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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Patrick Cockburn's new book on Iraq

New from Patrick Cockburn
From KPFA Flashpoints program

I have highlighted several stories written by UK Independent journalist Patrick Cockburn over the past month or so. Cockburn reports directly from the heart of Iraq with great courage. You'll get a true picture of Iraq from Cockburn's reporting: "One of the Most Disastrous Wars Ever Fought" and "Nothing but misery".

Now we have a chance to hear Patrick Cockburn from London, but who was in Iraq at the same time Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Vice President Dick Cheney were there last week. The 22-minute AUDIO segment below broadcast yesterday as part of KPFA Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints program:



Cockburn fully deconstructs the reality behind the Cheney-McCain PR angle, that as McCain puts it "Americans are more understanding of the success of the surge." This mantra is swallowed whole by American media.

Cockburn suggests some obvious questions they should be asking. For example, why did McCain this time avoid taking another well-protected shopping trip through the open-air Shorja market in Baghdad he touted last spring as a great "success"?? Perhaps it is because, as Patrick Cockburn explains in this interview, that the market today is under the control of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.

The whole Cheney-McCain program makes Cockburn's "blood run cold" as they pretend not to notice the clashes and bombings erupting all around them. Meanwhile, a deluge of propaganda continuously mis-characterizes the situation, for example in lies told about last month's "Downs syndrome" bombers (they did not have this condition, as the U.S. quietly admitted later).

This is essential material. Interviewer Dennis Bernstein does a terrific job. Go HERE to download whole program from which this segment came.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Today Democracy Now! had this story:

US to Release Iraqi Prisoners, Teach Them About Islam
The Wall Street Journal reports US commanders in Iraq have begun releasing hundreds of Iraqi prisoners after concluding the military?s detention policy might be harming US goals in Iraq. The US is currently holding about 23,000 Iraqis, many without charge. The US military has begun building a pair of large halfway houses in Taji and Ramadi, where detainees will undergo vocational training. The Wall Street Journal reports the US military also plans to teach religious courses to the former prisoners about how to be a moderate Muslim. Imams will be brought in by the military to teach courses that highlight the Islamic precepts that bar the killing of innocents and offer alternative interpretations of jihad. [emphasis added]
Somehow I get the feeling that Iraqi Muslims will not respond well to the "re-education" efforts of their occupiers.

Patrick Cockburn's new book on Iraq

New from Patrick Cockburn
THIS in a way is a related story:

Muqtada and the Mahdi Army
A Cleric, a Pol and a Warrior






By PATRICK COCKBURN
The iraqi government has decided that the moment has come to crush the Mahdi Army and the followers of Muqtada Sadr once and for all. Despite its failure to eliminate his militiamen in Basra at the end of March, the government, with American backing, is determined to try again, according to senior Iraqi officials.

It is a dangerous strategy for both Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and the U.S. Sadr remains one of the most powerful and revered leaders of the Shiite community -- and the Shiites make up 60% of Iraq. What's more, the 34-year-old Sadr is not exactly the mercurial "firebrand" or "renegade" cleric portrayed by journalistic cliche-mongers; rather, he has repeatedly shown himself to be a cautious and experienced political operator. ...
In other words, the U.S. strategy in Iraq is shifting. It's evolving into a "hearts and minds" effort. But as Cockburn points out again and again, the Americans are half-assed. They don't understand the cultural depth of the Iraqi people and the notion that resistance to the cultural destruction the Americans have brought can't just be wiped away by trying to eliminate Sadr and doing a little re-education.

Cockburn's book, Muqtada, is an amazing, revealing path through Iraqi history and consciousness. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dying for Nothing
One of the Most Disastrous Wars Ever Fought

By PATRICK COCKBURN - Counterpunch (Original in Independent HERE) - March 18, 2008
Baghdad. The war in Iraq has been one of the most disastrous wars ever fought by Britain. It has been small but we achieved nothing. It will stand with Crimea and the Boer War as conflicts which could have been avoided and were demonstrations of incompetence from start to finish.

The British failure in the Iraq war has been even more gross because it has not ended with a costly military victory but a humiliating scuttle. The victors in Basra and southern Iraq have been the local Shia militias masquerading as government security forces.
It's a "humiliating defeat" for the UK, and just about everyone there sees it as such. While Prime Minister Brown "insists it is not the right time for an immediate investigation", he promises there WILL be an inquiry. "There is a need to learn all possible lessons from the military action in Iraq and its aftermath," he said.

