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An interview by Kourosh Ziabari
Colin S. Cavell: The U.S. supported Bin Laden to establish Al-Qaeda

"Iran has a long rich history dating back to ancient Greece and Rome, and its culture predates the rise of Islam in the seventh century. Reclaiming its dignity and patrimony in the 1979 revolution, it is logical that Iran would be the first country in the Middle East to break free from its imperial chains given its vast reservoir of history and knowledge from which to draw on in getting back on its feet," said Dr. Colin S. Cavell during an exclusive interview with Tehran Times.

23 September 2012


Dr. Colin S. Cavell

Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Dr. Cavell is an American author who earned his Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Dr. Cavell is currently Assistant Professor of Political Science at Bluefield State College in Bluefield, West Virginia and Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Colin S. Cavell is a member of the American Political Science Association (APSA) and the Massachusetts Community College Council (MCCC). His writings have appeared on Press TV and Global Research, among other publications.

What follows is the text of Tehran Times’ interview with Dr. Cavell in which a number of issues including the upcoming U.S. Presidential elections, freedom of speech in the United States, the hidden realities of the mainstream media, Islamophobia in the U.S. and the anti-Iranian plots of the U.S. government have been discussed.

Q: What’s your prediction for the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S.? Will President Obama successfully convince the American voters that he is a suitable choice for the Oval Office? Of course he failed to fulfill many of his promises, especially with regards to the foreign policy, reconciliation with the Muslim world and dialogue with Iran. What’s your idea?

A: If there is a fair vote, then Obama will win reelection to a second term this November. With Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, now designated as the official nominee of the Republican Party after their convention in Tampa, Florida in the last week of August, the race is now clearly between a White venture capitalist millionaire and a Black law professor and community organizer.

The profit bubble for the top US capitalists during the George W. Bush years popped in 2008 causing widespread unemployment and misery to millions, as well as bringing to office the first African American in the nation’s history, and this is a significant development for the U.S. Bush spent billions to bail out the top banks and financiers, and Obama is trying to provide some relief to middle class Americans and workers who have been most severely impacted by the economic recession and depression of 2008-2009. Since taking office in 2009, Obama has tried traditional Keynesian measures, including increasing effective demand through increased government spending, but he has been largely hampered by a highly partisan Republican Party which is appalled both by the fact that a Black man has taken control of the nation’s highest political office and, as well, that he is attempting to implement the rudiments for a national healthcare program, which eventually could become as popular as the Social Security program implemented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935.

As a consequence, the Republican Party representatives in Congress have virtually blocked most of Obama’s initiatives in the last four years, and this includes Obama’s attempt to close the U.S. detention and torture camp in Guantanamo, Cuba. Many progressives here in the U.S. have been disappointed with Obama’s lackluster performance and may stay home during the upcoming presidential election. However, given the outrageous display of juvenile behavior by disgruntled capitalists who miss the casino years of the George W. Bush Administration and their Tea Party front organizations, many will turn out to the polls on November 6th to prevent these predatory capitalists, racists, and warmongers from returning to power. In addition, Obama is currently running at least ten percentage points ahead of Romney with women voters, and this could be the decisive group to clinch the election for Obama. Don’t get me wrong: Obama is a capitalist and is supportive of continued U.S. imperialist policies; but in the present election, he is definitely the lesser of two evils.

Q: The alternative press, over the past few weeks, reported that the Israeli officials have come to conclusion that Iran is not after nuclear weapons. So, what are these sanctions, war threats, assassinations and Stuxnet stuff all about? Why should Iran be the target of such an intensive campaign of economic sanctions that is damaging its economy?

A: The attacks on Iran, including U.S. sanctions, assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists by Israel and its Mujahedin-e-Khalq clients, insertion of computer viruses, or worms, like Stuxnet and Flame, to destabilize Iran’s nuclear centrifuge program, and the overall attempt to redirect the Arab Spring revolt against Iran and its ally Syria has its origin in a very scared and paranoid Saudi Arabia, whose aging monarch, King Abdullah, is, in his last days, fearful that the days of the House of Saud are numbered. And, he is correct, as the Arab peoples are fed up with the autocratic dictators which have ruled over them for the past thirty, forty, or even fifty years or more.

The complete loss of legitimacy of the Al-Khalifas in Bahrain was a wake-up call for the Saudi royals who reacted by sending in troops from the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council Peninsula Shield forces in March of 2011 in an attempt to wipe out the democratic activists and pacify the Kingdom, an effort which has been a dismal failure. Trying to get control of the massive rebellion against the 229-year-old Khalifa monarchy, both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain reached into its well-worn bag of tricks and began to accuse Iran as the instigator of this latest revolt.

