Israel’s War on Gaza: 11 Zunes’ articles published Oct. 7-Dec. 31, 2023

Political Costs of Biden’s Support for Israel’s War Mount [Source]
U.S. Attacks on the ICJ are a Declaration of Empire [Source]
Biden’s Gaza Failure Could Cost Democrats 2024 Election [Source]
Applying International Law to Israel’s War and Hamas’ Attack [Video & Transcript]
Scholars Weigh in on Gaza-Israel Conflict Counterpunch interview of Professors Zunes and international legal scholar Richard Falk [Princeton] on Israel, Gaza, and U.S. policy, 10/13/2023 [Source]
How U.S. Policy Failures Have Helped Hamas [Source]
Hamas, Israel and the U.S. Have Learned Nothing [Source]
Biden’s Backing Israel War Crimes Carries on Sordid U.S. Tradition [Source]
O Globo, Brazil’s largest newspaper, on Israel’s war on Gaza (English translation and original Portuguese transcript) [Source]
Dr. Zunes is quoted in this Al-Jazeera article: Why are US Republicans pushing for aid to Israel but not Ukraine? [Source]

More Articles and interviews on the Gaza Crisis

Biden’s Dangerous Refusal to Reverse Trump’s Western Sahara Policy

In his final weeks in office, President Donald Trump stunned the international community in formally recognizing Western Sahara as part of Morocco. Morocco has occupied much of its southern neighbor since 1975, when it invaded and annexed the former Spanish colony in defiance of the United Nations Security Council and a landmark ruling of the International Court of Justice… [FULL LINK]

From Aleppo to Gaza: A Handy Guide for Defending War Crimes

Foreign Policy In Focus: May 26, 2021 [FULL LINK]

The strident defense of Israel’s recent military onslaught on the Gaza Strip from members of Congress, the Biden administration, and various pundits sound remarkably similar to those put forward to defend the Assad regime in Syria during their bloody attacks on Aleppo, Idlib, and other rebel-held areas in recent years. Indeed, the talking points are so similar, I’ve written up a summary — based on real articles, interviews, and statements — in which apologists for war crimes can insert the appropriate words at the appropriate spot, depending on which government’s atrocities they are defending…

‘More AIPAC Than J Street’: Kamala Harris Runs to the Right on Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy In Focus, January 28, 2019:
California’s junior senator Kamala Harris has announced her presidential candidacy… embraced by many progressive Democrats, branding herself a progressive. Yet in the course of her little more than two years in the U.S. Senate, she’s taken some foreign policy positions that should give pause to supporters of human rights and international law. In… January 2017 Harris sided with Trump in criticizing the outgoing President Obama’s refusal to veto an otherwise-unanimous, very modest, and largely symbolic UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements. Among other things, that resolution reiterated previous Security Council calls for Israel to stop expanding its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, which violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and a landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice… [Source]

On Hillary Clinton, Sexism, and U.S. Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy In Focus February 12 2016
After the strong early primary showings by Senator Bernie Sanders, a few high-profile supporters of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton have seized upon an explanation: sexism — and not only by men. Sanders’ high level of support from young women in particular, they say, reflects the naiveté of younger self-identified feminists. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, for example, claimed that younger women backing Sanders simply wanted the attention of young men on the Sanders campaign: “When you’re young, you’re thinking, where are the boys?” Steinem said. “The boys are with Bernie”…

The Five Lamest Excuses for Hillary Clinton’s Vote to Invade Iraq

In These Times February 1, 2016: Also published in:
Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Consortium News, Democratic Underground, News.Alayham.com, Antiwar.com, Foreign Policy in Focus, My Trust In Conflict, Portside.org, RINF.com, Reddit, The Scott Horton Show radio, and referenced in other media. e.g., Mondoweiss.net.

Former senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the only candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination who supported the invasion of Iraq. That war not only resulted in 4,500 American soldiers being killed and thousands more permanently disabled, but also hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, the destabilization of the region with the rise of the Islamic State and other extremists, and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit, resulting in major cutbacks to important social programs. Moreover, the primary reasons Clinton gave for supporting President George W. Bush’s request for authorizing that illegal and unnecessary war have long been proven false. As a result, many Democratic voters are questioning — despite her years of foreign policy experience — whether Clinton has the judgment and integrity to lead the United States on the world stage.

