Category Archives: US Foreign Policy

Commentary on world affairs and American behavior in the world

June Ramble

It seems as if every Muslim leader, when confronted with popular upheaval is prone to crack the whip instead of seeking compromise.  Even Turkey’s democratic leader Erdogan has refused to budge on his plan to bulldoze Taksim park.  Maliki hasn’t listened to the peaceful protests of Sunnis in Iraq, but gone after them with guns instead.  Assad wouldn’t talk to the peaceful protesters in Damascus and earned himself a civil war and a destroyed country.  Mubarak wouldn’t talk to the protesters either, nor would the leaders of Tunisia and Libya.  Their countries are all in various stages of coming apart.  Is this reaction the traditional one of the Muslim leader at any level, including fathers?  Or is this something that just affects the dictators?  Why do Muslim leaders all seem to become authoritarian while proclaiming democracy?  Is there something about the way they raise their sons that gives them a dictatorial bent?  Would leaders who are women be the same?  Is the seduction of power so great even when there are riots in the streets?

Morsi in Egypt has followed the same pattern.  Escalating without talking, and the results have been ugly.

(Note added in July:  Morsi’s inability to govern in a way that made the lives of people better, his inability to get the military or the bureaucracy on his side doomed his rule.  An election does not establish democracy.  Others now have the awesome job of avoiding mob rule and the disintegradion of Egypt.)

Who’s to say the same won’t happen here?  How would Republicans react to huge demonstrations in the street?  Law & Order crackdown?  No concessions?  Our government has already inched in this direction under Obama.  Washington doesn’t seem to be  listening to the real concerns of people about jobs and health care, inequality and fairness, black and white issues and food security.  It wouldn’t take much of a push for conservatives to justify martial law and the imposition of authoritarianism.  We’ve already given away so much in search of that non-existent “safety”.

Ramblings in May

This is more of the same type of all-over-the-place stuff I posted earlier.

Wed., May 1

 

Yesterday I scanned through the newest items at Josh Landis’ Syria Comment.  With McCain and Grassley and their ilk shouting for war, reading through it made me realize how stupid that pressure is (as usual).  I got a picture of splintered groups of fighters, some true Freedom Fighters, some Salafi al-Nusra types, and some just thugs out to make money stripping factories and offices of equipment and other things to sell in Turkey.  There was even a video of people who have learned to “refine” Syrian oil for resale inside the country – gasoline, kerosene for cooking etc.  It sounds more like Somalia and Iraq than anything else, and it is certainly not a place for the US military.

(I’m sitting in the computer lab, baby-sitting kids who aren’t being tested, or who are late getting to school as well as those who finish before the rest of their class is done.  There are 2 “velcro” IA’s in the room plus the gym teacher, me and 6 kids.  Overkill.)

Richard Falk from his blog of April 19 on the Boston bombing and America’s place in  the world- the last paragraph:

 

     “Aside from the tensions of the moment, self-scrutiny and mid-course reflections on America’s global role is long overdue. Such a process is crucial both for the sake of the country’s own future security and also in consideration of the wellbeing of others. Such adjustments will eventually come about either as a result of a voluntary process of self-reflection or through the force of unpleasant events. How and when this process of reassessment occurs remains a mystery. Until it does, America’s military prowess and the abiding confidence of its leaders in hard power diplomacy makes the United States a menace to the world and to itself. Such an observation is as true if the more avowedly belligerent Mitt Romney rather than the seemingly dovish Barack Obama was in the White House. Such bipartisan support for maintaining the globe-girdling geopolitics runs deep in the body politic, and is accompanied by the refusal to admit the evidence of national decline. The signature irony is that the more American decline is met by a politics of denial, the more rapid and steep will be the decline, and the more abrupt and risky will be the necessary shrinking of the global leadership role so long played by the United States. We should be asking ourselves at this moment, “how many canaries will have to die before we awaken from our geopolitical fantasy of global domination?” “

 

Ok.  Ok.  So the hawks finally drag Obama into arming rebels, a no-fly zone and bombing raids.  Then what?  The FSA is not a coherent group, and doesn’t seem to have the capacity for governing.  It has set up no councils in its areas, nor has it seemed to hand out much in the way of relief to battered civilians.  Al-Nusra seems to be better at all that, and it is allied with Al-Qaeda.  Even if our help would bring down Assad, there is nothing but a vacuum to replace him, and there won’t be any Occupation as in Iraq to force unappetizing solutions down the throats of the locals.  What then?  And why is McCain so determined to get us into another war?  What’s in it for him?

