Saturday, March 1, 2008

State Department follies in Iraq

First, it says the Baghdad Motel 6, otherwise known as the still needs work, but not to worry too much.

Rep. Henry Waxman isn’t buying it, though:

Waxman, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called on the State Department to respond in a March 12 hearing and demanded they release internal documents related to the project.

Waxman cites a Feb. 13 independent assessment of the embassy that found “major” infrastructure problems and “critical and non-critical” deficiencies in most buildings, despite a December 2007 certification by a senior project official that the embassy was complete.

“These inspection reports raise many questions about whether the embassy is safe for occupation and why the State Department certified the project as substantially complete in December,” Waxman wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

State makes it sound like this is just an office building with a few glitches, in which it’s not ready to take occupancy.

Meanwhile, State apparently is either gullible, naïve, or some staffers have got “connections.”

Nine Iraq investigators for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s inspector general’s office will not be replaced when their tours of duty are done:
Dona Dinkler, chief of staff to the USAID inspector general in Washington, confirmed the reductions. She said the State Department told the inspector general’s office it would have just two temporary duty officers on a rotating basis in Iraq.

Down from 11, counting these two, to just these two? Sounds like the cats will be gone, inviting the mice to play.

Any neocons in the Office of Special Plans giving Ahmed Chalabi a phone call right about now?

There's more: "State Department follies in Iraq" >>

Does America believes in justice for the people of Iraq? An Open Response To Matthew Walleser’s Informed Comment Editorial on Iraqi Collaborators

[Crossposted @ My Buffalo River Home]

If the Iraqi army invaded the United States and was repelled, what would become of the American collaborators, informers, and traitors?

Would Americans want them to escape unscathed to Iraq, or would American justice be demanded?

What if they were also responsible for questioning resisting Americans after brutal torture techniques were applied by... whomever?

dog facing Iraqi prisoner
I would like to think they would be hanged, or stood in front of a firing squad, in a manner and tenor similar to the trial outcomes for the internal security war criminals of Germany at Nuremberg.

trial at nuremberg

The open letter which follows was a comment posting (slightly elaborated upon) rejected by the moderator @ Juan Cole's Informed Comment for the article:


Informed Comment
Saturday, March 01, 2008

Walleser Guest Editorial on Imperilled US Allies among the 4 Million Iraqi Refugees

...This is what has to be done by our government in this great time of need for Iraqi refugees which helped out the U.S. and are now at the end of their ropes. They have few options left and few places to turn. The U.S. government has the capacity and the funds to carry out this operation. The only matter left to contemplate is whether it has the compassion to do so. No matter what you think about the war and its discontents, this is not about politics.... [In Full]
I beg to differ... It's ALL about politics, patriotism, and social justice.

Now that the U.S. collaborators have helped the invaders of Iraq create circumstances such as this:

Baquba Losing Life – And Hope
Atlantic Free Press - Hard Truths for Hard Times
by Ahmed Ali and Dahr Jamail

dead-iraqi-childBAQUBA, Feb 27 (IPS) - Life has been bad enough in Diyala province north of Baghdad after prolonged violence, unemployment and loss of all forms of normal living. What could be worse now is the loss of hope that anything will ever be better.

In Baquba, capital city of Diyala province 40km northeast of Baghdad, it's all about staying alive. Most people have abandoned all projects and activities to sit at home in safety.

The Iraqi government achieved nothing, just death for this poor province, Hadi Obeid, a now idle trader in Baquba told IPS. If you look for rights, you will find death.

People of this province are dead, says resident Luay Amir, who returned to Iraq in 2004 after living 16 years in Austria. There is no sign of life to be seen. Faces are pale and lifeless, the city is desolate.

People in the city, he said, have no ambitions, no dreams. When they see each other, they greet one another saying, 'good to see you safe'. [In Full]

My only possible, non-emotional (rejected) response follows:


I DO NOT support bringing Iraqi military collaborators with the west here.

I did NOT support the invasion, the rationale for the invasion, or ANYONE who may have assisted that illegal immoral act in ANY WAY, and I won't willingly do so at any point in my life.

Apparently you intentionally or unintentionally support another 50 year low intensity war against whatever remains of Iraq, it's culture, and society much in the manner of our ongoing attempts to destabilize Cuba and much of Latin America.

If it makes it harder to find such collaborators in the future who would help the cretins in power within the U.S. government persecute another nasty little war like Iraq, so much the better... Maybe America's foreign policy actions will slowly be restored to something resembling respect for the global community.

