Archive for the 'Middle East' Category

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

Outnumbered vs. outgunned.

Jan 05, 2010 in Iran, Journamalism, Middle East, Politics

Still pulling, hoping, and wishing for the Green Revolution in Iran to keep snowballing.

The violence has increased, but the protesters have overwhelmed government forces numerous times. Andrew Sullivan should get a Peabody for coverage of the tumult in Iran this past year. He’s been the one-stop shop of the war coverage. If you’ve been trying to follow it on cable news…why?

-jb

Bring the troops home.

Oct 18, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Middle East, National Security, War on Terra, Where's the outrage?!?!

Just imagine if we had a counter-insurgency strategy against gangs, one conceived with as much brainpower and lateral thinking as the military could generate. What if we actually had enough armed forces on watch in our troubled areas to stamp out crime? Not as killers, as peacekeepers. Coupled with the end of the Drug War and reliance on fully staffed rehabilitation services…the possibilities are endless. If nothing else, outposts keeping an eye out, enabled to do nothing more than alert police (and defend themselves). Or if you’re about to say “I knew you were a fascist!” just use them to patrol ports and borders. And we get the manpower by bringing back troops collecting dust in Germany, South Korea, et al. Keep a small gang abroad for specific hot spots and missions in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Collect scalps, stand back. And the defense budget is slashed.

The bottom line: nobody is a fiscal conservative today if they aren’t willing to take a big bite out of defense spending. The teabaggers have nothing to say about the military industrial complex, so they have nothing to say.

-jb

The Israeli gambit.

Jun 06, 2009 in Middle East

Ah, Israeli “settlements.”

So much bullshit, packed into such a small space.

Israel, of course, is under attack, on the defense, threatened with extinction, etc. Yet, at the same time, they build, and have been building, towns in Palestine. The settlements, naturally, require defense. The Israeli government gives sweet deals and tax breaks for moving out to them, letting everybody see their hand. The settlements grow, the Israeli military presence grows, Palestinians get crowded out and divided, pushed aside into increasingly smaller territories.

There is no ambiguity to what Israel is doing. As President Obama said, it is one of those things everybody knows, but doesn’t talk about. So he’s putting pressure there, and we’re seeing some truth spill out.

Settlers are defiantly building even more. A rabbi offers this:

“It’s all illusions. With these savages, there was never peace, there is no peace and there will not be peace,” he said. “It’s not because we don’t want it, but because they are enemies of peace. We just have to hope that our entire country is cleared of terrorists, their supporters, their backers and their camels. They should all be sent to Saudi Arabia.”

My experience living with a neocon far-right Jewish person taught me this perspective held by rightwing Jews. And it really is the bedrock under the settlement policy. These people regard Palestinians as savages, believe all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip should be absorbed into Israel, and the Palestinians should be pushed out. And Israel’s current leadership is committed to them.

Obama is pushing against them, but the rope-a-dope isn’t quite as effective when the other party is doing it too. The Israelis will often back down rhetorically on settlements, promise to stop, wait out the U.S. a little longer, and all the while they keep on growing. It’s been noted that his positions are identical to the Israeli center, and they are. He isn’t pushing for removal, simply that the settlements stop.

However, by merely pointing out this obvious obstruction to a two-state settlement, Obama brings about the usual cascade of propaganda from American Jewish rightwingers and neocons, AIPAC, and cowardly Democrats who have dictated the US agenda. Charles Krauthammer is as reliable on this issue as it gets.

Krauthammer pretends that an ideal solution would simply be for Israel and Palestine to nudge some borders around so that the Israelis can keep the bulk of their settlements closest to Israel, and the Palestinians get some land in return. That this would deter settlements being built deeper and deeper into Palestine is somewhat laughable. Obviously the population will continue to increase against this constraint.

At the same time, Krauthammer says a freeze on settlement building is a secret effort to destroy the settlements, as they would not be able to expand their homes for a growing population (Hilzoy notes that there are plenty of homes for sale in the settlements). We are flippantly asked,

“Is the peace process moribund because a teacher in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem is making an addition to her house to accommodate new grandchildren?”

Could your example be more selective, Krauthammer? Are we to look upon the ever encroaching settlements and presume them the equivalent of tacking on an extra bedroom? For some good comedy, Krauthammer tacks on accusations of dishonesty towards President Obama. Of course, Charles.

The real problem is that this would force the settlements to expand into Israel. Not outward. Not further into Palestinian territory.

Krauthammer makes the point that the Palestinian leadership has chosen to fight for 60 years rather than build. But I’ve never assumed that Israel has had an upright partner in Palestine. What I’ve asserted is that if Israel really means what it says about being in a defensive stance and an honest peace broker, then it should behave accordingly. Then when it points that finger at Palestinian aggression, it will actually have ground to stand on. Instead, Israel’s defensive stance has been a ruse while the expansion of settlements dictates reality.

Obama needs to keep up the pressure and chase all players into the sunlight. We need all the viewpoints laid out squarely, so we can see who really is looking for a two state solution, and who is just laying down cover fire for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

-jb

Unambiguous.

Apr 07, 2009 in Middle East, Politics, Sophistry, War Crimes, War on Terra

In one of my recent clashes with the iconic representative of the classic dimwit modern Republican, Brian Pickrell, Iowa’s village idiot, I noted with some awe how bubble-enclosed members of the right-o-sphere are still able to tell themselves and others that we didnt torture.

There’s a simple rejoinder: Every single fact says otherwise.

There’s no debate. Of course, we tortured. Of course, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney made sure we tortured. They seeked legal cover for it, and stooge Republican lawyers like John Yoo and David Addington leapt at the opportunity (fortunately, they were so addled by partisanship that their flimsy legal toilet paper won’t protect them in court).

Now let’s be clear here: Rightwingers and other torture supporters feel little concern about methods like waterboarding. We know their rationale: It’s not cutting off limbs! Yet waterboarding is torture, and always has been. It was for them too, until they realized they didn’t like the implications of admitting George W. Bush authorized torture while telling the public, “We don’t torture.” Legally and politically, it’s bad news.

So, they will keep saying waterboarding isn’t torture. It is, and they know it, but they won’t say it. I expect some to have more balls and at least say, “Well, I support milder forms of torture, the psychological stuff, etc.”

However, as you will see in the Red Cross report, there was far more than that. We tortured. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney authorized it. They are war criminals, as are John Yoo and other enablers who knew very well what they were doing but thought they could get away with it.

May there be a methodical, precise, and accurate reckoning.

