Archive for the 'Foreign Policy' Category

Unprincipled liberals join the rest of the unprincipled people.

Feb 13, 2012 in Disappointing Dems, Foreign Policy, Glenn Greenwald, Politics

Glenn Greenwald, whom I don’t wager I’d be able to handle a direct debate with, is still someone whom I deeply respect despite my overall dismay at his constant daily diatribes about Obama while Republicans actively plot to screw up the country.

Glenn’s never been really wrong about the actual liberal case against Obama’s waging of the war on Al Queda (which the press routinely ignored in order to report whatever crazy shit Sarah Palin dreamt up in her fog), and while I support President Obama’s re-election without a doubt, that doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything Obama has done.

So it saddened me to see this poll of those on the left, where most aren’t just plugging their nose, but actively supporting some of the things that we openly and loudly condemned President Bush for.

This is a very important difference, folks. While plenty of liberals are holding their ground, it looks like some are indeed turning around and cheering on the same policies simply because they’re being carried out by a guy with a D next to his name.

Now Glenn takes it too far, for example, in slagging Obama with Guantanamo when not a single politician would let an accused terrorist inside our borders regardless of their actual danger. Resignation is the proper response, not support, but that ambiguity does call into question the poll results. Do people support what’s going on in Guantanamo, or do they support letting the issue go in the face of overwhelming resistance?

Glenn also makes a bit of a leap in not providing poll numbers on drone strikes before Obama. He’s talking about a shift in public opinion with no documentation of previous public opinion? What he does have is the approval of the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen by birth who was nonetheless in Yemen, purportedly conspiring against the US. Evidence to that fact has just been released, btw. Nevertheless, the precedent of a US citizen being assassinated on presidential orders is extremely troubling for any constitutionalist, and without the presence of an active battlefied, it seems impossible to justify. “Muslim dude in a Middle East country” seems to be what defuses the resistance, which doesn’t give the poll recipients much more credit.

Glenn’s most brutal takedown is, unsurprisingly, reserved for President Obama, who, in deciding not to prosecute the war crimes of the Bush administration, ended up indirectly codifying their behavior as exoneration for future presidents. A President Romney or Santorum could take us straight back to the Bush years with even less fear of repercussion, arguably because Obama let Bush and Cheney get away with it.

To that, though, I believe an addendum belongs. President Obama did not, all by himself, let Bush and Cheney get away with it. The country did, with the mainstream “liberal” media front and center, having largely ignored their crimes, ready to give Republicans as much air time as they wanted to shriek about the horror of the freshly elected Obama leading a “political witch hunt” and actually daring to prosecute the previous president. After all, it is regarded as sacrosanct that Gerald Ford “healed” the nation by pardoning Richard Nixon. While peacetime, prosperity and ratings through the roof had our press ready to watch the Republicans impeach Bill Clinton over lying about a blowjob, the interference of rebellious liberals in the unchecked exercise of power under the banner of “defense” absolutely would not be tolerated. It’s somewhat disingenuous of Greenwald to ignore the fact that Obama would have lit a keg of gunpowder underneath his own ass and been, just like with Guantanamo, completely stifled by Congress.

Glenn seems to consider it obvious that Obama’s actions are at least partially responsible for shifting public attitudes, enshrining Guantanamo and other deviations from American values in the bulletproof shield of “bipartisanship.” I’m sure party identity does play a part in people’s attitudes (look at how much rage Republicans have tried to generate over a health care policy Obama borrowed from them), but when it comes to constitutional principles of human rights, I’m becoming quite convinced that the country as a whole is simply forgetting the values that it was founded upon, and that the erosion is primarily being carried out actively by the Republican Party. Yes, Obama didn’t prosecute, but one of our two parties has declared itself in all but name to be pro-torture (you just stop calling torture torture, see). Yes, Obama didn’t close Guantanamo, but Republicans turned it into what it was. Yes, Obama signed indefinite detention into law, but again, he merely concedes what one party and the Very Serious People absolutely demand. And so on issue after issue, important American values become common political preferences, and our amnesiac press dutifully dribbles on its loafers as it follows along.

Obama didn’t lead, he followed. While a noble, principled fellow like Greenwald is committed to doing the right thing every day regardless of the impact on his life, Obama is a strategic, pragmatic actor who, in alignment with his community organizer roots, doesn’t get ahead of the crowd very far. This works better when he makes some effort to get the crowd mobilized, and all of us can think of a few times Obama could have gotten farther if he’d led a little more and followed a little less. But ultimately that’s a pretty mild sin. If the public isn’t there, we can’t always sit around berating Obama for not getting them there. We’re responsible too.

-hw

Ghostwriting my own thoughts

Jul 13, 2011 in Anti-War, Barack Obama, Disappointing Dems, Foreign Policy, Middle East, Pakistan, Politics

I usually get on here, to post some perspectives on my homeland Pakistan and what’s going on in that region and Afghanistan. I have been away for a while, so many readers probably don’t remember me or know who I am.

There has been too much going on for me to catch up with what I wanted to write about. Then I stumbled upon this post in Salon.com

Not only does this writer hit on every topic I was going to write about, but h/she tackles every point I was going to make.

Just some bullet points:

1) I thought I was the only one thinking, why the fuck are we invading Libya? Didn’t we just elect Obama to get us the fuck out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Aren’t we trillions of dollars in debt because of those wars, why repeat Iraq pt Deux?

