1 February 2007

A canard that the perpetrators of the current catastrophe use to frighten people into supporting a fatally flawed nation-building debacle

The Myth of an al Qaeda Takeover of Iraq
In his State of the Union Address last Tuesday, President Bush warned that if the U.S. fails in Iraq, al Qaeda will gain a safe haven from which to launch attacks against America. It is an argument that the President, other members of the administration, and neoconservative hawks have been using for years.

Despite such scare mongering, it is highly improbable that al Qaeda could use Iraq as the kind of safe haven it enjoyed in Afghanistan. There, the organization had the protection of an entrenched, friendly government, which it will not have in Iraq. Al Qaeda also had a much larger force in Afghanistan -- an estimated 18,000 fighters. Even the U.S. government concedes that there are fewer than 2,000 al Qaeda fighters in Iraq, and the Iraq Study Group put the figure at only 1,300.

Indeed, foreign fighters make up a relatively small component of the Sunni insurgency against the U.S. and British occupation forces. It strains credulity to imagine 1,300 fighters (and foreigners at that) dominating a country of 26 million people.

A September 2006 poll conducted by the University of Maryland's prestigious Program on International Policy Attitudes found that 94 percent of Iraqi Sunnis had a somewhat or highly unfavorable attitude toward al Qaeda.

And the anemic Sunni support for al Qaeda is overshadowed by the intense Shiite and Kurdish hostility to the group. Almost to a person, they loathe al Qaeda. The PIPA poll showed that 98 percent of Shiite respondents and 100 percent of Kurdish respondents had somewhat or very unfavorable views of the organization.

6 November 2006

When All Else Fails… …Execute the dictator

Some perspective on the Saddam Hussien verdict from Iraqi blogger Riverbend.
Iraq has not been this bad in decades. The occupation is a failure. The various pro-American, pro-Iranian Iraqi governments are failures. The new Iraqi army is a deadly joke. Is it really time to turn Saddam into a martyr? Things are so bad that even pro-occupation Iraqis are going back on their initial "WE LOVE AMERICA" frenzy. Laith Kubba (a.k.a. Mr. Catfish for his big mouth and constant look of stupidity) was recently on the BBC saying that this was just the beginning of justice, that people responsible for the taking of lives today should also be brought to justice. He seems to have forgotten he was one of the supporters of the war and occupation, and an important member of one of the murderous pro-American governments. But history shall not forget Mr. Kubba.

Iraq saw demonstrations against and for the verdict. The pro-Saddam demonstrators were attacked by the Iraqi army. This is how free our media is today: the channels that were showing the pro-Saddam demonstrations have been shut down. Iraqi security forces promptly raided them.Welcome to the new Iraq. Here are some images from the Salahiddin and Zawra channels.

Once again… The timing of all of this is impeccable- two days before congressional elections. And if you don’t see it, then I’m sorry, you’re stupid. Let’s see how many times Bush milks this as a ‘success’ in his coming speeches.

A final note. I just read somewhere that some of the families of dead American soldiers are visiting the Iraqi north to see ‘what their sons and daughters died for’. If that’s the goal of the visit, then, “Ladies and gentlemen- to your right is the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, to your left is the Dawry refinery… Each of you get this, a gift bag containing a 3 by 3 color poster of Al Sayid Muqtada Al Sadr (Long May He Live And Prosper), an Ayatollah Sistani t-shirt and a map of Iran, to scale, redrawn with the Islamic Republic of South Iraq. Also… Hey you! You- the female in the back- is that a lock of hair I see? Cover it up or stay home.”

And that is what they died for.

27 September 2006

It is astounding that such dangerous fanatics have control of the U.S. government and have no organized opposition in American politics

Paul Craig Roberts on Why Bush Will Nuke Iran
The neoconservative Bush administration will attack Iran with tactical nuclear weapons, because it is the only way the neocons believe they can rescue their goal of U.S. (and Israeli) hegemony in the Middle East.

The U.S. has lost the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Generals in both war theaters are stating their need for more troops. But there are no troops to send.

