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Reply to Prof. Juan Cole

Prof. Juan Cole was kind enough to link to my article Eye-Opening Graphic: Map of Muslim Countries that the U.S. and Israel Have Bombed.

He reproduced this image I created:

 (Note: Image quality has improved, thanks to a reader named Mohamed S.)

However, he wrote:

(I generally agree, but there are a couple of problems here, see below)

Prof. Cole’s first problem with my article was with regard to shading Iran red (red = countries the U.S. or Israel have bombed):

I may be having a senior moment, but I actually don’t think the US has bombed Iran. It shot down an Iranian civilian air liner in 1988 and has backed the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) or People’s Jihadis to blow things up in Iran. It also gave tactical support to Saddam Hussein’s military in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, and so bombed Iran by proxy. But I can’t remember any direct US military strike on the country.

In my article, I explained why I shaded Iran red.  I wrote:

Under Barack Obama, the U.S. is currently bombing AfghanistanIraqPakistanYemenSomalia, and Libya.  According to some reports (see here and here), we can add Iran to this ever-expanding list.

There have been a series of explosions in Iran which many believe to be linked to America and/or Israel.  For example:

Iranian nuclear scientist killed in bomb attack

Bomb attacks have killed a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran, state TV reported today.

To me, a bomb is a bomb is a bomb–no matter how it is delivered.

Just today Haaretz is reporting:

Seven killed in explosion at Iranian steel mill linked with nuclear program

Explosion follows two blasts that occurred in Iran in recent weeks at sites linked to Tehran’s nuclear program.

At least seven people were killed Sunday night in an explosion at a steel mill in the Iranian city of Yazd. Foreign nationals, possibly North Korean nuclear arms experts, are believed to be among the dead.

The explosion follows two blasts that occurred in Iran in recent weeks at sites linked to Tehran’s nuclear program…

The explosions in the past few months join a series of assassination attempts on Iranian nuclear scientists over the past two years…

The Los Angeles Times writes:

Mysterious blasts, slayings suggest covert efforts in Iran

Attacks targeting nuclear scientists and sites lead some observers to believe that the U.S. and Israel are trying to derail Iran’s programs…

However, many former U.S. intelligence officials and Iran experts believe that the explosion — the most destructive of at least two dozen unexplained blasts in the last two years — was part of a covert effort by the U.S., Israel and others to disable Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. The goal, the experts say, is to derail what those nations fear is Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons capability and to stave off an Israeli or U.S. airstrike to eliminate or lessen the threat.

Therefore, I did not feel it unreasonable to include Iran in countries that America/Israel have bombed, although I did preface it with “[a]ccording to some experts…”

Then, Prof. Cole wrote:

Also, the US has had no base in Uzbekistan since 2005.

In my article, I hyperlinked to this BBC News article:

US troops returning to Uzbek base

Uzbekistan is once again allowing the US to use a base in the south of the country for operations in Afghanistan…

US troops were evicted from Uzbekistan in 2005 after the US condemned it for shooting protesters in Andijan city.

However, Prof. Cole is correct: these U.S. troops are using an Uzbek, not American, base.  This is something I should have pointed out and is an error on my part for which I thank Prof. Cole for pointing out.

Nonetheless, this error makes little substantive difference: there is still a U.S. military presence in that country, regardless of if they are stationed on a U.S. base, an Uzbek one, a farm house, or a dog house.

In retrospect, perhaps I should have entitled the image “Countries the U.S. and Israel Have Bombed and Have Troops Stationed in,” (which doesn’t flow from the tongue as easily).

Then, Prof. Cole wrote:

I also questioned Turkmenistan but found this.

In my article, I linked to this.

Lastly, Prof. Cole said:

Finally, there is a logical fallacy because having a US base in a country is the result of a bilateral agreement and it isn’t always unpopular, even at the level of the person on the street. In the Cold War, Turks were very happy to have the US presence to deter the Soviets.

I humbly disagree that this was “a logical fallacy” on my part.  I never denied that there was a substantial difference between a military base resulting from “a bilateral agreement” and one resulting from a military occupation.

However, there is also a difference between (say) “a bilateral agreement” with the U.K. on the one hand and Pakistan on the other.  The former is treated as an ally, whereas the latter is treated as a vassal state.  The U.S. strong-armed the Pakistani leadership into acquiescing to American demands (do what we want or else “we will bomb you back to the Stone Age”) even though it was clearly not in their national interest to do so (well, not being bombed back to the Stone Age made it their national interest).

This leads to the second issue: these “bilateral agreements” are often highly unpopular among the people of such countries.  As a democratic country, shouldn’t we care about the will of the people?  Or do we follow a long tradition of colonialism and make deals with the elite crony leadership that has ingratiated itself to us at the expense of their people?

Prof. Cole goes on to argue that U.S. military bases arranged through bilateral agreements aren’t “always unpopular, even at the level of the person on the street.”  He gives the example of Turkey in the Cold War.  However, there is a greater issue at stake here: even if a U.S. military base is popular in one particular country, we must consider its popularity in neighboring countries and the region overall.  If the Soviet Union had created a military base in Cuba (which the Cubans may have very much liked), would we have liked it?  Or would we have (rightfully) considered it threatening?