-jb

What Obama can do on Israel.

Jan 12, 2009 in Barack Obama, Middle East

It’s much easier to suggest what Obama can do. On the other hand, predicting what he will do,
when it comes to Israel/Palestine, is something best practiced with low expectations. We shall see, but i’m guessing in eight years Israel will still have settlements in the West Bank, Palestinians will still keep picking
at them with bombs and rockets, etc. Can Obama solve this intractable issue? He would need to be The One, in which case he could re-write the Old Testament to leave in the stories about the serpent and the apple and Noah, Moses, Jonah and the big fish, cities being wiped out, and leave out the
stories about Israel being the fucking promised land.

Of course, if the Bible truly had been the word of God, it would have an eleventh commandment: LEAVE YOUR HOLY BOOKS OUT OF LAND DEALS.

As it is, Bush has actually spoken a few blunt truths about the situation (every turd has a few peanuts). For a minute there, Ariel Sharon was doing the Nixon in China routine and I honestly thought a corner was being turned. Then God did speak and smote Sharon, so, you know. You know I’m kidding, at
least.

What I think Obama can do is keep the good will of Israelis in talks while suggesting greater openness and perhaps reconstruction aid in Palestine, and expedited withdrawal from all settlements in the West Bank. Yes, many hate Israel because it is an infidel nation to some extent, but Israelis simply cannot argue defense while populating the West Bank forcibly. Pay off the settlers, pay off the Palestinians, friggin’ “bail out” the whole mess. How many Palestinians do we have to put on the bankroll to get peace? Tell me
what that number is, and it may sound doable. Maybe Obama wouldn’t say no.

If we’d spent a trillion on Palestine and Israel, we’d have made a lot more progress than we did invading Iraq.

No? Do tell.

I expect Obama to simply be methodical and not relent on pushing for an end. I think you’re going to see a lot more persuasive speeches from the bully pulpit, and I expect Obama to move the debate forward. I expect that eventually Hamas can be voted out of office, and centrists will be able to get their voices out.

Or maybe “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan!” circulates the Muslim world on burned DVDs and people realize a future where Israelis and Palestinians get it on and make peace babies. It may have everything to do with the democratization of media, and the available information young Muslims in the world grow up with today. Most of these countries have languished in the Dark Ages for a long time, and now the Information Age is preceding their Industrial Age. Internal debate among Muslim countries is just getting off the ground.

Prediction: Youtube brings peace to the Middle East and Obama gets credit since he was the grassroots small-d democracy candidate all along.

-jb

Congratulations, and here’s to 60 more years!

Jan 07, 2009 in Middle East

Better yet, let’s have 600 more years of Israel and Palestine going at it. Well, shit, the earth has several billion years before it gets swallowed by the sun, and we should have a good asteroid-buster within a few decades, so why not 60 million years?

There is no end, right? We have limitless patience, no? Assuming humans can keep from wiping themselves out (though the Israel/Palestinian conflict doesn’t improve our prospects), we have the ingredients for perpetuity.

I mean, personally I’d think it peachy keen if both Judaism and Islam disappeared in history’s cornfield, forgotten a thousand years from now as unfortunate desert religions. Ideally, Israelis and Palestinians would start fucking each other’s brains out instead of painting them onto streets and rubble like Jackson Pollock monochromatics, and one day nobody could tell who was who anymore.

So although the U.S. should be importing marijuana into the region, it continues to fund and arm Israelis. Although Israel should dismantle all settlements and encourage commerce with Palestinians, it stalls while declaring its good faith, assuredly echoed by litmus test passing U.S. politicians who are afraid to be anything other than stalwart members of Likud. And while Palestinians should give up on the ridiculous “right of return” business, hating Jews and throwing symbolic rockets as provocative efforts guaranteed to bring nothing more than an opportunity for them to photograph their crushed homes and children’s corpses, they continue being unable to peacefully exploit most of the world’s sympathy for their cause. Everywhere, from the dirty streets of Gaza to the sterilized scholarly chambers of Tel Aviv University, primitive tribalism controls the emotional templates which intellectual arguments are strewn upon. History awaits the tale of a perfect philosophical argument that revived the dead, but if George W. Bush can believe he will be redeemed by History (or, rather, a concerted multi-decade effort by Republicans to reign in history via propaganda), I can believe that as soon as Charles Krauthammer lays down the perfect justification for Israel, um, “fighting,” thousands of the dead shall simultaneously burst out of graves and spontaneously reassemble their divvied limbs.

And then these zombies will eat everybody and free up all that contested real estate.

Of course, zombies always overcome efforts to focus their destructive forces, eating their overlords, so in that case I will welcome a joint U.S./Iran nuking of Israel.

Otherwise, my Arab/Muslim/Palestine sympathizer friends, let me be clear: Israel isn’t going anywhere, and if this shit is still going on when I’m 50, I’m going to sit on the porch and chill while Israel exports every Palestinian into Jordan and turns Gaza into a holiday resort. Go ahead and plan on your great-great-grandchildren getting shredded so they can “return” to a place they’ll never have seen, but my sympathy is spent.

To all Israelis, Jewish folk and various sympathizers: Israel has never fooled me with its claims of “defense” while it was building condos in Palestinian territory, and it will remain my mission to make sure all discussion of Israel’s situation includes acknowledgment of that fundamental deception. It’s wonderful that Israel prides itself on surgical strikes and other indications of humane warfare, but it will always be an illusion until they either commit to peaceful resolution or complete ruthlessness.

Either way Israel will probably catch one or more nuclear explosions in my lifetime, but hey, I didn’t tell those dickheads that God promised them that particular patch of shitty desert, did I? Cash in your unicorn chips, Israelis, and start hunting for some U.S. real estate.

Prices are good.

-jb

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

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

Another friendly reminder…

Jul 16, 2008 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Iraq, Middle East, Politics, The senility of John McCain, War on Terra

If you’re into politicians with military service, John McCain might earn some points for being a good soldier, if not much of a leader. Unfortunately, he’s a bit of an outlier party-wise, as the policies he pursues are the property of chickenhawks whose party happens to be the only one he had a shot at getting the Presidential nomination from. Barack Obama, of course, didn’t enlist in the military to no national detriment as there were no wars to fight in, like John McCain, or dodge while endorsing like George W. Bush and the brains behind the Chickenhawk party. Thankfully he managed to avoid trying to compensate for his insecurities by advocating for the Iraq War, and has listened to wiser men than John McCain also experienced in war by insisting on an exit strategy and understanding that permanent bases in Iraq will not bring peace.