2) The whole African crisis, which is in part due to our meddling and misguided interventions or lack thereof (see Rwanda and Somalia)

3) Finally someone who understands a topic close to my heart. The Afghan crisis….the Durand line, and the fact that like the Africans, people are fighting on tribal lines to protect the lands of their tribes from foreign invaders. They have done that since Alexander the Great, through to the Victorian British Empire, to the Soviet war machine. O-fucking-Bama, do you think you are greater than Alexander, or the Imperial warriors of the past? Get the fuck out.

Please read the Salon article, it hits the nail on the head, gingerly and then caresses it.
–AA

Word!

Feb 11, 2011 in Foreign Policy

Worth repeating:

“People power” protests of the kind we have seen in recent weeks in Cairo and Alexandria have toppled far more rulers in recent decades than all the world’s terrorists and guerrillas combined. … In Egypt, Mubarak survived the massacres of tourists in the 1990s carried out by Islamist groups. He did not survive peaceful rallies in the heart of his own capital.

There is a lesson here for those not too fanatical or deluded to learn it. Put down the bomb, the sniper rifle, whatever weapon you have, and grab a placard, go on Twitter, organize a rally. True, many peaceful protests have been repressed too, as we have seen most recently in Iran; but they offer a much surer road to regime change than does blowing up innocent people.

The more terrible the regime, the riskier, but why Palestinians haven’t always known Israel is too liberal to resist peaceful resistance is beyond me. Then again, the internet is doing the most to change the world, and it’s hopefully only getting started.

-hw

A picture is worth a thousand words and all that.

Sep 23, 2009 in Christian Right, Foreign Policy, Iran, Politics

If Ahmadinejad makes a speech and no one is there to hear it did it really happen?

I am so so glad this little man can now give a speech without the right wing fringers pissing their pants in fear all over the networks. I mean, they still do quiver and quake but a least we don’t have to endure the humiliation of our president doing the same.

-mg

Israel, ever at the mercy of human folly.

Sep 30, 2008 in Foreign Policy, Middle East, Politics

New settlements under construction:

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insists that Israel’s future depends on a two-state solution. Building new homes in settlements only makes it more difficult to withdraw. When President Bush convened the Annapolis conference last November, there was media buzz about a settlement freeze. Olmert said that every request to build from within the government required his approval. Yet in the past year, construction has increased — despite Olmert’s talk, despite Bush’s supposed commitment to his 2003 “road map” plan with its freeze on settlement.

Nearly a thousand housing units are being built in Maale Adumim, according to Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project. At Givat Zeev, another of the settlements ringing Jerusalem, a 750-unit project was approved this year. The government has asked for bids on building nearly 350 homes in Beitar Illit, also near Jerusalem. Meanwhile, hundreds of homes have been added at settlements deep in the West Bank, with the government’s acquiescence if not approval.

My position is simple: as long as building settlements in Palestinian territory continues, Israel doesn’t get to talk about “self-defense.” What is physically happening is occupation in service of continuing encroachment. At this point, my frustration with Israel has worn me down to a nub. I’m about ready to say, “Just do it already: Drive the Palestinians out, take the land you’re going to take, go play nuclear tag with Iran and don’t call us.” I’ll cross my fingers they don’t get annihilated, vote for politicians who won’t get sucked into Israel’s war, and continue to support automatic visas for any Israelis with sense enough to get the fuck out and come to the U.S. Who has the patience to spend the rest of their life trying to save Israel’s ass from their brilliant decision to set up town in a land of Jew-haters?

-jb

Democrats have to be perfect on foreign policy.

Sep 07, 2008 in Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Iraq, Journamalism, Politics, War on Terra

Bill O’Reilly desperately tries to trip up Barack Obama. Bill accepts that Obama knows his facts better than either McCain or Palin like a child drinking castor oil.

[youtube luA0AMP51Gc]

The point is that when a Republican talks foreign policy, they are allowed to be wrong. They’re allowed to mix up Shia and Sunni, tie Al Queda to Saddam Hussein, shift rationales for war, shift metrics for success…even co-opt Democratic Party ideas that were “surrender” just months or weeks before. They can do that because they’re Republicans, and everybody knows Republicans Are Strong Against Our Enemies.â„¢

Barack Obama is not only thoroughly knowledgeable about foreign policy, he is also ahead of the curve. Compared to the hilariously wrong record of every pro-Iraq Republican, he could be accused of possessing a crystal ball. Yet all the Republicans can think to do is keep harping on, “But you were wrong about the surge, weren’t ya weren’t ya!?!?” Barack has to point out that the surge wasn’t just about the violence, but about the political settlement, and it’s too soon to count the chickens yet. Are the Republicans really prepared to explain themselves if violence breaks out again and/or the government crumbles? Probably not, because they’ll be held no more accountable for their words than they’ve ever been.

But the Democrat has to be right 100% of the time, because we know Democrats Are Weak On Terror.â„¢

To their credit, the public has begun to see through this facade. When will our media?

-jb

Oh, why bother reporting this anyway…

Jul 21, 2008 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Foreign Policy, Iraq, Middle East, Politics

Iraqi PM backs Obama’s plan to exit Iraq in 16 months or sooner (which McBush is moving closer to every day), Bush administration puts pressure on Maliki to back off and claim he was mistranslated. No story there!

Funnier yet, Maliki’s excuse is that it was a “mistranslation.” Is there any correction to the translation, a possible hint at what the proper translation should have been, where Der Spiegel got it wrong, etc.? Of course not. Now, ask yourself really quick, how many rightwingers do you think have already believed the mistranslation excuse?