Our own government seems to be falling apart.  1. The IRS over does going after TeaParty claims for 501(c)(4) status.  Really?  It’s too bad they weren’t smart enough to pepper “progressive” groups the same way, if only to cover themselves. (Only, as it turned out later, they did)

2.  The Justice department has gone after the phone records and other data of AP reporters who reported on an operation in Yemen that was supposed to be secret.  Part of the drone assassination plans?

3.  Then there’s the hoopla in Congress about the supposed cover up of the real “facts” about the tragedy in Bangazi.

 

On the first two.  The trend began in the Bush administration driven by Cheney’s fear of the “enemy”, but the administration under Obama seems to have taken it to a huge extreme charging people with violating the “Espionage” Act which has been used over time since 1917 as a government tool to punish people it didn’t like – “reds”, “Communists”, government employed leakers of information, reporters, and others.  Few of these seem to have posed any real dire threat to the US. Much of the time, the government simply wants to avoid being embarrassed as in the WikiLeaks affair.  If private Manning remains in jail for years, or gets the death penalty because he had a moral perception of right and wrong would be a gross miscarriage of justice.  Embarrassment musn’t produce that kind of an ending.

 

The President doesn’t have a magic wand.  He sits atop of the government, but he doesn’t have control over all of it.  These days, he can’t even put his own nominees in charge of the various departments.  Looking in from the outside, some of us Americans seem naively to think that the President personally directs every department of government.  He’d never get anything done if that were true.  His appointees must carry out the policies he lays down, and when such people turn out to be less than adequate managers, disagreements and scandals can happen.  Obama does not have a machiavellian prince like Cheney with hands on all the threads to make people push the same policies.  Congress also has itself to blame for stalling even the most mundane appointments, and basically crippling the State Department by denying it funds.  All the “leadership” in the world is not going to change that.  Bush sent  the military on diplomatic missions for this reason, but generals, no matter how intelligent and well trained, are not diplomats and that caused other problems, mostly in places like Pakistan where they don’t take kindly to being ordered around by America.  Lastly, we as voters need to take responsibility for our own government.  We put these people in office so we must share the blame for whatever goes wrong, and we have elected some pretty stupid people over the past 12 years.

 

May 22: Wonderful quote:

“You want another great president, pray for another great crisis. Only nation-encumbering calamity tames our political system, making elites and the public receptive to allowing a president to lead America the Unruly.”  Aaron David Miller in Foreign Policy

(Maureen Dowd should read this article.  Maybe then she wouldn’t keep harping on the lack of presidential “leadership”.  The office of the President doesn’t give the man a magic wand to make to world perfect in her eyes.)

Reflecting on the impossibilities of the job, Mr. Miller sums it up this way:

“What to do? Just get over it. Lower expectations. Don’t give up the search for quality leaders, but be honest about what a president can and cannot do. Don’t wait around to be rescued by The One — that’s not the American way. Maybe by controlling our presidential fantasies, we can stop expecting our presidents to be great, and allow them to start being good.”

Seriously, one of the most thoughtful pieces I’ve read in a long, long time.

 

Stephen Walt has a wonderful blog post in the same issue of FP titled “Top 10 warning signs of ‘liberal imperialism'”

 

As cure, he recommends the following:

 

…reading Alexander Downes and Jonathan Monten’s “Forced to Be Free?: Why Foreign-Imposed Regime Change Rarely Leads to Democratization” (International Security, 2013), along with Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan and Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.