For FAR TOO LONG, our country has rejected economic immigrants unless they were from the rich and upper-middle class of their country arriving with the looted wealth of their nations (My town seems to be getting it's share of extremely bourgeois, westernized, Central Asian 'refugees' at the moment).

On the other hand, we're always too happy to bring in the collaborators from our nasty little global wars for looted resources.

I would suggest that socio-economically, in the long run, those collaborators are of much less value and potential to American society or indeed their own nation than a 'lowly' Mexican field hand or Dominican maid might be... Except perversely, as political or military pawns, satraps, proxies for continued violence against their nation of birth.

The 'Cuban' expat community of Miami is a perfect example of how the US government and the CIA uses these... for want of a better word, "tools".

If you want an organization who's willing to pose as a flying 'christian missionaries' while dropping diseased chickens on their home country, causing malnutrition in a place where it was previously non-existent, then the Cuban Gusano/CIA community in Florida is right up your foreign policy 'alley'.

Another classic example of how US military collaborationist refugees harm our society: The Vietnamese ARVN soldiers we imported after our SE Asian foray into imperial expansion committed strings of heavily armed home invasion robberies against their own expat community in San Jose California for years, before they got too old for it anymore.

Some of their children still do.

I say bring in the average Iraqi workers, the tired, the poor, (the huddled masses yearning to be free) ...the OTHER 3.999999 million Iraqis (Bring Riverbend from Syria!) who these very collaborators have caused to be displaced by GREEDILY (Self-centrically MIGHT be a kinder wording) BELIEVING they'd get a better deal if the west controlled Iraq.

They sold their birthright for pottage. They lacked patriotism to their own nation and their own people (although our government WOULD have us think otherwise, just as our government would have us believe all the other U.S.-centric nonsense our foreign policy hacks spew is applicable to other nations/cultures), and they will have to suffer the consequences of their actions.

That is what's commonly called "justice".

Does America believes in justice for the people of Iraq, or doesn't it?

I think not.

Da' Buffalo

[Minor edit March 02 2008]

Related @ Technorati: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

There's more: "Does America believes in justice for the people of Iraq? An Open Response To Matthew Walleser’s Informed Comment Editorial on Iraqi Collaborators" >>

Friday, February 29, 2008

War in Iraq: A Bigger Rip-Off Than Cable

According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the Iraq War will cost the USA $3 trillion. That's three trillion -- three thousand stacks of dollar bills stacked a billion high each. A dollar sign, a three, twelve zeros, and a whole mess of commas.


This should add some perspective as we head deeper into the 2008 presidential and congressional campaigns and start hearing more and more from pro-endless-war "fiscal conservatives" about what we can't afford.

In a phrase, yes we can. We can afford what we prioritize.

The article cited above puts the $3 trillion in some perspective:

even one of these trillions could have paid for: 8 million housing units, or 15 million public school teachers, or healthcare for 530 million children for a year, or scholarships to university for 43 million students. Three trillion could have fixed America's social security problem for half a century.
Understand that these amazing amounts of money are in addition to regular defense spending. Also:
$138: The amount paid by every US household every month towards the current operating costs of the war

$19.3bn: The amount Halliburton has received in single-source contracts for work in Iraq

$5bn: Cost of 10 days' fighting in Iraq

$1 trillion: The interest America will have paid by 2017 on the money borrowed to finance the war
Do these incredible expenditures reflect our values and priorities? No.


this is cross-posted on my personal blog here

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

$3 TRILLION, not $60 billion, for Iraq

Let me see. That means our Preznit was wrong by a factor of 50, or 5,000 (five thousand) percent, on the cost of the Iraq war, according to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz.

High oil prices? Iraq War.

Budget deficits? Iraq War.

Increased international borrowing? Iraq War.

Credit crunch? Iraq War.

Housing bubble? Iraq War.

Here’s some details from Stiglitz’ comment to a London think tank:

The former World Bank vice-president said the war had, so far, cost the US something like $3 trillion compared with the $50-$60-billion predicted in 2003.

Professor Stiglitz told the Chatham House think tank in London that the Bush White House was currently estimating the cost of the war at about $500 billion, but that figure massively understated things such as the medical and welfare costs of US military servicemen.

