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Interview with Mano Singham

Questions for Mano Singham were collected from August 8-August 22. Below are these questions and Dr. Singham's responses. We at NOAC want to thank Mano Singham for taking the time to participate in this new website feature.

Posted August 29, 2003

Question: Hi Mano, I agree with you concerning U.S. intentions in Iraq, but feel there was also strong pressure from the right wing Zionist lobby, just as they are now pushing for an attack on Iran.

Response: It does not take much effort to demolish the Bush/Blair administration's arguments for the attack on Iraq. Those arguments are so inconsistent and based on such spurious 'evidence' (I hesitate to even use that word) that the case falls apart under even the most cursory scrutiny. So clearly that was a covert agenda driving the war, and one can list many possibilities. But unearthing the real reasons is difficult and a definitive answer might have to wait until documents are unearthed, either by leaks or under the Freedom Of Information Act.

There is no question that the attack on Iraq meshed with the interests of the Sharon government and with the reactionary elements of Israeli politics and their supporters in the US. But was this the determining factor or just one of many factors? That determination will have to await further information.

Question: Mr.Singham, America is like a GIANT Car, in need of OIL.....and is going about aquiring that OIL the WRONG way...... will there ever be a alternative FUEL developed,to counter this mess?

Response: Since oil is a finite resource, one has to assume that eventually alternative (and preferably renewable) sources of energy will be developed to prevent us descending into oblivion. But as long as the oil industry has the government in its pocket, short-term greed to exploit this resource will take precedence over policies that discourage excessive oil consumption and encourage conservation and alternatives.

Question: Much attention has been focused on oil as the primary reason for Uncle Sam's foreign policy of installing kings, drug lords, dictators, generals, and other despots as leaders in other peoples' countries, but to what extent do CIA drugs and CIA drug-running play in foreign affairs? Wasn't Afghanistan more about opium than oil?

Response: The murky relationship between the CIA and drug interests is one of the most scandalously under-investigated and under-reported issues of our times. The issue has been ignored apart from a few books like Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press By Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. (Published by Verso) and Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion by Gary Webb and Maxine Waters. (Webb was the reporter for the San Jose Mercury News who was fired because of the furor his reports caused.)

As for the recent attack on Afghanistan, I am not convinced that opium was the cause of the attack, although a huge increase in opium production and export from that country has been the net result. I think that the attack was driven mainly by the need for revenge, to satiate the barbaric need to extract an eye-for-an-eye, in response to the carnage of 9/11. I have never understood how bombing and killing over 3,000 defenseless Afghans somehow compensates for the killing of over 3,000 people in the US on 9/11. It does not make me feel better. It actually sickens me. But clearly many people feel that this was a good thing. And Bush & Co know that such pseudo-wars and pseudo-victories are good for their approval ratings, so we might be in for more, sadly.

Question: Do you think the Iraq debacle is part of a big conspiracy? I personally find it a bit hard to believe that this is all done so that Haliburton or Kellogg, Brown and Root can make a couple billion dollars. The whole Iraq situation is much more than this war, the 1991 war and the sanctions. The roots of this stretch back to the early 1980's and the Iran-Iraq war. It's a bit hard to look for conspiracy in this with the exception that this area of the world does contain the majority of the world's oil. However, it seems just as likely that Iraq just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with an unsympathetic and non-cooperative dictator.

Response: I agree that it seems unlikely that there was a long-term conspiracy. But it might be that this was an opportunity that presented itself and was seized upon by Bush, Cheney, and their oil supporters. As my article suggests, I was reluctant to accept such a petty reason for war but this administration is increasingly revealingly itself to be insatiably greedy in all manner of ways and so the idea of a war for oil does not seem as preposterous to me as it once did.

Question: Given that our "leaders" have entangled us in this mess, what do you think is the best exit strategy? If we just leave Iraq, it is possible that things could get worse and the place could turn into something like Afghanistan is today (or was under the Taliban). Then again it is possible that things might actually get better if we leave. Could/should we just take a vote and ask the Iraqi's what they want?

Response: It is true that now that the US has destroyed any kind of civilian government and infrastructure in the US, leaving abruptly may create a vacuum. This is the argument that the Bush administration is making, that the US has to stay to maintain 'credibility'. It is bizarre that after making the decision to declare an immoral war, they are now saying it would be immoral to leave. But I feel that the war was wrong to begin with and you cannot justify staying by saying that things will get worse if we leave.

But the future of Iraq has to be decided by the Iraqis themselves. As long as the US remains an occupying power, any administration will be perceived as puppets, just like in Vietnam, and will lack legitimacy. So the US has to leave immediately and leave it to the Iraqi people to decide what they want and who they want to reconstruct their battered society. Before leaving it could create a truly interim and international body (say under the UN or the Arab League) to monitor the transition to civilian and democratic rule.

But this is not going to happen. Bush and Co. want total control of Iraq and its resources and are not going to relinquish decision making power. I see no good coming out of this, unfortunately. I see a protracted guerilla war, with mounting casualties, and increasingly desperate living conditions for the Iraqi people.

Question: I enjoyed reading both your articles referenced on the NOAC website. A few questions related to the missing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) Iraqi scientists. Have any of them yet turned up? If so, are they saying anything? Relatedly, it was reported today that former Iraqi Intelligence officials close to Saddam Hussein have now been hired by the US to help track down Iraqis who violently oppose the ongoing US occupation -- the same officials responsible for decades-long terror by the Hussein regime against the Iraqi people. It's reminiscent of former German Nazi officials hired by the US at the end of W.W.II who helped launch the CIA. Do you see any parallels?

Response: The scientists have not turned up in public. They are still being kept under wraps, away from media contact and even their families and lawyers. Some are being kept under harsh conditions, others in better quarters in Kuwait. See the article in the London Guardian (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0%2C6903%2C1001673%2C00.html) and in the Washingtom Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A5497-2003Jul30.html) for more details. I sent an Op-Ed to the Plain Dealer but they did not publish it.

There is a suggestion that David Kay (the US lead 'investigator' on Iraq's WMD) will release a 'report' in September claiming that he has found documents that support the idea that Hussein had a WMD 'program' (which is a far cry from the original claim that he had the actual weapons and the ability to unleash them at will) and that these scientists are being closeted to prevent them from instantly contradicting the report.

As for your second point, the US never had any problems in principle with either Hussein or his agents of terror. After all, Hussein was a strong US ally and friend during some of the darkest days of terror in the 80's when many of the people whose bodies are now being found in graves were gassed and killed. So there is no fundamental contradiction in what the US administration is doing. What you are pointing out is the contradiction and hypocrisy of its recent pieties and propaganda with what they are doing on the ground.

In a perverted way, this action of hiring the agents makes sense. If you feel that the only way to run the country is by means of control, then you hire the experts in control, who know who the potential trouble-makers are, and who are not scrupulous about using extreme measures. Then when any unpleasantness occurs, you can deny that you are doing any repression and blame it on rogue elements.


Mano Singham is a local physics professor and activist. He recently spoke at an Anti-War Teach-In held at Case Western Reserve University on March 27th called "Building the anti-war movement: Where do we go from here?" Dr. Singham's speech was titled "Understanding U.S. policy: Building resistance." Use the links below to learn more about Dr. Singham and read two short recent essays for the journal, Counterpunch.

Mano Singham's Biosketch

Article: "Cheney's Oil Maps: Can the Real Reason for War be This Crass?"
Counterpunch, July 19, 2003

Article: "Political Prisoners in a Sweltering Desert: Iraq's Missing WMD Scientists"
Counterpunch, July 23, 2003