The “isolated event” in affairs among nations is rare, although most events are sold to us as that. Pearl Harbor was the result of a long string of hostilities, the most flagrant an embargo placed on Japan by the United States, virtually assuring a war. 9/11 was an act of desperation brought about by the need for the United States to preserve the petrodollar (the dollar as the world currency for trading oil). The 2011 attack on Libya was merely a continuation of that ongoing battle.
I’ve always been curious about one peculiar “isolated event.” On July 3, 1988 the USS Vincennes, an “Aegis” class warship, was provocatively in Iranian waters. Later that it day shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, Flight 655, which was making a routine puddle jump to Dubai, killing all 290 people aboard. They’ve always claimed it was an accident. I’ve never for a second believed that. But we’ll never have an admission of guilt, so there will always be that lingering doubt. Perhaps they just screwed up. Maybe it was an accident. However, it should be viewed in larger perspective.
In the wake of the shoot-down the Pentagon brass did what they do so well, lied and covered up and handed out ribbons and medals to all the (mostly unwitting) participants. It should have been case closed, but wasn’t. It was an event in a longer string of events. It runs something like this:
- 1979: The US puppet, strongman, the Shah of Iran, is removed from power by violent revolution.
- September 22, 1980: As if on command, another US puppet state, Iraq, under the rule of Saddam Hussein, invades Iran. A bloody war ensues.
- Late 1980’s: Iran is prevailing in the conflict, and the US has moved its fleet into the Persian Gulf to show the flag. This is done under the guise of protecting merchant ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz.
- March 16,1988: Iraqi forces, overstretched, cannot respond to Iranian provocations near the town of Halabja, and so resort to a poison gas attack there. 3-5,000 civilians are killed. The US assists in this affair, providing logistical support to Iraq.
- July 3, 1988: The Vincennes shoots down the Iranian airliner.
Oops! Now, in that context, especially given the hostile posturing of the Vincennes in Iranian waters, and the sophistication of the vessel (a billion dollar technological marvel able to detect and respond to as many as 200 missile attacks at once), an observer from, say, Jupiter, might look at the act and say “Wow. That was deliberate. They were sending a message.” They were telling Iran to stand down, to cease its war against Iraq, as it was winning.
It doesn’t end there.
- December 21, 1988: A bomb explodes aboard Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 aboard. On the surface, it appears to be Iranian retaliation for Flight 655.
- July 25, 1990: US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie relays to Saddam Hussein the official US position that his dispute with Kuwait is an Arab matter, and that the US has no position on the matter.
- August 2, 1990: Iraq invades Kuwait.
The table is now set for the First Gulf War, which will be a marvelous display of new weaponry undergoing field trials. There is no intent by the US to conquer Iraq, but merely to disable it, so the attack concentrates on the civilian infrastructure.Here’s one report on that war, years after the fact:
It is vital to understand that the first “hot” Gulf War was waged as much against the people of Iraq as against the Republican Guard. The U.S. and its allies destroyed Iraq’s water, sewage and water-purification systems and its electrical grid. Nearly every bridge across the Tigris and Euphrates was demolished. They struck twenty-eight hospitals and destroyed thirty-eight schools. They hit all eight of Iraq’s large hydropower dams. They attacked grain silos and irrigation systems.
Farmlands near Basra were inundated with saltwater as a result of allied attacks. More than 95 per cent of Iraq’s poultry farms were destroyed, as were 3.3 million sheep and more than 2 million cows. The U.S. and its allies bombed textile plants, cement factories and oil refineries, pipelines and storage facilities, all of which contributed to an environmental and economic nightmare that continued nearly unabated over twelve years.
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, The Thirteen Years’ War (Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia)
In order to posture for the attack, which was to be viewed as retaliation for aggression, the US needed to assemble a “coalition of the willing,” and regional players were seen as essential cover. Two countries that had been involved in the Lockerbie incident had to be forgiven – Syria and Iran. That event had to be blamed on someone else, and Libya was chosen as the patsy.
It doesn’t end there, of course. Libya, punished for something it did not do, nonetheless needed to maintain relations with western powers, and so agreed to ‘fess up, paying $2 billion in damages. However, by 2011, the Libyan government is struggling under those payments, and so was in rebellion, setting up a gold dinar currency for trading its oil. Thus ensued the 2011 attack which decimated the country and saw its leader brutally murdered in public. Again, it was about the petrodollar.
In Western news and entertainment media, each of the events above is portrayed as isolated, usually with the US or its allies as victims. Far from reality, but not unusual in world affairs throughout history, each event is one real thing plus a cover story. The attention span of the typical US news consumer does now allow for connection of dots. Ever.
But everything is connected to everything.
I was triggered to write the above by a July 13, 1992 piece of investigative journalism published by Newsweek called “Sea of Lies,” by John Barry and Rogers Charles and others. (It seems so long ago that we actually had investigative journalists.) Throughout the piece, which is basically a limited hangout, I was looking for signs of deliberate intent on the part of the US in shooting down the Iranian airliner. There are only hints, such as
- “Over this erratic “net,” a few seconds after 9:50, someone called out that the incoming plane was a “possible Astro” – the code word for an F-14. No one was ever able to find out who.
- Then something happened that psychologists call “scenario fulfillment” – you see what you expect. Petty Officers Anderson and Leach both began singing out that the aircraft, now definitively tagged on the big screen as an F-14, was descending and picking up speed.
- Most mysteriously, [Rear Adm. William ] Fogarty told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Vincennes had been racing to rescue a Liberian tanker, the Stoval, that morning. There is no such tanker reported in any ship registry. According to two sources, including a naval officer involved in the investigation, the Stoval was a decoy, a phantom conjured up by fake radio messages to lure out the Iranian gunboats. According to these sources, the Iranian aggression that Vice President Bush had so vigorously decried at the United Nations had in fact been in the trial run for an American sting operation.”
That is tantalizing, to say the least. Anyone who has read the details of the Tonkin Gulf affair knows that CIA routinely employs men under cover of various service branches, including the Navy. Most likely there were CIA agent aboard the Vincennes, especially given that a “sting” was underway. We also know that the agent[s] aboard the USS Maddox in Tonkin were able to stage a fake attack on itself – the Tonkin Gulf incident – that was then used to justify the full-scale invasion of Vietnam.
Barry and Charles give us just a hint of a much deeper affair that will never be revealed to us in full. Just one question resonates with me, however: Who was that dude that yelled out “possible Astro!” to all aboard? Why in the hell were we never able to find out? That’s odd.