The war was now the second-most expensive in US history after World War II and the second-longest after Vietnam, he said. …

Professor Stiglitz, an academic at the Columbia Business School and a former economic adviser to president Bill Clinton, said a further $500 billion was going to be spent on the fighting in the next two years and that could have been used more effectively to improve the security and quality of life of Americans and the rest of the world. …

“When the Bush administration went to war in Iraq it obviously didn't focus very much on the cost. Larry Lindsey, the chief economic adviser, said the cost was going to be between &100 billion and $200 billion - and for that slight moment of quasi-honesty he was fired.

“(Then defence secretary Donald) Rumsfeld responded and said ‘baloney,’ and the number the administration came up with was $50 to $60 billion. We have calculated that the cost was more like $3 trillion.

“Three trillion is a very conservative number, the true costs are likely to be much larger than that.” …

Professor Stiglitz attributed to the Iraq war $5-$10 of the almost $80-a-barrel increase in oil prices since the start of the war, adding that it would have been reasonable to attribute more than $35 of that rise to the war.

Stiglitz added that BushCo figures were off so much in large part due to its massive underestimating of long-term post-battle medical costs.

There's more: "$3 TRILLION, not $60 billion, for Iraq" >>

2008 Presidential Election Survey

The purpose of this survey is to examine how people think and feel about the political issues, parties, and candidates in the upcoming election. In the survey, you will be asked a series of questions about two political candidates, John McCain and Hillary Clinton. We are very interested in how individuals that find information on the web think about politics, and your participation would be greatly appreciated. In total, the survey should take about 15 minutes to complete. The survey is completely anonymous and you can skip any questions you do not wish to answer.

Click here to take the survey:

Please feel free to contact Chris Weber ( at Stony Brook University with any questions or concerns. Thanks for your help!

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Posters Made in Iraq

This first image is a WWII-era poster that appealed to shared American values regarding the dignity of human beings even during times of war. Now we have a president who seems destined, if not dedicated, to creating similar posters for future enemies of the United States.
The image posted here is just one of several newly-released images from the Abu Ghraib prison after it fell under US control.

Any claim to a moral high ground is long since lost. And the people currently under US occupation will not forget these images, even if some in America will choose to ignore them.

In a shameful attempt to defend John McCain's cowardly embrace of torture, David Frum appeared on the 2/22 Bill Maher program and repeated the word "professional" a great many times; I gather his point was that the CIA, unlike the Army, is "professional," and can therefore be trusted to torture captives in a "professional" manner -- a claim that's absurd and barbaric on its face, and the sort of thing that would instantly be construed as an attack on the "troops" if uttered by an opponent of the war.

It will be a long, slow climb up from here to restore the United States from the disgraces wrought in Iraq. The way to protect the troops and to reaffirm human dignity begins by stopping the war.

This is adopted from a post on my personal site.

There's more: "Posters Made in Iraq" >>

Well, There Goes The Neighbourhood


Photo from NorthernLights blog

The WaPoo tells us this morning that the Sunni forces that we created with large amounts of taxpayer money, are "losing patience" with us.

So we go to this country, right? And we bomb it and kill a bunch of people and all that. Then we decide that the Sunni, because they belong to the same faction, sect, whatever, of Islam as the leader of that country (Saddam Hussein) are the enemy, right? So we get most of them kicked out of their jobs, and we arrest lots of them, and we throw them into our jails, where we torture them. And this goes on for, oh, FOUR FUCKING YEARS.

Then we figure we've made a mistake, but it's kinda late in the game for that because, guess what, we've been pouring money into the pockets of the Shi'a leaders for FOUR FUCKING YEARS by now, and they're all busy fighting among themselves and with each other and really happy that the Sunni are gone, because that means more of the higher pie for them, right?

But some bright spark figures out that even though we kicked them out of their jobs and their homes and neighbourhoods, and forced them to flee across the country leaving everything behind and live like refugees in their own country, or even become honest-to-God refugees in some other country except ours, because we don't want them over here, and even though we raped some of their teenage daughters and killed them and stuff, they'll still be our friends if we GIVE! THEM! MONEY! Right?

And now they're "losing patience." Why for? Why for you so impatient, you stupid sandn*****s? So we fucked up your economy and killed your relatives, and the big pool of sewage we created in your capital city can be viewed via GoogleEarth. So what? So you lost your job and your cousin lost his leg and your sister lost her life and your uncle lost his house. So fucking what? We're giving you money, ain't we? So what if we're giving you cholera too?

Yesterday, we put up a post on this site complete with a map of Iraq, as we questioned whether our "leaders" had any kind of fucking plan for our friends, relatives, and neighbours that they've thrown into the meatgrinder of Iraq. Today, we ask you to examine that map closely &mdash reproducing it here for your convenience &mdash as we list the areas where Sunni fighters, now armed by us, are leaving whatever bogus organization we set up incorporating them in order to look good to American politicians and the people who believe their lies.