Republican Candidates Defend Killing Civilians to Fight Terrorism—and So Do Democrats

Foreign Policy In Focus December 23, 2015    There has been a lot of consternation expressed in the media at a series of statements by Republican presidential candidates during their most recent debate and elsewhere in which a number of them appeared to be advocating the large-scale killing of civilians through aerial bombardment as a legitimate means of defeating the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS or IS). These statements did not simply rationalize military operations that result in large numbers of civilian deaths, which politicians in both parties have supported for decades, but actually advocate the killing of civilians as a legitimate tactic in counter-terrorism warfare….

How the U.S. Contributed to Yemen’s Crisis

Santa Cruz Sentinel April 17, 2015
[Republished by Antiwar.com, Common Dreams, Lobe Lob, Reddit, Transcend.org and Transnational.org]

As a Saudi-led military coalition continues to pound rebel targets in Yemen, the country is plunging into a humanitarian crisis. Civilian casualties are mounting. With U.S. logistical support, the Saudis are attempting to re-instate the country’s exiled government — which enjoys the backing of the West and the Sunni Gulf monarchies — in the face of a military offensive by Houthi rebels from northern Yemen. None of this had to be…

The Latest Blow to Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Foreign Policy In Focus & Antiwar.com January 13, 2015
Though not technically using its veto power, the Obama administration is responsible for the defeat of a draft UN Security Council resolution passed at the end of last month calling for a “just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reiterating a series of UN Security Council resolutions supported by previous administrations, the recent draft resolution underscored Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, called for security guarantees (including international peacekeepers), and even allowed Israel to incorporate most of the illegal settlements.

Gaza and the Bipartisan War on Human Rights

Foreign Policy In Focus October 17, 2014
[Republished by Counterpunch, Lobe Log,
Militarist-Monitor, and URUKNET.info]
   During and after Israel’s war on Gaza, bipartisan congressional majorities have worked to undermine war crimes investigations by the United Nations and human rights groups. Israel’s seven weeks of attacks this summer on heavily populated civilian neighborhoods in Gaza has led to unprecedented concern among Americans who, while still broadly supportive of Israel, found the attacks to be disproportionate and unnecessary. Close to 1,500 Palestinian civilians in Gaza were killed in the Israeli attacks—more of 500 of whom were children—and 18,000 homes were destroyed, leaving over 100,000 people homeless…

U.S. Leadership Against Russia Crippled By Its Own Hypocrisy

Foreign Policy In Focus September 15, 2014
[Republished by Common Dreams and Transnational.org]
   Washington’s major limitation towards Russia is not a lack of military leadership, but a lack of moral leadership. The fragile ceasefire between the U.S.-backed Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels could help pave the way to a peaceful resolution to the conflict—or simply postpone a worsening of the crisis. Unfortunately, Washington’s leadership of international efforts against Russian aggression has been severely compromised by its own hypocrisy and double standards.

U.S. Culpability in the Failure of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

Foreign Policy In Focus June 5, 2014 published this first
[Republished by Huffington Post and Uruknet]
Then the Santa Cruz Sentinel July 6 published a revised version
[Republished by Antiwar.com, Common Dreams, FreedomsPhoenix and Znetwork.org]
The Obama administration deserves much of the blame for the failure of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. It had originally been hoped that the United States would present a binding framework along the lines of what moderate Israeli and Palestinian political leaders had agreed to in unofficial talks in Geneva in 2003… The Palestinian government agreed to these terms. Israel rejected them. Rather than make public this framework, and thereby hope the Israeli public would pressure its right-wing government to compromise, the Obama administration instead insisted that “both sides” had shown a lack of will to compromise.

Egyptian Junta Claims U.S. Conspiracy While Accepting U.S. Support

Foreign Policy In Focus February 21, 2014
[Republished by Common Dreams]
   Egypt’s U.S.-backed regime now claims that the progressive, anti-authoritarian activists that brought down Mubarak are simply U.S. agents. Three years ago, three Arab dictators were ousted in the largely nonviolent uprisings of what has become known as the Arab Spring. In Tunisia, with the adoption of a progressive democratic draft constitution, the future in that country is looking positive. In Yemen, the democratic evolution remains stagnant amid enormous challenges, but there are still signs of hope. In Egypt, however, autocratic rule has reasserted itself with a vengeance.

