded Hezbollah, they have funded Hamas, they have gone from zero centrifuges to 4,000 centrifuges to develop a nuclear weapon. So obviously, our policy over the last eight years has not worked. Senator McCain is absolutely right, we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. It would be a game changer. Not only would it threaten Israel, a country that is our stalwart ally, but it would also create an environment in which you could set off an arms race in this Middle East. (…) We do need tougher sanctions. I do not agree with Senator McCain that we’re going to be able to execute the kind of sanctions we need without some cooperation with some countries like Russia and China that are, I think Senator McCain would agree, not democracies, but have extensive trade with Iran but potentially have an interest in making sure Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon. But we are also going to have to, I believe, engage in tough direct diplomacy with Iran and this is a major difference I have with Senator McCain, this notion by not talking to people we are punishing them has not worked. It has not worked in Iran, it has not worked in North Korea. In each instance, our efforts of isolation have actually accelerated their efforts to get nuclear weapons. That will change when I’m president of the United States. Barack Obama (26.09.08)
Senator Obama twice said in debates he would sit down with Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Raul Castro without precondition. Without precondition. Here is Ahmadinenene (…) who is now in New York, talking about the extermination of the State of Israel, of wiping Israel off the map, and we’re going to sit down, without precondition, across the table, to legitimize and give a propaganda platform to a person that is espousing the extermination of the state of Israel, and therefore then giving them more credence in the world arena and therefore saying, they’ve probably been doing the right thing, because you will sit down across the table from them and that will legitimize their illegal behavior. (…)  Look, I’ll sit down with anybody, but there’s got to be pre-conditions. Those pre-conditions would apply that we wouldn’t legitimize with a face to face meeting, a person like Ahmadinejad. Now, Senator Obama said, without preconditions. John McCain (26.09.08)
J’espère que j’ai tort et que le président a raison, mais j’ai bien peur que cette décision provoque des situations qui vont revenir hanter notre pays. Lindsey Graham
L’Irak (…) pourrait être l’un des grands succès de cette administration. Joe Biden (10.02.10)
Nous laissons derrière nous un État souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec un gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille finale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour (…) C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris neuf ans (…)
Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus de 1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30 000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles (…) les dirigeants et les historiens continueront à analyser les leçons stratégiques de l’Irak». «Et nos commandants prendront en compte des leçons durement apprises lors de campagnes militaires à l’avenir (…) Mais la leçon la plus importante que vous nous apprenez n’est pas une leçon en stratégie militaire, c’est une leçon sur le caractère de notre pays», car «malgré toutes les difficultés auxquelles notre pays fait face, vous nous rappelez que rien n’est impossible pour les Américains lorsqu’ils sont solidaires.
Obama (14.12.11)
We think a successful, democratic Iraq can be a model for the entire region. Obama (12.12.11)
Nous laissons derrière nous un Etat souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec une gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille filnale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour. C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris presque neuf ans. Et aujourd’hui nous nous souvenons de tout ce que vous avez fait pour le rendre possible. (…) Dur travail et sacrifice. Ces mots décrivent à peine le prix de cette guerre, et le courage des hommes et des femmes qui l’ont menée. Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus d’1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30.000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles. Près de 4.500 Américains ont perdu la vie, dont 202 héros tombés au champ d’honneur venus d’ici, Fort Bragg. (…) Les dirigeants et les historiens continueront à analyser les leçons stratégiques de l’Irak. Et nos commandants prendront en compte des leçons durement apprises lors de campagnes militaires à l’avenir. Mais la leçon la plus importante que vous nous apprenez n’est pas une leçon en stratégie militaire, c’est une leçon sur le caractère de notre pays, car malgré toutes les difficultés auxquelles notre pays fait face, vous nous rappelez que rien n’est impossible pour les Américains lorsqu’ils sont solidaires. Obama (14.12.11)
Vous devez vous montrer clair, à la fois pour nos alliés et nos ennemis. Vous avez fait un discours il y a quelques semaines au cours duquel vous avez déclaré que vous pensiez que nous devrions avoir encore des soldats en Irak. Ce n’est pas vraiment la bonne façon d’affronter les enjeux de la région. Il est évident que nous ne pouvons pas affronter tous les enjeux de façon militaire. Et ce que j’ai fait pendant ma présidence et continuerai à faire, c’est d’abord m’assurer que ces pays soutiennent nos efforts contre le terrorisme ; qu’ils veillent à notre intérêt pour la sécurité d’Israël, car c’est notre plus fidèle allié dans la région ; qu’ils protègent les minorités religieuses et les femmes, car ces pays ne peuvent se développer si seulement une moitié de la population y contribue ; que nous développions leurs économies. Mais nous devons reconnaître que nous ne pouvons plus faire de construction nationale dans ces régions. Une partie du leadership américain est de veiller à ce que nous construisions d’abord notre pays. Cela nous aidera à garder le type de leadership dont nous avons besoin. Obama (23.10.2012)
What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision. Barack Hussein Obama (09.08.14)
If only Obama had paid attention to Iraq … But his only interest in Iraq was in ending the war. (…) Iran’s goal was to ensure that Iraq was not integrated into the Arab world, instead becoming a close ally of Iran. Emma Sky
The surge did really work.  It was a complicated series of events that led to the surge’s ultimate success, but one of the empirical metrics we can look to is that violence was reduced by 90% from pre-surge highs. Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus had a theory, which proved absolutely correct, that by reducing the sectarian violence what you would get is more room for politicians in Baghdad to have more flexibility to reach compromises, and that would in turn build upon itself in the form of political cooperation that would lead to further reduction of violence; and that’s what happened. From 2007 through 2010, we really saw the violence coming down as Sunni Arabs were reintegrating into Iraqi politics after being purged in a wholesale manner following the invasion of 2003. The Sunnis came back into the political process and fought al-Qaeda and formed the Iraqiya coalition that eventually won in the 2010 elections. It became the primary driver for the reduction in violence from the Sunni side and that was reciprocated by a reduction of violence by Shia Islamist militias that had been backed by Iran in coordination with Hezbollah and to some extent Assad. Unfortunately, what happened later, for reasons that I cannot even begin to understand, Washington betrayed the promises that the U.S. government had made to the Sunni tribal leaders, the same leaders that had fought al-Qaeda throughout the “Awakening.” With Nouri al Maliki’s sectarian rule, Iraq’s path toward civil war was really inevitable. There was a direct line from Maliki when he returned to power in December 2010 to consolidate his personal control over the organs of the state and steer it toward a very pro-Iranian and sectarian agenda, which inevitably disillusioned and disenfranchised Sunni Arabs for a second time. Then given Maliki’s misrule in Iraq and Assad’s misrule in Syria and their cooperation along with the Iranians and Hezbollah to wage a campaign of genocide, led to a region-wide sectarian war while the United States under President Obama stood back and watched and did nothing as the violence spiraled further and further out of control. (…) Iraq’s unraveling was essentially cemented on March 20th 2003 when the first bombs were dropped on Dora farms and on April 9th when Baghdad fell. Essentially, when Saddam’s regime was blown away, Iraq was blown away too. Saddam had hollowed out the state, similar to Qaddafi in Libya, Saleh in Yemen, and Assad in Syria – the state had become a cult of personality built around one man with no real capacity and no real institutions. When we bombed Saddam’s palaces, the military and intelligence services, and when we watched the Iraqi population rise up to burn and loot the ministries, there was nothing left of the country and nothing left of the state. Therefore, Bremer’s decision to disband the army and create the DeBaathification Commission ensured that the chaos that followed was inevitable.  These decisions displaced hundreds of thousands of members of the Iraqi security services, who were trained and disciplined and knew how to use weapons and where weapons caches were.  When they were told that they had no future in the New Iraq, a violent insurgency was born. So one bad decision was followed by another bad decision, and we ended up with an absolute perfect storm, which led to the chaos that we’ve seen since 2003. Ali Khedery
Dans l’immédiat, notre attention doit se porter en priorité sur les domaines biologique et chimique. C’est là que nos présomptions vis-à-vis de l’Iraq sont les plus significatives : sur le chimique, nous avons des indices d’une capacité de production de VX et d’ypérite ; sur le biologique, nos indices portent sur la détention possible de stocks significatifs de bacille du charbon et de toxine botulique, et une éventuelle capacité de production.  Dominique De Villepin
Even when viewed through a post-war lens, documentary evidence of messages are consistent with the Iraqi Survey Group’s conclusion that Saddam was at least keeping a WMD program primed for a quick re-start the moment the UN Security Council lifted sanctions. Iraqi Perpectives Project (March 2006)
Captured Iraqi documents have uncovered evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism, including a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations. While these documents do not reveal direct coordination and assistance between the Saddam regime and the al Qaeda network, they do indicate that Saddam was willing to use, albeit cautiously, operatives affiliated with al Qaeda as long as Saddam could have these terrorist operatives monitored closely. Because Saddam’s security organizations and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some ways, a de facto link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust. Though the execution of Iraqi terror plots was not always successful, evidence shows that Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime.  Iraqi Perspectives Project (Saddam and Terrorism, Nov. 2007, released Mar. 2008)
Beginning in 1994, the Fedayeen Saddam opened its own paramilitary training camps for volunteers, graduating more than 7,200 « good men racing full with courage and enthusiasm » in the first year. Beginning in 1998, these camps began hosting « Arab volunteers from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, ‘the Gulf,’ and Syria. » It is not clear from available evidence where all of these non-Iraqi volunteers who were « sacrificing for the cause » went to ply their newfound skills. Before the summer of 2002, most volunteers went home upon the completion of training. But these camps were humming with frenzied activity in the months immediately prior to the war. As late as January 2003, the volunteers participated in a special training event called the « Heroes Attack. » This training event was designed in part to prepare regional Fedayeen Saddam commands to « obstruct the enemy from achieving his goal and to support keeping peace and stability in the province.  » Study (Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia)
There is no question that the United States was divided going into that war. But I think the United States is united coming out of that war. We all recognize the tremendous price that has been paid in lives, in blood. And yet I think we also recognize that those lives were not lost in vain. (…) As difficult as [the Iraq war] was, and the cost in both American and Iraqi lives, I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world. Leon Panetta  (secrétaire américain à la Défense)
Who Lost Iraq? You know who. (…) The military recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan, and 54,000 in Germany. The president rejected those proposals, choosing instead a level of 3,000 to 5,000 troops. A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself — the fate of our tragic, missionless 1982 Lebanon deployment — with no real capability to train the Iraqis, build their U.S.-equipped air force, mediate ethnic disputes (as we have successfully done, for example, between local Arabs and Kurds), operate surveillance and special-ops bases, and establish the kind of close military-to-military relations that undergird our strongest alliances. The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal. (…) The excuse is Iraqi refusal to grant legal immunity to U.S. forces. But the Bush administration encountered the same problem, and overcame it. Obama had little desire to. Indeed, he portrays the evacuation as a success, the fulfillment of a campaign promise. Charles Krauthammer
En dernière analyse, ce que nous laisserons et comment nous partirons sera plus important que la manière dont nous sommes venus. Ryan Crocker (ex-ambassadeur américain en Irak)
Nous devons également reconnaître que le choix auquel nous sommes confrontés en Irak n’est pas entre le gouvernement irakien actuel et un gouvernement irakien parfait. Il s’agit plutôt d’un choix entre une démocratie jeune, imparfaite et à la peine que nous avons laborieusement amenée à l’existence, et les kamikazés fanatiques d’Al Qaeda et les terroristes commandités par l’Iran qui essayent de la détruire. Si les politiciens de Washington réussissent à imposer un retrait prématuré de nos troupes en Irak, le résultat sera un monde plus dangereux et l’encouragement de nos ennemis. Comme le président iranien s’en est récemment vanté,  » bientôt, nous verrons apparaître un grand vide de pouvoir dans la région. . . [ et ] nous sommes prêts à combler ce vide. » Quelque soient les imperfections de nos amis irakiens, elles ne sont aucunement une excuse pour que nous battions en retraite devant nos ennemis comme Al Qaeda et l’Iran, qui constituent une menace mortelle pour nos intérêts nationaux essentiels. Nous devons comprendre qu’aujourd’hui en Irak nous combattons et sommes en train de vaincre le même réseau terroriste qui nous a attaqués le 11/9. John McCain et Joe Lieberman
La vérité est que c’est les Sunnites qui ont lancé cette guerre il y a quatre ans et qu’ils l’ont perdue. Les tribus ne gagnent jamais les guerres, elles ne font que rejoindre le camp des vainqueurs. Un Irakien
A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq. NYT (2005)
To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready … would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. George Bush (2007)
More than 600,000 Iraqi children have died due to lack of food and medicine and as a result of the unjustifiable aggression (sanction) imposed on Iraq and its nation. The children of Iraq are our children. You, the USA, together with the Saudi regime are responsible for the shedding of the blood of these innocent children.  (…) The latest and the greatest of these aggressions, incurred by the Muslims since the death of the Prophet (ALLAH’S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM) is the occupation of the land of the two Holy Places -the foundation of the house of Islam, the place of the revelation, the source of the message and the place of the noble Ka’ba, the Qiblah of all Muslims- by the armies of the American Crusaders and their allies.   (…) there is no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the holy land. Osama Bin Laden (1996)
Le peuple comprend maintenant les discours des oulémas dans les mosquées, selon lesquels notre pays est devenu une colonie de l’empire américain. Il agit avec détermination pour chasser les Américains d’Arabie saoudite. […] La solution à cette crise est le retrait des troupes américaines. Leur présence militaire est une insulte au peuple saoudien. Ben Laden
27 août 1992 : les Etats-Unis, la Grande-Bretagne et la France mettent en place une autre zone d’exclusion aérienne, au sud du 32eme parallèle, avec l’objectif d’observer les violations de droits de l’homme à l’encontre de la population chiite.
3 septembre 1996 : en représailles à un déploiement de troupes irakiennes dans la zone nord, les Etats-Unis et la Grande-Bretagne ripostent militairement dans le sud et étendent la zone d’exclusion aérienne sud, qui passe du 32eme au 33eme parallèle. La France refuse cette extension, mais continue à effectuer des missions de surveillance aérienne au sud du 32ème parallèle..
27 décembre 1996 : Jacques Chirac décide de retirer la France du contrôle de la zone d’exclusion aérienne nord. Il justifie cette décision par le fait que le dispositif a changé de nature avec les bombardements de septembre, et que le volet humanitaire initialement prévu n’y est plus inclus. La France proteste par ailleurs contre la décision unilatérale des Etats-Unis et de la Turquie (avec l’acceptation de la Grande-Bretagne) d’augmenter la zone d’exclusion aérienne sud.
Michel Wéry
Les Etats-Unis n’ont pas envahi l’Irak mais sont intervenus dans un conflit déjà en cours.  Kiron Skinner (conseillère à la sécurité du président Bush)
Since a wounded Saddam could not be left unattended and an oil-rich Saudi Arabia could not be left unprotected, U.S. troops took up long-term residence in the Saudi kingdom, a fateful decision that started the clock ticking toward 9/11. As bin Laden himself explained in his oft-quoted 1996 fatwa, his central aim was “to expel the occupying enemy from the country of the two Holy places.”… Put another way, bin Laden’s casus belli was an unintended and unforeseen byproduct of what Saddam Hussein had done in 1990. The presence of U.S. troops in the land of Mecca and Medina had galvanized al-Qaeda, which carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which triggered America’s global war on terror, which inevitably led back to Iraq, which is where America finds itself today. In a sense, occupation was inevitable after Desert Storm; perhaps the United States ended up occupying the wrong country. … If the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia sparked bin Laden’s global guerrilla war, America’s low threshold for casualties would serve as the fuel to keep it raging. … From bin Laden’s vantage point, America’s retreats from Beirut in the 1980s, Mogadishu in the 1990s and Yemen in 2000 were evidence of weakness. “When tens of your soldiers were killed in minor battles and one American pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu, you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you,” he recalled. “The extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the heart of every Muslim and a remedy to the chests of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut, Aden and Mogadishu.” … Hence, quitting Iraq could have dramatic and disastrous consequences – something like the fall of Saigon, Desert One, and the Beirut and Mogadishu pullouts all rolled into one giant propaganda victory for the enemy. Not only would it leave a nascent democracy unprotected from bin Laden’s henchmen, it would serve to confirm their perception that America is a paper tiger lacking the will to fight or to stand with those who are willing to fight. Who would count on America the next time? For that matter, on whom would America be able to count as the wars of 9/11 continue? … Finally, retreat also would re-energize the enemy and pave the way toward his ultimate goal. Imagine Iraq spawning a Balkan-style ethno-religious war while serving as a Taliban-style springboard for terror. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s top terrorist in Iraq, already has said, “We fight today in Iraq, and tomorrow in the land of the two Holy Places, and after there the West.” Alan W. Dowd
De même que les progressistes européens et américains doutaient des menaces de Hitler et de Staline, les Occidentaux éclairés sont aujourd’hui en danger de manquer l’urgence des idéologies violentes issues du monde musulman. Les socialistes français des années 30 (…) ont voulu éviter un retour de la première guerre mondiale; ils ont refusé de croire que les millions de personnes en Allemagne avaient perdu la tête et avaient soutenu le mouvement nazi. Ils n’ont pas voulu croire qu’un mouvement pathologique de masse avait pris le pouvoir en Allemagne, ils ont voulu rester ouverts à ce que les Allemands disaient et aux revendiquations allemandes de la première guerre mondiale. Et les socialistes français, dans leur effort pour être ouverts et chaleureux afin d’éviter à tout prix le retour d’une guerre comme la première guerre mondiale, ont fait tout leur possible pour essayer de trouver ce qui était raisonnable et plausible dans les arguments d’Hitler. Ils ont vraiment fini par croire que le plus grand danger pour la paix du monde n’était pas posé par Hitler mais par les faucons de leur propre société, en France. Ces gesn-là étaient les socialistes pacifistes de la France, c’était des gens biens. Pourtant, de fil en aiguille, ils se sont opposés à l’armée française contre Hitler, et bon nombre d’entre eux ont fini par soutenir le régime de Vichy et elles ont fini comme fascistes! Ils ont même dérapé vers l’anti-sémitisme pur, et personne ne peut douter qu’une partie de cela s’est reproduit récemment dans le mouvement pacifiste aux Etats-Unis et surtout en Europe. Un des scandales est que nous avons eu des millions de personnes dans la rue protestant contre la guerre en Irak, mais pas pour réclamer la liberté en Irak. Personne n’a marché dans les rues au nom des libertés kurdes. Les intérêts des dissidents libéraux de l’Irak et les démocrates kurdes sont en fait également nos intérêts. Plus ces personnes prospèrent, plus grande sera notre sécurité. C’est un moment où ce qui devrait être nos idéaux — les idéaux de la démocratie libérale et de la solidarité sociale — sont également objectivement notre intérêt. Bush n’a pas réussi à l’expliquer clairement, et une grande partie de la gauche ne l’a même pas perçu. Paul Berman
Avec Assad, on voit justement ce qui arrive quand on laisse un dictateur en place. Les problèmes ne disparaissent pas tout seuls. Tony Blair
L’un des arguments des adversaires de l’intervention de 2003 est de dire que, puisque Saddam Hussein ne possédait aucune arme de destruction massive, l’invasion de l’Irak était injustifiée. D’après les rapports des inspecteurs internationaux, nous savons que, même si Saddam s’était débarrassé de ses armes chimiques, il avait conservé l’expertise et les capacités d’en produire. En 2011, si nous avions laissé Saddam au pouvoir, l’Irak aurait été lui aussi emporté par la vague des révolutions arabes. En tant que sunnite, Saddam aurait tout fait pour préserver son régime face à la révolte de la majorité chiite du pays. Pendant ce temps, de l’autre côté de la frontière, en Syrie, une minorité bénéficiant de l’appui des chiites s’accrocherait au pouvoir et tenterait de résister à la révolte de la majorité sunnite. Le risque aurait donc été grand de voir la région sombrer dans une conflagration confessionnelle généralisée dans laquelle les Etats ne se seraient pas affrontés par procuration, mais directement, avec leurs armées nationales. Tout le Moyen-Orient est en réalité engagé dans une longue et douloureuse transition. Nous devons nous débarrasser de l’idée que  » nous  » avons provoqué cette situation. Ce n’est pas vrai. (…) Nous avons aujourd’hui trois exemples de politique occidentale en matière de changement de régime dans la région. En Irak, nous avons appelé à un changement de régime, renversé la dictature et déployé des troupes pour aider à la reconstruction du pays. Mais l’intervention s’est révélée extrêmement ardue, et aujourd’hui le pays est à nouveau en danger. En Libye, nous avons appelé au changement de régime, chassé Kadhafi grâce à des frappes aériennes mais refusé d’envoyer des troupes au sol. Aujourd’hui, la Libye, ravagée par la violence, a exporté le désordre et de vastes quantités d’armes à travers l’Afrique du Nord et jusqu’en Afrique subsaharienne. En Syrie, nous avons appelé au changement de régime mais n’avons rien fait, et c’est le pays qui se trouve dans la situation la pire. (…) Il n’est pas raisonnable pour l’Occident d’adopter une politique d’indifférence. Car il s’agit, que nous le voulions ou pas, d’un problème qui nous concerne. Les agences de sécurité européennes estiment que la principale menace pour l’avenir proviendra des combattants revenant de Syrie. Le danger est réel de voir le pays devenir pour les terroristes un sanctuaire plus redoutable encore que ne l’était l’Afghanistan dans les années 1990. Mais n’oublions pas non plus les risques que fait peser la guerre civile syrienne sur le Liban et la Jordanie. Il était impossible que cet embrasement reste confiné à l’intérieur des frontières syriennes .Je comprends les raisons pour lesquelles, après l’Afghanistan et l’Irak, l’opinion publique est si hostile à une intervention militaire. Mais une intervention en Syrie n’était pas et n’est pas nécessairement obligée de prendre les formes qu’elle a prises dans ces deux pays. Et, chaque fois que nous renonçons à agir, les mesures que nous serons fatalement amenés à prendre par la suite devront être plus violente. (…) Nous devons prendre conscience que le défi s’étend bien au-delà du Moyen-Orient. L’Afrique, comme le montrent les tragiques événements au Nigeria, y est elle aussi confrontée. L’Extrême-Orient et l’Asie centrale également.L’Irak n’est qu’une facette d’une situation plus générale. Tous les choix qui s’offrent à nous sont inquiétants. Mais, depuis trois ans, nous regardons la Syrie s’enfoncer dans l’abîme et, pendant qu’elle sombre, elle nous enserre lentement et sûrement dans ses rets et nous entraîne avec elle. C’est pourquoi nous devons oublier les différends du passé et agir maintenant pour préserver l’avenir. Tony Blair
Ce n’est pas parce qu’une équipe de juniors porte le maillot des Lakers que cela en fait des Kobe Bryant. Je pense qu’il y a une différence entre les moyens et la portée d’un Ben Laden, d’un réseau qui planifie activement des attaques terroristes de grande envergure contre notre territoire, et ceux de jihadistes impliqués dans des luttes de pouvoir locales, souvent de nature ethnique. Barack Obama (janvier 2014)
The prospect of Iraq’s disintegration is already being spun by the Administration and its media friends as the fault of George W. Bush and Mr. Maliki. So it’s worth understanding how we got here. Iraq was largely at peace when Mr. Obama came to office in 2009. Reporters who had known Baghdad during the worst days of the insurgency in 2006 marveled at how peaceful the city had become thanks to the U.S. military surge and counterinsurgency. In 2012 Anthony Blinken, then Mr. Biden’s top security adviser, boasted that, « What’s beyond debate » is that « Iraq today is less violent, more democratic, and more prosperous. And the United States is more deeply engaged there than at any time in recent history. » Mr. Obama employed the same breezy confidence in a speech last year at the National Defense University, saying that « the core of al Qaeda » was on a « path to defeat, » and that the « future of terrorism » came from « less capable » terrorist groups that mainly threatened « diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad. » Mr. Obama concluded his remarks by calling on Congress to repeal its 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force against al Qaeda. If the war on terror was over, ISIS didn’t get the message. The group, known as Tawhid al-Jihad when it was led a decade ago by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was all but defeated by 2009 but revived as U.S. troops withdrew and especially after the uprising in Syria spiraled into chaos. It now controls territory from the outskirts of Aleppo in northwestern Syria to Fallujah in central Iraq. The possibility that a long civil war in Syria would become an incubator for terrorism and destabilize the region was predictable, and we predicted it. « Now the jihadists have descended by the thousands on Syria, » we noted last May. « They are also moving men and weapons to and from Iraq, which is increasingly sinking back into Sunni-Shiite civil war. . . . If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki feels threatened by al Qaeda and a Sunni rebellion, he will increasingly look to Iran to help him stay in power. » We don’t quote ourselves to boast of prescience but to wonder why the Administration did nothing to avert the clearly looming disaster. Contrary to what Mr. Blinken claimed in 2012, the « diplomatic surge » the Administration promised for Iraq never arrived, nor did U.S. weapons. « The Americans have really deeply disappointed us by not supplying the Iraqi army with the weapons and support it needs to fight terrorism, » the Journal quoted one Iraqi general based in Kirkuk. That might strike some readers as rich coming from the commander of a collapsing army, but it’s a reminder of the price Iraqis and Americans are now paying for Mr. Obama’s failure to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Baghdad that would have maintained a meaningful U.S. military presence. A squadron of Apache attack helicopters, Predator drones and A-10 attack planes based in Iraq might be able to turn back ISIS’s march on Baghdad. WSJ
The president is in fact implementing the policy he promised. It was retrenchment by one word, retreat by another.[Obama’s policy is also what the American public showed in polls that it wants right now] ”It wants it, at least until it gets queasy by looking at the pictures they’ve been seeing tonight. George Will
 Affirmer, au bout de onze ans, que ce à quoi on assiste actuellement est le résultat de ce qui s’est produit à l’époque est aussi simpliste qu’insultant. Dans ce qui s’assimile à une perspective néocolonialiste postmoderne, ceci revient à suggérer que les Irakiens ne sont toujours pas en mesure d’assumer la responsabilité de leur propre pays. Abstraction faite de toutes les autres conséquences, l’invasion de 2003 n’en a pas moins donné aux Irakiens une possibilité d’autodétermination démocratique qu’ils n’auraient jamais eue sous Saddam Hussein. C’est cette démocratie imparfaite qui est menacée ; il faut à présent la conserver et l’améliorer. The Observer
Mosul’s fall matters for what it reveals about a terrorism whose threat Mr. Obama claims he has minimized. For starters, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) isn’t a bunch of bug-eyed « Mad Max » guys running around firing Kalashnikovs. ISIS is now a trained and organized army. The seizures of Mosul and Tikrit this week revealed high-level operational skills. ISIS is using vehicles and equipment seized from Iraqi military bases. Normally an army on the move would slow down to establish protective garrisons in towns it takes, but ISIS is doing the opposite, by replenishing itself with fighters from liberated prisons. An astonishing read about this group is on the website of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. It is an analysis of a 400-page report, « al-Naba, » published by ISIS in March. This is literally a terrorist organization’s annual report for 2013. It even includes « metrics, » detailed graphs of its operations in Iraq as well as in Syria. One might ask: Didn’t U.S. intelligence know something like Mosul could happen? They did. The February 2014 « Threat Assessment » by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency virtually predicted it: « AQI/ISIL [aka ISIS] probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria . . . as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah. » AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq), the report says, is exploiting the weak security environment « since the departure of U.S. forces at the end of 2011. » But to have suggested any mitigating steps to this White House would have been pointless. It won’t listen. In March, Gen. James Mattis, then head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress he recommended the U.S. keep 13,600 support troops in Afghanistan; he was known not to want an announced final withdrawal date. On May 27, President Obama said it would be 9,800 troops—for just one year. Which guarantees that the taking of Mosul will be replayed in Afghanistan. Let us repeat the most quoted passage in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s memoir, « Duty. » It describes the March 2011 meeting with Mr. Obama about Afghanistan in the situation room. « As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his, » Mr. Gates wrote. « For him, it’s all about getting out. » Daniel Henninger
My greatest fear is that we stabilize Iraq, then hand it over to the Iranians in our rush to the exit. I’ve invested too much here to simply walk away and let that happen. General Raymond Odierno (commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, 2010)
Where is the U.S.? Does the U.S. have no interest in protecting the democratic process? Does the U.S. not care what sort of government is put together? Qasim Suleimani is very active putting together the Shia coalition. Does the U.S. not understand what impact this will have on the region—and on internal stability in Iraq? Is the U.S. not worried about Iranian influence in Iraq? Rafi Issawi (Iraqi, deputy prime minister)
 I had arrived ready to apologise to every Iraqi for the war. Instead I had listened to a litany of suffering and pain under Saddam for which I was quite unprepared. The mass graves, the details of torture, the bureaucratisation of abuse. The pure banality of evil. But the Iraqis also had huge expectations of the US. After every war Saddam rebuilt the country in six months, so their attitude was, ‘imagine what the US can do after six months. America can put a man on the moon … you wait’. Emma Sky
Nothing that happened in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 was pre-ordained; different futures than the one unfolding today were possible. Recall that violence declined drastically during the 2007 U.S. troop surge, and that for the next couple of years both Iraq and the West felt that the country was going in the right direction. But the seeds of Iraq’s unravelling were sown in 2010, when the United States did not uphold the election results and failed to broker the formation of a new Iraqi government. As an adviser to the top U.S. general in Iraq, I was a witness. (…)The national elections took place on March 7, 2010, and went more smoothly than we had dared hope. After a month of competitive campaigning across the country and wide media coverage of the different candidates and parties, 62 percent of eligible Iraqis turned out to vote. (…) We had not expected Iraqiya—a coalition headed by the secular Shia Ayad Allawi and leaders of the Sunni community, and running on a non-sectarian platform—to do so well. The coalition had won 91 seats—two more than the incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition. (…) Even though there was no evidence of fraud to justify a recount, the Iraqi electoral commission and the international community agreed to one, fearful of a repeat of the election fiasco in 2009 in Afghanistan, which had tarnished the credibility of elections there. In the meantime, Maliki’s advisers told us he needed two extra seats, either from the recount or through arbitrary de-Ba’athification that could disqualify Iraqiya candidates. Otherwise, he would be blamed for losing Iraq for the Shia, who make up some two-thirds of the population. (…)  General O and I did not think that the Iraqiya candidate, Allawi, would be able to put a government together with himself as prime minister. But we thought he had the right as the winner of the election to have first go—and that this could lead to a political compromise among the leaders, with either Allawi and Maliki agreeing to share power between them or a third person chosen to be prime minister. But … Hill, General O strode down the embassy corridor looking visibly upset. “He told me that Iraq is not ready for democracy, that Iraq needs a Shia strongman,” the general said, “and Maliki is our man.” Odierno had objected that that was not what the Iraqis wanted. They were rid of one dictator, Hussein, and did not want to create another. (…) Sami al-Askari, a Shia politician close to Maliki who believed that an agreement between State of Law and Iraqiya was the best way forward (…) also told me that everyone except the Americans realized that the formation of the government was perceived as a battle between Iran and the United States for influence in Iraq. The Iranians were active, while the U.S. embassy did nothing. Qasim Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds Force, continued to summon Iraqis to Iran in order to put together a pan-Shia coalition. The Iranians, al-Askari said, intended to drag out government formation until after August 31, when all U.S. combat forces were due to leave, in order to score a “victory” over the United States. (…) In the Arabic media, there was confusion as to why the United States and Iran should both choose Maliki as prime minister, and this fuelled conspiracy theories about a secret deal between those two countries. (…) The Obama administration wanted to see an Iraqi government in place before the U.S. mid-term elections in November. Biden believed the quickest way to form a government was to keep Maliki as prime minister, and to cajole other Iraqis into accepting this. (…) I tried to explain the struggle between secularists and Islamists, and how many Iraqis wanted to move beyond sectarianism. But Biden could not fathom this. For him, Iraq was simply about Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.(…) If only President Obama had paid attention to Iraq. He, more than anyone, would understand the complexity of identities, I thought—and that people can change. But his only interest in Iraq, it appeared, was in ending the war. (…) In July 2014, I visited Erbil, Iraq, shortly after the Islamic State had taken control of a third of the country and the Iraqi Army had disintegrated. I met up with Rafi Issawi. (…) Rafi listed for me the Sunni grievances that had steadily simmered since I’d left—until they had finally boiled over. Maliki had detained thousands of Sunnis without trial, pushed leading Sunnis, including Rafi, out of the political process by accusing them of terrorism and reneged on payments and pledges to the Iraqi tribes who had bravely fought Al Qaeda in Iraq. Year-long Sunni protests demanding an end to discrimination were met by violence, with dozens of unarmed protesters killed by Iraqi security forces. Maliki had completely subverted the judiciary to his will, so that Sunnis felt unable to achieve justice. The Islamic State, Rafi explained to me, was able to take advantage of this situation, publicly claiming to be the defenders of the Sunnis against the Iranian-backed Maliki government. The downward spiral, Rafi told me not surprisingly, had begun in 2010—when Iraqiya was not given the first chance to try to form the government. “We might not have succeeded,” he admitted, “but the process itself would have been important in building trust in Iraq’s young institutions.” Emma Sky

Attention: un Munich peut en cacher un autre !

A l’heure où, dénoncé presque immédiatement par les intéressés, le prétendu accord « historique » avec Téhéran tourne à la bérézina diplomatique …

Et où la poignée prétendument « historique » avec un Cuba tout aussi inflexible est bien prête de retomber comme le soufflé qu’elle n’a jamais cessé d’être …

Pendant qu’ayant fait main basse sur quatre capitales arabes …

Et se voyant légitimés dans leur quête d’une arme nucléaire …

Les mollahs sont en train de faire basculer, de l’Arabie saoudite à la Turquie l’ensemble de la région dans une course aux armements nucléaires …

Et que, du Moyen-Orient à l’Afrique, se réalisent sous nos propres yeux les pires prédictions, tant moquées, de la bande à Bush sur les intentions caliphatiques des djiahdistes …

Qui se souvient du précédent Munich …

Déjà dénoncé prophétiquement dès 2007 par l’ancien président Bush comme un an plus tard par le sénateur McCain ?

Qui se rappelle …

Comme le confirme, nouvelle Gertrude Bell de l’Irak, l’ancienne conseillère britannique des troupes américaines dans un nouveau livre …

La véritable trahison, par l’Administration Obama, des sunnites qui avaient permis l’élimination d’Al Qaeda en Irak …

Comme l’abandon militaire du pays en refusant d’y laisser assez de troupes …

Pour le plus grand profit non seulement des islamistes que l’on doit combattre à nouveau …

Mais surtout des Iraniens que l’on courtise aujourd’hui ?

How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq
Bush’s mistake was invading the country. His successor’s was leaving it to a strongman.
Emma Sky
Politico
April 07, 2015

When trying to explain the current unrest in the Middle East, from Iraq to Syria to Yemen, American officials often resort to platitudes about Sunni and Shia Muslims fighting each other for “centuries” due to “ancient hatreds.” Not only is this claim historically inaccurate, but it also ignores the unintended consequences that the Iraq War more recently leashed on the region. That war—and the manner in which the United States left it behind in 2011—shifted the balance of power in the region in Iran’s favor. Regional competition, of which Iran’s tension with Saudi Arabia is the main but not only dimension, exacerbated existing fault-lines, with support for extreme sectarian actors, including the Islamic State, turning local grievances over poor governance into proxy wars.

Nothing that happened in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 was pre-ordained; different futures than the one unfolding today were possible. Recall that violence declined drastically during the 2007 U.S. troop surge, and that for the next couple of years both Iraq and the West felt that the country was going in the right direction. But the seeds of Iraq’s unravelling were sown in 2010, when the United States did not uphold the election results and failed to broker the formation of a new Iraqi government. As an adviser to the top U.S. general in Iraq, I was a witness.

***

“My greatest fear,” General Raymond Odierno, the then commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, told me in early 2010, “is that we stabilize Iraq, then hand it over to the Iranians in our rush to the exit.”

General O (as he is known), had recently watched the 2007 movie Charlie Wilson’s War, which recounts how U.S. interest in Afghanistan ceased once the mujahedeen defeated the Soviet Army in 1989 and drove them out. Now, he had a premonition that the same could happen in Iraq. “I’ve invested too much here,” he said, “to simply walk away and let that happen.”

I had first met Odierno in 2003, when he was the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division responsible for the provinces of Salah al-Din, Diyala and Kirkuk in the early days of the Iraq War; I had been the representative in Kirkuk of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American-led transitional government that controlled Iraq after Hussein’s fall. Now, as his political adviser, I was helping General O ensure that the United States kept its focus on the mission in Iraq while drawing down U.S. forces.

Odierno wanted U.S. engagement with Iraq to continue for years to come, but led by U.S. civilians, not the military. He believed that, in order to train Iraqi security forces and provide the psychological support needed to maintain a level of stability, 20,000 or so U.S. troops needed to stay in Iraq beyond 2011, when all American troops were scheduled to be withdrawn. But the real engagement, General O believed, should be from the other instruments of national power, led by the U.S. embassy.

Every time a congressional delegation visited us in Baghdad, General O put up a slide showing why the United States should continue to invest in Iraq through the Strategic Framework Agreement that the two countries had signed in 2008. General O knew that for the mission to succeed, there needed to be a political agreement between Iraqi leaders. Otherwise, all the security gains that the American troops had fought so hard for would not be sustainable. He took every opportunity to educate and communicate these complexities to the new Obama administration.

For six months, General O had tried hard to support the leadership of Chris Hill, the new American ambassador who had taken up his post in April 2009. But Odierno had begun to despair. It was clear that Hill, though a career diplomat, lacked regional experience and was miscast in the role in Baghdad. In fact, he had not wanted the job, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had persuaded him to take it; she admitted as much to General O, he told me, when he met her in early 2010 in Washington to discuss the dysfunction at the embassy. General O complained that Hill did not engage with Iraqis or with others in the diplomatic community—his only focus appeared to be monitoring the activities of the U.S. military.

It was frightening how a person could so poison a place. Hill brought with him a small cabal who were new to Iraq and marginalized all those with experience in the country. The highly knowledgeable and well-regarded Arabist Robert Ford had cut short his tour as ambassador to Algeria to return to Iraq for a third tour and turned down another ambassadorship to stay on in Iraq and serve as Hill’s deputy. But Hill appeared not to want Ford’s advice on political issues and pressured him to depart the post early in 2010. In his staff meetings, Hill made clear how much he disliked Iraq and Iraqis. Instead, he was focused on making the embassy “normal” like other U.S. embassies. That apparently meant having grass within the embassy compound. The initial attempts to plant seed had failed when birds ate it all, but eventually, great rolls of lawn turf were brought in—I had no idea from where—and took root. By the end of his tenure, there was grass on which the ambassador could play lacrosse.

***

The national elections took place on March 7, 2010, and went more smoothly than we had dared hope. After a month of competitive campaigning across the country and wide media coverage of the different candidates and parties, 62 percent of eligible Iraqis turned out to vote.

The author and Gen. Raymond Odiero in Iraq. | Courtesy of Emma Sky

The European Union and others had fielded hundreds of international poll-watchers alongside thousands of trained Iraqi election observers, while the United Nations provided the Iraqis with advice on technical matters related to elections. All this helped to sustain the credibility of the process. Insurgents sought to create a climate of fear by planting bombs in water bottles and blowing up a house, but the Iraqi security forces stood up to the test.

“We won the elections!” Rafi Issawi, the deputy prime minister, shouted excitedly to me on the phone. I could hear celebratory gunfire in the background. We had not expected Iraqiya—a coalition headed by the secular Shia Ayad Allawi and leaders of the Sunni community, and running on a non-sectarian platform—to do so well. The coalition had won 91 seats—two more than the incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition.

I accompanied General O and Hill to a meeting with Maliki the next day. Maliki, a Shia, had been prime minister since 2006. Americans and Iraqis alike initially viewed him as weak, but his reputation grew after he ordered military operations against Shia militias. Since then, Iraqi politicians had become increasingly fearful of his authoritarian tendencies. He had insisted on running separately in the election—as State of Law rather than joining a united Shia coalition as had happened in 2005—in large part because the Shia parties would not agree on him to lead the list. Nobody wanted a second Maliki premiership.

When Hill asked Maliki that day about his retirement plans, it was immediately apparent that he was not contemplating stepping down. Instead, he claimed there had been massive election fraud and that the Mujahideen al-Khalq, an Iranian opposition group locked away in eastern Iraq’s Diyala province, had used satellites to tamper with the computers used to tally the voting results—even though the computers were not connected to the Internet and thousands of election observers had monitored the voting. But Maliki’s advisers had told him he would win big with more than a hundred seats, so he demanded a recount. Maliki was becoming scary.

Even though there was no evidence of fraud to justify a recount, the Iraqi electoral commission and the international community agreed to one, fearful of a repeat of the election fiasco in 2009 in Afghanistan, which had tarnished the credibility of elections there. In the meantime, Maliki’s advisers told us he needed two extra seats, either from the recount or through arbitrary de-Ba’athification that could disqualify Iraqiya candidates. Otherwise, he would be blamed for losing Iraq for the Shia, who make up some two-thirds of the population.

In parliamentary systems, the winning bloc is, by definition, the one that wins the most seats in the election and thus gets to have the first go at trying to form a government. This was certainly the intent of those who had drafted the Iraqi Constitution in 2005. But Maliki sought to challenge this basic notion, pressing Judge Medhat al-Mahmoud, Iraq’s chief justice, for his interpretation of the “winning bloc.” Medhat, continually under pressure from Maliki, returned an ambiguous ruling, saying it could mean either the bloc that receives the most seats in the election or the largest coalition formed after the election, within parliament. This would be Maliki’s escape clause.

General O urged that we should protect the process. He said the United States should not pick winners. It never worked out well. General O and I did not think that the Iraqiya candidate, Allawi, would be able to put a government together with himself as prime minister. But we thought he had the right as the winner of the election to have first go—and that this could lead to a political compromise among the leaders, with either Allawi and Maliki agreeing to share power between them or a third person chosen to be prime minister.

But after one meeting with Hill, General O strode down the embassy corridor looking visibly upset. “He told me that Iraq is not ready for democracy, that Iraq needs a Shia strongman,” the general said, “and Maliki is our man.” Odierno had objected that that was not what the Iraqis wanted. They were rid of one dictator, Hussein, and did not want to create another.

As the embassy did not want to do anything to help the Iraqis form a new government, General O instructed me to try to broker a meeting between Iraqiya and State of Law. They were the two largest blocs, and we saw an agreement between them as the most stable solution—and the one that would also best serve U.S. interests.

***

Finally, in June 2010, three months after the elections, State of Law and Iraqiya, the two largest blocs, headed into negotiations. But there was little trust between the two. State of Law continued to insist on Maliki as prime minister, and Iraqiya on Allawi.

I met up with Sami al-Askari, a Shia politician close to Maliki who believed that an agreement between State of Law and Iraqiya was the best way forward. But he also told me that everyone except the Americans realized that the formation of the government was perceived as a battle between Iran and the United States for influence in Iraq. The Iranians were active, while the U.S. embassy did nothing. Qasim Suleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s al-Quds Force, continued to summon Iraqis to Iran in order to put together a pan-Shia coalition. The Iranians, al-Askari said, intended to drag out government formation until after August 31, when all U.S. combat forces were due to leave, in order to score a “victory” over the United States.

The Iranians had indeed not been idle. They were pressuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to drop his support for Allawi and agree to another Maliki term. For years, the Baathist regime in Syria had allowed jihadi foreign fighters to use their country as a launching pad for horrific attacks in Iraq. In August 2009, coordinated attacks targeted the foreign ministry and the finance ministry in Baghdad, killing around a hundred Iraqis. Maliki had blamed Assad himself for the murders.

The Iranians also were putting huge pressure on the Supreme Council, a Shia party headed by Amar Hakim, to agree a second Maliki premiership. And Iran was seeking to persuade the Sadrists, a Shia party led by Muqtada al-Sadr, through intermediaries from Lebanese Hezbollah, that Maliki would ensure there was no U.S. military presence of any sort in Iraq after 2011, and that the Sadrists would get key posts in the new government. Iran’s goal was to ensure that Iraq was not integrated into the Arab world, instead becoming a close ally of Iran. Maliki would be able to achieve this because all the neighboring Sunni countries hated him. As for Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s Kurdish president, Suleimani was determined to keep him in the role. Their relationship went back decades.

I went to see Rafi, the deputy prime minister. “Where is the U.S.?” he asked. He described how previous U.S. ambassadors had helped to bring Iraqis together. “Does the U.S. have no interest in protecting the democratic process? Does the U.S. not care what sort of government is put together? Qasim Suleimani is very active putting together the Shia coalition. Does the U.S. not understand what impact this will have on the region—and on internal stability in Iraq? Is the U.S. not worried about Iranian influence in Iraq?”

In July, Maliki’s fortunes appeared to take a decisive turn for the worse: The Shia coalition sent him a letter requesting that he withdraw his candidature for prime minister; Iraqiya made it clear that they would offer him the speakership of the parliament or the presidency, but not the premiership, and the Kurds explained that they really did not want to see him as prime minister for another four years.

General O and Hill met Maliki and told him frankly that he had little support from other groups, so it would be very hard for him to remain as prime minister. Maliki continued to insist that only he could do the job, only he could save Iraq. “I dream I am on a boat,” he said. “I keep trying to pull Iraqis out of the water to save them.”

The embassy informed the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Allawi and other Iraqi leaders that Maliki had no chance of being prime minister.

***

General O went back to Washington in mid-July for more meetings. He phoned to tell me that Vice President Joe Biden had agreed to give Maliki and Allawi a deadline. If they could not reach an agreement within two weeks on how to form the government, they should both step aside and let others have a shot at it.

However, when Biden phoned up the two leaders that week, he did not stick to the agreed line. Instead, he told Maliki that the United States would support him remaining as prime minister, and he told Allawi that he should accept Maliki as PM. In the Arabic media, there was confusion as to why the United States and Iran should both choose Maliki as prime minister, and this fuelled conspiracy theories about a secret deal between those two countries.

When I met Rafi, he was incredulous: “How come one week the U.S. was telling everyone that Maliki should step down and the next week telling Maliki he should be PM?” He went on: “Why is the U.S. picking the prime minister? This is Iraq. This is our country. We have to live here. And we care passionately about building a future for our children.” He was deeply upset.

Biden visited Iraq at the end of August 2010. By then, Hill had been replaced as ambassador by Jim Jeffrey. In internal meetings, one U.S. adviser argued that Maliki was “our man”: He would give us a follow-on Status of Forces Agreement to keep a small contingent of U.S. forces in Iraq after 2011; he was a nationalist; and he would fight the Sadrists. Furthermore, the official claimed that Maliki had promised him that he would not seek a third term. “Maliki is not our friend,” replied another official, Jeff Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, exasperated at the delusional nature of the discussion. But Biden had been persuaded by the arguments that there was no one but Maliki who could be prime minister and that he would sign a new security agreement with the United States. The Obama administration wanted to see an Iraqi government in place before the U.S. mid-term elections in November. Biden believed the quickest way to form a government was to keep Maliki as prime minister, and to cajole other Iraqis into accepting this.

“Iraqiya genuinely fear Maliki,” General O explained. They were scared that he would accuse them of being terrorists or bring charges of corruption against them, and would arrest them. Maliki had accused Rafi of being the leader of a terrorist group, for instance—allegations that were totally unfounded. General O described how Maliki had changed so much over the past six months. He had become more sectarian and authoritarian. Iraqis had reason to fear him.

I tried to explain the struggle between secularists and Islamists, and how many Iraqis wanted to move beyond sectarianism. But Biden could not fathom this. For him, Iraq was simply about Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.

I tried another tack: “It is important to build belief in the democratic process by showing people that change can come about through elections—rather than violence. The peaceful transfer of power is key—it has never happened in the Arab World.” At the very least, either Maliki or Talabani needed to give up his seat; otherwise, they would both think they owned the seats. Biden did not agree. He responded that there were often elections in the United States that did not bring about any change.

Biden’s easy smile had evaporated. He was clearly irritated by me. “Look, I know these people,” he went on. “My grandfather was Irish and hated the British. It’s like in the Balkans. They all grow up hating each other.”

The conversation ended, as we had to head over to the meeting with Iraqiya members. Some were in suits, others were wearing their finest traditional robes. There were Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Turkmen Shia, Kurds and a Christian. The full tapestry of Iraqi society was sitting facing us—distinguishable only by their dress, clearly showing us the sort of Iraq they wanted to live in.

Biden started off smiling: “I know you people. My grandfather was Irish and hated the British.” Everyone turned toward me, the Brit. The Iraqis were grinning, expecting there was going to be a good spat between Brits and Americans. How could I stop Biden making a totally inappropriate comment about them all being Sunnis and hating Shia? Thinking on my feet, I said, “Don’t look at me, Mr. Vice President, I am not the only Brit in the room.” One of the Iraqis piped up: “I have a British passport.”

Biden lost his train of thought and moved on. He said that one of his predecessors, Al Gore, had technically won more votes in the 2000 presidential election, but for the good of America had stepped back rather than keep the country in limbo while fighting over the disputed vote-count.

Allawi pretended not to understand that Biden was suggesting he give up his claim to have first go at trying to form the government, letting Maliki remain as prime minister. The meeting finished. After we left, I was sure the Iraqis would be wondering why on earth Biden had mentioned his Irish grandfather and Al Gore. If only President Obama had paid attention to Iraq. He, more than anyone, would understand the complexity of identities, I thought—and that people can change. But his only interest in Iraq, it appeared, was in ending the war.

***

In July 2014, I visited Erbil, Iraq, shortly after the Islamic State had taken control of a third of the country and the Iraqi Army had disintegrated. I met up with Rafi Issawi. So much had happened since General O and I had left Iraq at the end of August 2010. Iran had succeeded in pressuring Muqtada al-Sadr to accept a second Maliki term as prime minister and hence ensured that there would be no follow-on security agreement for a post-2011 U.S. troop presence. The United States had helped to hammer out a power-sharing agreement of sorts in Erbil, but it had never been implemented.

Rafi listed for me the Sunni grievances that had steadily simmered since I’d left—until they had finally boiled over. Maliki had detained thousands of Sunnis without trial, pushed leading Sunnis, including Rafi, out of the political process by accusing them of terrorism and reneged on payments and pledges to the Iraqi tribes who had bravely fought Al Qaeda in Iraq. Year-long Sunni protests demanding an end to discrimination were met by violence, with dozens of unarmed protesters killed by Iraqi security forces. Maliki had completely subverted the judiciary to his will, so that Sunnis felt unable to achieve justice. The Islamic State, Rafi explained to me, was able to take advantage of this situation, publicly claiming to be the defenders of the Sunnis against the Iranian-backed Maliki government.

The downward spiral, Rafi told me not surprisingly, had begun in 2010—when Iraqiya was not given the first chance to try to form the government. “We might not have succeeded,” he admitted, “but the process itself would have been important in building trust in Iraq’s young institutions.”

Emma Sky, senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute, is author of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, from which this article is adapted.

Voir aussi:

Ex-British diplomat accuses Hillary Clinton of role in meltdown of Iraq
New book by former adviser to the US in Iraq Emma Sky says Clinton appointed ambassador to Baghdad who had no Middle East experience
Colin Freeman, Chief foreign correspondent
The Guardian
14 Apr 2015

A former British diplomat has accused Hillary Clinton of contributing to Iraq’s disastrous meltdown during her four years as Barack Obama’s foreign policy chief.
Emma Sky, who served as an adviser to one of the top US commanders in Iraq, claims in a new book that Mrs Clinton operated a “dysfunctional” diplomatic mission to Baghdad that allowed a lapse back into sectarian warfare after elections in 2010.
At that time Mrs Clinton was mid-way through her four-year stint as Mr Obama’s Secretary of State, the equivalent position to Foreign Secretary in Britain.
The criticisms, which come as Mrs Clinton announces her presidential bid, are contained in a book that Ms Sky, an Oxford-educated Middle East expert, is to publish next month about the seven years she spent in Iraq.
Entitled The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, it paints an unflattering picture of the Obama administration as it tried to extricate itself from the country as hastily as possible.

While the demand for a speedy drawdown from Iraq was driven primarily by Mr Obama himself, Mrs Clinton is accused of appointing an incompetent US ambassador to Baghdad, Chris Hill, who had little experience of the region and held its people in contempt.

That then paved the way for Washington to be outmanoeuvred by Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who was able to grab a second term in office despite fears that he was a sectarian dictator in the making.

The book also claims that the US-vice president, Joe Biden, showed little interest in Iraq’s political complexities, making oafish comparisons between its sectarian civil war and Britain’s historic tensions with Ireland.

Thanks to Mr Obama’s hasty pull-out at the end of 2011, Ms Sky says, hard-won opportunities for a lasting peace in Iraq after the war to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003 were squandered.

“That war – and the manner in which the United States left it behind in 2011 – shifted the balance of power in the region in Iran’s favour,” she writes. “Regional competition… exacerbated existing fault-lines, with support for extreme sectarian actors, including the Islamic State, turning local grievances over poor governance into proxy wars.”

Ms Sky, who is now an academic at Yale University, first went to work in Iraq in 2003 after a spell as a development expert for the British Council in the Palestinian territories. Although a self-described “tree hugger”, her expertise in Arab affairs saw her appointed as coalition governor of the northern city of Kirkuk, where she then impressed General Ray Odierno, whom she advised during the US troop “surge” that curbed Iraq’s 2006-7 Sunni-Shia civil war.

However, by 2010, Gen Odierno was becoming increasingly concerned that Washington was likely to destabilise Iraq in the “rush to the exit”. He had already “begun to despair”, Ms Sky says, of Mr Hill, who was appointed the year before despite concerns about his lack of Middle East experience.