According to the article, since February 8th &mdash less than three weeks ago &mdash thousands of fighters in Diyala province have left their posts; their leaders have since warned that the fighters would disband completely unless their demands were met. Here's a snippet outlining some of their demands:

in Diyala, one of the major battlegrounds in the U.S. fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Awakening groups, also known here as Popular Committees, are demanding the resignation of the Shiite provincial police chief, Maj. Gen. Ghanem al-Qureishi. They accuse him of running death squads and torturing Sunnis, allegations that Qureishi denied in an interview.
It's practically a given that some Sunni during Saddam Hussein's time ran death squads and tortured Shi'a Iraqis. It's also a given, knowing human hearts, that some Shi'a, having taken power, are now revenging themselves on hapless Sunni. The U.S. military is not capable of dealing with this. A military is a tool designed to kill and break people. It is not designed to resolve conflict, only to make it not worthwhile for that conflict to be turned against itself or whatever it's protecting. So there is no plan and no group that is tasked with resolving these very serious issues. Therefore, things can only get worse.

Meanwhile, fighters in Babil province refuse to work for the U.S. after U.S. military fired on them, killing some 19 fighters and injuring approximately 12 others.

Because you have eyes and know how to use them, we don't even have to tell you that Diyala province and Babil province almost completely surround the city of Baghdad and effectually bar our escape route to the south, not to mention the supply lines that come up from the south.

The circumstances of the clash are in dispute. The article states, in part:
The predominantly Sunni Awakening forces, referred to by the U.S. military as the Sons of Iraq or Concerned Local Citizens, are made up mostly of former insurgents who have turned against extremists because of their harsh tactics and interpretation of Islam. The U.S. military pays many fighters roughly $10 a day to guard and patrol their areas. Thousands more unpaid volunteers have joined out of tribal and regional fealties.
This article is written in part by Sudarshan Raghavan, the same journalist who wrote a piece we quoted in a previous blog post. At that time, we were, to put it mildly, concerned that Mr. Raghavan, who has reported extensively on Iraq, did not seem to notice that we were arming people who had every reason in the world to hate us and want revenge on us.

Now we have to ask what the phrase "former insurgents who have turned against extremists because of their harsh tactics and interpretation of Islam" means. We know that the Sunni, for good reason, formed a large part of the insurgency (you would too if people were kicking you out of your house and job and occupying your country and raping your sister).

Given that these Sunni Sons of Whatever to whom we have now handed guns, ammo, and money are now using our ordinance against the supposed "al Qaeda in Iraq," we venture to opine that they're probably indulging in some pretty harsh tactics themselves. If they were part of the insurgency before, they were no stranger to harsh tactics. We really don't believe that they're inviting their erstwhile enemies over for tea, bikkies, and a civilized discourse on the benefits of laying down their arms. And what about this "interpretation of Islam" business? Are we talking about different sects here, or what?

And what about the al-Janabi, one of the largest and most powerful tribes of the Sunni? What about the fact that the Sunni formed most of Hussein's military and police?

The article goes on to say:
Some U.S. military officials say they are growing concerned that the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq has infiltrated Awakening forces in some areas.

"Now, there is no cooperation with the Americans," said Haider Mustafa al-Kaisy, an Awakening commander in Baqubah, the capital of Diyala province, an insurgent stronghold that U.S. and Iraqi forces are still struggling to control. "We have stopped fighting al-Qaeda."
Yah. I'd be worrying too.

Another Son in the oil-rich city of Baiji adds:
His men also have not received their salaries in two months, he said. "We'll all be patient for another two months. If nothing changes, then we'll suspend and quit," Kassim said. "Then we'll go back to fighting the Americans."
Is anybody in charge of this Keystone Kops operation? Does their right hand know in whose pants the left hand is currently residing? And look at the Father of our Sons in the south:
Sabah al-Janabi, who heads the Awakening in the area, publicly criticized the U.S. military, alleging it had killed 19 of his men in the past 45 days, which U.S. commanders deny.
We're not accusing Sabah al-Janabi of anything. He may well be the most loyal (to the U.S. or to our puppet regime) of Sunni fighters. We're just pointing out that this conflict is an impossible one. The people who like us and the people who hate us look alike, belong to the same tribe, possibly even the same religious faction. This was what drove men mad in Vietnam. They were sent there to fight an enemy, but unlike, say, Star Trek episodes, the bad guys didn't wear black hats. Sometimes little kids threw grenades at you. Sometimes sweet old grannies tried to kill you. And they looked just exactly like the little kids who were just sweet little kids caught up in a horrible war, or the sweet old grannies who might laugh and joke with you and do your laundry or fix your food.