Tony Blair's former chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, "warned it could take 'decades' to bring calm to Iraq. He also admitted the British and US governments had seriously underestimated the scale of the task before them in 2003."

That article concludes with a list of the four UK inquiries into the war and its run-up, saying that "few answers" have resulted.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More on rampant American corruption

Proper context from Patrick Cockburn.

A 'fraud' bigger than Madoff
Senior US soldiers investigated over missing Iraq reconstruction billions
By Patrick Cockburn in Sulaimaniyah, Northern Iraq - Monday, 16 February 2009
In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (?88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff's notorious Ponzi scheme. ...

Despite the vast sums expended on rebuilding by the US since 2003, there have been no cranes visible on the Baghdad skyline except those at work building a new US embassy and others rusting beside a half-built giant mosque that Saddam was constructing when he was overthrown.
Last year I wondered how the U.S. embassy in Baghdad -- "empire's architecture" -- "doesn't look like a huge insult and provocation to every decent Iraqi."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Patrick Cockburn:
Israeli society was always introverted but these days it reminds me more than ever of the Unionists in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s or the Lebanese Christians in the 1970s. Like Israel, both were communities with a highly developed siege mentality which led them always to see themselves as victims even when they were killing other people. There were no regrets or even knowledge of what they inflicted on others and therefore any retaliation by the other side appeared as unprovoked aggression inspired by unreasoning hate.
This mentality seizes U.S. politics and media as well.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

U.S. pullback proceeding: LINK

A Whole New Ballgame in Iraq
US Troops Leaving the Cities
Patrick Cockburn
Baghdad. There are few American patrols on the streets of Baghdad and soon there will be none. In just over two weeks time on June 30, US military forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities. The occupation which began six years ago is ending. On every side there are signs of the decline of US influence. ... The knowledge that the US forces in Iraq will go is already transforming the Iraqi political landscape, long before the exit of the last American troops. It is no longer politic for any Iraqi leader to be identified in the eyes of Iraqis with the American occupation. ...
Cockburn covers the story in his unique way, trying to make sense of dozens of observations and reports about certain incidents that happen (some unfortunately very violent) and the activities and behavior of important officials. He describes tension along "a 300-mile-long unofficial frontier, of areas which are outside the boundaries of the highly autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government but have a Kurdish majority" and points to the struggle "over oil, which is being discovered in large quantities in the KRG under contacts the Oil Ministry in Baghdad denounces as illegal."

Cockburn concludes on a hopeful note, "One of the main destabilizing factors in Iraq for the last six years has been the presence of a large US army and with its departure Iraq's many simmering conflicts might just be kept under control."

I have my suspicions about the extended presence of U.S. forces and its continuing control over its central embassy palace and airport bases. Supposedly the new War Supplemental funding measure prohibits "permanent bases", but how long will they "endure"? But despite the bases and embassy, when I add up the entire picture of Iraq since 2003, I believe the U.S. did not acquire anything resembling the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld vassal originally intended.

True, U.S.-connected cleptocrats stole tens of billions of dollars of Iraqi wealth, recklessly destroyed Iraqi towns and cities, while millions in the population suffered unspeakable death, injury, and displacement. There is good reason for officials now not wanting to be seen to have anything to do with the Americans.

No clear, absolute American control of Iraqi oil seems to be in place. A U.S. attempt at privatization on behalf of Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, BP, and Chevron desired by Bush a year ago didn't fly. The Pentagon later greased a deal for Shell, but that has faced Iraqi resistance along the way as well.

The U.S. remains destined to be involved in the affairs of Iraq for years to come. But it hasn't turned out to be the model of imperialism often wrongly conceived by Americans as "liberation."

Update: The missing link to the story was added.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Status of forces agreement seen by "progressives" as a U.S. "blink"

Last night, Rachel Maddow had THIS interview with a McClatchy reporter who yesterday filed a story, "Why the U.S. blinked on its troop agreement with Iraq."



The idea is that "U.S. negotiators had failed to understand how the two countries' political timetables would force the U.S. to make major concessions that relinquish much of the control over U.S. forces in Iraq."