Lifting the lid on behind the scenes intrigues in Baghdad’s heavily guarded “Green Zone”, Ms Sky writes: “It was clear that Hill, though a career diplomat, lacked regional experience and was miscast in the role in Baghdad. In fact, he had not wanted the job, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had persuaded him to take it; she admitted as much to General Odierno, he told me, when he met her in early 2010 in Washington to discuss the dysfunction at the embassy.”

She adds that “in his staff meetings, Hill made clear how much he disliked Iraq and Iraqis”. His main priority, she said, was getting the embassy to look like a “normal” US mission, which included importing rolls of turf “on which the ambassador could play lacrosse”.

Worse was to come when Mr Biden visited Baghdad. He made clear his impatience when Ms Sky tried to explain about Iraq’s myriad political landscape of secularists, Islamists, and moderates who wanted to move beyond sectarianism. Mr Biden “could not fathom this”, she said, telling her: “My grandfather was Irish and hated the British. It’s like in the Balkans. They all grow up hating each other.”

He repeated the simplistic observation at a meeting with the Iraqiya bloc, a religiously mixed, secular movement, only to be embarrassed when one of the Iraqi politicians told him that he had a British passport.

Ms Sky makes her accusations in an article adapted from her book in Politico magazine, titled “How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq”.

She says the lack of foreign policy focus from Washington ultimately allowed the White House to back Mr Maliki for a second term when he tied in 2010’s elections with Ayad Allawi, the secular, pro-Western leader of the Iraqiya bloc. Mr Hill, she says, told a distraught Gen Odierno “that Iraq is not ready for democracy, that Iraq needs a Shia strongman, and Maliki is our man”.

Her revelations come as Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, met Mr Obama on Tuesday to ask for more arms to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). Recent gains against the group in Tikrit have been undermined by Isil counter-attacks in the western province of Anbar.

Voir également:

Bookshelf
Iraq’s Unlikely Eulogist
There was no more improbable duo than Odierno, the hulking general with a shaved head, and his petite English adviser.
Max Boot
The Wall Street journal

April 13, 2015

The British Empire, which at one time dominated the lands stretching from Egypt to Persia, produced a long line of distinguished if often eccentric Arabists —Richard Francis Burton, Gertrude Bell, St. John Philby, T.E. Lawrence, Freya Stark, Wilfred Thesiger and more.

The deepening American involvement in the Middle East over the past decade has inspired its own crop of ardent experts. Some have been Foreign Service officers, such as Robert Ford and Ryan Crocker. Others military officers like Rick Welch, Derek Harvey and Joel Rayburn. Still others—perhaps the largest share—have been temporary recruits, helping the U.S. government understand the “human terrain” and filling gaps left by insufficient State Department resources. This group includes Ali Khedery, a young Arab-American who served as an aide to U.S. ambassadors in Baghdad; Matt Sherman, currently serving as political adviser to the U.S. commander in Kabul after previous stints in both Iraq and Afghanistan; and Carter Malkasian, who advised Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new generation of American Arabists, busy in the field trying to help win two wars, has not yet produced the outpouring of writing that characterized their British predecessors, but they are starting to catch up. Mr. Malkasian penned a first-rate account of his experiences in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, “War Comes to Garmser” (2013), and, last year, Col. Rayburn published a wise book on “Iraq After America.” And now Emma Sky, dubbed “Our Miss Bell” by Iraqi interlocutors, has produced a radiant and beautifully written account, at turns funny and sad, of her service in Iraq.

There could have been few more unlikely candidates to advise U.S. military commanders. British-born and Oxford-educated, Ms. Sky is the kind of “progressive” who imagines that Texas is “a State of cowboys, electric chairs and right-wing zealots who spend their weekends down by the border shooting Mexicans who tried to cross illegally.” She welcomed Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, writing, “After the crazy era of the neoconservatives, the US was now led by a man whose worldview I believed I shared.”

The Unraveling

By Emma Sky
PublicAffairs, 382 pages, $28.99

She had come to assist the American war effort in Iraq by chance in 2003 after having spent a decade as a humanitarian worker in the Middle East. Employed by the British Council, a cultural organization sponsored by the Foreign Office, she received an email asking for volunteers to help the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Single and 30-something, she raised her hand and wound up in Kirkuk, where she became political adviser to Col. William Mayville, commander of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Ms. Sky had no experience of the military and was “wary” of her new colleagues. Upon first meeting Col. Mayville, she threatened to haul him to The Hague if he did anything that violated the Geneva Convention: “I took my brown Filofax with me everywhere,” she writes, “and began documenting everything Colonel Mayville said and did.” Before long, however, she realized that behind his “bravado was a deep intellect—and a wicked sense of humor.” She developed such admiration and affection for the soldiers of the brigade that when they rotated home in early 2004 she “sobbed inconsolably all afternoon.”

She returned home herself in June 2004 but “could not settle back” into her humdrum job. She spent nine months in Jerusalem advising the U.S. military mission monitoring Israel’s disengagement from Gaza and then did a tour in Afghanistan for Britain’s Department for International Development. In 2006, Gen. Raymond Odierno, who had been Col. Mayville’s division commander, invited her to become his political adviser when he was appointed the deputy American commander in Iraq.

There was no more unlikely duo than the hulking, 6-foot-5 former football player with the shaved head and his petite English adviser. To add to the incongruity, Ms. Sky needled Gen. Odierno relentlessly in a way that no one else would have dared—and he returned the favor. On a helicopter ride after “General O” comments that Saddam Hussein was a mass murderer, she replies, “We still don’t know who killed more Iraqis: you or Saddam, sir.” This was greeted by total silence among the general’s aides, but he jocularly shouted, “Open the door, pilots. Throw her out!”

It is part of Gen. Odierno’s greatness as a commander that he realized he needed the independent viewpoint that Ms. Sky could provide to avoid the groupthink that so often characterizes military command. He made her his indispensable aide, and she stayed by his side not only during his tour as the deputy commander in Iraq in 2006-08 but also when he was the top commander, from 2008 to 2010.

Along the way, she helped the U.S. military drag Iraq back from the brink of the abyss—only to see all of their achievements squandered. In Ms. Sky’s telling, the turning point was the failure to allow the secular Shiite Ayad Allawi a chance to form a government after his party had emerged as the top vote-getter in the 2010 election. Ambassador Christopher Hill and Vice President Joe Biden, the architects of the Obama administration’s Iraq policy in spite of their invincible ignorance of the country, threw U.S. influence behind the sitting prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who had refused to accept his electoral defeat. In his second term, he pursued the sectarian agenda that drove many Sunnis into the arms of Islamic State.

Ms. Sky ended up disenchanted with the administration she had once supported: “Biden was a nice man, but he simply had the wrong instincts on Iraq. If only Obama had paid attention to Iraq. . . . But his only interest in Iraq was in ending the war.” By contrast, her respect for the whole U.S. military and in particular for Gen. Odierno—who warned the administration of Mr. Maliki’s authoritarian tendencies—was never higher. He told her, “I gave my best military advice.” She laments: “But he had been ignored.” That is as good an epitaph as any for the American misadventure in Mesopotamia.

Mr. Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign

‘Iraq Is Finished’
Tribal leaders reflect on the enemy destroying their country from within.
Emma Sky

The Atlantic

Apr 8 2015

One afternoon this March, during a visit to Jordan, I sat on the banks of the Dead Sea with my Iraqi friend, Azzam Alwash. As we stared across the salt lake and watched the sun disappear behind the rocky crags of Israel, I recounted a trip I had taken to Jordan 20 years earlier to conduct field research on Palestinian refugees, as part of a Middle East peace effort designed to ensure that within a decade nobody in the region considered himself a refugee.

No one had an inkling back then that the numbers of refugees in the region would increase exponentially, with millions of Iraqis and Syrians displaced from their homes by international intervention and civil war. Nor had I imagined at the time that I would find myself in Iraq after the invasion of 2003, initially as a British representative of the Coalition Provisional Authority—the international transitional government that ran the country for about a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein—and then as the political advisor to U.S. Army General Raymond Odierno when he commanded U.S. forces in the country.

A number of the Iraqis I had gotten to know over the last decade had relocated to Jordan. I had gone there to see them and better understand events in the region—and the conditions that had led to the rise of the Islamic State.

* * *

The evening following our Dead Sea visit, Azzam and I went out for Italian food in Amman with a diverse group of our Iraqi friends, Sunni and Shiite, Kurd and Arab. It was a reunion of sorts; some of us had gone white-water rafting down the Little Zaab river in northern Iraq a few years ago. Azzam was an experienced rafter, but even the danger of the rapids had not pressured the group to trust his leadership and work together. There was a lot of shouting and we all got soaked, but somehow we had survived the trip. This, to me, represented Iraq writ large.

The conversation soon turned to Daesh (known as ISIS in the West), and how the group had formed. A common view I’ve heard in the region, propagated by Sunni and Shiite alike, is that Daesh is the creation of the United States. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq or Islamic State before the U.S. invasion in 2003. Therefore, so the twisted reasoning goes, the United States must have deliberately created the group in order to make Sunnis and Shiites fight each other, thereby allowing the U.S to continue dominating the region. Local media had reported on alleged U.S. airdrops to Daesh. Some outlets even referred to Daesh’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as an Israeli-trained Mossad agent.

One of my dining companions asked me where I thought the group came from. I responded that Daesh was a symptom of a much larger problem. Regional sectarian conflict was an unintended consequence of the Iraq War and the manner in which the United States had left the country, both of which had empowered Iran and changed the balance of power in the Middle East. In my view, regional competition—of which Iran versus Saudi Arabia is the main but not only dimension—exacerbated existing fault lines. Those countries’ support for extreme sectarian actors in different countries had now turned local grievances over poor governance into proxy wars. Iran was funding and training Shiite militias, as well as advising regimes in Baghdad and Damascus. Gulf financing had flowed to Sunni fighters, including the ones that ultimately became Daesh. At the same time, there was a symbiotic relationship between corrupt elites in Iraq and terrorists—they justified each other’s existence, each claiming to provide protection from the other.

Azzam offered another perspective. Daesh, he said, were Muslims, and fundamentalist Salafi Islam was to blame for their existence. The problem, he said, was the literal interpretation of the Quran, which, for example, spelled out harsh criminal punishments reflective of seventh-century practices. Other religions had moved forward and reformed because adherents were willing to interpret texts for their own time. A heated argument broke out as others at the table defended Islam and accused Azzam of being brainwashed by the West. « If we Muslim intellectuals are not self-critical, if we refuse to take responsibility to address the issues, » he responded, « what hope is there for the Middle East? »

* * *

Azzam’s was only one of numerous explanations of Daesh’s origins and power that I heard from Iraqis during my visit to Jordan. All of these explanations contained some truth: There was no one simple reason, but rather a complex set of factors, that had enabled the group to take control of so much of Iraq.

Another explanation came from Sheikh Abdullah al-Yawar, the paramount sheikh of the Shammar tribe, which has around 5 million members in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Last summer, in the wake of the Daesh takeover of Mosul, his mother and brother managed to escape just hours before their palatial 27-room house near Rabiah—northwest of Mosul on the Syrian border—was blown up, his photos and carpets destroyed, his horses scattered to the wilds. It was a house that I knew well and had visited many times. From 2003 onward, Abdullah had decided that he and his family would cooperate with international coalition forces to secure their area, rather than fight against them.

Daesh did not suddenly take control of Mosul last summer, Abdullah told me over dinner with his family at his house in Amman. For years, there had been so much corruption in local government that Daesh had been able to buy influence and supporters. Government in Iraq, he said, was a business—a family business in which politicians in Baghdad and Mosul had stolen millions of dollars worth of the country’s wealth. Daesh had then been able to exploit this situation to take control, presenting itself as a better alternative to corrupt local government.

In Iraq, corrupt elites and terrorists justified each other’s existence, each claiming to provide protection from the other.
But I had a more basic question: « Who are Daesh? » Many, he told me, had come out of the town of Tal Afar, where there had been bitter fighting between the Sunni and Shiite populations during the civil war. They were former Baathists, members of Saddam Hussein’s party who had been purged from Iraq’s government following the international intervention to oust Hussein. Then, after 2003, some became al-Qaeda, and now they were Daesh. They felt excluded and marginalized. Daesh gave them a sense of empowerment and let them present themselves as the defenders of the Sunnis against Shiites, Iran, and the United States.

In northern Iraq last summer, I had met men with large mustaches—the Baathists’ signature facial hair—who claimed to be spokesmen for insurgent groups and said they were leading a Sunni uprising against then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. I asked Abdullah what had happened to them. He responded that they had been all talk. Some had grown the beards mandated by fundamentalists and joined Daesh. Others had done nothing.

Abdullah and his wife provided me quotation after quotation from the Quran to prove that Daesh violated the tenets of Islam. Personally, I told them, I judge people by how they behave. « When I think of a Muslim, I think of the hospitality shown to me, a foreigner, whenever I travel in the Arab world. » I went on, « Sadly, when I now tell people in the U.S. that I am off on holiday to the Middle East, they worry that I will be kidnapped and have my head chopped off. » I had finished the vine leaves and tabbouleh salad we had been eating, and kebab and chicken were now heaped on my plate. I told them I thought I faced a greater risk of death from overeating.

Abdullah turned serious. « We need more help from America, » he said. « Look at what Iran is doing. Iran is now in Tikrit.” (Iranian military officers were highly visible as advisors to Shiite militias seeking to retake the city.) He went on: « This is a huge humiliation for the Sunnis. This is not the way to destroy Daesh. It will cause a worse reaction in the future. »

* * *

A few days later, Sheikh Ghassan al-Assi of the Obeidi tribe, which has around 700,000 members in Iraq, both Sunni and Shiite, took me to a restaurant in Amman that he said was owned by Christians from Baghdad. When the waiter came to take our order, Ghassan said, with an acerbic wit that I was by now long familiar with: « The Americans and British destroyed our country—but we still invite them to lunch! » He would later pick out the best parts of the barbecued fish and put them on my plate.

I had first met Ghassan in 2003, when he had been highly critical of coalition forces in Iraq. Even so, we had remained friends. He had fled to Amman last summer in the wake of the Daesh blitzkrieg. According to Ghassan, the group had blown up the grave of his father, the paramount sheikh of the Obeidis, and had destroyed the houses of his uncles because they collaborated with Maliki. He had hoped that his house would be left alone, since he had not worked with the United States or the Iraqi government. But the week prior to my visit, Daesh had turned up with C4 explosives and blown the home up. He did not know why. He took out his iPhone. « Bastards, bastards, bastards,” he muttered as he flicked through the photos.

« There is no state left. It is a state of militias. »
Over a cup of tea, Ghassan showed me photos of one of his sons, who was wearing a red-and-white checked scarf, with a goatee, and was posing for the camera like a male model. I was surprised; I had never expected a boy born and bred in Hawija—a rough provincial town—to turn out looking like this. Even in Hawija, it seemed, there were people who just wanted to lead normal lives, to wear the latest fashion. It was Dubai, not Daesh, that represented the sort of society they wanted to live in.

Sheikh Ghassan laughed at my astonishment. « Miss Emma,” he asked me somewhat cryptically, “what is life without love? »

* * *

On my last day in Jordan, Jaber al-Jaberi, another tribal leader who had served Iraq as a member of parliament and had once been a candidate for minister of defense, drove me to Jerash, an ancient city outside Amman. With Daesh destroying Iraq’s archaeological sites, we both wanted to go and see Jordan’s. Jaber, too, had been forced to leave his home in Anbar amid the Daesh advance.

« The Sunnis of Iraq are like the Palestinians, » Jaber said. « We’ve been displaced from our land. » Sunnis had been cleansed from Diyala and areas surrounding Baghdad by Shiite militias, and many more had fled from the provinces of Anbar, Nineva, and Salah al-Din because of Daesh. Jaber himself had given up politics and was now spending his days trying to get food and assistance to tribesmen living in terrible conditions in makeshift accommodation in the desert. The Sunnis, he said, had no real leaders, and the Shiite militias were more powerful than the Iraqi security forces.

« Iraq is finished, » he lamented to me. « There is no state left. It is a state of militias.”

The state of Iraq has indeed failed. It no longer has the legitimacy or the power to extend control over its whole territory, and the power vacuum is being filled by a multitude of non-state actors, increasingly extreme and sectarian, who will likely continue to fight each other for years to come, supported by regional powers. Whether a new kind of order will finally emerge, with more local legitimacy, remains to be seen. And for now those who are displaced are left wondering how long it will be until they are able to return home—and to what.

Still, I refused to believe that terrorists could erase Iraq’s past, and I told Jaber so. The past would survive in archives, in exhibits in the British Museum, on the walls of art galleries in Amman, in poems recited around the world. We were in the land where humans had first experimented with settled agriculture, where the Babylonian king Hammurabi gave some of the first written laws, where Jews had written the Talmud. Jaber, I saw, had tears in his eyes. « Nothing can take this away, Jaber,” I told him. “Nothing. Not these terrible terrorists, not these militias, not these awful politicians. A new generation will come one day that can build on this. The hope is the youth who just want to live their lives. »

POSTSCRIPT
Who Lost Iraq?
And How to Get It Back

Emma Sky

Foreign Affairs

June 24, 2014

EMMA SKY is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. From 2007 to 2010, she was the political adviser to Ray Odierno (then the commanding general of U.S. Forces in Iraq).Republicans and Democrats each share some of the blame for the situation in Iraq — the former for the way in which the United States entered the country and the latter for the way in which it left. It was only between 2007 and 2009 that the United States had a coherent strategy in Iraq, matched with the right leadership and the necessary resources. The current turmoil dates back to just after that period, to 2010, after Iraq’s second post-Saddam national election.

Republicans and Democrats each share some of the blame for the situation in Iraq — the former for the way in which the United States entered the country and the latter for the way in which it left. It was only between 2007 and 2009 that the United States had a coherent strategy in Iraq, matched with the right leadership and the necessary resources. The current turmoil dates back to just after that period, to 2010, after Iraq’s second post-Saddam national election.

At that time, some senior officials argued that the United States should uphold the constitutionally mandated right of the winning bloc, Iraqiya, headed by Ayad Allawi, to have the first go at trying to form a government. They maintained that the United States should actively help broker an agreement among Iraqi elites to form the new government and warned of the already apparent autocratic tendencies of Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister.

Other officials argued that Maliki, despite his narrow electoral defeat, was the only conceivable Shia leader who could hold the position. He was also, they said, a friend of the United States who would agree to allow the United States to maintain a small contingent of forces in Iraq after 2011, when the existing agreement between the two countries expired. In the end, it was Iran that stepped in and, by pressuring the Sadrists to support Maliki, secured him a second premiership. The price Iran extracted from Maliki was his support for the removal of all U.S. forces.

Since 2010, Maliki has consolidated his power by targeting his political rivals, subverting the judiciary and independent government commissions, reneging on his promises to the Sunni tribal leaders who had helped him fight al Qaeda, and politicizing the security forces that the United States invested so much in training. He also mishandled the yearlong protests against his government that erupted in Sunni areas at the end of 2012, following the souring of relations between him and Rafi al-Issawi, the highly respected minister of finance. His forces attacked protesters in Hawija, killing 50. Then, in December 2013, he sent troops into western Anbar to attack the desert camps of a Sunni radical group, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Following the death of the Iraqi general leading the operation, Maliki ordered his troops into the cities of Anbar province to close down all protest sites.

Maliki’s moves seemed to be tactical successes in that they strengthened his regime. But they have been revealed to be strategic disasters, since they provoked a backlash that weakened the state. With the ISIS takeover of cities in the provinces of Anbar, Ninewa, and Salah al-Din, that reality has been made clear. Iraqi security forces, which outnumber ISIS by around a hundred to one, deserted and fled their positions as ISIS advanced; soldiers’ morale was low and a number of senior officers owed their positions to bribes and political affiliation rather than to competence. Sunni tribes, which previously had turned against the forerunner of ISIS, al Qaeda in Iraq, have this time either fled, remained neutral, or backed the militants. Given their sense of disenfranchisement, they do not trust Maliki’s government to provide for them or to protect them. Some have concluded that ISIS is the lesser of two evils. Sunni clerics in Iraq, along with regional media, are now referring to the Sunni « revolt » against Maliki’s government.

ISIS’ victories are a result of internal divides, rising sectarianism, state failure, and geopolitical competition in two neighboring countries. In one of his recent speeches, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, called on Sunni Muslims to join his organization to fight the Shia and establish a caliphate, which would remove the borders between Muslim lands that were demarcated by colonial powers. “Give up corrupt nationalism,” he urged, “and join the nation of Islam.”

But it is not the borders that are the root of the problems of these countries. It is the political leadership, which has failed to develop inclusive and robust states. Grievances against the governments of Maliki and Bashar al-Assad in Syria have created the environment in which ISIS can prosper. And, ironically, although the ISIS has railed against national divisions, the tensions between its international jihadist agenda and the nationalist agendas of most Sunni groups will inevitably create friction and infighting. For now, though, ISIS will find plenty of Sunnis willing to join the fray.

Meanwhile, facing the shock caused by the collapse of the Iraqi army in Mosul, Shia have turned to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for guidance. Sistani issued a fatwa calling on Iraqis to join the security forces in the fight against ISIS. Despite Sistani’s statement that the fatwa was intended for Sunni and Shia civilians alike, Shia militias are using it as an occasion for sectarian mobilization.

In the ongoing turmoil, the Kurds have taken the contested city of Kirkuk and see independence in their sights. U.S. forces invested considerable time and resources in mediating between the different parties in these disputed territories. Without such a neutral third party, the likelihood of Arab-Kurdish conflict is increasing, with ISIS gaining the opportunity to present itself as the protector of the Sunnis against Iranian-backed Shia but also against what they perceive as Kurdish expansionism.

So what can and should the United States do? It is positive that the United States no longer views the violence in Iraq as separate from the bloodshed in Syria and Lebanon. The region has become one battlefield — and U.S. policy must reflect that. It was the 1979 Iranian Revolution that set off the modern-day struggle between Iran and the Sunni powers. And it was the 2003 war in Iraq that led to sectarianization of regional politics. Then it was the 2011 U.S. departure from Iraq that left the impression in the region that Iran had defeated the United States. The United States needs to pursue policies that lessen sectarian tensions and support moderates. The majority of those living in Iraq and Syria yearn to live in peace with just, effective, and transparent governments. The choice before them cannot simply be Iranian-backed exclusionary regimes or al Qaeda­–linked affiliates.

Although the United States and Iran face a common threat in ISIS, the United States should cooperate with Iran only if it leads to major reform of Iraq’s political system so as to overcome sectarian divisions. If not, the specter of a perceived alignment between the United States and Iran could worsen sectarianism and push more Sunnis toward ISIS.

The main political tensions in Iraq today are between Maliki’s drive to centralize power, the Kurds’ desire to maximize their autonomy, and the increasing Sunni awareness of themselves as a distinct community. The fall of Mosul and events that followed are indications that these tensions have come to a head and that it is time for Maliki to admit his failures and open the way for a more competent Shia leader to start a new approach. Although Maliki did head the winning bloc in the most recent elections, those opposed to him have enough votes to replace him if they can agree on an alternative. Iraq’s political elites, in particular the Shia parties, need to select a new prime minister who is acceptable to them and to other communities, and is supported by Iran and Turkey as well as the United States.

In his June 19 statement, U.S. President Barack Obama said, « Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq’s future. Shia, Sunni, Kurds — all Iraqis — must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence.” Obama is right to pressure Iraqi politicians to form a new government, rather than insisting that they support Maliki. He correctly recognized that any military options would be effective only if they were in support of an overall political strategy that a new broad-based government agreed to. The United States has a key role to play in helping broker a new deal among the elites that creates a better balance among Iraq’s communities. A new broad-based Iraqi government will need to win back the support of Sunnis against ISIS — and the Obama administration should be prepared to respond positively to requests for assistance to do so.

Iraqi Sunnistan?
Why Separatism Could Rip the Country Apart—Again
Emma Sky and Harith al-Qarawee
Foreign Affairs

January 23, 2013

EMMA SKY is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. From 2007 to 2010, she was the political adviser to Ray Odierno (then the commanding general of U.S. Forces in Iraq). HARITH AL-QARAWEE is an Iraqi political scientist and the author of Imagining the Nation: Nationalism, Sectarianism and Socio-political Conflict in Iraq.

It’s not easy being a prominent Sunni in Iraq these days. This past December, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of several bodyguards of Rafi al-Issawi, the minister of finance and one of the most influential and respected Sunni leaders in Iraq. In response, tens of thousands of Sunnis took to the streets of Anbar, Mosul, and other predominantly Sunni cities, demanding the end of what they consider government persecution. Issawi has accused Maliki of targeting him as part of a systematic campaign against Sunni leaders, which includes the 2011 indictment of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, on terrorism charges. This is not the first time that Maliki has gone after Issawi, either. In 2010, during tense negotiations over the makeup of the government, Maliki accused Issawi of leading a terrorist group — a claim that the U.S. military investigated and found baseless. Not coincidentally, this most recent incident occurred days after President Jalal Talabani, always a dependable moderator in Iraqi politics, was incapacitated by a stroke.

The scale of the ongoing demonstrations reveals the widespread sense of alienation that Sunnis feel in the new Iraq. Prior to 2003, Sunnis rarely identified as members of a religious sect and instead called themselves Iraqi or Arab nationalists. It was the country’s Shia population that claimed to be victims, on account of their persecution by Saddam Hussein.
Today, the roles are reversed. Shia Islamists consolidated power in Baghdad after the toppling of Saddam’s regime, and some — particularly those who were exiled during Baathist rule — now view all Sunnis with suspicion. In turn, many Sunnis take issue with the new political system, which was largely shaped by Shia and Kurdish parties. Today, the Sunni population is mobilizing against the status quo and making sect-specific demands, such as the release of Sunni detainees, an end to the torture of Sunni suspects, and humane treatment of Sunni women in jails. Moreover, demonstrators are calling for the overthrow of the regime, using slogans made popular during the Arab Spring.

Meanwhile, Kurdish leaders identify Maliki as the main problem facing Iraq, and some delegations of Kurds and Shia have travelled to Issawi’s native province of Anbar to express their own distrust of the regime. The top Iraqi Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, has voiced disappointment with Maliki’s government and has called for it to respond to the concerns of the protestors. Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of Iraq’s most authentic grassroots Shia movement, the Sadrist Trend, has accused Maliki of provoking the current discontent. Although fear of Maliki’s creeping authoritarianism is pushing his rivals together, growing sectarian tensions may yet rip Iraq apart.
As with other protests in the Arab world, which were initially driven by legitimate local grievances, there is a risk that the current movement will become increasingly sectarian. At political events, some Iraqi Sunni clerics use conciliatory language and emphasize Iraqi fraternity. Others, however, speak passionately about the suffering of the Sunni community at the hands of Maliki’s Shia administration and condemn his ties with Iran.

Since 2008, when Maliki led a harsh crackdown on the Mahdi Army, a Shia militia, the prime minister has tried to present himself as a nationalist leader seeking to unify his country and evenly enforce the rule of law. The rise of Maliki and the popularity he gained with Shia, however, reveal the flaws of Iraq’s new political system, which made state institutions fiefdoms of patronage for sectarian political parties rather than channels for delivering public services. Maliki tried to earn legitimacy beyond just the Shia community, in particular seeking the support of Sunni voters. His confrontation with Massoud Barzani, the president of the semi-independent Iraqi Kurdistan region, over security issues along the disputed border was primarily a move to win the support of the Sunni population there, which is resentful of Kurdish encroachment.
But Maliki has squandered his ability to appeal to the country’s other sects and communities because of his paranoia and ideological bias as a leader of Dawa, the Shia Islamist party. He blames external interference for the current tensions, exploiting images of divisive symbols such as flags of the Saddam era, the Free Syrian Army, and Kurdistan, as well as photos of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And Maliki’s record — his targeting of Sunni politicians, his selective use of law, his influence over the judiciary to ensure rulings in his favor, and his close ties with Iran — confirms that he is prepared to use all means necessary to consolidate power.

Maliki could cling to power by presenting himself as the defender of the Shia in an increasingly tumultuous environment, turning his fear of a regional sectarian conflict into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Al-Qaeda attacks in Iraq are on the rise, provoked by discontent with Maliki and inspired by the Syrian civil war next door. So far this month, al-Qaeda has killed Shia pilgrims in Karbala, a Sunni lawmaker in Anbar, and Kurds in Kirkuk. Meanwhile, other leaders are struggling to remain relevant. The credibility of Sunni government officials is declining, due to their inability to prevent discrimination against their constituents while participating in a system that brings them personal benefits. In the Shia camp, Sadr is moving to the center, positioning himself as a nationalist leader. If Sadr is able to create an alliance with anti-Maliki Sunnis and Kurds — presenting a credible and unifying alternative government — sectarianism could be curbed. However, Maliki might be provoked by such a challenge and clamp down on his rivals even more aggressively.
Politics in Iraq and the surrounding region are increasingly sectarian. Inspired by the rebellion in Syria and supported by the Sunni leaders of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, Iraq’s Sunnis may seek greater autonomy from the Shia-dominated central government in years to come. This need not be the case: in the 2010 national elections, most Sunnis voted for the Iraqiya electoral list, a coalition that defined itself as nonsectarian and was led by a secular Shia politician. But, given the sectarian turn of Iraqi politics, Sunni leaders seem likely to run on one list with a platform built around Sunni grievances in the 2014 national elections. In addition, more hardline Sunni leaders may emerge if the current politicians prove unable to achieve meaningful gains for their communities. Sunni leaders may also, if they manage to overcome their internal divisions, propose an independent Sunni region, similar to the one enjoyed by the Kurds. This would mark the end of Iraqi nationalism and put the survival of the state in question.
Maliki’s efforts to destroy his rivals have drawn him closer to Shia Iran, which has in turn affected regional power dynamics. To counter Iran’s influence, Turkey is now posing as the defender not only of Iraq’s Sunnis but also of its Kurds, even though Turkey has long feared Kurdish nationalism within its own borders. Saudi Arabia, despite its usual counterrevolutionary attitude, is supporting the rebels in Syria in hopes of replacing the Shia-Alawite regime with a Sunni government and undoing the pro-Shia axis that now runs through Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

It is up to Iraq’s politicians, then, to overcome their differences and construct a national platform that addresses the country’s challenges. Any such settlement will require making concessions regarding regional autonomy, internal border disputes, the management and distribution of oil profits, and Baghdad’s foreign policy orientation. Unfortunately, given mutual distrust, the personalization of disputes, and the upcoming electoral season, such compromises do not seem likely — particularly if Maliki insists on remaining in power indefinitely.
The American public is no doubt fatigued by the recent decades of involvement in the country and the region. But to avoid disaster, the United States urgently needs to review its Iraq policy. Washington needs to show the Iraqi people that its intent is not to divide Iraq and keep it weak — even if that appears to have been a main outcome of the U.S. intervention. U.S. President Barack Obama succeeded in keeping his campaign promise of withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. In its second term, the Obama administration should stop supporting a status quo that is driving Iraq toward both authoritarianism and fragmentation. The United States should make clear that it neither condones nor supports the prime minister’s consolidation of power and blatant use of the Iraqi Security Forces — which the United States helped train and equip — to crack down on political opposition. Washington should make its aid to Maliki — or any other Iraqi leader — conditional on his behaving within democratic norms.
In addition, Washington should support Iraqi Shia’s attempts to select a new prime minister and should help facilitate a pact among the country’s elites in order to turn Iraq into a buffer rather than a battlefield state in the volatile region. U.S. engagement in the Middle East should seek to restrain external actors from interfering in Iraq and waging a proxy war there. Washington needs to contain Iran, but should make clear that it is not aligned with Sunnis in a regional sectarian war against Shia. This will require pushing back on Iranian influence in Iraq and simultaneously putting greater pressure on Sunni allies in the region to respect and protect their Shia populations. The United States has invested too much in Iraq to simply ignore these warning signs. Washington should use its diplomatic clout to help prevent further bloodshed.

UPDATE 1-Saudi Arabia, South Korea sign MOU on nuclear power
(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and South Korea have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate on the development of nuclear energy, Saudi state news agency SPA said, building on a deal signed in 2011.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Tuesday in Riyadh during an official visit, SPA said.

The MOU calls for South Korean firms to help build at least two small-to-medium sized nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, the South Korean presidential office said in a statement.

« If the two units go ahead, the cost of the contract will be (near) $2 billion, » the statement said.

Saudi Arabia aims to build 17 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear power by 2032 as well as around 41 GW of solar capacity. The oil exporter currently has no nuclear power.

Those plans are likely to take until 2040, the head of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE), in charge of overseeing such projects, said in January.

On Tuesday, K.A.Care said in a statement: « The two sides will discuss the current mutual activities and ways and means of future collaboration, building on the bilateral agreement already signed between the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of South Korea in 2011 with a view to develop and apply nuclear energy for peaceful uses. »

That agreement called for cooperation in research and development, as well as in construction and training.

Separately, Saudi Electricity signed four energy-related agreements on Tuesday with U.S. company General Electric as well as South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) , Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction and Eximbank.

The KEPCO agreement calls for cooperation in development of nuclear and renewable energy.

Al Hassan Ghazi Ibrahim Shaker Co. also signed a non-binding MOU with South Korea’s LG Electronics on cooperation in cooling systems for nuclear reactors.

The United Arab Emirates was the first Gulf Arab state to start building a nuclear power plant. In December 2009, the UAE awarded a group led by KEPCO a contract to build four 1,400 MW nuclear reactors to meet surging demand for electricity.

(Reporting by Reem Shamseddine and Brian Kim; editing by Rania El Gamal and Jason Neely)

Voir encore:

Turkey Launches Nuclear Plant Construction, Sparking Protest
ABC

ANKARA, Turkey — Apr 14, 2015

Turkey held a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of parts of its first nuclear reactor, sparking an angry protest by activists.

Activists say Tuesday’s ceremony came despite ongoing court cases against the nuclear plant being built by Russia in Akkuyu, in the Mediterranean coastal province of Mersin.

Protesters blocked a gate leading to the ceremony area, briefly preventing officials from leaving the site. Security forces pushed the activists back with water cannons.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the plant was designed to withstand powerful earthquakes, adding: « There cannot be a developed Turkey without nuclear energy. »

Turkey has chosen a French-Japanese consortium to build the country’s second nuclear plant on the Black Sea coast and also has plans to build a third to reduce the nation’s energy dependence.

Voir encore:

Briton who advised US in Iraq tells how tactics changed after bloody insurgency
Emma Sky, who spent four years in Iraq, says US military started reaching out to groups it had been fighting to stem violence

Nick Hopkins

16 July 2012

The British woman who became adviser to America’s most senior general in Iraq has given an insider’s account of the way the US radically changed tactics to try to stem the violence from 2007 and why military commanders started dealing with insurgents who « had blood on their hands ».

Emma Sky, 44, said she feared Iraq was in danger of becoming « the biggest strategic failure in the history of the US ». She also worried the « surge » strategy, which involved another 20,000 US troops being sent to Baghdad, might make the situation worse.

« There was so much violence that it was almost too big to comprehend. Everything had just escalated and escalated. There were occasions when I doubted whether we were ever going to break the back of it, and whether we should call it quits, » she said.

Speaking in detail for the first time about this most turbulent of periods, Sky also describes how:

• Barack Obama’s first trip to Iraq in 2009 almost turned into a diplomatic fiasco.

• She went on secret night trips into some of Baghdad’s most dangerous areas to try to gather information about the strength of the insurgency.

• She became a hostage negotiator to stop a spate of kidnaps escalating into an international crisis involving the Kurds.
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Sky was political adviser to General Ray Odierno, who was commander of all US forces in Iraq, and was also in charge of implementing the overarching « surge » strategy devised by General David Petraeus.

A British liberal who had been against the war in Iraq, she was taken on by the Americans because they respected her judgment and advice, even when it ran directly counter to their own.

Sky spent more than four years in Iraq, and was recruited by Odierno to help him implement the « surge » in 2007. She said the military realised it could not win with might alone, and had to start reaching out to groups that had been waging violence against it.

« I had confidence in our analysis. But I was not sure the strategy would work. Not because I thought it was wrong, but because I worried the situation in Iraq was so out of control our extra forces might only exacerbate the violence, not lessen it, » she said.

« There was so much violence that it was almost too big to comprehend. The military has a language that is not accidental, it is used to quarantine emotion. Every day we would hear reports that another 60 or 70 bodies had turned up, heads chopped off or drilled through. It was absolutely horrific. We could tell which groups had been behind the attacks by the way the victims had been killed. »

In the face of this, Sky said, Odierno challenged his soldiers to « understand the causes of instability, to understand the ‘why’ not just describe the ‘what’.

« It meant we would have to start dealing with people we had been fighting and for any commander that is a very difficult thing to do. We couldn’t afford to say: ‘We’ll only deal with people as long as they haven’t got blood on their hands.’ We’ve all got blood on our hands. »

Six months into the campaign, Sky said, things began to change.

« By July we started to feel things were changing. We heard it first from the battalions who described how more and more Iraqis were coming forward to give information about ‘bad guys’, and how insurgents were reaching out to do deals. There were ceasefires everywhere, local agreements, because more and more Iraqis were coming forward wanting to work with us. The intelligence we were getting improved, and the number of Iraqi casualties started to go down. »

When Obama made his first visit to Iraq, a scheduled meeting with the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, had to be abandoned because White House security staff refused to let the president fly from the American base outside Baghdad to the Green Zone because of bad weather.

Senior Iraqi politicians had always avoided the US base, called Camp Victory, because it was regarded as the seat of the occupation.

With a diplomatic standoff looming, Sky was sent to the Green Zone to see if Maliki could be persuaded to travel by car to meet Obama at the US headquarters.

Maliki was asleep when she arrived.

« So I go over to see the prime minister, who is having his afternoon siesta. I had to wake him up. I said: ‘I am terribly sorry but President Obama cannot come to Green Zone because of the weather and I hate, hate to ask of you, is there any chance you can come to Camp Victory?’ Obama was new. Everyone was excited about him, and Maliki agreed. And if Maliki agreed, then the others would probably come too. »

Inside Iraq: the British peacenik who became key to the US military
Exclusive: How Emma Sky went from anti-war academic to governor of Kirkuk, one of Iraq’s most volatile regions

Nick Hopkins, defence and security correspondent

The Guardian

15 July 2012

On the face of it, Emma Sky was not an obvious candidate to send to Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the war. She had never been to the country before, and had opposed the coalition’s invasion. She had only been to the US once and was instinctively suspicious of the military, perhaps especially the US military.

Yet on Friday, 20 June 2003 , two months after the war began, Sky boarded a flight from RAF Brize Norton, the only woman among 200 soldiers, and headed into the 50C heat and post-conflict chaos of Basra, the city in the south where the British were based.

Two weeks earlier she had been working as an international development adviser for the British Council in Manchester; now she found herself in charge of one of the most volatile regions in Iraq. The journey from north-west England to north-east Iraq owed a lot to fortune, her determination, and some barely scriptable coincidences. But Sky is the first to concede the random nature of her appointment reflected much broader failures in planning and strategy that would ultimately draw the country into a civil war.
Into the breach

Nobody’s ingenue, Sky was certainly used to operating in difficult environments; an Arabist, she had spent 10 years working in Gaza and the West Bank before returning to the UK with the British Council to advise countries in Africa, Asia and south America, on issues such as human rights and governance. When the Foreign Office asked for volunteers to go to Iraq to help with the reconstruction effort, a friend in the civil service prompted Sky to apply.

« I was against the war and I had this idea that I was going to go out to Iraq and apologise to the Iraqis for the invasion, and everything they had experienced, and I would do whatever I could to help them get back on their feet. » A few days and one short phone call later, Sky was told to report to the military air base in Oxfordshire. The Foreign Office did not give her a formal interview or briefing before she left, and she was given no detailed instructions about what to do when she landed. « I had a phone call from someone in the Foreign Office. It wasn’t a long conversation. They said ‘you’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, you’ll be fine’. I was told that there would be someone at the airport waiting for me, carrying a card with my name. When I got to Basra, there was nobody there, and nobody seemed to know I was coming. »

After a sleepless night on the floor in a corridor at Basra airport, Sky hitched a lift on a US Hercules transport plane to Baghdad, and then a military bus into the Republican Palace in the Green Zone. This had become the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) which was supposed to be restoring order to the country.

She tracked down and introduced herself to Sir John Sawers, who was the UK’s special envoy to Iraq, (and is now head of MI6) and spent a week helping out until a proper role was found for her. Life inside the palace was bizarre. « Stately rooms had become dormitories reminiscent of wartime hospitals. At times we showered in mineral water and some days even the floors were washed with mineral water. »

Their dirty laundry was flown to Kuwait for cleaning, and engineers spent days trying to decapitate the four giant heads of Saddam Hussein, which leered from the palace ceilings. Sky says she adapted more easily than most, thanks to her « years at an all boys’ English boarding school that had honed a wide range of survival instincts which proved most useful in the jungle ».

A few days after arriving, she decided to escape into downtown Baghdad on her own – the kind of trip that was already strictly forbidden. She found herself chatting to a man selling cigarettes from a trolley. « I talked to him, he was in his 50s. He said to me ‘it’s a Hobbesian world’. And I was thinking, how does he know about Hobbes? He was referring to all the looting. Iraqis were taking revenge on the state that had controlled their lives for so long. » From the start nothing was quite as it seemed.

Under the leadership of the US diplomat Paul Bremer, the CPA was tasked with reforming and reconstructing the country; but it was always going to struggle, especially in the regions away from Baghdad, where it had fewer people.

Sky was told to fly to northern Iraq because the CPA was short of staff in Erbil, but when she arrived, the posts were already filled, and she was directed to Kirkuk. « They said, ‘we’ve nobody in Kirkuk, so go there’. »

On the border of the autonomous Kurdish area, and 150 miles north of Baghdad, Kirkuk is an ancient, oil-rich city, with tribal rivalries that date back to the Ottoman Empire.

And so this 35-year-old Oxford graduate who had almost fallen out of the Black Hawk helicopter that took her to the city for the first time (« I couldn’t get my harness on and I couldn’t understand why they’d left the door open ») became the governate co-ordinator of this restive area. She reported directly to ambassador Bremer.

In the days before she took up her new post, he invited her to join him on a short tour of the north, which included dinner with the Kurdish leader, Masoud Barzani, in the town of Sari Rash. During the meal, Bremer spoke about America’s 4 July Independence Day, which was the next day, and then he turned to Sky for a comment. « I managed to say something about wishing all our former colonies the same success as America. I wondered, how on Earth have I got here? How on Earth had someone like me, a British liberal, become part of a US-led invasion that I had opposed? »

Welcome to Kirkuk

From the airport in Kirkuk, Sky was taken to modern villa near the centre of the city, a base she was supposed to share with a group of American contractors and engineers. But within days, this idea looked a trifle optimistic, as did any notion that a new Iraq would emerge easily from the shadow of the old.

« We received intelligence that the house might be targeted, » said Sky. « We had to turn the lights out at dusk and we slept fully clothed away from the windows. On my fifth night, five mortars were fired at the house. The noise was deafening and seemed to be coming from all sides. We were under attack. I struggled into my body armour and ran down to the safest part of the building where the others were already huddled. We sat in the darkness for what seemed like hours. »

Most of the staff abandoned the villa the following day, but Sky decided to stay. Two nights later, the house was attacked again by gunmen who appeared determined to storm the building. « I woke to the sound of automatic gunfire followed by massive explosions. Dust poured in through the sandbags. I curled up in a ball in bed with my hands over my ears, paralysed by the sound. The attack lasted half an hour … it was only when it was over that I discovered that four rocket propelled grenades had been fired at the house, and one had entered a couple of metres from my bed. »

The private security guards who tried to defend the house believed it was too vulnerable, so Sky accepted the offer of a bunk on the airfield in a US airforce tent, which she shared with seven men. This required her to become expert in the military’s « three-minute showers (30 seconds to soap, two and a half minutes to rinse).

Narrowly avoiding death within her first week was an inauspicious start to her governorship, and the task ahead remained unclear. This was underlined to her a few days later when Sawers arrived in Kirkuk on his farewell tour of the country. He invited Sky to join his entourage, and during the trip, she sought his advice. « His parting advice to me was to become a trusted partner to all groups and to get to know the Turkmen, » she said. « And that, in essence, was as far as guidance from CPA went in the early months. »

With few staff of her own, no orders from Baghdad, and reliant on the US military for protection, Sky concluded there was only one way to get anything done. She would have to work with the 3,500 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade who were based on the outskirts of the city.

« I was a British civilian volunteer who had arrived accidentally in Kirkuk. I looked around and decided to work closely with the military. They were the ones with the power, with the resources, with the bureaucracy. I could spend all my time watching what they do and reporting back on all their mistakes, or I could look at how to work with them. So I rolled up my sleeves, knuckled down. I learned the rank structure, the handshakes, the jokes, the code. »

Sky did this with some trepidation – she had never worked with the military before – and some of those she spoke to at first did their best to confirm her fears. One American officer told her working in Iraq was « like being on Planet of the Apes ». And she heard soldiers referring to Iraqis as « haji », which is an honorific in Arabic, but was being used in a derogatory way, as a racial slur. Some mocked the Iraqi people for living in mud huts, wearing « man dresses » and giving « man kisses ».

« They had come into contact with an ancient civilisation with people who knew their lineage back through centuries, who had survived under the harshest of dictatorships. They did not understand the people they were dealing with. » Sometimes offence was caused unwittingly. In one effort to foster relations with community leaders, the US air force invited a group of dignitaries to a military entertainment show. The « tops and stripes » evening included a mildly racy dance involving women flipping up their skirts. The guests walked out, quickly followed by Sky, who assured them that no offence had been intended.
Abu Ghraib
Iraqi inmates line up for a body search in Abu Ghraib prison: the detention of young men and evidence of torture at Abu Ghraib radicalised many Iraqis. Photograph: John Moore/AP

Sky set about learning the history of Kirkuk and ventured out into the city, in her soft-topped car, to speak to people about their problems. The military seemed genuinely perplexed that Iraqis seemed so hostile. « The brigade viewed themselves as liberators and were angry that Iraqis were not more grateful. One of the questions put to me was, ‘what do we need to do to be loved?’ I told them that people who invaded other peoples’ countries, and killed people who were no threat to them, would never be loved. I said that after the first Gulf war which killed 100,000 Iraqis, a decade of sanctions with the devastating effects on health, education and economy, and the humiliating defeat of the second Gulf war, I could well understand why Iraqis were shooting at us. »

Sky found an unlikely kindred spirit in Colonel William Mayville, the brigade commander with a cowboy swagger. They shared the same goal – to help Kirkuk get on its feet so the military could withdraw. And he also believed – wrongly – her presence heralded the arrival of an army of civilians that would enable his brigade to go home. One of the US military’s rising stars, Mayville loved listening to opera and had a team of highly educated officers – all of which came as a surprise to Sky. As did their willingness to listen to this opinionated Englishwoman who had appeared in their midst.
The restless natives

Sky was included in all classified « battle update briefs » about security operations, and discussions about what the military should be doing next. When she arrived in Kirkuk, the military was running everything in the city. But that was part of the problem. Sky said success should be defined as Kirkukis running their own affairs: the job of the coalition was not to do it for them, but to help them do it themselves.

She and Mayville formed « team government » – a military and civilian partnership, developing ideas that were later reflected in America’s new counter-insurgency strategy. They established the Kirkuk Development Commission to kickstart the local economy. And they also encouraged Iraqis to register any complaints they had about the coalition, including damage done to property during raids.

The two shared an office on the first floor of an old government building in the city centre. « Every day, there were long queues outside our door, with Kirkukis wanting to tell us about weapons of mass destruction or sightings of Saddam. Others were asking for jobs or complaining about services. It was madness, » said Sky.

Among the myriad issues were two that were intertwined; the property claims of 250,000 Kurds who had been expelled from their homes in the city during the 1970s – when Saddam Hussein set out to « arabise » Kirkuk by moving hundreds of families there from the south. The second issue was whether Kirkuk should secede from Iraq and become part of the Kurdish enclave in the north.

Sky urged the CPA to give Kirkuk special status because of its unique make-up; she met the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, and the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, when they made flying visits to the city. She argued Kirkuk needed to be exempted from the rush to Iraqi governance the CPA was demanding in other areas. On 19 September 2003, Sky was summoned to a meeting in Baghdad with Bremer and his deputy, the British diplomat Sir Jeremy Greenstock.

Her idea, she says, « was torpedoed » because of concerns that a precedent might be set. Bremer promised Sky that Kirkuk would be treated as a priority – but it wasn’t, because there were so many other priorities.

Sky didn’t find any mourning for Saddam, but she sensed growing anger about decisions taken in Baghdad that had dire consequences on the ground. « I had arrived ready to apologise to every Iraqi for the war. Instead I had listened to a litany of suffering and pain under Saddam for which I was quite unprepared. The mass graves, the details of torture, the bureaucratisation of abuse. The pure banality of evil. But the Iraqis also had huge expectations of the US. After every war Saddam rebuilt the country in six months, so their attitude was, ‘imagine what the US can do after six months. America can put a man on the moon … you wait’. »

Sky admits the CPA simply could not meet these expectations and no amount of hard work from many experienced British and American volunteers could make up for the lack of planning before the invasion. It left the CPA – which was assembled in haste and from scratch – attempting to restore public services, disband the security forces and build new ones, as well as introduce a free market and democracy. « No organisation would have been able to implement such an agenda, particularly without the consent of the population. Those in Baghdad struggled to cope with the daily crises, whilst those in the provinces were often left to their own devices. Some Americans believed Iraq could become a democracy that would serve as a model for the region. Most Iraqis had not consented to this experiment, or to being occupied by foreign forces. »

Driven on by « zealous Iraqi exiles who had no proper constituency », Sky says some senior members of the CPA and the US government seemed to see Iraq as « an experiment, an incubator for bringing in democracy ».

One of the most contentious CPA orders involved the « de-Ba’athification » of society. This demanded that any member of Saddam’s Ba’ath party at grade four level and above should be dismissed, regardless of whether there was any evidence of actual complicity in crimes. Thousands of professional people in Kirkuk lost their jobs at a stroke – including teachers and doctors.

« Demonising the Ba’ath party to this degree was dangerous, » said Sky. « The whole process hit us very, very hard. It did not affect all communities evenly. Some Sunni areas ended up with no doctors in their hospitals and no teachers in their schools. What did the coalition really know about Iraq? Nothing. De-Ba’athification was based on de-Nazification. It didn’t bring catharsis, or justice. It became highly politicised and brought more and more anger. Everybody who had stayed in Iraq had, in order to survive, become complicit to some way with the regime. But instead of saying we have all suffered, and let’s talk about how we deal with the past, this pitted people against each other. De-Ba’athification became a witch-hunt. I don’t think any society could have withstood what we did to it in terms of disbanding the security forces and sacking its civil servants. »

Sky said the brigade started to become « contemptuous of the CPA and its lack of clear policies and obstruction of their work. Their experiences of Iraq led the military to regard most civilians and their agencies as largely incompetent and impotent ».

A fresh insurgency

Sky realised many local Sunni Arabs were joining an emerging insurgency because they felt excluded from the Shia-led Iraq. « Iraqis felt humiliated by the presence of foreign troops on their soil. Right from the outset, there was resistance from former regime members as well as foreign fighters who entered the country to fight jihad. But it was the de-Ba’athication and dissolving of the military that led many Sunnis to believe that there was no future for them and to oppose the coalition as well as the Iraqi leaders they had put in power. »

The US commander in overall charge of the Kirkuk region, Major General Ray Odierno, issued an amnesty to teachers and doctors caught up in de-Ba’athification in an attempt to defuse the issue. But Baghdad controlled the payroll and cut them off.

A mix of resentments and fears fuelled violence to a level nobody had foreseen. « The US military was not trained or prepared to deal with such a situation and they met violence with violence. There were continuous raids and mass round-ups of military-aged males. There were no suitable facilities to hold the detainees, nor systems to process them, and many became radicalised in detention. » Worst of all, she says, was the evidence that US soldiers were abusing detainees in Abu Ghraib prison.

Kirkuk did not escape the bloodshed, and its victims included community leaders Sky had encouraged to help her shape the city’s new landscape. « I had worked in places overseas for a long time, but I had not worked with people who had been killed, or had been killed because of their relationship with me. I spent a lot of time with the provincial council and about a quarter of the people on council were killed. There was always that sense that we had come into their lives and said, ‘who is going to stand up and serve their province?’, and they had come forward, and some of them had been killed. If we had never come into their lives that would never have happened. Some were killed because they stood forward to join the council, some were killed because they were seen as close to the coalition. I can still see their faces, I remember going to their funerals, speaking to their kids. »

By February 2004, Sky had returned to work at the CPA’s headquarters in Baghdad, where life had become even more stressful for its staff. The number of attacks on the Green Zone had reached such a level that people had stopped running to the shelters when the siren sounded – and the siren didn’t always sound.

Beyond the wire and thick bomb-resistant walls, fliers were appearing all over the capital denouncing the occupation. « Everyone was working incredibly hard but I wasn’t convinced we knew who we were fighting, or why they were fighting. » One man who knew that Sky brought a different perspective on Iraq was Odierno, who had a fearsome reputation as an « old school » soldier.

He had watched Sky reaching out to people in Kirkuk and liked the way she worked with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. In almost all respects, Sky and Odierno were different; she is diminutive, precise and controlled. Shaven-headed and muscular, Odierno is a giant, whose military call sign was Iron Horse. He and Sky developed a rapport that became as important as it was unlikely. « Odierno never questioned why one of his commanders had brought in a British civilian woman into an American brigade. I found him honest, straightforward and direct. Whenever he arrived in Kirkuk, we felt a huge sense of relief. He always gave us support and asked how he could help. And he always asked my opinion about why the violence was happening. I think he recognised the solutions were not simply military ones. »

When Odierno returned to Iraq two and a half years later to lead US forces during « the surge », the general decided he needed more than military might to stop Iraq’s vicious civil war. He asked Sky to join his team.

