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Truthdig Radio: Osama bin Laden and Nuclear Meltdown

Posted on Mar 16, 2011
Photo illustration from an image by Colin Grey

(Page 5)

Josh Scheer: Juan, this is Josh again. What was … with our relationship to oil, what do you think the U.S. wants? Would they rather have the Saudis?

Peter Scheer: Is our country’s response to these uprising movements, I would say, how much is it directly proportional to how much oil these countries have, in terms of the, you know, human rights issues and our backing these regimes?

Juan Cole: Yeah, well, I should say, first of all, that I’m not a Washington insider; I don’t know what’s driving the decisions of the National Security Council or what they’re telling President Obama. So I can’t … I can only kind of read the tea leaves, sort of look at what U.S. policy has been. I think in the non-oil states, which are Tunisia and Egypt, and of course Morocco as well, the U.S. stance has been relatively favorable to the protest movement, although not heavily favorable, and has tended to play catch-up. So when Ben Ali was chased out of the country, all of a sudden the Obama administration was denouncing tyranny in Tunisia. After Mubarak fell was when Obama gave his speech on Egypt. And I regret that. I think Obama’s speech on Egypt could have been an historic speech if he’d only given it about a week earlier. As it was, it did look like playing catch-up.

So at least the U.S. hasn’t, in any significant way, stood in the way of these movements in places like Tunisia and Egypt. I think behind the scenes, from what we can tell from leaks and so forth, Obama called up Mubarak and said “see here, old man, it’s time to go.” They say it was a very, very difficult conversation. And so he presumably was also telling the officer corps the same thing, which in the end was what mattered. So I think Obama handled Egypt all right; I wish he’d been a little bit more out front. But in the oil states, in Bahrain, in Saudi Arabia, in Kuwait, in Iraq, to some extent … is the status quo power. He likes things the way they are. And although we’ve made noises about the need for the king to compromise … with the Shiite majority, we haven’t really forestalled the Saudis invading to prop up the king. And either we’re very weak and unable to forestall that development, or our heart isn’t really very much into it, because we’ve got our eye on the price of petroleum per barrel.


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Kasia Anderson: Well, speaking as a Washington insider … and I know you just said you weren’t one, but as someone from, you know, watching these things from your position, the timing of the neoconservatives’ bid for revisionist history with regard to Iraq strikes me as kind of conspicuous, given that Republicans are just starting to roll out their potential candidates for the White House in 2012. How much of this do you see as a recuperative strategy for the former Bushies, and how much might potentially be an eye towards Campaign 2012?

Juan Cole: Sure. Well, the neoconservatives are in the wilderness even with regard to even a lot of the Republican faithful. I think the tea party doesn’t much care for them. And a lot of the mainstream Republicans had turned on Bush by the end of his term largely because of neoconservative policies. So the neoconservatives see an opening with regard to Col. Gaddafi’s ability to put down this rebellion in Libya, and they’re blaming Obama for not stopping that, as if it would be easy to stop. And I think that they are putting down a marker that they should be part of any new Republican administration that might come in in 2012. But note that Haley Barbour just came out for a complete withdrawal from Iraq and against a long-term stay in Afghanistan. And I think you can start to see some isolationism in the Republican Party that will make it very difficult for a neoconservative agenda to have much of a voice there, depending on who becomes the front-runner.

Josh Scheer: I want to jump on Kasia’s point, because maybe it’s also about the fact that Iraq was such an abject failure, and obviously the way they wanted to shape the Middle East was such an abject failure, that this was like “Oh my God, lookit, we actually did something right with this.” Do you think that would be …

Juan Cole:  Yeah, sure. Well of course, you know, history is always a fight about how to interpret what happened in the past for the purposes of the present. The neoconservatives are attempting to recuperate from one of the great foreign policy disasters and mistakes we’ve seen in American history. So of course they’re very eager to put a different face on things. But I don’t see evidence of the American public buying it. I think they made up their minds about Iraq having been a big mistake beginning in 2006, and they haven’t wavered in this regard. And I think most Americans are pretty happy at the prospect of getting out of Iraq altogether. I don’t think they’re eager to get involved in another land war, although there is some sentiment for protecting the rebels in Libya. So I think that kind of muscular Wilsonianism, as some people have referred to neoconservatism, is on the ropes; the U.S. public doesn’t have a lot of resources to squander abroad, we’ve got a lot of unemployed. And, you know, they were painting the schoolhouses in Iraq, and I think we’ve got a lot of schoolhouses in America that would do with a coat.

Peter Scheer: Well, we’re going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much for speaking with us, Juan Cole. He is the author of the Informed Comment blog, which has become simply a must-read in this last decade of excitement and less exciting things in the Middle East.

Kasia Anderson: Adventuring foreign policy … [laughter] on the part of the U.S.

Peter Scheer: So, thanks so much for being with us, Juan.

Juan Cole: It’s my great pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

Peter Scheer: That’s it for this week’s episode of Truthdig Radio. Check us out in a week, on air, or anytime online at Special thanks to our board op Ji, engineer Stan Mizraje, Mark Maxwell, Spencer Downing,and Alan Minsky. For Robert Scheer, Kasia Anderson, Josh Scheer, and myself, thanks for listening.

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Thurston's avatar

By Thurston, March 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm Link to this comment

Fine interview with Micheal Scheuer, although one must wonder whether his seeming free-wheeling commentary is not part of an intelligence propaganda initiative.

Look forward to future broad-/podcasts.

Wondering why the TruthDig Listen Now player has no volume control, as almost all analogous players now do?

