Red Line: 9/11, Israel vs Turkey, Dick Cheney

A copy of former Vice President Dick Cheney's memoir "In My Time".   Source: AFP

A copy of former Vice President Dick Cheney's memoir "In My Time". Source: AFP

Each week, Voice of Russia hosts Red Line, a discussion about global events as seen from Moscow. In this edition: The 10th anniversary of September 11, a growing conflict between Israel and Turkey, and Dick Cheney.

Participants: Ekaterina Kudashkina, Sergei Strokan, Mira Salganik, Philippe Moreau Defarges  


 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: It has been 10 years since two planes hit the twin towers in New York, altering the lives of Americans and the rest of the world. In this program we’ll be looking at the changes 9/11 brought to the world and the U.S. in particular. We will start with trying to get a better understanding of the results produced by the decade-long global war on terror. Then, we will discuss a worsening standoff between key U.S. allies in the Middle East – Israel and Turkey; and finally, our Face in the News will be former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, whose memoir “In my Time” was just released.

Our first section is Beyond the Headlines, in which we will look at the 9/11 and its outcome.  During the last decade it has became almost a truism to say that Sept.11 has changed the world. But, what is the nature of that change and where it will finally bring the world?

 

Sergei Strokan: I think we can get thousands of answers, very different both in style and substance and ranging from the explanation that on 9/11 a new evil power emerged to challenge American global dominance in the post-cold war world to the wild conspiracy theories.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Has America gotten any safer in the last 10 years? Probably, yes, although there were fears of new planes hijackings just on the eve of the anniversary.

 

Sergei Strokan: I think what we read these days shows that 10 years after Sept. 11, there is a huge gap in understanding what happened in the skies above Washington and New York.

 

Mira Salganik: Would you say that as a result of the global anti-terrorist crusade the world is somehow safer than before?

 

Sergei Strokan: Most obviously not. In recent years the global war on terror has chopped off thousands of innocent heads out of which probably only one in a hundred was a head of a real terrorist or his sympathizer – be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan or some other place. 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: To me it also shows that any war, any war absolutely exposes the worst part of the human nature.

Mira Salganik: Don’t you think that every war starts with a psychological campaign of presenting your enemy as sub-human? Every modern war starts with a concentrated informational, psychological campaign.

Sergei Strokan: But when we speak about the global war on terror, obviously we mean not only what happened in Abu-Ghraib or Guantanamo, just look how the global war complicated daily lives of millions, starting from the most innocent things – long and sometimes humiliating airport security checks to wiretapping and jeopardizing personal freedoms by the secret services.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: At the very start, there was a belief that to defeat the global terror the world community has to come to Afghanistan, topple the Taliban regime and hunt Osama bin Laden in the mountains and caves of Tora Bora.

Sergei Strokan: And at the initial stage of the war in Afghanistan there was a lot of drum-beating over the war of the 21st century, easily won with state-of-the art weapons. But as you know, the Taliban fighters have fully recovered and now it is a big headache.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Then, two years later, we were all told that it is Iraq that has to be cleansed to make the world safer.

Mira Salganik: Then, came CIA drone attacks on Pakistani territory.

 

Sergei Strokan: I believe that the global war on terror started after September 11, 2011 fundamentally missed the point in many ways. First, from the very beginning it was erroneously restricting terrorism to a place, to a particular country, be it Afghanistan, be it Iraq, be it Pakistan, as if what primarily matters in a fight against global terror is geography. This is not geography.

Secondly, the terrorism was regarded as an independent phenomenon, as an illustration of Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” notorious thesis.

 

Mira Salganik: Doesn’t it seem to you that the global war against terror, the way it is conducted, has very successfully enlarged the number of terrorists, facilitated the task of the recruiters?

Ekaterina Kudashkina: I agree. If we look just a little bit back into history, we can see that some terrorist organizations emerged as a reaction to oppression (or what they perceived as oppression) by western civilization. The more oppression they feel, the more active they become, the more people they can recruit. But how would you describe the deficiency of U.S. policy making?

Mira Salganik: I think it is a narrow-mindedness, and not only of American policy-makers –either they can’t or don’t want to really study in-depth the psychology, the lifestyle, the mindset of the nations that are now a battleground for the war on terror. Just imagine this for a second, if villages are destroyed, like it happened in the Chechen wars in Russia, what results do you expect?

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Our country has been through this experience, but the U.S. never has been.

Sergei Strokan: I think both of you came to a very important point that I wanted to make. The point is the price of the victory in the global war on terror. While victory is not yet achieved, I believe that by inflicting heavy and unnecessary casualties among innocent civilians, generates more anger, more despair and brings up new generation of fighters. As a result we have seen Al-Qaeda’s numerous branches and clones.

Mira Salganik: And let us not forget that al-Qaeda was never a rigid organization. It was a kind of loose network, so even if you chop off the head, it survives.