On that note, I love this (somewhat old) list:

* Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage, “other priorities.”
* Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
* Tom Delay: did not serve.
* Roy Blunt: did not serve.
* Bill Frist: did not serve.
* Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
* Rick Santorum: did not serve.
* Trent Lott: did not serve.
* John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
* Jeb Bush: did not serve.
* Karl Rove: did not serve.
* Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. “Bad knee.” The man who attacked Max
Cleland’s patriotism.
* Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
* Vin Weber: did not serve.
* Richard Perle: did not serve.
* Douglas Feith: did not serve.
* Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
* Richard Shelby: did not serve.
* Jon Kyl: did not serve.
* Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
* Christopher Cox: did not serve.
* Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
* Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
* George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got assigned
to Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S. Senate;
failed to show up for required medical exam, disappeared from duty.
* Phil Gramm: did not serve.
* John McCain: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and
Distinguished Flying Cross.
* Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.
* John M.. McHugh: did not serve.
* JC Watts: did not serve.
* Jack Kemp: did not serve. “Knee problem,” but continued in NFL for 8 years.
* Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.
* Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
* George Pataki: did not serve.
* Spencer Abraham: did not serve.
* John Engler: did not serve.
* Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
* Arnold Schwarzenegger: Served in Austrian Army, jailed once for AWOL.
* Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making
movies.

——————-
Pundits & Preachers, etc.
——————-

* Sean Hannity: did not serve.
* Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a ‘pilonidal cyst.’)
* Bill O’Reilly: did not serve.
* Michael Savage: did not serve.
* George Will: did not serve.
* Chris Matthews: did not serve.
* Paul Gigot: did not serve.
* Bill Bennett: did not serve.
* Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
* Bill Kristol: did not serve.
* Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
* Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
* Clarence Thomas: did not serve.
* Ralph Reed: did not serve.
* Michael Medved: did not serve.
* Charlie Daniels: did not serve.
* Ted Nugent: did not serve. (He only shoots at things that don’t shoot back.)

Click on the link to see some notable Democrats who served, but that’s not so much the point. Military experience may teach you nothing, and those who don’t have it may be very wise indeed. But clearly the nation has a lesson to learn about those with no military experience who fantasize and romanticize war, and the soldiers who get sucked into their pomp and circumstance, especially those who emerge from losing wars declaring they “know how to win wars.”

-jb

p.s. Some minute additional editing of list done to no great effect.

One less scapegoat.

Jun 21, 2008 in Energy, Middle East, Peak Oil

Another oil price myth takes it on the chin. U.S energy secretary Samuel Bodman said yesterday that it was limited production and not the dirty deeds of market speculators that is to blame for rising energy costs.

-mg

Wow, I didn’t know most Jews were anti-semitic!

Dec 12, 2007 in Middle East, Politics

Glenn Greenwald cites an opinion survey of Jews in America and their extreme variance with neocon rightwing zealots who love to hurl the “anti-semite” label.

It is beyond dispute that American Jews overwhelmingly oppose core neoconservative foreign policy principles. Hence, in large numbers, they disapprove of the way the U.S. is handling its “campaign against terrorism” (59-31); overwhelmingly believe the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq (67-27); believe that things are going “somewhat badly” or “very badly” in Iraq (76-23); and believe that the “surge” has either made things worse or has had no impact (68-30).

When asked whether they would support or oppose the United States taking military action against Iran, a large majority — 57-35% — say they would oppose such action, even if it were being undertaken “to prevent [Iran] from developing nuclear weapons.” While Jews hold views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which are quite pessimistic about the prospects for Israel’s ability to achieve a lasting peace with its “Arab neighbors,” even there, a plurality (46-43) supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.

In the realm of U.S. domestic politics, it is even clearer that right-wing neoconservatives are a fringe segment of American Jewish public opinion. By a large margin, American Jews identify as some shade of liberal rather than conservative (43-25), and overwhelmingly identify themselves as Democrats rather than Republicans (58-15). And, most strikingly, by a 3-1 margin (61-21), they believe that Democrats, rather than Republicans, are “more likely to make the right decision about the war in Iraq,” and by a similarly lopsided margin (53-30), believe that Democrats are “more likely to make the right decision when it comes to dealing with terrorism.” They have overwhelmingly favorable views of the top 3 Democratic presidential candidates, and overwhelmingly negative views of 3 out of the top 4 GOP candidates (Giuliani being the sole exception, where opinion is split).

My opinions have always sided with the majority of Jewish Americans (as well as around half of Israelis), yet the one rightwing Jewish guy I’ve ever met quickly proclaimed that I was a “closet Nazi.” When I pointed out that most Jews agreed with me, he said, “Everybody has their traitors.” Most Jews are traitors? Only a Jewish person could have gotten away saying it, and indeed neocons have been saying that for some time now. But they’re nothing more than rightwingers, gladly amplified by non-Jewish rightwingers in order to wield a cudgel in the Middle East. Don’t want to bomb Iraq/Iran/Syria/whoever? Be prepared to be slimed as a Hitler-loving fool. And rest assured that most Jews stand with you.

-jb

Why do they hate America so much?

Nov 26, 2007 in Iraq, Middle East, Politics

These things happen when you have a functioning democracy:

Australia’s new prime minister Kevin Rudd will mark his arrival on the international stage by announcing the withdrawal of his country’s combat troops from Iraq and signing the Kyoto treaty on climate change.

Back in ’03, John Howard was censured by the Senate for misleading the public in regards to the rationale for invading Iraq.  That’s another frequently overlooked aspect of democracy; accountability.

-mg

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

There is no legal argument against Bush’s impeachment.

Nov 06, 2007 in Middle East, Politics

Andrew Sullivan tells us what he really thinks:

It tells you all you need to know about some neoconservatives that they now side with the arguments of the Gestapo against the arguments of the US to defend their own willful ignorance and power.

Of course, this reveals how elementary and relevant to centrism Chomsky is:

Also, bear in mind, people ought to be pretty critical about the Nuremberg principles. I don’t mean to suggest they’re some kind of model of probity or anything. For one thing, they were ex post facto. These were determined to be crimes by the victors after they had won. Now, that already raises questions. In the case of the American presidents, they weren’t ex post facto. Furthermore, you have to ask yourself what was called a “war crime”? How did they decide what was a war crime at Nuremberg and Tokyo? And the answer is pretty simple. and not very pleasant. There was a criterion. Kind of like an operational criterion. If the enemy had done it and couldn’t show that we had done it, then it was a war crime.