I just read THIS from an interesting "progressive" site that I've never heard of before:

Did the Bush Administration blink when negotiating the Iraq SOFA?
November 20, 2:37 PM - by Jay McDonough, Progressive Politics Examiner
Did the U.S. get the best deal with the recently completed status of forces agreement (SOFA) with Iraq? The agreement has been finalized and accepted by Prime Minister Maliki's cabinet and is now being debated in Iraq's Parliament. But some U.S. military personnel are privately criticizing the Bush Administration for giving Iraq too much control over U.S. forces.

This SOFA, once approved, will provide Iraq authority over Iraqi airspace, give Iraq potential authority over U.S. military operations and intelligence activities in Iraq, forbid the U.S. from using Iraq as a launchpad to attack Iraq's neighbors, and allow Iraq jurisdiction over U.S. troops for crimes committed outside the U.S. bases.

This is a radically different SOFA from the one the U.S. pressed for at the onset of the negotiations. At that time, the U.S. had wanted an open ended agreement that would allow U.S. forces in Iraq for an indefinite period, the establishment of semi-permanent U.S. military bases, U.S. control of Iraq's airspace and no Iraqi jurisdiction over American military forces or subcontractors.

So, how did the U.S. get so snookered?
I think "blinked" or "snookered" are the wrong terms. It's more like cutting losses. The U.S. did not receive the earlier brazenly arrogant terms first floated because its power over the Iraqi political process is much diminished. Also, go to afsc.org HERE and read Raed Jarrar's translation of the actual thing. While it does contain hedge language that the U.S. could use to try to extend its stay or challenge Iraqi jurisdiction, the Iraqis have managed to set forth a 3-year timetable for complete withdrawal.

"Complete" is key for the Iraqis, who are fearful of U.S. continuing covert control. Patrick Cockburn has been writing consistently about how the Iraqis are driving that hard bargain out of these genuine concerns, especially about intelligence forces. See THIS recent Cockburn piece for more.

Can you blame the Iraqis for driving a tough bargain after almost six years of their doors being kicked in, millions killed or displaced, their sewers flowing in the streets, and their country in general being laid to waste?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Story of driver's travails, $3000 cab rides, and lakes of sewage metaphors for Iraq's destruction during five years of brutal, relentless occupation

The Independent (U.K.) correspondent Patrick Cockburn has a lot to say about the truth of Iraq that we did not hear in the President's State of the Union message, and that we do not read in the Pentagon press releases published in the New York Times under the Michael Gordon byline.

This, which has made the rounds of the papers and wires the last couple of days, is an example of news about the "improving" situation typically we are fed:

UN hints at Iraq refugee returns
BBC Feb 16 2008 - Limited numbers of refugees have already returned
The UN's top refugee official has hinted that security in Iraq may soon have improved enough for some of the 4m Iraqi refugees to begin returning home.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, told the BBC the UNHCR and Iraqi government were planning an assessment of conditions.

Some 2m Iraqis have fled abroad, while another 2m are displaced inside Iraq.

In December, the UNHCR said the situation in Iraq was "not yet conducive to large-scale return".
Cockburn has some insight about what "returning" means in two different pieces:

Sunday, September 04, 2011

"across those ten years have the charges that it was an "inside job," a favored phrase of the self-styled "truthers," received any serious buttress? The answer is no."
The 9/11 Conspiracists: Vindicated After All These Years? Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Alexander Cockburn in the piece above gives a pretty good rundown on the hapless state of 9/11 conspiracy theory "movements." It's always been a sad enterprise.

I think I won't write more about it, but if you are so inclined, here are two earlier posts:

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Volatile.

He "is uncontrollable ... he does not think before he acts."

"This is hostility toward other human beings."

"Do I trust him with the button? No."

Back in February, Alexander Cockburn wrote about "The Mushrooming Clouds That Hang Over McCain,"
... John McCain's political handlers had been complacently sketching out their basic strategy: to portray Obama as a mere novice in statecraft, devoid of those powers of mature wisdom and sober judgment with which the seasoned McCain is so richly endowed.

The problem here for McCain is that he's a dunderhead in statecraft, devoid of self control, capricious in moral standards and an imbecile in his lack of political judgment.
I've certainly had my doubts about Obama. But it's obviously clear that whatever Obama's faults, we just can't afford to have a hothead like McCain inherit the Bush/Cheney unitary executive of absolute power. Obama would seem to be the only way in the election to take a step toward getting our country back.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

THIS should be blockbuster news:

Secret Bush "Finding" Widens War on Iran
By ANDREW COCKBURN
Six weeks ago, President Bush signed a secret finding authorizing a covert offensive against the Iranian regime that, according to those familiar with its contents, "unprecedented in its scope."