More than you can fit on the head of a pin, for damn sure! Well, they don’t really believe it, but Spiegel changed some words tangential to the claim, so WHO CAN REALLY BELIEVE THEIR TRANSLATION ANYWAY??? I dunno, but ’tis surely a miracle of ignorance that anybody takes the rightwing noise machine seriously anymore.

The truth is this is a pretty massive event, one that McCain would try to ride until November if it swung his way. Instead, by November McBush (they are one) will try making the public believe that they’ll get troops out quicker than Obama. We’ll probably see a small troop drawdown as a panacea, but you’ll see more pressure on Iraq’s “independent” government to be loyal to the Bush administration. The only question is, why? Does Maliki think Bush can still fuck him in the next six months? If so, at least we’ve seen how Iraq feels about President Obama: peachy keen.

-jb

UPDATE: That didn’t take long!!!

“He’d like troops to come home earlier than 16 months if the conditions allow it,” said Congresswoman Heather Wilson of New Mexico, on a conference call with reporters just now. “Senator Obama has said it’s a 16-month timeline no matter what.”

Worst comeback ever. The stink of desperation exudes…

War criticism from a conservative

Jul 16, 2008 in Anti-War, Foreign Policy, Iran, Middle East

Scott Ritter:
* Former Marine captain
* Combat veteran
* Conservative Republican
* Former UN weapons inspector
* And soldier who put his life on the line defending Israel from SCUD missile attacks during Gulf War I

When he pointed out the lies of the Clinton adminstration, Scott Ritter was a media darling.
But when he stood up to the lies about weapons of mass destruction
in Iraq, he was slandered and censored.

You won’t see Scott Ritter on US news television any more,but you will see him on Brasscheck TV.

Here’s his informed message about war with Iran that’s being censored.

Brasscheck TV

-aa

Not about oil (except when it is).

May 02, 2008 in Energy, Foreign Policy, Iraq

John McCain let the cat out of the bag a little bit today in Denver:

“My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East,” McCain told a crowd of 300 at a Jewish Community Center in Denver.

“That will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.”

Ignoring the obvious implications of the above statement for a moment I think that it needs to be pointed out that John McCain currently has no sensible energy policy to begin with, let alone “eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East”. But to just come right out and state a common sense observation like the above is very out of character for any politician, regardless of affiliation.

-mg

Middle East “Democracy”

Nov 21, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Pakistan

(Musharraf) “hasn’t crossed the line” and “truly is somebody who believes in democracy.”    -George Bush

He just has a funny way of showing it, I guess, considering it’s been eight years since he seized power in a military coup and has routinely jailed dissidents and prospective opponents. One has to ask, where is the line drawn? Considering our complacent attitudes towards the monstrous conditions one could find in everyday Saudi Arabia, Musharraf doesn’t have much to worry about.

Platitudes like the one above regarding Musharraf remind me of the Clinton administration describing Suharto as “our kind of guy” or Thomas Friedman saying of post Gulf War I, Iraq that the “best of all worlds” would be an “iron-fisted military junta” to come in and resume power. The fact is that be you Republican or Democrat, whether or not a country is a democracy or not is of no concern. Being a predictable client state is.

-mg

Dark Secrets

Nov 07, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Legal, National Security, Racism, Straight-up madness, War Crimes, War on Terra, Where's the outrage?!?!, WTF?

If a person gets tortured, but no one sees or hears him, did he really get tortured?

Stephen Gray, and independent British journalist has a very intriguing documentary,that will be aired on PBS.   The documentary is called “Extraordinary Rendition”.  He interviews some of the victims of rendition, all carried out by the CIA.

Up until now we have heard that our gov’t has been outsourcing torture. That it’s not really Americans who are doing it, that they hand the victims over to authorities in countries where torture is common. However:

The dark prison was run by the Americans,” a former inmate, Bisher al-Rawi, tells Grey. “It wasn’t Afghani people flying the aircraft, it wasn’t Afghani people who sort of shackled me and did whatever they did to me. It was Americans.”

Although some of the victims of Rendition are genuine suspects of terrorism, there are countless who are not.  The most famous being Maher Arar, the Syrian Canadian programmer, who was deported to Syria and tortured and then released without explanation or any charges against him.
Amy Goodman interviewed him yesterday about this documentary.

This is what he told her after he had interviewed a victim of rendition in Egypt who was also released without explanation or any charges:

And he also leaves behind dozens of people that he says are still in Egyptian jail, and they all wear a white uniform. The uniform says “interrogation” on it. And that means they haven’t been charged with anything. They are still there, held in secret, without access to any lawyers, and they’re held indefinitely. And they’re all people who have been sent there by the CIA in the rendition program.

If you live in an area where PBS does not air, or if they aren’t airing this program it will be available on their website later this week.

I am really interested in seeing how NeoCons defend this. I guess the same way they defend the Patriot Act and other erosion of our civil liberties…

If anyone saw it when it aired, please leave your comments, I’d love to hear about it.  I missed it.

-aa

Pakistan Coup Part Deux

Nov 06, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Middle East, Pakistan, Politics

As the title mistakenly suggests, this is not a second installment of a previous post.

Pakistan has been all over the news lately, and provides the US with cannon fodder for their exploits, I mean war in Afghanistan.

So here I am a Pakistani American, offering my analysis of the situation.  I apologize in advance, for the length of this post, but, it’s as short as I could make it.  I could go further in length, on any of the issues or subjects brought up here.