 

I’ll have to look for the first 2.

 

May 28:

 

McCain has turned up in Syria for an obviously well-planned meeting with leaders of the Opposition.  They undoubtedly have told him exactly what he’s been wanting to hear, so he will come back to the Senate and demand that the US provide a no-fly zone, heavy arms and ammunition, and more to the rebels.  Trouble is that McCain’s credibility on these trips reeks of all the mistakes he made in Iraq, including the fraudulent walk in the market without a flak vest to prove how “safe” it was, ignoring all the hundreds of soldiers who had been detailed to protect him.  He wants to support the rebels in Syria hoping that “democracy” will emerge if they win, but there’s no guarantee of that, and it’s far more likely that the country will fall apart into fighting factions of warlords, spreading even more unrest in that part of the world than there is already.  He’s also undermining Obama’s efforts to gather a peace meeting between all the parties, which might have a chance of starting some negotiations between Assad and those fighting against him.   Some rebels have refused to meet with the dictator which may make that angle fruitless.

Anniversary of Iraq invasion

I’ve just finished reading Victoria Brittain’s piece on TomDispatch.  I know a bit about how bad things have been for people under suspicion of terrorism here in the States, but what she describes about policies followed in Great Britain is far worse than anything I have yet read about what happens to people here.

I will eventually have to buy her book, Shadow Lives,  but I don’t seem to have much time to read these days.  It’s too hard keeping up with the daily idiocy that America has become.  She quotes Desmond Tutu at the end of her piece, the same quote I pulled not long ago:

…”I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity”.

I don’t think it’s a threat anymore.  I think it’s happened.  The so-called debate over the drone wars makes it pretty clear.  Why is Rand Paul the one and only lone voice trying to get guarantees that our government won’t go after us with drones without legal protections?  Where are all the other public voices, even that of our constitutional lawyer President? We are already depraved by our own brutality and fear, and he, the President, has been ill-served by the powerful forces in Washington that are determined to continue the fighting, the killing, the military-“intelligence”  machine that seems to have taken over everything in our government.

These drones will be back one day to haunt and terrorize us as they have terrorized thousands in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan.  The whole concept of this kind of war is morally bankrupt and just plain wrong.  It’s use reveals the bottomless fear that has distorted and crippled our views of others in this world.  We are forcing ourselves to believe that those women and children killed with the supposed insurgents aren’t worthy of life or thought or compassion.

Where are the liberals and the Democrats who berated George W for his policies of torture and indefinite imprisonment without trial?  How do we know that our super secret government isn’t continuing the same policies in one form or another, but giving its actions a new name, a different euphemism to describe the morally reprehensible?  WE do not regain the moral high ground because we claim to have stopped those practices when we are still detaining people without trial for years on end – even our own citizens – and rain down death from the sky on other innocent people.  America was supposed to be different, but ever since we walked into Vietnam, we’ve lost our original constitutional, legal justification for being an exceptional nation. We can’t call ourselves the virtuous, righteous nation any more with out our faces turning the deep red of shame.

Reading Brittain’s piece is like listening to Hugh Sykes Documentary at the BBC World Service, as he speaks with Iraqis affected by American brutality and stupidity.  Some of that is powerful indeed, and there is more to come with a 2nd part next week.  He exposes the anger and frustration of those left behind in the mess we made of Iraq, and about which we no longer seem to care.  The bloggers I used to read who described their lives under Occupation are mostly no longer blogging, but scattered here and there around the world.  Those who remain in Iraq do so with remarkable optimism and humor as Sykes notes.  Having to survive in awful conditions seems to do that to people.  Iraqis share it with many Palestinians.

Having listened and read, I now want to ask questions here about the families of those entrapped by the FBI, and the consequences they faced after their husbands or sons were carted off to prison having been convicted by fearful juries and judges.  What happens to those under surveillance?  Are their funds cut off as well?  Do women who traditionally have stayed at home now have to work to support their families here?  What happens to the children in these families?