So in the end you started killing people indiscriminately because you really didn't know if or when some of them were going to try to kill you.

Meanwhile, the Soldiers of Heaven have apparently not been inactive. They resurfaced recently in Dhi Qar and Basra provinces.

In the town of Iskandiriyah, in Babil province, a suicide bomber has killed some 63 members of Al-Sayyid Moqtada al-Sadr's followers who were on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala to commemorate the Iraqi holy day of Arbaeen.

In northern Iraq, the Turkish military is continuing to bomb suspected PKK hideouts, destroying bridges and killing Kurdish civilians with impunity thanks to intelligence provided by the Pentagon. The Kurds, who consider themselves pro-American and U.S. allies, have been begging the U.S. for help.
The prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, expressed concern that the Turkish operation had gone beyond targeting the PKK and was harming civilians and the economy of northern Iraq. He said he was particularly concerned that Turkey had destroyed at least three bridges near the border.
This is the son of President Massoud Barzani speaking. Hitherto the Northern Kurdish region has been the only stable one in Iraq.

Meanwhile, in our other clusterfuck over in Afghanistan, the AP tells us things are looking fairly grim.
Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the resurgent Taliban controls 10 percent to 11 percent of the country and Karzai's government controls 30 percent to 31 percent. But more than six years after the U.S. invasion to oust the Taliban and establish a stable central government, the majority of Afghanistan's population remains under local tribal control, he said.
Let's translate this, shall we? The government of U.S. puppet Hamid Karzai, shored up with the military might of NATO and the U.S. armed forces, after six long years, controls only the cities. In the countryside, the Taliban roam freely, and the various tribal elders throw their allegiance to whichever side is not actively killing them this week.

Well, at least the British might be moving towards throwing that other toadying lickspittle and assistant junior bottlewashing war criminal, Tony Blair, into a well-deserved cell in some prison. Pity it can't be Abu Ghraib.

crossposted over at ThePoliticalCat.

There's more: "Well, There Goes The Neighbourhood" >>

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

There Goes The Neighbourhood

I'm using this map to try and illustrate something about the situation of U.S. troops in Iraq that makes me very uncomfortable (deity alone knows how it makes them feel). This could probably have been done better by Steve Gilliard, but he's no longer here to do it. Perhaps someone else has said this before, in which case, please point me to it.

Observe the map above. Now consider what happens if Al-Sayyid Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army joins with the Sunni, who have been taking our money to build their own forces and hate our guts. What if they decide to attack in force? How will our troops escape them?

Can they withdraw to the west? al-Anbar province, to the west of Baghdad, has been the site of many difficult battles. al-Anbar borders on Jordan, which would not welcome our troops, assuming the troops could successfully traverse this hostile territory in an attempt to withdraw from the charnel house that Baghdad will become in the event of an all-out assault.

To the east? Diyala province, to the east of Baghdad, capital Baquba, is "a source of problems" according to General Petraeus. It borders Iran, which also would not accept a retreat of the U.S. military, should our troops withdraw in that direction. Assuming they survive attacks as they try to withdraw through that province, they would face a much larger army in Iran.

North? Salahuddin province, immediately north of Baghdad, is the site of deadly insurgent activity. Assuming U.S. troops tried to withdraw north, they would have to traverse this province, which is largely Turkomen, and several other hostile provinces to reach Turkey — which might not offer sanctuary, despite our generosity in providing them military intelligence about PKK targets they can safely bomb. The Arab Times tells us that Salahuddin province is in turmoil right now. How much of that can be attributed to al-Qaeda and how much to the Turkish incursion into Kurdish Iraqi territory is anyone's guess.

Can they withdraw southwards? Babil province, immediately south of Baghdad, is supposedly currently under the control of an Iraqi brigade. However, note that the gunmen who staged a daring raid and kidnapped several American military personnel, apparently fled into Babil province when pursued, according to the International Herald Tribune.