Voir encore:

Inside Iraq: ‘We had to deal with people who had blood on their hands’
Exclusive: Emma Sky – a British civilian who advised US commanders in Iraq – explains how the surge changed military tactics, and why Obama’s Baghdad trip almost ended in disaster

Part one of our exclusive interview with Emma Sky

Nick Hopkins

The Guardian

16 July 2012

Emma Sky was at her home in Wandsworth, south-west London in September 2006, when she received an email from a friend in the US. At first she tried to ignore it. But Sky knew she wouldn’t refuse him his unusual request.

The author was General Raymond T Odierno, one of the US army’s most senior officers. He was about to return to Iraq to head « Phantom Corps » in a last ditch attempt to stop violence tearing the country apart.

And he wanted Sky to go with him as his political adviser.

« I hadn’t been in Iraq for two years and had just done a six-month tour in Afghanistan, so the email came as something of a surprise. When he asked me to return I was flattered. I also felt that if anyone could make a difference in Iraq it was Odierno. The general is a good listener, he doesn’t think he knows the whole truth, he is intellectually curious. He is prepared to take in ideas, and then make decisions. That’s why I was prepared to return at the worst of times. »

The presence of a British woman at his side would prove controversial and unpopular in some quarters, particularly at the US state department, but the stakes were high and Odierno was evidently prepared to take a risk.

The general had been criticised for his aggressive approach to security in the months after the invasion, though Sky says he took the blame for circumstances beyond his control, and she did not find him to be « some brutal unthinking monster who suddenly had a complete change of personality ».

Sky believed he wanted her to help challenge the army’s punch first instincts, raise with him things he might not want to hear, as well as offer advice he couldn’t get « in-house ». « He didn’t want me to comply and he didn’t pigeonhole me. »

The situation in Iraq at the time was desperate. The violence in Iraq had morphed from an insurgency into sectarian conflict. The al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had provoked a civil war between Sunni and Shias that would take the country close to collapse.

In 2006, 16,564 Iraqi civilians died, including 3,389 in September, the highest amount for any month during the conflict. Coalition casualties were also high; 873 troops were killed that year, 823 of them American. Inevitably, political support for continuing the military campaign was ebbing away in Washington and London.

Nevertheless, the US president George Bush was poised to disregard the advice of some of his closest advisers – and most commentators too – to announce he was sending an extra 20,000 troops to Iraq, most of them into the cauldron of Baghdad.

The surge was a gamble. It seemed then, and with hindsight remains, an astonishing risk taken by a president who had stopped believing those people who said the violence was being provoked solely by the presence of US forces.

With thousands of extra troops heading for Iraq, Odierno set up headquarters in the vast US military base outside Baghdad near the airport, the unfortunately named Camp Victory.

Sky was given her own basic accommodation and was expected to accompany the general everywhere he went.

Emma Sky became a core member of General Odierno’s team and went everywhere he went. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian Linda Nylind/Guardian

She became a core member of Odierno’s handpicked team, which included of some of the best officers in the military, all of them Iraq veterans.

Specifically, Odierno wanted Sky to help him work out an operational plan. A process, she said, that could only begin with a brutal acknowledgment of previous tactics.

« During one of our first discussions, I told him that the situation in Iraq was a disaster and perhaps the biggest strategic failure in the history of the US, » said Sky.

« His response was, ‘what are we going to do about it? We cannot leave it like this’. There was no denial about the extent of the problem. »

« We spent many hours discussing the depth of the problem and what needed to be done. Sometimes it was just me and him, at the end of the day, sitting at Camp Victory on his balcony, and he’s smoking cigars. Sometimes we are at his office and he’s brought in a small team of people. But every day we would be up late talking about why people are using violence. »

« There was a power struggle going on at every level, a communal struggle for power and resources. I knew from my time in Kirkuk that politics drives this kind of instability, and that politics needs to be managed to bring down violence. I believed Iraqis were using violence to achieve political goals. We had to stop stigmatising these people. We had to stop calling these people the enemy. We needed to identify all the different the groups and ask, ‘why are they fighting? What are the drivers of instability?' »
Implementing Fardh al-Qanoon

The overall strategy was masterminded by General David Petraeus, who had spent months in the US developing a new counter-insurgency doctrine.

In February 2007, he arrived in Baghdad to assume command of all coalition forces in Iraq, and reviewed the plans drawn up by Odierno’s team about where and how the extra troops should be deployed.

« The operational details for the surge were left to General Odierno, » said Sky.

An important part of the new campaign involved separating the people who might be persuaded to abandon violence, the so-called « reconcilables », from those who were not. The former would not be targeted by Special Forces operations, the latter could be.

The men in charge of this were General Petraeus’ deputy, Graeme Lamb, a former director of UK special forces, and the American General Stanley McChrystal.

« The irreconcilables were those people who essentially believed that you have to destroy the nation-state to build the caliphate. But you have to be really careful deciding who can be won over, and who can’t. It meant we would have to start dealing with people we had been fighting and for any commander that is a very difficult thing to do. We couldn’t afford to say ‘we’ll only deal with people as long as they haven’t got blood on their hands’. We’ve all got blood on our hands, » Sky says.

Referring to where he was going to put the « wedge », and who could be put in his « squeeze box », Lamb drew up « Restricted Target Lists » – the names and details of those Iraqis that could not be targeted in operations because they were talking to the military. McChrystal dealt with those who refused to compromise.

Once Odierno’s plans had been endorsed by Petraeus, he and Sergeant Major Neil Ciotola travelled the length and breadth of Iraq to visit the troops and explain the new tactics. Sky was always at Odierno’s side.

The campaign was given an Arabic name, Fardh al-Qanoon – imposing the law. As an important first step, US troops began to move out of their bases to live among the local population.

And they had to do two things which were fundamentally counter-intuitive; prioritise protecting the population rather than trying to defeat the enemy; secondly, reach out to the armed groups which were killing civilians and soldiers.

« The general challenged his soldiers to understand the causes of instability, to understand the ‘why’ not just describe the ‘what’. » He would tell the soldiers, ‘the average Iraqi is just like you and me, they want to have their breakfast, take their kids to school and go to work. They are good people they are not our enemy’. People were using violence to achieve political objectives, so we had to create a process where they could achieve their objectives without violence. I had confidence in our analysis. But I was not sure the strategy would work. Not because I thought it was wrong, but because I worried the situation in Iraq was so out of control our extra forces might only exacerbate the violence, not lessen it. »

In those first months, there were few signs of progress and there was violence everywhere they went.

« You can hear it, you can smell it, it is all around. We would go to the hospitals to visit the wounded. We would attend memorial and ramp services for the dead. Every day, the general would be slipped a note with details of casualties which went up and up. We lost over a hundred soldiers a month in April, May and June 2007. In the past, I had been a spectator, an observer. I had never been involved in the decision-making to send our soldiers somewhere. It’s not like being a politician sitting in London. We were living among these men. People I knew died out there, and I am asking myself, ‘what have we sent them out to die for?’

« For weeks and weeks this went on. And every day, the general would talk to commanders and troops, explain the strategy, listen to their concerns, boost their morale. He would tell them that he knew it was so tough in this gruelling heat to put on body armour and go out day after day on raids. And the general continued telling them that they were making a difference, and all the little tactical successes were helping the strategy. »

Sky said she never felt in danger herself, though with hindsight, she accepts her confidence may have been misplaced.

« We were on our way to Mosul when our plane got shot at and we started to take evasive action. Then the door at the back of the plane fell open and we had to get it closed, and on the ground there was shooting, and when we got in a vehicle and it was hit by an IED. But I never had a sense that I was going to die, and I was sure the General could not die. I thought, this is not where the story ends. »

Sky said she found many of the daily security briefings distressing.

« We’d have power point presentations with pictures of men who’ve had half their brains blown out. Some things you never forget … the smell of burning bodies. I didn’t want to learn to cope with these images. The military talk about KIAs (killed in action). That’s how they cope. They don’t say, the victims were women and children. There was so much violence that it was almost too big to comprehend. The military has a language that is not accidental, it is used to quarantine emotion. Everyday we would hear reports that another 60 or 70 bodies had turned up, heads chopped off or drilled through. It was absolutely horrific. We could tell which groups had been behind the attacks by the way the victims had been killed. »

« It can be very lonely being in command and the general appreciated having a confidante. As commander you have to show leadership, you can’t show you have doubts, you have to be strong. But I was a civilian outside the chain of command who could say ‘how are you feeling, are you alright, has it been a bad day? We were not peers and he was always in charge. But I could be more of a friend to him. »
The awakening

Within two months of the launch of the new campaign, al-Qaida militants had claimed responsibility for an audacious suicide bomb attack on the Iraqi parliament in the heart of the fortified Green Zone; two of the bridges in the capital were also hit by truck bombs. These « spectaculars » inevitably raised further doubts about the surge among Iraqi politicians and, privately, among military commanders.

But these incidents proved to be the high-water mark. « When the insurgents blew up the parliament, everyone in Iraq was probably thinking ‘this isn’t going to work’. Of course there were nights when I thought, we are bringing more violence and it is causing more violence, but is it actually going to break the violence. Everything had just escalated and escalated … there were occasions when I doubted whether we were ever going to break the back of it, and whether we should call it quits.

« But by July we started to feel things were changing. We heard it first from the battalions who described how more and more Iraqis were coming forward to give information about ‘bad guys’, and how insurgents were reaching out to do deals. There were ceasefires everywhere, local agreements, because more and more Iraqis were coming forward wanting to work with us. The intelligence we were getting improved, and the number of Iraqi casualties started to go down. »

Separately, the « awakening » in Anbar, which had begun a year earlier, began to have its own important effect. Anbar had been the most violent of all Iraq’s provinces, a place where Sunni tribal leaders had joined forces with al-Qaida to fight American forces. That was until those same tribal chiefs began to see al-Qaida as a greater threat to them, and turned to the US military for help to drive the insurgents out of the region.

This process had begun before the surge, but the Fardh al-Qanoon programme put the US in a better position to work with, and build trust between, sheiks who had spent the previous four years waging vicious conflict against American forces.

« The Sunnis could see we were trying to push back on the Shia extremists, and I think that had a huge affect, » said Sky. « With the awakening happening and spreading, it created the environment for the Sunnis to come back into society. This started before the surge when the Anbaris became sick of al-Qaida. In that wonderful way people in the region can switch alliances, they just changed side. One minute they are wearing al-Qaida patches on their sleeves, and the next they are taking them off and calling themselves ‘Sahwa’ (Awakening). They saw they could get American help, and they regarded Iran, and the Shia militias it supported, as the bigger threat, and decided to align with the US to fight them. »
Talking to Bassima

While tentative progress was being made out on the ground by the military, Sky was tasked with talking to the Iraqi government and assuaging some of their fears.

One unexpected consequence of the campaign was that Shia leaders had begun to worry that through the ever-increasing awakening the US was creating a Sunni army that would eventually overthrow them.

Sky decided to approach Dr Bassima al-Jaidri, the military adviser of the Shia prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

Al-Jaidra was remarkable in many ways. She was a young Shia, in her late 30s. She had been a rocket engineer. And she was tough. Sky admits that some in the military suspected she was a « leader of the Shia death squads across Baghdad ». Such criticism didn’t seem to faze her at all.

When she was denounced by the US for her unwillingness to include Sunnis in the higher echelons of the new Iraqi security forces, she said: « I have had a long struggle with men … I can handle the American officers. »

Over the summer and autumn, Sky made regular helicopter trips into the Green Zone to speak to Al-Jaidra, who was known for wearing the striking combination of stiletto heels and a veil.

The meetings would take place in her office which was part of the prime minister’s office.

« I thought, I cannot go to speak to Maliki directly, so the best way to influence him is through Bassima. I think it would be fair to say she is not an easy woman. I would try to explain to her what we were doing and why.

« The Iraqi government could not accept some of the people we were doing deals with. To them they were bad Ba’athists, terrorists, and the awakening was creating a militia which could be a danger to the state.

« They were so suspicious of our motives … and they could not believe that the US had gone into Iraq without a grand plan. They assumed that this was all part of a conspiracy by the US to purposefully destroy Iraq, keep it weak and humiliate its people. I tried to get her to understand our position and how we had got there, and vice-versa. »

To encourage Iraqi government support for the awakening, Odierno had been relaying to the prime minister « good news » stories he had received from his commanders about the Sons of Iraq, the term the US used to described the awakening.

« But Maliki was only hearing bad news from his people on the ground. He therefore assumed the US was plotting a coup against him using the Sons of Iraq! When you ask your commanders for good news, you get good news. If you ask for bad news, you get bad news. »

Sky said it took « weeks and weeks » to earn Al-Jaidra’s trust. It helped that they were women in similar positions. « We were both working for big men. We were the same age, and neither of us had married. And we were both trying to bring our bosses closer together.

Sky persuaded Al-Jaidra that it would be better, and safer, for the government to integrate the new groups emerging around the country into the Iraqi security forces, rather than ostracise them.

In December 2007, Odierno and Maliki were at a meeting of the National Security Conference in Baghdad. When Odierno set out why the awakening needed to be integrated into Iraq’s security and the plan to do so, Maliki commented: « I agree with the general 100%. »

« Some people in the room gasped, » said Sky. « It was a hugely important moment. That year we went from being in hell to bringing the violence down. »
Iraq Inquiry opens in London
Tony Blair in Iraq in May 2007: when the prime minister met Emma Sky he asked if she really was British and why she was working with the US military. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/EPA

In 2007, 15,960 Iraqi civilians were killed in violence. In 2008, the number had come down to 4,859. US casualties went from 904 in 2007 to 314 in 2008.
The British

Sky was at the heart of the US military machine and her advice was being sought at the top of the political pyramid. But she says she only ever met British diplomats when she accompanied Odierno to embassy meetings.

When Tony Blair made his last visit to Iraq in May 2007, Sky was introduced to him by Petraeus and Odierno. They told the prime minister their senior adviser was from the UK.

He said: « Are you really British? I assured him that I was British born and bred. He then asked, ‘so how come you are working with the US military?’ I replied, ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. »

To end any suspicions, Sky says she was not and never has worked for MI6.

Sky saw what the British were doing from the US side of the fence. More than 40,000 British troops took part in the 2003 invasion but, by 2007, it seemed the UK was losing control of the south to the Iran-backed Shia militias of the cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.

And there was little political appetite to win back this territory. The early confidence that led senior members of the British military to boast to the Americans about their experience in counter-insurgency had evaporated.

« This was a time when the British were saying, ‘the problem in Basra is the British presence’, so the Brits were intending to pull out. » Sky remembers one conversation with an American general. « He said to me, ‘we are surging and the Brits are de-surging’. He didn’t know the opposite of surge. »

Sky added: « The British public support for this war was always very low. In America they are much more supportive of the military and even though you saw public opinion turning against the Iraq war, it wasn’t to the level that it was in Britain. Of course the Americans wished the British forces were bigger and had more resources, but to be perfectly honest, the British think far more about what the Americans think of them than the Americans think about them. » At the end of the day, the Americans were grateful to have the British as a close ally.

In March 2008, 30,000 troops from the Iraqi army surged into Basra to clear the city of Shia militias; the operation was called the Charge of the Knights. The British were peripherally involved, mostly giving medical and logistical help.

Brigadier Julian Free, commander of British troops in Basra at the time, admitted the UK could do little more. « We didn’t have enough capacity in the air and we didn’t have enough capability on the ground. »
David Petraeus , Ray Odierno,
General Petraeus contacted Sky to ask how they could persuade General Odierno to replace him as commanding general of all coalition forces in Iraq. Photograph: Dusan Vranic/AP

All of which meant the British inevitably left Iraq under a cloud. « The Sadrists will always claim that they are the ones who won in the south, and pushed the British out, » said Sky. « And I think the Iraqi government will claim that the British didn’t stand there and fight. »

With the British hamstrung by lack of numbers, and with Prime Minister Maliki overestimating the capabilities of his own forces, the US had to intervene to stop the Charge of the Knights turning into another disaster.

« The risk of failing in Basra would have been catastrophic for the country, » Sky said.

The end game

AT the end of 2007, Sky left Iraq for what she thought was the last time.

But three months later there was an unexpected reshuffle at the top of the US military. The officer in charge of US Central Command (Centcom), Admiral William Fallon, was forced to resign after an article in Esquire magazine, written with his cooperation, claimed he was opposed to President Bush’s approach to Iran. In the rearrangement, Petraeus was to leave Iraq to take command from Centcom and Odierno was asked to return to replace him as the commanding general of all coalition forces in Iraq.

« I was walking in the hills in France when I got this email from Gen Petraeus saying, how can we persuade Odierno to accept to come back to replace me in Iraq. General Odierno had been separated from his family for so long and had been so looking forward to going home. Within months, he was told he was being sent back to Iraq. For senior commanders, they get little choice. The poor guy, I felt so sorry for him. But General Odierno was going to go regardless. For him it was duty. And if he goes, and he wants my help, I go. That’s a given. »

Sky spent two months working for Petraeus in Baghdad in May and June, and then returned to Iraq as Odierno’s adviser shortly before he arrived in September. This time, with broader responsibilities, she was based in the US embassy in Baghdad, but still accompanied Odierno to all his meetings.

Not everyone was pleased.

« One of the general’s staff told me that everybody hated me. Someone else said to me ‘if you send anymore emails to the general we will destroy you, get rid of you’. Staff like to feel they are controlling the general and they did not like him getting different ideas from me. It was upsetting, but I felt the mission was important. If I’d thought the general didn’t value me there is no way I would have put up with that shit. I didn’t tell the general about it. He had enough things going on. You certainly need thick skin to work with some in the military. »

But such incidents were isolated, and most of Odierno’s staff accepted her.

The key initial task was on negotiating a status of forces agreement, the legal basis that allowed the US to remain in the country, and for how long. Sky, the Englishwoman, was asked to represent the US military during the talks.

With a UN resolution due to expire, getting an agreement was essential before the end of 2008. « I was on of a small team under the US ambassador Ryan Crocker. If we didn’t get it, the US would have to withdraw 150,000 troops within two or three months, they’d have to pack up and go home. And if the US went home, the Iraqis wouldn’t get their help anymore. »

« There were times when I really thought this isn’t going to happen, it really came down to the wire. Some of the Iraqis were scared the agreement made the prime minister too strong and wanted reassurances. We had already done a contingency plan on the basis we’d have to leave. But, at the last moment, an agreement was signed. It specified that the military had to be out of the cities by the end of June 2009, and out of Iraq completely by 2011. »

After so many years of fighting in Iraq, it was natural the military would find it difficult to let go.

« General Odierno would go out visiting troops and they would always say, ‘security isn’t good enough, there is still a risk, we cannot leave’. But by letting go, our relationship with Iraqis would improve. So the general had to get them to understand that success was something different now. We were shifting from counter-insurgency to stability, and putting Iraqis in the lead was the priority. When you do counter-insurgency the focus is protecting the people. In stabilisation, the priority is building up the institutions. »

As the change in military posture and preparations for withdrawal continued, Sky remembers tensions between the military and the state department. Some of the embassy officials were on their first tours to Iraq and didn’t seem as committed as their predecessors or the soldiers.

« One of the diplomats told me it was like being handed a bus with no wheels on, and I said, at least you recognise it as a bus. In the last few years you couldn’t even recognise it as a bus. »
Secret trips into Baghdad

Because Sky wasn’t in the military chain of command, and because she wasn’t an American, nobody could actually stop her leaving the confines of the Green Zone to get out among Iraqis.

These trips gave Sky a chance to speak to Iraqis and see places for herself, picking up valuable on-the-ground understanding she could feed back to the general and his staff.

« Everyone was under all these regulations. I was supposed to be as well, but being a non-American, and not coming under the British either, I was in a unique situation and Odierno trusted my judgment. I would travel at night around Baghdad to get a sense of what it was like so I could report back on different areas. I was going out with and among Iraqis. I could see if the Iraqis were working the checkpoints properly, if the electricity was on. Things like that can help give commanders the confidence to let go.

« In some places, I’d get people from the area to take me around. I was going in and out of Sadr city (a district of Baghdad), which the Americans regarded as one of the most dangerous places on earth at the time. »

The year before, Sky had helped work on the ceasefire of Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), an Iraqi paramilitary group created by Al-Sadr, so she already knew some of its members.

« I knew some of them, and I had built up a relationship with them. They had their own lives and their own motivations. Iraqis are the most extraordinary people, they might distrust each other but they can be remarkably open to an outsider. »

Sky said she did not feel in danger – the people she relied upon to keep her safe on her trips into the city’s underworld were taking high risks too.

« I think they felt responsible for me. I was a woman on my own, and they took good care of me. The people who would have done me harm, would have done them harm too. So if the security was good enough for them, it was good enough for me. Although the risk of kidnapping was real, I was not worried that I would be taken. I trusted the Iraqis with my life, I trusted them completely. »

Sky would travel from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. « In some areas there was still something sinister, completely dark. And in others, you didn’t get that at all. You could see areas coming back to life. When women and children are in the streets you know they must feel safe. Even Sadr city started to buzz, and that was very exciting. »

During the day, Sky would occasionally have meetings with Iraqis at the Rashid Hotel in the Green Zone. One meeting made a particular impression. « I thought this man was just an angry Sunni, and we were trying to find common ground. We had tea together. A little later I discovered he had been arrested and was the al-Qaida emir for northern Iraq. I don’t know how he managed to get into the Green Zone. »

Sky still keeps in touch with some of the Iraqis she knew then, including one member of JAM, who sends her a Valentine’s card every year.

Obama’s first Iraqi trip
When Obama was unable to go to the Green Zone to meet Maliki, Sky played a key role in getting the Iraqi prime minister to go to Camp Victory to meet the US president. Photograph: the Guardian The Guardian

The election of Barack Obama didn’t change US plans to pull back from Iraq according to the timetable set by George Bush.

But Obama-mania was still very much alive when he made his first visit to Baghdad in April, 2009. He was mobbed by US troops, and Iraq’s senior politicians and tribal leaders were enthusiastic to meet him too.

Though not reported at the time, Sky says the trip so nearly ended in acute embarrassment for all sides.

The problem was something even the leader of the free world could not control; the weather.

« Obama was supposed to land at Camp Victory and then go by helicopter to the Green Zone to meet the Iraqi prime minister and other Iraqi politicians. But the weather was so bad the helicopters couldn’t fly. The president’s security people were saying there’s no way he will travel by road to the ceremony, and the US embassy was saying there’s no way the Iraqi politicians will come to Camp Victory, the seat of the occupation. And I am saying, there’s no way the president can come to Iraq and not see Iraqis. It is their country, he has to meet them. It would be a disaster if he didn’t. » Odierno told Sky to try to persuade Prime Minister Maliki to drive to Camp Victory.

« So I go over to see the prime minister, who is having his afternoon siesta. I had to wake him up. I said ‘I am terribly sorry but President Obama cannot come to the Green Zone because of the weather and I hate, hate to ask of you, is there any chance you can come to Camp Victory?’ Obama was new. Everyone was excited about him, and Maliki agreed. And if Maliki agreed, then the others would probably come too. »

In the Green Zone, nobody else knew about the looming crisis. « President Talabani had got the band playing and was waiting for Obama to arrive, and I am trying to focus on getting Maliki to Camp Victory. You have to remember that a lot of these politicians don’t get on at all, and we still had to decide the order of who sees Obama, when and where. »

Odierno’s residence in Camp Victory became the emergency reception area and Sky travelled with the prime minister’s convoy on the way out to the base. There were myriad security check-points along the route and Sky knew the prime minister would take umbrage if he was stopped anywhere along the drive, and U-turn back to the Green Zone.

« I was in the first car, sending messages to the military to open the checkpoint gates. At every one I jumped out, waved my military badge and shouted. ‘Prime Minister of Iraq, open the gate’. It was a miracle that we got him in without a major diplomatic incident. » President Talabani arrived soon after, but there was nowhere for him to wait before his audience with Obama. « We ended up putting him the bedroom of Odierno’s bodyguard. There was laundry all over the bed. »

Sky attended all the meetings between the Iraqis and Obama, and Odierno introduced them. Despite the chaos, and the opportunities for bruised egos, the visit ended without any major diplomatic incidents.

To Sky’s surprise, Maliki was so impressed with his tour around Camp Victory that he thought it would make a good site to hold the Arab Summit in 2010.

« The next day in our staff meeting General Odierno told his chief of staff to come up with a feasibility study to get all US soldiers out of Camp Victory in 2010 just in case the prime minister asked about it again. The chief of staff almost had a heart attack. »
Hostages

Although the ceasefires between Sunnis and Shia were holding, tensions in the north had increased between Kurds and Arabs.

The president of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, and Iraq’s Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, did not get on well, which didn’t help matters when, as Sky put it, « things began to get a bit dodgy in the north » – Kurdish peshmerga forces were squaring up to Iraqi security forces.

One episode reflected the difficulties; there had been a spate of bomb attacks close to the town of Hawija, just south of Kirkuk, which had been blamed on al-Qaida. Sky suspected it wasn’t insurgents, but local Arabs fearful that their town was about to be overrun by the Kurdish peshmerga.

« I was sitting in the office in Baghdad when someone showed me a map of where all the different forces were due to be stationed, including peshmerga south of Kirkuk. I thought this upsurge in violence isn’t al-Qaida, it is the Hawija Arabs. They are angry. So Gen Odierno told me to accompany one of his generals to speak to the sheiks.

« The sheikhs are not an easy lot but I had known them since 2003. I told them the peshmerga would not be positioned south of Kirkuk. And they said, ‘thank God, we had to put plant all these road side bombs because we were worried you were letting them in’. This is how they saw things so they took their own defensive action. »

Matters came to a head in Nineveh in February 2010, when the province’s new Arab governor, Atheel Najafi, decided he was going to test his freedom of movement by taking a trip into an area of his province which was predominantly Kurdish.

« The governor is supposed to have freedom of movement, but the Kurds said he can’t go in there. The Americans said he could, as part of an agreement that we had brokered.

« So the Americans escort the governor and the Kurds send reinforcements and things begin to escalate, and then shots are fired at the governor.

« The US brought tanks to a Kurdish village, and are flying F16 fighters overhead to try to calm the situation. And then the Iraqi security forces arrested some Kurds for trying to assassinate the governor. »

It was not an end to the affair.

« I was woken up at 2am by the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad, who had received a report from Ankara that the Kurds had invaded Mosul. I didn’t know what he was talking about and was desperate to find out what was going on.

« This was really very bad, definitely up there in the list of the most stressful events I have ever had to deal with. There hadn’t been an invasion, but the Kurds had kidnapped a number of Arabs in Nineveh in response to the arrests. So we had a group of Kurds detained in Mosul, and an group of Arabs had been taken in retaliation. »

Sky said the US embassy insisted that men accused of attempting to assassinate the governor should be put on trial, in accordance with the rule of law.

« When I mentioned this to the Kurds, they screamed at me ‘there is no rule of law in Iraq’. Every time Barzani turned on his TV, they were showing the American tanks and the F16s. He was furious… »

Odierno told Sky to find a pragmatic solution to the crisis; realistically, it could only be solved one way – an exchange of hostages.

« I tried to organise a deal to swap the detained Kurds with the Arabs. But to do this, I needed to get proof of life of the Arab detainees. So I had to fly up to Kurdistan on the general’s plane. The weather was absolutely terrible. There was thick fog, the airport was closed and the pilots couldn’t see the runway. But they were determined to get me to my meeting and managed to land on the second attempt. The Kurds were amazed I’d manage to fly in.

The Kurds took Sky to a presidential guest house, but before addressing the critical security situation, her hosts said she had another appointment – with a beautician.

« They got a young Kurdish girl to look after me. I had my hair cut and my legs waxed. It was quite nice but rather bizarre. Then they said they wanted to take me to a new mall. They love their malls. »

This was partly a deception; on the way, Sky was diverted to meet members of the Asayesh, the Kurdish intelligence service.

« They were holding three of the Arab hostages. I saw they were alive and well. So I called the deputy prime minister (Rafi al-Issawi) and told him I had proof of life. »

Sky flew down to Baghdad to pick up Issawi and his adviser, Jaber al Jaberi, and then they all flew back to Mosul to seal the deal.

There was a further twist; the three Kurds suspected of attempting to assassinate the governor had to be taken before a court so an Iraqi judge could formally release them from custody.

The Kurds were suspicious.

« So we are sitting at the airport trying to do the deal. The Kurds have informers everywhere and there was no way they wanted the prisoners taken before a judge without having some way of ensuring they came back again.

« So we had to give up Jaber as a hostage to the Kurds. He wasn’t very pleased about that! »

Two American military helicopters went to pick up the 15 kidnapped Arabs.

« The Kurdish negotiation side wouldn’t let the Arabs get off the helicopters until the Kurds were back from the judge. All this time they were saying, we are going to call off the deal, we are going to call off the deal. This went on for about four or five hours … it was incredibly stressful. The mobile reception was terrible. It was on, then off, then on then off. » Eventually, the Kurds and the Arabs were released.

« Issawi hugged them and gave them each some money. The Arabs had had no idea why they had been detained. Then we held a press conference in which Issawi went on about national reconciliation and on the flight back to Baghdad he was saying how great it was to do something that made all sides happy. »
Conclusion

Emma Sky left Iraq, along with Odierno in September 2010, at the end of combat operations. In total, she had been in the country for 50 months, completing more tours than most military commanders.

By nature she was suspicious of armed forces, and she was no supporter of America either. So Sky was probably the last person US commanders wanted at their side pointing out where they were going wrong. Which is one of the reasons she came to like and respect them. They were brave enough to take her in, and braver still to listen to what she was saying. The British would not have dared be so bold.

Sky has thought long and hard about what went wrong in those early days, and whether enough was done in the later years to give Iraq a chance for stability.

She is angry that no one has been held accountable for a war fought over false claims of WMD which had such high costs; more than 100,000 Iraqis were killed, along with 4,486 US soldiers and 179 British soldiers.

She believes the surge helped reduce the violence and allowed US forces to withdraw in 2011 with dignity – something that would have been inconceivable years earlier.

Sky says it is probably too early to judge whether Iraq can evolve into a democracy and become a force for regional stability: « People tend to be critical of the military, but the criticism needs to be more focused on the politicians and civilian leaders who failed to set an overall strategy. No one has been held accountable. They do not understand what the military is capable of, what it can and cannot do. Success in Iraq was always going to be defined by politics. We needed a political solution, a pact, a peace. The military had been asked to fight the war and then to deal with the consequences of it, without anyone in political authority having a plan or understanding Iraq well enough to appreciate the consequences of some of their decisions.

« I don’t want to live in a world where we see the killing of innocent civilians and don’t yearn to stop it. However, the Iraq war should have taught us, if nothing else, about the limitations of our own power. »

She is also unashamed of her conversion regarding the US military. As a self-confessed Guardian reader, she had prejudices that were challenged, and ultimately reshaped, by her experiences.

« They made me feel part of the team, and were as driven as I was to find a way of improving the situation in Iraq. I went on patrol with them, and spent hours in humvees and helicopters. I built up a camaraderie with soldiers that only people who go to war experience. Some of them remain close friends. » Odierno was the best of the lot, she says.

« I would have followed him anywhere. »

Sky still keeps in touch with many Iraqis – including a few who were once insurgents.

« If I had never volunteered and stepped on that plane in 2003 I would never have known that Iraq is such an amazing society. I think Iraqis are some of the most warm, generous, kind and funny people. »

« Nothing in my life will ever compare to the experience I had in Iraq. I had a real sense of purpose and I don’t regret going there for a single moment. People sometimes ask me, why did you go to Iraq, and I respond, why wouldn’t you go? » It was the best decision of my life. »

Voir de plus:

Iraq war will haunt west, says Briton who advised US military
Exclusive: Emma Sky – British civilian who advised US commanders in Iraq – says Muslim world sees a war on Islam

Nick Hopkins, defence and security correspondent

The Guardian

15 July 2012

A British woman who worked at the top of the US military during the most troubled periods of the Iraq war has said she fears the west has yet to see how some Muslims brought up in the last decade will seek revenge for the « war on terror ».

Speaking for the first time about her experiences, Emma Sky also questioned why no officials on either side of the Atlantic have been held to account for the failures in planning before the invasion.

Sky, 44, was political adviser to America’s most senior general in Iraq, and was part of the team that implemented the counterinsurgency strategy that helped to control the civil war that erupted in the country. The appointment of an English woman at the heart of the US military was a bold and unprecedented move, and it gave her unique access and insights into the conduct of one of the most controversial campaigns in modern history.

In all, the Oxford graduate spent more than four years in Iraq, including a spell as civilian governor of one of its most complex regions. She met Tony Blair and Barack Obama in Baghdad and earned the trust of senior Iraqi officials, as well as many of the country’s leading politicians and community leaders, some of whom remain her friends.

Now back in London, Sky has been reflecting on her time in Iraq in a series of interviews with the Guardian. She expressed concern about the effects this period has had on the Arab world, and how some of the mistakes made in Iraq appear to have been repeated in Afghanistan.

But Sky also defended the military and the senior commanders she worked with, who, she said, did everything they could to retrieve the situation.

She argued politicians and government officials on both sides of the Atlantic should have been held responsible for the decision to go to war, and the lack of strategy and planning for its aftermath – the consequences of which are still being felt.

A lack of understanding of the Arab world also meant the west struggled to grasp why it had provoked so much violence, and who was responsible for it.

« We’ve been fighting the war on terror for 10 years » said Sky. « At times it seems we have been fighting demons. We behaved as if there were a finite number of people in the world who had to be killed or captured. And we were slow to realise that our actions were creating more enemies.

« It has been seen by many Muslims as a war on Islam. Now, we are saying, ‘We’ve pulled out of Iraq, we are pulling out of Afghanistan, and it’s all over now.’ It may be over for the politicians. But it is not over for the Muslim world. Well over 100,000 Muslims have been killed since 9/11 following our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly by other Muslims.

« We have to ask ourselves, what do we think this has done to their world? And how will they avenge these deaths in years to come? It is not over for the soldiers who have physical injuries and mental scars, nor the families who have lost loved ones. »

She added: « The world is better off without Saddam. But nobody has been held accountable for what happened in Iraq, and there is a danger that we won’t learn the right lessons, particularly related to the limitations of our power.

« Politicians can still claim that Iraq was a violent society, or that Iraqis went into civil war because of ancient hatreds, or the violence was the inevitable result of the removal of Saddam, or that al-Qaida and Iran caused the problems. They distract from our own responsibility for causing some of the problems by our presence and the policies we pursued. »

She said the focus on building up local security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan was not the right priority.

« We think it is about us, and it is about our security. But in the end, it is about their politics … success in Iraq was always going to be defined by politics. We needed a political solution, a pact, a peace. »

Sky was one of the British volunteers who went to Iraq in the aftermath of the invasion to help the reconstruction effort being led by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

She was appointed civilian governor of Kirkuk, the oil-rich city in the north of the country, and impressed US commanders with the way she worked with an American brigade to bring stability to the region.

Her frankness about the problems facing the country, and the coalition’s difficulties in dealing with them, did not deter the American military from recruiting her in 2007. She was made political adviser to General Ray Odierno, the US commander sent to Iraq to oversee the military « surge » – which involved 20,000 extra troops being sent to the country to stem the violence.

In 2008, Odierno succeeded General David Petraeus as overall commander of forces in Iraq. He asked Sky to return with him in the same advisory role. Odierno is now chief of staff of the US army and Petraeus is director of the CIA.

As a civilian member of Odierno’s team, Sky accompanied him everywhere, and was given responsibilities that seem remarkable for a « foreigner ». She witnessed some of the horrific violence that led to tens of thousands of Iraqis, and thousands of coalition troops, being killed. A number of people she considered friends – Iraqi and American – died in the fighting.

An Arabist who spent 10 years working in Jerusalem, Sky said: « I had worked in places overseas for a long time, but I had not worked with people who were then killed – sometimes due to their association with me. That first year in Kirkuk, I spent a lot of time with the provincial council and about a quarter of the people on the council were killed.

« There was always that sense that we had come into their lives and said, ‘Who is going to stand up and serve their province?’ and they had come forward, and some of them had been killed. If we had never come into their lives that might never have happened. »

Voir par ailleurs:

George Bush’s Prediction of the Iraq Meltdown

David Paulin

Front Page

June 20, 2014

[1]Former President George W. Bush is remaining mum on the tragedy unfolding in Iraq. But as an army of bloodthirsty Islamists rampages across Iraq with the goal [2] of establishing a 7th century religious tyranny — a caliphate — it’s worth recalling who years ago had predicted this would happen if the Democrats got their way.

It was President George W. Bush and his top officials.

They warned early on that Iraq was ripe for the rise of an Islamic caliphate — either in a failed state created by Saddam Hussein or, they later contended, if the U.S.-led coalition bugged out without leaving behind a stable Iraq. Two years into the U.S.-led occupation, in 2005, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld warned that a premature withdrawal would be disastrous — and he foresaw what has in fact happened. He explained, “Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East, and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia.”

Vice President Dick Cheney also warned of the rise of a caliphate if the U.S. withdrew before Iraq was capable of governing and defending itself. “They talk about wanting to re-establish what you could refer to as the seventh-century caliphate” to be “governed by Sharia law, the most rigid interpretation of the Koran,” he said.

Gen. John P. Abizaid, then America’s top commander in the Middle East, also offered prescient testimony in 2005 to the House Armed Services Committee, forseeing what the terror masters would do in a weak Iraqi state. “They will try to re-establish a caliphate throughout the entire Muslim world. Just as we had the opportunity to learn what the Nazis were going to do, from Hitler’s world in ‘Mein Kampf,’ we need to learn what these people intend to do from their own words.”

Liberals jeered such dire predictions — and especially at the repeated use of the word “caliphate.”

The New York Times, for instance, ran a piece [3]on December 12, 2005, that mocked the forgoing Bush-administration officials for their warnings of a “caliphate” — portraying them as foreign-policy amateurs peddling an alarmist view of the Middle East. Wrote reporter Elisabeth Bumiller:

A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq.
Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, obviously don’t believe what’s printed in The New York Times. ISIS, incidentally, has reportedly been preparing to make its move for several years — right under the radar of the Obama administration. Were they emboldened by President Obama’s endless apologies to the Muslim world? Or the deadlines he’d set for leaving Iraq and Afghanistan? Probably all of the above. But what no doubt really energized them was President Obama’s failure to negotiate a deal with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that would have left sufficient U.S. troops in Iraq.

President Bush, for his part, issued a prophetic warning [4]in 2007 when vetoing a Democratic bill that would have withdrawn U.S. troops. “To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for the United States,” he said.

It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.
A little history is worth recalling. Saddam’s failure to account for his weapons of mass destruction, including remnants of his toxic arsenal (some of which was in fact found [5]), gave the Bush administration legal cover for going into Iraq. But only a fool would believe weapons of mass destruction were the only reason for the war. The U.S.-led invasion, or liberation, was in fact part of a vision to remake the Middle East: a long-term project to liberate millions in Iraq; nudge the region toward modernity; and above all make America safer in a post-9/11 world — all by correctly defining who the enemy was and taking the war on terror to them.

The Bush administration certainly encountered setbacks in Iraq and made mistakes; the fog of war invariably upsets the best-laid plans of politicians and generals. But Iraq only plunged into utter chaos after President Obama brought home U.S. troops, despite warnings that Iraq was not ready to govern or defend itself. The blood and treasure that America spent in Iraq has been squandered.

The terror masters were energized in Syria, thanks to the Obama administration’s tepid support [6]of moderate rebels there. Now they are on the march, just as President Bush and his top officials had predicted. After they establish their regional caliphate in Iraq and Syria, expect them to next turn their attention toward their real enemies: America, Israel, and the West. Oil prices are bound to go through the roof, sending the global economy into a tailspin.

President Obama and his foreign-policy advisors have blood on their hands. But if Obama remains in character, he’ll do what he usually does — blame it all on George Bush.

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.frontpagemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/140616-isis-iraq-jms-1914_dfd9d334d657162e5efe720e4f206e29.jpg

[2] goal: http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-iraq-debacle-1402615473

[3] ran a piece : http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/12/politics/12letter.html?_r=1&

[4] prophetic warning : http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2014/06/flashback-george-w-bush-predicted-iraqi-meltdown-if-us-troops-were-withdrawn-from-region/

[5] found: http://hotair.com/archives/2010/10/24/wikileaks-documents-show-wmds-found-in-iraq/

[6] tepid support : http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/11/world/middleeast/former-ambassador-to-syria-urges-increasing-arms-supply-to-moderate-rebels.html

[7] Click here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref%3dnb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=david+horowitz&rh=n:133140011%2ck:david+horowitz&ajr=0#/ref=sr_st?keywords=david+horowitz&qid=1316459840&rh=n:133140011%2ck:david+horowitz&sort=daterank

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Voir aussi:

Que veulent les terroristes?

Daniel Pipes
New York Sun
26 juillet 2005

Version originale anglaise: What Do the Terrorists Want? [A Caliphate and Shari’a]
Adaptation française: Alain Jean-Mairet

Que veulent les terroristes? La réponse devrait être évidente. Pourtant, elle ne l’est pas.

Les terroristes de la génération précédente exprimaient clairement leur volonté. Lors du détournement de trois avions de ligne en septembre 1970, par exemple, le Front populaire de libération de la Palestine exigea et obtint la mise en liberté de terroristes arabes détenus en Grande-Bretagne, en Suisse et en Allemagne de l’ouest. Lors de l’attaque du siège du B’nai B’rith et de deux autres immeubles de Washington, D.C., en 1977, un groupe musulman hanafite exigea l’interdiction d’un film, «Le Message» (VO: Mohammad, Messenger of God), 750 dollars (au titre de remboursement d’une amende), la remise des cinq hommes qui avaient massacré la famille du leader hanafite et le meurtrier de Malcolm X.

Ces «exigences non négociables» liées à des prises d’otages provoquèrent des drames déchirants et autant de dilemmes politiques. «Nous ne négocierons jamais avec des terroristes», déclarèrent les responsables politiques. «Donnez-leur Hawaii mais rendez-moi mon mari», suppliaient les épouses des otages.

Ces temps sont si lointains et leur terminologie est à tel point oubliée que même le président Bush parle aujourd’hui d’«exigences non négociables» (en l’occurrence en matière de dignité humaine), oubliant l’origine sinistre de cette expression.

La plupart des attentats terroristes perpétrés de nos jours ne sont accompagnés d’aucune exigence. Des bombes explosent, des avions sont détournés et s’écrasent sur des immeubles, des hôtels s’effondrent. Les morts sont comptés. Les enquêteurs établissent l’identité des auteurs. De vagues sites web émettent après coup des revendications non authentifiées.

Mais les raisons de la violence ne sont pas explicitées. Les analystes, y compris votre serviteur, doivent donc spéculer sur les motifs. Ceux-ci peuvent être liés aux ressentiments personnels des terroristes, basés sur la pauvreté, des préjudices ou des sentiments d’aliénation culturelle. Par ailleurs, on peut discerner une intention d’influer sur la politique internationale:

  • «frapper» à Madrid pour obtenir que les gouvernements retirent leurs troupes d’Irak.
  • Convaincre les Américains de quitter l’Arabie Saoudite.
  • Faire cesser l’aide américaine à Israël.
  • Faire pression sur New Dehli pour qu’elle abandonne tout contrôle sur le Cachemire.

Tout cela pourrait avoir contribué à motiver les violences. Pour reprendre les termes du Daily Telegraph de Londres, les problèmes en Irak et en Afghanistan ajoutèrent à chaque fois «une nouvelle pierre à la montagne de rancunes érigée par des militants fanatiques». Mais aucun de ces éléments n’est décisif dans le choix de sacrifier sa vie pour tuer d’autres gens.

Dans presque tous les cas, les terroristes djihadistes nourrissent une ambition manifeste, celle d’établir un règne mondial dominé par les Musulmans, l’Islam et la loi islamique, la charia. Ou, pour citer une nouvelle fois le Daily Telegraph, leur «projet réel est l’extension du territoire islamique sur l’ensemble du globe et l’instauration d’un califat mondial basé sur la charia».

Les terroristes affichent cet objectif ouvertement. Les islamistes qui assassinèrent Anouar El-Sadate en 1991 décorèrent leurs cages de banderoles proclamant «Le califat ou la mort». Dans une biographie, l’un des penseurs islamistes les plus influents, et qui a inspiré Oussama Ben Laden, Abdullah Azzam, déclare que sa vie «s’articula autour d’un seul but, celui d’instaurer le règne d’Allah sur la Terre» et de restaurer le califat.

Ben Laden lui-même parla de veiller à ce que «le pieux califat prenne son essor depuis l’Afghanistan». Son principal adjoint, Ayman al-Zawahiri, rêvait aussi de rétablir le califat lorsqu’il écrivit «l’histoire, si Dieu le veut, va prendre un grand tournant dans la direction opposée, contre l’empire des États-Unis et le gouvernement juif mondial.» Un autre leader d’Al-Qaida, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, publie un magazine qui déclara: «Grâce à la bénédiction du djihad, le compte-à-rebours a commencé pour l’Amérique. Elle sera déclarée vaincue très bientôt», puis le califat sera mis en place.

Ou, comme l’écrivait Mohammed Bouyeri dans la note qu’il fixa sur la dépouille de Theo van Gogh, le cinéaste hollandais qu’il venait d’assassiner, «l’Islam vaincra grâce au sang des martyres qui répandent sa lumière dans chaque recoin de cette terre».

Il est intéressant de relever que l’assassin de van Gogh se montra contrarié par les motifs erronés qui lui furent attribués. Lors de son procès, il insista sur ce point: «J’ai fait ce que j’ai fait par pure foi. Je veux que vous sachiez que j’ai agi par conviction et que je ne l’ai pas tué parce qu’il était hollandais ou que j’étais marocain et que je me sentais offensé.»

Bien que les terroristes déclarent haut et fort leurs motivations djihadistes, les Occidentaux comme les Musulmans, trop souvent, ne les entendent pas. Comme l’observe l’auteure canadienne Irshad Manji, les organisations islamiques prétendent que «l’Islam est un spectateur innocent du terrorisme actuel».

Ce que veulent les terroristes est extrêmement clair. Et il faut fournir un effort monumental de dénégation pour ne pas le reconnaître, mais nous autres Occidentaux semblons bien en être capables.

Voir également:

White House Letter
21st-Century Warnings of a Threat Rooted in the 7th

Elizabeth Bumuller
The new York Times

December 12, 2005
WASHINGTON

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said it in a speech last Monday in Washington and again on Thursday on PBS. Eric S. Edelman, the under secretary of defense for policy, said it the week before in a round table at the Council on Foreign Relations. Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, said it in October in speeches in New York and Los Angeles. Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander in the Middle East, said it in September in hearings on Capitol Hill.

Vice President Dick Cheney was one of the first members of the Bush administration to say it, at a campaign stop in Lake Elmo, Minn., in September 2004.

The word getting the workout from the nation’s top guns these days is « caliphate » – the term for the seventh-century Islamic empire that spanned the Middle East, spread to Southwest Asia, North Africa and Spain, then ended with the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258. The term can also refer to other caliphates, including the one declared by the Ottoman Turks that ended in 1924.

Specialists on Islam say the word is a mysterious and ominous one for many Americans, and that the administration knows it. « They recognize that there’s a lot of resonance when they use the term ‘caliphate,’  » said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and now a scholar at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, said that the word had an « almost instinctive fearful impact. »

So now, Mr. Cheney and others warn, Al Qaeda’s ultimate goal is the re-establishment of the caliphate, with calamitous consequences for the United States. As Mr. Cheney put it in Lake Elmo, referring to Osama bin Laden and his followers: « They talk about wanting to re-establish what you could refer to as the seventh-century caliphate » to be « governed by Sharia law, the most rigid interpretation of the Koran. »

Or as Mr. Rumsfeld put it on Monday: « Iraq would serve as the base of a new Islamic caliphate to extend throughout the Middle East, and which would threaten legitimate governments in Europe, Africa and Asia. »

General Abizaid was dire, too. « They will try to re-establish a caliphate throughout the entire Muslim world, » he told the House Armed Services Committee in September, adding that the caliphate’s goals would include the destruction of Israel. « Just as we had the opportunity to learn what the Nazis were going to do, from Hitler’s world in ‘Mein Kampf,’  » General Abizaid said, « we need to learn what these people intend to do from their own words. »

A number of scholars and former government officials take strong issue with the administration’s warning about a new caliphate, and compare it to the fear of communism spread during the Cold War. They say that although Al Qaeda’s statements do indeed describe a caliphate as a goal, the administration is exaggerating the magnitude of the threat as it seeks to gain support for its policies in Iraq.

In the view of John L. Esposito, an Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University, there is a difference between the ability of small bands of terrorists to commit attacks across the world and achieving global conquest.

« It is certainly correct to say that these people have a global design, but the administration ought to frame it realistically, » said Mr. Esposito, the founding director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown. « Otherwise they can actually be playing into the hands of the Osama bin Ladens of the world because they raise this to a threat that is exponentially beyond anything that Osama bin Laden can deliver. »

Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, said Al Qaeda was not leading a movement that threatened to mobilize the vast majority of Muslims. A recent poll Mr. Telhami conducted with Zogby International of 3,900 people in six countries – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon – found that only 6 percent sympathized with Al Qaeda’s goal of seeking an Islamic state.

The notion that Al Qaeda could create a new caliphate, he said, is simply wrong. « There’s no chance in the world that they’ll succeed, » he said. « It’s a silly threat. » (On the other hand, more than 30 percent in Mr. Telhami’s poll said they sympathized with Al Qaeda, because the group stood up to America.)

The term « caliphate » has been used internally by policy hawks in the Pentagon since the planning stages for the war in Iraq, but the administration’s public use of the word has increased this summer and fall, around the time that American forces obtained a letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 leader in Al Qaeda, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The 6,000-word letter, dated early in July, called for the establishment of a militant Islamic caliphate across Iraq before Al Qaeda’s moving on to Syria, Lebanon and Egypt and then a battle against Israel.

In recent weeks, the administration’s use of « caliphate » has only intensified, as Mr. Bush has begun a campaign of speeches to try to regain support for the war. He himself has never publicly used the term, although he has repeatedly described the caliphate, as he did in a speech last week when he said that the terrorists want to try to establish « a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain. »

Six days earlier, Mr. Edelman, the under secretary of defense, made it clear. « Iraq’s future will either embolden terrorists and expand their reach and ability to re-establish a caliphate, or it will deal them a crippling blow, » he said. « For us, failure in Iraq is just not an option. »

Voir encore:

Caliwho ? Bush’s New Word: ‘Caliphate’
Matthew Philips

Newsweek

10/12/06

When President George W. Bush starts using fifty-cent words in press conferences, one has to wonder why, and on Wednesday, during his Rose Garden appearance, he used the word “caliphate” four times. The enemy, he said—by which he clearly meant the Islamic terrorist enemy—wants to “extend the caliphate,” “establish a caliphate,” and “spread their caliphate.” Caliphate? Really? Many people live long, fruitful lives without once using the word caliphate. Almost no one, with the exception of our president and some of his advisers, uses it as a pejorative.

As NEWSWEEK reported last month, the president and the people who prep him are still clearly casting about for the right phrase to pin on America’s elusive enemy .  “Axis of evil” is outdated by now. “Islamist,” the preferred choice of scholars, has been deemed too jargony and academic. “Islamofascist” is a recent favorite, and in a speech last month the president used it as punctuation in a litany of other tags, notably “Islamic radicalism” and “militant jihadism.” The beauty of “caliphate” is that no one but students of Islamic history have much more than a vague idea of what it means. “Bush has been successful in defining terms in his own way,” said Steve Ebbins, a former Democratic speechwriter. “[The Bush administration] has captured the language. If you control the language, you control the message and are able to sway people’s attitude toward your policy. It’s a policy-endorsing mechanism.” Until last January, the president rarely used it, if ever. Since then, he’s used it more than 15 times.

A caliphate , according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is the “office or dominion of a caliph”; a caliph is “a successor of Muhammad … [the] spiritual head of Islam.” Simply put, the caliph is Islam’s deputy to the world. After the Prophet Muhammad died in 632 A.D., his father-in-law, Abu Bakr, became the first caliph. (At the heart of the schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims, even today, is the question of succession: who has the right to become Islam’s caliph?) From the time of the Prophet’s death until the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258, caliphs ruled over Muslims and presided over the Muslim expansion throughout the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe. These were the caliphates; some beneficent, some warmongering, in concept not unlike any other empire or dynasty.

In fairness, Bush isn’t the first person in recent history to appropriate the word caliphate and use it as a weapon. Osama bin Laden did it himself, most notably three years ago, in his statement to the United Sates via Al-Jazeera. “Baghdad, the seat of the caliphate, will not fall to you, God willing,” he said, “and we will fight you as long as we carry our guns.” Bin Laden’s rhetoric evoked, as it often does, an earlier, golden era of Islam, one that exists more in his imagination than in the lawless, crumbling city of Baghdad today. Backers of the war in Iraq—Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, not to mention hawks like Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania—jumped on the word and used it in speeches dozens of times.

Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American Islamic Relations, says bin Laden’s word choices distort Islam for the world, and he wishes the president would take more care. When Ahmed heard “caliphate” Wednesday morning, he thought of the way Bush used the word “crusade” after September 11. “There’s a fundamental misunderstanding with the president and his advisers on core Islamic issues,” Ahmed said. “He’s getting bad advice, they’re misinformed on Islamic terminology.” Either that, or he’s making a strategic rhetorical choice.