Ever since the successful 1979 revolution in Iran against the pro-western dictator Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, when the Iranian people were able to reclaim their patrimony of vast reserves of oil and other natural resources, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with the other Persian Gulf monarchies, have been playing a two-track rear-guard action which entails portraying themselves, on the one hand, as the true interpreters and guides of Islam while, on the other hand, attempting to undermine and subvert the Iranian revolution hoping to install a counterrevolutionary regime, reclaiming control over Iranian oil, and thus putting a stop to anymore movement towards democracy in the Persian Gulf region.

However, with the successful ouster of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003, Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia, and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011, followed by the ouster of Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen this year, the Saudi royals have grown increasingly worried that their longtime ally and defender, the United States, may abandon them in a classic case of clausula rebus sic stantibus (Latin for "things thus standing") which, in international law, means that under changed conditions, prior agreements no longer hold validity.

And conditions have indeed changed. In the case of Saudi Arabia and the United States, the deal in question is the famous agreement between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Saudi Arabia’s Ibn Saud in the Great Bitter Lake in Egypt in 1945 wherein FDR promised U.S.-backed military security for the House of Saud and its regime in the Arabian Peninsula in exchange for steady and relatively cheap access to the Kingdom’s crude oil. Sensing correctly that the U.S. is in the process of restructuring its longtime relations with its Arab client states—in order to both bring some semblance of democracy to these states and, as well, to bring these states’ business production and cultural relations into the modern world—the Saudi regime is thus faced with an existential threat. Consequently, it has attempted to defend itself with the largest purchase of weapons from the U.S. in history worth over 60 billion dollars. It has increased its social welfare spending dramatically and has attempted to buy off its population with significant salary increases.

Moreover, in an effort to divert attention away from the internal corruption and lack of democratic freedoms in the Kingdom, the regime has, along with Israel and the U.S., instigated a massive western effort to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria which, if accomplished, will then set the stage—in their view—for a final confrontation with Iran. So, again, subverting and overthrowing the Iranian revolution is seen as the only solution to Saudi Arabia’s existential crisis, and this is why Iran is the current international scapegoat from a western power perspective.

Q: It was the United States which helped with the formation of Al-Qaeda in 1970s and 1980s. There’s considerable evidence that Osama Bin Laden was trained, equipped and financed by the CIA to counter the Soviet forces in the Afghanistan war. Now, the United States is adamantly endeavoring to dismantle Al-Qaeda. What’s your take on that?

A: Yes, Osama Bin Laden was recruited, trained, armed, and supported by the U.S. during its counter-revolutionary war with Afghanistan under Mohammad Najibullah from 1987 to 1992. After all, his father was one of the major contractors in Saudi Arabia, and his family’s billions have made them politically useful to both the House of Saud as well as to the Americans. There is much circumstantial evidence that this American support for Bin Laden allowed him to form Al-Qaeda ("the Base") in 1988-89, just as the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, in an attempt to covertly utilize Salafist fighters to aid and assist U.S. policy in the Middle East North Africa region. And while the U.S. has suffered some blowback for this, whether planned or not, there is no question that the Persian Gulf monarchs, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, see continued value in financing the fundamentalist arm of this movement.

We see evidence of this today with young Al-Qaeda operatives being flown to and trained in Turkey and then showing up in Syria armed to the teeth with weaponry and explosives and directed to fight against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, just as they were previously deposited in Libya last year to help overthrow Gaddafi. Officially, however, the U.S. is supposed to be against Al-Qaeda, which it holds responsible for the attacks on the U.S. World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. But Bush gave away the lie back in 2002 when he said that he just doesn’t spend much time worrying about catching Osama bin Laden as the culprit responsible for this crime and thus left it to Obama to kill Bin Laden nine years later in 2011.

Q: What’s your viewpoint regarding the United States’ stance on the Arab Spring? From one hand, we find the United States totally silent about the ongoing violence in Bahrain and the regime’s crackdown on the freedom fighters, and from the other hand, we find Washington doing its best to take the chance of unrest in Syria to change the government and overthrow President Assad. What’s your analysis?

A: While neither the U.S. nor anyone else had control over the actions of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi when he set himself ablaze back in December 2010 to protest continued harassment and confiscation of his wares by a local municipal official in Tunisia, thus sparking the fire of the subsequent movement for democracy across the Arab world which has since become referred to as the "Arab Spring", it is evident that the U.S. took advantage of the anger, frustration, and exasperation of the Arab peoples who have grown tired of living under U.S.-backed autocratic dictators for decades and began a process of resetting or restructuring its relationships with its Arab client regimes in order to, firstly, get ahead of this movement for democratic change in the region and, secondly, implement democratic structural changes in these regimes so as to extend U.S. hegemonic control over this oil-rich region for at least another generation.