We’ve tortured, thus it’s not a war crime anymore.

-jb

Time to make other arrangements.

Nov 01, 2007 in Energy, Middle East

The outlook is pretty bleak for Saudi oil according to those that used to work for Aramco:

Sadad I. Al-Husseini, an oil consultant and former executive at Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, gave a particularly chilling assessment of the world’s oil outlook. The major oil-producing nations, he said, are inflating their oil reserves by as much as 300 billion barrels. These amount to hypothetical reserves that are “not delineated, not accessible and not available for production.”

A lot of production in the Middle East is from mature reservoirs, and the giant fields of the Persian Gulf region, he said, are 41% depleted.

This is why Saudi Arabia peaked at around 9.4M barrels a day back in ’05 and they haven’t been able to get back to those levels since. I think right now they’ve dropped down to around 8.5M b/d. OPEC has been setting production quotas for it’s members based upon estimated reserves in the ground for many years and predictably, the Saudi princes began inflating their numbers so that they could buy Rolls Royce’s now and not have to wait until tomorrow. So who still thinks that their frequently stated reserves of 267 billion barrels is accurate?

No problem because when the oil runs out we’ll just run all of our cars on E85, right? Well, better start brainstorming because we’re going to need 330 million gallons of ethanol a day to meet demand. Right now we produce about 22 million and that’s with abundant fossil fuel inputs for diesel fuel, fertilizers, and processing.

-mg

I can’t believe it.

Oct 26, 2007 in Energy, Iran, Middle East, National Security

Strikes against Iran would have consequences:

A U.S. military strike against Iran would have dire consequences in petroleum markets, say a variety of oil industry experts, many of whom think the prospect of pandemonium in those markets makes U.S. military action unlikely despite escalating economic sanctions imposed by the Bush administration.

The small amount of excess oil production capacity worldwide would provide an insufficient cushion if armed conflict disrupted supplies, oil experts say, and petroleum prices would skyrocket. Moreover, a wounded or angry Iran could easily retaliate against oil facilities from southern Iraq to the Strait of Hormuz.

I was wondering out loud this morning during an NPR report about this very subject this morning on my way to work.  How much would the online devoted want this confrontation if they had a taste of five or six dollar a gallon gas, runaway inflation or increased American casualties in Iraq?  Have they seen a map of the region and noticed Iran’s geographic advantages?  Have they thought of who is supposed topick up the tab for this latest adventure?  Taking into consideration the vast disconnect between the way people live their lives and their understanding of the systems that make it possible it’s not at all surprising to think that some believe that an attack on Iran would be another entertaining blip on the cable news video game console.

   He and others noted that Iran would not need to attack well-guarded facilities in places like Saudi Arabia or harass tankers in the U.S.-patrolled Strait of Hormuz, at the head of the Persian Gulf. It could simply collaborate with Shiite forces in southern Iraq to cut off Iraq’s roughly 1.7 million barrels a day of production, further weakening its neighbor while driving up prices for its own exports.

“Certainly when you lose 2.5 million barrels a day of Iranian production, which is the most likely case scenario, that will literally just make the market go berserk,” al-Awadi said. Asked whether the companies he worked with had contingency plans, he said, “The oil industry does not have contingency plans. We are not military people.”

Right, because that’s what big government is there for; to provide a hedge against risk.  Either through subsidies or protection against externatilities, the energy industry is hugely dependent upon the government to protect them against the real world (eg-free markets) which is why I don’t think we’re going to act against Iran.  Whether or not fools like Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin and the rest of the online devoted realize it, economically and militarily we are in a considerably weaker position now than we were ten years ago and cooler heads are well aware that an attack on Iran would be a disaster for the country.

-mg

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

America’s secret mistress-Pakistan

Oct 20, 2007 in Islam, Middle East, Pakistan, Politics

This started off as a response to the Infidel Sage’s comment on my post about benazir returning to Pakistan. But I soon realized that the comments and responses were getting a bit off topic from the original post.

I also realized that my comments on there were becoming a bit more verbose and maybe warrented a new post altogether. This is in response as to whether or not Pakistan is of vital interest to the US.

Why is Pakistan of interest to the US?
The relationship goes back to, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the Nixon administration.

The US wanted to open diplomatic relations with China, so Nixon and Kissinger,
courted the then foreign minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

There was some backroom dealings that if Pakistan could help the US open diplomatic relations then the US
would support Bhutto’s coup to become the next civillian dictator of the country.

So Pakistan aided Nixon in courting China, and in return the US turned a blind eye to the tragic events that led
to and included the terrible civil war and genocide of the Bengalis of Pakistan.

Every successive Republican regime in the US remembers Pakistan’s aid with China, and considers them a strategic
ally.

Another important thing to note is that twice Pakistan has been instrumental in the US dealings with
Afghanistan. Firstly, during the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, it was in Pakistan and with
Pakistan’s help that the mujahideen (freedom fighters) were trained and it was from Pakistani
soil that they carried out operations to topple the Soviet regime in Afghanistan. (the movie Charlie Wilson’s war describes this in further detail, apparently)

Pakistan’s reward for helping the US kick out the Soviets from Afghanistan was that they turned a blind eye
when Pakistan began developing the nuclear bomb (with US money).

By the way, it was these same mujahideen that are now the Taliban. Also, Osama was trained by the US in
Georgia, during this time. The Taliban used these same stinger missiles provided by the US, against the US.

After 9/11, again it was with Pakistan’s aid and assistance, logistically and otherwise, that the US waged
war with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. It was the Pakistani locals who were the actual ground troops and
cannon fodder in the US operations in Afghanistan, while the US conducted mainly air strikes.

Another reason why the US is so interested in Pakistan is that it is the only nuclear armed Islamic
country (so far).

-aa

Toto we ain’t in Karachi anymore…..

Oct 18, 2007 in Benazir Bhutto, Middle East, Pakistan, Politics

There’s a new movie coming out by the end of the year, called Charlie Wilson’s war, that is a satirical look at the “bizarre love triangle ™” that has existed between the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, via the CIA. But that’s a topic for another post, that I hope to write when the movie comes out.

The topic of this post is the return of the ex-Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. The reason I mentioned the above, is because her ties to the CIA go back to her father.

Although Benazir’s return to Pakistan is being highly celebrated in the western world. I would like to use Chile as the best analogy.

Benazir’s father was the equivalent of Pinochet. Now if Pinochet had a daughter, who did just as much damage, if not more, than her dad, that would be Benazir.