So, even if a U.S. base in (say) Saudi Arabia was arranged through “bilateral agreement” and was (let’s pretend) popular with the Saudi people, this would still be problematic since its presence is threatening to other countries in the region, whose people view the United States and Israel as the two greatest threats to their safety.

The bottom line is that the overwhelming military presence of the United States in the Greater Middle East is responsible for creating resentment in those people who are either living in lands we occupy, station our troops in, or whom we surround.

*  *  *  *  *

I should mention that I hold Prof. Juan Cole in very high regard.  He is a respected expert in the field, and I issue my response only very timidly.  Furthermore, I welcome the very real possibility that I am mistaken.

Update I:

Prof. Cole just added:

Still, that there are a lot of resentments because of knee-jerk US backing (since the late 1960s) for Israeli hawks and because of the way the US and its ally have sought hegemony in the region, so the mapmaker has a point.

I agree, but would just add that it adds resentment not just in people who live in Turkey but those who live in the region in general.

Lastly, I should point out that I doubt Turks still view the U.S. bases in their country positively, based on the fact that a plurality of Turks view America as the greatest threat to their national security (not surprisingly, Israel comes in at number 2).

Update II:

An Informed Comment reader named Shannon pointed out that in fact the United States bombed Iran in 1988 during Operating Praying Mantis, an act that “cannot be justified” according to the International Court of Justice.

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  • Danios

    @ Dmol:

    I do not think Afghanistan was or is a “just intervention.” It was and still is a war of aggression and occupation.

    As for Libya, I believe one could have a credible argument to make for that, but it’s no surprise that “the French and the British led the charge on this intervention” whereas the U.S. was “extremely reluctant to become involved in yet another war in the Muslim world.” (quotes from here)

    That this reluctance came in the only war out of all of America’s wars in the region that could be justifiable says a lot about U.S. priorities.

  • Hindutvadi Hitler lovers exposed
  • Safak

    “Lastly, I should point out that I doubt Turks still view the U.S. bases in their country positively,”

    You’re right, we do not view it positively. Its not because we view the bases themselves as a threat to us, but its because the US uses the airbase in Incirlik to bomb our neighbours, straining our relations with them. If the US used that airbase to bomb Iran tomorrow, what do you think Iran’s reaction would be? They would invade our airspace and bomb that base, dragging us into the war because of the US. The US might not care because their homeland is far far away, but we are right next to these countries and we suffer the consequences.

  • JD

    Believing Atheist

    Do you remember this

    Most of the leaders were also pressured into helping like Pakistan or they were told they were on the list They really did not have a choice

  • Dmol

    Is it really fair to lump just interventions such as libya and afghanistan alongside the likes of iraq? Surely a bit of context should be added.

  • Khalid Shah

    Thank you Sir D. and Rob,
    I stand corrected. But also there maybe a point in making the map in a timeframe,i.e., countries where x and y have bombed or have/had bases in the past 5 years. Don’t know if it changes the colors but might make a stronger point in connecting the actions and the response in a timeframe.

  • TheBig_T

    again with the snakes, looks like you have some phobia from snakes.
    and my favorite animal is a snake, if you don’t like it go back home to Satan. without snakes many of the antivenoms and other medicines wouldn’t have been created

  • Abdul-Rahman

    As for what Prof. Cole said about Turkey it is not entirely true, Turkey witnessed quasi civil wars throughout long periods of the “Cold War” between right wing groups (including the US backed Turkish authoritarian military often in league with quasi fascist armed groups in Turkey, militias, like the Grey Wolves) and leftists within Turkey (who were accused of being backed by the Soviets).

    Turkey witnesses military coup d’etats in 1960, 1971 (which had a lot to do with the right vs. left conflict within Turkey with the right wing being led by the US backed powerful, again authoritarian, Turkish military), 1980 (again in the context of proxy fights of the “Cold War”), and 1997 (obviously after the fall of the Soviet Union).

    Today there are regular, large protests against the plans of the Erdogan government to allow a NATO missile “defense” shield on Turkish land that many view as a Western imperialist tool against Russia, China, and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

  • Everytime I see usernames like “Truthseeker” or “freethinker” etc. etc., a red flag comes up in my mind that that person is most likely a obnoxious, pompous bigot.

    It has never failed me…

  • Rob

    @Khalid Shah – nope, that one was in Iraq (about 20 miles outside Baghdad): the Osirak reactor.

  • JD
  • JD

    West Bank settlers attack Israeli soldiers

    Jewish settlers and activists angry with rumours of plans to dismante illegal settler outposts in the West Bank have clashed with Israeli troops.

    About 50 people broke into the Ephraim Brigade’s base near Qalqilya, setting tyres alight, throwing stones and damaging vehicles, the military said.

    The Ephraim Brigade commander’s 4×4 vehicle was also pelted with stones.

    The outposts are illegal under Israeli law and Israel agreed to remove them under the 2003 Road Map peace plan.