So far, they have successfully shepherded major transitions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Should this resetting of the relationship with its Arab clients be successful, Barack Obama will definitely be credited for this. Taking over the helm of the U.S. ship of state after the disastrous Bush years, the only way to justify this eight-year-long war against Iraq is to posit it as the first U.S.-backed democratic transition in the MENA which brought down the longtime dictator and U.S. client Saddam Hussein. While its need for oil underlies most of its actions in the region, the U.S. wishes to demonstrate that it is a benevolent imperial guardian and has thus heard the cries of its Arab citizenry for sanity and some semblance of democratic governance.

Going after the secular dictators in North Africa and in Yemen constituted the first stage of this American plan to transition these governments towards multi-party contestations for governance, relaxation of state security policies, allowance of some degree of freedom of speech, expression, and belief, establishment of an independent judicial system, and freedom of the press, while strengthening ties with each countries’ ultimate arbiter of sovereign power, their respective militaries.

Barack Obama stated that he would do as much in this direction when he gave his speech addressed to the Muslim world in Cairo back in 2009. Should Obama be reelected in November to a second term, you will likely see his Administration begin the implementation of the second stage of this imperial restructuring beginning with Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and provides the U.S. with a major staging area to monitor and control developments in the MENA region. U.S. officials are fully conscious, however, that a democratic transition in Bahrain will require a remake of the other five countries which comprise the six-nation Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, as the monarchical regimes in each of these states enjoys little to no real domestic support and, as in Bahrain, are roundly hated by their domestic populations.

As for enabling, facilitating, and providing logistical and intelligence support for the Saudi-led and financed instigation in Syria, Obama is attempting to cover his right flank and ward off domestic and foreign critics of his Middle East foreign policy while keeping them at bay. So far, he has been successful in largely muting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s continuous clamor for war against Iran by pointing to Syria as the immediate obstacle. As well, encouraging the Saudi adventure into Syria not only further drains the coffers of the Kingdom’s treasury, as well as those of Qatar and the other supportive GCC monarchs, and aids the US economy with proliferating war contracts but, as well, it weakens the House of Saud of its Salafist fighters it can count on to defend its deformed government thus setting itself up for the final coup de grâce following Obama’s reelection. Should Iran, Russia, Iraq, China and others fail to logically act to defend the government of Bashar al-Assad against this gross violation of international law, then Obama will have another victory to add to his imperial restructuring of the Middle East without having to commit any troops or much US treasure. Not trusting Obama’s avowed support for its regime, look for Saudi money to begin to pour into Republican Party campaign coffers in the weeks ahead.

Q: Over the course of the 20th century, the United States waged and participated in tens of wars and military expeditions around the world. It’s now laying the groundwork for new wars to take part in. How is it possible to justify these wars? Is it equitable to say that the U.S. wants to export its values of freedom and democracy to other nation and that’s why it ignites wars?

A: As a primarily privately owned capitalistic economy, the in-built mechanism for profit maximization in the U.S. economy allows, requires, and demands that capitalist firms expand their market share on pain of extermination by their competitors. Capitalist competition was responsible for the colonization of the entire world in the latter quarter of the nineteenth century. It was the intensity and associated violence of this effort which gave birth to the first socialist revolution in Russia in 1917. Continuous technological and political developments throughout the subsequent Cold War with the Soviet Union witnessed numerous wars fought over who will ultimately have control over the world’s resources and under what type of economic system.

The Soviet model died out in December of 1991, and the U.S. model, which had also largely ran its course, has been trying to adapt to the new international conditions ever since. Starting with the Reagan Administration, the U.S. attempted to emphasize the privately-controlled side of is economy and all that entails, especially at a time of capitalist euphoria over the demise of the Soviet Union and its east European satellites. This led to numerous wars abroad and increasing misery at home as disparities in wealth have ballooned under such policies. But history had already demonstrated that uncontrolled capitalism leads to disaster, and George W. Bush was the culmination of this experiment in casino capitalism.

Obama is pushing more of the publicly-controlled side of the U.S. economy though he still wants to retain the dominant private capitalist nature of the US economy. The one-sidedness of each of these views will not bring stability to the U.S., as corporations in capitalist societies control the government and can manipulate it to serve their own ends as conditions necessitate. What’s needed is a different economic system which requires firms to be structured under democratic control and where its workers are in charge of all decisions from production to consumption to investment. As long as a tiny group of capitalists are calling the shots and reaping the benefits and are not subject to democratic control, then wars will continue to proliferate unceasingly.

Q: Why is it that the mainstream media never provide the progressive and anti-war authors and journalists like you to publish their viewpoints and voice their opposition to the interventionism and imperialism of the hegemonic powers? Are these media outlets afraid of losing their benefactors and supporters who are mainly influential, well-off Jews?

A: Capitalists come in a variety of different religious confessions and are not all well-off Jews. Indeed most American capitalists are White Anglo-Saxon Protestant males. And, as capitalists, they, like their competitors, are interested in maximizing their profits. The easiest way to do this, of course, is to parody the government line and support its policies. However, appearing as uncritical sycophants can also be bad for profits, so some degree of oppositional critique is always necessary in order to claim the mantle of independence by media outlets. It is true that critiques which are either too strong or seemingly unbalanced find it difficult to get published in the mainstream American media, and, of course, the dominate thinking on issues will always be promoted in editorials, as well as in the larger cultural apparatus.

However, there are, almost always, newspapers, journals, cable cast shows, etc. where obscure or minority or seemingly absurd voices can get aired somewhere in the U.S., though this does not guarantee either large-scale readership nor acceptance of one’s views and/or perspective. But, by and large, as Herman and Chomsky explained in their work Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), it is the profit motive which dictates all successful forms of media in the U.S. including print, radio, television, etc. to opt for stability, subsequently distorting their editorial objectivity in favor of established bias. Consequently, the public interest is often subordinated to the interest of the profit motive of capitalist firms. Reporters, academics, and researchers are thus well aware that being too critical or probing will oftentimes find them excluded from access to news developments and business and government leaders as well as scaring off their regular advertisers, funding sources, and patrons. The system is thusly structured to distort the truth in favor of the powers that be.

Q: Doesn’t the U.S. government’s treatment of Julian Assange represent some kind of violation of freedom of information? Joe Biden called him a "high-tech terrorist" and Newt Gingrich demanded his prosecution. What’s your idea? Doesn’t the U.S. government’s attitude seem hypocritical?

A: Julian Assange, through his website WikiLeaks and its supportive whistleblowers, has apparently revealed much of the inner workings and decision making that underlies a good deal of contemporary U.S. imperialistic policies as well as the thinking of their client regimes. As a consequence, the U.S. wants to make an example of Assange and his accomplices by prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law including using extra-legal measures to target him if necessary. So, yes, the U.S. position is entirely hypocritical in that its actions support secret government based upon lies and deceit while it continues to criticize other governments of pursuing these very same actions. The U.S. Supreme court has previously ruled (New York Times, Co. v. United States, 1971) in favor of First Amendment rights to publish so-called "secret" information in the famous case against Pentagon Papers activist Daniel Ellsberg, so if there is another test case with Assange, the legal precedent is in his favor.

Q: What’s your idea regarding the expansion of anti-Islamic and Islamophobic sentiments in the United States? Why has the American society become so intolerant with its Muslim minority? Should it be blamed on President Bush whose War on Terror was some kind of War on Islam?

A: The class-divided nature of the U.S. capitalist system encourages it to lash out at anything other than this basic class contradiction which underlies all problems in our society. Whether through racism, sexism, Islamophobia, whatever, the capitalist class in the U.S. will always search for and find wedge issues to utilize to divide and conquer its working-class counterparts in order to retain their political power, privilege, and control over society. Because Islam is not as well established here in the U.S. as other religious denominations, and because much of the current blowback from U.S. imperial policies originates from predominantly Muslim countries, then it becomes useful fodder to serve American capitalist class interests pitting hard-working non-Muslim Americans against their American Muslim counterparts and thus diverting everyone’s attention away from the real puppeteers who are responsible for the continued poverty and immiseration of all workers.

Q: And finally, what’s your viewpoint on the U.S. media’s portrayal of Iran and its people? I think as a result of the biased and lopsided coverage, many American people are unaware of Iran’s rich culture, civilization and its people’s cosmopolitan lifestyle. What’s your view?

A: Iran has a long rich history dating back to ancient Greece and Rome, and its culture predates the rise of Islam in the seventh century. Reclaiming its dignity and patrimony in the 1979 revolution, it is logical that Iran would be the first country in the Middle East to break free from its imperial chains given its vast reservoir of history and knowledge from which to draw on in getting back on its feet.

The extent and richness of Persian culture intimidates the monarchs across the Persian Gulf, as their regimes are relatively new creations forged by or with the assistance of imperialist powers only within the last 200 years or less. And Iran’s greatest asset today, and what most threatens its western enemies, is the democratic aspects of its government, aspects which are imbued with an ethos which is anathema to the autocratic and hereditary Arab despots which are trying to fend off the rising democratic aspirations of its own peoples. To the extent Iran continues to develop as the champion of democracy in the Persian Gulf region, it will become invincible and a beacon to be emulated throughout the region.

Interview by Kourosh Ziabari
Tehran Times, 7 September, 2012.


Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian journalist and media correspondent. He writes for Tehran Times and Press TV.

Source: Kourosh Ziabari