Although the current regime in power is a military dictatorship, the current leader of Pakistan, Musharraf, has done more during his tenure to repeal repressive Islamic laws, including laws that were harmful to women. Benazir was Prime Minister twice, and both times she looted the country, had people “disappeared” and murdered, and did nothing for the plight of the oppressed women of the country.

But just see, she will miraculously “win” the elections of Pakistan, and be hailed by all western leaders as the beacon of peace and a model for women in the Muslim world. We’ll hear that everything is hunky dory in Pakistan, whilst she will continue to loot the country once again.

Please read this for more information on Benazir’s misdeeds (she’s wanted by Interpol, by the way….no not the mope-rock band)

The following are the views of the Pakistani literati on Benazir’s return to Pakistan

http://www.dawn.com/weekly/cowas/cowas.htm

Yet another (please note the touch of sarcasm in the following article)

http://www.dawn.com/weekly/ayaz/ayaz.htm

P.S. my condolences to the innocent victims of the bomb blasts in Pakistan. I of course believe that Benazir’s people had it staged, to garner more sympathy for her.

-aa

Student protests in Iran.

Oct 08, 2007 in Iran, Middle East

Two things from this article:

  1. Some are fond of the label “Mad Mullahs” in reference to the Supreme Leader, the Council of Guardians, Assembly of Experts, or what have you.  They are wrong to think that they are irrational.  The men who control Iran are quite the opposite for they know the trick of tyranny; a frightened local populace is easy to control as they will always huddle under the umbrella of power.  Therefore, it would follow that constant threats of violence against Iran only serve to strengthen the totalitarian regime.
  2. From the article:   “Pro-Ahmadinejad students called the protesters sellouts beholden to the United States. ‘Death to the hypocrites,’ they shouted.  Sound familiar?

-mg

Scientific polling vs. agenda-laden denial.

Sep 15, 2007 in Iraq, Middle East, Politics

The latest British study daring to use transparent scientific polling in Iraq finds that over 1 million Iraqis have died due to the Bush/GOP war:

According to the ORB poll, a survey of 1,461 adults suggested that the total number slain during more than four years of war was more than 1.2 million.

ORB said it drew its conclusion from responses to the question about those living under one roof: “How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003?”

Based on Iraq’s estimated number of households — 4,050,597 — it said the 1.2 million figure was reasonable.

There was no way to verify the number, because the government does not provide a full count of civilian deaths. Neither does the U.S. military.

Both, however, say that independent organizations greatly exaggerate estimates of civilian casualties.

ORB said its poll had a margin of error of 2.4%. According to its findings, nearly one in two households in Baghdad had lost at least one member to war- related violence, and 22% of households nationwide had suffered at least one death. It said 48% of the victims were shot to death and 20% died as a result of car bombs, with other explosions and military bombardments blamed for most of the other fatalities.

The government and military do not provide full counts and do not reveal their methodology. When leaks about their methodology come out, we find out they’re jury-rigging the numbers. And, of course, it’s the Bush administration and its military, neither disinterested. But let’s believe them, because the alternative is accepting the murderous scale of this war.

Most people who reject these numbers will do so automatically. The methodology has nothing to do with it, for most certainly didn’t take statistics or understand objective polling (though, as usual, there will be no shortage of rightwing bloggers putting on their thinking caps and acting like experts, with the usual pathetic results). I’d say it’s a good question to ask how they accounted for the less-violent Kurdish region, but I’d also say wait for an answer first. Chances are such an elementary question might have already been considered, no?

And I’d also say, what if you managed to unearth that the number was only 800,000? Or the 600,000 estimate last year (a 50% margin of error vs. 2.4%, could you really believe that)? That number was certainly too much for pro-war types to handle.

Or, rather, Republicans care little about the numbers, but share the Bush administration and military’s concern for how the numbers look to non-Kool-Aid drinkers. 1.2 million dead? A PR problem, no more.

-jb

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

Did Bush run out of smoke, holes or both?

Aug 01, 2007 in Middle East, War on Terra

Obama:

“Let me make this clear,” Obama said. “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again . . . If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

I’m hoping this meme will gain enough traction so that the fact that this administration has routinely ignored the role Pakistan plays in the spread of al-Qaeda based terrorism must be acknowledged.

-mg

The nail in the casket.

Jul 30, 2007 in Iraq, Middle East, Politics, Uncategorized, War on Terra

In the ideal world, the last US citizen to believe in Bush’s foreign policy “strength” just turned their back and vomited:

Saudis’ Role in Iraq Frustrates U.S. Officials — NYT, July 28

Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.

U.S. Set to Offer Huge Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia — NYT, July 29

In talks about the package, the administration has not sought specific assurances from Saudi Arabia that it would be more supportive of the American effort in Iraq as a condition of receiving the arms package, the officials said.

Bush’s foreign policy has been a perfect blend of the excited testosterone of a teenager fantasizing about war and the cynical bile of a corporate mummy entombed in the military industrial complex. Bogged down in Iraq, Bush still sells those fighting him weapons. If he’s learned the difference between Sunni and Shiite yet, it doesn’t show.

-jb

We invaded Iraq for the oil? No waaaaay!

Jul 28, 2007 in Chomsky, Iraq, Middle East, Politics

While the American people and the Iraqi people supported the Iraq War, their support was seen as something essential to the endeavor. America has turned against the war for some time now, and while Republican politicians are going to pay a heavy price, Bush can play chicken until he leaves office. The American public presents to the Bush administration, at best, a minor obstacle. The opinion of the Iraqi people? As soon as it was lost, it meant nothing. We are meant to believe that we did all of this for the democratic freedoms of the Iraq people, but if they don’t want to go along with it, they’re savages who don’t know what’s best for themselves.

Noam Chomsky is The Great Satan in the eyes of any Republican ground trooper. This isn’t because what he says is wrong, but because if all Americans listened to him and learned a thing or two, they’d be much harder to control. If they’d done it five years ago, nothing that has gone wrong in Iraq since would be a surprise. All the bullshit aside, Noam, why doesn’t public opinion matter?

U.S. polls show majority opposition to the war, but they receive limited attention and scarcely enter into policy planning, or even critique of planning. The most prominent recent critique was the report of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, widely acclaimed as a valuable critical corrective to the policies of the George W. Bush administration, which immediately dismissed the report to oblivion. One notable feature of the report is its lack of concern for the will of the Iraqi people. The report cites some of the polls of Iraqi sentiment, but only in regard to the safety of U.S. forces. The report’s implicit assumption is that policy should be designed for U.S. government interests, not those of Iraqis; or of Americans, also ignored.