Somehow, part of me has held on to the belief that Great Britain, home of the Magna Carta, was somehow better, more civilized that we barbarians across the water, but now I’m not so sure.  In fact, if I really think about it, the Brits have always been part of that European empire building frame of mind with the same attitudes toward “native peoples” as we have now.

We should have had that long reflection after George was no longer President.  We should have tried those who were guilty of war crimes and otherwise faced our problems truthfully and rationally, but we missed that opportunity when Obama said let’s move on.  All that did was shove the mess under the rug where it has festered ever since, and trapped him in the same kind of monstrousness.

Take look at Clifford May’s piece:  http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/340638/targeted-killing-memos-clifford-d-may?utm_source=scribol.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=scribol.com

And another on our wimpish Democrats:  http://www.salon.com/2013/03/08/the_invisible_shrinking_democrats/

The Military Point of View

There was an article in the NYT yesterday (9.23) on Iraq, which appears to be critical of the Obama Administrations’s efforts to end the military presence in Iraq:  “In US Exit From Iraq, Failed Efforts of Americas Last Months in Iraq”.  It’s an excerpt from a book due out next week called the “Endgame: The inside story of the struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama” by Michael Gordon, the NYT reporter and retired Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainer.  The timing is suspiciously political.  It’s even a 2nd printing.  Didn’t attract enough attention the first time?

 

Vice President Biden comes off as naive and foolish, and Obama himself is criticized for coming late to the negotiations as well as botching them.  It seems to me that the situation on the ground had already been thoroughly botched by the Bush Administration beyond the point of the rescue of the so-called American interests.

 

The article is written mostly from the military point of view.  The military never wanted to leave Iraq, even under George W. The military never wants to give up on an operation, even when there is no choice as in Vietnam. It dragged its feet in Iraq, and now it’s dragging its feet again in Afghanistan. 

 

George & Co. had already made such a mess of things by the time Obama arrived in office that there was not much that could be done to create that chimera of the “balanced, stable democracy”.  It was the American post colonial policy of divide and conquer under the Provisional Authority that set the stage for all the struggles that followed, including the civil war and Maliki’s slide toward authoritarian rule.  The American government never learned much about Iraqis and Iraq all the time they were present in the country.  They only saw their own point of view, their wants, their needs.  No one ever asked the Iraqis what they wanted until the elections were forced on them in 2005, and then the arrangements were pretty much rigged to favor the Shia continuing the sectarian divide.  The Bush administration was never able to get Maliki to agree to leaving some soldiers in Iraq because it would have had to go through parliament which wanted all Americans out of Iraq.  What influence the Americans had was pretty much gone by the time the Bush administration was gone and Obama came in.

 

To attempt to blame Obama for the mess we left in Iraq is to have some kind of political agenda that ignores history and the present facts on the ground.  There was no way they were going to undo what George & Co. had created.  It will take time and a lot of hard work on the part of the Iraqis to come out of the chaos that followed the invasion.  We here at home should be extremely wary of those who think our military can do everything.  They can’t, as we have found to our sorrow in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

A more accurate analysis can be found in Michael Schwartz’s “War without End: The Iraq War in Context”.  Just because it’s a political season doesn’t mean that newspaper articles should be irresponsible.

Bengazhi

It looks like more old chickens are coming home to roost with the riots in Cairo and the killings and bombings in Benghazi and elsewhere. All it takes is some nuts in the US to set off mobs in both places. Arabs have been abused, ignored and mistreated by westerners for a very long time. Now the reactions are coming, as well as the provocations on this side. Unfortunately, because we believe in freedom of speech people like Yigal Palmor who, according to the NY Times, made the video that may have set things off and Sam Bacile (or whoever he is) who posted it on YouTube, there is not a lot that the government can do except apply the laws of hate speech after the fact. The article online at the NY Times this afternoon includes a mention of an Al-Qaeda video posted on their website calling for attacks on westerners.

The fact that the US and its allies are still killing Muslims in various parts of the world might have something to do with “the rage against the United States that still smolders in pockets around the region”. Well, duh! As long as we insist on the Empire state of mind for ourselves as well the actions and military bases that go with them, and as long as we continue to grab other peoples’ resources, we will have to endure the resentment as well as the attacks of those who have learned the hard way to hate us. Did we care about the thousands of Iraqis we killed in our “war” with them? No. We did not even count them. Do we even know how many Afghanis we’ve killed? No. The Pentagon always fudges the numbers.

George W. did us a great disservice in attacking and overrunning Iraq. The hatred that was already simmering because of our policy on Israel in which we let the Israelis call too many of the shots, and adding Abu Ghraib abuses plus those in other places in both Iraq and Afghanistan only added to the fire. And those were put together by Arabs and others with long memories dating back to the ouster of Mosaddegh in 1953. There is no way a single President in office for 3 and half years could reverse all the mistakes and misjudgments made over many years. To say, as Romney did, that the Obama Administration apologized is to invent a fantasy for political purposes. It will only make hime an even more obvious liar than he is already. We do not need another shoot first, ask questions later President, any more than the nation needs more war right now.

It would be nice if we could “teach the world to sing…” like the old 1970’s song says, but today’s world doesn’t lend itself to romantic dreams of peace, much as we might like to hang on to all that naive hope we had back in the 60’s and early 70’s. Today (Sept 13), with more protests boiling in other countries, we will just have to wait this wave out, and hope for a better one soon. We also need to do more to educate in our own countries against intolerance and hate, and perhaps stop killing innocent people in Muslim countries.

Polarization here at home seems to be because people have forgotten how to listen. Shouting matches may make for exciting TV to some, but they don’t do anything for communities or their governments except tear them apart. Moving inexorably toward a more authoritarian state will do nothing to arrest the problem. The same is true of Muslim countries. which have seldom had anything close to what we call democracy, mostly because western governments preferred to deal with authoritarian governments thought to be able to better maintain “stability”, and some of us still do think that way. You can see this in the Republican criticism of Obama’s foreign policy which relies on a nostalgia for the “way things were” when dictators were in many places around the globe, and America was “King of the Mountain”.

I wonder if we ever really were that “king”, but Romney still speaks of the “American Century” which should have gone out with George W.

Politicians love to talk of “young democracies” in places like Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, but their eyes are pointed straight at their own vision of what democracy is, a myth, far from the reality that exists or ever existed. To expect that after months of warring chaos they will suddenly become paragons of order is just stupid.

Is this where we’re going?

I came across a quote today while I was thinking about Republican lies and distortions and Hermann Goering, Hitler’s propaganda minister. Considering the person who said it, I find it ironic and frightening that this is what we’ve come to. Oh yes, the quote:

“Fascism should rightly be called corporatism as it is a merger of state and corporate power–Benito Mussolini “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”
–Theodore Roosevelt, April 19, 1906

As far as I can tell, we today should see this speech by Teddy Roosevelt as holding up a verbal mirror of where we have arrived in the US once again (Perhaps we never left it). The present day liars running on the Republican ticket have sold their souls to corporation money, and if they win, are quite likely to impose on us a form of corporatism not unlike fascism. There are no longer those in the media who care enough about truth to expose the lies and distortions. I have a hard time believing that Mitt Romney believes in much of anything, in spite of his obvious support of Mormonism. The same thought I have to apply to Ryan, who speaks on thing and does the opposite.

Is it possible that Chris Hedges is right and that revolution is all that’s left for ordinary people? Is there a Teddy Roosevelt who will speak for us?

On another subject, Greg Muttitt has a great piece at TomDispatch, “Mission Accomplished for Big Oil?” Speaking of ironies, this has to be one, and those Iraqis who’ve been saying for years that they were better off with Saddam may well have been right. It is painful to think that no one in power anywhere is thinking about how to help the Iraqis help themselves. It’s no wonder that the bombs keep going off.