Voir enfin:

Full text: Blair speech on terror
Mr Blair said ‘evil ideology’ motivated the London bombers
The following is the full text of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s speech on the London bombings, delivered at the Labour Party national conference on Saturday. The greatest danger is that we fail to face up to the nature of the threat we are dealing with. What we witnessed in London last Thursday week was not an aberrant act.

It was not random. It was not a product of particular local circumstances in West Yorkshire.

Senseless though any such horrible murder is, it was not without sense for its organisers. It had a purpose. It was done according to a plan. It was meant.

What we are confronting here is an evil ideology.

It is not a clash of civilisations – all civilised people, Muslim or other, feel revulsion at it. But it is a global struggle and it is a battle of ideas, hearts and minds, both within Islam and outside it.

This is the battle that must be won, a battle not just about the terrorist methods but their views. Not just their barbaric acts, but their barbaric ideas. Not only what they do but what they think and the thinking they would impose on others.

Religious ideology

This ideology and the violence that is inherent in it did not start a few years ago in response to a particular policy. Over the past 12 years, Al-Qaeda and its associates have attacked 26 countries, killed thousands of people, many of them Muslims.

They have networks in virtually every major country and thousands of fellow travellers. They are well-financed. Look at their websites.

They aren’t unsophisticated in their propaganda. They recruit however and whoever they can and with success.

Neither is it true that they have no demands. They do. It is just that no sane person would negotiate on them.

This is a religious ideology… Those who kill in its name believe genuinely that in doing it, they do God’s work; they go to paradise.

They demand the elimination of Israel; the withdrawal of all Westerners from Muslim countries, irrespective of the wishes of people and government; the establishment of effectively Taleban states and Sharia law in the Arab world en route to one caliphate of all Muslim nations.

We don’t have to wonder what type of country those states would be. Afghanistan was such a state. Girls put out of school.

Women denied even rudimentary rights. People living in abject poverty and oppression. All of it justified by reference to religious faith.

The 20th century showed how powerful political ideologies could be. This is a religious ideology, a strain within the world-wide religion of Islam, as far removed from its essential decency and truth as Protestant gunmen who kill Catholics or vice versa, are from Christianity. But do not let us underestimate it or dismiss it.

Those who kill in its name believe genuinely that in doing it, they do God’s work; they go to paradise.

‘Legitimate targets’

From the mid 1990s onwards, statements from Al-Qaeda, gave very clear expression to this ideology: « Every Muslim, the minute he can start differentiating, carries hatred towards the Americans, Jews and Christians. This is part of our ideology. The creation of Israel is a crime and it has to be erased.

« You should know that targeting Americans and Jews and killing them anywhere you find them on the earth is one of the greatest duties and one of the best acts of piety you can offer to God Almighty. Just as great is their hatred for so-called apostate governments in Muslim countries. This is why mainstream Muslims are also regarded as legitimate targets ».

Mr Blair said the « devilish logic » of their claims must be exposed.
At last year’s (Labour) party conference, I talked about this ideology in these terms.

Its roots are not superficial, but deep, in the madrassas of Pakistan, in the extreme forms of Wahabi doctrine in Saudi Arabia, in the former training camps of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; in the cauldron of Chechnya; in parts of the politics of most countries of the Middle East and many in Asia; in the extremist minority that now in every European city preach hatred of the West and our way of life.

This is what we are up against. It cannot be beaten except by confronting it, symptoms and causes, head-on. Without compromise and without delusion.

The extremist propaganda is cleverly aimed at their target audience. It plays on our tolerance and good nature.

It exploits the tendency to guilt of the developed world, as if it is our behaviour that should change, that if we only tried to work out and act on their grievances, we could lift this evil, that if we changed our behaviour, they would change theirs. This is a misunderstanding of a catastrophic order.

Their cause is not founded on an injustice. It is founded on a belief, one whose fanaticism is such it can’t be moderated. It can’t be remedied. It has to be stood up to.

And, of course, they will use any issue that is a matter of dissent within our democracy. But we should lay bare the almost-devilish logic behind such manipulation.

‘Callous indifference’

If it is the plight of the Palestinians that drives them, why, every time it looks as if Israel and Palestine are making progress, does the same ideology perpetrate an outrage that turns hope back into despair?

If it is Afghanistan that motivates them, why blow up innocent Afghans on their way to their first ever election? If it is Iraq that motivates them, why is the same ideology killing Iraqis by terror in defiance of an elected Iraqi government?

What was September 11, 2001 the reprisal for? Why even after the first Madrid bomb (in March 2004) and the election of a new Spanish government, were they planning another atrocity when caught?

In the end, it is by the power of argument, debate, true religious faith and true legitimate politics that we will defeat this threat.

Why if it is the cause of Muslims that concerns them, do they kill so many with such callous indifference?

We must pull this up by its roots. Within Britain, we must join up with our Muslims community to take on the extremists. Worldwide, we should confront it everywhere it exists.

Next week I and other party leaders will meet key members of the Muslim community. Out of it I hope we can get agreed action to take this common fight forward. I want also to work with other nations to promote the true face of Islam worldwide.

Round the world, there are conferences already being held, numerous inter-faith dialogues in place but we need to bring all of these activities together and give them focus.

Defeating the threat

We must be clear about how we win this struggle. We should take what security measures we can. But let us not kid ourselves.

In the end, it is by the power of argument, debate, true religious faith and true legitimate politics that we will defeat this threat.

That means not just arguing against their terrorism, but their politics and their perversion of religious faith. It means exposing as the rubbish it is, the propaganda about America and its allies wanting to punish Muslims or eradicate Islam.

It means championing our values of freedom, tolerance and respect for others. It means explaining why the suppression of women and the disdain for democracy are wrong.

The idea that elected governments are the preserve of those of any other faith or culture is insulting and wrong. Muslims believe in democracy just as much as any other faith and, given the chance, show it.

We must step up the urgency of our efforts. Here and abroad, the times the terrorists have succeeded are all too well known.

Less known are the times they have been foiled. The human life destroyed we can see. The billions of dollars every nation now spends is huge and growing. And they kill without limit.

They murdered over 50 innocent people (in London) last week. But it could have been over 500. And had it been, they would have rejoiced.

The spirit of our age is one in which the prejudices of the past are put behind us, where our diversity is our strength. It is this which is under attack. Moderates are not moderate through weakness but through strength. Now is the time to show it in defence of our common values. »

Voir enfin:

January 2006 Trip to Iraq and Kuwait – Podcast Transcript

TOPIC: Iraq
January 9, 2006
From the Road: Speaking with American Troops in Iraq
Complete Text
PODCAST TRANSCRIPT: Hello, this is Senator Barack Obama, and I am resuming my podcasts after a couple weeks Christmas Break. And I am calling from a cell phone at a hotel overlooking the hills of Amman, Jordan. It’s actually a beautiful city, Jordan. The sun is setting and I am just come back from my first trip into Iraq.

You know, obviously Iraq has dominated our foreign policy for the last several years. Listeners to my regular podcasts or those who followed my campaign, I think, are aware of the fact that I have been deeply skeptical about the administration’s policy towards Iraq and the initial invasion. I felt it was important for me to visit Iraq myself and get some sort of first hand report about what was happening there.

So, I started the trip actually from Kuwait, where the US maintains several bases that are used to provide logistical support for what’s happening in Iraq. I met with troops as well as some of the generals who are in charge of logistical support. They talked about the enormous efforts that are required to maintain our presence in Iraq. There are about 20,000 troops in this base in Kuwait and they typically provide initial training for troops before they deploy into Iraq as well as providing water and fuel and are used as a launching site for operations in Iraq.

I had the opportunity to meet with a number of troops from Illinois as well as play a little basketball with some of the troops in the gymnasium there. And so I had a chance to talk to them about their feelings about what was happening. I think it’s fair to say that morale among almost every US troop that I met was high. I think everybody is very proud of the work that they’re doing and understandably so. Because regardless of how you feel about the war, what’s astonishing is just the pride that our men and women in uniform take about accomplishing the tasks before them. The effort in Iraq is just an unbelievable logistical task.

We flew into Baghdad and then I was helicoptered into the Green Zone. And when you visit the Green Zone, which is several miles wide and long in the center of Baghdad, you really get a sense that US military operations have built an entire city within a city. There are thousands of US military personnel and coalition forces – everything from embassy personnel to logistical support to troops that are about to be deployed into other areas of the country.

It’s an impressive achievement and in conversations with US personnel there all of them felt a genuine sense of progress after this most recent election. The feeling was that there was a great opportunity for the first time in sometime to create a national unity government that actually had some claim of legitimacy with the Iraqi people.

I had a meeting then with Ambassador Khalilzad, the US Ambassador to Iraq, who discussed the meaning of the most recent election. His belief is that there is an opportunity to create a government that unifies Shiite, Sunni and Kurd, but that it’s not going to be easy. That the election in and of itself doesn’t create that unity. In fact the election was largely along sectarian lines. But that hopefully there is a recognition on the part of the leadership in all these various factions that recognizes a unified Iraq is better than the alternative, regardless of how difficult it is. And overall I was impressed with the work that he was doing.

Later that evening I had dinner with the President or Iraq, President Talabani as well as a number of ministers in the current Iraqi government, representing various factions. And the general impression was that they recognized the need to arrive at accommodations; and that was a cause for some small optimism.

The next day we took Blackhawk helicopters and went out to Fallujah, which is the site of some of the worst violence in Iraq. I did not travel through the city proper but rather flew into the primary US military base out there, and had a briefing from both their general as well as the colonels who were in charge of troops out there. As we arrived we learned that just a day earlier five marines had been killed, and obviously people were pretty somber about that. It’s still very dangerous work to be done.

And in discussions with our military, one message that came across repeatedly was that there is not going to be a military solution to the problem of Iraq; that only political accommodations can solve some of these problems. One of the colonels that we met in Fallujah, who is in charge of intelligence, pointed out that you’ve got 50% unemployment rates in many of the western portions of Iraq. And what that means is that the insurgency is going to continually grow unless the central government pays attention to the concrete needs of the people in that area. It also means that despite the work of the US military in apprehending the leaders of the insurgency in that area, there are always young men who are willing to fill the shoes of those who are apprehended. And as a consequence, the insurgency and the dangers posed by the explosive devices that they are setting throughout the country will continue, as well as the suicide bombings. This colonel really felt very strongly that the problem we faced was not a matter of foreign fighters, but rather a combination of foreign Jihadists and, more importantly, the homegrown support that continues to be generated.

We went to Kirkuk in northern Iraq where the situation is a little bit more stable, although there is significant tension there. Kirkuk is the site of a lot of oil wealth that the Kurdish want to incorporate into their regional government and is being resisted by Shiite and Sunni alike. And so a very complicated political process is taking place in that region.

You know, as you fly from Baghdad airport to the Green Zone and then out to places like Fallujah and you look down on the countryside and over the city, you realize how devastating this war has been for the country. It still looks shell-shocked. The land is muddy and fallow and strewn with skeletons of old trucks and cars and the imprints of buildings that are now reduced to rubble. There is very little traffic on the streets; a few people are on foot. It reminds you of how devastating war is.

The conversations that I had with troops who had lost friends and colleagues reminded me of how personally devastating war is to soldiers and their families.

And I think generally it emphasizes, in my mind at least, how our foreign policy has to be tough but it has to also be smart; and that we have to possess some element of humility about our capacity to remake other countries and other cultures.

I think there are several things that I at least learned from the trip, some of which reinforced some of my previous thoughts and some thoughts that are new:

Number one, we have probably a six-month window in which to create the sort of national unity government that can actually deliver a basic government to the Iraqi people and deliver the sort of political accommodations that are the necessary precursor for any solution to the violence in Iraq. Whether that’s going to happen or not will depend on the degree to which the Shiite majority shows restraint and recognizes the need to bring Sunnis into all levels of government, particularly the security forces. It’s also going to depend on the degree that the Sunnis are willing to recognize that they are never going to have the same degree of power given their numbers as they did under Saddam Hussein.

The second thing that’s going to need to happen if there is going to be any modicum of success in Iraq is that the security forces themselves have to be representative of all portions of Iraqi society. Right now the security forces are dominated by Shiite. There have been some disturbing reports about the Ministry of the Interior and the police being used as a vendetta force against Sunnis. That obviously helps to fan the insurgency, which raises a broader point.

And that is that it’s going to be important for whatever government that is elected to actually start building institutional capacity.

We met with some of the officials that are in charge of reconstruction over there; and it’s clear that the basic structure of civil service – a non-corrupt, technocratic approach to solving problems and delivering services is not deeply imbedded there and has to be developed. And changing that culture is going to take time but it’s going to have to start. And whatever else the national unity government accomplishes it’s got to recognize that it needs a basic structure of service delivery to gain the confidence of the Iraqi people.

Finally, and I think most importantly, what’s clear is that there is not going to be a military solution to this problem. I heard this repeatedly, not just from civilians or observers, but from the military – our military – the recognition that the insurgency cannot be defeated by armed might alone. And it is absolutely critical that our policies recognize that.

I remember having a conversation with one of the colonels out in the field, and although he did not believe that a rapid unilateral withdrawal would actually be helpful, there was no doubt that the US occupation in Iraq was becoming an increasing source of irritation. And that one of the things that we’re going to need to do – and to do sooner rather than later – is to transition our troops out of the day-to-day operations in Iraq and to have a much lower profile and a smaller footprint in the country over the coming year.

On the other hand, I did also ask some people who were not particularly sympathetic to the initial war, but were now trying to make things work in Iraq – what they thought would be the result of a total withdrawal and I think the general view was that we were in such a delicate situation right now and that there was so little institutional capacity on the part of the Iraqi government, that a full military withdrawal at this point would probably result in significant civil war and potentially hundreds of thousands of deaths. This by the way was a message that was delivered also by the Foreign Minister of Jordan, who I’ve been meeting with while here in Amman, Jordan.

The sense, I think, throughout the entire region among those who opposed the US invasion, that now that we’re there it’s important that we don’t act equally precipitously in our approach to withdrawal, but that we actually stabilize the situation and allow time for the new Iraqi government to develop some sort of capacity.

I guess the final point I just want to make is how proud I am of the US troops there. One of the things that I continually emphasized to them was that regardless of how any of us feel about the administration’s decision to go into Iraq, all of us are extraordinarily proud of the work that they’re doing. What the US military accomplishes on a day-to-day basis, in just setting up and rebuilding portions of the country that have been destroyed and in carrying out extraordinarily difficult tasks on a day-to-day basis is amazing.

And particularly when I was talking to the Illinois troops many of them are guardsmen and reservists – some of them on their second or third rotation – it was important for me to emphasize to them that the folks back home fully support them even as we have, I think, a very legitimate debate back in Washington about what we’re doing there.

The fact is that our US military is probably the most capable institution on the planet in terms of carrying out extraordinarily difficult assignments. But it’s incumbent on our civilian leadership in Washington to make sure that we don’t provide them with assignments that are impossible to accomplish. And I continue to be concerned that we have set out for ourselves just an enormous task of rebuilding an extremely volatile and large country, and the military is not going to be able to do it alone so we’re going to have to have some good policies from Washington to move it forward.

Anyway, I hope everybody had a wonderful holiday. I will be returning to Washington after several days in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It’s obviously a difficult time there, given the grave illness that Ariel Sharon is suffering. It’s thrown the entire Middle East into tumult and I may have some more to say about that when I get back. So hopefully I’ll be able to deliver a podcast next week and look forward to being back home to see my wife and kids next week as well.

Take care everybody. Bye-bye.

Voir enfin

Il règne un bordel sans nom au Moyen-Orient et les Etats-Unis n’y sont pas pour rien
David Rothkopf

Traduit par Peggy Sastre

Slate

05.04.2015

Aujourd’hui, tout le Moyen-Orient est en guerre. L’incohérence stratégique de l’administration Obama n’aura fait que précipiter la région dans le chaos.

Si le chaos généralisé que connaît aujourd’hui le Moyen-Orient n’est pas entièrement imputable à l’administration Obama, reste que sa politique étrangère dans la région est un échec complet.

Irak, Syrie, Libye, Yémen…
Aujourd’hui, le capharnaüm en est à un niveau littéralement inédit. Pour la première fois depuis les deux Guerres mondiales, quasiment tous les pays allant de la Libye à l’Afghanistan sont impliqués dans un conflit armé (avec le sultanat d’Oman comme notable exception). Le chaos, l’incertitude et la complexité que connaissent la versatilité et bien souvent l’incohérence des alliances et des inimitiés en présence a de quoi donner le vertige.

En Irak et en Syrie, les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés combattent aux côtés de l’Iran pour défaire l’Etat islamique (EI), mais au Yémen, les Etats-Unis et bon nombre ces mêmes partenaires régionaux collaborent pour repousser les forces houthies soutenues par l’Iran.

Face à l’Iran, Israël et l’Arabie saoudite sont plutôt sur la même longueur d’onde, mais le reste de leurs anciennes et profondes divisions sont toujours d’actualité.

En Syrie, l’Iran soutient Bachar el-Assad; les Etats-Unis et leurs alliés occidentaux déplorent son action, mais tolèrent sa présence, tandis que certaines factions rebelles soutenues par les Etats-Unis dans leur combat contre l’EI cherchent (et depuis longtemps) à le destituer. Les Etats-Unis voudraient que les pays de la région défendent leurs propres intérêts –et pas seulement en Libye, ni pour court-circuiter l’Amérique.

Nous sommes donc face à un ensemble d’opérations aux conséquences totalement désastreuses ou, pour emprunter aux militaires américains un terme technique adéquat, un clusterfuck –à peu près traduisible par «tas de merde» ou «bordel sans nom» (pour gagner en politesse, on parle de charlie foxtrot, selon les règles de l’alphabet phonétique). Pas étonnant donc que tant d’Américains veuillent se désinvestir de cette région le plus vite possible. Selon eux, l’incendie qui embrase le Moyen-Orient est bien au-delà des capacités de contrôle de leur pays, les animosités locales servant de combustible sont anciennes et la plupart des conflits actuels sans grande importance pour leur vie quotidienne.

Il est vrai que le schisme entre sunnites et chiites, vieux d’un millénaire, joue un rôle certain (quoique peut-être surestimé) dans le morcellement du Yémen ou dans les divisions qui ont pu participer à la faillite de l’Etat irakien et à l’essor de l’EI. En outre, il est indéniable que bon nombre des soulèvements actuels s’ancrent dans les abus d’Etats autocratiques, voleurs des peuples et inaptes aux moindres rudiments de gouvernance. Un nombre considérable de ces problèmes actuels remontent aussi aux errements des dirigeants de l’Empire britannique (qui, avec le recul, n’étaient pas vraiment dotés de cette habilité quasi-divine à créer des nations dont ils pouvaient se targuer). D’autres conflits sont la résultante de stratégies de stabilisation régionale –tels les accords Sykes-Picot– devenues caduques après près d’un siècle d’existence. Il va sans dire que l’invasion de l’Irak par George W. Bush n’aura pas non plus amélioré les choses. Sans oublier, bien évidemment, Benjamin Netanyahou, qui n’aura jamais cessé d’être un connard.

En sus, avancent les partisans du désengagement, l’Amérique a du pétrole. Nous avons du gaz. Nous n’avons plus autant besoin du Moyen-Orient qu’avant. Et, soit dit en passant, nous avons aussi prouvé combien nous étions nuls en interventions militaires et en édification nationale (au Moyen-Orient et ailleurs).

Obama avait bien dit qu’il se désengageait, non?
Ainsi, pourquoi ne pas reprendre tout simplement nos billes et laisser ce feu s’éteindre de lui-même? D’ailleurs, quand on y pense, n’était-ce pas là notre plan? La raison de l’élection de Barack Obama?

Oui, mais non. Concernant ce dernier point, Obama a sans doute été élu pour mettre fin aux guerres en Irak et en Afghanistan, mais reste que la sécurité de l’Amérique face aux potentielles menaces émanant de cette région demeure toujours de sa responsabilité. Et, en tant que président, il lui incombe la responsabilité encore plus générale de défendre nos intérêts nationaux dans le monde entier.

Des intérêts qui exigent que nous restions engagés au Moyen-Orient. Sur le plan de l’énergie, si nous avons nos propres réserves en quantités suffisantes, les prix de l’énergie sont fixés sur un marché mondialisé, ce qui signifie que toute fluctuation d’envergure, que cette fluctuation soit liée aux réserves disponibles ou à l’évaluation des risques, aura toujours un impact sur nous.

En outre, si le conflit régional en vient à s’aggraver, il pourrait avoir de très graves conséquences mondiales. La guerre entre sunnites et chiites pourrait se propager. L’EI, infiltré dans toute la région, pourrait tirer parti de ce chaos, à l’instar d’al-Qaida, du Front al-Nosra en Syrie, de l’Aube de la Libye, voire du Hamas. La Libye pourrait très facilement devenir le prochain Yémen, ce qui provoquerait très certainement une intervention régionale comme celle que mène actuellement l’Arabie saoudite (si les Egyptiens ont accepté de participer à cette intervention, c’est aussi parce qu’ils auront inévitablement à mener toute action lancée contre leur voisin occidental).

Le morcellement de pays comme l’Irak, la Syrie, le Yémen ou la Libye modifiera très certainement l’équilibre régional des pouvoirs –surtout si cela génère la création d’un Etat (ou d’Etats) comme celui que veut voir advenir l’EI en Irak et en Syrie, voire d’une région entièrement défaillante sur le plan de la gouvernance et qui deviendra un terreau d’autant plus fertile pour l’extrémisme.

Les leçons du passé
Comme le 11-Septembre nous l’a appris –et comme l’ont démontré les récents événements en Europe, en Afrique, au Canada et aux Etats-Unis– dans le monde d’aujourd’hui, des problèmes qui pourraient sembler lointains peuvent très bien et très vite se faufiler dans nos rues ou dans celles de nos alliés.

Nous avons assisté à l’essor d’al-Qaida dans la péninsule arabique et en Afrique du Nord. Aujourd’hui, l’EI déborde en Afghanistan et, au Nigeria, Boko Haram a prêté allégeance à ce tout nouveau et dynamique acteur du secteur terroriste. Les combattants de l’EI ont trouvé des recrues en Europe ou aux Etats-Unis (cf. le très récent cas des deux membres de la Garde nationale arrêtés dans l’Illinois) qui reviendront certainement chez eux pour propager le chaos si jamais la menace qu’ils représentent n’est pas étouffée sur les champs de bataille du Moyen-Orient. Qui plus est, nos alliés essentiels que sont Israël et la Jordanie risquent aussi gros face à cette agitation. Si leurs positions en viennent à être fragilisées, les Etats-Unis seront obligés de s’investir encore davantage dans la région, et pour un coût encore plus élevé.

D’énormes facteurs géopolitiques sont aussi en jeu. Oui, un chaos prolongé et des gouvernements affaiblis rendront encore plus difficiles le contrôle et la gestion des menaces produites dans la région.

Mais, en dernier ressort, quand ces guerres finiront, de nouveaux gouvernements nationaux émergeront et l’influence que l’Amérique pourra avoir sur eux dépendra directement de la manière dont notre soutien et notre rôle dans leur construction auront été perçus. Parallèlement, si nous nous désengageons ou si nous en venons à n’avoir plus aucune capacité d’action, notre influence sur la nature de ces gouvernement en sera d’autant diminuée, si ce n’est réduite à néant. Et si notre influence diminue, d’autres pays verront la leur augmenter (comme c’est d’ores et déjà le cas). Aujourd’hui, cela pourrait sembler secondaire, mais avec la cristallisation de nouvelles rivalités et de nouveaux problèmes au cours du XXIe siècle, faire une croix sur notre influence dans une région du monde aussi stratégique –et laisser la place à d’autres– pourrait avoir de bien malheureuses ramifications.

La responsabilité de la Maison Blanche
Dès lors, si l’administration Obama n’est évidemment pas responsable de la plupart des racines, ni des nombreuses causes aggravantes de la mêlée actuelle au Moyen-Orient, il est aussi vrai qu’elle ne peut se permettre de tourner le dos à ces soulèvements/conflits, de prendre des mesures à moitié pensées, ni de faire le choix d’actions principalement réactives et largement improvisées en l’absence de toute stratégie globale.

Malheureusement pour les Américains, pour nos alliés, pour la région et pour le monde, voici trois des principales méthodes mises en œuvre par l’actuelle Maison Blanche.

Autant de façons de faire qui auront matériellement contribué à la situation que nous connaissons aujourd’hui.

En Irak, au cours des deux dernières années de l’administration Bush, la situation était à la stabilisation et à l’amélioration, notamment grâce au renfort de troupes de 2007, à davantage d’attention accordée aux sunnites et à l’implication active et continuelle du président et des responsables du gouvernement afin de trouver des solutions précises à un problème –non, soyons clairs, à une catastrophe– dont ils avaient été les auteurs. Notamment, il s’agissait de de gérer leur très mauvais choix de Premier ministre, Nouri al-Maliki. L’Irak était encore loin du pays de cocagne, mais, en tendance, les choses allaient dans la bonne direction. La décision d’Obama d’accélérer le départ des troupes américaines (d’une manière qui n’allait pas vraiment faire le nécessaire pour produire le type de Status of Forces Agreement qu’une présence prolongée aurait permis) a tout détricoté. Son inattention à la mauvaise gouvernance de Maliki et au soulèvement d’une partie des sunnites, puis à l’essor de l’EI, allait encore aggraver la situation.

Evidemment, le fiasco présidentiel fait d’indécision, de décisions incohérentes et de sourde oreille aux recommandations de son équipe quant à l’agitation grandissante en Syrie est aussi un facteur d’envergure. Une réaction paresseuse et confuse au Printemps arabe allait être redoublée par une très mauvaise gestion et un dangereux affaiblissement de la relation vitale qu’entretenaient les Etats-Unis avec l’Egypte.

L’ambivalence d’Obama face à l’action, et aux mesures nécessaires à une sortie de crise en Libye est un autre exemple de ces erreurs de jugement qui ont créé davantage de problèmes qu’elles n’en ont résolus.

Le poids de l’Iran
Voilà l’ironie des années Obama qui, malgré l’espoir d’une nouvelle ère et d’une amélioration des relations régionales incarné dans un discours prononcé au cœur du monde arabe, verront en fin de compte un changement «pour le mieux» se faire non pas avec les arabes, mais avec les perses.

Durant le premier mandat, la sévérité de l’administration quant aux sanctions infligées à l’Iran sur la question du nucléaire aura précédé un second mandat tellement assoiffé d’un accord nucléaire que tout le monde, de Téhéran au fin fond de l’Ohio, estime que les Etats-Unis désirent plus ardemment cet accord que les Iraniens et qu’ils ont ainsi perdu tout levier dans les négociations. Cette évolution, qui n’aura pas été accompagnée d’une coordination suffisante avec nos principaux alliés de la région, d’Israël aux monarchies du Golfe, capable d’apaiser leurs tourments vis-à-vis du rapprochement entre les Etats-Unis et l’Iran, n’a eu de cesse de préoccuper ces alliés (et leurs apprentis dans la région), à mesure que l’Iran se révélait comme le seul pays du Moyen-Orient susceptible de tirer parti de la propagation du chaos.

Cela a été le cas au Yémen, avec ses liens toujours plus resserrés avec Bagdad et un gouvernement irakien toujours plus dépendant de ses soldats, de ses armes et de ses conseillers  pour combattre l’EI, et en Syrie (où Assad semble bien parti pour être toujours au pouvoir après le départ d’Obama de la Maison Blanche).

L’indignation du général américain Lloyd Austin à l’idée de commander des troupes combattant aux côtés de milices chiites, après le sort que ces dernières ont pu réserver aux soldats américains durant la Guerre d’Irak, aura été émouvante. Mais elle pourrait sonner creux, vu qu’elle repose sur une tromperie sémantique.

Le monde sait qu’en Irak, l’Amérique fournit un soutien aérien aux milices chiites menées et financées par l’Iran pour combattre l’EI.

Le monde sait que s’il est question de coalition américaine, c’est l’Iran qui gagne aujourd’hui le plus en influence, car il est disposé à envoyer des soldats au sol.

Voilà pourquoi ce n’est pas Austin, mais Qassem Suleimani le commandant de la Force Al-Qods qui est portée aux nues en Irak, dans toutes les régions chiites et même kurdes.

Ne pensez pas qu’une telle réalité, déni mis à part, n’a pas joué de rôle dans la méfiance grandissante que suscite l’administration Obama chez nos alliés les plus essentiels du Golfe, d’Egypte et d’ailleurs. Ne pensez que cela ne les a pas poussés à penser qu’ils allaient devoir agir par eux-mêmes au Yémen afin de contre-balancer les gains iraniens.

«Laissez les gars du cru se démerder» n’est pas plus une stratégie de politique étrangère américaine que le «ne faites pas de conneries»

Les Etats-Unis ont voulu tirer un trait sur cette interprétation en arguant que Washington soutenait à la fois le combat contre les Houthis au Yémen et ne travaille pas vraiment main dans la main avec les Iraniens en Irak (la récente retraite des milices chiites, soi-disant parce qu’elles ont trop de mal à œuvrer aux côtés des Etats-Unis, me semble suspecte et bien trop savamment orchestrée. Peut-être que nous ne sommes pas en «coordination» avec les Iraniens, mais nous avons su jouer du téléphone avec eux via nos interlocuteurs irakiens… à tout le moins).

Pendant ce temps, les négociations sur le nucléaire iranien n’ont fait que détériorer un peu plus notre relation avec Israël. Comme mentionné précédemment, avoir Benjamin Netanyahou comme partenaire n’a rien d’une partie de plaisir. Mais il est aussi indéniable que la Maison Blanche a versé de l’huile sur le feu et a réduit en cendres les fondations traditionnelles de cette relation. Qu’importe ce que nous apporteront ces 21 prochains mois –et voir cette relation se détériorer encore davantage est tout à fait probable– il n’y a rien d’exagéré à dire que la relation entre les dirigeants américains et israéliens est au plus bas de toute leur histoire.

En réalité, vous pouvez dire ce que vous voulez sur les origines du bordel actuel au Moyen-Orient, mais le fait que les relations de l’Amérique et de chacun des pays les plus essentiels de la région –sauf l’Iran– soient au plus bas de leur histoire est tout à fait significatif.

Des mauvais choix, une mauvaise gestion et une diplomatie défectueuse ne sont pas les causes principales des problèmes que l’Amérique s’est créés dans la région.

Le plus gros coupable est à chercher du côté de son incohérence stratégique. Visiblement, nous ne savons pas vraiment quels sont nos intérêts, ni n’avons de vision claire pour l’avenir dans la région, telle que pourrait le permettre une collaboration avec nos alliés d’ici et d’ailleurs.

Ne pas faire preuve de naïveté
«Laissez les gars du cru se démerder» n’est pas plus une stratégie de politique étrangère américaine que le «ne faites pas de conneries». Au mieux, il ne s’agit que d’une modalité de cette stratégie et, en réalité, nous avons affaire à une abrogation de responsabilité face à des relations porteuses d’éléments économiques, commerciaux, politiques ou encore militaires cruciaux pour l’influence et les intérêts des Etats-Unis.

De même, nos relations avec d’autres puissances majeures devraient nous offrir ce genre d’outils si, au moins, nous nous donnions la peine de nous occuper du gros du boulot diplomatique (et prétendre que c’est ce que nous faisons avec l’Iran n’est pas convaincant, vu que nous ne le faisons pas en fonction des autres et nombreux problèmes de la région, et vu les désastres que nous avons pu causer en Libye ou en Syrie).

Pour le président, il serait facile de dire:

«Je cherche la stabilité au Moyen-Orient. Je cherche à préserver les intérêts américains, de la sécurité de nos alliés à la sécurité de notre territoire, des liens commerciaux aux préoccupations économiques mondiales. Je cherche à réussir ce projet en établissant de nouvelles alliances avec nos alliés traditionnels qui nous aideront à garantir la stabilité qui leur est nécessaire pour se reconstruire et pour se préserver d’éventuels errements d’autres acteurs régionaux, comme l’Iran. Si nous pouvons obtenir des progrès en contenant la menace nucléaire iranienne et en mettant en œuvre un meilleur dialogue avec ce pays, cela sera pour le mieux. Mais nous savons aussi que l’Iran représente toujours de nombreux risques, que ce soit parce que ce pays soutient des organisations terroristes comme le Hezbollah et le Hamas, ou parce qu’il coordonne des cyberattaques contre des cibles américaines. Ce n’est qu’en cessant de telles activités et en faisant disparaître de telles menaces que l’Iran pourra gagner en statut. Et rien ne nous fera dévier de notre objectif premier, à savoir le rétablissement de l’équilibre au Moyen-Orient.»
Mais, seuls, ces mots ne suffiront pas. Il faudra les compléter d’actions, et d’actions significatives. Il ne faudra pas faire preuve de naïveté.

Il faut éloigner de notre esprit l’idée que l’Iran pourrait un jour devenir notre ami. La menace nucléaire n’est qu’une des nombreuses menaces que représente ce pays, et elle n’est même pas la plus grave.

Géopolitiquement parlant, nos échecs et notre inaction aura poussé les pays de la région à chercher le soutien d’autres grandes puissances. De l’Egypte à Israël, en passant par les pays du Golfe, toute la région pivote (quelle ironie) vers l’Asie –vers l’Inde et la Chine et, où cela est possible, vers le Japon et l’Asie du Sud-Est. La Russie, aussi, gagne en influence au Caire, à Tel Aviv et à Téhéran.

Répartir les charges ne pose aucun problème. Voir notre influence fondre comme neige au soleil, si.

Dans la région, renouer d’anciennes alliances signifiera accorder davantage d’attention aux besoins de nos partenaires, et ce grâce à des actions, pas des mots, en les écoutant, et pas en leur plaquant des discours tous faits. En outre, il faut admettre que, dans certains conflits, si nous ne sommes pas disposés à envoyer des soldats au sol (et la guerre contre l’EI est de ces conflits), nous ne serons pas considérés comme menant réellement la danse, ni comme étant réellement investis, et d’autres pays disposés à faire un tel investissement (comme l’Iran) en sortiront vainqueurs.

Devrions-nous gagner en agressivité pour chercher des solutions diplomatiques aux problèmes de la Syrie, de la Libye, du Yémen et de l’Irak? La réponse est oui. Mais pour réussir, il faudra que nos adversaires sachent qu’ils paieront le prix cher, infligé par une coalition dévouée et incluant les ressources et l’engagement véritable des dirigeants d’une des nations les plus riches et les plus puissantes du monde, aux côtés de puissances locales en qui elle a réellement confiance et à qui elle offre suffisamment d’autonomie pour leur laisser les coudées franches dans la région. Et les négociations ne seront un succès que si nous mettons en œuvre une diplomatie qui n’est pas entravée par des dates-limites artificielles, ou dépréciée par des messages laissant entendre que nous avons davantage besoin d’un accord que nos interlocuteurs.

Dès lors, il nous faut reconnaître les origines complexes de la crise actuelle. Mais ne minimisons pas le fait qu’en ne réussissant pas à y faire face, nous allons très certainement aux devants de pertes majeures pour les intérêts américains dans la région.

Qui plus est, nous sommes à un moment qui requiert une grande vigilance, et qui devrait se traduire par davantage d’action multilatérale de la part des Etats-Unis et de ses alliés au sein de l’ONU.

Que tous les pays de la région soient en guerre a autant de chances de mener à une situation qui dégénère qu’à des solutions. Nous ne sommes pas loin d’assister à une conflagration que nous n’avons plus connue depuis août 1945.

Et même si cela ne se produit pas, un chaos durable au Moyen-Orient ne fera qu’alimenter la propagation de l’extrémisme en Afrique et en Asie, et la propagation du terrorisme en Europe et en Amérique du Nord.

Les enjeux ne pourraient pas être plus élevés. Et il est évident que, même en admettant que l’Amérique n’a qu’une capacité limitée à influer sur ce qui se passe au sol, nous avons l’urgente obligation d’essayer, et d’essayer sans répéter les erreurs du passé. Parce que ce que nous avons fait depuis six ans ne fonctionne tout simplement pas et, en réalité, cela ne fait qu’aggraver l’une des plus graves situations que le monde connaît aujourd’hui.

Voir par ailleurs:

Le retrait de l’armée américaine d’Irak – «C’est une réussite extraordinaire»
Le président Barack Obama appelle à tirer les leçons du conflit
Le Devoir
15 décembre 2011

Le président Barack Obama a salué hier la «réussite extraordinaire» des États-Unis en Irak, mais a appelé à tirer des leçons de ce conflit, en rendant hommage aux soldats quelques jours avant la fin du retrait prévu de l’armée américaine de ce pays. «Nous laissons derrière nous un État souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec un gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille finale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour», a dit le président.<br />
Photo: Agence France-Presse (photo) Le président Barack Obama a salué hier la «réussite extraordinaire» des États-Unis en Irak, mais a appelé à tirer des leçons de ce conflit, en rendant hommage aux soldats quelques jours avant la fin du retrait prévu de l’armée américaine de ce pays. «Nous laissons derrière nous un État souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec un gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille finale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour», a dit le président.
Fort Bragg — Le président Barack Obama a salué hier la «réussite extraordinaire» des États-Unis en Irak, mais a appelé à tirer des leçons de ce conflit, en rendant hommage aux soldats quelques jours avant la fin du retrait prévu de l’armée américaine de ce pays.

Lors d’un discours devant des soldats à Fort Bragg, en Caroline du Nord, M. Obama a aussi évoqué le «prix élevé» de cette guerre de près de neuf ans à laquelle il s’était opposé quand il n’était pas encore à la tête des États-Unis.

«Nous laissons derrière nous un État souverain, stable, autosuffisant, avec un gouvernement représentatif qui a été élu par son peuple. Nous bâtissons un nouveau partenariat entre nos pays. Et nous terminons une guerre non avec une bataille finale, mais avec une dernière marche du retour», a lancé le président.

Accompagné de son épouse Michelle, M. Obama s’exprimait devant 3000 militaires rassemblés à Fort Bragg où sont basées plusieurs unités des forces spéciales ainsi que la 82e division d’infanterie aéroportée, déployée à de multiples reprises en Irak depuis l’invasion de mars 2003.

«C’est une réussite extraordinaire, qui a pris neuf ans», a-t-il dit, en reconnaissant «le dur travail et le sacrifice» qui ont été nécessaires.

«Nous ne connaissons que trop bien le prix élevé de cette guerre. Plus de 1,5 million d’Américains ont servi en Irak. Plus de 30 000 Américains ont été blessés, et ce sont seulement les blessés dont les blessures sont visibles», a-t-il ajouté, en allusion aux séquelles psychologiques dont souffrent certains anciens combattants.

Quatre mille cinq cents soldats américains et au moins 60 000 Irakiens ont péri durant le conflit depuis l’invasion de mars-avril 2003. Tout compris, la guerre d’Irak aura coûté plus de 1000 milliards de dollars, a dit mardi le président Obama.

M. Obama avait beaucoup évoqué lors de sa campagne présidentielle victorieuse de 2008 son opposition initiale à la guerre en Irak, en 2002 et 2003 lorsqu’il n’était encore qu’élu local.

Le dirigeant démocrate avait en effet durement critiqué l’administration de son prédécesseur républicain George W. Bush pour avoir lancé cette guerre, selon lui à mauvais escient. Mais il a dû gérer les conséquences de ce conflit tant en politique étrangère que sur le plan intérieur.

La guerre a constitué «une source de grande controverse ici», a rappelé M. Obama, qui avait estimé lundi, en recevant le premier ministre irakien, Nouri al-Maliki, à la Maison-Blanche, que «l’histoire jugera[it]» la décision d’ouvrir les hostilités.

Même s’il a noté qu’il était «plus difficile de mettre fin à une guerre que de l’entamer», il a une nouvelle fois évité la polémique hier en soulignant que «les dirigeants et les historiens continueront à analyser les leçons stratégiques de l’Irak». «Et nos commandants prendront en compte des leçons durement apprises lors de campagnes militaires à l’avenir», a-t-il indiqué.

«Mais la leçon la plus importante que vous nous apprenez n’est pas une leçon en stratégie militaire, c’est une leçon sur le caractère de notre pays», car «malgré toutes les difficultés auxquelles notre pays fait face, vous nous rappelez que rien n’est impossible pour les Américains lorsqu’ils sont solidaires», a assuré aux soldats M. Obama, candidat à sa réélection en novembre 2012 et confronté à l’hostilité de ses adversaires républicains en position de force au Congrès.

Seuls quelques milliers de soldats américains restent en Irak à l’approche de la date-butoir du 31 décembre après laquelle ils devront avoir quitté le pays.


Doctrine Obama: C’est mort à l’Amérique, imbécile ! (Continuation of the jihad by other means: American power is what they all hope to break)