The first was to topple the democratically (fairly?  Well as fair as a US election….) elected gov’t, a few years ago.  It was a bloodless coup, and without much protest. The democratically elected prime minister at that time, was a political and religious conservative.  He privatized many industries in the country and improved general infrastructure.  However he also allowed the religious fundamentals to prosper and grow into the 9 headed hydra we see today.  So during the first coup, Musharraf played to the hearts and minds of those that did not want Pakistan to become another Saudi Arabia. 

Musharraf started off good and set towards a path of actually reviewing what the madrassahs (Islamic religious schools) were actually teaching.  For example were they teaching ballistics training or transcendental meditation?  Or….  How to behead a white devil vs. learn to read and write Arabic.

To his credit, the first and only female Prime Minister in a Muslim country, Benazir Bhutto did nothing to reform these institutions, and actually supported the Taliban regime whilst she was ruler of Pakistan (TWICE).

Fast forward to today.

Musharraf’s current coup is against a supposedly independent branch of gov’t that offers checks and balances to the other branches, the judiciary.

Why?  You might ask?

Where the first coup went wrong……

First of all, please understand that Musharraf is the head of the army and has access to the military at his disposal.  Musharraf really didn’t make good on his promises.  All those mullahs and madrassahs that were picking up poor disenfranchised youths and turning them into suicide bombers, that Musharraf promised to do away with.  He didn’t.  Instead, they became his friends too and maybe he gave them some money and other support.

He claimed to be helping their US in their fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban.  Under Musharraf’s watch, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, in the most secular city in the country, militants held the city hostage, undeterred.   I’m talking about the Red Mosque scandal.  Where for almost a year, it was being used as a safehouse for Al Qaeda.  No one in the country, believes for a second, that Musharraf didn’t know what was going on.  It was only after they kidnapped a Chinese national, did the Chinese pressure Musharraf to take care of it.

Secondly, 50% of the country which borders Afghanistan has become a safe-haven for Al-Qaeda and Taleban.  Mountainous areas in the north which were tourist and vacationing spots, known for their peace-loving and docile people, are falling under the oppressive yoke of militants kicked out of

Afghanistan.  All under Musharraf’s watch.
So back to the Why?

Musharraf’s answer:

I’ll paraphrase from what I’ve seen and heard through various news outlets.

Basically he claims that the judiciary are to blame for the current lawlessness.  He also accuses them of allowing militants and religious extremists to operate undeterred.

Based upon what I mentioned about, you be the judge.

All the judiciary can do is pass judgements, they have no way of enforcing any edict or law or ruling.  He’s the head of the army.  If there are militants running amok, he has the wherewithal to at least try and stop it.

What I believe are the 3 main reasons:

1) The Supreme Court was questioning the legitimacy of Musharraf’s rule, and whether or not he can even stand for elections as President of Pakistan without giving up his position as Chief of Armed Forces.

The backdrop for this is that the Bush Administration has been pressuring Musharraf to have “free and fair” elections.  He finally agreed, but also put himself in as candidate.  The Supreme Court is trying to block his candidacy, as being unconstitutional.

Also for the first time in history, the judiciary has grown some balls.  Under all previous coups and dictatorships, the dictators have altered the constitution and coerced the judiciary to claim their regime as legitimate.

Basically, Musharraf tried the same thing that other dictators before him tried.  That is, to get the blessing of the Supreme Court for the legitimacy of his rule.  No such luck.  They were actually “debating” the legitimacy of his rule and the legitimacy of his candidacy for President. Well, if they were actually debating it, rather than giving him a carte blanche, that meant they were going to come to an unfavorable decision.

2) The Supreme Court was getting ready to repeal the amnesty offered to Benazir Bhutto.  They have several charges of corruption against her, as does Interpol.  In addition the Government of Switzerland already found that she had looted some billions of Rupees from the people of Pakistan.

This ruling doesn’t suit Musharraf’s or the US interest.  Benazir has always been a golden girl for the

US.  Brought up in the US and educated in Harvard, she is someone that is easy to talk to, for the US gov’t.  They pushed Musharraf to pardon all the crimes she committed and allow her to come back to Pakistan.
The people of Pakistan have suffered for 2 terms in the past under Benazir.  They don’t want a repeat of that.  However, hers is the most organized political party.  She can draw crowds.   Incidentally, Musharraf served in the army while she was Prime Minister.  Their relationship goes way back, they supported terrorists in Kashmir, and were 1 out of 2 nations that supported the oppressive Taliban regime.

3) The third and final nail in the coffin was an actual ruling by the Supreme Court.  They ruled the exile of former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif as unconstitutional, and that he be allowed to return immediately to Pakistan.

A small footnote to this, is that there were several cases pending in the Supreme Court where they were investigating the “disappeared” of Pakistan.  The prisoners of conscience.  This also works against Musharraf’s interests.

Below are links to the analysis of the situation by Pakistani scholars and journalists based in the US. 

A more eloquent and concise writer than myself, is the Pakistani Scholar/Novelist/Historian, Tariq Ali, an infrequent guest on Democracy Now.  He sums the situation up pretty nicely here:

http://thenews.jang.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=79015

Another analysis is by Liaquat Ali Khan, a professor in Kansas:

http://www.counterpunch.com/alikhan11062007.html

-aa

The invisible hand has…uh…spoken?

Nov 05, 2007 in Energy, Foreign Policy

More bad news from happy-motoring nation; state-controlled PetroChina* closed at double the value of it’s closest rival; ExxonMobil.