    In an separate incident, settlers entered a closed military zone along the West Bank’s border with Jordan.

    They briefly occupied abandoned churches near Qasr al-Yahud on the River Jordan, which is believed to be the site of Jesus’s baptism.

    Police said 17 people, including three minors, were arrested.

    Israeli media report that they were protesting against the Jordanian government’s attempt to stop the renovation of a walkway used by non-Muslims to enter the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif in East Jerusalem.

    A group of ultra-Orthodox Jews also entered Joseph’s Tomb near the northern city of Nablus overnight to pray without permission. Palestinian security forces opened fire and one person was reportedly hurt.

    They briefly occupied abandoned churches near Qasr al-Yahud on the River Jordan, which is believed to be the site of Jesus’s baptism.

    wait i thought these Zioistscum only hated the terrorist moslems and the only people fighting the occupation were the moslems

  • JD

    Vandals attack disused Jerusalem mosque
    14 December 2011 Last updated at 06:42 ET

    Vandals have set fire to a disused 12th Century mosque in the centre of Jerusalem and left graffiti insulting the Prophet Muhammad on its walls.
    Jerusalem’s mayor denounced the attack, which caused no structural damage.
    The incident is being linked to a wave of attacks by Jewish settlers and right-wing extremists angered by what they see as Israeli government attempts to restrict settlement building.
    Early on Tuesday, protesters broke into an Israeli army base in the West Bank.
    They set tyres alight and damaged vehicles inside the Ephraim Brigade’s headquarters near Qalqilya, officials said. The brigade’s commander was also slightly injured when his vehicle was pelted with stones.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the violence “intolerable” and told security forces to “to act aggressively” against those responsible.

    ‘Price-tag’ attacks

    The Nebi Akasha mosque is located in the middle of an ultra-Orthodox part of Jerusalem.
    Israeli media reports say it has not been used as a place of worship since Israel’s war of independence in 1948, though it was recently renovated and turned into a municipal storage facility.
    Early on Wednesday morning, the Jerusalem Fire and Rescue Services received a call saying there was a fire in the building.
    When the blaze had been extinguished, firefighters inspected the building and found graffiti defaming Islam and Arabs.
    The words “price tag” were also sprayed on the walls – a reference to attacks which settlers and extremists say they are carrying out as acts of revenge for any Israeli government attempt to control settlement construction.

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    Khalid Shah
    It was in Iraq not Iran . Isreal managed to bomb somewhere twice as far from Isreal as the range of their airplanes ,odd that. Must have been magic or something.;-)

  • Believing Atheist

    Juan Cole is wrong when he states that the bases are there due to bilateral agreements. Many of the countries where we have our bases are run by dictators such as Islam Karimov of Uzebekistan. Or as Herman Cain likes to say, Uz-bek-beki-beki-beki-bekistan 🙂 So we cannot claim that the people in these countries consented to our presence. Only the authoritarians did in many of the countries at least.

  • JD

    /\ ignore him dont let him turn the comment section towards his comments

    I also think we should start banning people who really dont make a point argue or debate but make hit and run comments to turn the conversation towards there comments

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    oh no I feel mortaly wounded as no one at Jihad botch loves me anymore boo hoo I cannot cope , the pain ,the angst, is there a doctor in the house? Nurse Nurse .
    Enough of such banter . Truth seeker seems to be under the impression
    1)I care what his views are
    2) that everyone in the world wants to move to the USA .
    He is equally correct on both counts 😉

  • Khalid Shah

    Its been more than 10 years but didn’t Israel bomb and destroy a nuclear plant in Iran some time ago?

  • MrIslamanswersback

    Truth seeker. If nobody from Jihad watch cares a damn, then why the hell are you here commenting on what David had to say? And you are wrong, Its the demons of Satan that are the admirers of Spencer, and you idiots are the ones who lack brains. Just look at how many times Loonwatch has exposed the major errors and out right lies propagated from Jihadwatch and yet you mindless bigots still cheer Slobert Spencer on.The western world will be friends with Arab states as long as they get cheap oil prices. You cant win the loyalty of devils, cause you cant trust the racist , ethnocentric SOB’S. And you dont have to wait for the sun to start rising in the west.

  • David,sir:No body on Jihad Watch cares a damn about your slanted and Ignorant views.Only the wolves of Allah are your admirers who lack nothing but brains.The Muslim world will be friends with America as long as they get money and Green Cards.How can you win the loyalty and friendship of snakes in human forms. You have to wait till the SUN starts rising in the West.

  • mindy1

    I third what RDS said

  • Faisal Rathor

    Well said Danios…

    “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” –John Adams

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    Well said RDS I agree
    ( whilst over a Jihad watch Blobby Spencer brooks no questioning 😉 )

  • RDS

    Healthy debate, full of disagreements, but devoid of mudslinging.

    If only the world can be more like this instead of frothing-in-the-mouth sensationalism.

    It’s a good thing both parts acknowledge errors so that this does not devolve into baseless rhetoric. I support and respect both Danios and Professor Juan Cole.

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