12 avril, 2015
https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpa1/t31.0-8/10003674_1070465586313700_7193367525536975127_o.jpghttps://scontent-ams.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/10491203_1070485379645054_1522694794172874079_n.jpg?oh=0fd6ff33e4f716e022380d1c41371160&oe=55E58EBB Apologizer in chief on DDayhttps://scottthong.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/revjerwright341.jpg?w=450&h=345Ce qui se vit aujourd’hui est une forme de rivalité mimétique à l’échelle planétaire. Lorsque j’ai lu les premiers documents de Ben Laden, constaté ses allusions aux bombes américaines tombées sur le Japon, je me suis senti d’emblée à un niveau qui est au-delà de l’islam, celui de la planète entière. Sous l’étiquette de l’islam, on trouve une volonté de rallier et de mobiliser tout un tiers-monde de frustrés et de victimes dans leurs rapports de rivalité mimétique avec l’Occident. René Girard
One can’t think that in order to improve and normalize relations with the U.S., Cuba has to give up the principles it believes in. Changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable. Josefina Vidal (Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, 25.01.15)
Although Cuba no longer actively supports armed struggle in Latin America and other parts of the world, the Cuban government continued to provide safe haven to several terrorists. Members of ETA, the FARC, and the ELN remained in Cuba during 2008, some having arrived in Cuba in connection with peace negotiations with the governments of Spain and Colombia. Cuban authorities continued to publicly defend the FARC. However, on July 6, 2008, former Cuban President Fidel Castro called on the FARC to release the hostages they were holding without preconditions. He has also condemned the FARC’s mistreatment of captives and of their abduction of civilian politicians who had no role in the armed conflict. The United States has no evidence of terrorist-related money laundering or terrorist financing activities in Cuba, although Cuba has one of the world’s most secretive and non-transparent national banking systems. Cuba has no financial intelligence unit. Cuba’s Law 93 Against Acts of Terrorism provides the government authority to track, block, or seize terrorist assets. The Cuban government continued to permit some U.S. fugitives—including members of U.S. militant groups such as the Boricua Popular, or Macheteros, and the Black Liberation Army to live legally in Cuba. In keeping with its public declaration, the government has not provided safe haven to any new U.S. fugitives wanted for terrorism since 2006. US Department of state
Imagine there’s no Israel, It’s easy if you try, Imagine all the people, Living life in peace You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us And the world will be as one … (à fredonner sur un air connu)
Il a fallu s’y atteler et dans ces lieux, on peut rendre hommage aux Cubains, issus de la Révolution qui se sont résolus à tenir tête aux États-Unis, leurs plus proches voisins. Les Cubains, les Cubains de Cuba, fiers de leur révolution sociale, savent qu’ils ne sont plus seuls. En revendiquant leur dignité, ils s’associent aux revendications de tous les peuples opprimés et, de ce fait, ils rejoignent les bâtisseurs du monde de demain. Danielle Mitterrand (Porto Alegre, février 2003)
L’Amérique est toujours le tueur numéro 1 dans le monde. . . Nous sommes profondément impliqués dans l’importation de la drogue, l’exportation d’armes et la formation de tueurs professionnels. . . Nous avons bombardé le Cambodge, l’Irak et le Nicaragua, tuant les femmes et les enfants tout en essayant de monter l’opinion publique contre Castro et Khaddafi. . . Nous avons mis Mandela en prison et soutenu la ségrégation pendant 27 ans. Nous croyons en la suprématie blanche et l’infériorité noire et y croyons davantage qu’en Dieu. … Nous avons soutenu le sionisme sans scrupule tout en ignorant les Palestiniens et stigmatisé quiconque le dénonçait comme anti-sémite. . . Nous ne nous inquiétons en rien de la vie humaine si la fin justifie les moyens. . . Nous avons lancé le virus du SIDA. . . Nous ne pouvons maintenir notre niveau de vie qu’en nous assurant que les personnes du tiers monde vivent dans la pauvreté la plus abjecte. Rev. Jeremiah Wright (le 15 janvier 2006)
L’audace de l’espoir. Voilà le meilleur de l’esprit américain ; avoir l’audace de croire, malgré toutes les indications contraires, que nous pouvions restaurer un sens de la communauté au sein d’une nation déchirée ; l’audace de croire que malgré des revers personnels, la perte d’un emploi, un malade dans la famille ou une famille empêtrée dans la pauvreté, nous avions quelque emprise- et par conséquent une responsabilité sur notre propre destin. Barack Hussein Obama
Je veux aussi, une fois élu, organiser un sommet dans le monde musulman, avec tous les chefs d’Etat, pour discuter franchement sur la façon de contenir le fossé qui s’agrandit chaque jour entre les musulmans et l’Occident. Je veux leur demander de rejoindre notre combat contre le terrorisme. Nous devons aussi écouter leurs préoccupations. (…) Je veux dialoguer directement avec l’Iran et la Syrie. Nous ne stabiliserons pas la région si nous ne parlons pas à nos ennemis. Lorsqu’on est en désaccord profond avec quelqu’un, il faut lui parler directement. Barack Obama (Paris Match, le 31 janvier 2008)
Il n’y a aucune raison que nous ne puissions restaurer le respect dont jouissait l’Amérique et le partenariat qu’elle avait avec le monde musulman voilà 20 ou 30 ans de cela. (…) J’ai déclaré durant la campagne qu’il est très important pour nous de faire en sorte que nous utilisions tous les outils de la puissance américaine, y compris la diplomatie, dans nos relations avec l’Iran. Barack Hussein Obama
We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing … people don’t seem to understand. You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.” The notion that Iran is undeterrable — “it’s simply not the case,” he added. “And so for us to say, ‘Let’s try’ — understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that we’re not naïve — but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place. … We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it? Barack Hussein Obama
It’s the dreamers — no matter how humble or poor or seemingly powerless — that are able to change the course of human events. We saw it in South Africa, where citizens stood up to the scourge of apartheid. We saw it in Europe, where Poles marched in Solidarity to help bring down the Iron Curtain. In Argentina, where mothers of the disappeared spoke out against the Dirty War. It’s the story of my country, where citizens worked to abolish slavery, and establish women’s rights and workers’ rights, and rights for gays and lesbians. It’s not to say that my country is perfect — we are not. And that’s the point. We always have to have citizens who are willing to question and push our government, and identify injustice. We have to wrestle with our own challenges — from issues of race to policing to inequality. But what makes me most proud about the extraordinary example of the United States is not that we’re perfect, but that we struggle with it, and we have this open space in which society can continually try to make us a more perfect union. (…) As the United States begins a new chapter in our relationship with Cuba, we hope it will create an environment that improves the lives of the Cuban people -– not because it’s imposed by us, the United States, but through the talent and ingenuity and aspirations, and the conversation among Cubans from all walks of life so they can decide what the best course is for their prosperity. As we move toward the process of normalization, we’ll have our differences, government to government, with Cuba on many issues — just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas; just as we differ with our closest allies. There’s nothing wrong with that. (…) And whether it’s crackdowns on free expression in Russia or China, or restrictions on freedom of association and assembly in Egypt, or prison camps run by the North Korean regime — human rights and fundamental freedoms are still at risk around the world. And when that happens, we believe we have a moral obligation to speak out. (…) As you work for change, the United States will stand up alongside you every step of the way. We are respectful of the difference among our countries. The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past. (…) We have a debt to pay, because the voices of ordinary people have made us better. That’s a debt that I want to make sure we repay in this hemisphere and around the world. (…) God bless you. Barack Hussein Obama (Sommet des Amériques, Panama city, April 10, 2015)
Les frères Jonas sont ici ; ils sont là quelque part. Sasha et Malia sont de grandes fans. Mais les gars, allez pas vous faire des idées. J’ai deux mots pour vous: « predator drone ». Vous les verrez même pas venir. Vous croyez que je plaisante, hein ? Barack Hussein Obama
I, and most of my colleagues, have spent a lot of time discussing red lines since the tragedy in Paris. As you know, the Muhammad cartoon controversy began eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against “self-censorship,” one editor’s call to arms against what she felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority—her charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful. Not only was one cartoonist gunned down, but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores. No one could say toward what positive social end, yet free speech absolutists were unchastened. Using judgment and common sense in expressing oneself were denounced as antithetical to freedom of speech. And now we are adrift in an even wider sea of pain. Ironically, Charlie Hebdo, which always maintained it was attacking Islamic fanatics, not the general population, has succeeded in provoking many Muslims throughout France to make common cause with its most violent outliers. This is a bitter harvest. Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean. By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voila—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world, including one in Niger, in which ten people died. Meanwhile, the French government kept busy rounding up and arresting over 100 Muslims who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks. The White House took a lot of hits for not sending a high-level representative to the pro-Charlie solidarity march, but that oversight is now starting to look smart. The French tradition of free expression is too full of contradictions to fully embrace. Even Charlie Hebdo once fired a writer for not retracting an anti-Semitic column. Apparently he crossed some red line that was in place for one minority but not another. What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must. Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged. They’re allowed to feel pain. Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism. I’m aware that I make these observations from a special position, one of safety. In America, no one goes into cartooning for the adrenaline. As Jon Stewart said in the aftermath of the killings, comedy in a free society shouldn’t take courage. Writing satire is a privilege I’ve never taken lightly.  And I’m still trying to get it right. Doonesbury remains a work in progress, an imperfect chronicle of human imperfection. It is work, though, that only exists because of the remarkable license that commentators enjoy in this country. That license has been stretched beyond recognition in the digital age. It’s not easy figuring out where the red line is for satire anymore. But it’s always worth asking this question: Is anyone, anyone at all, laughing? If not, maybe you crossed it. Garry Trudeau
Si à Poitiers Charles Martel avait été battu, le monde aurait changé de face. Puisque le monde était déjà condamné à l’influence judaïque (et son sous-produit le christianisme est une chose si insipide !), il aurait mieux valu que l’islam triomphe. Cette religion récompense l’héroïsme, promet au guerrier les joies du septième ciel… Animé d’un esprit semblable, les Germains auraient conquis le monde. Ils en ont été empêchés par le christianisme. Hitler (1942)
Après tout, qui parle encore aujourd’hui de l’annihilation des Arméniens? Hitler (22 août 1939)
Nous ne savons pas si Hitler est sur le point de fonder un nouvel islam. Il est d’ores et déjà sur la voie; il ressemble à Mahomet. L’émotion en Allemagne est islamique, guerrière et islamique. Ils sont tous ivres d’un dieu farouche. Jung (1939)
Mein Kamp (…) Tel était le nouveau Coran de la foi et de la guerre: emphatique, fastidieux, sans forme, mais empli de son propre message. Churchill
Si le Reich allemand s’impose comme protecteur de tous ceux dont le sang allemand coule dans les veines, et bien la foi musulmane impose à chaque Musulman de se considérer comme protecteur de toute personne ayant été imprégnée de l’apprentissage coranique. Hassan el Banna (fondateur des Frères musulmans et grand-père de Tariq et Hani Ramadan)
J’annonce au monde entier que si les infidèles font obstacle à notre religion, nous nous opposerons au monde entier et nous ne cesserons pas avant leur anéantissement, nous en sortirons tous libérés ou nous obtiendrons une plus grande liberté qui est le martyr. Soit nous nous serrerons les uns aux autres pour célébrer la victoire de l’islam sur le monde ou bien nous aurons tous la vie éternelle grâce au martyr. Dans les deux cas, la victoire et le succès seront à nous. Khomeiny
Beaucoup de déçus dans la lutte entre le monde islamique et les infidèles ont essayé de rejeter la responsabilité en annonçant qu’il n’est pas possible d’avoir un monde sans les États-Unis et le sionisme. Mais vous savez que ce sont un but et un slogan réalisables. Pour étayer ses propos, le président se réfère à la chute, dans l’histoire récente, de plusieurs régimes que personne ne voyait sombrer. Lorsque notre cher imam (Khomeiny) a annoncé que le régime (du Shah) devait être supprimé, beaucoup de ceux qui prétendaient être politiquement bien informés ont déclaré que ce n’était pas possible. Qui pouvait penser qu’un jour, nous pourrions être témoins de l’effondrement de l’empire de l’Est (Union soviétique) ? L’Imam a annoncé que Saddam devait s’en aller puis a ajouté qu’il s’affaiblirait plus vite que personne ne l’imagine.  L’Imam (Khomeiny) a annoncé que le régime occupant Jérusalem devait disparaître de la page du temps. Ahmadinejad (Conférence du monde sans sionisme, 25 octobre 2005)
Mort à l’Amérique, parce que l’Amérique est la source d’origine de cette pression. Ils insistent à mettre la pression sur l’économie de nos chères personnes. Quel est leur objectif ? Leur objectif est de monter les gens contre le système. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei  (20.03.15)
Our negotiations with the world powers are a source of national pride. Yesterday [during the Iran-Iraq War], your brave generals stood against the enemy on the battlefield and defended their country. Today, your diplomatic generals are defending [our nation] in the field of diplomacy; this too is jihad. Hassan Rouhani
La situation est tragique mais les forces en présence au Moyen-Orient font qu’au long terme, Israël, comme autrefois les Royaumes francs, finira par disparaître. Cette région a toujours rejeté les corps étrangers. Dominique de Villepin (Paris, automne 2001)
Nul ne peut ne pas rêver de la destruction de n’importe quelle puissance devenue à ce point hégémonique (…) A la limite, c’est eux qui l’ont fait, mais c’est nous qui l’avons voulu. Jean Baudrillard (novembre 2001)
En des occasions diverses j’ai défini cette époque comme un temps de guerre, une troisième guerre mondiale « par morceaux », où nous assistons quotidiennement à des crimes atroces, à des massacres sanglants, et à la folie de la destruction. Malheureusement, encore aujourd’hui, nous entendons le cri étouffé et négligé de beaucoup de nos frères et sœurs sans défense, qui, à cause de leur foi au Christ ou de leur appartenance ethnique, sont publiquement et atrocement tués – décapités, crucifiés, brulés vifs –, ou bien contraints d’abandonner leur terre. Aujourd’hui encore nous sommes en train de vivre une sorte de génocide causé par l’indifférence générale et collective, par le silence complice de Caïn qui s’exclame : « Que m’importe ? », « Suis-je le gardien de mon frère ? » (…) Notre humanité a vécu, le siècle dernier, trois grandes tragédies inouïes : la première est celle qui est généralement considérée comme « le premier génocide du XXème siècle » ; elle a frappé votre peuple arménien – première nation chrétienne –, avec les Syriens catholiques et orthodoxes, les Assyriens, les Chaldéens et les Grecs. Des évêques, des prêtres, des religieux, des femmes, des hommes, des personnes âgées et même des enfants et des malades sans défense ont été tués. Les deux autres ont été perpétrées par la nazisme et par le stalinisme. Et, plus récemment, d’autres exterminations de masse, comme celles au Cambodge, au Rwanda, au Burundi, en Bosnie. Cependant, il semble que l’humanité ne réussisse pas à cesser de verser le sang innocent. Il semble que l’enthousiasme qui est apparu à la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale soit en train de disparaître et de se dissoudre. Il semble que la famille humaine refuse d’apprendre de ses propres erreurs causées par la loi de la terreur ; et ainsi, encore aujourd’hui, il y en a qui cherchent à éliminer leurs semblables, avec l’aide des uns et le silence complice des autres qui restent spectateurs.  (…) Se souvenir d’eux est nécessaire, plus encore c’est un devoir, parce que là où il n’y a plus de mémoire, cela signifie que le mal tient encore la blessure ouverte ; cacher ou nier le mal c’est comme laisser une blessure continuer à saigner sans la panser ! Pape François
Les « pacifistes » croient donner une chance à la paix. En fait, s’ils donnent une chance, c’est à l’aveuglement et à lui seul. Les manifestations de samedi dernier c’est l’union sacrée de John Lennon et de Neville Chamberlain. Une naïveté poussée jusqu’à l’absence complète de discernement le dispute au mépris de la réalité. Il n’y a rien à attendre d’une telle alliance. Laurent Murawiec
Obama demande pardon pour les faits et gestes de l’Amérique, son passé, son présent et le reste, il s’excuse de tout. Les relations dégradées avec la Russie, le manque de respect pour l’Islam, les mauvais rapports avec l’Iran, les bisbilles avec l’Europe, le manque d’adulation pour Fidel Castro, tout lui est bon pour battre la coulpe de l’Amérique. (…) Mais où Obama a-t-il donc appris ces inepties ? D’où vient cet amoncellement de mécomptes du monde, d’idées fausses et difformes? D’où provient ce prurit du je-vous-demande pardon ? On est habitué au Jimmycartérisme, qui se mettait à quatre pattes devant Khomeiny (« un saint »), l’URSS, Cuba, le tiers monde, le terrorisme musulman. D’où vient qu’Obama ait – dirigeant d’une république – courbé la tête devant le roi d’Arabie ? C’est là qu’il convient de se souvenir de l’homme qui fut son pasteur pendant vingt ans, ce qui est très long quand on n’en a pas encore cinquante : le pasteur Jeremy Wright, de l’Eglise de la Trinité à Chicago, dont Obama ne se sépara que contraint et forcé, pour cause de déclarations insupportablement anti-américaines et antioccidentales, délirantes et conspirationnistes, et qui « passaient mal» dans la campagne.(…) C’est Wright qui fait du diplômé de Harvard qui est maintenant un agitateur local (community organizer), un politicien en vue à Chicago. N’oublions pas que la carrière politique locale d’Obama est lancée par les fanatiques de la haine de l’Amérique, les ultragauchistes terroristes des Weathermen, à Chicago, qui répètent et confirment la même antienne idéologique. Tous les aquariums où a nagé le têtard avaient la même eau. Obama est la version manucurée de Wright : il est allé à Harvard. Il n’éructe pas, il ne bave pas, il ne montre pas le poing. Il n’émet pas de gros mots à jet continu comme le fait son gourou. Elégant, Il est tout miel – mais les dragées, même recouvertes de sucre, n’en sont pas moins au poivre. Le fond est identique. Wright insulte l’Amérique, Obama demande pardon : dans les deux cas, elle est coupable. Wright est pasteur, Obama est président. Plus encore, cette déplorable Amérique a semé le désordre et le mal partout dans le monde. Au lieu de collaborer multilatéralement avec tous, d’œuvrer au bien commun avec Poutine, Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Saddam Hussein, Bachir al-Assad, et Cie, l’insupportable Bush en a fait des ennemis. Quelle honte ! Il faut réparer les torts commis. L’Amérique ne trouvera sa rédemption que dans le retrait, la pénitence, la contrition, et une forme de disparition. (…) Il faut, à tout prix, trouver des terrains d’entente avec tous. Il faut aller loin, très loin, dans les concessions : l’autre côté finira bien par comprendre. Kim Jong-Il, Hugo Chavez, l’ayatollah Khamenei, Assad, le Hamas, on trouvera les compromis nécessaires à un deal avec les avocats des partie adverses. Sans entente, on retombe dans les errements de l’Amérique honnie. L’Amérique, quelle horreur, se laisse aller à défendre ses alliés contre ses ennemis. On se bat au Vietnam et en Corée contre le communisme agresseur. On se bat contre le Communisme soviétique. Que croyez-vous que l’Obama de la campagne électorale ait signifié à Berlin, en disant, non sans délire, que le monde avait gagné la Guerre froide « en s’unissant » comme s’il n’y avait un qu’un seul camp dans cette guerre ! L’Amérique doit être réduite dans ses prétentions et dans sa puissance. Le monde doit être réduit à un seul camp, celui des faiseurs de paix, avec lesquels l’entente est toujours trouvable. Il n’y a pas d’ennemis, il n’y a que des malentendus. Il ne peut y avoir d’affrontements, seulement des clarifications. (…) Notons à propos que la mêlée des «réalistes»de la politique étrangère, qui préconise justement de se débarrasser des alliés afin de s´arranger avec les méchants, est aux anges, et participe à la mise en oeuvre de l´obamisterie. Ah! finalement, on ne s´embarrasse plus d´autre chose que la «stabilité» à court terme. (…) Obama ne sépare ni le blanc du noir, ni l´ami de l´ennemi. Il a gratuitement offensé les Anglais en méprisant la «relation spéciale». Il a offensé le Japon, en ne se souciant pas de lui ni du survol de son territoire par le missile nord-coréen. Il n´a pas eu un mot pour l´allié taïwanais. Il prépare avec acharnement une crise avec Israel. Il a montré à la Tchéquie et à la Pologne, sur l´affaire de la défense anti- missiles, qu´il ne faut pas compter sur Washington et qu´ils seront sacrifiés sur l´autel du «nouveau départ» avec Moscou. Pour tous, la leçon est brutale: à l´ère d´Obama, mieux vaut être un ennemi qu´un ami: ami, on vous jettera aux orties. Ennemi, on fera tout pour vous plaire. Laurent Murawiec
Quand l’Autriche se moque de vous, c’est que ce n’est pas votre semaine. Pourtant qui peut blâmer Madame Fekter, vu le dédain qu’Obama a montré pour son propre pays à l’étranger, jouant au philosophe-roi au-dessus de la mêlée qui négocie entre sa patrie renégate et un monde par ailleurs chaleureux et accueillant ? (…) Il est particulièrement étrange de voir un leader mondial célébrer le déclin de son propre pays. Encore quelques tournées mondiales comme celle-ci et Obama aura beaucoup plus de déclin à célébrer. Charles Krauthammer
Bref, nous assistons au retour de l’idéalisme postnational d’un Carter mais avec cette fois le charisme d’un Reagan. Pendant 40 ans nos écoles ont enseigné l’équivalence morale, le pacifisme utopique et le multiculturalisme bien intentionné et nous apprenons maintenant que tout ceci n’était pas que de la thérapie mais est insidieusement devenu notre évangile national. Victor Davis Hanson
Le problème n’est pas la sécurité d’Israël, la souveraineté du Liban ou les ingérences de la Syrie ou du Hezbollah : Le problème est centré sur l’effort de l’Iran à obtenir le Droit d’Abolir l’Exclusivité de la Dissuasion. La prolifération sauvage, le concept de «tous nucléaires» sera la fin de la Guerre Froide et le retour à la période précédant la Dissuasion. Les mollahs et leurs alliés, le Venezuela, l’Algérie, la Syrie, la Corée du Nord et la Russie…, se militarisent à une très grande échelle sachant qu’ils vont bientôt neutraliser le parapluie protecteur de la dissuasion et alors ils pourront faire parler la poudre. Chacun visera à dominer sa région et sans que les affrontements se déroulent en Europe, l’Europe sera dépouillée de ses intérêts en Afrique ou en Amérique du Sud et sans combattre, elle devra déposer les armes. Ce qui est incroyable c’est la myopie de la diplomatie française et de ses experts. (…) Aucun d’entre eux ne se doute que la république islamique a des alliés qui ont un objectif commun: mettre un terme à une discrimination qui dure depuis 50 ans, la dissuasion nucléaire ! Cette discrimination assure à la France une position que beaucoup d’états lui envient. Ils attendent avec impatience de pouvoir se mesurer avec cette ancienne puissance coloniale que beaucoup jugent arrogante, suffisante et gourmande.  Iran-Resist
En tant que défenseur de la rue arabe, [l’Iran] ne peut pas avoir un dialogue apaisé avec les Etats-Unis, dialogue au cours duquel il accepterait les demandes de cet Etat qui est le protecteur par excellence d’Israël. Téhéran a le soutien de la rue arabe, talon d’Achille des Alliés Arabes des Etats-Unis, car justement il refuse tout compromis et laisse entendre qu’il pourra un jour lui offrir une bombe nucléaire qui neutralisera la dissuasion israélienne. Pour préserver cette promesse utile, Téhéran doit sans cesse exagérer ses capacités militaires ou nucléaires et des slogans anti-israéliens. Il faut cependant préciser que sur un plan concret, les actions médiatiques de Téhéran ne visent pas la sécurité d’Israël, mais celle des Alliés arabes des Etats-Unis, Etats dont les dirigeants ne peuvent satisfaire les attentes belliqueuses de la rue arabe. Ainsi Téhéran a un levier de pression extraordinaire sur Washington. Comme toute forme de dissuasion, ce système exige un entretien permanent. Téhéran doit sans cesse fouetter la colère et les frustrations de la rue arabe ! Il doit aussi garder ses milices actives, de chaînes de propagande en effervescence et son programme nucléaire le plus opaque possible, sinon il ne serait pas menaçant. C’est pourquoi, il ne peut pas accepter des compensations purement économiques offertes par les Six en échange d’un apaisement ou une suspension de ses activités nucléaires. Ce refus permanent de compromis est vital pour le régime. (…) Il n’y a rien qui fasse plus peur aux mollahs qu’un réchauffement avec les Etats-Unis : ils risquent d’y perdre la rue arabe, puis le pouvoir. C’est pourquoi, le 9 septembre, quand Téhéran a accepté une rencontre pour désactiver les sanctions promises en juillet, il s’est aussitôt mis en action pour faire capoter ce projet de dialogue apaisé qui est un véritable danger pour sa survie. Iran Resist
La gauche a beaucoup de chance. Des historiens et des politologues complaisants veulent toujours voir dans les turbulences qui l’agitent le fruit de divergences idéologiques, de visions du monde opposées comme l’on disait autrefois. Ainsi, on opposera une gauche girondine à une gauche jacobine, une première gauche à une seconde etc… On remarquera que pour beaucoup ces fractures internes sont issues de la révolution française. Curieusement, une période de la révolution est toujours oubliée. Si l’on excepte de rares occasions, on parle peu de la gauche thermidorienne et pourtant, pensons nous, cette période est capitale pour comprendre ce qu’est devenue, aujourd’hui, la gauche française. La période thermidorienne débute avec la chute de Robespierre le 9 thermidor (27 juillet 1794) et finit avec le coup d’Etat de Bonaparte, le 18 brumaire (9 novembre1799). Elle culminera avec le Directoire. La coalition qui mettra fin à la dictature robespierriste est, dans sa composition, assez hétéroclite. Elle va d’ex-conventionnels terroristes aux anciens girondins en passant par le centre mou de la révolution : le fameux marais. En apparence, sauf l’hostilité à Robespierre, pour des raisons diverses d’ailleurs, ils ne sont d’accord sur rien. En apparence seulement. Car comme le soulignent Furet et Richet dans leur livre La révolution française, ce qui les réunit c’est la poursuite d’un double objectif : celui de la conquête et de l’intérêt. Il ne s’agit plus de créer l’homme vertueux mais de profiter (au sens plein du terme) des acquis de la révolution. Les thermidoriens les plus célèbres, dont le fameux Barras, seront des jouisseurs. Ils aiment l’argent et la jouissance dans tous ses aspects. De ce point de vue, la gauche Canal+ vient de loin, elle n’est pas née avec le mitterrandisme, ni avec 1968. La république spartiate rêvée par Robespierre et Saint-Just fait désormais place à la République des palais et des costumes extravagants. (…) Enfin, dernier legs de Thermidor : l’institutionnalisation du pouvoir intellectuel. C’est dans cette période que va, en effet, s’institutionnaliser le pouvoir intellectuel en France avec la création de l’Institut et la domination des fameux idéologues tant raillés par Bonaparte puis Napoléon. Dès lors, l’intellectuel français va adopter des caractéristiques qui ne le quitteront plus. Il sera philosophiquement progressiste, socialement bourgeois, très souvent anticlérical ou athée, profondément élitiste (même s’il proclame le contraire) et très souvent fâché avec le monde réel. Et conclurons-nous très proche des pouvoirs établis ! L’intellectuel de gauche n’est pas né avec l’affaire Dreyfus, il est un enfant de Thermidor. (…) Pourtant, lorsque l’on examine avec attention cette période on se rend compte que toutes les contradictions de la gauche et toutes ses évolutions futures s’y trouvent contenues. La phase thermidorienne de la révolution française est en quelque sorte le laboratoire historique de la gauche contemporaine. Le cynisme, le sociétalisme des oligarques socialistes ne sont pas des accidents de l’histoire, ils sont ancrés en elle. L’argent roi et le progressisme fou sont des vieux compagnons de route de la gauche française ! Jean-Claude Pacitto
Les drones américains ont liquidé plus de monde que le nombre total des détenus de Guantanamo. Pouvons nous être certains qu’il n’y avait parmi eux aucun cas d’erreurs sur la personne ou de morts innocentes ? Les prisonniers de Guantanamo avaient au moins une chance d’établir leur identité, d’être examinés par un Comité de surveillance et, dans la plupart des cas, d’être relâchés. Ceux qui restent à Guantanamo ont été contrôlés et, finalement, devront faire face à une forme quelconque de procédure judiciaire. Ceux qui ont été tués par des frappes de drones, quels qu’ils aient été, ont disparu. Un point c’est tout. Kurt Volker
Cooperation is not an exercise in good feeling; it presupposes congruent definitions of stability. There exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such an understanding. Even while combating common enemies, such as ISIS, Iran has declined to embrace common objectives. Iran’s representatives (including its Supreme Leader) continue to profess a revolutionary anti-Western concept of international order; domestically, some senior Iranians describe nuclear negotiations as a form of jihad by other means. The final stages of the nuclear talks have coincided with Iran’s intensified efforts to expand and entrench its power in neighboring states. Iranian or Iranian client forces are now the pre-eminent military or political element in multiple Arab countries, operating beyond the control of national authorities. With the recent addition of Yemen as a battlefield, Tehran occupies positions along all of the Middle East’s strategic waterways and encircles archrival Saudi Arabia, an American ally. Unless political restraint is linked to nuclear restraint, an agreement freeing Iran from sanctions risks empowering Iran’s hegemonic efforts. Henry Kissinger and George Schultz
Obama rencontre Castro, mais a refusé de rencontrer Netanyahu. Pourquoi légitimer le dictateur cruel d’un régime répressif ? Jeb Bush
Nous assistons au retour de l’idéalisme postnational d’un Carter mais avec cette fois le charisme d’un Reagan. Pendant 40 ans nos écoles ont enseigné l’équivalence morale, le pacifisme utopique et le multiculturalisme bien intentionné et nous apprenons maintenant que tout ceci n’était pas que de la thérapie mais est insidieusement devenu notre évangile national. Victor Davis Hanson
De l’Iran au Venezuela et à Cuba, du Myanmar à la Corée du Nord et à la Chine, du Soudan à l’Afghanistan et à l’Irak, de la Russie à la Syrie et à l’Arabie Saoudite, l’administration Obama a systématiquement enlevé les droits de l’homme et la promotion de la démocratie de l’ordre du jour de l’Amérique. A leur place, elle a préconisé l’amélioration de l’image de l’Amérique, le multilatéralisme et un relativisme moral qui soit ne voit aucune distinction entre les dictateurs et leurs victimes soit considère les distinctions peu importantes à l’avancement des intérêts américains. Caroline Glick
The steady aim of this nation, as of all enlightened nations should be to strive to bring ever nearer the day when there shall prevail throughout the world the peace of justice. …Tyrants and oppressors have many times made a wilderness and called it peace. …The peace of tyrannous terror, the peace of craven weakness, the peace of injustice, all these should be shunned as we shun unrighteous war. … The right of freedom and the responsibility for the exercise of that right cannot be divorced. Theodore Roosevelt (Dec. 4, 1904)
There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants … and that is the force of human freedom…. The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. … America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one... « America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one … From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth. George W. Bush
On the day in November 1961, when the Air Force achieved the first successful silo launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the SM-80, the Western Hemisphere part of the Monroe Doctrine ceased to mean anything at all – while the ideas behind it began to mean everything in the world. At bottom, the notion of a sanctified Western Hemisphere depended upon its separation from the rest of the world by two vast oceans, making intrusions of any sort obvious. The ICBM’s – soon the Soviet Union and other countries had theirs – shrank the world in a military sense. Then long-range jet aircraft, satellite telephones, television and the Internet all, in turn, did the job socially and commercially. By Mr. Bush’s Inauguration Day, the Hemi in Hemisphere had long since vanished, leaving the Monroe Doctrine with – what? – nothing but a single sphere … which is to say, the entire world. For the mission – the messianic mission! – has never shrunk in the slightest (…) David Gelernter, the scientist and writer, argues that « Americanism » is a fundamentally religious notion shared by an incredibly varied population from every part of the globe and every conceivable background, all of whom feel that they have arrived, as Ronald Reagan put it, at a « shining city upon a hill. » God knows how many of them just might agree with President Bush – and Theodore Roosevelt – that it is America’s destiny and duty to bring that salvation to all mankind. Tom Wolfe
If Iran is able to successfully evade addressing the IAEA’s concerns now, when biting sanctions are in place, why would it address them later when these sanctions are lifted, regardless of anything it may pledge today? David Albright
Wasn’t Obama’s great international cause a nuclear-free world? Within months of his swearing-in, he went to Prague to so declare. He then led a 50-party Nuclear Security Summit, one of whose proclaimed achievements was having Canada give up some enriched uranium. Having disarmed the Canadian threat, Obama turned to Iran. The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians. In fact, the Iranian regime just this week, at the apex of these nuclear talks, staged a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz. Well, say the administration apologists, what’s your alternative? Do you want war? It’s Obama’s usual, subtle false-choice maneuver: It’s either appeasement or war. It’s not. True, there are no good choices, but Obama’s prospective deal is the worst possible. Not only does Iran get a clear path to the bomb but it gets sanctions lifted, all pressure removed and international legitimacy. (…) Consider where we began: six U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding an end to Iranian enrichment. Consider what we are now offering: an interim arrangement ending with a sunset clause that allows the mullahs a robust, industrial-strength, internationally sanctioned nuclear program. Such a deal makes the Cuba normalization look good and the Ukrainian cease-fires positively brilliant. We are on the cusp of an epic capitulation. History will not be kind. Charles Krauthammer
You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon. Charles Krauthammer
Obama’s decision to literally extend a hand of friendship toward a Castro represents the abandonment of decades of cherished Democratic foreign affairs doctrine.  (…) By contrast, Obama has stood by and watched as the world’s most brutal regimes oversaw the reclamation of their power. Obama turned a blind eye toward the crushing of the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009, and today strengthens the Mullah’s domestic authority by inking dubious deals with Tehran that will allegedly yield great rewards for the Islamic Republic’s ruling class. In Iran, Obama is rightly seen as no friend to the friendless, and he has greatly strengthened the hand of the system’s stakeholders. The same could be said of Venezuela, where bloody anti-government riots broke out in 2014 and were subsequently crushed by Caracas. Though the global left and Nicolas Maduro’s government saw the riots as an extension of America’s desire to oust his regime from power, Obama made no statements to that effect at the rebellion’s zenith. Only over a year after the fighting in the streets had been quelled did the administration name a handful of Maduro regime officials as threats to American national security in order to target them with sanctions. Perhaps the president wanted to avoid a repeat of his galling refusal to follow up on his 2011 insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. That feel-good statement was not met with action. Quite the contrary; the president stood back and allowed the regime to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocents with conventional and chemical weapons before tepidly committing to take action. But even that reluctant acknowledgment of the president’s responsibility to posterity was not met with engagement. Only when the situation became untenable, the terrorist threat to Western security grew imminent, and the attacks on human decency in the Middle East became truly unprecedented did the United States finally begin to address them. In Moscow, where Obama’s pledge to have more flexibility with the Putin regime in his second term was taken quite literally, the Soviet approach to information management and the suppression of domestic criticism is back in vogue. Journalists who dare to censure the regime again fear for their lives and livelihoods. The institutions of civil society that the Clinton administration invested time and energy, not to mention millions of dollars, trying to build up are now being eagerly destroyed by a Russia that sees more value in repression and revanchism than openness. Once an administration success story, a modest loosening of restrictions on freedoms in Burma has been completely reversed by the military junta in Naypyidaw. (…) In China, an economic powerhouse that nevertheless remains a one-party communist autocracy, America has tacitly consented to supporting the regime’s increased interest in total command and control. (…) Even within the NATO alliance, repression is on the rise. In Turkey, the secularism Kemal Ataturk regarded as a basic value has been de-emphasized. (…) The U.S. has joined other United Nations member in expressing concern over Turkey’s authoritarian drift, but human rights groups have called Obama’s silence on this matter “deafening.” In fact, about the only nation in which Obama pursued what he claimed was a purely humanitarian foreign policy was his decision to lead from behind while Europe toppled Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. There, the West’s attempt to stave off a humanitarian crisis yielded an even greater one. Not only is Libya a failed state today, but it serves as an incubator for fundamentalist Islamic terror groups. Obama surely hopes historians will define his legacy as one of nobly sloughing off the burdens of the past, and opening America up to a brave new dawn in which multilateral talk shops become powerful forces for good. But Obama confuses the people of the world for their governments – a distinction that his Democratic predecessors understood and frequently made. While Obama pursues what he considers a pragmatic approach to international relations, the tide of freedoms that characterized the end of the last century is waning. When the need to protect Obama’s image for the sake of the left’s sense of self-validation subsides, it will become clear that the president’s true legacy was one of accommodation toward international community’s most repressive elements purely for the sake of convenience and fleeting domestic political gain. Noah Rothman
It was U.S. policy that caused the destruction of the Libyan state, such as it was. U.S. policy, from starting a war to failing to plan for its Phase 4 post-combat aftermath, explains not only the god-awful mess that Libya has become, but also what happened to Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. (…) Like Libya, Iraq was a nasty, authoritarian hellhole before U.S. policy made it even worse. We may blame that on the Bush Administration for mis-starting a war that had not been properly planned, but Iraq would not be quite the mess it is today had the Obama Administration not mis-ended it by yanking our presence out without a SOFA agreement. (…) Did Syria’s troubles fall out of the sky, too? Here U.S. policy is mostly guilty of sins of omission rather than sins of commission, some of them circling back to our hands-off-Iran supinity, but it is guilty all the same. As we have said here at TAI many times over the past three years, a judicious early use of U.S. power and leadership well short of kinetic action—difficult though it always was, true—could have averted the still evolving worst-case calamity that Syria has become. Syria is well on its way to complete Somalization. Far be it for me to advocate the use of U.S. force in any of these places. We cannot put these states back together at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure. As I have stressed in earlier posts (for example, here), what is happening, at base, is historio-structural in nature and no mere policy nipping and tucking can restore the status quo ante. I am no more in a mood to move chess pieces around on a table than the President is, especially if I have to do it with bombers, APCs, and Aegis cruisers loaded up with SLCMs. But to pontificate about the need for Arab self-help in these three cases, as though U.S. policy had nothing whatsoever to do with their present plights, very nearly surpasses credulity. It reminds me of a three-year old not yet well experienced at hide-and-go-seek who covers his face and thereby imagines that others cannot see him. Who in the region does the President think he’s fooling? Adam Garfinkle
The pattern of which I speak, conceived by the historian Walter A. McDougall, consists of four phases that tend to repeat in cycles. First, there is a shock to the system, usually in the form of a surprise attack: the shot fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861, the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbour in 1898, the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, Pearl Harbour in 1941, and September 11 in 2001. In the phase directly after the shock, the leader of the day—Lincoln, McKinley, Wilson, FDR, George W. Bush—vows to resurrect the status quo ante and punish the evildoers. That corresponds to Lincoln’s vow to save the Union, Wilson’s vow to defend the right of American free passage on the high seas, and Bush’s vow to find and punish the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks so that America’s minimally acceptable standard of near perfect security could be restored. But third, in the course of mobilising the national effort to achieve the limited goals set after the shock, the transcendent God-talk begins and the effort soon becomes enmeshed in the sacred narrative of American exceptionalism. This leads to a distension of goals and expectations, to geopolitical amnesia, and to what cognitive psychologists call a dominant strategy that is impervious to negative feedback and logical contradiction. And so, in the September 11 decade, we chose a war that thoughtlessly destroyed the regional balance against Iranian hegemonism without even stopping to ask about the broader implications of a Shi’a government in Baghdad. One does not, apparently, descend to the smarminess of geopolitical analysis when one is doing the Lord’s work. So, too, did we turn what could and should have remained a punitive military operation in Afghanistan into a quixotic, distracted, underfunded nation- and state-building campaign. And so, too, did we conflate all our adversaries into one monolithic demon—typical of eschatological thinking. The administration conflated secular, Ba’athi Iraq with the apocalyptical Muslim fanatics of al-Qaeda, and so went to war against a country uninvolved in 9/11 whose threat to America was not, as is commonly claimed, zero, but which hardly justified, or excused, the haste and threadbare planning with which the war was launched and conducted. Then, in the fourth phase, overreach leads to setbacks (the Korean War, for example, and the Iraq insurgency) and regrets (like the Vietnam War), ultimately resulting in at least temporary retrenchment … until the cycle starts all over again. This four-phase model fits the September 11 decade to a tee. The attack itself is of course phase 1; the Bush doctrine version 1.0 represents phase 2; the Second Inaugural signals the full efflorescence of phase 3; and the election of Barack Obama marks the consolidation of phase 4. It matters in all this, however, whether the ideological vehicle that propels phase 3 forward even remotely reflects or aligns with reality. When it does, as it did during and after World War II, no one pays attention since things tend then to turn out well. In the case of the September 11 decade, unfortunately, it did not. There have been basically two problems with it. First, the « forward strategy » for freedom’s ascription of causality for Islamist terrorism is mistaken. Second, even if it were not mistaken, the timetables in which democracy promotion was seen as a solution for mass-casualty terrorism do not even begin to match. The reason is that despite President Bush’s assertion that democracy promotion is « the work of generations » and that democracy is about more than elections, that is not the basis upon which the administration actually behaved. It rushed into premature elections in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, with troublesome and still open-ended consequences for Iraq and disastrous ones for Lebanon and Gaza. After September 11, as Americans searched for analogies that might help them understand the motivations for the attacks, most found themselves with very shallow reservoirs of historical analogies. Indeed, Americans tended almost exclusively to choose Cold War metaphors to explain September 11. Liberal idealists took their characteristic meliorist approach: It was poverty and injustice that motivated the attacks, and American policies that determined the target. There were dozens of calls for a « Marshall Plan for the Middle East », and hundreds of pleas to concentrate more than ever on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, as if that were somehow a magic bullet that could fix all problems. Conservative idealists, as already noted, took the democracy-promotion approach, arguing that the motivation was not economic but political. Both were wrong; Islamist radicalism, in truth, is a form of chiliastic violence that has taken many forms in many cultures over the past two millennia, from the Jewish zealots of the First Century of the Common Era, to the 16th-century Peasants’ Revolt in Germany, to the 19th-century « ghost dances » of American Indians. But the obvious weaknesses of the meliorist approach encouraged conservative idealists in their conviction that their own view, therefore, must be right. (Manichean-minded Americans have real problems when any potential set of choices exceeds two.) The administration’s rhetoric went even further, however, suggesting that US policy was largely responsible for the debased condition of Arab political cultures. When Bush famously said in November 2003: « Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty », he argued in essence that it was US policy, not the long incubated political culture of the region, that accounted for Arab autocracy. The Bush White House, in essence, adopted the wrongheaded left-wing side of an old debate over « friendly tyrants » as lesser evils and what to do with and about them, a very strange position for an avowedly conservative administration to take. The President also seemed to be saying, in a locution repeated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Cairo in June 2005 and many times thereafter, that US Cold War policy in the region was unsuccessful on its own terms, that it did not provide safety and stability. Adam Garfinkle
 The United States is the world’s pre-eminent if not hegemonic power. Since World War II it has set the normative standards and both formed and guarded the security and economic structures of the world. In that capacity it has provided for a relatively secure and prosperous global commons, a mission nicely convergent with the maturing American self-image as an exceptionalist nation. To do this, however, the United States has had to maintain a global military presence as a token of its commitment to the mission and as a means of reassurance to those far and wide with a stake in it. This has required a global network of alliances and bases, the cost of which is not small and the maintenance of which, in both diplomatic and other terms, is a full-time job. Against this definition of strategic mission there have always been those in the United States who have dissented, holding that we do, ask and expect much too much, and get into gratuitous trouble as a result. Some have preferred outright isolationism, but most serious skeptics of the status quo have preferred a posture of ‘offshore balancing’. Remove the bases and end the alliances, they have argued, and the US government will be better able, at less risk and far less cost to the nation, to balance against threatening developments abroad, much as America’s strategic mentor, Great Britain, did throughout most of the 19th century. This is the core conversation Americans have been having about the US global role since at least 1945. To one side we recall George McGovern’s 1972 ‘Come Home, America’ campaign plank, the Mansfield Amendment that would have removed US troops from Europe in mid-Cold War, and the early Carter administration’s proposal to remove US troops from South Korea spoken in rhythm to speeches decrying an “inordinate fear of communism”. To the other side has been almost everyone and everything else, so that the offshore approach has always been turned back, at least until now. Where is the Obama administration in this great debate? We don’t really know; the evidence, once again, suggests ambivalence. President Obama has rejected American exceptionalism as no American president before him ever has; he did so in London on 29 April 2009, when he answered a question as follows: “I believe in American exceptionalism just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” By relativizing what has always been an absolute, Obama showed how profoundly his image of America has been influenced by the received truths of the Vietnam anti-war movement and counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. If he has a theory of American exceptionalism, it is a far subtler, humbler and more historically contingent one than the secular messianist, attenuated Protestant version that has been common to American history. The President also believes that downward pressure on the defense budget is warranted; his projected budgets show as much, though the prospective cuts are not draconian. But in this he joins a large, politically ecumenical contingent, so his views do not imply opposition to the forward-presence approach to grand strategy. And the fact that US relations with many of its allies, notably in Europe, have worsened during Obama’s tenure is more likely a consequence of the President being distracted than it is of any active dislike for either specific allies or alliances in general. Nor does his candid view that fighting in Afghanistan for another decade and spending $1 trillion doing so is not in America’s best national interest, mean that he is reticent about using force on behalf of strategic aims when it is in America’s interest to do so. Perhaps Obama accepts the forward strategy but will end up starving it of resources to the point that it will shockingly fail some crucial test—perhaps the worst outcome of all. Taken together, then, the administration’s track record, encompassing the whole spectrum from discrete policy arenas to the lofty heights of grand strategy, suggests the foreign policy equivalent of a Rorschach inkblot. Observers can see in it what they have wanted to see. Some have tagged the Obama administration a re-run of the Carter administration, but the fit is obviously imperfect; it’s very hard to see Carter during his first or second year in office ordering those Predator strikes, even harder to imagine him holding his tongue on human rights. Some have seen a replay of Nixon and Kissinger: Realpolitik hiding behind feel-good talk about allies and peace and the rest, trying simultaneously to play an inherited weak hand and set the stage for a grand bargain—this time with Iran instead of China. Still others think they are witness to the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: a shrewd opportunist who knows the limits set by domestic constraints, and whose main concern is national economic stabilization and social strengthening against the day when American power must meet a true test of destiny. The name game can go on because, while no great successes have sprouted forth from the Obama foreign policy, no great debacles have emerged either. (…) Read any serious history of American diplomacy and it becomes readily apparent how central the character of the president is to it. One of the great mysteries of understanding US foreign policy today in its essence is that, more than any other occupant of the Oval Office, Americans and foreigners alike simply do not have a good feel for who Barack Obama really is. Aside from being relatively young and recent upon the national political scene, he doesn’t fit into any category with which we are accustomed to understand intellectual and temperamental origins. More importantly, Obama’s ‘mentality’ is not only hard for outsiders to read, he is, thanks to the facts of his nativity and life circumstances, an unusually self-constructed personality. He is black in an obvious physical way but culturally not black in any significant way. He is a person who, finding himself naturally belonging nowhere, has striven to shape himself into a person who belongs everywhere. As his books suggest, he is a man who has put himself through more reconstructive psychological surgery than any American politician in memory. A few of the resultant characteristics are critically important for understanding how he serves as both president and commander-in-chief. Obama has understood above all that he must keep his cool. His cultivated aloofness is absolutely necessary to his successful political personality, for he cannot allow himself to exude emotion lest he raise the politically fatal specter of ‘the emotional black man’. His analytical mien, however, has made it hard for him to bond with foreign heads of state and even with some members of his own staff. His relationship with General Jones, for example, lacked rapport to the point that it seems to be a major reason for Jones resigning his position. But Obama’s ‘cool’ does not imply a stunted capacity for emotional intelligence. To the contrary: he knows unerringly where the emotional balance of a conversation needs to be, and it is for this reason that Obama’s self-confidence is so imperturbable. He knows he can read other people without letting them read him. And this is why, in parallel with the complex of his racial identity, he never defers to others psychologically or emotionally, not towards individuals and not, as with the US military, towards any group. The combination of ‘cool’ and empathetic control helps explain Obama’s character as commander-in-chief. He is respected in the ranks for sacking General Stanley McChrystal after the latter’s inexcusable act of disrespect and insubordination. That was control at work. But US troops do not feel that Obama has their back. He thinks of them as victims, not warriors, and one does not defer to victims. His ‘cool’, as well as his having had no prior contact with the professional military ethos at work, enjoins a distance that diminishes his effectiveness as commander-in-chief. Obama’s mastery at projecting himself as self-confident, empathetic and imperturbable has also compensated for his lack of original policy ideas. Whether in law school, on the streets of Chicago, in the US Senate or in the race for the White House, he has commanded respect by being the master orchestrator of the ideas, talents and ambitions of others. Many claim that his personality archetype is that of the ‘professor’, but this is not so; it is that of the judge. It is the judge who sits above others; they defer to him, not he to them. It is the judge who bids others speak while he holds his peace and shows no telling emotion. It is the judge who settles disputes and orders fair and just resolution. It is the judge whose presumed intelligence trumps all others. This kind of personality archetype can succeed well within American politics. In this sense it is precisely Charles Evans Hughes, a former chief justice of the US Supreme Court, not Carter, Wilson, Niebuhr, Nixon or FDR who stands as the true forebear of Barack Obama. But in the international arena even the American president cannot pull off a judge act and get away with it. Wilson tried and failed (or was that a prophet act?). The American president among his international peers is but one of many, perhaps primus inter pares but certainly without a mandate to act like it. Obama cum ‘judge’ has not impressed these peers: not among our European allies, who are ill at ease with his aloofness; not among Arabs and Muslims, who think him ill-mannered for bad-mouthing his predecessors while being hosted in foreign lands; not among Russians and Chinese, who think him gullible and guileless. Obama may still be popular on the ‘streets’ of the world because of the color of his skin, the contrast he draws to his predecessor, the general hope for renewal he symbolizes, and his willingness to play to chauvinist sentiment abroad by apologizing for supposed past American sins; but this matters not at all in the palaces where decisions are made. As his novelty has worn off, he impresses less and less. One reason President Obama does not impress the foreigners who matter is that he looks to be a figure in political distress at home. They know, as does the President, that his legacy will be forged in the context of the American domestic moment. Success at home can empower him abroad, but the opposite is not the case. That is why it is impossible to assess the Obama foreign policy bereft of its domestic political context. (…) If we now try to put all the foregoing factors together, what do we find assembled? We find a president in a tough spot who most likely does not know if he is inspired more by Wilson or Niebuhr, because reality thus far has not forced him to choose. We don’t know if he is resigned to a strategy of forward deployment or desirous of an offshore alternative because he likely doesn’t know either, having never been posed the question in so many words. We find a man whose inexperience leaves him with an incomplete grasp of what he gives up by asserting such close control over foreign policy from the White House. We see a man whose personality does not function abroad as successfully as it has at home, and so cannot with brilliant speeches alone dissolve the conflicting interests that define the cauldron of international politics into a comforting pot of warm milk. We see a man commanding a decision system untested by crisis, and one whose core issues remain unfocused for all the distractions of other challenges in his path. We see, lastly but not least, a man whose political instincts are no more detachable from him than his own shadow. From all these sources, bumping against and mixing with one another, comes the foreign policy of Barack Obama. Where the man will lead that policy, or the policy lead the man (the rest of us in tow), is now driven by the fact that the President is adrift conceptually since his initial engagement strategies did not succeed. Obama now awaits the crisis that will forge his legacy, but what that crisis will be, and whether the president will meet it with the American national interest or his personal political concerns foremost in mind, no one knows. No one can possibly know. Adam Garfinkle
Je ne pense donc pas que le Président ait une théorie stratégique explicite sur le dossier du Proche-Orient. Je n’entends tourner aucun des mécanismes de Kissinger. Ses orientations à l’égard de la région ressemblent plus à celles de George H. W. Bush : il a des intuitions, des instincts. Et ceux-ci lui soufflent qu’obtenir ce qu’on veut dans cette partie du monde est très difficile et le devient de plus en plus, dans la mesure où la possibilité d’avoir un interlocuteur unique – dont nous « jouissions » en ayant pour alliés des régimes arabes autoritaires et stables – n’est plus ce qu’elle était. (…) Si j’ai raison de soutenir que le Président Obama a des instincts et des intuitions, mais pas de grande et ambitieuse stratégie pour le Proche-Orient, a-t-il néanmoins quelque chose de plus précis à l’esprit, replaçant le Proche-Orient dans un cadre global plus vaste ? La réponse à cette question est la même : le Président n’est pas, je pense, un homme qui a confiance dans l’exercice d’une stratégie formelle, mais il ne fonctionne pas non plus complètement au cas par cas. Il croit probablement que les États-Unis sont effectivement trop investis au Proche-Orient et pas assez en Asie. D’où l’idée du pivot et peu importe qu’on l’ait sabotée en la présentant comme une proposition alternative. Selon toute vraisemblance, il s’est un jour demandé quel était le pire scénario pour le Proche-Orient. Ce qui se passerait si tout allait mal. En quoi cela affecterait vraiment les intérêts vitaux de l’Amérique. Non ses engagements traditionnels, non sa réputation, non ses obligations découlant de l’habitude et pas d’une approche nouvelle – mais ses authentiques intérêts vitaux. Et sa réponse a probablement été que, sauf réaction en chaîne en matière de prolifération d’ADM, les conséquences seraient minimes. Une fois encore, je doute qu’Obama déploie consciemment ici une logique stratégique explicite ou formalisée ou qu’il accepte les théories universitaires du réalisme bienveillant ou de l’équilibre naturel. Mais je pense qu’il se rend compte qu’après le relatif immobilisme de la Guerre froide, le monde est devenu globalement plus confus ; que le degré de contrôle que peuvent donner les relations interétatiques traditionnelles sur une zone aux enjeux importants a baissé à mesure que, grâce aux nouvelles cyber-technologies, les mobilisations populaires et populistes se sont accrues aux niveaux à la fois sous-étatique et trans-étatique. Le Proche-Orient est certainement bien plus compliqué et confus, même si ce n’est pas, ou pas encore, le cas du reste du monde. À mon avis, cette intuition a eu pour effet de rendre le Président Obama encore plus hostile au risque de manière générale et en particulier dans une région où il manque à tout le moins d’expérience et en son for intérieur d’assurance. Il est visiblement mal à l’aise lorsque ses conseillers sont divisés. Comme un juge, il essaie de trouver un dénominateur commun entre eux, ce qui est une bonne chose dans un travail de militant associatif, mais pas nécessairement en politique étrangère. Lorsque ses conseillers se livrent à une pensée de groupe, ce qu’ils font de plus en plus depuis le départ de Gates et de Donilon, ou lorsque aucun d’eux ne fait d’objections sérieuses à quelque chose (par exemple à la lubie de Kerry sur la paix israélo-palestinienne), il est satisfait de s’investir dans la gestion de son image – la twitterisation de la politique étrangère américaine en quelque sorte – parce qu’il sait qu’il ne peut tout simplement pas ignorer toutes ces choses. La sensibilité du Président aux limites a également tendance à rendre sa politique réactive et ses objectifs réels modestes. Aussi, dans la confusion qu’est le Proche-Orient aujourd’hui, il veut que l’Irak soit gouverné de manière plus inclusive. Il veut que la Syrie et la Libye soient gouvernées, point. Il veut que l’Égypte soit stable et il n’est pas très regardant sur la manière dont cela peut se faire. Il veut que l’Iran n’ait pas d’armes nucléaires et il est prêt à beaucoup de choses pour l’empêcher par la diplomatie car il pense probablement que les dirigeants iraniens ne peuvent pas aujourd’hui exercer leur volonté au-delà de leurs frontières avec plus de réel succès que nous. Il ne semble avoir d’idées précises et ne souhaiter agir préventivement que pour empêcher que des attaques terroristes tuent des citoyens américains, en particulier sur le sol des États-Unis. D’où son goût pour les attaques de drones, sa tolérance à l’égard de Guantánamo, son refus d’émasculer une série de programmes de la NSA, sauf à la marge, et son soutien généreux à l’ouverture discrète dans le monde entier de bases petites, mais puissantes, pour les forces spéciales. Cet ensemble de positions n’est ni de l’apaisement ni de l’isolationnisme. Ce n’est manifestement pas non plus du maximalisme stratégique. C’est quelque chose d’intermédiaire et dans cet entre-deux, suspendu entre des attentes héritées du passé et des hésitations dues au flou de l’avenir, les choses deviennent parfois étranges ou pénibles lorsqu’il faut prendre un nombre sans précédent de décisions. Étrange, comme Genève II.  Adam Garfinkle
Pour Obama, le terrorisme est, à la racine, un produit de la désintégration sociale. La guerre est peut-être nécessaire pour contenir l’avancée de l’Etat islamique, mais seulement une réforme sociale peut vraiment s’en débarrasser. Ajoutez à cette vision le vécu d’un parfait ‘outsider’, moitié blanc et moitié noir avec une enfance et une famille dispersée autour du monde, et on commence à voir le profil d’un homme avec une empathie automatique pour les marginaux et un sens presque instinctif que les plus importants problèmes du monde sont enracinés, non pas dans l’idéologie, mais dans des structures sociales et économiques oppressives qui renforcent la marginalisation. Cette sensibilité est plus large que n’importe quelle orthodoxie économique, et elle est enracinée dans la dure expérience du Sud de Chicago. Après avoir pris la tête de la plus importante superpuissance du monde en janvier 2009, ce travailleur social s’est mis à construire une politique étrangère qui traduisait ses impressions en actions géopolitiques.(…) Le monde était un énorme Chicago, ses problèmes essentiels pas totalement différents de ceux des Noirs du Sud de Chicago, et les solutions à ces problèmes étaient enracinées dans la même capacité humaine à surpasser les divisions sociales et les inégalités. Voilà en quoi consistait le « provincialisme » d’Obama, sa vision d’un monde qui favorisait les désavantagés et les opprimés, qui percevait les conflits idéologiques et politiques entre les gouvernements comme secondaires par rapport à des crises plus universelles et en fin de compte sociales qui troublaient un monde déjà tumultueux. (…) L’aversion du président Obama pour Netanyahu est intense et … Il y a peu de doute que cette hostilité soit devenue personnelle – un dirigeant juif américain a affirmé que c’est le président Obama lui-même qui a donné l’interview à The Atlantic, dans laquelle un responsable anonyme s’est moqué de Netanyahu en le qualifiant de « chickenshit » [poule mouillée] – mais ses origines sont plus profondes qu’une antipathie personnelle. (…) Lorsque Netanyahu insiste pour parler de l’histoire juive à l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU, tout en refusant d’aborder la dépossession palestinienne, quand il rejette d’emblée et à plusieurs reprises l’idée qu’une éventuelle réadaptation de l’Iran pourrait être plus souhaitable qu’une confrontation permanente, Obama entend des échos de ces militants de Chicago dont le chauvinisme a fait plus de mal que de bien à leurs communautés. (…) Pour les deux hommes, l’écart est plus profond que la fracture démocrates-républicains, plus profond que la question palestinienne, plus profond encore que la bataille sur l’Iran. Obama a cherché à introduire une nouvelle conscience dans les affaires mondiales, une conscience qui a défini son identité politique. Netanyahu défend les anciennes méthodes – dont dépendent, selon lui, la sécurité nationale. Haviv Rettig Gur
Iran must be taken seriously when it says it sees this negotiation as part of a struggle with an enemy. Liberal American diplomats often delude themselves that foreigners prefer them to conservative hardliners. They think that American adversaries like the Castro brothers or the Iranians will want to work cooperatively with liberals here, and help the American liberals stay in power in order to advance a mutually beneficial, win-win agenda. Thus liberals think they can get better deals from U.S. opponents than hardliners who, as liberals see it, are so harsh and crude in their foreign policy that they force otherwise neutral or even pro-American states into opposition. What liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of these leaders it is the American system and American civilization that is seen as the enemy. It is capitalism, for example, that the communists opposed, and they saw liberal capitalism as simply one of the masks that the heartless capitalist system could wear. For the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threatFor the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threat. Obama’s ideas from this point of view are if anything less sympathetic to Iranian theocrats than those of, say, American evangelicals who aren’t running around supporting gay marriage, transgender rights and an industrial strength feminism that conservative Iranian mullahs see as blasphemy made flesh. The mullahs in other words, don’t see blue America as an ally against red America. It is America, blue and red, that they hate and want to bring down. And while, like the Soviets during the Cold War, they may be willing to sign specific agreements where their interests and ours coincide on some particular issue, they do not look to end the rivalry by reaching agreements. The Iranians are as likely to use negotiations to trip up and humiliate Obama as they were willing to doublecross Jimmy Carter and to drag out hostage negotiations as a way of making him look weak in the eyes of the world. American power is what they hope to break, and they don’t like it more or trust it more when a liberal Democrat stands at the head of our system. The Iranians appear to believe that Obama desperately needs an agreement with Iran, and are using the leverage they think this gives them to tease and torment the president while they push for more concessions. (…) Given that the Iranians, as much as the communists before them, believe that the conflict between them and the United States is a conflict arising from the differences between the two country’s systems rather than from personality clashes or minor and adjustable conflicts of interest, the mullahs would by their own lights be foolish indeed if they didn’t do everything possible to push their advantages in Geneva and elsewhere. Walter Russell Mead

Attention: une guerre sainte peut en cacher une autre !

En ce 100e anniversaire du premier génocide du XXe siècle …

Et modèle et début, entre nazisme, communisme et à nouveau aujourd’hui islam comme l’a rappelé le pape, d’une longue liste de violences génocidaires …

Où après la reconnaissance du droit à l’arme nucléaire d’un pays appelant explicitement à l’annihilation de l’Etat hébreu …

Et après son refus de rencontrer le dirigeant sortant de l’unique véritable démocratie du Moyen-Orient …

Ou même de se déplacer pour le 70e anniversaire de la libération d’Auschwitz ou, défendu par ses belles âmes, la Marche de Paris pour la liberté d’expression …

L’actuel chef du Monde libre et discret Predator in chief n’a rien trouvé de mieux que de célébrer les prétendument historiques retrouvailles avec l’un des derniers dictateurs stalinistes de la planète …

Comment ne pas voir avec le politologue américain Walter Russell Mead …

Derrière l’impressionnante liste de mauvaises causes que le président Obama aura épousées …

Et sous couvert, au niveau intérieur et sociétal comme dans la France socialiste, de la non moins impressionnante liste de prétendues bonnes causes et d’intérêts bien compris

Le véritable objectif …

Tant des ennemis de l’Amérique et de l’Occident …

Que du Flagellant en chef et de toute sa génération de pleureuses …

A savoir derrière l’abaissement voire l’élimination de l’Amérique et d’Israël

Celui du Monde libre qu’ils représentent ?

Not A Partner For Peace
Walter Russell  Mead

The American Interest

April 10, 2015

The Supreme Leader’s Speech and Liberal Delusions Walter Russell MeadWhat liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of America’s adversaries, it is the American system and American civilization that are the enemies.
Iran’s Supreme Leader gave a speech yesterday regarding the nuclear framework agreement, and what he said cannot have been comforting to the Obama Administration. Khamenei made two unequivocal demands: 1) sanctions must be lifted as soon as a final deal is signed, and 2) there will be no inspections of Iranian military sites. These stand in sharp contrast to the framework agreement as it has been repeatedly described by Western leaders ever since they announced it more than a week ago.

Careful observers should not be terribly surprised—at least not by the first demand. None other than Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Secretary John Kerry’s direct interlocutor at the talks in Lausanne, immediately tweeted after the announcement that in his understanding the sanctions would be lifted immediately upon signing—not gradually.

As to the question of inspections of Iranian military sites, that too was a contentious area of discussion carefully sidestepped during the framework negotiations. Leaks preceding the announcement of the agreement indicated that the talks nearly broke down due to Iran refusing to disclose what military nuclear research it had already undertaken.

It’s hard to predict how events will play out, but the Obama Administration should have no illusions on one count: Iran must be taken seriously when it says it sees this negotiation as part of a struggle with an enemy. Liberal American diplomats often delude themselves that foreigners prefer them to conservative hardliners. They think that American adversaries like the Castro brothers or the Iranians will want to work cooperatively with liberals here, and help the American liberals stay in power in order to advance a mutually beneficial, win-win agenda. Thus liberals think they can get better deals from U.S. opponents than hardliners who, as liberals see it, are so harsh and crude in their foreign policy that they force otherwise neutral or even pro-American states into opposition.

What liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of these leaders it is the American system and American civilization that is seen as the enemy. It is capitalism, for example, that the communists opposed, and they saw liberal capitalism as simply one of the masks that the heartless capitalist system could wear. For the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threatFor the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threat. Obama’s ideas from this point of view are if anything less sympathetic to Iranian theocrats than those of, say, American evangelicals who aren’t running around supporting gay marriage, transgender rights and an industrial strength feminism that conservative Iranian mullahs see as blasphemy made flesh.

The mullahs in other words, don’t see blue America as an ally against red America. It is America, blue and red, that they hate and want to bring down. And while, like the Soviets during the Cold War, they may be willing to sign specific agreements where their interests and ours coincide on some particular issue, they do not look to end the rivalry by reaching agreements.

The Iranians are as likely to use negotiations to trip up and humiliate Obama as they were willing to doublecross Jimmy Carter and to drag out hostage negotiations as a way of making him look weak in the eyes of the world. American power is what they hope to break, and they don’t like it more or trust it more when a liberal Democrat stands at the head of our system.

The Iranians appear to believe that Obama desperately needs an agreement with Iran, and are using the leverage they think this gives them to tease and torment the president while they push for more concessions. They think, for example, that his reluctance to intervene in the Middle East reflects his desperate hunger for a deal—and so they are doubling down on that by stepping up support for the Houthis in Yemen. With the announcement of the framework agreement and their subsequent pullback, they seem to be playing him exactly the way Lucy plays Charlie Brown: the goal is to snatch the football away after Charlie Brown is committed to kicking it.

Will Iran walk away from a deal, or will it sign? Ultimately, nobody except the Supreme Leader knows, and he may not have made up his mind quite yet. Whatever else Iran is doing, it is clearly try its best to push the final negotiations in a more favorable direction—waiting to see what else he can get before acting decisively.

Given that the Iranians, as much as the communists before, them believe that the conflict between them and the United States is a conflict arising from the differences between the two country’s systems rather than from personality clashes or minor and adjustable conflicts of interest, the mullahs would by their own lights be foolish indeed if they didn’t do everything possible to push their advantages in Geneva and elsewhere. Iran may in the end be willing to give Obama the deal he so badly wants, but the mullahs aim to make him pay the highest possible price for the smallest possible gain that they can.  From what we have seen in the days since the framework agreement was announced, Iran doesn’t think the squeezing process is over, and it thinks that the Obama administration can and will end up paying more to get less.

