Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, May 20, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the WMD issue or 'issue' continues to obscure larger points on the Iraq War, Baghdad again refuses refugees, the Pentagon continues to maintain all is well and much more.

In yesterday's snapshot, we noted how, excepting former US Senator Mike Gravel, no US politician with a national presence tells the truth about Iraq.

They all tend to repeat the comforting lies about how the US 'helped' Iraq and how a 'gift' was given (at gun point) and it's always noble and wonderful -- on the side of the 'giver.'  Very little attention is ever given to those that the 'gift' was imposed upon.

Damon Linker, non-politician, attempts to grapple, all these years later, with whether or not Bully Boy Bush and others lied about believing former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was sitting on Weapons of Mass Destruction.  At The Week, Linker notes this belief (or stated 'belief') was held by many Democrats in the five or so years leading up to the Iraq War:

I read or listened in real time to most of the statements quoted in this useful Larry Elder column from 2006. Bill Clinton in 1998 and 2003; Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in February 1998; Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger in 1998; Rep. Nancy Pelosi in 1998; General Wesley Clark in 2002; Sen. John Rockefeller in 2002; French President Jacques Chirac in 2003 — all of them, and many more, expressed the overwhelming consensus of the Washington elite of both parties that Saddam Hussein was hiding WMD and that this made him a serious threat both to our allies in the region and the United States itself.

And Linker concludes:

Twelve years later, rather than doing the hard work of figuring out why so many Democrats (including the party's presumptive presidential nominee in 2016) made the unwise decision to support the invasion, liberals have decided to go easy on themselves by treating the Bush administration not as foolish but as sinister, conniving, evil. What a relief it must be to exonerate oneself from complicity in a catastrophic mistake by portraying oneself as an innocent victim of a diabolical plot.

It's an interesting column, one worth reading and I applaud the effort.

I started speaking out against the Iraq War publicly in February 2003 (one month before the war started).

To me, today's discussion is b.s.

Whether it's a little government monkey like Mike Morrell making statements that no one should believe or the continued other nonsense, it doesn't really matter.

I didn't base my objection on WMD being present or not being present.

Apparently, there are a lot of idiots or, in fairness, a lot of people who were silent when it mattered that now want to pretend they were brave.

Brave would never having been declaring that the Iraq War had to be fought or not fought based on WMDs.

WMDs couldn't be proven or disproven short of the United Nations weapons inspectors being allowed to do their job.  (Bully Boy Bush did not allow them to do their job.)

I am never gong to build an argument around something I can't prove or disprove.

I don't know anyone in the early days against the war who was going around saying, "Saddam doesn't have WMDs!"  I'm sure some people some where did that.  But those of us that were speaking out -- especially on the college lecture circuit -- were not making that claim.

And I really find it dishonest that these Democratic partsians are today trying to pretend that WMD was the issue.

WMD was the side show.

I spoke out against the illegal war because it was illegal.

Just War theory didn't spring up in the last five days of 2002.

Its roots go back to Saint Augustine and Thomas of Aquin -- and even pre-date that if you pull in The Mahabharata.  Centuries of legal theory, centuries of ethical exploration resulted in the Just War theory.

Bully Boy Bush was trashing that.

There is no go-it-alone justification unless you are attacked.

The US was not attacked by Iraq.

There was no legal justification to go to war with Iraq.  There was no ethical justification.

What Bully Boy Bush did was upend the law, upend tradition and insist that there was a new justification for war:  You could now legally go to war with a country because you suspected that at some point in the near or distant future they might decide to attack you.

There was no imminent threat nor was the US responding to an attack that had taken place.

The Iraq War was a war of choice.

The choice being made -- not by the people of America, not by the people of Iraq -- was going to have long lasting implications.  For Iraq, the most immediate implication would be the tragedy of lives lost both during combat and in the immediate years following.  For the US, it would mean our government was not just embracing its inner thug, it was now fondling its inner thug in public.

There would be no more efforts to pretend -- and there haven't been.


We bombed it.

I believe Hillary Clinton's argument is: We did it because we could.

There is no more pretense that the US government follows the law.

It just acts as a big bully doing whatever it wants.

Now the uni-polar system doesn't last for long.

In part, that's due to the fact that bullies breed hostility.

Whether a multi-polar system will come into being or a bi-polar system will return (Russia versus the US again?), something will take its place.

But WMD is nonsense and b.s.

And not noting how certain Republicans and Democrats felt that the uni-polar system meant the US could (and should) do whatever it wants?

I'm really not into stupidity.

I feel like I'm watching five-year-olds trying to explain rain.

Only with five-year-olds, they're cute.

There's nothing cute about adults basing arguments 12 years after the start of the Iraq War on whether or not it was known that Iraq had WMD before the Iraq War started.

When the US government was moving towards going to war on Iraq and doing so without even the cover of a United Nations authorization, when they were doing it with no attack from Iraq and no imminent attack, they were upending the rules of engagement and destroying the traditions that engagement were based upon.

Generally, when rulers act as the US government did in 2003, they're not seen well in history.  Nazi Germany didn't feel the need to follow international law, didn't feel the need to embrace Just War theory.

The actions were criminal.

And when one country does it, you can't then scream that others can't.

So when the US government was giving up even the public pretense of Just War, it had a huge effect.

In 2003, I would say, if asked, that I didn't believe the case had been made that Iraq had WMD.  But, I'd add, that was my belief and I didn't know for a fact.

I did not build my opposition to the Iraq War on WMD.

And to go even further, I honestly believed -- belief, not fact -- that after the war started, if Iraq didn't have WMD then Bully Boy Bush would plant them in Iraq.

So I stayed away from that topic.  It was a non-issue because I couldn't say one way or another whether Iraq did or did not have WMD.

If you're interested in this topic for whatever reason, the only thing of value I think you'll find to back up your case that Bully Boy Bush and others were lying?

On the eve of the war, then-US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (a Republican) wrote a column insisting that US troops needed better suits and protection when they went into Iraq.  What was she talking about?

The WMDs that they were going to be greeted with.

And she was actually right.

Think about it.  Bully Boy Bush is arguing Iraq has chemical weapons and WMDs and needs to be taken out for that reason.

But Bully Boy Bush wasn't arming, equipping and outfitting US troops sent into Iraq to face that.

I would assume that the senator was honestly concerned and had bought the notion that Iraq had WMD -- the notion Bully Boy Bush repeatedly sold.

But if Bully Boy Bush believed it, why wasn't he ensuring the protection of the troops?

There are two possible answers: He didn't give a damn about US troops or he knew there were no WMDs.  He should be presented with those two options by the press and asked to explain which it was?  I don't find either answer as a 'win' for him -- and I doubt history will either.

So if the WMD debate is what you're focused on, trying to pursuing that angle.

But wars have been justified on lies throughout history -- not just Gulf on Tonkin.

No one else has been so eager to publicly destroy the agreed upon structure and rules as Bully Boy Bush.

And this is because of the collapse of the Soviet Union which led the neocons (and some neoliberals as well) to begin arguing in the late 90s -- in one academic article after another -- that the world was a uni-polar system now with the US in charge and the US needed to seize that moment to leave its imprint.  International politics on the college level suddenly had introductory books and collections and readers where these arguments were being made.  And on the college level back then, you would have pushback from many sides -- including conservatives -- because these claims were pie-in-the-sky and unrealistic.  But the die hards stuck to them and, with Bully Boy Bush administration and the aftermath of 9-11, they were able to present their ridiculous claims (on world order, on war, etc) as part of a 'new world,' a post-9/11 world and, with fear overrunning the country, they got what they wanted.

I spoke out because there were serious implications here, long lasting ones.  Again, a friend had booked a college campus tour and then she had a larger tour offered where she could reach more people.  (Neither she nor I made any money off of this, we were donating our time.  To this day, I have never made  a penny off the illegal war and never want to do so.)  With the bigger tour and the chance to reach more people (and hopefully use that to stop the impending war), she needed to take that tour.  But she couldn't just leave the earlier one unfilled.  So I told her I'd grab the dates she'd already agreed to on the smaller tour.  And that's what I did.

But it never ended for me.  I'm still speaking out against the (still) ongoing Iraq War.

And I want my life back.  I don't want to be online with 'new content' every damn day as has happened since this site started.  I don't want to spend every year -- my final years? -- talking about Iraq.

And I'm aware those are selfish comments and that's why I haven't stopped yet.

How lucky am I, an American citizen in the US, to be able to stop thinking about Iraq.

Iraqis -- both in Iraq and those who've been forced to flee -- don't have that luxury.

They will never be able to stop thinking about what has happened to their country.

The only ones today who can stop thinking, the only Iraqis who can?

Those are the ones who've been killed in this illegal war.

So I will whine -- I'll will drive my BMW loudly through the public square (Bitch Moan and Whine) -- but I will continue to try give time to this topic for a little while longer.

Even so,  I don't have the patience or the spirit to indulge liars or partisans hacks who want to distort the history, the reality of the illegal war.

I've seen and done things I want to forget
I've seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat
Blown and shot out beyond belief
Arms and legs were in the trees 
I've seen and done things I want to forget
coming from an unearthly place
Longing to see a woman's face
Instead of the words that gather pace
The words that maketh murder
-- "The Words That Maketh Murder," written by PJ Harvey, first appears on her album Let England Shake

The politicians lie.  Barack included. The Iraq War is an illegal war.  US troops were misused and treated disgracefully (both in being sent over there and in the way they were treated by the US government after -- and, by the way, where's the parade?  I though Barack's excuse was that troops were still in Afghanistan but in 2012 there would be a parade.  Where's that parade?).

I do not attack any service member who was deployed to Iraq.  They did what they were trained to do and what they were ordered to.  They are not the criminals.  In some cases, they are heroes -- yes, an illegal war can have heroes.  Abby Martin's made a spectacle of herself with her idiotic and tasteless t-shirt ("F**k Chris Kyle").  She has nothing to contribute to the conversation.  She's spoiled little girl throwing a tantrum and being indulged by some.

The Iraqi people were victimized by an out of control US government (also by a British government and an Australian one).  Easily a million have been killed in the Iraq War.  And as we've repeatedly maintained here, the dead are the lucky ones when you consider the alternative of being injured and living in combat.  A bomb -- market bomb, bomb dropped from a US war plane, whatever -- takes off you leg?   Life was hard for you in Iraq already and now you have to navigate a never-ending combat zone without a leg?

The western press has always treated the injured as a class better off.  By contrast, the Iraqi press has always tended to lump the totals together.

Along with the immediate victims, the use of various illegal chemicals -- by the US government -- means that birth defects have skyrocketed in Iraq and that these birth defects are not a transitional element of the Iraq War but one of its longest lasting effects -- one that will be felt for decades.

These are the truths and they are the truths that are avoided as politicians rush to dress their War Crimes up in nobility rags.

The never-ending Iraq War has gone on for so long that so many western journalists have now covered it for multiple outlets -- Leila Fadel, Sam Dagher, Dexter Filkins, Ned Parker, Liz Sly, Alice Fordham, Missy Ryan, etc.  Nancy A. Youssef covered Iraq for Knight Ridder Newspapers and then for McClatchy Newspapers and now for The Daily Beast.  She Tweets today:

  • Overheard at the Pentagon: "We've been exaggerating the strength of the Iraqi Army since the '80s. What else is new?"

  • Aaron Mehta (Defense News) reports Pentagon spokespersons are insisting there will be no change in "stragegy" (there's no strategy, only tactics) with Col Pat Ryder boasting/insisting, "I think our record speaks for itself."

    It does.

    But it's not saying anything to boast about.  Joshua Keating (Slate) observes:

    U.S. commanders have been describing ISIS as having “peaked” or being “on defense” in statement after statement since the fall of 2014—but a lot of anti-ISIS progress has been ambiguous at best. After Ramadi, reading Vice President Biden’s confident early-April proclamation that “ISIL’s momentum in Iraq has halted and in many places has been flat-out reversed,” it’s hard not to be reminded of his predecessor assuring the country that the Iraqi insurgency was in its “last throes” in 2005.

    Hassan Hassan (Foreign Policy) reminds, "The Islamic State’s recent advance did not take the world by surprise, as it did when the group captured Mosul and other areas across Iraq last year. This time, the United States said it conducted seven airstrikes in Ramadi, in an effort to prevent its fall, in the 24 hours before the city was lost. Local officials in Ramadi, meanwhile, had repeatedly warned that the city would be overrun if they did not receive urgent reinforcements. But the international and Iraqi support that arrived was simply insufficient to hold the city."  Hugh Naylor (Washington Post) points out, "The fall of Ramadi amounts to more than the loss of a major city in Iraq’s largest province, analysts say. It could undermine Sunni support for Iraq’s broader effort to drive back the Islamic State, vastly complicating the war effort."

    This is a point that Shadi Hamid makes clear in a Tweet:

  • Iraq's circular loop --> The more ISIS gains, the more Iraq needs militias. The more Iraq uses militias, the more Sunni support ISIS gets.

  • The fall of Ramadi has added to Iraq's already existing refugee crisis.

  • Refugees were totally expected.

    Are we really supposed to believe that Haider al-Abadi was again -- again -- taken by surprise?

    Because it is also very easy to read this as yet another example of the targeting of the Sunnis.

    When Haider pulled this earlier, there was great outcry from all Iraqis -- including Shi'ites.  It was noted that Baghdad belonged to all and that Haider's actions were discrimination and possibly illegal.

    And yet, weeks later, he's doing it again.

    At today's US State Dept background briefing on Iraq, McClatchy Newspapers' Hannah Allam raised the issue:

    HANNAH ALLAM: Okay. First of all, on the refugee issue, what are you – what are the discussions with Abadi about letting people in? I mean, you’ve got thousands of people stranded, four days, they can’t go back, they get killed, they won’t let them in even with a sponsor now.

    SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So I understand – again, I’ve been told as of this morning that the bridge has been open for refugees with a sponsor with a place to – what that means is that they need a place to go in Baghdad because you can’t just have a – otherwise, you just have a really chaotic situation which can quickly get out of control. So the bridge has been open to refugees with a sponsor in Baghdad. And the UN, again, who is doing just heroic work, is working to set up facilities for those who are on the other side of the bridge. That’s what’s happening as we speak, so hopefully, I’ll have a little more for you in the next 24 hours or so.

    Allam's report on the briefing can be found here.

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 151 dead across Iraq in today's violence.

    nancy a. youssef