Sergei Strokan: Let us finally agree that the fight against terrorism should be not restricted to hunting particular terrorists, though it is important definitely, it should not be restricted to particular operations on particular territories or countries. The fight against terrorism in its present shape has backfired. While one side is largely using it as an instrument to change governments like it was in Afghanistan or Iraq, the other side pretends to fight American, Western and Israeli “imperialism and hegemonism” with grenade launches,  kalashnikovs and shaheed explosive belts.

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Ekaterina Kudashkina: Well, it just so happens that our whole program is focused – in one way or another – on the U.S. and its international stance in post 9/11 realities. Our second section, Between the Lines, is usually about a media story that we do consider one of the most interesting – or provocative – publications of the week. This time it’s a piece run by TIME magazine entitled “Turkey Crisis: Unconditional U.S. Backing Has Helped Israel to Isolate Itself,” written by Tony Karon, a senior editor at TIME.com and a columnist with Haaretz and other publications.  But before we proceed I’d like to remind our listeners that this week saw an unprecedented standoff in relations between Israel and Turkey – two countries that until very recently were seen as major allies in the region. After Israeli commandos shot nine Turkish citizens in their raid on the “Gaza Flotilla” in May 2010, relations between the two started to rapidly deteriorate.

Sergei Strokan: Then “The New York Times” published a leaked UN report on the investigation of the raid. Since then, Turkey has expelled the Israeli ambassador and senior diplomats and it has announced that it is severing all military cooperation and is insisting on more sanctions against Israel.

Sergei Strokan: But where does the U.S. come in? As far as I know, the White House has expressed its concern over the spat. 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Let me quote the story, then. “Israel's fallout with long-time ally Turkey is no isolated spat that will be repaired any time soon; it's a dramatic illustration that no amount of U.S. backing can prevent the growing international isolation resulting from Israel's handling of the Palestinian issue. Indeed, the unconditional nature of Washington's backing may, in fact, have become dysfunctional to Israel's diplomatic standing: A U.S. domestic political climate in which challenging Israel on anything is about as wise as threatening to cut medicare payments leaves Washington unable to restrain the most right-wing government in Israeli history from its most self-destructive urges, while economic changes and the radical policies adopted by the United States in the decade since 9/11 have left Washington's influence in the Middle East at its weakest since World War II.”

Sergei Strokan: So, Turkey has expelled Israel’s ambassador; Turkey has suspended all military and intelligence cooperation with Israel; Turkey is threatening to sue Israel in the International Court of Justice – for the mere reason that Israeli government just would not apologize for the raid? Are you sure this could be described as an appropriate policy?

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Well, on one hand it’s about the influence of a nation. We all know what the U.S. government is capable of when a U.S. citizen is killed. But it’s more complex than that. We know that the reality on the ground is always more complex than our perception. Don’t forget there’s going to be a UN vote on Palestinian statehood already as early as the end of September.

 

Mira Salganik: And it’s only natural that Turkey would wish to show its support for the Palestinians.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: And its exasperation with the stalled peace process, if you wish. Tony Karon’s position is more intricate: “Turkey's actions also reflect a growing international impatience with and loss of faith in Washington's handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel is worried, with good reason, that Egypt - whose foreign policy has been made more responsive to public opinion by the overthrow of the Israel-friendly U.S.-backed President Hosni Mubarak last February – may follow the Turkish example.” Which would amount to almost complete isolation of Israel – I am sure it is not something the Israelis are looking for.

 

Mira Salganik: I don’t think Israel’s heading really for international isolation. Just as a matter of update - Israel has recently been developing ties with Greece. If you remember it was Greece that held back the Gaza Flotilla-2 this year.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Curiously enough, Turkey, too, appeared to be quite helpful in that situation. Now, though, they are threatening to send their navy ships to accompany the next Gaza Flotilla.

 

Sergei Strokan: But the UN report says that Gaza sea blockade by Israel was perfectly justified. So if they do that, it would only further complicate their relations with Israel. By the way Mr. Erdogan also said Turkey would increase its navy presence in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Mira Salganik: There are some points I’d like to make: The stand-off between Israel and Turkey and others too might have most serious implications, no doubt, but there are other aspects. Number one: Turkey is not going to severe its ties with NATO so easily.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Do you think that perhaps its goal is a little bit different? I mean obviously it is building up its influence in the region and emerging as another regional power, countering Iranian influence.

Mira Salganik: Neither Israel nor any country in the Middle East wants still another war.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: But one of the Israeli generals said that the prospects of a war are quite real. We discussed this issue with our next guest speaker, well-known French expert Dr. Philippe Moreau Defarges from the International Institute of Foreign Relations in Paris.