Congress vs. Obama on Iran: Washington’s Warmongers Take Aim At Iran Diplomacy

[Foreign Policy In Focus, “Z” & Alternet] Hardliners in Tehran are not happy with the recent rapprochement between the United States and Iran and the related progress in negotiations to address Western concerns about the Iranian nuclear program. But the bigger threat may come from hardliners in the Washington, including prominent Democrats. As the first step in a de-escalation deal whose details have yet to be worked out, Iran would agree to strict safeguards to prevent the enrichment of uranium to a degree that could be used for the development of nuclear weapons. In return, the US would agree to a partial lifting of economic sanctions. Further lessening of sanctions would be dependent on further Iranian concessions. A bipartisan coalition on Capitol Hill is pushing legislation that would make such an interim agreement impossible.
[See the FPIF LINK, or Alternet, and the follow-up op-ed, Congress seeks to undermine Obama’s rapprochement with Iran
in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Nov. 15, 2013.
]

The Nobel Committee’s Rebuke to Washington’s Unilateralism

Foreign Policy In Focus October 11, 2013
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), one of the most effective instruments for international arms control, sends an important message to those who have insisted that unilateral military action is the best means to eliminate and prevent the use of these deadly agents. Although a case can be made that it is more appropriate for the Peace Prize to go to individuals struggling for justice rather than to international organizations…

The U.S. and Chemical Weapons: No Leg to Stand On

If, as alleged, the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons, it would indeed be a serious development, constituting a breach of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, one of the world?s most important disarmament treaties, which banned the use of chemical weapons.

In 1993, the international community came together to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, a binding international treaty that would also prohibit the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, and transfer or use of chemical weapons. Syria is one of only eight of the world?s 193 countries not party to the convention.

However, U.S. policy regarding chemical weapons has been so inconsistent and politicized that the United States is in no position to take leadership in response to any use of such weaponry by Syria.

The controversy over Syria?s chemical weapons stockpiles is not new. Both the Bush administration and Congress, in the 2003 Syria Accountability Act, raised the issue of Syria?s chemical weapons stockpiles, specifically Syria’s refusal to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. The failure of Syria to end its chemical weapons program was deemed sufficient grounds by a large bipartisan majority of Congress to impose strict sanctions on that country. Syria rejected such calls for unilateral disarmament on the grounds that it was not the only country in the region that had failed to sign the CWC?nor was it the first country in the region to develop chemical weapons, nor did it have the largest chemical weapons arsenal in the region.

Indeed, neither Israel nor Egypt, the world?s two largest recipients of U.S. military aid, is a party to the convention either. Never has Congress or any administration of either party called on Israel or Egypt to disarm their chemical weapons arsenals, much less threatened sanctions for having failed to do so. U.S. policy, therefore, appears to be that while it is legitimate for its allies Israel and Egypt to refuse to ratify this important arms control convention, Syria needed to be singled out for punishment for its refusal.

The first country in the Middle East to obtain and use chemical weapons was Egypt, which used phosgene and mustard gas in the mid-1960s during its intervention in Yemen?s civil war. There is no indication Egypt has ever destroyed any of its chemical agents or weapons. The U.S.-backed Mubarak regime continued its chemical weapons research and development program until its ouster in a popular uprising two years ago, and the program is believed to have continued subsequently.

Israel is widely believed to have produced and stockpiled an extensive range of chemical weapons and is engaged in ongoing research and development of additional chemical weaponry. (Israel is also believed to maintain a sophisticated biological weapons program, which is widely thought to include anthrax and more advanced weaponized agents and other toxins, as well as a sizable nuclear weapons arsenal with sophisticated delivery systems.) For more than 45 years, the Syrians have witnessed successive U.S. administration provide massive amounts of armaments to a neighboring country with a vastly superior military capability which has invaded, occupied, and colonized Syria’s Golan province in the southwest. In 2007, the United States successfully pressured Israel to reject peace overtures from the Syrian government in which the Syrians offered to recognize Israel and agree to strict security guarantees in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied Syrian territory.