The report makes no inquiry into those guiding interests, or why the United States invaded, or why it fears a sovereign and more or less democratic Iraq, though the answers are not hard to find. The real reason for the invasion, surely, is that Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world, very cheap to exploit, and is at the heart of the world’s major hydrocarbon resources. The issue is not access to those resources but control of them (and for the energy corporations, profit). As Vice President Dick Cheney observed last May (2006), control over energy resources provides “tools of intimidation or blackmail”—in the hands of others, that is.

In five hundred years, nobody will look back on this chapter in history and decide oil was anything less than the primary reason for the occupation of Iraq. So much propaganda has been purchased to persuade people that really, Iraq’s oil reserves were entirely coincidental, but nobody believes it. Who, the right? They’re very evasive about the subject, but prod one a little bit and you’ll hear, “Damn right it was about oil, all you damn hippies keep talking about the end of oil, who do you expect to do something about it when you can’t jump in your car and go to the multiplex?”

The American public isn’t trusted much more than the Iraqi public to know what is good for it. Dick Cheney is probably just as aware of peak oil as we are, Iraq is simply his answer.

-jb

Nice f*ckin priorities.

Jul 28, 2007 in Middle East, Stupidity

Let’s send advanced weaponry to the epicenter of radical Islam.

Needless to say, I think this is an illustrative example of how Republicans are completely devoid of seriousness when they express concern about the “War on Terror”.

Here’s a fun project for anyone interested; ask any die-hard Bush fan to differentiate between the Taliban and the Saudi regime.

-mg

Some good news.

Jul 25, 2007 in Iran, Middle East, National Security, War on Terra

Two party talks with Iran are proceeding:

Despite the tensions, the two countries appear to have common concerns – both support the Shia-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and neither wants the Iraqi state to collapse completely.

Deep-seated opposition in Iran to any talks with the US has been largely overcome since Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, last year backed the idea.

Iran has become increasingly concerned at the growing strength of militant Sunni groups, including al-Qaeda, in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion and at insurgents’ links with Saudi clerics and officials. Such groups regard Shia Muslims as infidels and have attacked both Shia civilians and shrines in Iraq.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting a war by proxy within the borders of Iraq and it’s a good sign that we’re sitting down with at least one side to address their issues.  The question remains, however, over when this administration plans on confronting the greater threats of Saudi sponsored militant Wahabism (you know, the group responsible for 9/11?) and al-Qaeda sponsorship by our good buddy Pakistan.

-mg

Fuckin’ A – RABS!

Jul 13, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Middle East, Racism, Religion, Uncategorized

Here’s how the First Amendment is revered by the fanatical right wing:

The irony here is that we have an administration that is completely integrated with a regime that is the rats-nest of Wahabist sentiment yet the mouth-breathing base can reflexively identify a peaceful Hindu man like Rajan Zed with the same ridicule and scorn as a Syrian imam.

As James Woolsey points out in this Wall Street Journal editorial, reaching out to other religions in a tactful way, much as Tony Blair had done with mainstream UK Muslims, would do a lot to undermine radical Islam and  to also quell those keen on stateside xenophobia. By cozying up to the main purveyors of radical Islam this administration has done exactly the opposite. They’ve done jack-shit about terrorism and even worse they’ve sat about while al-Qaeda has become as strong as they’ve ever been because for this administration politics trumps policy.

- mg

Turkey vs. the Kurds

Jul 10, 2007 in Iraq, Middle East

Turkey’s attitude towards an independent Kurdistan was a serious issue to consider well before the Iraq war. Which means, of course, George W. Bush never considered it. Jim Hoagland thinks the issue is getting critical.

Neither the Pentagon nor the CIA appears to have stepped up to the mission. This inaction feeds Turkish suspicions that hidden anti-Iranian agendas and alliances among U.S., Saudi, Jordanian and other intelligence services have more influence over American priorities than do commitments from Bush or his senior aides.

A month ago, a consensus among trained observers and diplomats held that the Turks were unlikely to intervene despite their threats. That opinion is changing as disillusionment and electoral desperation take hold in Ankara. Moreover, predictions that any intervention would be limited to airstrikes and mopping-up operations by Turkish special forces at PKK sites are giving way to fears of a much larger operation that could be aimed at forestalling Kurdish control over the disputed Kirkuk region. Rice telephoned Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on Friday to try to head off intervention but received no firm assurance.

A Turkish invasion that turns Kurdistan’s relative calm into chaos and bloodshed would be the nail in the coffin for Bush’s legacy in Iraq and for U.S. public support for the American presence there. Making sure this does not happen should be Priority One for Bush and for everyone working for him in the weeks ahead.

Turkey has been one of the primary obstacles to a safely divided Iraq. They believe a Kurdistan will be destabilizing to their Kurdish population, and the Bush administration has done very little here except to declare a divided Iraq a “non-starter.” Turkey, however, is doing something about it.

BAGHDAD (AP) – Turkey has massed 140,000 soldiers on its border with northern Iraq, Iraq’s foreign minister said Monday, calling the neighboring country’s fears of Kurdish rebels based there “legitimate” but better resolved through negotiation.

The Turkish military had no comment to the remarks by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd from northern Iraq, and it was unclear where he got the figures. If they are accurate, Turkey would have nearly as many soldiers along its border with Iraq as the 155,000 troops which the U.S. has in the country.

Zebari’s comments came amid calls by Turkey’s military for the government to give it the green light to carry out military operations in northern Iraqi against the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

My question has always been, what makes Turkey’s position an absolute that we can do nothing about? Their status as an ally suggests to me that negotiations with Turkey are one of the few options we have at our disposal to improve our options in Iraq.

-jb

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

There are no consequences of American action abroad.

May 21, 2007 in Iraq, Middle East

The bleating of the Republican base, still George Bush’s in spirit no matter how they try to distance themselves, over Ron Paul’s crime of introducing reality into the GOP presidential debates has made it very clear where they stand: America can do anything in any country, will face no retaliation, and if faced with what Communists call “blowback” can only be expected to ramp up the aggression, as what it really is is further proof of the rightness of the original action.

The Iraq occupation has produced a lot of ill will, but if public opinion were split down the middle the GOP would gladly stick to their guns: we will stay there forever. News of majestic embassies and permanent bases makes it clear that this is exactly what they intend, of course, but saying it doesn’t come very easily for them nowadays, because they can’t stay there forever if they can’t stay in office. Democracy is very troubling for those inclined towards endless conflict.

The Iraq clusterfuck was always Osama bin Laden’s dream, a stupid clumsy war against an Arab country that sent a clear message to Muslims: you’re all the same as far as the USA is concerned. It’s been the lifeblood of Al Queda recruiting efforts, and it didn’t take much to figure out that this would mean money:

In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda’s command base in Pakistan is increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network’s operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.

Why’d it take us so long to figure that out?

The officials were charged with reinvigorating a search that had atrophied when some U.S. intelligence assets and special forces teams were pulled out of Afghanistan in 2002 to prepare for the war with Iraq.

How’s that search going, otherwise?

“We’re not any closer,” said a senior U.S. military official who monitors the intelligence on the hunt for Bin Laden.

The lack of progress underscores the difficulty of the search more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Despite a $25-million U.S. reward, current and former intelligence officials said, the United States has not had a lead on Bin Laden since he fled American and Afghan forces in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in early 2002.

Bush has, of course, played this game of chess perfectly…

Some in the administration initially expressed concern over the Pakistani move, but Bush later praised it, following a White House meeting with Musharraf.

The pullback took significant pressure off Al Qaeda leaders and the tribal groups protecting them. It also made travel easier for operatives migrating to Pakistan after taking part in the insurgency in Iraq.

Some of these veterans are leading training at newly established camps, and are positioned to become the “next generation of leadership” in the organization, said the former senior CIA official.

“Al Qaeda is dependent on a lot of leaders coming out of Iraq for its own viability,” said the former official, who recently left the agency. “It’s these sorts of guys who carry out operations.”

The former official added that the resurgent Taliban forces in Afghanistan are “being schooled” by Al Qaeda operatives with experience fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

Bush praised Pakistan’s move?

Got a headache yet?

Bush’s “War on Terror” has been a complete catastrophe from the beginning, and almost six years after 9/11 we’ve only managed to dig ourselves into a deeper hole. This is the product of a moron president led by Ivory Tower intellectuals who’ve not only never seen a firefight, but seemingly disqualified the opinions of anybody who ever had. We have the advantage of knowing who designed it, but one could look at the results of their efforts and reasonably conclude the same thing.

Republicans only seem to believe in blowback when they talk about Clinton not starting a war over the USS Cole or occupying Somalia (wouldn’t you love to still be there today?). The only repercussions are those from weakness!!! But the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan already informed Al Queda’s notions of its strength against endless occupations from large powerful nations. Al Queda didn’t pull off 9/11 hoping that we’d launch a paltry effort. They did it hoping we’d completely go apeshit and start a war with the Middle East. Radical Islam freaks win popular sentiment, new recruits, and now cash, and they don’t fear ten or twenty more years of occupation, they bloody well welcome it.

One must wonder about the madness which so infects nations to go occupy Middle East countries. Until we cure ourselves of that dementia, things will not improve. With Bush and the modern GOP in power, things will continue to get worse.

-jb

Iraq For Sale II

May 15, 2007 in Energy, Iraq, Middle East, Politics

To the victors go the spoils.

Exclusive thirty year contracts. Not a bad prize for the lives of 3,000 soldiers.

-mg

update: I shouldn’t speak so soon. The US occupation of Iraq has been one of the most blusterous spectacles in the entire history of global imperialism because our dedication to the task is minuscule compared to the “successful” Mesopotamian campaigns undertaken by Stanley Maude and his vast army of Raj conscripts (92,000 soldiers were sacrificed for one oil refinery!) and the public certainly doesn’t have the bottle to commit on a level like that.

Speaking of unpopular…

May 10, 2007 in Britpop, Energy, Middle East

Tony Blair is out like bell-bottoms tomorrow.  Right now his popularity stands at 29% and it’s all because of his fanatical devotion to being a loyal Bushie and dragging his country into a unnecessary war.  Blair out of 10 Downing St. could mean bad news for US debt finance operations.  Foreign ownership of US Treasurys has recently increased by $163.6 billion currently reaching a total of $2.141 trillion. Of that increase, 39% came from the UK, 32% from China (including Hong Kong), 17% from Brazil, 4.5% from Canada, 4% from India and 3.5% from Turkey.  If Cheney can’t kick Iraq into shape and get the oil pumping the rest of the world might pull the chair out of from under us and leave the dollar to dangle.  Sarkovsky being “open” to America wont make much of a difference to JQ Public when the dollar value tanks. 

-mg

Attention conservatives!

Apr 11, 2007 in Energy, Middle East, National Security, Peak Oil

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find a way to blame the following on liberals:

Finally, the future decline of Saudi production implies that peak total liquids is forecast to occur in mid 2009. This means that coordinated conservation plans need to start now.

Further evidence supporting Saudi Arabia’s production decline continues to emerge. The evidence is not only technical and economic, but also behavioural. The analysis of the further evidence, described below, shows that Saudi Arabia is highly unlikely to produce over 8.5 million barrels/day of crude oil and lease condensate, on an annualised basis.

Saudi Arabia is in decline now. This means that the world’s production is in decline now. Future supply will be unable to meet forecast demands. Governments, corporations and individuals need to start making coordinated plans to prepare for the decline in world production.

I think we all know who’s to blame for Peak Oil. Yeah, that’s right….Bill Clinton!

-mg

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            

It would seem to me that…

Mar 18, 2007 in Iraq, Middle East

…a free American citizenship should be handed out to Iraqis who merit special recognition for their help.  And some spare change to buy Cisco at the corner store, go to the clubs, get laid, etc.

-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…)

Iran…*sigh*

Feb 13, 2007 in Media, Middle East, Politics

It goes without saying that the administration has no credibility on…anything. But this entire discussion about “Has Iran assisted hostilities in Iraq?” begs the question of, “If so, so what?” The Bush administration has been very successful at framing the debate to make the answer to that implicit: If Iran is mucking around in Iraq, the White House reasoning stands, then George W. gets to go gallavanting with bombs and missiles into an even darker future he has utterly no ability to predict or control.

The debate itself is rather uninteresting. More relevant questions include: Why wouldn’t Iran be messing around in Iraq? Why shouldn’t they? They’re no different or worse than most of the parties in Iraq, Iran simply favors a Shiite-friendly outcome. Is that something we’re against? Are you sure? Does Iran have less national interest at stake in Iraq than we do? Do we have the right to tell Shiites in Iraq they can’t enlist the help of Shiites from other countries? Why aren’t we planning anything in response to Saudi Arabia’s known assistance of the Sunnis and vow to step it up if we leave? Did George W. Bush ever know what the fuck he was doing?

Whoops, no debate on that last question.

Before the Iraq War, I asked people why, even if Saddam had weapons (and he could have only had a meager amount), it was assumed that we had to go to war with him. One thing did not necessarily dictate the other. With nuclear secrets floating around the Middle East like traces of depleted uranium shells, very little pointed to Saddam being the most likely culprit to give weapons to terrorists, and much evidence ruled him out.

The real hard questions never got asked in the public debate on Iraq, and we have suffered mightily for it. The question is, has our mechanism for national internal dialogue been fixed, or does it still work the exact same way?

More importantly, even if our reasoning points against an attack on Iran, what can be done to stop “The Decider”? What good is it to decide somebody is too drunk to drive if you don’t take the keys away?

-jb

Update: Josh Marshall says much the same, probably says it better…

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

Bored, pt. 2

Aug 03, 2006 in Middle East, Uncategorized

Bill Maher:

As I watch so much of the world ask Israel for restraint in a way no other country would (Can you imagine what Bush would do if a terrorist organization took over Canada and was lobbing missiles into Montana, Maine and Illinois?) – and, by the way, does anyone ever ask Hezbollah for restraint. you know, like, please stop firing your rockets aimed PURPOSEFULLY at civilians?

And I agree with that as well.  Hezbollah isn’t even remotely being a rational actor here, unless they deliberately acted to provoke an over-reaction on Israel’s part.

I say over-reaction strategically, but I’m bored with Israel’s strategic mistakes even moreso, which is again why this fracas really doesn’t demand serious attention.  Israel seems to firmly believe that giving back harder than they get is a good strategy.  Or else they don’t do it out of strategy, but out of  emotion, or because there is no good strategy for their situation.  Either way, I’m really feeling very blase’ about it.  They chose to live there, and the longer they carry on so the more I feel it’s simply in their court.  Should they stop?

I don’t know, but I know I don’t want to jump in, unless it were as a Bill Clinton-style broker of the peace.  Given that our president currently happens to be George W. Bush, that’s not an option either.  Yes, he approves entirely of what Israel does, but as long as he can stay out of it (also meaning staying out of Iran), that is the best result an American can hope for these days.

Aye, I wish they were better ones.

-jb

Bored by Hezbollah, bored by Israel.

Aug 01, 2006 in Middle East, War on Terra

The usual suspects (i.e. everybody who got us into Iraq) have been utterly unhesitant to whoop and holler over Israel vs. Hezbollah Round 28921. I thought it quite remarkable to hear so quickly and loudly that this was WWIII. Over a couple kidnapped soldiers?

Just as quick, the chickenhawks have started it again, including my poor beloved yet-still-addled Andrew Sullivan (who has been doing a brilliant job of shredding Mel Gibson and Passion of the Christkillers).

I missed Markos Moulitsas’ explanation for avoiding any substantive
discussion of the Israel-Hezbollah widening war. (Shouldn’t we call it
what it is, by the way? This is a war between Iran and Israel, started
by Iran.) For fairness’ sake, here it is, penned over ten days ago. It’s beneath pathetic. But judge for yourself.

Ah, there is is, folks. It may be yet another iteration of “Arabs strike at Israel, Israel responds with overwhelming force,” but Andrew feels he can crow about obsessing over it. That’s classic chickenhawk mentality for you, stick it in a jar of formaldehyde. Even though other users on DKos have pontificated at length, Markos is supposed to pipe up himself, and if he doesn’t feel like it, it’s pathetic. Cue applause for Andrew’s courage in…writing about it.

So, alas, Israel. Hezbollah. Syria. Iran. The USA. Is there really something new and exciting here? Is there more than desperate grabbing at straws in order to get some inertia behind the neocons continuing desire for all-out war in the Middle East?

It seems all the usual elements are not only back in place, but far less subtle. Did you think Iraq was really all about Israel? Iran is. Did you think they wanted World War III? They just blurted out that they needed an ace of diamonds to make a flush. Like children, they saw snow and yelled, “It’s Christmas!”

And, of course, if you aren’t into hysterics, you’re not one of the kool (aid) kidz.

-jb

p.s. Written with the Performancing plugin for Firefox.

Move over Iran.

Jul 06, 2006 in Middle East, Politics, Uncategorized

William Arkin of the Washington Post writes the most sensible article to date concerning the flap over North Korea’s missile testing:

So if U.S. intelligence detected preparations for the launch of the Taepodong intercontinental missile, and it also observed shorter range Rodong and Scud missiles being prepared for launch, the natural question is: did we do enough to expose North Korea’s plans to avert launches, thereby undermining its element of surprise and its reason to launch in the first place to create a crisis? …

But if, as U.S. intelligence sources now say, the U.S. has been expecting these launches for over a month, and was even unsurprised by the multiple missile launches, then why didn’t the government do more than leak a snippet of information. Why not announce from the podium precisely what the U.S. knows to maximum advantage in diplomacy?

“We saw this coming,” national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley said yesterday. Hadley says U.S. intelligence watched the North initially roll about 10 missiles up to their launching pads. (Three or more missiles are reported to be still possibly ready for launch, and NBC News reported last night that a second Taepodong-2 intercontinental missile is in the final stages of assembly.)

Hadley is defending the administration, making the argument that the U.S. did everything is could diplomatically, but he misses the point.

U.S. intelligence knew that North Korea was preparing as many as 10 missiles for launch and it didn’t publicly say anything? Because some doctrine of protecting sources and methods doesn’t even provide the possibility of actually making maximum public use of what we know?

The story was “leaked” to the press a few weeks ago to create maximum hysteria in the press for obvious reasons. (I use the term leaked lightly because North Korea has been stating for weeks they were planning on the tests. They’ve even issued several maritime warnings in a run-up to the exercise) Most importantly, it helps build public support for an anti-ballistic missile system that is in some ways quite literally a pie in the sky conviction. It also gives the war-bloggers another reason to beat their flabby chests while they pour over their Tom Clancy novels looking for potential snippets of ABM info.

As far as any actions of substance the administration is quite limited. Sanctions, the favored cowardly maneuver, will do little more than hurt the populace even more by giving the DPRK regime more propaganda fuel and besides, the idea will be quickly scuttled by the Russians and Chinese since sanctions are already in place due to the breakdown of the six-party nuclear disarmament talks last November because of North Korea’s participation in global fraud and money laundering operations.

-mg