Sunday, August 22, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

This farcical "withdrawal," which amounts to merely increasing the number of mercenaries in the region, is a complete fabrication, motivated by pure politics and an infinite faith in the cluelessness of the Average Joe, who is too busy looking for a job to care. As to what they’ll do when the insurgency starts to rise again, not to worry: no one will notice but the soldiers in the field. Surely the American media won’t be so rude as to point it out, unless the Green Zone goes up in flames and they have to evacuate stragglers by helicopter as they did in Vietnam. In that case, the visuals would be too good to pass up.
Everything that comes out of this administration, from its pronouncements on the overseas front to its own unemployment numbers, is a lie: it’s all lies, all the time. Even in small matters, the default is a fib, such as in the case of the Pentagon’s denial that it was ever in touch with WikiLeaks about minimizing the alleged damage done by the next Afghanistan document dump. After all, why would WikiLeaks make up such a story? The feds just want the documents "expunged," thank you. I doubt they really believe it’s possible to "expunge" the Afghan war logs from the internet. If so, they are dumber than anyone has so far imagined. And so much for the myth that the Pentagon really cares about any danger to Afghan informants, who might be compromised by the release of more documents: Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have given them their chance to safeguard the identities of US collaborators, and the Pentagon flat out rejected it. So be it.
The feds hate WikiLeaks because they exposed the lies this administration has been putting out about how the war is going just fine: the true number of casualties, and the toll on innocent civilians, is online for all to see, and there’s more coming. Now, no one but the naïve and the bought-off expects government officials to tell the truth: no one is surprised to discover George Washington’s heirs did indeed cut down the cherry tree, and tried to cover it up. However, I’m old enough to be shocked by the "reporting" in the news media that takes this "the war is over" narrative seriously.

The above is from Justin Raimondo's "All Lies, All The Time" ( There are a number of strong columns right now on the illegal war but many of them wait until the last paragraphs to note that the 'withdrawal' is about as real as Iraq having 'yellow cake uranium.' The Hindu explains, "Over 50,000 U.S. troops are to remain in Iraq, and their numbers could rise to 70,000. They will be called 'Advise and Assist brigades'; they have warplanes and helicopters and will accompany Iraqi troops into combat. The U.S. also has several big, effectively permanent military bases in Iraq; and intends to maintain about 200,000 mercenaries as ‘protectors' of western business and other interests across the country." CODEPINK and Global Exchange's Medea Benjamin calls (at OpEdNews) for people to "join the coalition calling for accountability by signing up here." and she notes:

It's true that Iraqis suffered under the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein but his overthrow did not lead to a better life for Iraqis. "I am not a political person, but I know that under Saddam Hussein, we had electricity, clean drinking water, a healthcare system that was the envy of the Arab world and free education through college," Iraqi pharmacist Dr. Entisar Al-Arabi told me. "I have five children and every time I had a baby, I was entitled to a year of paid maternity leave. I owned a pharmacy and I could close up shop as late as I chose because the streets were safe. Today there is no security and Iraqis have terrible shortages of everything--electricity, food, water, medicines, even gasoline. Most of the educated people have fled the country, and those who remain look back longingly to the days of Saddam Hussein."

Dr. Al-Arabi has joined the ranks of the nearly four million Iraqi refugees, many of whom are now living in increasingly desperate circumstances in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and around the world. Undocumented, most are not allowed to work and are forced to take extremely low paying, illegal jobs or rely on the UN and charities to survive. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported a disturbing spike in the sex trafficking of Iraqi women.

The realities about the continued illegal war (and the continuation of the illegal war) won't be found in the bulk of our MSM. They're too busy spinning yet again. And providing cover for the continued deaths and destruction.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4414. Tonight? 4417. Today the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq – A United States Forces – Iraq Soldier was killed today in Basra province while conducting operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." Martin Chulov (Guardian) observes, "Details of the incident were not released, but Basra airport base, which is still home to about 4,000 US forces, had experienced increased numbers of rocket attacks in recent weeks as the deadline drew near for the withdrawal of combat troops. Two soldiers suffered minor wounds in a rocket strike early last week, and rockets have hit the Green Zone in Baghdad almost daily for the past month." Three soldiers announced dead last week, the week that 'combat operations' ended in Iraq.

In other violence . . .


Reuters notes a Baghdad cafe bombing which claimed 2 lives (twelve left injured), a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two, a Baghdad roadside bombing near an alcohol store injured one person, a Mussayab bombing claimed 1 life (six more people injured), a Baghdad roadside bombing injured four people, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured "an employee of the Badr organisation," a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded one person and a Taji roadside bombing injured two people.


Reuters notes an Iraqi Brig Gen and his brother were wounded in a Baghdad attack and 1 civilian was killed and one police officer was injured in a Baghdad shooting.