Voir aussi:

Iranian President: Diplomacy With U.S. is an Active ‘Jihad’
Diplomacy just as significant as new weapons, missiles
Adam Kredo
March 12, 2015
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described his country’s diplomacy with the United States as an active “jihad” that is just as significant to Tehran’s advancement as the slew of new weapons and missiles showcased by the Islamic Republic’s military.

Rouhani praised the country’s military leaders for standing “against the enemy on the battlefield” and said as president, he would carry out this “jihad” on the diplomatic front.

Rouhani’s comments echo those of foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator Javad Zarif, who said Tuesday that Iran has emerged as “the winner” in talks with Western powers. Like Zarif, Rouhani boasted that Iran’s years-long diplomacy with Western nations over its nuclear program established the Islamic Republic as a global power.

Iran has made headway in convincing the U.S. to allow it to maintain much of its core infrastructure through diplomatic talks that Rouhani said are viewed as a “jihad.”

“Our negotiations with the world powers are a source of national pride,” Rouhani said earlier this week. “Yesterday [during the Iran-Iraq War], your brave generals stood against the enemy on the battlefield and defended their country. Today, your diplomatic generals are defending [our nation] in the field of diplomacy–this, too, is jihad.”

“Our power is growing each day, but we don’t intend to be aggressive toward anyone. However, we will certainly defend our country, nation, independence, and honor wholeheartedly.”

Iran stands “10 times more powerful” than it was during the time of the Iran-Iraq War, Rouhani said, which “reflects a serious deterrence to the enemies’ threats.”

Iranian leaders view the ongoing talks with the United States and other nations as a source of global legitimacy.

Rouhani’s remarks have “significant domestic implications,” according to an analysis published by the American Enterprise Institute.

“Iran’s negotiations team to the status of Iran-Iraq War commanders, who are traditionally revered by the regime as upholders of Islamic Revolutionary values, could potentially lead to rhetorical backlash from regime hardliners opposed to the nuclear negotiations,” AEI wrote.

Matan Shamir, director of research at United Against Nuclear Iran, said Rouhani’s latest comments show he is not a moderate leader.

“While Rouhani talks about a ‘win-win’ nuclear deal to global audiences, his comments make clear that he continues to view the U.S. an antagonistic global oppressor that must be triumphed over, in this case by a diplomatic ‘jihad,’” Shamir said. “This is clearly not the language of a moderate or of a regime with which rapprochement is at all realistic.”

Zarif said Tuesday that a final nuclear deal with the United States is meaningless at this point.

“We are the winner whether the [nuclear] negotiations yield results or not,” Zarif was quoted as saying by the Tasnim News Agency. “The capital we have obtained over the years is dignity and self-esteem, a capital that could not be retaken.”

As Rouhani and Zarif grandstand on the nuclear front, Iranian military leaders have begun to unveil a host of new missiles and sea-based weapons.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a leader in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Iran’s defensive capabilities “are non-negotiable in the nuclear talks,” AEI reported.

The comments came the same day Iran paraded its new cruise missiles.

Hajizadeh also dismissed economic sanctions on Iran, saying that “his is a message which should be understood by the bullying powers which raise excessive demands.”

On Wednesday, the State Department said any final deal with Iran was “nonbinding,” meaning that neither party would be legally obliged to uphold the agreement.

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Obama has destroyed the Democratic Party’s legacy on human rights
Noah Rothman

Hot air

April 12, 2015

Marco Rubio couldn’t have asked for a better foil than a president in the White House who eagerly shakes the hand of a Castro in the pursuit of a “legacy issue.” When he launches his presidential campaign on Monday, it’s fair to expect the Florida senator to dwell on the matter of Obama’s crass disrespect for the oppressed Cuban people. The president has said he wants to break the “shackles” that constrain his freedom of action overseas. The “shackles” he derides were those foreign policy precepts that once rendered America the shining city on a hill, a beacon of freedom, and a champion of fundamental human aspiration for the better part of a century.

If he is so inclined, Rubio might also make note of the fact that Raul Castro doesn’t seem interested in playing the docile and repentant dictator in order to help Obama recast the communists in Havana as responsible international actors. In what CNN’s Jim Acosta called “a borderline rant,” Castro’s speech at the Summit of the Americas was apparently loaded with a fair amount of good, old-fashioned America bashing.

“Castro, in a meandering, nearly hour-long speech to the Summit of the Americas, ran through an exhaustive history of perceived Cuban grievances against the U.S. dating back more than a century—a vivid display of how raw passions remain over American attempts to undermine Cuba’s government,” Time Magazine reported.

Eventually, Castro said he had become “emotional” and apologized to Obama personally “because he had no responsibility for this.” What Castro refers to as “this” is, in fact, 200 years of American policy toward the Western Hemisphere – a source of much consternation for the revolutionary left. “In my opinion, President Obama is an honest man,” Castro glowed.

Having successfully courted the communist dictator, Obama and Castro proceeded to have what the administration apparently considered a historic, if not fruitful, bilateral meeting. “In a later news conference, Obama said that he was ‘optimistic that we’ll continue to make progress, and that this can indeed be a turning point,’” a Washington Post dispatch read.

A realist might look upon Obama’s approach to thawing relations with Cuba and smile. The United States has long regarded this region as pivotal, and Washington has warily eyed Beijing’s efforts to supplant U.S. influence in South and Central America and the Caribbean for years. But Cuba has counted itself a member of any foreign camp dedicated to balancing against U.S. power for decades, and the United States has somehow soldiered on without the complicity of a placid regime in Havana.

What’s more, Obama’s decision to literally extend a hand of friendship toward a Castro represents the abandonment of decades of cherished Democratic foreign affairs doctrine. One of the precious few lasting achievements secured by Jimmy Carter’s administration was to ensure that the concept of human rights served a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. In principle if not always in practice, respect for human rights became the sine qua non for friendly bilateral relations with the United States after 1977. That has remained the case through both Democratic and Republican administrations ever since. Many on the left would argue that this focus forced more than a handful of repressive regimes to extend to their domestic dissident elements the deference they needed in order to ultimately topple the governments they opposed.

By contrast, Obama has stood by and watched as the world’s most brutal regimes oversaw the reclamation of their power.

Obama turned a blind eye toward the crushing of the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009, and today strengthens the Mullah’s domestic authority by inking dubious deals with Tehran that will allegedly yield great rewards for the Islamic Republic’s ruling class. In Iran, Obama is rightly seen as no friend to the friendless, and he has greatly strengthened the hand of the system’s stakeholders.

The same could be said of Venezuela, where bloody anti-government riots broke out in 2014 and were subsequently crushed by Caracas. Though the global left and Nicolas Maduro’s government saw the riots as an extension of America’s desire to oust his regime from power, Obama made no statements to that effect at the rebellion’s zenith. Only over a year after the fighting in the streets had been quelled did the administration name a handful of Maduro regime officials as threats to American national security in order to target them with sanctions.

Perhaps the president wanted to avoid a repeat of his galling refusal to follow up on his 2011 insistence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go. That feel-good statement was not met with action. Quite the contrary; the president stood back and allowed the regime to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocents with conventional and chemical weapons before tepidly committing to take action. But even that reluctant acknowledgment of the president’s responsibility to posterity was not met with engagement. Only when the situation became untenable, the terrorist threat to Western security grew imminent, and the attacks on human decency in the Middle East became truly unprecedented did the United States finally begin to address them.

In Moscow, where Obama’s pledge to have more flexibility with the Putin regime in his second term was taken quite literally, the Soviet approach to information management and the suppression of domestic criticism is back in vogue. Journalists who dare to censure the regime again fear for their lives and livelihoods. The institutions of civil society that the Clinton administration invested time and energy, not to mention millions of dollars, trying to build up are now being eagerly destroyed by a Russia that sees more value in repression and revanchism than openness.

Once an administration success story, a modest loosening of restrictions on freedoms in Burma has been completely reversed by the military junta in Naypyidaw. In January, Human Rights Watch called on the government to “stop arresting peaceful protesters and immediately and unconditionally free those imprisoned.” It is a call you will not here echoed in Washington too loudly, lest the political class recall that the crowning achievement of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as America’s chief diplomat was to secure the illusory opening of Burma and to finally guarantee Aung San Suu Kyi’s pathway to power.

In China, an economic powerhouse that nevertheless remains a one-party communist autocracy, America has tacitly consented to supporting the regime’s increased interest in total command and control. A series of moves to roll back nascent freedoms of speech, religion, and expression in China in 2014 following the rise of President Xi Jinping has led many to wonder if information technology and free trade truly have the power to compel openness in closed societies. “China’s repression of political activists, writers, independent journalists, artists and religious groups who potentially challenge the party’s monopoly of power has intensified since Xi took office nearly two years ago,” The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall reported in December.

Even within the NATO alliance, repression is on the rise. In Turkey, the secularism Kemal Ataturk regarded as a basic value has been de-emphasized. As Ankara has grown friendlier toward Islamism, so has it embraced anti-democratic policies toward journalists and regime critics alike. “We feel the pressure every day,” one unnamed Turkish journalist told Haaretz in December. “We go over our articles with extreme care and remove anything that could give Erdogan’s dogs a pretext for going after us.” The U.S. has joined other United Nations member in expressing concern over Turkey’s authoritarian drift, but human rights groups have called Obama’s silence on this matter “deafening.”

In fact, about the only nation in which Obama pursued what he claimed was a purely humanitarian foreign policy was his decision to lead from behind while Europe toppled Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. There, the West’s attempt to stave off a humanitarian crisis yielded an even greater one. Not only is Libya a failed state today, but it serves as an incubator for fundamentalist Islamic terror groups.

Obama surely hopes historians will define his legacy as one of nobly sloughing off the burdens of the past, and opening America up to a brave new dawn in which multilateral talk shops become powerful forces for good. But Obama confuses the people of the world for their governments – a distinction that his Democratic predecessors understood and frequently made. While Obama pursues what he considers a pragmatic approach to international relations, the tide of freedoms that characterized the end of the last century is waning. When the need to protect Obama’s image for the sake of the left’s sense of self-validation subsides, it will become clear that the president’s true legacy was one of accommodation toward international community’s most repressive elements purely for the sake of convenience and fleeting domestic political gain.

Voir encore:

Qu’est-ce vraiment que l’instabilité ?

Adam Garfinkle

traduit par Commentaire

Les « experts » autoproclamés du Proche-Orient ont longtemps déploré l’instabilité de la région. C’est qu’ils ne savaient rien de la véritable instabilité.

Imaginez-vous en train d’essayer de suivre un match capital de base-ball ou de football – par exemple la finale de la Série mondiale de base-ball ou un Super Bowl – sans pouvoir y assister, ni même le regarder à la télévision, sans savoir quels joueurs ont été sélectionnés à ce moment-là et sans même avoir de commentaire en direct par la radio ou Internet. Vous ne disposez en tout et pour tout que de comptes rendus de seconde ou troisième main, dont on ne peut être certain qu’ils sont fiables et impartiaux et, pire, dont on a des raisons de supposer qu’ils brouillent ou déforment les faits. C’est un peu comme essayer de suivre aujourd’hui la politique étrangère américaine, en particulier sa politique au Proche-Orient. Il se passe des choses, alors même qu’on est en plein débat intérieur et qu’il y a des désaccords. On procède à des estimations et on prend des décisions, or ces expertises, importantes ou non, emportent des conséquences. Pour ceux qui ne sont pas sur le terrain et qui sont même dans l’impossibilité de suivre le match en temps réel, il est frustrant d’essayer d’imaginer ce qui est en train de se passer, car ce que nous savons du processus de décision pourrait s’expliquer de plusieurs manières.

Il est certain que la métaphore sportive connaît des limites. La politique étrangère américaine n’est pas un jeu. Elle ne peut se mesurer par un score chiffré. Il y a plus de deux équipes. Le nombre des joueurs de part et d’autre n’est ni le même ni fixe. On ne distingue pas nettement l’offensive de la défensive. La compétition ne s’arrête jamais tout à fait. Les règles sont floues. Il n’y a pas d’arbitre, à part peut-être la logique implacable de l’interaction stratégique. Vous avez néanmoins compris l’idée de base : il se passe des choses importantes, mais nous, qui ne sommes pas dans le secret des dieux, ne pouvons que faire des hypothèses sur ce dont il s’agit. Or c’est un « grand jeu ». L’instabilité sans précédent du Proche-Orient, quels qu’en soient les autres effets, va obliger les responsables américains à prendre un nombre sans précédent de décisions qui en engendreront d’autres, créant des réalités en fonction de la réponse apportée, avec lesquelles nous devrons vivre pendant des décennies. C’est une époque de remise à plat, c’est pourquoi il est tellement nécessaire (ou il devrait l’être) de prendre de bonnes décisions.

Nous connaissons la plupart des questions qui se posent : que faire s’agissant de la guerre civile en Syrie ? Quel est le meilleur moyen d’arrêter ou de limiter le programme nucléaire militaire de l’Iran ? Que faire face à la nouvelle fragmentation de l’Irak ? Comment faire pour que la situation en Syrie et en Irak ne se propage pas en Jordanie et au Liban ? Comment traiter le problème majeur que pose la Turquie, c’est-à-dire la question kurde en Syrie et en Irak, alors que ce pays est en pleine crise politique et que celle-ci pourrait être très grave ? Jusqu’où et de quelle manière pousser des négociations de paix israélo-palestiniennes et quelle priorité leur donner ? Comment influencer l’évolution politique du « printemps arabe » en Égypte, en Tunisie, en Libye, à Bahreïn et ailleurs ? Comment envisager les clivages confessionnels en formation dans la région et propres à certains pays ? En quoi le dossier de non prolifération est-il lié aux autres défis de la région ? Comment repenser le rôle des services de renseignement antiterroristes américains, compte tenu du retrait de tant de programmes et de personnel d’Irak et bientôt d’Afghanistan ?

Ce qui est frappant dans ces questions est qu’un grand nombre d’entre elles exigent une réponse immédiate alors qu’elles ont tendance à être très diverses, très difficiles et très imbriquées. Ce qui est inhabituel. À son tour, cette observation amène à d’autres questions : l’Administration Obama a-t-elle une théorie stratégique sur ce dossier régional, susceptible d’intégrer tous ces éléments dans un cadre logique global ? Et cette théorie sur le dossier du Proche-Orient, si elle existe, est-elle consciemment liée à des objectifs stratégiques globaux ? Si c’est le cas, d’où vient cette théorie ? Du Président ? Du secrétaire d’État ? De quelqu’un d’autre ? Les dirigeants se sont-ils, ou non, mis d’accord sur une partie de cette théorie, sa plus grande partie, sa totalité ?

Ce ne sont pas des questions simples car les différents présidents et dirigeants ont manifestement des manières différentes d’établir un lien entre les abstractions stratégiques et leur comportement politique. Certains ont bel et bien des théories explicites sur le dossier et s’efforcent avec cohérence de faire coïncider leur comportement et leur stratégie. Le mandat Nixon-Kissinger était la quintessence de ce genre d’approche ; instruits par la Seconde Guerre mondiale et disciplinés par la Guerre froide, les Administrations Eisenhower et Kennedy-Johnson s’en rapprochaient elles aussi.

Certaines Administrations ont eu des théories extrêmement abstraites, souvent intensément moralistes, sur ce dossier ; mais elles étaient trop abstraites pour rester cohérentes dans le processus politique. Elles ont souvent obligé ses subordonnés à deviner et à défendre ce que voulait le Président. Ce fut le cas des présidences Reagan et George W. Bush et, dans une certaine mesure, aussi celle de Carter.

Certains présidents et leurs conseillers les plus proches ont eu beaucoup recours aux intuitions en matière politique et n’ont pas été très enclins à formaliser l’exercice stratégique ou à expliciter leurs stratégies. L’équipe Bush-Scowcroft-Baker en est un exemple, de même que celle de Truman-Acheson. Un président peut être porté à la stratégie sans avoir de stratégie formalisée et, en période de calme, c’est ce qu’il peut faire de mieux. En effet, au moment où le président doit prendre des décisions, il n’a plus un très grand nombre d’options à sa disposition. Son instinct peut l’amener à regrouper d’une certaine manière les questions à trancher, même s’il ne peut expliquer totalement, ou de manière cohérente, pourquoi la décision qu’il a prise était de nature à satisfaire un Kissinger, un Brzezinski, un Acheson ou même un Scowcroft.

Certains présidents semblent ne pas avoir besoin de stratégie, n’être ni portés à penser en ces termes ni à l’aise avec cette méthode. Ils ont donc tendance à traiter au cas par cas les questions qui ne peuvent manquer de se poser en politique étrangère. La période Clinton-Christopher en est une illustration.

Et Barack Obama ? La politique étrangère de cette Administration se contente-t-elle d’improviser, comme l’affirment beaucoup et comme le laissent penser certains éléments du processus de décision ? Ou bien, quoi qu’on en pense, cette Administration a-t-elle, comme d’autres l’affirment, une théorie stratégique explicite sur ce dossier, intégrant le Proche-Orient dans une vision globale ? Ou encore, comme l’Administration de George H. W. Bush, a-t-elle des instincts très intelligents (ou très malencontreux) n’allant pas jusqu’à une stratégie explicite et formalisée, mais n’en conduisant pas moins, peu à peu, la politique dans une direction particulière ? Laquelle ? Comment le sait-on ? Quelles en sont les preuves ?

Une situation nouvelle

C’est à ces questions que je vais tenter de répondre. Mais, pour qu’une réponse ait du sens, il faut d’abord mieux comprendre en quoi un Proche-Orient totalement déstabilisé est une chose nouvelle et comment il en est arrivé là. On examinera ensuite brièvement quelques-unes des diverses décisions à prendre au Proche-Orient (Syrie, Iran et Irak), dans l’espoir de faire émerger un modèle caractérisant le processus de décision dans l’Administration Obama. Peut-être pourra-t-on alors définir l’approche de cette Administration, afin de se prononcer sur son degré de discernement et son cap probable.

Au cours des soixante-dix dernières années s’est développée une sorte de tic intellectuel chez les observateurs occidentaux occasionnels du « Proche-Orient » consistant à considérer la région comme « instable ». (J’ai prudemment mis Proche-Orient entre guillemets pour suggérer que les susdits observateurs occasionnels définissent sans grande rigueur la région dont ils parlent.) Or, comme beaucoup de choses, une zone n’est stable ou instable que par comparaison avec un autre endroit ou avec le même endroit à une autre époque. C’est pourquoi la manière de définir la zone dont on parle affecte nécessairement les comparaisons.

Par conséquent, si ces observateurs occasionnels occidentaux entendaient par « Proche-Orient » uniquement la zone du conflit « arabo-israélien » (et ce fut souvent le cas), alors les guerres de 1948-1949, 1956, 1967, 1970-1971, 1973, 1982, etc., les périodes de « paix », truffées d’actes de terrorisme, de représailles, de raids, d’assassinats et autres, justifient probablement de considérer cette zone comme extrêmement instable par comparaison avec l’Europe, l’Amérique du Sud et la plus grande partie de l’Asie durant la Guerre froide. Si ces observateurs entendaient parler du Levant ou des pays du Golfe, ou de l’Afrique du Nord ou, plus largement, du « monde arabe », ou encore plus largement, du « monde musulman », l’étiquette « instabilité » convient beaucoup moins. Certes, il y a eu des révolutions de palais, des assassinats et des interventions de militaires en politique, plus quelques insurrections, guerres civiles et autres épisodes de violences politiques de masse dans des pays de toutes ces zones. Mais il n’y a eu en réalité qu’une seule véritable guerre interétatique, dans laquelle Israël n’ait pas été impliqué, et aucune qui ait opposé des États arabes directement l’un à l’autre.

Il y a eu aussi des régimes extrêmement stables, qui ont duré très longtemps : Kadhafi en Libye, de septembre 1969 à octobre 2011 ; les Assad en Syrie, de novembre 1970 à ce jour ; Moubarak en Égypte, d’octobre 1981 à février 2012 ; le Baath en Irak, essentiellement sous Saddam Hussein, de juillet 1968 à mars 2003, et on pourrait continuer ainsi. Bien sûr, les cimetières sont stables eux aussi, c’est pourquoi la stabilité n’est pas, contrairement à ce que croient la plupart d’entre nous, toujours une bonne chose pour des sociétés civiles saines. Mais j’emploie le mot « stabilité » dans une acception descriptive, celle des sciences sociales – ni plus ni moins.

On peut se faire une idée de la relative stabilité qu’a connue le Proche-Orient pendant la plus grande partie de ces soixante à soixante-dix dernières années, jusqu’avant la fin de l’année 2010, en la comparant à ce qui s’y passe maintenant. À présent, la région dans son ensemble – quasiment sa totalité, quelle que soit la manière de la définir – est instable. Réellement instable. Cela pourrait même s’aggraver encore et c’est probablement ce qui se passera. C’est cela l’instabilité : toute une région engagée dans l’équivalent politique d’un derby de démolition, sauf que personne ne semble beaucoup s’amuser.

À l’heure actuelle, s’il n’y a pas de guerres conventionnelles entre pays voisins, ce qui se passe dans la région est de nature à produire un cocktail d’instabilité. Guerres civiles et insurrections actives majeures ? Voyez par vous-même : Syrie, Irak, Yémen, Afghanistan et Somalie (les deux derniers si l’on inclut des pays non arabes). Violence politique n’allant pas jusqu’à des insurrections organisées ? Libye, Égypte, Bahreïn, Liban et, sans doute, Algérie. Gouvernements simplement effrayés ou plus ou moins faibles ? Jordanie, Tunisie, Arabie Saoudite, Maroc, Soudan et tout à la fois le Hamas à Gaza et l’Autorité palestinienne en Cisjordanie. Gouvernements ayant en temps normal de bonnes institutions, mais aujourd’hui en crise politique et ne contrôlant pas la totalité de leur territoire national ? Turquie. Les deux seuls grands pays de la région (j’exclus les trois familles ou groupes de familles du Golfe à la tête de leur pays : Oman, Qatar et les Émirats arabes unis) qui contrôlent leur territoire national et qui, selon leurs propres estimations, ne sont pas au bord d’une débâcle intérieure, sont l’Iran et Israël. Or ces deux pays pourraient bien entrer en guerre avant même que le reste de la région ne se remette.

De plus, comme beaucoup d’observateurs l’ont fait remarquer, nous ne sommes pas confrontés seulement à deux douzaines de pays faisant face à des problèmes, mais à quelques pays dont l’existence même, en tant qu’entités politiques, est menacée. C’est sûrement le cas de la Syrie et probablement de l’Irak. Il n’est pas davantage certain que l’intégrité territoriale de la Libye, du Liban, du Yémen et du Soudan puisse être longtemps préservée. La perspective d’un soulèvement contre le régime (non pour faire tomber le gouvernement, mais pour changer vraiment de régime) dans les monarchies du Bahreïn, d’Arabie Saoudite, de Jordanie et du Maroc est loin d’être nulle. La montée du nationalisme pankurde aura des effets sur la configuration territoriale de l’Iran et de la Turquie ainsi que sur celle de l’Irak et de la Syrie. La « Palestine », qui est moins qu’une entité politique, mais plus qu’un produit de l’imagination politique, a longtemps été dans les limbes et, malgré les négociations actuelles, y restera probablement encore un certain temps. On ne parle donc pas seulement de la somme des problèmes de chaque pays, mais de tout un sous-système étatique régional, qui ondule et se désintègre sous l’effet de la décomposition de certaines de ses unités et de la faiblesse et de l’imprévisibilité croissantes des autres.

Qui blâmer ?

De même que les observateurs occidentaux occasionnels sont prompts à gloser sur l’instabilité du Proche-Orient, ils étaient, et sont toujours, déterminés à en faire porter la responsabilité à quelqu’un. La majorité de la presse américaine fonctionne sur l’analyse biographique : qui sont les étoiles montantes, qui voit son étoile pâlir ; qui est has been et qui ne l’est pas (encore). Cela épargne aux journalistes et aux rédacteurs en chef d’avoir à comprendre vraiment les problèmes ; en outre, ils ont probablement raison de penser que c’est ce qu’attendent la plupart de leurs lecteurs. Les potins de haute volée l’emportent très largement sur l’analyse de fond.

Ce qui a pour résultat qu’en fonction de leurs opinions politiques, certains attribuent au président Obama la responsabilité de la confusion actuelle au Proche-Orient. Il aurait dû intervenir très tôt en Syrie, déclarent-ils d’un air supérieur. Il aurait dû soutenir la révolution verte iranienne en 2009. Il aurait dû défendre Moubarak, même si les propres collègues de Moubarak étaient en train de le renverser. S’il avait fait tout cela, plus une liste interminable de choses qu’il aurait dû faire, mais n’a pas faites, ou qu’il a faites, mais n’aurait pas dû faire, tout irait bien aujourd’hui.

D’autres préfèrent blâmer George W. Bush et les neocons. C’est la guerre en Irak qui a tout provoqué. Je ne plaisante pas ; dans un bref article intitulé « What the War in Iraq Wrought », paru dans le New Yorker du 15 janvier 2014, un journaliste, nommé John Lee Anderson, attribue tout ce qui va mal dans la région, et même, par voie de conséquence, ce qui se passe en Égypte, à la guerre en Irak parce que c’est elle qui aurait créé le démon sectaire lâché aujourd’hui au Proche-Orient.

Certains sont plus œcuméniques dans leur révisionnisme : ce sont les États-Unis et toutes leurs Administrations, aussi loin qu’on puisse remonter, qui sont à l’origine de tous ces problèmes. À moins que ce ne soient les Britanniques ou les Français, ou l’Occident générique, ou les Russes ou (bien sûr, ne les oublions pas) les Juifs. Il semble rarement venir à l’esprit que les peuples de cette région pourraient avoir une certaine responsabilité dans leur situation actuelle. Et l’on ne pense presque jamais que chercher un bouc émissaire n’est peut-être pas le meilleur moyen de comprendre les réalités régionales.

Il est particulièrement agaçant d’entendre des gens, qui devraient être plus avisés, tenir ce genre de discours, plus encore lorsqu’ils les tiennent sur le mode du mea culpa. J’ai été stupéfait en entendant le Président Bush dire en 2003 : « Pendant soixante ans, les États-Unis ont recherché la stabilité au Proche-Orient au détriment de la démocratie et n’ont obtenu ni l’une ni l’autre », déclaration que Condoleezza Rice a souvent répétée lorsqu’elle était secrétaire d’État (ce qui, plus que toute autre chose, m’a amené à cesser de travailler pour elle). En d’autres termes, la raison pour laquelle les pays arabes n’étaient pas des démocraties et produisaient donc des terroristes ne tenait pas aux milliers d’années de leur propre expérience historique et culturelle, mais aux décisions de politique étrangère prises par les États-Unis au cours des six précédentes décennies. Tel était le raisonnement de ceux qui, à gauche, critiquaient le soutien des États-Unis aux régimes autoritaires dans le contexte de la Guerre froide. Que des Républicains ouvertement conservateurs se mettent à le reprendre avait de quoi vous couper le souffle, notamment parce que, quel que soit celui qui le tient, ce raisonnement est absurde.

Nous avons assuré la stabilité pendant ces soixante années. Quel que soit le critère retenu, la politique américaine au Proche-Orient pendant la Guerre froide a été un succès. Bien plus important, pour revenir à la question, il n’a jamais été en notre pouvoir de transformer les États arabes en démocraties. C’est une chose qu’aujourd’hui George W. Bush (je l’espère) a apprise à ses dépens ainsi que le docteur Rice. Il est stupéfiant que, même lorsque nous nous critiquons nous-mêmes, nous le fassions avec une dose d’hubris himalayesque : tout tourne toujours autour de nous. Sauf que c’est faux. Les États-Unis ne sont pas, et n’ont jamais été, le facteur déterminant de tout ce qui se passe au Proche-Orient, ni ailleurs non plus du reste (sauf peut-être à Panama à une époque). Redescendons sur terre.

Ce qui ne signifie pas pour autant que les décisions des présidents restent totalement sans effet. Pour le meilleur ou pour le pire, une partie de ce que font les États-Unis ne reste pas, la plupart du temps, sans conséquences ou a beaucoup de répercussions, de temps en temps au moins. La guerre en Irak s’est révélée peu judicieuse : à coup sûr la manière de la mener, voire la décision même de l’entreprendre. La manière dont nous avons décidé d’opérer en Afghanistan, après la chute du régime des Talibans, était également une erreur, bien qu’il ait fallu plus de temps à la plupart des observateurs pour s’en rendre compte. Rater ces deux guerres équivalait à une défaite stratégique américaine dans l’ensemble de la région ; tous les alliés et partenaires des États-Unis en ont donc pâti, de même que tous ses adversaires et rivaux l’ont emporté d’une manière ou d’une autre.

Ayant hérité de cette défaite, l’Administration Obama a décidé de réduire les pertes américaines et de voir ensuite si cette action aggravait ou non les choses. Il est certain que l’oscillation entre interventionnisme militant et repli américain sous Obama a elle aussi désorienté les esprits. S’agissant des vastes répercussions des récentes politiques américaines, la guerre en Irak a certes attisé les charbons ardents des dissensions confessionnelles, mais ce n’est pas elle qui les a créées. La recrudescence des violences entre sunnites et chiites remonte approximativement à 1973-1974, année où le quadruplement des prix du pétrole a tout à la fois préparé le terrain de l’effondrement du régime des Pahlavi en Iran et financé le wahhabisme saoudien, laissant présager une collision future entre les clergés extrémistes sunnite et chiite. (Non que, dans l’Islam, le conflit confessionnel soit exclusivement de nature théologique, il ne l’est pas plus que ne l’étaient les guerres de religion au xvie siècle en Europe.) Si l’Administration Obama avait rapidement et efficacement jugulé la situation en Syrie, elle aurait pu retarder l’affrontement confessionnel dans la région – mais probablement pas de beaucoup, puisque le démon avait déjà brisé ses chaînes en Irak et fait des apparitions mortelles dans un pays aussi éloigné que le Pakistan.

Des facteurs inhérents à la région expliquent une grande partie de ce qui se passe aujourd’hui. À quelques exceptions près, leurs sociétés tribales et leurs identités religieuses affaiblissent les États arabes. Ces États faibles, dont la plupart sont hétérogènes ethniquement ou religieusement, ont été incapables de créer des loyautés réelles ou d’obtenir, au fil des ans, une croissance économique forte ou une plus grande justice sociale. Beaucoup d’entre eux ont été fossilisés par la malédiction des ressources. Les tendances très patriarcales et autoritaires de ces sociétés les ont empêchées de s’adapter à nombre d’aspects de la modernité ; elles ont notamment été incapables de remplacer par une économie de marché la patrimonialisation des ressources opérée par une élite vivant de la rente qui caractérise tous les pays arabes, républiques ou monarchies, depuis le début de l’époque de l’indépendance.

Malgré toutes ces insuffisances, les élites des États arabes ont préféré blâmer l’Occident, les États-Unis et spécialement Israël ; et, plus bizarre encore, elles ont réussi à en persuader de nombreux Occidentaux. Il est certain que le caractère artificiel de nombre d’États territoriaux, créés dans le sillage de la Première Guerre mondiale, n’a pas arrangé les choses. Mais, dans la plupart des cas, après tant d’années, ce n’est ni le seul ni le principal obstacle ; et on ne peut certainement pas en attribuer la responsabilité au Président Bush, au Président Obama ou aux États-Unis en général.

Bref, les désordres du type de ceux que nous observons aujourd’hui au Proche-Orient ont de nombreuses causes, certaines très anciennes, d’autres plus récentes. Elles sont difficiles à démêler et encore plus difficiles à expliquer à des gens dès lors qu’ils n’ont pas envie de savoir si cela contredit leur quête de boucs émissaires, dans un but politique ou faute de meilleure idée. On peut améliorer la connaissance d’un militant politique, mais non le faire réfléchir.

Notre lamentable politique syrienne

Examinons à présent quelques-unes des décisions à prendre, énumérées ci-dessus, pour essayer de nous y retrouver dans l’écheveau des politiques. Même si beaucoup d’éléments de ce dossier sont interconnectés, on les étudiera les uns après les autres en les combinant au fil des besoins.

Tout d’abord la Syrie. Le meilleur moyen de comprendre la politique américaine à l’égard de la Syrie est de partir de la Libye. En mars 2011, avant que la Syrie ne se soit vraiment soulevée, le Président décida de s’associer à la Grande-Bretagne et à la France et d’entreprendre une guerre en Libye. Les conseillers de l’Administration étaient divisés face au désordre croissant en Libye. Le secrétaire à la Défense, Bob Gates, et tous les membres du Comité des chefs d’état-major étaient opposés à l’intervention. De même que le vice-Président Biden et le conseiller à la Sécurité nationale de l’époque, Tom Donilon, qui était « un homme de Biden ». C’était aussi le cas de beaucoup de gens à l’extérieur de l’Administration, dont le président du Council of Foreign Relations et votre humble serviteur.

Le Président semblait partagé. Aussi posa-t-il une série de conditions strictes pour consentir à l’intervention – dont un soutien de la Ligue arabe et une résolution du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU sur la base de l’article 7. Toutefois, il écouta les partisans de la guerre lorsque le secrétaire d’État, Hillary Clinton, s’y rallia et que, peut-être à son grand regret et contre toute attente, les conditions qu’il avait posées se trouvèrent toutes réunies. Même s’il faut attendre des mémoires fiables pour en être certain, mon sentiment est que le Président ne tarda pas à regretter sa décision en voyant les conséquences multiples, sinistres et involontaires de l’intervention en Libye. Le défaut de planification par ses alliés de la phase de la guerre postérieure aux combats, malgré un triste précédent, a eu de sombres répercussions en Libye (qui ont conduit au raid sur Benghazi de septembre 2012), mais aussi au Mali, au nord du Nigéria et, sans doute, en Algérie.

Aussi, lorsque, quelques mois plus tard, ses conseillers se divisèrent à nouveau sur la Syrie, le Président Obama résolut de ne pas s’en mêler. Il est difficile de dire dans quelle mesure des considérations de politique politicienne entrèrent en jeu – l’élection de 2012 approchait –, mais il est probable selon moi qu’elles ont tenu une place importante (je l’ai dit à l’époque). En toute hypothèse, même sans échéance électorale pour altérer son jugement, la passivité américaine à l’égard de la Syrie était tout à fait prévisible.

Il ne fait pas de doute que, dès le début, le Président a entendu force analyses et propos amers sur la Syrie. Il est à mon avis malheureux qu’à cause de la Libye, on ait fait preuve d’une prudence excessive. Prendre rapidement le leadership, de concert avec la Turquie et avec le soutien de l’OTAN, aurait pu arrêter la violence avant qu’elle ne se soit métastasée, radicalisée entre camps religieux et étendue à d’autres pays. Il n’était pas nécessaire, ni même souhaitable, pour y parvenir, d’envoyer des troupes sur le terrain ni même d’instaurer dès le début des zones d’exclusion aérienne. Il y a des moyens d’exercer de l’influence sans pour autant mettre en danger un grand nombre de soldats américains : c’est pour cette raison que nous avons des alliés, des opérations de renseignement, des forces spéciales et tout un assortiment de cyberprocédés douteux. Mais l’Administration a découragé les Turcs et la politique de passivité qu’elle a adoptée s’est révélée être la plus coûteuse de toutes les politiques.

Pour être honnête, la Syrie a toujours constitué un problème difficile. Si la Libye est une île du point de vue militaire et un petit pays en termes démographiques, la Syrie est plus vaste, plus difficile à vaincre militairement et, comme on le sait, elle dispose de stocks d’armes chimiques, voire biologiques. Les armes à longue portée, comme les missiles de croisière, ne sont pas ce qu’il y a de mieux pour maîtriser l’espace aérien ou pour travailler en étroite coordination avec des forces rebelles sur le terrain. Le président du Comité des chefs d’états-majors interarmées, Martin Dempsey, a du reste abondam ment déclaré qu’il faudrait effectuer 700 sorties pour détruire le système de défense aérienne syrien avant que les avions américains puissent entrer en action. C’est un nombre qui paraît élevé et c’était bien l’impression que Dempsey voulait donner en le citant. Cependant, à la différence de la Libye, le dossier syrien comportait des enjeux très importants, pour la plupart liés à l’Iran. La combinaison d’enjeux d’intérêts nationaux incontestables et d’options militaires malaisées rendait donc les choses difficiles.

Le temps que l’Administration en vienne à envisager sérieusement d’armer les rebelles (elle commença par coordonner des accords avec des tiers, comme la Croatie, et par demander à la CIA de faire passer quelques stocks d’armes de Libye aux rebelles syriens), un grand nombre de jihadistes sunnites radicaux avaient fait leur apparition et fusionné dans Jabhat al-Nusra. Ce qui rendait encore plus difficile ce qu’on avait déjà du mal à entreprendre. Il était normal de s’inquiéter que des armes américaines puissent tomber entre de mauvaises mains, c’est pourquoi l’envoi de matériels non létaux devint la forme d’aide préférée. Mais l’inquiétude ne devrait pas être paralysante, à moins que l’on ne veuille précisément être paralysé et que l’on ait des raisons pour cela.

Même l’aide non létale arrivait lentement et en petite quantité, conduisant certains observateurs à soupçonner que l’Administration voulait à présent que le régime Assad survive pour faire contrepoids aux jihadistes sunnites. (Peu importait l’égarement qui lui avait fait déclarer « Assad doit partir » lorsqu’on avait l’impression que c’était ce qui allait se produire.) Du coup, certains allèrent jusqu’à affirmer que la passivité en Syrie était un élément de négociation pour amadouer les Iraniens. C’est bien possible. Maintenant que nous connaissons l’étendue et les dates des contacts secrets avec l’Iran, menés en partie par l’ambassadeur Jeffrey Feltman depuis son poste de l’ONU à New York, on peut imaginer lebody language des Américains, voire leur langage au sens propre. Ils ont effectivement pu tenir ce discours aux Iraniens : « Écoutez, faites ce que vous voulez en Syrie ; nous, Américains, n’avons pas l’intention de nous ingérer dans vos relations avec vos voisins. Nous ne cherchons même pas à renverser le régime. » Et, comme preuve de l’absence d’intentions agressives, on a très bien pu évoquer les débuts de la politique d’« engagement » de l’Administration, qui a conduit les États-Unis à adopter une attitude réservée lors du soulèvement de l’opposition verte en 2009.

On reviendra plus loin sur le dossier iranien, mais il est essentiel de comprendre que, dès le départ, l’Administration Obama a considéré la Syrie comme un sous-problème de moindre importance dans le cadre d’une politique centrée sur l’Iran. En cela, elle était dans la ligne des précédentes Administrations. Les États-Unis n’ont en fait jamais eu de politique spécifique à l’égard de la Syrie. Notre ligne vis-à-vis de celle-ci a toujours été un dérivé de politiques plus importantes – relations arabo-israéliennes, Irak, Turquie, Liban, etc. Par le passé, cette tendance a eu de très malheureuses conséquences, permettant même au régime syrien de tuer des Américains et de s’en prendre par ailleurs à des intérêts américains – comme en Irak, par exemple – sans en payer vraiment le prix. Cette fois-ci, elle paraissait au moins un peu plus logique.

On peut bien sûr soutenir qu’une politique américaine plus énergique à l’égard du régime Assad aurait assuré plus d’efficacité à sa politique iranienne, mais ce n’est pas l’approche adoptée par l’Administration Obama. Les Iraniens ne craignaient plus les programmes d’ADM irakiens, tournure des événements assez ironique compte tenu de l’attitude du Président à l’égard de la guerre en Irak. Je subodore en outre que l’Administration pensait que, si le régime iranien cessait de nous considérer comme une menace mortelle, son analyse en termes de coûts-avantages de l’acquisition d’armes nucléaires s’en trouverait modifiée. Nous pouvions en augmenter le coût par des sanctions et réduire par la diplomatie les avantages d’une politique aussi risquée – et nous pourrions peut-être traduire cette nouvelle approche iranienne par un accord officiel. Mais revenons pour l’instant à la Syrie.

Les lignes rouges

La passivité américaine face à la guerre civile syrienne se prolongeant, le cours de la bataille tourna à l’avantage du régime. Il est clair que l’une des raisons de la passivité initiale des États-Unis était l’impression, confirmée par les évaluations des services de renseignement, que les rebelles allaient gagner, avec ou sans notre aide. On en voyait la preuve dans les défections de sunnites de premier plan, tels Manaf Tlass et d’autres. Mais, comme c’est le cas depuis très longtemps en Syrie, les sunnites ne parvinrent pas à s’entendre entre eux ni à coopérer vraiment pour passer de leurs premiers succès à la phase de destruction du régime. Pendant ce temps, les Russes déversaient des armes et des conseillers, dont certains s’étaient battus en Tchétchénie, et les Iraniens, via le Hezbollah et les brigades al-Qods, commençaient à apporter une aide décisive à Assad. Le cours de la guerre se renversa. Mais l’Administration Obama n’agit pas davantage – si ce n’est que sa politique se concentra dès lors sur les armes chimiques syriennes : la Maison-Blanche traça la première des deux « lignes rouges » contre l’emploi d’armes chimiques.

J’imagine que le Président pensait que la première ligne rouge sur les armes chimiques ne l’engageait pas – c’était un moyen de paraître fort et impliqué, sans prendre le moindre risque. À ce moment-là, aucune arme chimique n’avait été utilisée pendant les combats. C’était profondément méconnaître le régime alaouite et ses dirigeants. L’Administration aurait dû faire plus attention à l’habileté que les Syriens mettaient à humilier Kofi Annan et au plaisir qu’ils en retiraient. En fait, le régime syrien n’aurait peut-être jamais utilisé d’armes chimiques si le Président Obama ne l’avait pas mis en garde contre leur emploi – en vérité, aucune raison strictement militaire ne les y obligeait. Sentant la réticence d’Obama à s’engager militairement, le régime syrien fit ce qu’il sait le mieux faire : intimider, provoquer et croiser le fer psychologiquement avec une partie moins engagée. De plus, en utilisant les armes chimiques sans avoir à en payer le prix, il narguait les rebelles en leur signalant qu’il était très vraisemblable que les Américains les laisseraient tomber.

Vint alors la seconde ligne rouge sur les armes chimiques et nous nous souvenons tous de ce qui suivit. N’ayant utilisé auparavant qu’une très petite quantité d’armes chimiques pour tester la réponse américaine (il n’y en eut pas), les Syriens les employèrent alors à grande échelle et de façon manifeste. Certains Américains crédules (dont l’éminent James Fallows) affirmèrent que l’opposition avait fait cela en catimini pour incriminer le régime, mais nefirent qu’étaler leur ignorance et leur mauvais jugement. Les Russes étaient eux aussi enclins à croire ce mensonge, mais on n’en attendait pas moins d’eux en tant que conseils d’Assad.

Au milieu de tous ces nocifs gaz virtuels, de peur d’être obligée d’agir, l’Administration s’efforça d’ignorer les preuves d’emploi réitéré d’armes chimiques. Il devint trop embarrassant de persister dans cette attitude, dans la mesure où les preuves s’accumulaient, venues de partout, y compris des services de renseignement français et britannique. Alors, l’Administration se mit soudain en colère et se prépara à agir, allant jusqu’à envoyer en Méditerranée six navires équipés de missiles de croisière. Mais, tout aussi subitement, après que les Britanniques lui eurent retiré leur soutien en raison de l’opposition imprévue de leur Parlement, Obama décida de ne pas se montrer moins démocrate que la Grande-Bretagne et de demander l’approbation du Congrès.

On ne sait toujours pas vraiment si Obama pensait obtenir cet accord ou s’il savait que ce ne serait pas le cas et qu’il pourrait ainsi blâmer le Congrès de l’empêcher de faire une chose qu’il n’avait jamais vraiment voulu faire. Quoi qu’il en soit, au cours de cet épisode, l’Administration laissa entendre qu’il s’agirait d’une attaque « très réduite » avec des armes commandées à distance – absurde et fâcheuse remarque de Kerry, destinée à tranquilliser les sceptiques au Congrès, inquiets d’un risque de dérive. Le Président se sentit obligé de le contredire en public (« l’armée américaine ne fait pas de piqûres d’épingle »). Mais le mal était fait ; la langue du secrétaire d’État avait fourché, privant une éventuelle attaque de la plus grande partie de son impact, avant qu’on ait même posé le doigt sur la gâchette. Finalement, comme on le sait, après avoir fait naître de faux espoirs, le Président prit le contre-pied de la plupart de ses assistants et renonça à l’usage de la force contre un simulacre d’accord sur les armes chimiques conclu sous l’égide des Russes.

Il n’y a rien de mal à éliminer les armes chimiques syriennes, compte tenu du risque d’effondrement de l’État syrien, mais cet accord n’élimine pas toutes les armes chimiques de Syrie. Il ne met fin qu’à celles que le régime a déclarées – et nous n’avons aucun moyen fiable de vérifier l’existence de ce qu’il a passé sous silence. Il est très probable que les armes les plus modernes et les plus létales n’ont pas été déclarées, laissant la soi-disant communauté internationale – essentiellement les États-Unis, comme c’était prévisible – jouer le rôle de ramasseur d’ordures de produits dangereux, qui plus est en prenant les frais en charge.

Il était extrêmement douloureux de voir le Président passer de ligne rouge en ligne rouge, puis au subterfuge du Congrès et enfin au gilet de sauvetage diplomatique russe (qui n’était pas aussi improvisé que l’Administration a voulu le faire croire à l’époque). Le nouveau conseiller à la Sécurité nationale, Susan Rice, s’est révélée parfaitement incompétente en présidant, ou en essayant de présider, à la recherche de l’excuse la plus embarrassante que j’aie jamais vue dans un processus de décision en politique étrangère.

Et pour quel résultat ? Premièrement, comme beaucoup de gens l’ont fait remarquer, l’accord sur les armes chimiques légitimait Assad et le transformait en partenaire pour la mise en œuvre de l’accord – en contradiction directe avec la politique du « Assad doit partir ». Le retard mis à évacuer les produits chimiques du pays a fait ressortir la même contradiction. La Syrie étant une zone de guerre, il fallait sécuriser le transport par voie de terre avant de transférer les produits chimiques vers un port. Or qui rendait le transport par voie de terre problématique ? Nos alliés putatifs, l’Armée syrienne libre (ASL) et ses associés. Nous étions donc obligés de nous plaindre que nos alliés retardaient la mise en œuvre d’un accord que nous avions conclu avec leur ennemi, qui est aussi le nôtre. En d’autres termes, nous voulions à présent que la partie, que nous souhaitions voir gagner, perde temporairement et localement pour faire progresser un accord de contrôle d’armement largement cosmétique et totalement dissocié du reste de la guerre civile. Si ce n’est pas la preuve de l’incohérence et de l’irresponsabilité de cette politique, je me demande bien ce que c’est.

Indépendamment de l’impression produite aux États-Unis, l’ASL l’a interprétée comme une trahison, de même que les Saoudiens. Le régime syrien a accéléré ses opérations militaires dans la foulée de l’accord sur les armes chimiques ; une fois Assad certain que les États-Unis n’emploieraient pas la force, il a risqué le tout pour le tout en essayant d’écraser l’opposition. Il s’est concentré sur le tissu conjonctif reliant la région de Damas à la province de Lattaquié (où la bataille pour al-Qusayr a été déterminante – il suffit de regarder une carte) et, plus au nord, pour reprendre Alep. Il a depuis bien progressé dans ces deux zones.
Genève II

Pourquoi se dépêcher ? La raison en était la conférence de Genève II, qui devait avoir lieu en mai dernier et qui a finalement eu lieu en janvier 2014.

En juin 2012, neuf nations se sont retrouvées à Genève, la majorité d’entre elles pour essayer de travailler à un régime de transition sans Assad. Mais deux d’entre elles voulaient tout le contraire : c’est-à-dire pas d’accord sur cette question. La réunion du Groupe d’Action, nom qui lui fut donné, constituait l’ultime effort de Kofi Annan, parrainé par l’ONU, pour arrêter la guerre. Comme il fallait s’y attendre, elle échoua, de même que toutes les autres tentatives d’Annan. La Russie et la Chine bloquèrent toute formule appelant au départ d’Assad. On s’entendit sur une déclaration constituant le plus petit commun dénominateur : elle mentionnait sans grande conviction la nécessité de créer un régime de transition, sans dire explicitement qu’Assad ne pourrait pas en faire partie. Elle indique en effet que ce régime « pourra comprendre des membres de l’actuel gouvernement et de l’opposition ainsi que d’autres groupes et sera formé sur la base du consentement mutuel ».

Le reste du communiqué relevait largement de l’ineptie et de l’utopie : s’agissant de chimériques cessez-le-feu, de la démocratie dans une zone qui ne l’avait jamais connue en quatre mille ans. Il comportait en outre des éléments involontairement humoristiques. Alors que des innocents étaient massacrés par milliers par leur propre gouvernement, les rédacteurs de l’ONU prirent le temps de réclamer que des femmes soient représentées à toutes les phases de la transition. Ce qui était vraiment gentil.

À l’approche de Genève II, tout se mit peu à peu à menacer de dérailler. L’irresponsabi lité et l’incohérence de cette politique apparurent de nouveau au grand jour. Dans un contexte où des groupes rebelles s’étaient lancés dans des luttes violentes et fratricides et où le régime avait pris l’avantage, notamment dans la région d’Alep, le gouvernement américain essaya d’obtenir de la coalition de l’ASL qu’elle assiste à la réunion de Genève II. Mais cette coalition compte 144 groupes et les récents combats contre l’État islamique d’Irak et du Levant (ISIS) l’avaient encore plus divisée. La plupart des groupes d’opposition ne voulaient pas y aller à moins que la conférence ne prévoie expressément le départ d’Assad. C’est pourquoi Kerry a répété avant Genève II que c’était précisément le sens que les États-Unis donnaient à cette conférence. Toutefois, la présence de certains groupes d’opposition, alors que nombre d’entre eux n’y participeraient pas, risquait d’accentuer les divisions et donc d’affaiblir la coalition militaire sur le terrain en Syrie.

Je n’arrive pas à comprendre comment le Département d’État peut faire cette lecture du communiqué du 30 juin 2012. Ce n’est pas la lettre du texte et ce n’est certainement pas la lecture qu’en font le régime syrien ou les Russes. Kerry a accusé les Syriens de « révisionnisme » dans leur interprétation du document du 30 juin 2012, mais l’accusation peut tout aussi aisément lui être retournée. C’est ainsi que le secrétaire général de l’ONU, Ban Ki-Moon, a pu inviter les Iraniens à la dernière minute, invitation à laquelle le gouvernement américain s’est opposé tout en semblant l’encourager. Les dernières semaines, Kerry avait en effet paru très soucieux que les Iraniens soient associés à la conférence, mais pas en tant que participants, puisqu’ils étaient censés ne pas accepter l’interprétation américaine des termes de la conférence. Cependant, les Iraniens pouvaient approuver la lettre du communiqué du 30 juin 2012, qui ne préjugeait d’aucune manière de l’avenir d’Assad. C’est pourquoi Moon, qui sait lire, les avait invités.

Ce qui mit Kerry en colère. Aucun secrétaire d’État américain n’aime qu’un type de l’ONU vienne lui couper l’herbe sous le pied, qui plus est sans avertissement et à un moment particulièrement sensible. Le Département d’État a donc demandé à Moon de retirer l’invitation faite à l’Iran, alors même que c’était le body language américain, engageant à l’égard de l’Iran, qui l’avait probablement convaincu de la lancer. Moon s’est rapidement exécuté, mais à contrecœur. L’annulation de l’invitation a épargné au gouvernement américain de devoir se retirer de la conférence qu’il parrainait, événement dans lequel nous avions assidûment et futilement mis tant de vains et faux espoirs.

Mais cela aurait peut-être été préférable. Compte tenu de la situation sur le terrain et du refus des États-Unis de faire quoi que ce soit, même de vaguement efficace, cette conférence ne pouvait aboutir à ce que l’Administration en espérait. Les adversaires ne veulent pas démordre de leur vision d’un jeu à somme nulle et les parrains de la conférence ne sont pas d’accord sur le fond, c’est-à-dire sur ses objectifs. L’échec américain sera donc vu dans toute la région comme la confirmation de l’impuissance américaine et comme une victoire d’Assad, des Iraniens, des Russes et de la brutalité totalement impitoyable exercée contre des populations civiles. J’avoue ne pas comprendre pourquoi nous devrions avoir envie d’en être complices.

Se lamenter du peu de chances de réussite de ce round de la diplomatie de Genève, tout en soulignant que « c’est la seule chose qu’il nous reste à essayer » – des responsables américains ont bien dit en public des choses de ce genre –, montre seulement, une fois encore, que la diplomatie peut bel et bien être nocive si les dirigeants ne parviennent pas à comprendre que la force et la diplomatie sont complémentaires et non opposées. Bêler que ce n’est que le début d’un long processus ou que la conférence encouragera des défections au sein du régime ou qu’une vision alternative à la guerre est en soi utile est une pure sottise. On n’arrête pas une véritable guerre civile avec des cartes de vœux rédigées de manière bien sentie ni avec une bouillie débile sur « comment réussir une négociation ». Tout ce que cette conférence a fait, fait et fera est de multiplier encore le nombre de morts tandis que les deux parties cherchent à prendre l’avantage militaire sur le terrain.