The U.S. position that Syria must unilaterally give up its chemical weapons and missiles while allowing a powerful and hostile neighbor to maintain and expand its sizable arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons is simply unreasonable. No country, whether autocratic or democratic, could be expected to accept such conditions.

This is part of a longstanding pattern of hostility by the United States towards international efforts to eliminate chemical weapons through a universal disarmament regime. Instead, Washington uses the alleged threat from chemical weapons as an excuse to target specific countries whose governments are seen as hostile to U.S. political and economic interests.

One of the most effective instruments for international arms control in recent years has been the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which enforces the Chemical Weapons Convention by inspecting laboratories, factories, and arsenals, and oversees the destruction of chemical weapons. The organization?s most successful director general, first elected in 1997, was the Brazilian diplomat Jose Bustani, praised by the Guardian newspaper as a ?workaholic? who has ?done more in the past five years to promote world peace than anyone.? Under his strong leadership, the number of signatories of the treaty grew from 87 to 145 nations, the fastest growth rate of any international organization in recent decades, and ? during this same period ? his inspectors oversaw the destruction of 2 million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world?s chemical weapons facilities. Bustani was re-elected unanimously in May 2000 for a five-year term and was complimented by Secretary of State Colin Powell for his ?very impressive? work.

However, by 2002, the United States began raising objections to Bustani?s insistence that the OPCW inspect U.S. chemical weapons facilities with the same vigor it does for other signatories. More critically, the United States was concerned about Bustani?s efforts to get Iraq to sign the convention and open their facilities to surprise inspections as is done with other signatories. If Iraq did so, and the OPCW failed to locate evidence of chemical weapons that Washington claimed Saddam Hussein?s regime possessed, it would severely weaken American claims that Iraq was developing chemical weapons. U.S. efforts to remove Bustani by forcing a recall by the Brazilian government failed, as did a U.S.-sponsored vote of no confidence at the United Nations in March. That April, the United States began putting enormous pressure on some of the UN?s weaker countries to support its campaign to oust Bustani and threatened to withhold the United States? financial contribution to the OPCW, which constituted more than 20 percent of its entire budget. Figuring it was better to get rid of its leader than risk the viability of the whole organization, a majority of nations, brought together in an unprecedented special session called by the United States, voted to remove Bustani.

The Case of Iraq

The first country to allegedly use chemical weapons in the Middle East was Great Britain in 1920, as part of its efforts to put down a rebellion by Iraqi tribesmen when British forces seized the country following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. According to Winston Churchill, who then held the position of Britain?s Secretary of State for War and Air, “I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes.?

It was the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, that used chemical weapons on a scale far greater than any country had dared since the weapons were banned nearly 90 years ago. The Iraqis inflicted close to 100,000 casualties among Iranian soldiers using banned chemical agents, resulting in 20,000 deaths and tens of thousands of long-term injuries.

They were unable to do this alone, however. Despite ongoing Iraqi support for Abu Nidal and other terrorist groups during the 1980s, the Reagan administration removed Iraq from the State Department?s list of state sponsors of terrorism in order to provide the regime with thiodiglycol, a key component in the manufacture of mustard gas, and other chemical precursors for their weapons program. Walter Lang, a senior official with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, noted how “the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern” to President Reagan and other administration officials since they “were desperate to make sure that Iraq did not lose.” Lang noted that the DIA believed Iraq?s use of chemical was ?seen as inevitable in the Iraqi struggle for survival.? In fact, DIA personnel were dispatched to Baghdad during the war to provide Saddam Hussein?s regime with U.S. satellite data on the location of Iranian troop concentrations in the full knowledge that the Iraqis were using chemical weapons against them.

Even the Iraqi regime?s use of chemical weapons against civilians was not seen as particularly problematic. The March 1988 massacre in the northern Iraqi city of Halabja, where Saddam’s forces murdered up to 5,000 Kurdish civilians with chemical weapons, was downplayed by the Reagan administration, with some officials even falsely claiming that Iran was actually responsible. The United States continued sending aid to Iraq even after the regime?s use of poison gas was confirmed.