Bush?s secret directive covers actions across a huge geographic area ? from Lebanon to Afghanistan ? but is also far more sweeping in the type of actions permitted under its guidelines ? up to and including the assassination of targeted officials. This widened scope clears the way, for example, for full support for the military arm of Mujahedin-e Khalq, the cultish Iranian opposition group, despite its enduring position on the State Department's list of terrorist groups.
Of course on U.S. shores it's not possible to think about consequences in such a manner, but looking at this finding from Iran's point of view and applying the standard for self defense established by President Bush himself would mean immediate preventive Iranian attack upon the United States is justified by the Bush Doctrine. If Iran were to wait until the threat against its territory were to fully materialize, it would be too late.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

"U.S. Not Seeking Permanent Iraq Bases, Ambassador Says"

The actual punch line is there will be fifty permanent bases:

Bush's Secret Deal Would Ensure Permanent U.S. Occupation of Iraq
By PATRICK COCKBURN
A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to this reporter, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq.
Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which U.S. troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law...

Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for U.S. troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.

The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now.
Let's see if Obama resists this in any meaningful way. I suppose there have been a few hurt feelings in Congress over earlier whispers because the administration was loathe to tell any of them what this plan was actually going to be. I'll be watching what they do.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Politics-charged announcement follows summer filled with assertion of Iraqi government power

By any stretch, 8,000 is a modest draw down:
President Bush: Here is the bottom line: While the enemy in Iraq is still dangerous, we have seized the offensive, and Iraqi forces are becoming increasingly capable of leading and winning the fight. As a result, we have been able to carry out a policy of "return on success" ? reducing American combat forces in Iraq as conditions on the ground continue to improve.
Predictably, both McCain and Obama think their own ideas about Iraq are vindicated. The design, however, clearly is for Bush to help McCain get the upper hand because the announcement reinforces his "maverick" image in being an early "surge" promoter.

But the "surge" is far from the only or even any reason at all it looks like Iraq is quieter, for now. Patrick Cockburn offered in a short piece last week parts of the story missing from all the American political narratives:

How the Bush Administration is Helping McCain:
The Fake U.S. Victory in Iraq

By PATRICK COCKBURN
Much of what the White House is now doing is done to help the Republicans in the presidential election. The aim is to give the impression that Iraq has finally come right for the US and victory is finally in its grasp. The surge is promoted as the strategy by which the tide was turned and it is true that the Sunni uprising against the US occupation has largely ended.

But it has done so for reasons that have little to do with the surge or American actions of any kind. Crucial to the success of the government against the Mahdi Army has been the support of Iran. It is they who arranged for the Shia militiamen to go home.
Obama, for his part, pointed out today the money sink-hole the "wrong" war in Iraq will continue to be:
Obama: We will continue to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq while the Iraqi government sits on a $79 billion surplus. In the absence of a timetable to remove our combat brigades, we will continue to give Iraq's leaders a blank check instead of pressing them to reconcile their differences. So the President's talk of "return on success" is a new name for continuing the same strategic mistakes that have dominated our foreign policy for over 5 years.
I find it unseemly for Obama (and other politicians like both Susan Collins and Tom Allen) to take the handy course of whipping the Iraqis over their treasury, seeing how U.S.-run contractors and quislings have stolen Iraq blind over those five years. I'd be more more impressed if he acknowledged the death, destruction, and displacement the Iraqi people have suffered over these years and promised that his administration would get the American boot off of Iraq's neck.

Note & update: Earlier in the summer I had been concerned about the onerous so-called "Status of Forces" agreement and colonial oil proposal the Bush Administration had been attempting to impose on Iraq. An excellent piece describing what had ensued over the summer to cause the Bush Administration to back off is HERE:

Is the Maliki Government Jumping Off
the American Ship of State?

Michael Schwartz , TomDispatch.com , Sep 8, 2008
In the past few weeks, the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made it all too clear that, in the long run, it has little inclination to remain "aligned with U.S. interests" in the region. In fact, we may be witnessing a classic "tipping point," a moment when Washington's efforts to dominate the Middle East are definitively deep-sixed.