The New York Times, typically AWOL when it comes to common sense energy journalism, pointed out a frequently overlooked fact in a Times Magazine article this past weekend; that 77 percent of the world’s oil reserves are held by national oil companies with no private equity, and there are 13 state-owned oil companies with more reserves than ExxonMobil, the largest multinational oil company.  (Until today that is.)

We are faced with a dire predicament.  Nations that we’ve typically relied upon for our energy needs are using more of their own oil and producing less.  In the near future, selling oil to favored customers will be an extremely potent instrument of geopolitics that will most likely turn even more ugly and violent than it already is.

-mg

*that’s gotta fry the brains of the “free market” zombies…a company that is both state operated and publicly traded.

I’m sorry for this, Juan Cole.

Oct 24, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Islam, Middle East, War on Terra

Few have more important commentary on the Middle East, but I must insert this little knife into your back.

Crooks and Liars quotes Juan Cole refuting the description of Islamic fundamentalists as fascists:

Fascism involves extreme nationalism and most often racism. Muslim fundamentalist movements reject the nation-state as their primary loyalty and reject race as a basis for political action or social discrimination.

Mmmm, no. I’m sorry, but Muslim fundamentalist movements (cousins to our Christian fundamentalists) are stunningly racist. I mean, they’re just plain tribalistic to the core, and they’re entirely undiscriminatory about what factors delineate those tribes. They hate rather evenly all outside themselves. If you’re the wrong race, the wrong religion, the wrong orientation, the wrong sex, or from the wrong side of town you’re an “other” to them. They’ll make adjustments and band together occasionally for things like, for example, fighting occupying powers, but the contempt never dies.

I think it’s enough to understand that Muslim fundamentalists are about authoritarian structures, ones that are inherently anti-freedom and anti-democratic. It’s a no-brainer to conclude that America must never choose to become one, and as long as such a question is beyond the pale, America, The Idea, is completely safe.

Rightwingers started “Islamo-fascism awareness week” as a PR maneuver to try creating the idea that only raving racist goons like David Horowitz were really “serious” about the threat from the Middle East. “Liberals are sipping their lattes unaware that Sahid is coming to cut their throats!”

Yes, these are the people who have been wrong about everything in the Middle East for the past decade. Yes, you’re supposed to swallow that sausage whole on camera and post the video on the Internet.

I can argue nomenclature with Juan Cole, but we’d agree largely on the qualities of the beast and how to react to it. Listening to rightwingers, you’d think they were some war-porn fanzine club rather than human beings capably reacting to a threat.

-jb

The wrong way to throw money at a problem.

Sep 19, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Iraq

Smug talk from the wingers about redrawing the Iraq map into three distinct ethnic enclaves might come to fruition, but not because of any of their designs:

In Baghdad alone, nearly a million people have fled their homes.

Last month saw the sharpest rise so far in the numbers of Iraqis forced to abandon their homes – 71.1%.

The forced migration raises questions about claims from the Bush administration that the civilian protection plan at the core of its war strategy is making Iraq safer for Iraqis.

Instead, data compiled by Red Crescent staff and volunteers in Iraq’s 18 provinces suggests many Iraqis have failed to find real safety or sustainable living conditions after being forced to leave their homes. Some families have been uprooted twice or even three times in search of safety, affordable housing, functioning water and electricity, adequate schools, and jobs.

Is it safe to assume that Iraqi citizens want to live in neighborhoods with at least electricity and running water? Isn’t it reasonable to expect that the billions of tax dollars we’re pumping into KBR and Halliburton remedy these issues?

We have a moral obligation to provide a stable environment in which Iraqi civilians and their families can carry out activities of daily living. Only when regular citizens can call a place home will they have a vested interest in their neighborhoods and therefore a reason to be concerned about local issues like crime and violence. But if the water or lights don’t even turn on, why bother? Because the guy who was responsible for the work is nine time zones away and doesn’t give a shit whether it works or not.

After the invasion, American firms were handed no-bid contracts regardless of the cost or whether or not local companies were willing and able to do the work. Granted, the projects that they volunteered for were far from modest but at this point in time it is obvious that they are unable to complete the task which was their charge. I say take the money we have now and start accepting bids from local Iraqi contractors. At least then the locals will have a sense of ownership and pride in their own works. A sense of ownership will also foster broader of community networks that are established when local vendors, companies and entrepreneurs serve local citizen consumers.

-mg

Iraq facade.

Aug 24, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Glenn Greenwald, Iraq, Middle East

Following the First World War, the British replaced the Turks as the rulers of Iraq. Under the direction of General Stanley Maude, British forces occupied the country and faced anti-imperialist agitation from the start. Despite Maude’s claim that “Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators”, revolts against foreign rule became widespread. As a result, Lord Curzon, the then current British foreign secretary, made the suggestion of an “Arab facade”. He defined it as a:

“facade ruled and administered under British guidance and controlled by a native Mohammedan and, as far as possible, by an Arab staff . . . There should be no actual incorporation of the conquered territory in the dominions of the conqueror, but the absorption may be veiled by such constitutional fictions as a protectorate, a sphere of influence, a buffer state and so on”

Fast forward to the Iraq of today it’s difficult to note any meaningful differences. Those who champion a free and democratic Iraq will in the same breath speak of the convenient replacement of elected leaders. Nuri al-Maliki currently finds himself in that situation. With little to no control over the security forces under his charge, al-Maliki has become the convenient fall-guy. As Glenn Greenwald points out:

Fred Hiatt turned his Op-Ed page over to Allawi two weeks ago to argue — in the most establishment-pleasing tones — that “Responsibility for the current mess in Iraq rests primarily with the Iraqi government” and that “Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has failed to take advantage of the Iraqi people’s desire for peaceful and productive lives and of the enormous commitment and sacrifices made by the United States and other nations.” In other words, our wise Washington Leaders have done the Right and Good thing in Iraq, but that scoundrel Maliki is the key impediment preventing Success.

Enter Iyad Allawi as our new “native Mohammedan” who currently has the convenient backing of the most powerful GOP lobbying firm in the country. He’s got a lot of things going for him. He’s demonstrated his obedience to Washington for upwards of twenty years and, more importantly I think, he’s providing this administration with an opportunity to stall on promises of a troop draw-down because you “don’t change horses mid-stream” when we’re “turning a corner” on a “new ray of hope for Iraq” or whatever sound bite you like. It also provides a good excuse to ignore the much anticipated and vaunted report by General Petraeus.

-mg

Oh, those cheaky Saudis!

Jul 17, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Uncategorized

Bush has gotten a lot of mileage over the years by beating his chest over the fact that foreign fighters have been pouring over the borders into Iraq to take a crack at defeating the Great Satan.   Iran and Syria are frequently named as the primary culprits but like most claims that this administration makes it’s not entirely true.  Turns out that the greatest percentage of foreign fighters are from Saudi Arabia; the Bush administrations long friend and ally in the War on Terra which also happens to be the epicenter of militant Islam and the place where fifteen of the nineteen terrorists responsible for the 9/11 tragedy called home.  Yet no talk of sanctions, no panel discussions, no outrage.  Such is the selective indignation of the extreme right wing.

-mg

Andrew Sullivan on a good day.

May 31, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Foreign Policy, Iraq, Middle East, National Security, Politics, War on Terra

Are Americans starting to catch onto the fact that Bush and the Republican Party have been pathologically unserious about terrorism, and that 9/11 was nothing but an excuse for wars and executive power they already wanted? Andrew certainly has.

The president’s trope has been that we’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here. It’s a notion dependent on the absurd idea that a disparate, lateral organization of religious fanatics is somehow unable to to both. The truth appears to be: we are training them over there so they can come and murder us over here. We are honing their guerrilla skills by night, have provided them training by day, have either given them arms ourselves, or allowed Iran and Syria to send munitions. The icing on the cake is that the chaotic occupation has allowed some terrorists to skim the oil export industry for the money to keep the killing going indefinitely, and that the maintenance of an occupation of the Muslim country provides an over-arching motive for a new wave of terror. And so all we’re doing is waiting to see when this wave of Bush-created terror comes ashore.

I really don’t think the Republicans get the terror threat, do you? They just don’t take national security seriously as a party.

To be fair, it was Andrew’s trope at the beginning of the war too, but he’s paid his dues (a little more respect for those of us who were telling him why he was wrong then wouldn’t hurt, though). It seems elementary, but in practice it’s a lot to ask of someone to change their mind. Politicians have grown wary of “flip-flopping” in recent years, but there is a middle ground. The opposite end of the spectrum is George W. Bush, pathologically incapable of keeping up with the facts, rigidly stuck in an ideological fugue.

Even worse, to run as a GOP candidate you have to essentially affirm everything Bush has done and said, even if you gussy it up with some talk of “incompetence.” You have to be as completely swallowed up in a simplistic manipulative vision of foreign policy, full of platitudes to keep people settled while outrageous blundering takes place.

George W. Bush has not simply failed to fight Al Queda and Islamic radicalism, he has helped them flourish. Has this country ever been failed so greatly by a president?

-jb

Once again: Is Bush stupid or is he lying?

May 30, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Foreign Policy, Iraq, Politics

Slate’s Fred Kaplan, on Bush’s disastrous press conference:

…you saw the bedraggled president he has become—defensive, doctrinaire, scattershot, and either deceptive or delusional.

My question: Why is it always one or the other? He’s deceptive and delusional.

Kaplan goes on to thoroughly deconstruct Bush’s ugly misshapen broken rhetoric which can only be believed by Britney Spears and Republicans.

At today’s press conference, President Bush tagged on a sort of addendum to this cliché, one that I hadn’t heard him utter before. Asked about reports that the U.S. presence in Iraq has in fact strengthened al-Qaida, he replied, “Al-Qaida is going to fight us wherever we are,” adding, “The fundamental question is, ‘Will we fight them?’ ”

The dissonances here are a bit subtler, but again three things stick out.

First, it isn’t true. U.S. troops are deployed, to varying degrees, all over the world; al-Qaida is fighting us in only a couple of places and, even there, hardly as the dominant force.

Second, by making such remarks, the president is only hyping al-Qaida’s power. What a great recruitment slogan: “Al-Qaida—fighting wherever the Americans are!”

Third, if the claim is true, why doesn’t Bush play strategic jujitsu? He should amass a lot of troops someplace where we have a great advantage, lure al-Qaida to come fight us, then spring the trap and crush them. Clearly, Iraq isn’t that place.

Read the whole thing, Kaplan undermines Bush at every turn. He makes it pathetically clear that the man commanding our forces abroad has no idea what he’s doing and doesn’t plan on learning. He has no ability to justify himself, so we find ourself revisiting those golden oldies of the Bush administration: if you don’t go along with me, they’ll kill us all!

-jb

We’re going to attack Iran.

May 24, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Iran, Journamalism, Uncategorized

Or so The Blotter would have us believe according to their latest expose of the super-secret leak that may or may not have been given to them by a very knowledgeable source!!! These “leaks” are intentional overtures along the same lines as Darth Cheney slumping over a lectern on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The covert “black” operation in question is supposedly a move aimed at destabilizing the Iranian government. Ironically, feeding media “leaks” like this is a way in which the CIA plans on destabilization by way of keeping Iranians scared shitless of an imminent foreign threat. If you can find anything in the feature that is anything beyond the obvious then please, let us know. (My God, if the CIA wasn’t trying to track down the clandestine weapons finance channels of it’s enemies then we’d have a problem!)

The best part of feature is by far the comments section! Check it:

If it was a secret, it isn’t any longer. I will turn off ABC News and never watch again.

I consider ABC News Traders to the United States

Posted by: David Reid | May 22, 2007 6:36:30 PM

Isn’t this type of reporting TREASON!!!! * Where’s the responsibility for the good of the country? This is disgusting! What are you thinking????

Posted by: Robert Lipps | May 22, 2007 6:40:50 PM

Hey if you love Iran and hate the United States leave!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: stephen | May 22, 2007 7:34:09 PM

-mg

UPDATE: Same goes for the parade the Navy put on today through the Strait of Hormuz.  Why are they betraying our positions!??!?!

UPDATE II: Guess who didn’t waste any time in getting indignant over a phony “classified” story! These self-absorbed conservatives can’t resist an opportunity to wrap themselves up in the flag.

Editors note: Robert Lipps uses all caps because when he writes treason he really means it!

Iraq For Sale

May 13, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Iraq, National Security

Available here.

Eisenhower would be proud of Robert Greenwald. An important companion piece is Why We Fight, which prominently features Eisenhower’s prophetic warning:

[youtube qdrGKwkmxAU]

-jb

A nation yawns as Bush blasts Pelosi trip.

Apr 04, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Middle East

It’s hard not to notice how much the tone has shifted in Washington these days.  Pelosi shrugged off the latest huffing and puffing the White House engaged in over her visit to Damascus.  The press seemed equally bored.  And why not?  The Bush administration has been largely ineffectual in dealing with regional supporters of Sunni violence in Iraq choosing only to single out Iran for it’s influence on Shiite groups.  And in another blast-from-the-past maneuver the White House talked about Pelosi’s trip as if she were some insolent staffer who failed to get permission first before she made her plans.  With no decision making clout, the administration (as well as hundreds of bloggers) has been reduced to sniping at the moves of others and sounding increasingly petulant by the day. 

-mg            

Condi The Irrelevant.

Mar 18, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Iraq, Politics

I don’t know about you, but I don’t even think about Condi Rice nowadays, and I don’t think many people do.  The last thought I had about her is that she looks hot in boots.  Because what else is there to her?  She’s possibly the most competent person on Bush’s team who seems at times to wish she were able to do things more intelligently than Cerberus, i.e. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.  Yet when she opens her mouth, she is paralyzed by her inability to break the confines of their dogma.  She turns to drone, unable to not please the boss, knowing stray words would get her packed onto the Colin Powell Expressway out of the White House.  Power rules, after all.

Unfortunately, being the best on Bush’s team isn’t saying much.

Via Belgravia Dispatch:

The Secretary of State, some day at least, is going to have to graduate beyond evangelically-tinged provost talk about “clarifying moments” and the like and grapple with the world as it is, not as her airy aspirational vistas would have it. Indeed, the narrative she sketches out is simply laughable in its gross over-simplifications. After all, likely at least a good 40% of Lebanese, well over 50% of Palestinians, and a plurality of Shi’a Iraqis too (back of the envelope number-crunching, but you get my point, I think), none of them would even begin to agree with her simplistic description that they are “targets” of Iran. And Cairo, Riyadh and Amman want to “resist”? Is Condi going to cheerlead the ‘resistance’ of Sunni autocrats to growing Shi’a influence in the region? Is this what America’s Middle East policy has become? This is farcical stuff, in its blundering amateurism.

Yeah, well, they make it up as they go along, knowing that they can switch back and forth between Sunni and Shiite without their base even noticing.  Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

Condi isn’t a leader in the Bush administration, she’s a follower.  It’s just regrettable when you realize how out of touch with reality she must sound to those living in the Middle East.
-jb

Scintillating damnation.

Mar 16, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Iraq, Middle East, National Security, Outstanding Democrats, Politics, War on Terra

Zbigniew Brzezinski lacerates the hell out of the neocons and sizes up the bleeding wound to the country’s heart that this administration has been.

Frankly, the scope with which Bush is turning America into scorched ground has become too great and horrific to describe.

The investigation and movement for Alberto Gonzalez to resign is our nation’s chance to look at the Bush machine.  The fact is that the prosecutor purge is just plain common ordinary mundane trivial business as usual for the Bush administration.  That’s how they roll.  That’s who they are.  It’s their modus operandi.  For six years the Republican Congress gave Bush a blank check as long as he could cast every move he made as “Strong on terror (nevermind the facts).”

The administration of George W. Bush has had the misfortune of being both misguided and completely unethical in the pursuance of their madness.  His successors want to keep the course steady.  It’s time to reject those who looked to Bush as a source of vision and wisdom for the past six years, those who enabled him every step of the way.  Their judgment has proven to be in consistent errancy.

2008 marks a fork in the road for the direction of America.  Even those of us who liked the idea of taking down Saddam have realized that it is time for America to show the world a different face, one that represents us far, far better than the thundering failure that is the Bush administration and their disciples.

-jb

English grad-students rejoice! Iowa Liberal is going meta…

Feb 15, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Middle East, Politics, Uncategorized, WTF?

nitrate21 says:

happy valentine’s day, sugartits

Mike G says:

i tried calling you earlier

nitrate21 says:

i just got home. what’s up?

Mike G says:

i was at the video store calling to ask whether or not i should rent “the wicker man”

nitrate21 says:

holy fuck i hope you didn’t!

Mike G says:

i rented it dude…you failed me you simple bastard

nitrate21 says:

well, have fun mst3k’ing it

Mike G says:

ah, i just shut it off…complete rubbish

nitrate21 says:

should have looked for science of sleep

nitrate21 says:

or the invincible iron man!

Mike G says:

ah! right.

Mike G says:

or “robot monster”

nitrate21 says:

or “beerfest” again

nitrate21 says:

this time, get drunk first

nitrate21 says:

bree and i went pretty lavish on each other for v-day

Mike G says:

so you bought her a package of juicy fruit gum?

nitrate21 says:

man, heard some pathetic whining from republicans in the house today. the “support the troops” cry has never been louder…yet it still means “support whatever the fuck george bush feels like doing”

(more…)

Zakaria surrenders…

Oct 11, 2006 in Foreign Policy, Iraq

…by failing to finish his column.  I guess he got halfway to the truth and then got spooked.  Scary realities:

Iraq is now in a civil war. Thirty thousand Iraqis have died there in the past three years, more than in many other conflicts widely recognized as civil wars. The number of internal refugees, mostly Sunni victims of ethnic cleansing, has exploded over the past few months, and now exceeds a quarter of a million people. (The Iraqi government says 240,000, but this doesn’t include Iraqis who have fled abroad or who may not have registered their move with the government.) The number of attacks on Shiite mosques increases every week: there have been 69 such attacks since February, compared with 80 in the previous two and a half years. And the war is being fought on gruesome new fronts. CBS News’s Lara Logan has filed astonishing reports on the Health Ministry, which is run by supporters of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. According to Logan, hospitals in Baghdad and Karbala are systematically killing Sunni patients and then dumping their bodies in mass graves.

Furthermore:

And the Shiites and the Sunnis have little trust in one another. At this point, neither believes that any deal would be honored once the United States left, which means that each is keeping its own militias as an insurance policy. If you were a Shiite, having suffered through a brutal insurgency and an incompetent government, would you give up your weapons? If you were a Sunni, having watched government-allied death squads kill and ethnic-cleanse your people, would you accept a piece of paper that said that this government will now give you one third of Iraq’s oil revenues if you disarm?

Conclusion?

Bush has now defined the only realistic goal left for America’s mission in Iraq: not achieving success but limiting failure.

And yet the subject of dividing Iraq is still too hot to touch for the “realist” Zakaria.  My dear, beloved Andrew Sullivan, whom as you all know I only mention when I disagree with him, is still caught in the fantasy that firing Rumsfeld will allow us to hit the reset button and start over (whew, has he really thought this through?) with double the troops.  It will never happen, but he would rather pine for that than admit what was plainly obvious to anybody who actually examined the dynamics of Iraq before the war. 

Simply put, the country of Iraq as a whole is nothing more than the clusterfuck of post WWI British map-drawers.  So I ask you, what obligation do we have to honor those daft dead blokes? 

Why are hundreds of people dying every day to honor a map drawn by people foreign to Iraq?

There is no answer.  People will continue dying, and people will continue to refuse to answer this question.  George W. Bush sure as fuck can’t answer it. 

Zakaria dances around the question:

Power-sharing agreements rarely work.  Stanford scholar James Fearon points out that in the last 54 civil wars, only nine were resolved by such deals.

Well, that would seem to point one’s reasoning in an obvious direction, wouldn’t it?  If a state fractures into two geographical groups that like shooting at each other…

D…d…duh…duh…(say it!)div…div…diviiiiiii…diviiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii…

SEPARATE THEM. 

Solving the mystery of how the most important questions often go unanswered the longest could have transformative effects on society.  Intellectual conceits and deference to power bind the most intelligent minds.  Once a train has switched tracks it must go miles and miles before being able to return to that point and make a different choice.  Why do our oh-so-capable minds behave the same way? 

And why do piles of corpses and the promise of more never have the effect they are truly due?

-jb

Foreign policy realism vs. “Al Queda supports Ned Lamont!”

Aug 18, 2006 in Clueless Conservatives, Foreign Policy, Iraq, Middle East, National Security, Politics, War on Terra

The scorecard.  Hopefully you’ve found it elsewhere, but just in case…

And to combat bleakness, a way forward, if we can gain control.

-jb

Business as usual in Afghanistan

Jun 29, 2006 in Foreign Policy, Uncategorized

Capitalism is all the rage in Afghanistan this year. Market demand for opium poppy is sky high so permissive local warlords and subsistence level farmers are doing what they can to increase production. Directly benefitting from this spike in cultivation are Taleban and Al Qaeda functionaries that continue to control much of Afghanistan. Speaking to an Army enlisted co-worker last week who just returned from Kabul I was told that most of Afghanistan was “a Wild West town”. He described how it was possible to engage in a fire-fight within 100 yards in any direction of their base and since this administrations singular gaze has been dead set upon Iraq, Afghanistan has been left to the same groups and individuals they claimed to rid the country of.

-mg