When a 1988 Senate Foreign Relations committee staff report brought to light Saddam’s policy of widespread extermination in Iraqi Kurdistan, Senator Claiborne Pell introduced the Prevention

of Genocide Act to put pressure on the Iraqi regime, but the Bush administration successfully moved to have the measure killed. This came despite evidence emerging from UN reports in 1986 and 1987, prior to the Halabja tragedy, documenting Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians?allegations that were confirmed both by investigations from the CIA and from U.S. embassy staff who had visited Iraqi Kurdish refugees in Turkey. However, not only was the United States not particularly concerned about Iraq?s use of chemical weapons, the Reagan administration continued supporting the Iraqi government’s procurement effort of materials necessary for their development.

Given the U.S. culpability in the deaths of tens of thousands of people by Iraqi chemical weapons less than 25 years ago, the growing calls for the United States to go to war with Syria in response to that regime?s alleged use of chemical weapons that killed a few dozen people leads even many of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad?s fiercest opponents to question U.S. motivations.

This is not the only reason U.S. credibility on the issue of chemical weapons is questionable, however.

After denying and covering up Iraq?s use of chemical weapons in the late 1980s, the U.S. government?first under President Bill Clinton and then under President George W. Bush?began insisting that Iraq?s alleged chemical weapons stockpile was a dire threat, even though the country had completely destroyed its stockpile by 1993 and completely dismantled its chemical weapons program.

Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel?when they served in the U.S. Senate in 2002?all voted to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq, insisting that Iraq still had a chemical weapons arsenal that was so extensive it constituted a serious threaten to the national security of the United States, despite the fact that Iraq had rid itself of all such weapons nearly a decade earlier. As a result, it is not unreasonable to question the accuracy of any claims they might make today in regard to Syria?s alleged use of chemical weapons.

It should also be noted that many of today?s most outspoken congressional advocates for U.S. military intervention in Syria in response to the Damascus regime?s alleged use of chemical weapons were among the most strident advocates in 2002-2003 for invading Iraq. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), whom the Democrats have chosen to be their ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was among the right-wing minority of House Democrats who voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction. When no such weapons were found, Engel came up with the bizarre allegation that ?it would not surprise me if those weapons of mass destruction that we cannot find in Iraq wound up and are today in Syria.?

Engel is currently the chief sponsor of the Free Syria Act of 2013 (H.R. 1327), which would authorize the United States to provide arms to Syrian rebels.

UN resolutions

Unlike the case of Saddam Hussein?s Iraq, there are no UN Security Council resolutions specifically demanding that Syria unilaterally disarm its chemical weapons or dismantle its chemical weapons program. Syria is believed to have developed its chemical weapons program only after Israel first developed its chemical, biological, and nuclear programs, all of which still exist today and by which the Syrians still feel threatened.

However, UN Security Council Resolution 687, the resolution passed at the end of the 1991 Gulf War demanding the destruction of Iraq?s chemical weapons arsenal, also called on member states ?to work towards the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of such weapons.?

Syria has joined virtually all other Arab states in calling for such a ?weapons of mass destruction-free zone? for the entire Middle East. In December 2003, Syria introduced a UN Security Council resolution reiterating this clause from 12 years earlier, but the resolution was tabled as a result of a threatened U.S. veto. As I wrote at time, in reference to the Syrian Accountability Act, ?By imposing strict sanctions on Syria for failing to disarm unilaterally, the administration and Congress has roundly rejected the concept of a WMD-free zone or any kind of regional arms control regime. Instead, the United States government is asserting that it has the authority to say which country can have what kind of weapons systems, thereby enforcing a kind of WMD apartheid, which will more likely encourage, rather than discourage, the proliferation of such dangerous weapons.?

A case can be made, then, that had the United States pursued a policy that addressed the proliferation of non-conventional weapons through region-wide disarmament rather than trying to single out Syria, the Syrian regime would have rid itself of its chemical weapons some years earlier along with Israel and Egypt, and the government?s alleged use of such ordnance?which is now propelling the United States to increase its involvement in that country?s civil war?would have never become an issue.