Bush has tried to pawn Afghanistan off on NATO, but Europe does not see any point in sacrificing its blood and money for the sake of American hegemony. The NATO troops in Afghanistan are experiencing substantial casualties from a revived Taliban, and European governments are not enthralled over providing cannon fodder for U.S. hegemony.

Madness, simply madness…

13 September 2006

A Marine with a conscience, like my gunner, was a liability

An interesting interview with Iraq War combat veteran U.S. Marine Corporate Alex Markey.

His thoughts on civilian killing by U.S. soldiers:

At my level there was no basis for discrimination. We regarded all Iraqis as the enemy. Most of us would have eagerly killed any one of them who ventured too close to our convoy. The underlying consensus among Marines in our AO (Area of Operation) was that Iraqis were either actively plotting attacks against us, or abetting those who were. The sight of a dead Iraqi on the roadside would usually induce cheering.

Early last year, we were passing through a small, but densely populated town en route to Al Qaim. This particular town was assumed, by most of us, to be home to the same guys planting the multitude of IEDs we would encounter on this route. As we were driving through the village, I noticed a vehicle idling in an alleyway. As soon as the truck in front of me passed him, the driver sped out of the alley and crossed the street. Our rules of engagement state specifically that no vehicles may be allowed to cut though the convoy. Use of deadly force is authorized to uphold this. I began barking at my gunner to shoot the guy. He froze, and did nothing. The car parked. The driver got, out and walked into a nearby house.

Even though the driver turned out to be nothing more than an innocent man on his way home, my gunner was fiercely rebuked for his inaction. From that day forward, nobody wanted to ride with him. He was condemned as a coward. There was even talk of charging him with Dereliction of Duty. He defended his decision not to shoot, claiming he didn’t want to risk hitting other civilians in the area. It didn’t matter to us. He never regained our trust after that.

I have to be extremely careful what I say when addressing your question directly. This is the type of thing that could trigger a JAG investigation, and jeopardize the careers of some good Marines. I can safely tell you that there were a lot of rumors, some more credible than others. As I have already said, we regarded all Iraqis as potential enemies. The alleged killing of any Iraqi, civilian or combatant, was good news. A Marine who was rumored to have killed civilians was the type of Marine you would want to have watching your back once you exited that wire. A Marine with a conscience, like my gunner, was a liability.

His remarks on the role of private military contractors:

It was fascinating to see the evolution of their role in the theater of operations. At the beginning of my first tour the idea of civilians participating in our mission was unheard of. By the end of my second tour our mission relied so heavily on them, it seemed that we had become little more than security escorts for their convoys.

Whatever affinity I may have for the KBR drivers, I don’t wish to convey a sense of approval for the privatization of military operations. I think that the extent to which multinational conglomerates like Halliburton are benefiting from this war borders on criminal.

Finally, his take on the ubiquitous "Support the Troops" motto, which was the main trigger on why I wished to highlight this interview:

I have to wonder since I hear that phrase a lot. What does it mean for one to “Support the Troops”? Do they have a list local kids who are serving in Iraq for whom they pray each Sunday Mass? Do they decorate their SUVs with magnetic yellow ribbons? It seems to be a phrase that opponents and advocates of this war alike feel obligated to mention as routinely as they breathe. In fact, for any one to say otherwise since September 11th, 2001 is a veritable anathema. It’s a useful quote, whether to reiterate your position or cover your ass. Beyond that, I don’t pay it much mind.

I would like to relate a story to you, which I think illuminates my point.