The client state that the Bush administration has spent so many years and hundreds of billions of dollars creating, nurturing, and defending has shown increasing disloyalty and lack of gratitude, as well as an ever stronger urge to go its own way. Under the pressure of Iraqi politics, Maliki has moved strongly in the direction of a nationalist position on two key issues: the continuing American occupation of the country and the future of Iraqi oil. In the process, he has sought to distance his government from the Bush administration and to establish congenial relationships, if not an outright alliance, with Washington's international adversaries, including the Bush administration's mortal enemy, Iran.
Hmmm. The ungrateful wretches. It won't be easy for them under either McCain or Obama, but it may not be long before the Iraqis themselves cast off that American boot.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

They lied then and they are lying now

The Terrible Reality of Iraq

A War of Lies
By PATRICK COCKBURN - Counterpunch - March 19, 2008
Baghdad. It has been a war of lies from the start. All governments lie in wartime but American and British propaganda in Iraq over the past five years has been more untruthful than in any conflict since the First World War. ...
And, be sure to listen to WERU Community Radio, 89.9 FM Blue Hill, Maine and 102.9FM Bangor for my interview with Dahr Jamail, Thursday March 20 at 4pm on the Radioactive program.

IRAQ: Five Years, And Counting
Analysis by Dahr Jamail
WASHINGTON, Mar 18 (IPS) - Devastation on the ground and largely held Iraqi opinion contradicts claims by U.S. officials that the situation in Iraq has improved towards the fifth anniversary of the invasion Mar. 20.

U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, during a surprise visit to Iraq on Monday declared the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a "successful endeavour".

According to the group Just Foreign Policy, more than a million Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion and occupation, now entering its sixth year. A survey by British polling agency ORB estimates the number of dead at more than 1.2 million.

Nobel laureate and former chief World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz recently published a book with co-author Linda Bilmes of Harvard University titled 'The Three Trillion Dollar War', a figure it considers a "conservative estimate" of the long-range price tag of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The authors say the Bush administration has repeatedly "low-balled" the cost of the war, and has kept a set of records hidden from the U.S. public.

According to the U.S. Department of Defence, close to 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed. The number of British casualties is 175.

"The war in Iraq has been one of the most disastrous wars ever fought by Britain," journalist Patrick Cockburn of London's Independent Newspaper wrote Mar. 17. "It will stand with Crimea and the Boer War as conflicts which could have been avoided, and were demonstrations of incompetence from start to finish."

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than four million Iraqis are displaced from their homes, with roughly half of them outside of the country.

The Iraqi Red Crescent estimates that one in every four residents of Baghdad, a city of six million, is displaced from home.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a report Mar. 17 that millions are still deprived of clean water and medical care.
Article continues below...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Maine senator does the dirty work on CBS Face the Nation


Wingnuttia rallies, Axelrod finesses, and Snowe leads her gang on Face the Nation
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME): I urged the president to take the public option off the table, because it's universally opposed by all Republicans in the Senate. And therefore, there's no way to pass a plan that includes the public option. So I think he's recognizing that, because it is a roadblock to building the kind of consensus that we need to move forward.
Let's first be absolutely clear about why any sort of public health plan is anathema and such a threat to Big Insurance and the politicians they own. It would divert their premium flow and possibly be run by people whose primary job is to pay the doctor bill rather than enrich their shareholders. It may not be "essential" to Sibelius and Obama, and it would be according to White House spokesman Axelrod "unfortunate" (though apparently not a deal breaker) to have a bill without it. What is extremely essential to Big Insurance is the public plan be killed.

Here's what bugged me about the health insurance speech given by President Obama on Wednesday. It was the way he lumped together and dismissed "left" and "right" reform as a "radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have." Then he finessed his clear desire to drop the public option with rhetoric about keeping "insurance companies honest" while keeping the White House door "open" to "serious" proposals.

I read that as an invitation to submit ways to silence demand for the public option, like the triggers (Snowe's pet idea, but she says herself that's going nowhere) or co-ops, which look to me to be a sham.

Furthermore, the true meaning of this open door policy may be discerned, I believe, if you take a look at who is having trouble entering that door. Earlier in the week there was a story about a new letter to the president from the progressive, pro-public-option Congressional block. As Greg Sargent explained, that White House door has been elusive to the public option group: "Obama had originally promised a meeting to progressives, but mysteriously, it never materialized."