And why TruthDig favors direct subscription to iTunes but not to other standard feed readers (again, unlike so many other analogous sites do)?

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By Lucy Berbeo, March 21, 2011 at 5:23 pm Link to this comment

Hi peaceinhand and all,

There was a technical error on the audio file, but we’ve fixed it—it downloads perfectly to iTunes now. Just click here to subscribe. Thanks for listening to Truthdig Radio!

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By Marshall, March 21, 2011 at 1:19 am Link to this comment

“our goal should be to make sure that the coming generation of young Muslim
males have less reason to focus on the United States, and that the only way to do
that was to deny them the motivation of our foreign policy”

So the foreign policy goal of the US should be to placate teenage muslim fanatics? 
That’s a ridiculous statement and so smacks of abdication of values as to be an
epic FAIL.  Why don’t we just put them in office so they can make our foreign
policy directly and cut out the middle man?

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By johnscriv, March 20, 2011 at 1:11 am Link to this comment

I really enjoyed this debut podcast from Truthdig.

The interview with Micheal Scheuer was particularly titillating. While his narrative is sprinkled with tidbits of truth, I find his description of America’s nemesis, the Saudi millionaire blamed for 9/11, to be comical in the extreme.

This portrait of bin Laden, as some sort of magnificent, omnipotent immortal, capable of commanding supernatural forces, really is fanciful. The notion that al Qa’ida could surreptitiously evade western intelligence agencies, remotely suspend North American air defences and magically pulverize New York skyscrapers, is little more than a figment of paranoid imagination.

On the issue of bin Laden, Scheuer is either a propagandist, or a deluded fanatic.

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By Gerald Sutliff, March 19, 2011 at 3:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I hate playing the role of Casandra.  I told my fellow members of a conservative (apolitical) service club that it was very risky to go into Afghanistan; God has it been more than 10 years ago?  I got some hostile comments for saying it.  Obviously it was a “mouse trap play” but like the “tar baby” we keep trying to get out by going in deeper.
BTW just what do they teach in poly science in Harvard, Yale?

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By Alan, March 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“von” Hippel was quoted in an NYT “debates” section a day or so after the event.  He gave a
somewhat ra-ra don’t get excited damage control spiel.
He has been a consultant for TEPC which, it turn out,
has been falsifying reports on its operations for

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By Robert Hennecke, March 19, 2011 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The internet permits setting up a quickie radio station with great reach and little costs. Good move. OBL seems to be playing three dimensional chess with the west playing on only one level not realizing that we are in fact playing into the strengths of the Islamists (or whatever the hell they want to be called) on another level. The followers of Osama Bin Laden have one foot in this world and another in the next and that is at cross purposes to the limitations of the plane of existence that the west exists in. Energy alternatives are critical and I would usually at this point say that nuclear needs to be a part of this (even if that pissed of Mr. Scheer) but given what’s hapened in Japan I think that natural gas has to be a part of that plan. That and making plastic out of agricultural waste as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce dependance on oil in general. Natural gas is the big winner this week as a result of Japans misfortune this week.

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By alturn, March 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm Link to this comment

If we wanted to disempower Bin Laden, we would make food a universal right and ensure every person had sufficient food to eat every day.  We would put humanitarian aid before military expenditures.  We would incentivize alternative energy development and de-incentivize oil and nuclear power.  But those who control the debate and hold power would no longer do so.  Bin Laden to them remains a useful bogeyman to keep us in fear and forget that we are all brothers and sisters. Yet the time is drawing near when a new approach based on sharing will be our only sane choice.

“Soon your brothers in My centre will know that among them now is a simple Man of God, a Brother among brothers, a Spokesman for them: to place before the nations the needs of all men for a world at peace, for Just Sharing of resources, for laughter and Joy, for the creation of a New World built on the Pattern of God.’
- from “Messages from Maitreya the Christ”

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, March 18, 2011 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment

KPFK plays perfectly on my iTunes (iMac).  Access website at
Truthdig Radio plays Wednesdays at 2:00:PM

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By peaceinhand, March 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For some reason this episode won’t download into iTunes due to some “unknown error.” Anyone else have this issue? Or have any ideas? I’d love to read the transcript or listen online but have no time. And thanks regardless Truthdig…No doubt my favorite blog on the Net.

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By gerard, March 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm Link to this comment

Truthdig, if you want the content of articles to be as widely available as possible,
please don’t put them in video format because some of us don’t have access to
that method all the time.

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By TDoff, March 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm Link to this comment

Anyone who doubts that Osama bin Laden is the winner in the contretemps he started, consider just this one amusing fact. Because of Osama, in the right-wing, bible-belting, ‘christian’ US of A, with it’s absolute antipathy toward gays, it is now acceptable for male TSA agents to pat-down the ‘junk’ of male air travelers, and for female TSA agents to massage the mammaries of female passengers.

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tropicgirl's avatar

By tropicgirl, March 17, 2011 at 9:51 am Link to this comment

I’m sorry, former bin Laden hunter Michael Scheuer, what are we losing?

Bin Laden is as real as Mickey Mouse.

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kogwonton's avatar

By kogwonton, March 17, 2011 at 2:03 am Link to this comment

Who needs Osama Bin Laden when we have nuclear power plants? Even a dirty bomb has nothing on them. Don’t even get me started talking about military nuclear testing. These people don’t give the tiniest shit about actual radioactivity, but they’ll damned sure use fear of it to go after people they want. Let a power plant melt down and watch these same assholes play it down like it’s nothing.

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