Mr. Khazaali said the identities of the gunmen were unknown. Other Iraqi officials said the clues pointed to Sunni groups based in Elbu Alwan, a Sunni stronghold about 25 miles north of Karbala in Babil Province. Four of the vehicles were found there early Sunday morning, the police said.
Further southwest, Karbala province appears to be relatively peaceful, barring attacks on the Shi'a pilgrims, though unable to defend itself from violence spilling over from the nearby al-Anbar province. Further south, Qadisiya province is reeling from attacks by Shia factions. In Dhi Qar province, the Italian military has formally handed off responsibility for security to the Iraqi army as of September of 2006. Sometime around then, responsibility for security in Muthanna province, south of Dhi Qar, was handed off to the Iraqi army. This past August, the governor of the province was killed.

To the west, Najaf province is relatively peaceful and controlled by Iraqi security forces, although Asia Times informs us that it contains a large number of the "internally displaced," i.e., refugees from other, more militarily disrupted zones. If the troops can cross safely, they can get to Saudi Arabia and withdraw from there. However, Najaf was also the site, in January of 2007, of some mysterious warlike activity that indicates the potential for powerful resistance. I don't entirely trust this particular story, for example, but there isn't much information available on this mysterious army of "Soldiers of Heaven."

At any rate, it is possible for the U.S. military to safely retreat south, apparently, and down through Basra province and into Kuwait and home free, right? Not quite, apparently, now that the British troops in Iraq have withdrawn to the safety of the Basra airport, leaving the rest of Basra in Iraqi hands. Given that the immediate result has been armed conflict among various factions, as is, apparently, the case in most of the rest of Iraq, what this bodes for U.S. troops attempting to withdraw through the area is anyone's guess. As of today, a British hostage held by some faction of the warring Iraqi troops in Basrah is pleading for the release of various members of that faction who are apparently being held by the Iraqi government.

As for Baghdad itself, it is a city at the confluence of two large rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. Such a city would be hard to evacuate in a war, because withdrawal would have to take place via bridges over water. All the insurgents have to do is cut enough of the bridges to trap our military like rats.

According to Al-Jazeera, these bridges have already been destroyed: Does anybody know how we're going to get out if we need to?

There's more: "There Goes The Neighbourhood" >>

The ever-shrinking reach of U.S. Iraqi policy

First, the Iraqi presidential council rejects setting up provincial elections. Next, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tries to browbeat Turkey into leaving Kurdistan before it is good and ready. Here’s Gates:

“It’s very important that the Turks make this operation as short as possible and then leave,” Gates said before departing India. “They have to be mindful of Iraqi sovereignty. I measure quick in terms of days, a week or two, something like that, not months.”

And here’s Ankara:
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the operation would only end “once its goal has been reached.”

Well, that’s pretty clear.

There's more: "The ever-shrinking reach of U.S. Iraqi policy" >>

Monday, February 25, 2008

Torture and "Inevitable Demoralization," from 1902 to the Present

Paul Kramer at The New Yorker has written a fascinating look at the use of torture by U.S. troops in the Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. Back then, the U.S. was accused of using the infamous "water cure" upon Philippine "insurgents." A then-atypical confession by pro-war Judge Wiliam Howard Taft, head of the pro-U.S. Philippine Commission, described the technique:

The cruelties that have been inflicted; that people have been shot when they ought not to have been; that there have been in individual instances of water cure, that torture which I believe involves pouring water down the throat so that the man swells and gets the impression that he is going to be suffocated and then tells what he knows, which was a frequent treatment under the Spaniards, I am told—all these things are true.
Kramer's article describes the political maneuvering around the torture scandal of that time, in ways that are eerily similar to today's debates. What's different, of course, is that other, more psychological forms of torture have been added since those early days of American imperialist wars. (Over 4,000 U.S. soldiers died in the conflict, and total Philippine deaths, both military and civilian, are estimated to be between a quarter of a million to one million people. It's worth noting that U.S. military activities against Philippine "insurgents" or "brigands" continued until at least 1913.)

Rendition (Deadly) Games: New Revelations

Increasingly, the U.S. is out-sourcing its more barbaric, old-fashioned use of torture to foreign torturers, sending its prisoners secretly via "extraordinary rendition" to sites in countries like Egypt, Morocco, and Uzbekistan. The extent of this secret program of kidnapping and torture is still being assessed via ongoing revelations in the press. In today's UK Telegraph, a former British special forces soldier, Ben Griffin, has charged that the British government was far more complicit in these activities than previously known.
Mr Griffin said the SAS was part of a joint US/UK unit which captured suspected terrorist who were then spirited away for interrogation....