That said, what was the top news story generated by the speech? It was the "You lie" remark from a reactionary Congressman against Obama's assurance that undocumented persons would not receive health benefits under reform. This was leading the news as late as Thursday evening, and even Olympia was taking Congressman Wilson to the woodshed on Sunday.

In fact I find it pathetic that Obama trying to set the record straight about what really is a gutless capitulation on wingnuttia's pet health reform demon--that some undeserving shlub here contrary to status laws may be able to get a flu shot or a bone set--becomes the most important story. Alexander Cockburn aptly pointed out that what Congressman Wilson shouted was true, only about a different part of the speech:
Alexander Cockburn: Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted out "You lie", when Obama said correctly that his plan wouldn't offer services to illegal immigrants. By so saying, of course, Obama was acknowledging that he had just lied when he declared at the start of his speech that adequate medical care is a basic human right. Are undocumented workers, who sustain America's agriculture and much of its building industry, not humans, or humans without rights like the captives Obama still wishes to classify as beyond the protections of the Geneva Protocols?
Here are previous posts that illustrate just how dead the public option is. Given the remarks by Snowe on Sunday, nothing discussed in these was changed due to the Obama speech:

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Iraqi official livid over proposal supported by Senator Susan Collins to force attachment of oil revenue for American purposes

"America has hardly even begun to repay its debt to Iraq."
--Abdul Basit, the head of Iraq's Supreme Board of Audit


With another massive Iraq war funding bill now before Congress, it has become popular among Republicans and Democrats alike to take Iraq to task for not using enough of its burgeoning oil revenue for reconstruction projects. Senator Collins joined that fray in front-page stories last month, insisting that the "free ride" for Iraq should be over.

Good thing I listen to the podcast of Harry Shearer's Le Show. Otherwise, I would not have caught this significant story, which last week evidently made it no further than the Chicago Tribune:

Iraq: U.S. has no claim to oil boom
By Liz Sly - Tribune correspondent - May 1, 2008
BAGHDAD ? As Congress gears up to debate the Bush administration's latest request for an additional $108 billion in war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan, Iraqis are fuming at suggestions being floated by lawmakers that Baghdad should start paying a share of the war's costs by providing cheap fuel to the U.S. military.

"America has hardly even begun to repay its debt to Iraq," said Abdul Basit, the head of Iraq's Supreme Board of Audit, an independent body that oversees Iraqi government spending. "This is an immoral request because we didn't ask them to come to Iraq, and before they came in 2003 we didn't have all these needs."

The issue of Baghdad's contribution to the costs of the war jumped to the forefront early in April during testimony to Congress of the Iraq war commander, Gen. David Petraeus, and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. Noting that the soaring price of oil is likely to give Iraq a revenue bonanza this year of up to $70 billion, senators quizzed the two on why Iraq isn't using its rising oil income to pay more of the costs of reconstruction.

Iraqi and U.S. officials say they are. Iraqis acknowledge the need for Iraq to take on a greater share of its reconstruction costs and say it is doing so. In fact, according to the latest report released Wednesday by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the body established by Congress to monitor reconstruction spending, Iraq is now responsible for the majority of the money spent on reconstruction and the Iraqi security forces.

Iraqis say the criticisms in Washington grossly simplify the complexities of Iraq's situation and fail to take into account the vastness of Iraq's needs....
The Tribune article goes on to review the staggering history of corruption under American auspices, "Behind the controversy lies a giant muddle of misspending, waste, corruption and poor accounting on the part of both Iraq and the U.S. surrounding about $100 billion worth of spending on reconstruction and the Iraqi security forces that has barely dented Iraq's needs over the past five years."

U.S. Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has some quibbles with Congresspeople like Collins and Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, who have made hay with the "Iraqis are not pulling their weight" line--"a bit overplayed," according to Bowen. Figures are presented that suggest Iraqi piking on their own reconstruction just is not the case.

The bottom line here is that people in Iraq have noticed America's arrogance. To them, people like Collins and Levin are heard to be manipulating American politics for American interests while using Iraq and it's oil as a pawn. But to me the truth is clear. America has destroyed Iraq. It's guts have been cut out to the point that, as Patrick Cockburn has described, the lakes of sewage are visible from outer space. The reconstruction projects our Congress bothers to discuss after its done funding the military operation (which works to further destroy the country) barely scratch the surface of what America owes the Iraqi people.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Have we learned from Iraq after all?

These are the answers to Sunday's matching quiz:
1. B; 2. C; 3. D; 4. A

Click HERE to see the background and discussion below.