Dr. Philippe Moreau Defarges: The Israeli-Turkish relations were stable, they were very rational, it seems that this is changing as very emotional relations. What do I mean? On the one side Turkey becomes more, maybe arrogant, more proud of itself, and on the other side, the Israeli policy is unacceptable for a Muslim country. What will be the consequences for the region, it is too early to tell.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: The Israeli analyst, Major General Eisenberg, said that the likelihood of regional war is growing. Do you subscribe to this assessment?

 

Dr. Philippe Moreau Defarges: No, I don’t think that a war between Israel and Turkey could happen. What could happen is that there could be kind of stagnating. I don’t imagine a war, I imagine a more paralyzed region.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: So you are saying that the conflict can bring along stagnation and perhaps further destabilization of the region?

Dr. Philippe Moreau Defarges: Yes, first stagnation and then destabilization. But it is clear that all that was foreseeable mostly because of Israel: Israel doesn’t want to move on the Palestinian issue, and it cannot go on like that. I think Israel must understand that it must move on the Palestinian issue.

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Ekaterina Kudashkina: And now the time has come to turn to our final section, Face in the News. This week our face in the news is directly related to the discussion of Sept. 11. Today we are going to speak of Dick Cheney – the former U.S. vice president, all-powerful number two in the administration of George W. Bush whose vision and political will largely shaped American policy for nearly a decade after the deadly 9/11 attacks.

It is quite symbolic that Dick Cheney’s memoir “In my Time” hit the stands days before the 10th anniversary of the attacks and was followed by the author’s provocative statement in one of the interviews that the book will cause ‘’heads exploding all over Washington.”

Sergei Strokan: So, 10 years after 9/11, we see the same Cheney – tough, combative, unapologetic, some will say, hawkish as it was during his good old days in White House.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: And this is not surprising at all. What is surprising is that this time Mr. Cheney is attacking not terrorists, or rogue states, like North Korea, or say, Russia, as he used to do, when he was in the White House, but his former colleges – Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice as well as another ranking Republicans, like John McCain. The only person he admires is President George W. Bush, but Mr. Cheney never fails to remind us that the leader of global war on terror acted on his – Cheney’s – advice.

Mira Salganik: No doubt. It just came to my mind that retired politicians are like sleeping volcanoes. Once their term expires they leave their offices, they move to some undisclosed location, the public loses interest, and then suddenly they erupt with memories.

Sergei Strokan: I like this comparison with sleeping volcanoes, which we should beware, but once in a while some of them wake up to make our heads explode.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: But Mr. Cheney himself describes the book as a chance ‘’to write your version of events, your history, your story.” I have started to read the book and same episodes are really breathtaking, they thrill the audience as a rare testimony of the witness.

 

Sergei Strokan: And it doesn’t matter whether you share author’s views or not – you get a notion of how the history – good or bad - was made.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Let’s take the description of how the decision was made in the Oval Office to start the war in Iraq. Here is how it happened as described by Dick Cheney; “The president kicked everyone else out of the Oval Office, looked at me, and said, 'Dick, what do you think we ought to do?' I told him I thought we should launch. … The president agreed. He called the others back into the office and told them to launch."

Sergei Strokan: Do you think that eight years after March 2003 Mr. Cheney is ready to apologize for what happened? Does he feel sorry for this deeply unpopular war, deeply unpopular not only in the world, but also in the U.S., does he feel sorry for all that big lies about Saddam Hussein keeping the weapons of mass destruction?

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Such expectations on my part would have been a little bit too naïve. There is not a single word of apology, not a single word of self-criticism. It is something alarming, about a man of such scale like Mr. Cheney.

Mira Salganik: Someone has written that instead of going on TV to promote his version of history Dick Cheney should have volunteered his time in a veterans’ hospital, caring for those that he sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan who are now in hospitals wounded.

Sergei Strokan: But you know, Mira, I think that media jabs you are referring to can hardly knock him down. It seems that not only is he not scared of his critics, he basks in criticism the way people bask in publicity. Here is what he said in his Fox News interview: “There are a lot of people out there who don’t like me, don’t like what I did in public life, disagree fundamentally with my views. It’s OK. It’s democracy. I don’t need or I didn’t need 100 percent to prevail. I only needed 50 percent plus one.” 

 

I think we must compliment Mr. Cheney with generating anti-American feelings here, in Russia, during the time of President Bush.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: I don’t think he was the only one whom you should call responsible for the rise of anti-American feelings in Russia. But, anyway, what do you think were the most defining moments?

Sergei Strokan: The most defining moment was Dick Cheney’s notorious Vilnius speech in May 2005, which sounded like an ultimatum: Russia should come back to the so-called family of democratic nations or it would turn into a rogue state. That was Cheney’s message.

 

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Well, as I read these days, Colin Powell is accusing Cheney of using his book to take “cheap shots.”

Sergei Strokan: But I read that when asked what he'd like his epitaph to read, Mr. Cheney replied "No comment."

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