Mr Griffin, who served for three months in Baghdad, added: "I have no doubt in my mind that non-combatants I personally detained were handed over to the Americans and subsequently tortured.

"It is only since I have left the Army and I have read the Geneva Convention and the UN Convention on Torture that I realised that we have broken so many of these conventions and treaties in Iraq."
Other recent press reports have implicated other European Union member states -- Poland and Romania -- in aiding the U.S. in their rendition program. A recent New York Times article details U.S. complicity in the infamous Operation Condor program of the 1970-1980s, where a number of Latin American countries "helped one another locate, transport, torture and ultimately make disappear dissidents across their borders, and even collaborated on assassination operations in Europe and the United States."

Meanwhile, currently, we have the hoopla over the recent Senate bill that restricts the CIA to the interrogation protocols of the Army Field Manual masks the fact that the AFM authorizes the use of psychological methods of torture, including sleep and sensory deprivation, and prolonged isolation. President Bush is threatening to veto the bill as too restrictive on CIA operations.

Wither Our Humanity?

Towards the end of his New Yorker piece, Kramer remarks on how the scandal over torture eventually faded away. A few officers had their hands slapped. Commissions took contradictory testimony; editorials fired bombastic fusillades. But in the end, the barbarity was covered up, filed away, and forgotten (until now).

Kramer quotes an extraordinary article from the time (bold emphases are mine, and please forgive my quoting also the racist jargon, indicative of that era):
As early as April 16, 1902, the New York World described the “American Public” sitting down to eat its breakfast with a newspaper full of Philippine atrocities:
It sips its coffee and reads of its soldiers administering the “water cure” to rebels; of how water with handfuls of salt thrown in to make it more efficacious, is forced down the throats of the patients until their bodies become distended to the point of bursting; of how our soldiers then jump on the distended bodies to force the water out quickly so that the “treatment” can begin all over again. The American Public takes another sip of its coffee and remarks, “How very unpleasant!”
“But where is that vast national outburst of astounded horror which an old-fashioned America would have predicted at the reading of such news?” the World asked. “Is it lost somewhere in the 8,000 miles that divide us from the scenes of these abominations? Is it led astray by the darker skins of the alien race among which these abominations are perpetrated? Or is it rotted away by that inevitable demoralization which the wrong-doing of a great nation must inflict on the consciences of the least of its citizens?”
It is difficult to hang onto principles of justice and morality in a society that has become inured to the worst crimes and inhuman behaviors. The memory of events may be forgotten, but they live on in the societal failure to embrace history, in the cynicism and despair towards institutions and belief systems, and in the cries of untold victims whose pleas for mercy and justice echo soundlessly into the void.

Is this our future? Or are we already there?

Crossposted at Invictus

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The Candidates and the Occupation of Iraq

One of the least reported issues in the continuing war and occupation of Iraq is that of plans for permanent military bases and a long term occupation of Iraq by the US Military. John McCain has made the statement that the US should stay in Iraq for the next 100 years.

As per CNN last month, at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, a crowd member asked McCain about a Bush statement that troops could stay in Iraq for 50 years. "Maybe 100," McCain replied.

Let's look at the responses from Hillary and Obama.

The two following quotes are from the CNN link noted above in the introduction.

"He said recently he could see having troops in Iraq for 100 years," Clinton said at an Arlington, Virginia, rally last week in a line she's repeated on the campaign trail. "Well, I want them home within 60 days of my becoming president of the United States."

Obama took a similar tack.

"Sen. McCain said the other day that we might be mired for 100 years in Iraq -- which is reason enough not to give him four years in the White House," Obama has said on several occasions.

and the come-back from McCain...

McCain told (Larry) King he thinks opponents are taking the quote out of context. He said any long-term troop presence in Iraq would depend on agreement from the Iraqi government.

"If they don't want to and we don't feel a need to do so, obviously, the whole thing is keyed to Americans being able to withdraw and come home with honor, not in defeat," he said.

If we examine this first statements it's clear that McCain is either ignorant or he's trying to bullshit America. He should be aware of the fact that the Iraqi Parliament in both 2007 and 2008 voted not to extend the UN Mandate that is the only legal basis for the US occupation of Iraq, and that Iraq's frail democracy was cut out of the process by the Bush Administration.

Quite obviously the Iraqis don't want our military in their country and so McCain covers his trail but using the word "and" in his second statement which then speaks of coming home with "honor".

May we also take a look at Hillary's and Obama's responses. Hillary's 60 day comment is totally unrealistic. There is no way, logistically speaking, that we are going to bring 120,000 or so American troops home from Iraq in 60 days. My guess would be 6 months to a year. Obama, wisely avoided making any comment on a specific time frame.