Now, for a nightmare headline--that is if you are a U.S. or Israeli reactionary who was hoping the "September surprise" enrichment plant "revelations" would leverage a more damaging attack on the Iranian population:

Iran agrees to open up uranium enrichment plant to inspection
Provisional deal offers hope of defusing crisis
Julian Borger in Geneva | guardian.co.uk, Thursday 1 October 2009 20.39 BST
Iran agreed in principle today to export much of its stock of enriched uranium for processing and to open its newly-revealed enrichment plant to UN inspections within a fortnight.

The agreements, struck at negotiations in Geneva with six major powers, represented the most significant progress in talks with Tehran in over three years, and offered hope that the nuclear crisis could be defused, at least temporarily.

Western officials cautioned that the preliminary agreements could unravel in negotiations over the details. But if the deals were completed, it would push back the looming threat of further sanctions and possible military action.
Of course this news reads a little different from U.S.-based sources: "Obama: Iran Must Follow Through on Nuke Promises."

Maybe this does make Obama look a bit more rational and able to manage disparate global interests than the Republicans, especially last year's losers, as Rachel Maddow pointed out HERE. Maybe Obama is playing a clever game to defuse the more bloodthirsty elements occupying Washington and Jerusalem.

But somehow I don't think the threat of U.S.-approved violence against the Iranian people is over. It appears the Iranians have played a card the Americans did not expect they would--the agreed to outsource uranium enrichment. This was a proposal floated as early as the 2004 presidential campaign by the Democrats. I've written about this before, back when John Edwards still was a viable candidate:
On the essential aspects of "militarism and oil-driven expansionism," it seems to me quite clear that calls to "negotiate" with Iran ring hollow. Walking a tightrope while recognizing that very few in America, especially in Democratic primaries, are particularly in a mood to jump into a bigger war, Edwards appeared to be conciliatory in a recent interview with Ezra Klein of The American Prospect. The trouble is, there is really no aspect of US imperial policy in the Middle East that possibly could be conceded in a negotiation with Iran, and Edwards failed to offer such.

In that Klein interview, Edwards explains what America would ?give? Iran. They would be allowed to have a nuclear fuel cycle, controlled by Washington. Presumably Iran would be also be allowed to pay its oh-so-?hard? oil $ in exchange for these benefits brought to it by the elite technocratic contracting entities in the multinational Nuclear Suppliers Group. Also, Iran would get economic "help," presumably from a dose of neoliberal medicine. If I were Iranian, that deal would be totally a non-starter.
I may have been proven wrong here. I hope so, if it means that an attack on Iran and the counter measures Iran would almost certainly take do not happen. But unfortunately I'm not quite ready to believe the forces lined up against Iran are going to stand down just yet.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Weak in Review: Bangor author Stephen King remarks on reading skills and options in life, made "controversial" by wingnut bloggers, carry huge weight over Iraq/Afghanistan veteran suicide issue in Bangor Daily News

It was quite a week of war and veterans issues coverage in the Bangor Daily News. Was it their big, front-page coverage of the U.S.-backed killing and destruction in civilian neighborhoods in Sadr City? Nope, there was no such coverage. Was it their prominent story on the hearings in Congress and west coast court case on treatment of veterans and controversial actions by high officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs? Nope, they had just a tiny AP release buried deep in the paper on that.

What they had was THIS:

Stephen King fires back after blogger attacks remarks
By The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 07, 2008 - Bangor Daily News
BANGOR, Maine ? Stephen King has fired back at conservative critics who attacked him over a remark he made a month ago at a writers symposium for high school students.

A blogger jumped on King?s statement at the Library of Congress about the importance of reading in which he suggested poor readers have limited prospects, including service in the Army.

"I don?t want to sound like an ad, a public service ad on TV, but the fact is if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don?t, then you?ve got the Army, Iraq, I don?t know, something like that. It?s not as bright," King said at the April 4 event in which he was accompanied by his wife Tabitha and son Owen.

Blogger Noel Sheppard likened the comment to former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry?s remarks that if you don?t get a good education, "you get stuck in Iraq."

"Nice sentiment when the nation is at war, Stephen," Sheppard wrote.
The BDN continued coverage with an editorial and they did give the spooky author plenty of space to respond, but the angle was on the "controversy" of the remarks.