Wars

It begins to look as if the only people who want to continue the disasters in Afghanistan and Pakistan are the upper military folks who have vested interests in making a failure into a success. If only there was a way to do that! We have proven over the last 12 years that as a country we are totally inept at exporting what we call democracy anywhere else at the point of gun. King Hussein of Jordan, among others, tried to tell us that back in 2001 or 2002, though I can no longer find the reference. His was not the only voice to challenge Bush adventurism.

Our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan were not strictly military ones. Our military has proven over and over that it is a superb killing machine. It does that job exceedingly well for a tool without mercy. What it doesn’t do, and isn’t capable of doing, is building anything resembling friendship and rebuilding among conquered peoples. We should never have allowed it to be used that way, but over the years in the US the military has gained the upper hand in the competition between the various departments in Washington. The military gives orders, it doesn’t really know how to do diplomacy, and should not be asked to do so.

There has also been a failure in understanding in the US. For a long time too many of us have held to the fat headed belief that the rest of the world should be just like us, that we could show “them” how to do things the better way (our way, of course). Unfortunately, that “better way” has all to often been unsuited to the people, the economies, and the climate conditions of the countries we set out to “improve”. We’ve talked ourselves into believing that the rest of the world wants to be just like us. What a fat-headed ignorant fantasy! Yet over and over again, we repeat the same mistakes. We think we don’t need to learn the customs and ethos of another country; the projects that will work under local conditions that can be taken over and successfully run by locals. Iraqis kept a whole bunch of creaky machinery running under Saddam. They adapted to what they had and what was available in the way of knowledge and parts. to import electric generators that may have been state of the art here in the US into a country without the infrastructure or the kinds of skills required to operate it was just blindness. The result is often a feeling of frustration with the “backward” other local population which is really just a cover for a merciless and careless feeling of superiority which is totally unjustified. As a result frustration increases on both sides, as we’re seeing in Afghanistan. How can we criticize the Karzai government’s corruption when it is a result of much of our own dealing with it, and when, as we are now finding, our own government may well be purchased in our next election by unknown corporate bosses with too much money.

If only we could admit to ourselves that there are limits to what we as a country can do in the world, and let go of the mirage of being the sole superpower. Out feet are made of heavy clay that sooner or later will sink us.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this country – just not the worst of its faults. It is certainly for me, who grew up here, the most comfortable place to live in most of the ways I can think of. Yet neither can I be blind to the horrors that have been committed in our names by leaders of limited vision or the wrongs that we do unnecessarily and selfishly to many of our own population. Right now, we have angered Afghans with our insensitivities to the point where even those whose loyalties we have purchased through salaries are turning against us. Soldiers we have trained are shooting Americans and Europeans. We say we are shocked, but how may of ours have made the effort to learn the languages, customs, and history? How many of us have any idea of how offensive our behaviour has been at all levels, how totally unwilling we have been to see that afghanis and iraqis might have something to say about what happens to them on a daily basis? Many of them have been at war for 30 years or more. What can we possibly teach them about warfare in their own land? It’s not as if we’d done such a superb job when they’ve been successfully keeping us at bay for most of that time.

US Debt to Iraq

2 days ago, this article appeared on Al-Jazeera English.  What we did to Fallujah should bring shame to every American who cares about something more than himself or herself.  The rate of birth defects resulting from our use of phosphorous and “depleted” uranium is astounding.  The photos of the affected children are heart wrenching.  Cleft palates can be repaired, but the rest of the deformities and other defects cannot.  According to the article many babies die after 20 days of so-called life.  You have to wonder how many other people have been affected in different ways by the revenge assaults on Fallujah.  What we did there was much worse than what Saddam did further north to the Kurds with his chemical weapons.

The debt we owe to people is enormous.  Instead of playing games with Maliki we should be making efforts to clean up the mess we made and to care for the affected people.  Unfortunately, because Fallujah is in a Sunni area, and Sunnis lost their battle with the Shia in the civil war that we so carefully arranged for with Bush’s misguided policies, nothing much will be done, and the damage will last for generations to come.