I don't think it is unfair to assume that any candidate, especially any US Senator with aspirations for the presidency of the United States, would not be aware of this:

As recently as last month, the Bush administration pushed the Iraqi government to extend its support for the occupation indefinitely, despite the Iraqi Parliament's support for a withdrawal timetable. President Bush displayed utter contempt for Iraqi public and political opposition to the war in a recent Executive interpretative signing statement that rejected Congressional opposition to permanent bases.

This source is this article by Anthony DiMaggio on ZNet.

And, every US Senator should also be aware that progressive democrats in Congress have expressed opposition to Bush's signing statement and have sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey "demanding transparency on the issue of permanent military bases".

Perhaps I'm trying to read too much into a few comments made on the campaign trail. But here is what really worries me.

Dimaggio continues:

Sadly, Democratic Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not co-sponsored a new bill, introduced by Representative Barbara Lee, preventing construction or maintenance of permanent military bases in Iraq. Obama and Clinton have been rather vague in terms of their plans for Iraq. Congress's 2008 Iraq spending bill included a requirement prohibiting any plans for permanent bases without Congressional approval; however, neither Clinton nor Obama even bothered to vote on this important bill, as they appeared more interested in campaigning than actively opposing the war.

Either candidate could have voted against the bill and expressed their commitment to cutting off funding for the war, or they could have voted in favor of funding for 2008, while at the very least supporting the bill's prohibition on permanent bases. Their refusal to support a funding cut off or a prohibition on bases raises serious questions their "anti-war" status. While both candidates rhetorically support some sort of short-term reduction in troops, they have been suspiciously opposed to plans for complete withdrawal. They claim to support a withdrawal of combat forces, yet support keeping thousands in Iraq for "counter-terror" operations, perhaps as late as 2012 (or later). How such troops will not constitute a sizable "combat force" in Iraq remains unclear.

So where do the leading candidates really stand on this, to some of us, the most important issue in the upcoming election?

McCain, we can be certain, stands with Bush and his neo-con driven foreign policy of global dominance and military empire.

Clinton's voting record and the sources of much of her campaign financing and support suggests she is somewhere between McCain and Obama but that she is still acceptable to The Establishment.

Obama is the outsider and less acceptable to The Establishment. He opposed the initial authorization for the war in Iraq but he has been less than forthcoming on what he would do with respect to the occupation of Iraq and continuation of the so-called War on Terror.

The establishment media has given little time to the subject of the permanent military bases and the duration of the American occupation of Iraq. DiMaggio points this out very well in his article and he concludes by writing:

Then again, the erasure of the military bases question from reporting is precisely what one would expect in a media system dedicated to official misinformation, spin, and propaganda.

We need to hear clear responses from each of the candidates as to where they stand on this important issue and we need people in the media to ask them the questions.

There's more: "The Candidates and the Occupation of Iraq" >>

Sunday, February 24, 2008

'How I spent my spring break -- stopping the war'

Instead of "Where the Boys Are," the old-time spring breaks that used to bring waves of partying college students to Florida beaches, the theme for some students this spring will be "Bring the Boys Home." (It's not just boys at war any more, of course; that just fit better.) Our Spring Break invites students and young people to Washington DC for a wide range of antiwar actions in March.

Meanwhile, Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress, is sponsoring Iraq Action Camp, three days of education, training and action for students March 15-17 in Washington. It's free for college students, but they should register now.

Says Robin Markle of Drew University SDS in New Jersey:

"I don't think we can rely on the government to stop the war, despite what politicians may say when they're on the campaign trail. I'm really excited about the Iraq Moratorium campaign, which invites anti-war activists to hold actions the third Friday of every month in their communities. I think that locally-based grassroots actions like these, with people talking to their friends, co-workers and neighbors, is our best strategy for steadily growing the movement until it's something that politicians can't simply pay lip service to."
Is antiwar action and energy being transferred to the presidential campaign?

Says Kati Kesh of UNC-Asheville:
From my perspective ... it seems that although some students are very much swept up in the election process most students remember what happened in 2006 when they put their faith in the Democrats--the Democrats failed to do anything about the war. Because it's an election year it seems that the student body is becoming more politicized and wanting to be more active about issues such as the war in Iraq.

More on what students are thinking and doing in this CounterPunch article.

There's more: "'How I spent my spring break -- stopping the war'" >>