It was the spring of 2004. I had returned from my first tour several months before. I bought a 2-door Geo Metro hatchback with the money I had earned overseas. My girlfriend at the time was an outspoken critic of SUVs, so I figured she would approve. John Kerry’s campaign was picking up steam. A good friend of mine who was working for his campaign in Iowa had sent me a “John Kerry for President” bumper sticker, which I proudly placed on the bumper of my car right above my “United States Marine Corps” sticker. I was driving through Westchester County (one of NY State’s more affluent areas) and got caught up in a traffic jam. All of a sudden the car behind me, a huge black Escalade, pulled up beside me. The driver, a fat, red-faced man in his late thirties/early forties began to scream at me. “What the Fuck is the matter with you? Do you support the troops or don’t you? Yeah, you’re a fucking flip flopper!” It took me a moment to realize he was referring to my “politically confused” bumper stickers. The idea that a person could simultaneously support his military and the democratic challenger was evidently too nuanced for him. And off he went, his magnetic yellow ribbon gleaming in the sun. The irony of a fat forty-something who had ostensibly never served in the military, who drives a gas guzzling road monster berating an Iraq War veteran in his Geo Metro for not supporting the troops would be forever lost on him.

I just can’t describe what I am trying to say any better than that.

Markey answers other questions in the interview pertaining to his health, depleted uranium, Iraq and the state of U.S. military and freedom in Iraq. I'm sure it will raise the blood pressure of some, maybe even delight others as it reinforces their sentiments. For me, it's another sad, maybe tragic, illustration of the aftermath of an illegal, immoral invasion of a country that posed no threat to the United States.

29 August 2006

They wonder who the government is — and what ever happened to "peace"

Remember Afghanistan? Here is the perspective of Ann Jones, who has spent much of the last four years working in Afghanistan, on why it's not working there.
Remember when peaceful, democratic, reconstructed Afghanistan was advertised as the exemplar for the extreme makeover of Iraq? In August 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was already proclaiming the new Afghanistan "a breathtaking accomplishment" and "a successful model of what could happen to Iraq." As everybody now knows, the model isn't working in Iraq. So we shouldn't be surprised to learn that it's not working in Afghanistan either.

The story of success in Afghanistan was always more fairy tale than fact - one scam used to sell another. Now, as the Bush administration hands off "peacekeeping" to NATO forces, Afghanistan is the scene of the largest military operation in the history of that organization. Today's personal email brings word from an American surgeon in Kabul that her emergency medical team can't handle half the wounded civilians brought in from embattled provinces to the south and east. American, British, and Canadian troops find themselves at war with Taliban fighters - which is to say "Afghans" - while stunned NATO commanders, who hadn't bargained for significant combat, are already asking what went wrong.

The answer is a threefold failure: no peace, no democracy, and no reconstruction.

28 August 2006

And the winner is-- ?

Did Hezbollah lose its war with Israel, as suggested here? Or maybe not
Clausewitz 101: "War is an extension of politics by other means."; I.e., what really counts is the political outcome, not the kill ratios or other metrics of physical damage caused.

At the level of politics we now have Nasrallah supported by 72% of his public and Olmert supported by either 37 or 26 percent of his

27 August 2006

What the Iraqi people want

Data from a recent survey indicates that by large margins, Iraqi people do not support the presence of coalition troops in Iraq.
The bottom line: 91.7% of Iraqis oppose the presence of coalition troops in the country, up from 74.4% in 2004. 84.5% are "strongly opposed". Among Sunnis, opposition to the US presence went from 94.5% to 97.9% (97.2% "strongly opposed"). Among Shia, opposition to the US presence went from 81.2% to 94.6%, with "strongly opposed" going from 63.5% to 89.7%. Even among the Kurds, opposition went from 19.6% to 63.3%. In other words, it isn't just that Iraqis oppose the American presence - it's that their feelings are intense: only 7.2% "somewhat oppose" and 4.7% "somewhat support."

Maybe there are reasons for keeping American troops in Iraq, but "it's what the Iraqi people want" really doesn't seem to be one of them.

This despite President Bush's assertion that there will be no withdrawl of American troops from Iraq as long as he is president and one of his reasons given was that "it's what the Iraqi people want".

Also of interest, is Iraqi belief on the main reason for the illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq:

The most recent survey, done in April this year, also asked for "the three main reasons for the U.S. invasion of Iraq." Less than 2% chose "to bring democracy to Iraq" as their first choice. The list was topped by "to control Iraqi oil" (76%), followed by "to build military bases" (41%) and "to help Israel" (32%).