Turning to legal news, David Batty (Guardian) reports that the only person convicted (Ali Lufti Jassar) in the kidnapping and killing of CARE International's Margaret Hassan has escaped from prison at some point and appears to have been aided in his prison break. In other prison news, Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) reports that Salem, her driver who was assisting the US military, was released from jail finally but now is living an underground life to avoid retaliation from Shi'ite militias and that his two sons remain imprisoned.

Meanwhile the Financial Times of London points out, "The reality is that the political space the surge was meant to open up created a vacuum that remains unfilled. Iraq’s elections are the Arab world’s freest, but nearly six months on from the last polls politicians have still not managed to form a new government. And not only the state, but Iraqi society is broken. One in six Iraqis, disproportionately middle-class professionals, have fled their homes, around half for other countries."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 14 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.

Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports:

"In Washington, I told them, 'It would be embarrassing if you left and there's no government in place,' " said Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. "The U.S. will still have a substantial force here, but it needs to use it to produce results. . . . The Iraqi leaders are at an impasse, and we need help from our American friends."

Now, every question begins with "what if?" What if the political vacuum unravels hard-earned security gains? What if, as U.S. influence wanes, neighboring countries fill the space left behind? What if a new government in this fledgling democracy never forms?

"It's a terrible time," said Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq expert with the International Crisis Group. "We always argued that the coincidence of a political and security vacuum would present a dangerous situation, and that's where we are now. If violence continues and insurgents get a foot in the door, what are the Americans going to do, with the limited resources they have?"

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes "Do we still need a revolutionary paper" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The internet has opened up new vistas for socialists. At a time when information can be sent all over the world at the click of a button, newspapers can start to feel quite old-fashioned.

Internet activists can have a Facebook group or an email list running or organise a protest before a print paper can go to press.

So why do revolutionaries put so much effort into writing, printing and selling a newspaper like Socialist Worker? Why not drop the paper and use the resources to build a bigger presence on the internet instead?

The internet has created a real crisis for the mainstream media, but socialist papers are trying to achieve something quite different. Our papers are central to organising and creating networks.

For active socialists the interaction with our readers is as important as the number of them. We use the paper to organise.

When someone buys Socialist Worker outside a workplace it helps them to organise at work and shows a commitment to the paper’s ideas that is different from sharing comments on an internet site.

Selling the paper identifies Socialist Worker supporters as committed socialists in a way that setting up a blog does not.

Socialist Worker sellers were able to engage with strikers on British Airways picket lines as pickets came to respect the paper because of its consistent support for their struggle.


The web can also atomise the way a paper is read. Socialist Worker selects and brings together articles in the print edition in a way that is hard to repeat online.

This link to organisation and clarifying ideas has existed as long as there have been socialist papers.

The first mass workers’ paper was the Northern Star, produced in the mid-19th century by the world’s first mass workers’ movement, the Chartists.

In a largely illiterate society it was often read out to groups of workers—but meeting together also helped the workers to agree on their ideas and organise.

The Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin ran the most important socialist newspaper, Pravda—the paper of the Bolshevik party.

In the run up to the 1917 Russian revolution its writing and distribution was vital to building the Bolshevik party.

As Lenin put it, “A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, it is also a collective organiser.

“In this respect it may be compared to the scaffolding erected round a building under construction.

“The organisation which forms around this newspaper will be ready for everything.”

And, though sales have declined in Britain, people still buy an average of ten million newspapers every day. The Sun alone sells almost three million a day.

But the fact that the Chartists and the Bolsheviks succeeded using printed papers isn’t in itself an argument for continuing to produce a newspaper today.

While we may live in the age of the internet, almost one in three people in Britain still don’t have internet access—many of them among the poorest in society.

Beyond this, reading articles online, even revolutionary ones, can be an isolating experience.

We should never underestimate the enormous benefit the growth of the internet has provided revolutionaries—as were the spread of affordable printing, the telephone, the photocopier and mobile phones.

But what we are trying to achieve is different from most newspapers.

While Facebook groups have been very useful in organising protests and bringing people together, without a more solid form of network they are a poor predictor of how many people will actually show up at an event.

Socialist Worker uses the familiar form of a tabloid newspaper, but subverts it to tackle the ideas of the ruling class instead of reinforcing them—giving voice to th e most radical parts of workers’ experiences.

Regular face-to-face sales on the street, in a college or to a work colleague allows sellers to establish a political relationship with readers and discuss from week to week about what’s going on in the world—and how we can change it.

Also in the What Socialists Say series:

What is the role of the police in capitalist society?

Why is the media on the bosses’ side?

From people’s power to workers’ power

Just who are the Liberal Democrats?

Why do some workers vote for the Tories?

What would real democracy look like?

Privatisation, co-ops and nationalisation

Why does Labour give in to the racists?

Does it matter who leads Labour?

Israel: a vicious child of imperialist powers

Not flying the flag for England in the World Cup

Britain sowed violence and division in Ireland

Is Britain more racist than it used to be?

Is it only organised workers who have power?

Are we heading for a double-dip recession?

Can we work with the Labour Party?

Why are women paid less than men?

Weapons of mass destruction: Why would bosses blow up the planet?

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