Vous faut-il un autre exemple de la nocivité que peut avoir une diplomatie bornée ? Alors que Genève II approchait, les États-Unis se sont officiellement associés à la Russie pour tenter de persuader les deux parties de déclarer des cessez-le-feu avant la conférence, y voyant un moyen de mettre fin définitivement à la guerre. Mais il y a des preuves incontes tables sur le terrain que le régime syrien offre non des cessez-le-feu locaux, mais des conditions de reddition. En échange de doses homéopathiques de nourriture et de médicaments, le régime demande aux civils assiégés de faire flotter le drapeau syrien au-dessus de la ville ou des alentours. Mais, dès que des agents du régime entrent dans la ville, ils exigent qu’on leur dise où se trouvent les combattants rebelles, arrêtent quelques personnes et abattent purement et simplement ceux qui essaient de s’enfuir. Ce sont des « cessez-le-feu » à la mode tchétchène. John Kerry peut-il vraiment l’ignorer ? Et, s’il le sait, comment peut-il les encourager ? Est-il cynique au point d’être prêt à trahir sciemment des alliés des États-Unis pour mettre fin à la guerre ?

Quoi qu’il s’y passe, le spectacle de Genève II déshonore d’ores et déjà la grande tradition du leadership politique américain. Mieux vaudrait que cette ombre jetée sur notre politique se limite au Proche-Orient. On peut néanmoins se demander ce que, par exemple, les responsables japonais pensent au fond d’eux-mêmes en ce moment. Quant à Kerry, il se borne, apparemment, à répéter qu’il faut laisser une chance à la politique d’apaisement.

Miser sur l’Iran ?

Ce qui nous ramène à l’Iran. Les équipes techniques sont parvenues à un accord sur le nucléaire qui devrait entrer en application. Ce qui est une bonne chose, pour le moment, malgré les défauts de cet accord. La brièveté de sa durée d’application (six mois seulement) et la capitulation de l’Occident sur le principe de l’enrichissement de l’uranium rendent plus probable une éventuelle bombe iranienne, et non l’inverse. Comme j’ai déjà eu l’occasion de le dire, seule la perspective d’un changement dans les relations américano-iraniennes, indépendamment de tout accord, peut justifier que l’on prenne ce risque. Or quelle est la probabilité de ce changement ?

Elle n’est pas égale à zéro, mais elle n’est pas très élevée non plus. Si les Iraniens n’ont plus peur que les Américains tentent de renverser leur régime et s’ils croient que cette Administration-là n’est pas obsédée par l’épouvantail de l’hégémonie régionale iranienne, il est possible qu’ils se disent qu’ils n’ont pas besoin d’une capacité nucléaire complète pour nous dissuader. Ce qui résout le problème, au moins pour les trois prochaines années : l’Iran ne franchira pas le seuil nucléaire tant que persistera cet engagement diplomatique. Si les États-Unis doivent payer encore et encore pour le préserver, comme cela semble très possible, le coût ne sera pas excessif – poursuit le raisonnement – s’il s’agit d’éviter une guerre. Et ne vous trompez pas : l’Administration continue à déclarer, comme émanant d’une décision présidentielle, douloureuse et de longue haleine, mais censée être à toute épreuve, que l’objectif de cette politique est et demeure la prévention et non la dissuasion. (Nous revient alors en mémoire la remarque de Bob Gates : « La parole de cette Maison-Blanche ne signifie rien. »)

Ce type d’approche par paiement au forfait me rappelle un merveilleux passage de Mon nom est Aram de William Saroyan : « Si vous donnez à un voleur, il ne peut plus vous voler et n’est donc plus un voleur. » Je ne veux pas dire par là que la politique d’Obama vis-à-vis de l’Iran n’est que de l’apaisement. C’est une interprétation de ses motivations, mais on peut l’envisager autrement. Il faut pour cela mélanger les niveaux d’analyse en faisant preuve d’inventivité.

Il est possible, comme l’ont soutenu certains, que l’Administration Obama ait une grande théorie, une stratégie ambitieuse, considérant qu’une entente avec l’Iran est le meilleur moyen de protéger la région et le monde de la menace durable que fait peser le radicalisme des jihadistes sunnites. Il est possible que l’Administration veuille s’appuyer sur les chiites pour contrebalancer la prolifération de franchises d’Al-Qaïda dans la région et au-delà de celle-ci et qu’elle pense que le prix à payer à court terme en vaut la peine. Ce prix comporterait une grave détérioration de nos relations avec l’Arabie Saoudite, qui a déjà commencé, mais, pourraient dire ses partisans, et après ? Auprès de qui d’autre les Saoudiens iraient-ils chercher une protection ? Le prix implique aussi une tension dans nos relations avec Israël : il nous faudrait le prier de nous faire confiance, afin qu’il nous soutienne au cas où les choses tourneraient mal. Ce qui rend les Israéliens nerveux, mais n’a rien d’excentrique s’agissant d’une politique de puissance – et il est certain que les jihadistes sunnites doivent inquiéter les Israéliens autant que leurs ennemis chiites inspirés par les Iraniens.

Le complément de ce raisonnement est que la crainte de l’hégémonie iranienne est largement exagérée. L’Iran n’est pas une si grande puissance. Son budget militaire annuel n’atteint même pas les rallonges budgétaires américaines de ces dernières années de guerre. La supériorité militaire technique des États-Unis sur l’Iran est quasiment écrasante. Plus encore, que signifie vraiment l’hégémonie régionale de l’Iran ? Quelles en sont les limites probables et naturelles ?

Une puissance perse et chiite fait penser à des anticorps naturels dans une région arabe et majoritairement sunnite. L’influence iranienne pourrait faire une grande différence au Bahreïn, où un régime sunnite minoritaire gouverne et opprime une majorité chiite ; elle pourrait peut-être faire une différence dans la province Al-Hasa, en Arabie Saoudite, où se trouvent tout à la fois la majorité des chiites et du pétrole du pays. Quant à l’Irak, nous savons déjà que l’Iran peut avoir une vraie forme d’influence à Bagdad, tant que les chiites sont au pouvoir, mais cela ne signifie pas pour autant qu’il dicte et contrôle tout ce qui s’y passe. L’Iran peut semer la pagaille de manière peu probante au Liban, mais la politique libanaise est structurellement peu probante – il ne peut donc en attendre de bénéfices durables. Les Iraniens peuvent fournir des armes aux Houthis chiites au Yémen, comme ils le font depuis peu ; mais quel intérêt vital les États-Unis ont-ils au Yémen, si ce n’est empêcher ce pays de devenir un terreau pour Al-Qaïda ? Et, bien sûr, les Iraniens peuvent s’allier aux alaouites en Syrie, bien que les chiites duodécimains et les alaouites n’aient pas grand-chose en commun en dehors de leur antipathie pour les sunnites.

En d’autres termes, même avec les dysfonctionnement des pays arabes, l’idée que, d’une manière ou d’une autre, les Iraniens pourraient recréer un empire territorial ayant un contrôle absolu – du genre de celui des Empires achéménide, sassanide ou safavide – au Proche-Orient actuel est une vue de l’esprit. Ils peuvent provoquer des troubles dans certaines zones, mais, sans une sérieuse capacité nucléaire, l’Iran ne peut attaquer ni conquérir la Palestine ou tout autre État du Levant ou du Golfe. Dans un siècle ou deux, les arabophones seront toujours au moins 280 millions, contrairement aux persanophones. Si la politique américaine peut maintenir l’Iran au-dessous d’une sérieuse capacité nucléaire, quel danger y a-t-il donc à laisser Téhéran s’empêtrer dans d’interminables conflits débilitants avec différents pays arabes et sunnites ? Et, si les Russes veulent les y aider, ils sont en droit de venir eux aussi piétiner en vain le bac à sable. Ils finiront probablement par le regretter (amèrement).

Ne prenons pas cela trop à la légère. Il n’est certainement pas sans risques qu’après avoir fourni des équipements de sécurité à la région pendant plusieurs décennies, les États-Unis décident soudain qu’ils ont « surinvesti » dans cette région, pour reprendre l’intempestive formule de Ben Rhodes qui a fait l’objet d’une fuite. Certains de nos partenaires commencent à envisager des contre-alliances, tandis que d’autres étudient de nouvelles formes d’autodéfense. Nous n’avons pas envie que l’Arabie Saoudite obtienne une bombe nucléaire grâce au Pakistan. Pire encore, la guerre confessionnelle a tendance à multiplier les radicaux et à marginaliser (ou à éliminer) les modérés, ce qui n’est pas non plus dans l’intérêt de notre sécurité à long terme. Soutenir tacitement Assad et ses parrains iraniens, ou être seulement considérés comme le faisant, ne peut qu’encourager le radicalisme sunnite dans la région et au-delà. C’est donc une chose d’imaginer que, si nous nous désengageons du Proche-Orient et que nous laissons jouer les équilibres naturels, ceux-ci mettront entre parenthèses les dangers que court cette région, et c’en est une autre de survivre à la transition d’un type de régime de sécurité à un autre.

Boucle d’or

Je soupçonne les responsables de cette Administration de comprendre assez bien tout cela. Je doute qu’Obama et Kerry « rêvent certainement d’un coup de maître du genre de celui de Nixon en Chine » sur l’Iran et qu’ils voient « sans aucun doute l’Iran et ses alliés chiites comme des partenaires potentiels dans le combat contre le jihadisme sunnite ». Ceux qui, pendant le premier mandat, ont participé au plus haut niveau aux délibérations sur des questions de ce genre décrivent le Président comme très méfiant à l’égard des coups ambitieux et très sceptique sur les motivations des Iraniens. Des mots tels que « certainement » et « sans aucun doute » n’ont en aucun cas leur place dans un débat de ce genre. Lorsque, plus récemment, Obama n’a pas donné à l’accord nucléaire plus de 50 % de chances de réussir, il manifestait là aussi scepticisme et réserve.

Je ne pense donc pas que le Président ait une théorie stratégique explicite sur le dossier du Proche-Orient. Je n’entends tourner aucun des mécanismes de Kissinger. Ses orientations à l’égard de la région ressemblent plus à celles de George H. W. Bush : il a des intuitions, des instincts. Et ceux-ci lui soufflent qu’obtenir ce qu’on veut dans cette partie du monde est très difficile et le devient de plus en plus, dans la mesure où la possibilité d’avoir un interlocuteur unique – dont nous « jouissions » en ayant pour alliés des régimes arabes autoritaires et stables – n’est plus ce qu’elle était. Je pense que Rhodes orientait Obama à toutes fins utiles en écrivant ce qui suit à Jeffrey Goldberg :

« En politique étrangère, les États-Unis prennent des décisions fondées sur nos intérêts. Il n’est pas dans l’intérêt de l’Amérique d’avoir des troupes dans chaque conflit du Proche-Orient ou d’y être en permanence impliqués dans des guerres sans fin.

Il est de notre intérêt de déployer d’importants efforts diplomatiques – et des ressources – pour essayer de résoudre des conflits et de renforcer les capacités de nos partenaires, ce qui est exactement ce que nous faisons.

L’idée qu’il y ait eu jadis une époque où nous dictions les affaires intérieures des pays du Proche-Orient n’est pas conforme aux faits. Lorsque nous avions bien plus d’une centaine de milliers de troupes en Irak, nous n’avons pas été capables de façonner la réalité politique de ce pays ni de mettre fin à la haine religieuse.

Qui plus est, l’idée que nous soyons désengagés est fausse puisque nous sommes plus engagés dans la région que toute autre nation – pour parvenir à un accord sur le programme nucléaire iranien, faire progresser la paix entre Israël et la Palestine, détruire les réserves d’armes chimiques syriennes, contrer Al-Qaïda et ses associés, assurer la sécurité d’Israël et de nos partenaires du Golfe et soutenir la transition vers la démocratie du Yémen à la Libye. »

Rhodes écrivant à un journaliste, il y a nécessairement du baratin là-dedans – surtout vers la fin. Notre « engagement » est avant tout de la frime ; il s’agit d’en donner l’impression, parce qu’en l’absence de toute volonté de prendre des risques et de le faire durablement, il ne peut en aller autrement. Notre diplomatie vis-à-vis de la Syrie pose problème, notre diplomatie sur la question arabo-israélienne n’aboutira pas à la paix, l’accord avec l’Iran finira peut-être bien, mais peut-être pas, il n’y aura pas de transition démocratique en Libye ni au Yémen, etc. Il s’agit donc de l’une de ces nombreuses déclarations qui est vraie en paroles, mais non en intention. L’intention est de faire passer notre passivité pour autre chose que ce qu’elle est et de la faire paraître à la fois avisée et prudente.

La vérité est que nous sommes face au problème classique de Boucle d’or. Nous ne voulons pas en faire trop peu, parce que cela comporte des risques, mais nous ne voulons pas non plus en faire trop, parce que cela comporte aussi des risques. Il est difficile de trouver le « juste » degré et même les gens honnêtes et bien informés peuvent ne pas s’entendre sur ce qu’est ce « juste » degré. Je pense personnellement que le Président sous-estime les coûts et les risques cumulatifs d’en faire trop peu, qui ne se limitent pas au Proche-Orient. Mais je ne pense pas qu’il faille lui attribuer des objectifs très ambitieux et discutables. De très nombreuses « doctrines » présidentielles ont été créées par des observateurs extérieurs qui essayaient de donner plus de cohérence aux idées d’une Administration qu’elles n’en avaient vraiment. Par pitié, n’inventons pas de toutes pièces une Doctrine Obama.

Et, bien sûr, même si l’Administration Obama recherchait un grand et nouvel équilibre régional avec les mollahs perses, le Président doit savoir qu’il n’y a aucune garantie que ce nouvel ordre régional soit assez attirant pour nous dispenser d’avoir une politique. L’effondrement de la Syrie et de l’Irak en tant qu’États pose des problèmes de zone grise au contre-terrorisme ; on pourrait dire que c’est aussi ce qui risque d’arriver à la Libye et à d’autres pays. Être moins intrusifs dans la région ne ferait pas nécessairement de nous des cibles moins privilégiées. Être vus comme acoquinés à l’Iran pourrait bel et bien nous transformer en cibles encore plus privilégiées. Les équilibres locaux ne résoudront pas tous nos problèmes actuels et risquent même d’en créer.
L’Irak à nouveau en crise

Ce qui nous amène tout naturellement à l’Irak où l’enfer s’est (à nouveau) déchaîné. Sous la forme d’ISIS, Al-Qaïda est de retour et garde le contrôle de Ramadi et Falluja. Les efforts menés depuis Bagdad pour que les chefs tribaux persuadent ISIS de quitter ces villes n’ont pas réussi et ont peut-être même débouché sur un nouveau pacte sunnite dirigé contre Maliki à Bagdad. À ce jour, Al-Qaïda a aussi placé Bagdad en mode verrouillage : les démons se rapprochent. Et tout le monde en Irak croit encore en son for intérieur qu’au combat, un sunnite des tribus du désert vaut à lui seul une centaine de villageois chiites froussards. C’est la tradition, c’est la perception et, du même coup, c’est dans une certaine mesure la réalité. Une avant-garde sunnite, islamiste ou non, pourrait-elle faire peu de cas d’une armée chiite, bien plus importante sur le papier, mais en train de se désintégrer, et atteindre Bagdad ? Évidemment qu’elle le pourrait. Celui qui en doute encore n’a toujours rien compris à l’Irak.

Dans ces conditions, l’Administration Obama devrait-elle accéder à la demande de fournitures d’armes et de formations émanant du Premier ministre Maliki ? C’est tentant. N’ayant pas réussi à obtenir un accord SOFA, nous pourrions à présent garantir que la structure de commandement irakienne reste américaine pour de nombreuses années et sauver quelque chose de la relation de travail que nous envisagions avec l’Irak il y a quelques années. Si nous l’aidons, nous pourrions obtenir de lui qu’il ferme le couloir aérien entre l’Iran et la Syrie (mais voulons-nous vraiment fermer ce couloir ?). La plupart des Américains impliqués dans la politique de guerre souhaitent que nous agissions ainsi et se disent en mesure de livrer rapidement ce matériel.

Je comprends ces raisons et j’y crois jusqu’à un certain point. Maliki a besoin de nous, nous pouvons donc peut-être l’aider et le persuader ainsi de gouverner de manière plus inclusive. Pour l’instant, il s’est révélé être un crétin sectaire et maladroit. Nous avons intérêt à ce que l’Irak ne se désintègre pas complètement et, pour cela, il faut à Bagdad un gouvernement qui soit plus réellement national que d’esprit sectaire. Mais que se passera-t-il si l’on ne parvient pas à maîtriser les sunnites, quelle que soit la quantité d’armes que nous envoyons ou le nombre d’officiers irakiens que nous promettons de former ?

Que décidera le Président et quand le décidera-t-il ? S’il est d’accord avec l’idée que nous sommes trop investis dans la région et qu’il doute de la capacité de tiers à s’engager délibérément dans une région comme l’Irak, il pourrait être tenté d’ignorer Maliki. Si l’Irak se désagrège complètement, il pourra faire ce qu’il fait le mieux : en rendre George W. Bush entièrement responsable. (Ce qu’il devrait faire, si cela se produit, est se coordonner avec la Turquie pour reconnaître le Gouvernement régional kurde comme un État indépendant, mais il ne le fera pas.)

D’un autre côté, l’effondrement de l’État irakien est en soi une mauvaise chose pour nous et son effondrement ou la victoire des sunnites radicaux là-bas aggravera encore la situation en Syrie. C’est une grave décision et aucune théorie globale sur ce dossier ne peut la faciliter. Mon sentiment est qu’en définitive, c’est la politique qui l’emportera, comme c’est habituellement le cas dans cette Administration. Lorsque le Président envisage la perspective que des armes américaines et des soldats américains, fût-ce comme formateurs, retournent en Irak, il a un mouvement de recul. Je pense qu’il calera. Je me demande si les secrétaires d’État Hagel et Kerry ont une idée là-dessus et si c’est la même. Ah, pouvoir être une petite souris pendant une réunion des responsables sur cette question !
La structure mentale du Président

Si j’ai raison de soutenir que le Président Obama a des instincts et des intuitions, mais pas de grande et ambitieuse stratégie pour le Proche-Orient, a-t-il néanmoins quelque chose de plus précis à l’esprit, replaçant le Proche-Orient dans un cadre global plus vaste ?

La réponse à cette question est la même : le Président n’est pas, je pense, un homme qui a confiance dans l’exercice d’une stratégie formelle, mais il ne fonctionne pas non plus complètement au cas par cas. Il croit probablement que les États-Unis sont effectivement trop investis au Proche-Orient et pas assez en Asie. D’où l’idée du pivot et peu importe qu’on l’ait sabotée en la présentant comme une proposition alternative. Selon toute vraisemblance, il s’est un jour demandé quel était le pire scénario pour le Proche-Orient. Ce qui se passerait si tout allait mal. En quoi cela affecterait vraiment les intérêts vitaux de l’Amérique. Non ses engagements traditionnels, non sa réputation, non ses obligations découlant de l’habitude et pas d’une approche nouvelle – mais ses authentiques intérêts vitaux. Et sa réponse a probablement été que, sauf réaction en chaîne en matière de prolifération d’ADM, les conséquences seraient minimes.

Une fois encore, je doute qu’Obama déploie consciemment ici une logique stratégique explicite ou formalisée ou qu’il accepte les théories universitaires du réalisme bienveillant ou de l’équilibre naturel. Mais je pense qu’il se rend compte qu’après le relatif immobilisme de la Guerre froide, le monde est devenu globalement plus confus ; que le degré de contrôle que peuvent donner les relations interétatiques traditionnelles sur une zone aux enjeux importants a baissé à mesure que, grâce aux nouvelles cyber-technologies, les mobilisations populaires et populistes se sont accrues aux niveaux à la fois sous-étatique et trans-étatique. Le Proche-Orient est certainement bien plus compliqué et confus, même si ce n’est pas, ou pas encore, le cas du reste du monde.

À mon avis, cette intuition a eu pour effet de rendre le Président Obama encore plus hostile au risque de manière générale et en particulier dans une région où il manque à tout le moins d’expérience et en son for intérieur d’assurance. Il est visiblement mal à l’aise lorsque ses conseillers sont divisés. Comme un juge, il essaie de trouver un dénominateur commun entre eux, ce qui est une bonne chose dans un travail de militant associatif, mais pas nécessairement en politique étrangère. Lorsque ses conseillers se livrent à une pensée de groupe, ce qu’ils font de plus en plus depuis le départ de Gates et de Donilon, ou lorsque aucun d’eux ne fait d’objections sérieuses à quelque chose (par exemple à la lubie de Kerry sur la paix israélo-palestinienne), il est satisfait de s’investir dans la gestion de son image – la twitterisation de la politique étrangère américaine en quelque sorte – parce qu’il sait qu’il ne peut tout simplement pas ignorer toutes ces choses.

La sensibilité du Président aux limites a également tendance à rendre sa politique réactive et ses objectifs réels modestes. Aussi, dans la confusion qu’est le Proche-Orient aujourd’hui, il veut que l’Irak soit gouverné de manière plus inclusive. Il veut que la Syrie et la Libye soient gouvernées, point. Il veut que l’Égypte soit stable et il n’est pas très regardant sur la manière dont cela peut se faire. Il veut que l’Iran n’ait pas d’armes nucléaires et il est prêt à beaucoup de choses pour l’empêcher par la diplomatie car il pense probablement que les dirigeants iraniens ne peuvent pas aujourd’hui exercer leur volonté au-delà de leurs frontières avec plus de réel succès que nous.

Il ne semble avoir d’idées précises et ne souhaiter agir préventivement que pour empêcher que des attaques terroristes tuent des citoyens américains, en particulier sur le sol des États-Unis. D’où son goût pour les attaques de drones, sa tolérance à l’égard de Guantánamo, son refus d’émasculer une série de programmes de la NSA, sauf à la marge, et son soutien généreux à l’ouverture discrète dans le monde entier de bases petites, mais puissantes, pour les forces spéciales.

Cet ensemble de positions n’est ni de l’apaissement ni de l’isolationnisme. Ce n’est manifestement pas non plus du maximalisme stratégique. C’est quelque chose d’intermédiaire et dans cet entre-deux, suspendu entre des attentes héritées du passé et des hésitations dues au flou de l’avenir, les choses deviennent parfois étranges ou pénibles lorsqu’il faut prendre un nombre sans précédent de décisions. Étrange, comme Genève II.

Docteur (PhD) de l’université de Pennsylvanie). Fondateur et editor de la revue The American Interest. De 2002 à 2005, a été assistant du secrétaire d’État. Ancieneditor de The National Interest. A enseigné à John Hopkins University, à l’université de Pennsylvanie et à Haverford College. A été un des collaborateur du sénateur H. M. Jackson. Parmi ses livres : Jewcentricity : How the Jews Get Praised, Blamed and Used to Explain Nearly Everything (Wiley, 2009) et The Origin and Impact of the Vietnam Antiwar Movement (St. Martin’s, 1995).

What Hasn’t the U.S. Given Up in the Iran Negotiations?

Charles Krauthammer

The National Review

April 9 2015

Under Obama’s proposed deal, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would remain intact, with the centrifuges spinning. “Negotiations . . . to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability . . .” — Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, the Wall Street Journal, April 8

It was but a year and a half ago that Barack Obama endorsed the objective of abolition when he said that Iran’s heavily fortified Fordow nuclear facility, its plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor, and its advanced centrifuges were all unnecessary for a civilian nuclear program. The logic was clear: Since Iran was claiming to be pursuing an exclusively civilian program, these would have to go.

Yet under the deal Obama is now trying to sell, not one of these is to be dismantled. Indeed, Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure is kept intact, just frozen or repurposed for the length of the deal (about a decade). Thus Fordow’s centrifuges will keep spinning. They will now be fed xenon, zinc, and germanium instead of uranium. But that means they remain ready at any time to revert from the world’s most heavily (indeed comically) fortified medical isotope facility to a bomb-making factory.

And upon the expiration of the deal, conceded Obama Monday on NPR, Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear bomb will be “almost down to zero,” i.e., it will be able to produce nuclear weapons at will and without delay.

And then there’s cheating. Not to worry, says Obama. We have guarantees of compliance: “unprecedented inspections” and “snapback” sanctions.

The inspection promises are a farce. We haven’t even held the Iranians to their current obligation to come clean with the International Atomic Energy Agency on their previous nuclear activities. The IAEA charges Iran with stonewalling on eleven of twelve issues.

As veteran nuclear expert David Albright points out, that makes future verification impossible — how can you determine what’s been illegally changed or added if you have no baseline? Worse, there’s been no mention of the only verification regime with real teeth — at-will, unannounced visits to any facility, declared or undeclared. The joint European-Iranian statement spoke only of “enhanced access through agreed procedures,” which doesn’t remotely suggest spot inspections. And on Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader ruled out any “extraordinary supervision measures.”

The IAEA hasn’t been allowed to see the Parchin weaponization facility in ten years. And the massive Fordow complex was disclosed not by the IAEA but by Iranian dissidents.

Yet even if violations are found, what then? First, they have to be certified by the IAEA. Which then reports to the United Nations, where Iran has the right to challenge the charge. Which then has to be considered, argued and adjudicated. Which then presumably goes to the Security Council where China, Russia and sundry anti-Western countries will act as Iran’s lawyers. Which all would take months — after which there is no guarantee that China and Russia will ratify the finding anyway.

As for the “snapback” sanctions — our last remaining bit of pressure — they are equally fantastic. There’s no way sanctions will be re-imposed once they have been lifted. It took a decade to weave China, Russia, and the Europeans into the current sanctions infrastructure. Once gone, it doesn’t snap back. None will pull their companies out of a thriving, post-sanctions Iran. As Kissinger and Shultz point out, we will be fought every step of the way, leaving the U.S., not Iran, isolated.

Obama imagines that this deal will bring Iran in from the cold, tempering its territorial ambitions and ideological radicalism. But this defies logic: With sanctions lifted, its economy booming, and tens of billions injected into its treasury, why would Iran curb rather than expand its relentless drive for regional dominance?

An overriding objective of these negotiations, as Obama has said, is to prevent the inevitable proliferation — Egypt, Turkey, the Gulf states — that would occur if Iran went nuclear. Yet the prospective agreement is so clearly a pathway to an Iranian bomb that the Saudis are signaling that the deal itself would impel them to go nuclear. You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon.

What is the alternative, asks the president? He’s repeatedly answered the question himself: No deal is better than a bad deal.

Voir également:

The fatal flaw in the Iran deal
Charles Krauthammer

The Washington post

February 26 2015

A sunset clause?

The news from the nuclear talks with Iran was already troubling. Iran was being granted the “right to enrich.” It would be allowed to retain and spin thousands of centrifuges. It could continue construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. Yet so thoroughly was Iran stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors that just last Thursday the IAEA reported its concern “about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed . . . development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Bad enough. Then it got worse: News leaked Monday of the elements of a “sunset clause.” President Obama had accepted the Iranian demand that any restrictions on its program be time-limited. After which, the mullahs can crank up their nuclear program at will and produce as much enriched uranium as they want.

Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. Iran would reenter the international community, as Obama suggested in an interview in December, as “a very successful regional power.” A few years — probably around 10 — of good behavior and Iran would be home free.

The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy.

Meanwhile, Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program is subject to no restrictions at all. It’s not even part of these negotiations.

Why is Iran building them? You don’t build ICBMs in order to deliver sticks of dynamite. Their only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads. Nor does Iran need an ICBM to hit Riyadh or Tel Aviv. Intercontinental missiles are for reaching, well, other continents. North America, for example.

Such an agreement also means the end of nonproliferation. When a rogue state defies the world, continues illegal enrichment and then gets the world to bless an eventual unrestricted industrial-level enrichment program, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is dead. And regional hyperproliferation becomes inevitable as Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others seek shelter in going nuclear themselves.

Wasn’t Obama’s great international cause a nuclear-free world? Within months of his swearing-in, he went to Prague to so declare. He then led a 50-party Nuclear Security Summit, one of whose proclaimed achievements was having Canada give up some enriched uranium.

Having disarmed the Canadian threat, Obama turned to Iran. The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians. In fact, the Iranian regime just this week, at the apex of these nuclear talks, staged a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz.

Well, say the administration apologists, what’s your alternative? Do you want war?

It’s Obama’s usual, subtle false-choice maneuver: It’s either appeasement or war.

It’s not. True, there are no good choices, but Obama’s prospective deal is the worst possible. Not only does Iran get a clear path to the bomb but it gets sanctions lifted, all pressure removed and international legitimacy.

There is a third choice. If you are not stopping Iran’s program, don’t give away the store. Keep the pressure, keep the sanctions. Indeed, increase them. After all, previous sanctions brought Iran to its knees and to the negotiating table in the first place. And that was before the collapse of oil prices, which would now vastly magnify the economic effect of heightened sanctions.

Congress is proposing precisely that. Combined with cheap oil, it could so destabilize the Iranian economy as to threaten the clerical regime. That’s the opening. Then offer to renew negotiations for sanctions relief but from a very different starting point — no enrichment. Or, if you like, with a few token centrifuges for face-saving purposes.

And no sunset.

That’s the carrot. As for the stick, make it quietly known that the United States will not stand in the way of any threatened nation that takes things into its own hands. We leave the regional threat to the regional powers, say, Israeli bombers overflying Saudi Arabia.

Consider where we began: six U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding an end to Iranian enrichment. Consider what we are now offering: an interim arrangement ending with a sunset clause that allows the mullahs a robust, industrial-strength, internationally sanctioned nuclear program.

Such a deal makes the Cuba normalization look good and the Ukrainian cease-fires positively brilliant. We are on the cusp of an epic capitulation. History will not be kind.

Voir encore:

An Innocent Abroad

Adam Garfinkle

American review

For all the grand speeches, President Obama has little of substance to show on the foreign policy front.
This article originally appeared in The American Review (Sydney, Australia).

If, as Winston Churchill declared on 1 October, 1939, Russia is “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”, then the foreign policy of the Obama administration is an ambivalence wrapped in a mentality inside a perplexity. The latter is not as inclined to malignity as was the former in Joseph Stalin’s time, but it is just as difficult to decipher as we approach its first term halfway mark.

The fact that it is hard to speak coherently about that which turns out to be incoherent may help to account for the fact that virtually no one has offered a full-scale synthesis of the subject. Shorter sketches on discrete issues there are. Partisan op-ed length potshots and (usually) mercifully brief blog posts written by the standard assortment of fans, fanatics and fantasists both abound. But, quite uncharacteristically, little big-picture analysis has been published. Doubtless there are several reasons for this unusual state of affairs concerning the affairs of state, but the sheer difficulty of doing the deed has to be one of them.

Why the difficulty, and what might an answer to that question tell us about the subject itself? Three reasons produced by the administration’s own choices and nature come first to mind. They have to do with the interplay of policy rhetoric and behavior, management style and the key factor of personality in presidential as opposed to Westminster forms of democracy. Three other reasons of very different sorts, and having to do with existential realities not of the administration’s making, come to mind as well. One, which complements the management piece, is the notable fact that there has yet been no significant sudden crisis to condense plans and intentions into procedural precedent—no 3 am telephone call to the White House residential quarters from the National Security Advisor. The historical record shows that the precedents which matter most, those that elevate some people and privilege certain ideas, are formed from experience, not theory. So far, that experience ‘under fire’ is absent from the Obama watch.

A second extrinsic concern is a new slipperiness of definition about the subject itself. Foreign policy has always been difficult to disentangle from national security policy. Today, however, both are entwined with the extrusions of a domestic economic crisis that is beginning to look larger and more structurally grounded than was apparent in the tumultuous autumn of 2008. Foreign policy looks different to national leaders when seen through the lens of domestic priorities, and this can disorient observers used to a more conventional setup. The third extrinsic reason is so obvious that most observers neglect it: politics. Barack Obama seeks to be re-elected president in 2012, and his statecraft can not reasonably be understood in isolation from that fact.

Let us look at these factors in turn, and then assemble them in hopes of achieving a synthetic analysis. We should not be surprised if our own hard labors at understanding parallel in some ways the difficulties confronting the still new Obama administration that is our subject.

As to the rhetoric of US foreign policy in the Obama era, the one statement that may be offered without fear of contradiction is that there has been plenty of it—much of it presidential in nature. There have been not just one but two start-of-term foundational foreign policy speeches, the purpose of which is to articulate to the world the purpose of American power. The President delivered the first on 7 July 2009 in Moscow, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the second on 15 July in Washington. Both speeches bore the structure of a standard start-of-term foundational statement in that each stressed five principles or pillars. (The problem was that the President’s five principles and those of his Secretary of State did not match up well, a fact bearing on the question of management, to which we return below.)

We also have as of late May 2010 the obligatory annual National Security Strategy, a document that is, accurately or not, taken to bear the imprimatur of an administration at its highest level. Besides these we have the presidential foreign policy addresses delivered in Ankara and Cairo, critical war policy speeches on Afghanistan and Iraq, two major presentations to the UN General Assembly, a most unusual philosophical discourse on the occasion of the President’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, and more besides in the form of interviews, news conferences, official statements on the occasion of state visits, and so on. We also have, not at all incidentally, the first Obama budget, which speaks volumes in numbers. Compared to most of his post-World War II predecessors, Obama has been a veritable one-man talkfest.

And what does all this word wrangling tell us? It tells us a good deal less than one might think, not because nothing of substance has been said, but because nearly everything has been said. Usually the President has seemed to be channeling Woodrow Wilson, dismissing balance-of-power and spheres-of-influence language as ‘so 19th century’ in favor of utopianesque ventures like Global Zero in nuclear weapons and an emphasis on taming strategic competition though legal progress towards global governance. But other times he has seemed to be channeling Reinhold Niebuhr, speaking like a moral realist who recognizes the inevitability of trade-offs and the tenacity of the will to have power among people. The sum of it is a profound ambivalence.

Beneath the rhetoric, however, there have emerged certain intellectual and policy tendencies, but these have been either unclear or unstable. For example, in its not very original but understandable desire to be the un-Dubya, the Obama administration broke from the gate offering earnest engagement to nearly every American adversary it could find—Iran, Syria, North Korea, Burma and others. With an apology or two usually to hand, it trusted that more diplomacy and less prominence for the military instruments of foreign policy would unfreeze problems large and small. At the same time that it privileged an effusive and accommodating tone, its body language was that of cold-blooded tactical realism. It sought the pragmatic deal and rigorously avoided the ‘d’-word—‘democracy’ promotion—in its rhetorical ensemble.

All this suggested that, at a time of straitened economic and political circumstances at home, the administration was eager to beat the kind of tactical retreat that would simultaneously reduce US obligations while not letting things go to hell in a hand basket. This was not an unreasonable approach, particularly with regard to bringing two difficult, expensive and divisive shooting wars to an end. Nevertheless, the policy claimed more than a tactical intent: it pointed inwards to a core source of US troubles. It strongly implied that many gridlocked danger spots around the globe were caused not by genuine conflict of interests or the aggressive designs of others, but by the wayward psychology of American machismo, its preachy holier-than-thou tone, and the temper-escalated misunderstandings that arose there from to make the world more dangerous than it needed to be. A new tone, the President seemed to think, would make a huge difference; speeches could therefore be, in some cases at least, self-executing vehicles of policy.

As it happened, the administration’s early efforts to translate a new rhetoric into policy success did not fare well. Certainly, no major problem has fallen to solution just because Obama made a speech about it. Indeed, there is scant evidence that the change in tone the President did manage to bring about has sprouted any positive concrete policy consequences at all. Polls have shown that while the President is on balance more popular abroad than his predecessor, his policies really are not—not in the Middle East, not in Europe, not in Asia.

Moreover, many of the administration’s policies are not new, and this has posed other problems for the marriage of rhetoric and reality. While what has been discontinuous has not worked (at least not yet), the major areas of policy marked by continuity are understandably not among the administration’s favorite talking points. It has stunned many, including many in the United States, that Obama’s policies in a host of sensitive areas in what used to be called the ‘global war on terror’ bear a striking resemblance to those of the two Bush administrations.

Thus, candidate Obama swore to close down the Guantanamo prison; but President Obama, finding the problem more complex than he thought once in office, has failed to do so. President Obama, while jettisoning the ‘war on terror’ for the lower-case Orwellian ‘overseas contingency operations’, has nevertheless increased the use of Predator drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan, many of which have the character of targeted killings. And he has duly sent forth his lawyers to explain why such killings and attempted killings, even of some self-exiled American citizens like Sheik Anwar al-Awlaqi, do not violate US law.

Before his inauguration many believed, too, that Obama would encourage lustration deep within the Central Intelligence Agency over accusations of its having been involved in torture in secret prisons abroad. He did no such thing, choosing instead to protect the autonomy and morale of CIA operations. Indeed, from all reliable accounts, as well as from Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars, his approach to national security has ramped up sharply the use of clandestine operations undertaken by the CIA and other agencies of the US government, including those engaged in warrantless wiretaps. It has to follow, whether the President yet realizes it or not, that crossing an inevitably too-inflexible legal line from time to time just goes with that territory.

The failure of the administration’s engagement initiatives to transform their targets has doubled back in certain ways on the rhetoric itself. Thus, in recent months the administration has exaggerated the success of US–Russia relations as an end in itself, when the original purpose of engaging the Russians was to gain aid for alleviating more painful pressures in Iran and Afghanistan. Some early engagement efforts, too, were counterproductive to the administration’s own aspirations. Its misguided blundering into the Israeli–Palestinian cauldron set back the re-commencement of direct Israeli–Palestinian negotiations by a year.

To his credit, the President admitted that the problem was more formidable than he had thought. But even after that bout of contrition, new mistakes along the same lines as the old ones have thrown a pall over those negotiations’ likely achievement.

Some of the administration’s engagement initiatives brought harsh criticism at home, too, and so carried political complications. This was especially true for policy towards an Iranian leadership newly challenged in the streets after its rigged June 2009 election. Even many who wished the administration well were aghast at its stony dismissal of Iranian ‘greens’ brave enough to risk their lives for freedom. Other efforts, like the outreach to Syria, simply fell flat on their faces for lack of any interest on the other side.

The attempt to truly join rhetoric and behavior into a coherent whole foundered further as the level of policy abstraction increased. Thus, in the Middle East the administration insisted that the Arab–Israeli conflict was linked to everything else that seemed to be the matter with the region (a vast exaggeration), while in relations with Russia, with its famous ‘reset’ button as another example of the belief that tone and atmospherics could trump interests in relations between major countries, it explicitly denied linkage (a sheer impossibility). It had wished to reach an understanding with Moscow on both Afghanistan and Iran without getting snared in neuralgic issues such as the Georgia–Abkhazia–South Ossetia morass. It thought to use arms control as a kind of lubricant to assuage Russian pride, a notion recommended by the fact that 95 per cent of the work on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) had already been completed during the Bush administration—but this, it insisted, was not a form of linkage.

The Russians, for their part, insisted otherwise. They demanded payment for any help they might give, as eventually manifested in the US withdrawal of certain ballistic missile defense plans in Eastern Europe, Moscow’s refusal to unequivocally rule out the supply of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, US indulgence of Russian aid for Iran’s bringing the Bushehr nuclear plant on-line, and more besides. The administration got for all this a better understanding about logistical cooperation vis-à-vis Afghanistan and a Russian vote for tougher anti-Iran sanctions that are of dubious utility in any event. And much to the administration’s consternation and surprise, Moscow slow-rolled the START talks, less to gain advantage within that agreement than to foil administration timetables at the UN and on the ground in south-west Asia. Thus the administration learned (one hopes) that linkage is a way of life, not a procedural tap one can turn on in one place or off in another at will.

Even in areas seemingly of high priority to the administration, it could not reliably connect the rhetoric-to-policy dots. On non-proliferation policy, for example, the administration belabored efforts on its Global Zero initiative, the late April 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit and the May 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference, even as policy towards Iran and North Korea lay disconnected from these affairs. It was as if administration principals thought they could move reality by pushing on the shadows it made. Meanwhile, although US policy on the Iranian nuclear program remained unchanged—an Iranian nuclear weapons capability remains ‘unacceptable’ and no option to enforce that policy will be ‘removed from the table’—authoritative voices from within the administration signaled that the use of force against Iran is for any practical purpose not on the table as long as US efforts are still surging up and struggling on in Afghanistan.

We shall see how all this shakes out in due course, but the noises coming out of the Pentagon are inherently believable because they are logical: using force against Iran while the conflict in Afghanistan persists would be the equivalent in American politics of starting a second war. Unless a clear existential threat to the United States is believed to exist, as in World War II, sane strategists don’t open a second front while a first one is already in a mess. So when the Secretary of State, amid one of her “crippling sanctions” reveries, began musing out loud about “learning to live with an Iranian bomb”, no one was particularly surprised, least of all the Iranian leadership. Yet it seems not to have occurred to administration principals that one cannot effectively raise the prospect of a new form of extended deterrence on one hand while undermining its credibility through a Global Zero initiative on the other.

Indeed, the fuzzy indeterminacy that characterizes the Obama foreign policy holds true even at the highest echelon of strategy. The United States is the world’s pre-eminent if not hegemonic power. Since World War II it has set the normative standards and both formed and guarded the security and economic structures of the world. In that capacity it has provided for a relatively secure and prosperous global commons, a mission nicely convergent with the maturing American self-image as an exceptionalist nation. To do this, however, the United States has had to maintain a global military presence as a token of its commitment to the mission and as a means of reassurance to those far and wide with a stake in it. This has required a global network of alliances and bases, the cost of which is not small and the maintenance of which, in both diplomatic and other terms, is a full-time job.

Against this definition of strategic mission there have always been those in the United States who have dissented, holding that we do, ask and expect much too much, and get into gratuitous trouble as a result. Some have preferred outright isolationism, but most serious skeptics of the status quo have preferred a posture of ‘offshore balancing’. Remove the bases and end the alliances, they have argued, and the US government will be better able, at less risk and far less cost to the nation, to balance against threatening developments abroad, much as America’s strategic mentor, Great Britain, did throughout most of the 19th century.

This is the core conversation Americans have been having about the US global role since at least 1945. To one side we recall George McGovern’s 1972 ‘Come Home, America’ campaign plank, the Mansfield Amendment that would have removed US troops from Europe in mid-Cold War, and the early Carter administration’s proposal to remove US troops from South Korea spoken in rhythm to speeches decrying an “inordinate fear of communism”. To the other side has been almost everyone and everything else, so that the offshore approach has always been turned back, at least until now. Where is the Obama administration in this great debate? We don’t really know; the evidence, once again, suggests ambivalence.

President Obama has rejected American exceptionalism as no American president before him ever has; he did so in London on 29 April 2009, when he answered a question as follows: “I believe in American exceptionalism just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” By relativizing what has always been an absolute, Obama showed how profoundly his image of America has been influenced by the received truths of the Vietnam anti-war movement and counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. If he has a theory of American exceptionalism, it is a far subtler, humbler and more historically contingent one than the secular messianist, attenuated Protestant version that has been common to American history.

The President also believes that downward pressure on the defense budget is warranted; his projected budgets show as much, though the prospective cuts are not draconian. But in this he joins a large, politically ecumenical contingent, so his views do not imply opposition to the forward-presence approach to grand strategy. And the fact that US relations with many of its allies, notably in Europe, have worsened during Obama’s tenure is more likely a consequence of the President being distracted than it is of any active dislike for either specific allies or alliances in general. Nor does his candid view that fighting in Afghanistan for another decade and spending $1 trillion doing so is not in America’s best national interest, mean that he is reticent about using force on behalf of strategic aims when it is in America’s interest to do so. Perhaps Obama accepts the forward strategy but will end up starving it of resources to the point that it will shockingly fail some crucial test—perhaps the worst outcome of all.

Taken together, then, the administration’s track record, encompassing the whole spectrum from discrete policy arenas to the lofty heights of grand strategy, suggests the foreign policy equivalent of a Rorschach inkblot. Observers can see in it what they have wanted to see. Some have tagged the Obama administration a re-run of the Carter administration, but the fit is obviously imperfect; it’s very hard to see Carter during his first or second year in office ordering those Predator strikes, even harder to imagine him holding his tongue on human rights. Some have seen a replay of Nixon and Kissinger: Realpolitik hiding behind feel-good talk about allies and peace and the rest, trying simultaneously to play an inherited weak hand and set the stage for a grand bargain—this time with Iran instead of China. Still others think they are witness to the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: a shrewd opportunist who knows the limits set by domestic constraints, and whose main concern is national economic stabilization and social strengthening against the day when American power must meet a true test of destiny. The name game can go on because, while no great successes have sprouted forth from the Obama foreign policy, no great debacles have emerged either.

A good deal of the seeming incoherence in any US foreign policy administration stems from management decisions made early on in a president’s tenure. How a president wishes to set up his foreign and national security policy system is a function of his personality, though, as we will see below, that hardly exhausts the ways that a president’s personality affects US foreign policy.

There are as many ways to set up the system as there are presidents, but, in general, a president will prefer either formal or informal structures, and either a big or a small tent of key advisers. The less formal and smaller, the more centered in the White House a policy system is likely to be; the more formal and larger, the less White House-centric a policy system is likely to be. Classic examples: president Eisenhower’s National Security Council was formal, systemically organized and sprawlingly large; president John F Kennedy’s was less formal and much smaller. Both models have at times worked well, and both have at times worked poorly; outcomes derive from the quality of the leaders overseeing the structure as much or more than the structure itself. But structure is not irrelevant. What a large formal system gains in coverage, the use of institutional memory, bureaucratic buy-in, and an enhanced capacity to both plan and implement it may lose in speed, flexibility and creativity. What a smaller, more informal system may gain in speed, flexibility and creativity, even to the point of enabling genuine boldness, it may lose in coverage, cross-issue coherence, bureaucratic support and the ability to implement its own directives.

President Obama has chosen the small, White House-centered model, and he has made clear that no matter how pressed he is with domestic policy issues, he and he alone commands his foreign policy system, not he together with his National Security Adviser as in most prior White House-centered systems. This is as far a cry as one can imagine from what Warren Harding declared after his inauguration in 1921, when he pointed to his secretary of state, Charles Evans Hughes, and directed all media questions about foreign relations to him. The problem is that one person, or even 35 key appointees holed up in the Old Executive Office building, cannot possibly manage the foreign/national security policy of the United States.

There are two and only two ways to handle the mismatch between a small decision system and an enormous array of decision points: prioritization and delegation. President Obama has left no doubt what he cares most about. He cares about ridding the United States of its combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan without jeopardizing rock-bottom US security equities in those countries. Now that he has seen the intelligence at a new level and in more detail, he is concerned about terrorism, which leads him to be particularly concerned about Pakistan. In turn and much related, he cares deeply about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, both to rogue states and to terrorists, understanding that either would likely be strategic game-changers. As already noted, he seems to think that the Arab–Israeli conflict, especially the Palestinian dimension of it, is more intrinsically linked to this entire problem set than it actually is, and so he has reasoned that the so-called peace process must be a high priority. In the beginning of the administration, too, Russia held a high priority because, as has already been noted, it was seen as an important tactical ally in dealing with both Iran and Afghanistan. China mattered as well, of course, but less for its growing geopolitical importance than for its role in the global economy.

For most of these priority concerns the President appointed a special envoy who reports directly to him. The envoy in effect for the wars is the Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, to whom he shrewdly delegated the gist of these policy management burdens—shrewdly because Gates, a Republican holdover from the Bush administration, gives him political cover from two directions: he blunts Republican criticism and to a point his presence distances the President symbolically from the wars themselves should things go wrong. His ‘envoy’ for all Russia/NATO issues is the Vice-President, Joe Biden, who thinks he understands them and apparently has persuaded the President as much.

This leaves nearly everything else—the care and feeding of various and sundry allies, Latin America and the Caribbean, most of Asia, all of Oceania, the Balkans, the Arctic, and a whole host of functional issues from ‘trafficking in persons’ to international religious freedom—delegated to the State Department. This puts the State Department in an even more minor position than usual, and tips its internal scales away from foreign policy to foreign relations, seemingly a subtle but really a significant difference because in a White House-centered system the State Department cannot act boldly or take major initiatives. This arrangement also delegates by default major aspects of China policy and trade policy to the Treasury and Commerce departments, respectively, and leaves a large dollop of policy towards Mexico with the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

The President’s personal style, of which more in a moment, has lent itself to this arrangement for several reasons. One is that he could place his key political operatives, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod (both now gone on to other jobs), closer to the policy action. Another, however, is concern that the inter-agency process in the Executive Branch does not work well. The subject was the focus of a major commission study before and during the transition, the Project on National Security Reform, on which several members of the incoming administration were involved—including both the President’s former national security advisor, General Jim Jones, and his first national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair. The special envoy tack comes directly from that study.

As for the politics of the thing, President Obama is not yet persuaded that Hillary Clinton’s political threat to him has ended. His decision to appoint her Secretary of State, and her decision to accept the position, were both fraught with unexpressed but well understood political calculation. Turning Ms Clinton and the State Department into relatively bit players in the policymaking process was not accidental. The lack of genuine trust in that relationship also explains why the two July 2009 foundational speeches were so uncharacteristically uncoordinated with one another.

The administration has already paid a price for the President’s management decisions. To give but one of many examples, in July 2009 the president managed to rile a valuable ally, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, through complete inadvertence. Having unilaterally blessed the expansion of the G-8 into the G-20 in the face of global economic instability, he ordered members of his administration to seek the rebalancing of voting protocols within International Monetary Fund and the World Bank so that they might better reflect contemporary (and idealized) world power distributions. As he planned his own Global Zero initiative, too, offices at the National Security Council and State Department were busy continuing their work from the transition on how to reform the UN by reshaping the Security Council.

One of their ideas was to create a single European Union seat in place of the two owned by Britain and France. As is the way of government, each of these initiatives proceeded unaware of what others were doing. And so it happened that, within the course of about a month, three core symbols of what remains of French grandeur were attacked by the US government: the status of France as a nuclear power, the status of France as a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, and the status of France as a major player in international financial affairs. It is the job, in this case, of the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs to anticipate inadvertencies of this sort, and to stop a runaway policy train before it flies off the trestle. Phillip Gordon, the current Assistant Secretary, is particularly expert on France and knows Sarkozy; he even translated one of his books into English while working at the Brookings Institution. He was aware of the ‘perfect storm’ brewing in US–French relations, but whatever he tried to do to avert damage it failed to stop the French volcano from erupting—which it did when Sarkozy fumed aloud in the halls of the UN building about how the president was “living in an imaginary” as opposed to a real world. It was not easy to make the French nostalgic for the days of George W Bush, but the Obama team managed it. This is what comes from trying to run the entire foreign policy of the United States from the White House.

Read any serious history of American diplomacy and it becomes readily apparent how central the character of the president is to it. One of the great mysteries of understanding US foreign policy today in its essence is that, more than any other occupant of the Oval Office, Americans and foreigners alike simply do not have a good feel for who Barack Obama really is. Aside from being relatively young and recent upon the national political scene, he doesn’t fit into any category with which we are accustomed to understand intellectual and temperamental origins. More importantly, Obama’s ‘mentality’ is not only hard for outsiders to read, he is, thanks to the facts of his nativity and life circumstances, an unusually self-constructed personality. He is black in an obvious physical way but culturally not black in any significant way. He is a person who, finding himself naturally belonging nowhere, has striven to shape himself into a person who belongs everywhere. As his books suggest, he is a man who has put himself through more reconstructive psychological surgery than any American politician in memory. A few of the resultant characteristics are critically important for understanding how he serves as both president and commander-in-chief.

Obama has understood above all that he must keep his cool. His cultivated aloofness is absolutely necessary to his successful political personality, for he cannot allow himself to exude emotion lest he raise the politically fatal specter of ‘the emotional black man’. His analytical mien, however, has made it hard for him to bond with foreign heads of state and even with some members of his own staff. His relationship with General Jones, for example, lacked rapport to the point that it seems to be a major reason for Jones resigning his position.

But Obama’s ‘cool’ does not imply a stunted capacity for emotional intelligence. To the contrary: he knows unerringly where the emotional balance of a conversation needs to be, and it is for this reason that Obama’s self-confidence is so imperturbable. He knows he can read other people without letting them read him. And this is why, in parallel with the complex of his racial identity, he never defers to others psychologically or emotionally, not towards individuals and not, as with the US military, towards any group.

The combination of ‘cool’ and empathetic control helps explain Obama’s character as commander-in-chief. He is respected in the ranks for sacking General Stanley McChrystal after the latter’s inexcusable act of disrespect and insubordination. That was control at work. But US troops do not feel that Obama has their back. He thinks of them as victims, not warriors, and one does not defer to victims. His ‘cool’, as well as his having had no prior contact with the professional military ethos at work, enjoins a distance that diminishes his effectiveness as commander-in-chief.

Obama’s mastery at projecting himself as self-confident, empathetic and imperturbable has also compensated for his lack of original policy ideas. Whether in law school, on the streets of Chicago, in the US Senate or in the race for the White House, he has commanded respect by being the master orchestrator of the ideas, talents and ambitions of others. Many claim that his personality archetype is that of the ‘professor’, but this is not so; it is that of the judge. It is the judge who sits above others; they defer to him, not he to them. It is the judge who bids others speak while he holds his peace and shows no telling emotion. It is the judge who settles disputes and orders fair and just resolution. It is the judge whose presumed intelligence trumps all others.

This kind of personality archetype can succeed well within American politics. In this sense it is precisely Charles Evans Hughes, a former chief justice of the US Supreme Court, not Carter, Wilson, Niebuhr, Nixon or FDR who stands as the true forebear of Barack Obama. But in the international arena even the American president cannot pull off a judge act and get away with it. Wilson tried and failed (or was that a prophet act?). The American president among his international peers is but one of many, perhaps primus inter pares but certainly without a mandate to act like it. Obama cum ‘judge’ has not impressed these peers: not among our European allies, who are ill at ease with his aloofness; not among Arabs and Muslims, who think him ill-mannered for bad-mouthing his predecessors while being hosted in foreign lands; not among Russians and Chinese, who think him gullible and guileless. Obama may still be popular on the ‘streets’ of the world because of the color of his skin, the contrast he draws to his predecessor, the general hope for renewal he symbolizes, and his willingness to play to chauvinist sentiment abroad by apologizing for supposed past American sins; but this matters not at all in the palaces where decisions are made. As his novelty has worn off, he impresses less and less.

One reason President Obama does not impress the foreigners who matter is that he looks to be a figure in political distress at home. They know, as does the President, that his legacy will be forged in the context of the American domestic moment. Success at home can empower him abroad, but the opposite is not the case. That is why it is impossible to assess the Obama foreign policy bereft of its domestic political context.

When Obama entered office, the economy justifiably dominated his time and energy. Once he gained a moment to sit back and take stock, his attention flowed to what he cares most about: issues of social and economic fairness within America. Thus, even a man who has insisted on monopolizing his own foreign policy saw it ultimately as a holding action against more urgent and important domestic challenges. This explains the remark of a confidante of General Jones, that “after all that Obama had done to practically beg him to take that job… Jim had the sense that Obama didn’t really care.” Yet the decision to privilege healthcare over energy policy was a grave error, similar to the one president Clinton made in 1993 and, in reverse order of policy domains, to the one president Carter made in 1977. One does not come newly enthroned to a place like Washington and try first thing to tackle the hardest, most special-interest encrusted issue in town. That is bound to exhaust more political capital than a novice president can afford. Obama’s victory on the healthcare issue was meager on its own terms and decidedly Pyrrhic politically. It never grew the legs to burnish his image more broadly, whether at home or, except very briefly, abroad.

It soon became clear, too, that a man who bravely campaigned against the K-Street ‘transactional culture’, which he identified as the root of US political dysfunction, lacked the power once in office to do anything about it beyond decreeing a few feckless White House edicts about hiring lobbyists for executive branch jobs. When the President decided on the stimulus package, when he put together his first budget, when he needed the healthcare and then the financial reform bills drafted, what did he do? Having few ideas of his own, only the remnants of a campaign staff and, most importantly, very few close political allies, he had no choice but to turn to the Democratic leadership in Congress to commute these tasks. This, to put it mildly, is no way to fight the K-Street transactional culture. Foreign leaders saw this as well, and they saw the widespread (if largely unfair) charges of leadership forfeit over the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The conclusion they drew is that President Obama is a weak leader, a conclusion that high unemployment figures, Obama’s falling approval ratings and the results of the mid-term election have since done nothing to alter.

Clearly, this is only one way that American domestic circumstances cast their shadow on American foreign policy in the age of Obama. As foreign policy has become both inseparable from and subordinate to economic concerns, these concerns play back on foreign policy from several angles. They bring pressure for a more austere defense budget, which in turn affects key planning judgments with major strategic consequences in the future. They promote concern about trade deficits and distorted international capital flows that directly affect US policy towards China and thus, at least indirectly, towards a dozen or so important allies.

Political weakness and the subordination of foreign policy to domestic priorities also join to explain the contours of the President’s trip to the United Nations in September 2010. The President devoted his yearly General Assembly speech to a political need: rebalancing a perceived lack of commitment to democracy and human rights promotion in US policy. Though delivered before an audience of prestigious foreign diplomats and heads of state in Turtle Bay, the speech’s real audience was composed of American voters in advance of the November mid-term election. The real business of the trip, however, was transacted in a private two hour meeting with the Chinese Premier, trying to convince him to realign the value of China’s currency in the interest of greater long-term international economic stability. The Chinese military is building fast; China is asserting its sovereignty in its trans-territorial waters in ways never before seen, all as the capabilities and resources of the US Navy are shrinking. But what takes pride of place in US diplomacy towards China? Trade and money. Is this shortsighted? Perhaps, perhaps not; it is, in any case, politically unavoidable, for if Obama does not raise the specter of tariffs, the US Congress will.

So we are brought to politics. An American administration may be compared to a tea ball within a teapot. The tea ball brings name and flavor to the brew, but without the liquid surroundings and the element of heat to make the whole thing boil, nothing much would happen.

Barack Obama is a master of the political arts. To expect such a man to simply set aside that mastery once president is to expect too much. Moreover, politics provides the unifying energy that binds the various parts of a president’s obligations and aspirations together. Its sources are manifold but its consequence is seamless. Just as one rock-solid reason that Lyndon Johnson persisted as he did in the Vietnam War was to protect politically what he cared about most—his Great Society program—so Barack Obama’s decision on 1 December 2009 to juxtapose a July 2011 exit date next to his decision to “surge” 30,000 more US troops into Afghanistan turned on his need, as he reportedly expressed it to Senator Lindsay Graham, “not to lose the whole Democratic Party” before major votes on healthcare and other legislation.

Some American critics have complained precisely on this point. It is standard practice in Washington to condemn the insertion of political motives into foreign and national security policy decisions. But it is not, because it cannot be, standard practice to actually desist from it, at least much of the time—and, if anything, Thomas Donilon’s elevation to the post of National Security Advisor increases the weight of political factors in the administration’s decision-making processes.

If we now try to put all the foregoing factors together, what do we find assembled? We find a president in a tough spot who most likely does not know if he is inspired more by Wilson or Niebuhr, because reality thus far has not forced him to choose. We don’t know if he is resigned to a strategy of forward deployment or desirous of an offshore alternative because he likely doesn’t know either, having never been posed the question in so many words. We find a man whose inexperience leaves him with an incomplete grasp of what he gives up by asserting such close control over foreign policy from the White House. We see a man whose personality does not function abroad as successfully as it has at home, and so cannot with brilliant speeches alone dissolve the conflicting interests that define the cauldron of international politics into a comforting pot of warm milk. We see a man commanding a decision system untested by crisis, and one whose core issues remain unfocused for all the distractions of other challenges in his path. We see, lastly but not least, a man whose political instincts are no more detachable from him than his own shadow.

From all these sources, bumping against and mixing with one another, comes the foreign policy of Barack Obama. Where the man will lead that policy, or the policy lead the man (the rest of us in tow), is now driven by the fact that the President is adrift conceptually since his initial engagement strategies did not succeed. Obama now awaits the crisis that will forge his legacy, but what that crisis will be, and whether the president will meet it with the American national interest or his personal political concerns foremost in mind, no one knows. No one can possibly know.
Adam Garfinkle is Editor of The American Interest.

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The silent death of American grand strategy
Over the past quarter century, the American political class, its leadership included, seems to have lost the ability to think strategically about the world and America’s place in it. The reinforcing reasons for this are both remote and proximate, some buried deep within American political culture and others the result of recent and, one hopes, ephemeral distractions. But whatever the reasons may be, four generic phenomena have resulted from the recent abeyance of strategic thought.

First, the error quotient of US foreign policy has risen, and even great powers ultimately have limited margins for error. Second, US policy has become largely reactive, particularly since American leaders’ quality time has been all but monopolised by the deep post-2008 economic swoon and accompanying signs of equally deep political dysfunction. Third, the US reputation for foreign policy constancy and competence has suffered, not least in encouraging revisionist actors to take advantage of the US attention deficit. And these three phenomena have together stimulated a fourth: a shift by default from the US grand strategy in place since the end of World War II to one absentmindedly bearing a different set of prospective risks and benefits.

None of this is particularly good news for American allies.

Unlike classical European and Asian statesmen, American leaders have never developed a tradition of formal grand-strategy making. There is no American version of Clausewitz or Sun Tzu, and comparatively little grand-strategy literature written by native-born intellectuals and leaders exists. This is partly because of the idealistic anti–“Old World” mercantilist bias of the Founders’ Enlightenment ideology. It is also partly because, after the first few decades of American independence and the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine, which warned European imperialism away from the New World, the nation no longer found itself locked in strategic competition with proximate near-equals. The American state’s initial grand strategy, which was to acquire as much of North America as possible, arose ineluctably from the conditions in which the young nation found itself. Whether it was called Jefferson’s “empire of liberty” or “manifest destiny,” this first, developmentalist grand strategy gained nearly universal, if mostly tacit, consensus. There was no need to write formal tracts about it and argue over them in private conclave, and no one did except in rare cases such as Seward’s Folly — the US purchase of Alaska in 1867.

While this first American grand strategy was simple and hence clear, as all grand strategies worth their salt must be, it was not for the saintly or faint of heart. As Machiavelli put it just past 500 years ago, every benign political order rests on antecedent crimes. The American case is no exception: the barbarous treatment of native Americans, slavery, an early avarice directed toward Canada that led to the War of 1812, and the Mexican War, which even as unsentimental a man as Ulysses S. Grant condemned as one of the most unjust wars ever inflicted by a stronger power upon a weaker one. America’s westward expansion was also a necessary precondition for the worst calamity in American history: the Civil War. Withal, the strategy succeeded and by so doing exhausted itself. By the time Frederick Jackson Turner famously wrote about the “closing of the frontier” at the end of the 19th century, the strategy had become obsolete, notwithstanding some unrequited but on balance faint imperial yearnings directed toward the Caribbean and, of course, Hawaii.

At that moment in American history, following the Spanish–American War, several strands came together to produce the second American grand strategy. Alfred Thayer Mahan, the great American navalist, fused his grasp of the British strategic tradition with the newly developing academic notion of geopolitics and out came the template for American anti-hegemonism. Long since unworried about a peer competitor in the Western Hemisphere or the return of a European power in strength to the New World, the grand strategy of the United States as a maritime-oriented World Island would be to oppose the emergence of a hegemonic power in either peninsular Europe or East Asia.

This was not a principled anti-hegemonic stance, for Mahan and others were unperturbed about America’s own New World dominance. It rather flowed from two different principles: First, in a technologically dynamic age, the impossibility that any power at either bracket of Eurasia could amass sufficient resources to literally endanger US security could no longer be taken for granted; and second, no power should be allowed to compel the United States to undertake a level of mobilisation that would undermine the small-government, no-standing-army injunctions of the Founders.

How to implement this strategy? Through self-help and key alliances. Self-help consisted mainly of building up the US Navy to world-class scale; hence President Theodore Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet around the world in 1905; the construction of the Panama Canal, completed in 1913, needs also be seen in this light. It consisted in Asia too, many supposed, of US control of the Philippines. The alliance consisted in riding the coattails of the Royal Navy, that great fleet which bestrode the empire on which the sun never set, and aligning America’s diplomacy too, where possible, with that of Britain. Together, this maritime strategy could be aptly termed one of offshore balancing, which fairly describes the British post-Napoleonic Wars grand strategy that inspired Mahan to devise it.

American strategy also depended for its implementation on deft diplomacy to complement growing US wealth and power. For example, after World War I, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, beyond convening the famed Washington Naval Conference of 1922, set to clean up the imperial detritus in the Pacific occasioned by the collapse of the German Empire. A series of linked negotiations involving the United States, Britain, Japan, and France established a new multilateral security balance upon the exit of Germany from the Marshall, Caroline, and Mariana Islands, Samoa, and Shantung Province in China — which Japan had seized during the World War but, thanks to American diplomatic efforts, was returned to China in 1922.

Alas, the new Pacific order depended on all participants keeping up their insurance premiums, so to speak — but with the coming of the Great Depression America’s security investments all but ceased. American military weakness, particularly its drawdown in naval power, turned the Philippines from potential strategic asset into real strategic liability in the face of rising Japanese militarism. The result was the onset of the Pacific War in 1941, the first direct fist-on-fist test of America’s Mahanian grand strategy.

World War II supplied proper nouns to American grand strategy as World War I never had. In Europe the feared hegemon was Nazi Germany; in Asia it was Japan. America’s guiding wartime two-front tactic, as the immediate application of its larger grand strategy, was so simple that it consisted of but two words: “Europe First.” The strategy was implemented successfully and, after the war, the United States found its own military forces stationed on the brackets of Eurasia, and with both its British and French allies much weaker for war’s wear. As the names of potential hegemons changed from Nazi Germany to Soviet Russia in Europe, and from Japan to Communist China in Asia, America’s two-front anti-hegemonic grand strategy changed in two ways. First, the pro-democracy ideological dimension of the Cold War, long latent in American thinking about global affairs, merged with the anti-hegemonic objectives of US grand strategy. Second, the mode of its implementation changed from offshore balancing to forward deployment. Together, these changes gave rise, in George Kennan’s famous term, to a strategy called “containment.”

Whereas in the past, the US Navy, in concert with the British Navy, was the principal military instrument of US grand strategy, after the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the outbreak of war in Korea the main instrument also came to include the US Air Force, now with nuclear weapons, deployed both at home and in bases ringing the Soviet Union and Communist China. The ongoing aim of US grand strategy now was to deter geostrategic advance by either hostile would-be hegemon, who were believed to be in league with each other for reasons of ideological affinity, but also to suppress security competitions in Europe and Asia that might provide opportunities or temptations for an adversary’s advance toward a hegemonic position.

Since US interests in both brackets of Eurasia were relatively impartial compared to those of local powers, and whereas US strength was truly unparalleled, American strategy attracted many local associates. This enabled US diplomacy to assemble a robust but flexible alliance system spanning Europe and Asia. The ideological and economic dimensions of US policy, also attractive to many abroad, became complements to this policy according to the Tocquevillian conviction that prosperous democracies make for better strategic partners. The US Navy and Air Force thus became, in effect, the ante that allowed Washington to participate in the geopolitics of the two regions, and the alliance structures, in turn, provided a politically supportable means by which US power could combine with that of others. By the advent of the Eisenhower Administration, if not a few years earlier, the grand strategy of the United States was sufficiently clear that a single sentence sufficed to express it: Prevent the emergence of a hegemon over peninsular Europe or East Asia by suppressing security competitions through the forward deployment of US forces, and through a supportive pro-democracy, pro-trade diplomacy.

Through the end of the Cold War in 1989–91, that was America’s post-World War II grand strategy. The strategy did not work perfectly, as the Vietnam War debacle illustrates. It also required some adjustment, for example to add the greater Middle East to its ambit, not mainly for its own sake, but for that region’s instrumental significance to European and Asian security in a new oil-fired age. Yet despite the tendency of the ideological aspect of the struggle to kick up much obfuscating dust, on a good day most senior American leaders, certainly those in the relevant Executive Branch offices and in the upper ranks of the military, were more or less able to articulate that single sentence.

No more. As Walter Russell Mead put it recently, “the habit of supremacy developed in the last generation” caused the “strategic dimension, in the sense of managing intractable relations with actual or potential geopolitical adversaries, [to] largely disappear … from American foreign policy debates.” That, in turn, has allowed the recurrence of those legal and moral modes of thinking about foreign and national security policy that George Kennan and many others tirelessly warned against. What passes for thought about strategic problems now transpires through what Mead calls “an uncomplicated atmosphere of Whig determinism” that manages to somehow turn Anglo-American institutions and values into supposed universal best practice.

This is not a partisan issue. Both American liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, each in their own ways, have long been bridled to Whig views of history. Both were disciplined from indulging in excessive secular messianism during the Cold War by the realism-inducing spectre of clear and present dangers. In the Cold War’s wake, however, resurgent Whiggery has trumped all — even during and just after the shock of 9/11.

The Clinton Administration acted as though the great wave of post–Cold War globalisation represented a cosmic confluence of American power, interests, and values all wonderfully woven together. Strategy was subsumed by multi-dimensional triumph, so that all foreign policy need do was remove lingering obstacles and deal with the occasional atavistic rogue-regime’s response to the galloping obsolescence of its ways of doing business. In consequence, funding for the military and foreign assistance plummeted.

The Bush 43 Administration held a similar view, except that the now obviously underestimated scale of the aforementioned atavistic reactions evoked a more muscular and ambitious promotion of presumed universal best practice. For a short time, President Bush’s “forward strategy for freedom” seemed to become the new US grand strategy. Unfortunately, the misinterpretation of the origins and nature of the 9/11 problem, as it careened through the prism of American exceptionalism, led to decisions that compounded US burdens and devalued resources, in the form of America’s alliances and its “soft power” reservoirs, that had long been vital to US grand strategy.

To take a signal example of the former, while the principal military instruments of US grand strategy are its Navy and Air Force, the doubled US defence budget in the decade after 9/11 overwhelmingly flowed to the Army and the Marines as the recapitalisation of the Navy and the Air Force languished. Had American leaders recognised and affirmed what US grand strategy actually was, launching and (mis) fighting two land wars in Asia Minor would have been the last things they would have chosen to do. By the time the second Bush term ended, the pre-9/11 strategy had not been restored, though US military and diplomatic activities remained wedded to it. But no replacement stood in its place as the 2008 economic crisis descended.

With that shock there soon came a new American administration preoccupied with domestic problems and even more prone than its post-Cold War predecessors to think in legal-moral categories rather than in strategic ones. The combination, with rare “kinetic” exceptions such as the misadventure in Libya and the failed “surge” in Afghanistan, has turned US foreign policy into an extended duck-and-cover drill. These tendencies are illustrated in the Syria and Iran policy portfolios, where a focus on non-proliferation issues has related to second tier the larger strategic stakes raised by the cases seen separately, and especially seen together. Meanwhile, the “pivot to Asia” of the first Obama term was misframed as an either-or choice, and its naval and air force components remain too resource-straitened for either adversaries or allies to yet take it very seriously.

Insofar as there is any larger thinking about strategy in the current administration, perhaps a coherent view actually does exist despite the appearance of ad hocery. That view, an optimistic or benign realism, is said to posit that the United States can withdraw from virtually all European and most Middle Eastern issues without risk because a more or less friendly post-American balance of power is latent in the structure of international affairs and will bloom forth if only America gets out of the way and lets it do so.

Such a view, identified with a neo-offshore balancing perspective, certainly exists in academic circles. Whether this view is truly characteristic of high-level Obama Administration thinking is difficult to know. The signs are ambiguous. Even outward indications of the existence of a coherent strategic view, such as the 2010 roll-out of the Navy–Air Force “Air-Sea Battle” construct — a quintessential offshore balancing proposition — sometimes turn out to be less than meets the eye. In that case, the rollout reflected less a substantive or doctrinal adjustment and more a joint attempt by two beleaguered services to advance their claims to larger defence budget shares.

Perhaps a switch from a forward-deployment method of preventing hostile hegemons in favour of an offshore-balancing one is wise. Perhaps the United States cannot afford the post–World War strategy for political reasons; perhaps, too, it runs more risks than vital US interests warrant in a post–Cold War environment. Certainly it is irresponsible to maintain commitments without willing the means to redeem them en extremis — that is the sort of derangement of ends and means that birthed the Pacific War. Perhaps the anti-hegemonic state-based objective itself is outdated, and that the threat of apocalyptical terrorism joined to weapons of mass destruction is now the principle problem to be addressed.

One would think that, under the circumstances, Americans among themselves and with allies would be discussing these issues. After all, differing means of executing an anti-hegemonic strategy demand different mixes of military-technical, intelligence, diplomatic, financial, and other skill sets. Each requires different kinds of alliances and asks different things of allies. Some regions seem more amenable to stable do-it-yourself local balances than others; but which are which? The potentially destabilising consequences of transitioning from one posture to the other, too, need to be thought through.

Unfortunately, little in the way of a strategic debate is discernible in Washington, either within the administration at high levels or among the political class at large. There is still little recognition here in Washington even of what US grand strategy has been for nearly the past seventy years, hence no basis from which to discuss alternatives. Instead, US thinking, if one can call it that, is being driven by financial strictures, some of them, like sequestration, self-inflicted beyond necessity or logic. In short, the United States is sliding toward an offshore-balancing grand strategy by default, without discussing its implications and without even calling it by its proper name.

A nation does not have a grand strategy if those responsible for devising and implementing it cannot articulate what it is. American grand strategy thus seems to have suffered a strange, silent death. One wishes to say rest in peace, as with any saddening death, but that wish may very well go unrequited. Although relatively few Americans have noticed the problem, senior figures among several allies and associates have. American commitments to allies have nowhere been formally rescinded, but the credibility of those commitments is now everywhere doubted. Even America’s larger competitors have reason to be anxious, for when the rule-maker and provider of global common security goods for more than half a century appears to suddenly abdicate much of that role, uncertainty and perhaps a bit of trouble cannot be far behind.

Voir de même:

Star-spangled anger
It was the day religion and politics collided. Ten years on, what has America done to itself?

Adam Garfinkle

American review

As with the bombing of Pearl Harbour and the assassination of President Kennedy, all adult Americans know where they were on September 11, 2001. On that Tuesday morning I was five blocks from the White House at the 5th-floor offices of National Affairs in Washington, an office that housed both The National Interest and The Public Interest magazines. The Washington Monument was in its usual place outside my south-west-facing office window as were, of course, the streets below. Once it had become clear that an attack was in progress, national and local media assumed a slightly manic tone. Most private offices reacted by letting their staff go, resulting in gridlocked mayhem throughout the city.

The headless-chicken reaction of the nation’s capital to the September 11 attacks disgusted me. Having lived in Israel, it had become second nature for me to assume a stoical mien in times like these, lest one contribute to an enemy’s designs. Just as, Eleanor Roosevelt once observed, no one can make a person feel inferior without his or her consent, no one can terrorise you unless you co-operate. I was against co-operating, so I ordered my staff to stay put, do a day’s work and go home as usual. Of course we would use the phone to assure relatives and friends that we were safe and we would monitor the news; if necessary, we would adjust to further events. We all stayed until past 5pm, emerging later for the evening commute into a virtual ghost town.

In the past decade, I have often thought of those first few hours after the attacks, and I have come to realise the basic error that US leaders made was to inadvertently co-operate with an enemy too weak to achieve its ends in any other way. To me, September 11 did not « change everything ». I thought that, whatever our private worries about the future, the public face of American leadership should radiate optimism and courage, not anger or fear.

Of course, we needed to prevent follow-on attacks. That, it seemed clear to me, meant urgently removing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that had sheltered and abetted the September 11 plotters. We also eventually needed to take out, in one way or another, those who might be planning more attacks, wherever they might be. The Bush doctrine version 1.0, rolled out in the immediate wake of the attack, which held regimes complicit with terrorism to be equally liable for American retribution, was entirely appropriate. Nor did I object to President Bush terming the situation a war, for that was necessary to tell people what was at stake, to break with the failed policies of the past, and to make available certain prudent presidential legal authorities. Still, despite the need to act, I was sure we should not take ourselves psychological hostage, as the Carter administration had allowed to occur after the US Embassy in Tehran was seized by Iranian fanatics in November 1979. We should not allow the attacks to define or monopolize US foreign policy as a whole.

Alas, that is precisely what the administration did allow. The only senior US leader who seemed to take the approach I thought best was Colin Powell, whose influence had been marginalised in the administration. He did not believe that the terrorist threat was of an existential nature that required the cashiering of American strategic principles, allies or institutions. But other administration principals thought differently, quickly accepting a theory-in-waiting, widely ascribed to so-called neo-conservatives, of why September 11 had happened: a democracy deficit in the Arab-Muslim world had forced frustrated citizens into the mosque, where they had been easy prey for religious charlatans and demagogues. The answer was to open up space for dissent, democratic debate and the social balm supposedly provided by market economics. Then these stultified societies could breathe and develop normally, and would not produce demonic mass murderers like Osama bin Laden.

Thus did fear boomerang, in the way that human emotions predictably do, to encourage a form of hubris fed from the wells of post-Cold War triumph (and triumphalism). The September 11 attacks had the effect of propelling US policy to do more at a time when its capacity to influence events had diminished thanks to the end of Cold War bipolarity and the diffusion of lethal technologies to weak state and non-state actors. It propelled the US to ramp up its metabolism and inflate its definition of vital interests rather than calmly discern distinctions among them. Unrivalled US power, pre-eminently of the military kind, would end the threat by transforming the political cultures of more than two dozen Arab and Muslim-majority countries into liberal democracies. This solution in turn depended on the validity of what was known as democratic peace theory—that democracies do not make war on other democracies—and on cherished Tocquevillian views of the pacific nature of egalitarian democratic societies.

Contrary to what many claim, this theory of the sources of September 11 existed within the administration well before the Iraq war began. It existed within Bush’s mind, encouraged by, among others, his speechwriter Michael Gerson and strategic visitors like Natan Sharansky; but it did not have the force of formal policy. The theory emerged into public view when, in February 2003, Bush gave a major speech at the American Enterprise Institute in which all the basic themes of this view found expression. That constituted the Bush doctrine version 3.0, now layered on top of version 2.0, characterised by the pre-emption plank famously inserted into the September 2002 National Security Strategy.

What became known as « the forward strategy for freedom » then found full expression from the bully pulpit in November 2003, with the President’s marquee speech at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The Strategy was then canonised in his Second Inaugural of January 2005, which Thomas Wolfe aptly dubbed the globalisation of the Monroe Doctrine. The worse things got in Iraq, and the more the WMD rationale for that campaign lost persuasiveness, the higher the rhetorical bar of democracy promotion rose—a classic case of cognitive dissonance at work in what is colloquially called in American poker-speak « doubling down ».

The rush to closure over a fearful shock to US security interests, and the hubristic response to it, was part of a longstanding pattern in American foreign policy history. The Bush administration’s reactions to September 11 were not the work of any neo-con cabal. Self-avowed neo-conservatives composed a group that was always smaller, more internally diverse and less influential than is often supposed. Rather, neo-cons struck chords very familiar to American history and political culture, chords that even national interest conservatives like Vice- President Cheney and Defence Secretary Rumsfeld could harmonise with. Had there been no neo-cons, the pattern would have asserted itself anyway in some other ideological dialect.

The pattern of which I speak, conceived by the historian Walter A. McDougall, consists of four phases that tend to repeat in cycles. First, there is a shock to the system, usually in the form of a surprise attack: the shot fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861, the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbour in 1898, the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, Pearl Harbour in 1941, and September 11 in 2001. In the phase directly after the shock, the leader of the day—Lincoln, McKinley, Wilson, FDR, George W. Bush—vows to resurrect the status quo ante and punish the evildoers. That corresponds to Lincoln’s vow to save the Union, Wilson’s vow to defend the right of American free passage on the high seas, and Bush’s vow to find and punish the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks so that America’s minimally acceptable standard of near perfect security could be restored.

But third, in the course of mobilising the national effort to achieve the limited goals set after the shock, the transcendent God-talk begins and the effort soon becomes enmeshed in the sacred narrative of American exceptionalism. This leads to a distension of goals and expectations, to geopolitical amnesia, and to what cognitive psychologists call a dominant strategy that is impervious to negative feedback and logical contradiction.

And so, in the September 11 decade, we chose a war that thoughtlessly destroyed the regional balance against Iranian hegemonism without even stopping to ask about the broader implications of a Shi’a government in Baghdad. One does not, apparently, descend to the smarminess of geopolitical analysis when one is doing the Lord’s work. So, too, did we turn what could and should have remained a punitive military operation in Afghanistan into a quixotic, distracted, underfunded nation- and state-building campaign. And so, too, did we conflate all our adversaries into one monolithic demon—typical of eschatological thinking. The administration conflated secular, Ba’athi Iraq with the apocalyptical Muslim fanatics of al-Qaeda, and so went to war against a country uninvolved in 9/11 whose threat to America was not, as is commonly claimed, zero, but which hardly justified, or excused, the haste and threadbare planning with which the war was launched and conducted.

Then, in the fourth phase, overreach leads to setbacks (the Korean War, for example, and the Iraq insurgency) and regrets (like the Vietnam War), ultimately resulting in at least temporary retrenchment … until the cycle starts all over again. This four-phase model fits the September 11 decade to a tee. The attack itself is of course phase 1; the Bush doctrine version 1.0 represents phase 2; the Second Inaugural signals the full efflorescence of phase 3; and the election of Barack Obama marks the consolidation of phase 4.

It matters in all this, however, whether the ideological vehicle that propels phase 3 forward even remotely reflects or aligns with reality. When it does, as it did during and after World War II, no one pays attention since things tend then to turn out well. In the case of the September 11 decade, unfortunately, it did not. There have been basically two problems with it. First, the « forward strategy » for freedom’s ascription of causality for Islamist terrorism is mistaken. Second, even if it were not mistaken, the timetables in which democracy promotion was seen as a solution for mass-casualty terrorism do not even begin to match. The reason is that despite President Bush’s assertion that democracy promotion is « the work of generations » and that democracy is about more than elections, that is not the basis upon which the administration actually behaved. It rushed into premature elections in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, with troublesome and still open-ended consequences for Iraq and disastrous ones for Lebanon and Gaza.

After September 11, as Americans searched for analogies that might help them understand the motivations for the attacks, most found themselves with very shallow reservoirs of historical analogies. Indeed, Americans tended almost exclusively to choose Cold War metaphors to explain September 11. Liberal idealists took their characteristic meliorist approach: It was poverty and injustice that motivated the attacks, and American policies that determined the target. There were dozens of calls for a « Marshall Plan for the Middle East », and hundreds of pleas to concentrate more than ever on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, as if that were somehow a magic bullet that could fix all problems. Conservative idealists, as already noted, took the democracy-promotion approach, arguing that the motivation was not economic but political.

Both were wrong; Islamist radicalism, in truth, is a form of chiliastic violence that has taken many forms in many cultures over the past two millennia, from the Jewish zealots of the First Century of the Common Era, to the 16th-century Peasants’ Revolt in Germany, to the 19th-century « ghost dances » of American Indians. But the obvious weaknesses of the meliorist approach encouraged conservative idealists in their conviction that their own view, therefore, must be right. (Manichean-minded Americans have real problems when any potential set of choices exceeds two.)

The administration’s rhetoric went even further, however, suggesting that US policy was largely responsible for the debased condition of Arab political cultures. When Bush famously said in November 2003: « Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty », he argued in essence that it was US policy, not the long incubated political culture of the region, that accounted for Arab autocracy. The Bush White House, in essence, adopted the wrongheaded left-wing side of an old debate over « friendly tyrants » as lesser evils and what to do with and about them, a very strange position for an avowedly conservative administration to take. The President also seemed to be saying, in a locution repeated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Cairo in June 2005 and many times thereafter, that US Cold War policy in the region was unsuccessful on its own terms, that it did not provide safety and stability.

These claims are nonsensical by any realistic measure. US Cold War policy in the Middle East achieved exactly what it set out to achieve within the broad framework of containment: It kept the Soviets out, the oil flowing to the benefit of the liberal economic order over which the US stood guard, and the region’s only democracy, Israel, safe. The record was not perfect, of course, and we certainly should have rethought old habits sooner than we did after the Berlin Wall fell; but it was good enough, as we say, for government work. Certainly, too, it was never in the power of the US government to bring about democracy in the Arab world during the Cold War. Yet the Bush administration’s solution for the problem whose origins it misread was just that for the post-Cold War era: deep-rooted reform of the Middle East’s sordid collection of autocracies and tyrannies (the major differences between the two were summarily overlooked) and, absent reform from within, the policy strongly implied that pro-democracy regime change would be imposed from without.

The result was almost breathtakingly counterproductive. The more the « forward strategy » bore down on the Middle East, with guns in Iraq and with projects and programs galore practically everywhere else they could gain access, the more effectively local nativists used Western energies jujitsu-like to gain leverage over their domestic adversaries. Rapid economic growth and rapid democratisation, even had they been possible, would not have stabilised Arab societies and made them less likely to spark off political violence against the West; it would have made such violence more likely. We are fortunate, therefore, that the strategy did not « succeed » for any longer than it did.

When the Bush administration campaigned to spread democracy to the Arabs, it never occurred to most of its principals that what they saw as a secular endeavour would be interpreted in the Muslim world through a religious prism, and used accordingly in intra-Islamic civilisational disputes. When Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, tried to persuade Iraqis not to vote because « democracy » was a front, in essence, for Christian evangelism, a slippery slope leading down to apostasy, he spoke a language that resonated in the ears of a great many (though happily not a majority of) Iraqis and other Muslim Arabs.

As it happens, the locals were essentially correct. Americans were speaking a creedal tongue that we thought entirely separate from « religion », a word that does not exist as such in Arabic. After all, we « separate church from state ». In truth, American political culture is not as secular as most think: The contemporary American idea of democracy, seen as the pre-eminent symbol of social egalitarianism (something very different from the Founders’ view) is an attenuated expression of aspects of Anglo-American Protestant Christian tradition. Our longing to spread it to the Muslims is the 21st-century version of what was, in the 19th century, a much more honest and self-aware missionary movement. We might fool ourselves by pretending that our deepest beliefs can be neatly compartmentalised into what is « political » and what is « religious », but Middle Easterners, who possess no such compartments by dint of a history sans Renaissance or Reformation, know better. Not that theology and ideology are identical, but as creedal systems they are bound to be seen as dramatically less distinct by cultures in which political theology, to use Mark Lilla’s apt terminology, has never been vanquished or, in most countries, even seriously challenged.

Looking at US behaviour in the September 11 decade as a manifestation of a secularised political theology explains far more than the standard parsing of the usual-suspects schools of thought: conservative and liberal realists and idealists, Jacksonians and Hamiltonians and all that. Consider for example that when, only days after September 11, Susan Sontag and other members of the professional adversary culture in the United States dared to suggest—in The New Yorker in Sontag’s case—that the perpetrators of September 11 were not cowards and that Americans were not innocent victims of terrorism, but rather were suffering just revenge for selfish and abrasive American foreign policies, they were treated exactly as heretics were in the so-called age of religion. They were not engaged or debated but shunned or excoriated. Had it still been in style, they would probably have been burned as witches.

The American penchant for seeing the world, especially the world of foreign and national security policy, in transcendental terms, is not an historical constant. It tends to rise in phase 3 of the cycle, when the God-talk emerges out of post-shock mobilisation. But there is a concurrent trend of more recent vintage that may have made things more acute during the September 11 decade.

Over the past half century, America has become increasingly deculturated. As Robert Putnam put it in his Bowling Alone argument, we have suffered a deep erosion of social capital. The face-to-face glue which enables social interactions to generate and sustain a common understanding about what is and isn’t virtuous behaviour—the very heart of what ultimately makes a society prosperous and happy—has been in ever shorter supply.

The implications of de-acculturation for American politics are are manifest. The decline of social trust abets both the polarisation of politics and popular cynicism toward government. It produces a political system in which the chain of connective institutions that link family to neighbourhood to larger community to town or region and ultimately to the national level gets broken, rendering the state both alien and intrusive at the same time as it tries to compensate for a social fabric now rent and tattered. Political parties, particularly those that tend to represent class or ideological structures, flow into the spaces once occupied by a diverse array of social interaction. They become in-group/out-group oriented as well-known psychological dynamics spread the distance between them, leading to an exaggerated perception of how much they actually differ in practical terms. The result is that compromise and horse-trading become more difficult, and the insertion of « culture war » issues into this environment has served only to harden the edges of the us-versus-them distinctions that define it. Identity groups disguised as political parties do not play well together.

The implications of all this for foreign policy are obvious. Presidential judgments necessarily become politicised, and opponents invariably try to criminalise them. Every decision becomes part of the catechism to the loyal, an act of moral enormity to the opposition. That is why the acrid debates over Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and warrantless wiretaps, the Patriot Act and the reach of wartime executive authority, took on the tones they did. These arguments did not remind one of the civilities of the common law tradition; they sounded more like transcripts from the Spanish Inquisition.

The great sociologist E. Digby Baltzell, the man who coined the term WASP back in the 1950s, once said to me that the greatest tragedy of 20th-century America is that the formidable energies of religion had migrated into politics, to the detriment of both. No wiser comment has ever been made about the trajectory of American politics this past half century, and here lies, I think, the key insight for those trying to comprehend the American September 11 decade at its very core. The decade has not been about what others have done to America; it has been about what Americans have done to themselves.

Adam Garfinkle served as chief staff writer of the US Commission on National Security/21st Century (Hart-Rudman Commission), which predicted mass-casualty terrorism on American soil before September 11 and first proposed creation of a Department of Homeland Security. He then served as editor of The National Interest and as speechwriter to Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. He is founding editor of The American Interest.

Indeed, the fuzzy indeterminacy that characterizes the Obama foreign policy holds true even at the highest echelon of strategy. The United States is the world’s pre-eminent if not hegemonic power. Since World War II it has set the normative standards and both formed and guarded the security and economic structures of the world. In that capacity it has provided for a relatively secure and prosperous global commons, a mission nicely convergent with the maturing American self-image as an exceptionalist nation. To do this, however, the United States has had to maintain a global military presence as a token of its commitment to the mission and as a means of reassurance to those far and wide with a stake in it. This has required a global network of alliances and bases, the cost of which is not small and the maintenance of which, in both diplomatic and other terms, is a full-time job.*

Against this definition of strategic mission there have always been those in the United States who have dissented, holding that we do, ask and expect much too much, and get into gratuitous trouble as a result. Some have preferred outright isolationism, but most serious skeptics of the status quo have preferred a posture of ‘offshore balancing’. Remove the bases and end the alliances, they have argued, and the US government will be better able, at less risk and far less cost to the nation, to balance against threatening developments abroad, much as America’s strategic mentor, Great Britain, did throughout most of the 19th century.

This is the core conversation Americans have been having about the US global role since at least 1945. To one side we recall George McGovern’s 1972 ‘Come Home, America’ campaign plank, the Mansfield Amendment that would have removed US troops from Europe in mid-Cold War, and the early Carter administration’s proposal to remove US troops from South Korea spoken in rhythm to speeches decrying an “inordinate fear of communism”. To the other side has been almost everyone and everything else, so that the offshore approach has always been turned back, at least until now. Where is the Obama administration in this great debate? We don’t really know; the evidence, once again, suggests ambivalence. . .

Taken together, then, the administration’s track record, encompassing the whole spectrum from discrete policy arenas to the lofty heights of grand strategy, suggests the foreign policy equivalent of a Rorschach inkblot. Observers can see in it what they have wanted to see. Some have tagged the Obama administration a re-run of the Carter administration, but the fit is obviously imperfect; it’s very hard to see Carter during his first or second year in office ordering those Predator strikes, even harder to imagine him holding his tongue on human rights. Some have seen a replay of Nixon and Kissinger: Realpolitik hiding behind feel-good talk about allies and peace and the rest, trying simultaneously to play an inherited weak hand and set the stage for a grand bargain—this time with Iran instead of China. Still others think they are witness to the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: a shrewd opportunist who knows the limits set by domestic constraints, and whose main concern is national economic stabilization and social strengthening against the day when American power must meet a true test of destiny. The name game can go on because, while no great successes have sprouted forth from the Obama foreign policy, no great debacles have emerged either.

Presidential Language
Be It Resolved
Adam Garfinkle
The American interest
December 30, 2014

In the course of an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep released earlier this week, President Obama tried to flatter the Supreme Leader and other assorted higher-ups in Tehran. Will it work?

NPR released yesterday a presidential interview, taped December 18, that bears on many issues, not least the Middle East. I probably should let the opportunity to comment pass, but I can’t. I probably should eat much less ice cream too, but I can’t seem to do that either. Well, more on New Year’s resolutions anon.

Two globules of presidential language in particular catch my attention, both foreshadowed by a Reuters article on December 28. Let me take the two in turn.

In the interview President Obama praises the “incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran” and adds that if Iran agrees to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions Iran “would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules—and that would be good for everybody.” The President offered that Iran has “legitimate defense concerns” and “suffered from a terrible war with Iraq” in the 1980s, but he criticized it for regional “adventurism, the support of organizations like Hizballah, the threats they’ve directed at Israel.”

The Reuters story commented in demur, drive-by style that, while the President thinks an agreement is still possible and perhaps likely, Vice President Biden said earlier this month that he gives the negotiations a “less than even shot” of succeeding. POTUS can’t so easily dump Biden like he dumped Hagel, because Biden got elected—besides which, the VP’s own “can’t-help-myself” problem, which manifests itself most often in his predilection for “committing a truth” (as he sees it) in public, is under better control today than at any time since his election to the Senate in 1972. (For those unaware, just by the way, the phrase “to commit a truth” is a key element of speechwriting wit; it means that one should not say something in public just because it’s true, unless it serves a particular purpose. Political speech is not a didactic exercise; it is inherently about controlling and manipulating impressions.)

Ah, but back to that other member of the Executive Branch who got elected, the President. What to make of these, one hopes, non-scripted remarks?

It’s clear—actually a little too clear—that President Obama is trying to flatter the Supreme Leader and other assorted higher ups in Tehran. Someone no doubt explained to the President in another, earlier drive-by incident that these guys believe they deserve more respect for their sovereignty, history, and culture than they get. He wants to assure them, insofar as he can, that regime change is not high up on the U.S. want list with regard to Iran, though he cannot explicitly rule it out without cutting the knees out from future U.S. policy options. He wants to let them know he’s sensitive to how the world looks from their perspective.

All of this publicly articulated respect is designed, it seems likely to me as a recovering Executive Branch speechwriter, to reduce the heat on the roiling pot that contains the conspiracy theories Iranians cook up and consume on a depressingly regular basis. The practical purpose? To get the Supreme Leader to authorize the concessions he needs to make to let the deal happen, in return for which we promise not to betray his trust. Respect worked for Aretha Franklin; maybe it’ll work for Barack Obama, too.

But note that, in the list of Iranian sins, the President did not even mention Iran’s role in Syria, or in Yemen. Note, too, that he omitted mentions of Iranian-supported terrorist and insurgent-war acts that have claimed American lives. He never warns that we now intend to link the nuclear negotiations with Iranian regional behavior, as we should have been doing all along. Note too, however, that if we have already secretly consummated a “big deal” with Iran to split U.S. regional security responsibilities with Tehran largely at Arab expense—as some commentators here but especially in the region think is a done deal already a few years ago—it would be harder to make sense of this sort of klutzy fawning language.

The Administration may still yearn for such a deal, however, which now, as in 2009, gives off the sound of one tongue flapping. Here we are, it would seem, at the second coming (or third or fourth coming, depending on what evidence you credit and how you count) of the original outstretched hand offering engagement to mutual benefit for the future. The first time the Administration did this, the Iranian “Green movement” protesting a rigged election was a victim, and our hand got slapped. (Or as Shel Silverstein once wrote: “Cast your bread on the water and what do you get? Another day older, and your bread gets wet.”) Nor did the Supreme Leader deign to answer the first of now three private presidential letters.

It remains to be seen who will suffer this time around, but one thing is certain: When the Saudis, Israelis, and other U.S. associates in the region hear presidential language like this, they head for their mental bunkers and hunker down. Meanwhile, President Obama should not be watching his mailbox for a letter from Tehran.

It will all be judged wise and worldly, perhaps, if the tactic succeeds and we get in due course a nuclear deal worth having. Me, I’m with Joe Biden on this one, as an earlier post explained in some detail. But will it succeed?

Some clever folks in the White House are sensitive to Iranian insecurities and have coached the President on how to make the Iranian lion purr. Alas, they can’t turn the Iranian lion into a vegetarian, and they have a long way to go to evoke any genuine purring. I do not think this will succeed, and let me explain why by speculating on how the Supreme Leader and other Iranians of his ilk will probably hear this sort of language.

The Iranian Lion. Not a vegetarian.

“So”, says the Supreme leader to President Rouhani over mint tea one afternoon, “the Americans think they get to judge whether we can be a successful regional power! They presume their dominance, these upstarts, as they speak to the heirs of the Achaemenid dynasty, the Sassanid dynasty, the Safavid dynasty—as these historical adolescents speak to the very founders of civilization. They speak to us not as equals but as masters. They are not and never will be our masters.”

“Yes, sir”, answers Rouhani. “You will remember when Judge [William P.] Clark, one of the NSC Advisors during the Reagan years, characterized Iranian statesmen as ‘a bunch of rug merchants’, do you not? Despite all their failures since, the hubris in Washington is undaunted. This young and inexperienced man speaks of how everyone will benefit if Iran submits to America’s will, as if life on earth can be like paradise. He speaks of international norms and rules as though everyone accepts them, despite the fact that most people in the world have suffered from the Western arrogance and oppression they symbolize.”

Yes, there is no doubt that Khamenei and Rouhani remember Judge Clark’s comment, for they assiduously collect every insult cast their way in faithful expectation of historical revenge; and you can bet your bottom dollar that the President and his advisers, including current NSC Advisor Susan Rice, lack that particular datum in their active memory banks. And much more important, yes, the Iranian government is full of geostrategic realists who know what a revisionist state is. And they are people who, for the most part—whether we can them moderates or hardliners—sincerely project the Shi’a martyrology complex onto the imagined political sociology of the world. This precisely was the Ayatollah Khomeini’s creative and expansive act of ideological genius; it still defines Iranian foreign policy ideals just as it sustained the revolution in its infancy, particularly during very hard times. So when Barack Obama tells Iranians how much they suffered during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, he comes across like a trespasser on sacred cemetery soil. “Who is this idolatrous man who presumes to narrate our holy suffering?”, the Supreme Leader asks the President.

When Robert Burns wrote, “O would God the gift to gi’ us, to see ourselves as others see us”, he weren’t just whistling Dixie folks, or suggesting that short Cliffs Notes courses in cultural studies would suffice for serious purposes. He really meant it.

The NPR interviewer asked the President whether in his last two years in office he would help war-torn countries like Libya, Syria, and Iraq. His answer was that these countries have to take the lead: “We can help, but we can’t do it for them. I think the American people recognize that. There are times here in Washington where pundits don’t; they think you can just move chess pieces around the table. And whenever we have that kind of hubris, we tend to get burned.”

Well, obviously the President is reading the wrong pundits (and in my view he acts unpresidentially even to mention them publicly). He should be reading me. I don’t want us to be engaged in a bombing campaign against the Islamic State if it is premised on a counterproductive half-strategy. I don’t want U.S. combat troops aiding the Abadi government in Baghdad, along side of Iranian Revolutionary Guard units, trying to reclaim for a unitary Iraqi state what it cannot firmly reclaim. I never argued for boots on the ground in Syria, or anything on the ground or in the air with respect to Libya. I and The American Interest with me over the years have been sympathetic to not “devoting another trillion dollars” to misbegotten foreign wars because, yes, as the President said, “we need to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding our schools, our roads, our basic science, and research here in the United States.” We at TAI used the phrase “nation-building at home” before he did (you can look it up—just check out the lead section of volume 4, number 3, published just before Obama’s inauguration).

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So then what’s wrong with this picture of presidential remarks on Libya, Syria, and Iraq? What’s wrong is that the President is apparently unable or unwilling to connect his own damned dots.

Did Libya’s troubles today, by which I mean in brief that it has not one dysfunctional government but pretenses of two, just fall out of the sky one day? Unless you mean the U.S. cruise missiles targeted on Tripoli that kicked off a war in March 2011, no. If that is what you mean, as the NPR interviewer had the temerity to suggest, than yes. It was U.S. policy that caused the destruction of the Libyan state, such as it was. U.S. policy, from starting a war to failing to plan for its Phase 4 post-combat aftermath, explains not only the god-awful mess that Libya has become, but also what happened to Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. Libya has to get its act together to deserve our help?! What Libya? There is for all practical purposes no Libyan state for us to help.

Did Iraq’s troubles today, by which I mean the state’s collapse back into roughly the three Ottoman provinces cobbled together to create it in 1920, just sort of happen, too? Like Libya, Iraq was a nasty, authoritarian hellhole before U.S. policy made it even worse. We may blame that on the Bush Administration for mis-starting a war that had not been properly planned, but Iraq would not be quite the mess it is today had the Obama Administration not mis-ended it by yanking our presence out without a SOFA agreement. Iraq has to get its act together to deserve our continued or expanded help?! What Iraq? There is, very nearly, no Iraqi state for us to help.

Did Syria’s troubles fall out of the sky, too? Here U.S. policy is mostly guilty of sins of omission rather than sins of commission, some of them circling back to our hands-off-Iran supinity, but it is guilty all the same. As we have said here at TAI many times over the past three years, a judicious early use of U.S. power and leadership well short of kinetic action—difficult though it always was, true—could have averted the still evolving worst-case calamity that Syria has become. Syria is well on its way to complete Somalization. So Syria, too, has to get its act together to deserve our help?! What Syria? There is, very nearly, no Syrian state for us to help.

Far be it for me to advocate the use of U.S. force in any of these places. We cannot put these states back together at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure. As I have stressed in earlier posts (for example, here), what is happening, at base, is historio-structural in nature and no mere policy nipping and tucking can restore the status quo ante. I am no more in a mood to move chess pieces around on a table than the President is, especially if I have to do it with bombers, APCs, and Aegis cruisers loaded up with SLCMs. But to pontificate about the need for Arab self-help in these three cases, as though U.S. policy had nothing whatsoever to do with their present plights, very nearly surpasses credulity. It reminds me of a three-year old not yet well experienced at hide-and-go-seek who covers his face and thereby imagines that others cannot see him. Who in the region does the President think he’s fooling?

I have commented in recent weeks about the dropping away of relevant context in the reporting of important news stories, which I suspect is linked to the generic disappearance of even relatively recent historical memory in our IT-addled, radically segmented collective cognitive state (see, for example, this). But this amnesic babble really takes all, and coming from the President of the United States it frankly makes me a bit uncomfortable.

One of my secular New Year’s resolutions is to read and think more, write and speak less. Another, however, is to write more quickly on the heels of breaking stories, as I’m doing now. Another is to cut back on the ice cream; I like to think that will buy me an indulgence for a bit more single malt, which is more conducive to thinking than to writing, and so the circle of my resolutions comes to completion.

I wish Vice President Biden success in his effort to cut back further on committing truths in public. I’m always here for you, Joe, if you need me.

As for the President, I hope he will add a resolution for 2015 to stop saying stupid “stuff” to his previous determination to not do stupid “stuff.” Since saying and doing are mingled behaviors, especially when they emanate from the Oval Office, a truth that even non-speechwriters can appreciate and that this President seems implicitly to credit more than most, there’s reason to expect both resolution and redemption. Happy New Year!
Adam Garfinkle is editor of The American Interest.

Voir encore:

Obama says days of U.S ‘meddling’ in Latin America are over
Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

April 10, 2015

President Obama told Latin America leaders in Panama Friday that the days of U.S. exploitation of the region are over, and that America owes a debt to the rest of the world for helping to bring equality to the U.S.

“We are respectful of the differences among our countries,” Mr. Obama said at the Summit of the Americas. “The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past.”

The crowd erupted in sustained applause.

Mr. Obama urged leaders in the region to embrace democratic principles, including public debate and dissent.

“It’s not to say that my country’s perfect, we are not. And that’s the point,” Mr. Obama said. “We have to wrestle with our own challenges from issues of race to policing to inequality. We embrace our ability to become better through our democracy.”

Referring to slavery and Jim Crow-era segregation in the U.S., Mr. Obama also said that outside forces helped to improve life in America.

“There was a time in our own country when there were groups that were voiceless and powerless,” Mr. Obama said. “Because of world opinion, that helped to change those circumstances. We have a debt to pay because the voices of ordinary people made us better. That’s a debt I want to make sure we repay in this hemisphere and around the world.”

Earlier, Mr. Obama took an apparent swipe at Cuba’s communist regime when he said “almost everybody” in Latin America has been smart enough to move their countries to a market-based economy.

“By virtue of wisdom, and some things that didn’t work and some things that did, everybody around the region … has a very practical solution, or a practical orientation,” Mr. Obama said.

Then he grinned and added, “Maybe not everybody, but almost everybody.” The audience of business leaders laughed.

The president, who is expected to meet for the first time with Cuban President Raul Castro Saturday on the sidelines of the summit, said countries in the hemisphere previously subscribed either to a “statist” economic model or a free-market approach.

“Everything was very ideological in this region in discussing how economic development went forward,” Mr. Obama said. “I believe the free market is the greatest wealth-generator and innovator and is a recipe for success for countries.”

Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

Voir encore:

Remarks by President Obama at the Civil Society Forum
On April 10, 2015, in Office of the Press Secretary, Speeches and Remarks, The President, Western Hemisphere, by The White House
Hotel El Panama
Panama City, Panama

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Buenas tardes.  Thank you, President Varela.  Thank you very much, Panama, for hosting this Summit of the Americas.  And I thank everybody who’s traveled here from across the region for the courageous work that you do to defend freedom and human rights, and to promote equality and opportunity and justice across our hemisphere and around the world.

I am proud to be with you at this first-ever official gathering of civil society leaders at the Summit of the Americas. And I’m pleased to have Cuba represented with us at this summit for the very first time.  (Applause.)

We’re here for a very simple reason.  We believe that strong, successful countries require strong and vibrant civil societies.  We know that throughout our history, human progress has been propelled not just by famous leaders, not just by states, but by ordinary men and women who believe that change is possible; by citizens who are willing to stand up against incredible odds and great danger not only to protect their own rights, but to extend rights to others.

I had a chance to reflect on this last month when I was in the small town of Selma, Alabama.  Some of you may have heard of it.  It’s a place where, 50 years ago, African-Americans marched in peaceful, nonviolent protest — not to ask for special treatment but to be treated equally, in accordance with the founding documents of our Declaration of Independence, our Bill of Rights.  They were part of a civil rights movement that had endured violence and repression for decades, and would endure it again that day, as many of the marchers were beaten.

But they kept marching.  And despite the beatings of that day, they came back, and more returned.  And the conscience of a nation was stirred.  Their efforts bent, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, the arc of the moral universe towards justice.  And it was their vision for a more fair and just and inclusive and generous society that ultimately triumphed.  And the only reason I stand here today as the President of the United States is because those ordinary people — maids, and janitors, and schoolteachers — were willing to endure hardship on my behalf.  (Applause.)

And that’s why I believe so strongly in the work that you do.  It’s the dreamers — no matter how humble or poor or seemingly powerless — that are able to change the course of human events.  We saw it in South Africa, where citizens stood up to the scourge of apartheid.  We saw it in Europe, where Poles marched in Solidarity to help bring down the Iron Curtain.  In Argentina, where mothers of the disappeared spoke out against the Dirty War.  It’s the story of my country, where citizens worked to abolish slavery, and establish women’s rights and workers’ rights, and rights for gays and lesbians.

It’s not to say that my country is perfect — we are not.  A