I hope that Dr. Alani’s research and findings will be published widely and that the West will do what it can to help, but things don’t look very promising right now.  Think about this:

As of December 21, Alani, who has worked at the hospital since 1997, told Al Jazeera she had personally logged 677 cases of birth defects since October 2009. Just eight days later when Al Jazeera visited the city on December 29, that number had already risen to 699.

Here’s is another shocking finding:

Dr Alani visited Japan recently, where she met with Japanese doctors who study birth defect rates they believe related to radiation from the US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

She was told birth defect incidence rates there are between 1-2 per cent. Alani’s log of cases of birth defects amounts to a rate of 14.7 per cent of all babies born in Fallujah, more than 14 times the rate in the affected areas of Japan.

I don’t think that any kind of status in the world that the US claims (like “Sole SuperPower”) entitles it to use weapons that have been declared illegal under international agreements and to disregard the lives of those who remain behind in the war torn areas we have abandoned. Obama needs to send the Iraqis an Ambassador with some clout in Washington, and stop worrying about “terrorists”. Please read the full article.

Structural Lies

Gareth Porter in a recent article in Truthout:

The story of the lies that took the Obama administration into a bigger war in Afghanistan shows that those lies have structural, systemic roots. The political dynamics surrounding the making of war policies are so completely dominated by the vested interests of the heads of the Pentagon, the military, and other national security bureaucracies that the outcome of the process must be based on a systematic body of lies. Only by depriving those institutions of their power can Americans have a military policy based on the truth.

It fits with what I have been saying about the machinery of government having all the momentum in decision making by the administration, and it explains to a large extent why Obama has been so disappointing for progressives. No matter what he might have thought to be a better way of dealing with the world before the election, once surrounded by those with vested interests in their ways and methods, he has had little opportunity to make his own kind of foreign policy or way decisions. He will have to rid himself of many of the oldovers from previous administrations if he intends to accomplish much on his own. Even Hillary is wedded to the old ways of accepting the combined “wisdom” of the intelligence agencies and the military. It has been a long time since anything resembling original thought got any kind of a blessing in Washington.

Go have a good read. It’s well worth it.

Do you remember Iraq?

You know, that war we fought for 5 or 6 years? That place where Democracy was going to take root and be this great example for the rest of the arab world? That place where we spent billions to “reconstruct” the country? Well, guess what, it’s still a place where the children are dying for lack of medical care:

Unfortunately for Iraqis, their doctors are still leaving the country because so many of them have been kidnapped, or assassinated or both. Medicines are another problem, as the video shows. Much of what the US has spent on rebuilding education has been swallowed up in corruption. Many of the young people whose blogs I still try to read have also left the country. The brain drain certainly will do the country no good for the future. Those who have been displaced inside Iraq by all the fighting may have the hardest time:

Few in this country seem to care any more what may happen in Iraq after US troops pull out (if they do). Many Iraqis have said they want the troops to stay, but Prime Minister Maliki owes his place to the Sadrists, and their leader, Moktada al-Sadr,  is adamant that the US must leave as promised.  Allowing our military involvement to drag on indefinitely doesn’t seem to be very popular here, either.  What the two countries may agree on is some sort of “training” mission that allows for many US forces to stay, and there are the ubiquitous “contractors” draining the budgets of both countries.

Our US military will not want to leave.  They never do once they’ve been sent somewhere as Obama is discovering about Afghanistan.  So we can probably expect that reports of more deaths from IED attacks in Iraq will continue, and the country will remain rather chaotic for the foreseeable future.  Our soldiers are both a help and a hindrance as we prop up a government that does not have the confidence of all the Iraqi people.  And if that also sounds familiar, it’s because we keep following the same patterns of actions no matter where or when we go to war in a far away place.  We say we want stability, but that’s not what our actions accomplish.