The story wouldn't quit, as some of the troop greeters at the airport had temporarily removed King items from the terminal area. The group leaders over there came to their senses and had the items replaced.

Meanwhile, consider that THIS outrageous story of officials covering-up the real challenges returning troops face is barely news up here:

An Outrage: V.A. Official Who Covered Up Veterans' Suicides Won't Lose Job
Greg Mitchell - Huffington Post - May 10, 2008
A week of hearings in Washington on the alarming spike in suicides among veterans of the Iraq war, and an official cover-up of the numbers, has ended with both the Veterans Affairs chief and the V.A. mental health director whose advice on the matter was "Shh," still holding their jobs.

Meanwhile, the returning soldiers "are dropping like flies." That's how one soldier characterized the spike in suicides among servicemen coming home from war, according to Greg Dobbs, who is completing a documentary on PTSD for HDNet and wrote an op-ed today for the Rocky Mountain News of Denver.

Dr. Ira Katz, the mental health official who ordered "Shh!" on revelations of the alarming number of suicides among U.S. veterans, won't lose his job over it, his boss told Congress. The poor fellow, like all of us from time to time, just wrote without thinking in an e-mail, V.A. Secretary James Peake testified.

Katz agreed that it was just a bad choice of words when he sent his colleagues an e-mail about suicide data that started out with "Shh!" in the subject line. The e-mail (which I covered in-depth last week) went on to admit that 12,000 veterans a year attempt suicide while under department treatment -- but this number should be kept from CBS News, which was studying the issue. "Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" the e-mail asked.
For a bunch more, please read Alexander Cockburn's Counterpunch Diary for today, Real Clear Numbers: 101,000 U.S. Casualties a Year.

All this just shows how loathe to face the truth about this war are many Americans. People would rather pile on Stephen King for what I think is a valid observation: the military becomes one of the few options open to young people who have for whatever reason been ill-served by the educational system.
Some of us who have lived to my age, or maybe even a little older "we were so hopeful that this would never happen again, that we would never do this to another generation of young people?. And we?re doing it right now,? you know,? we?re doing it right now. We?re killing ?em, we?re maiming 'em, we?re sending 'em home crazy. And we?re not doing anything for 'em when they get back. It?s the same thing again.
--Stan Goff, Orono, Maine, November 15, 2005

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"War is sometimes necessary and war at some level is an expression of human folly." --President Obama

Today I forced myself to listen to the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech President Obama gave in Oslo. I don't mind telling you that the entire incident of the award of this prize to Obama and his acceptance of it sickens me.

Frankly, I barely could listen to Obama deliver the speech. I found the contradictions profound and the allusions to King, well, cynical. The award of the Peace Prize to Obama is so embarrassing--especially in light of his Afghanistan escalation speech just one week ago--that he has nixed press availability and the usual pomp & circumstance.

Beyond that, I react viscerally to liberal hawk notions--finding the formulation of just war theory, in particular Obama's version, to be fraudulent. That's not to say I didn't find the line about "the blood of our citizens" to be enormously powerful, and the counterpoint "war itself is never glorious" to be deeply true. However the mere fact that Obama used the backdrop of the West Point cadets to deliver his escalation speech belies his willingness to use props of glory in a manner every bit as tawdry as the style of Bush.

For more excellent response, I recommend Counterpunch. THIS piece by Patrick Cockburn on "The March of Folly" calls it like it is, not the next Bushian grand chapter in the necessary sacrificial struggle against the spectre of total evil, but rather that
President Obama is sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan to prove that the US can impose its will on the country and crush by military means what is still a relatively small scale insurrection.
I'll also mention THIS by William Blum, "Yeswecanism," a quite thorough examination of the Obama war promises and subsequent American war conduct under Obama evidently overlooked by Obama supporters and the Nobel Committee alike.

In the speech, there was something Obama forgot to mention while invoking Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who received the Prize in 1964--King completely rejected just war theory in his own Nobel acceptance:
KING: After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time--the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. ...

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid." I still believe that We Shall overcome!
So Obama rejected King. He accepted the cynical notion that the forces of inhumanity must be met with violent response. His argument rests on the inevitability of repeating the failures of the past that have spilled the blood of our citizens--plus the blood of untold numbers throughout the world at the hands of our citizens and our powerful bombs. He has embraced this human folly.

Below is "An Open Letter to the Nobel Committee On Obama's Peace Prize" signed by representatives from a variety of U.S. peace groups: