Our kind of guy.

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In as much as it’s the fifteenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and one of the war’s principal architects/apologists is about to become National Security Advisor, I thought this might be a good time to take a look back at to what extent we have fucked the nation of Iraq beyond repair over the past six decades. Jeremy Scahill did a good look back on his podcast, Intercepted (see https://theintercept.com/2018/03/21/us-war-iraq-legacy-of-blood/ ), but there are a few items that I would like to pull out of that broader narrative, much of which I’ve talked about before, though it bears repeating in the current climate of fear.

CIA target Abdul Karim QasimFirst, we helped the thug/torturer Saddam Hussein from the earliest moment in his career, when in 1959 he made a botched attempt at becoming Iraq’s Lee Harvey Oswald, taking a shot at the country’s leader Qasim (who had taken power the year before after a coup against King Faisal). Hussein ran to Tikrit, then was spirited away to Beirut, where he lived on the CIA’s dime, then to Cairo, where – again – he was a guest of the CIA. Qasim was a nationalist, socialist type, so we were glad to support the Ba’ath party takeover in 1963 and Hussein’s subsequent rise to power.

Writing about the 1959 assassination attempt back in 2003, Richard Sale wrote:

According to another former senior State Department official, Saddam, while only in his early 20s, became a part of a U.S. plot to get rid of Qasim. According to this source, Saddam was installed in an apartment in Baghdad on al-Rashid Street directly opposite Qasim’s office in Iraq’s Ministry of Defense, to observe Qasim’s movements.

Seems our intelligence agencies were always fixing Saddam up with a crash pad. Some years later, by the time of the Iran-Iraq war, the United States got very close with Saddam’s regime. Again, Sale:

In the mid-1980s, Miles Copeland, a veteran CIA operative, told UPI the CIA had enjoyed “close ties” with [the] . . . ruling Baath Party, just as it had close connections with the intelligence service of Egyptian leader Gamel Abd Nassar. In a recent public statement, Roger Morris, a former National Security Council staffer in the 1970s, confirmed this claim, saying that the CIA had chosen the authoritarian and anti-communist Baath Party “as its instrument.”

This was such a cozy relationship that during the tanker war between Iran and Iraq when the U.S. was re-flagging and escorting Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf, Iraq’s mistaken attack against the U.S.S. Stark was essentially dismissed, much like the Liberty in 1967. (I always found it interesting that this fact was not deployed during the run-up to our 2003 invasion. It was simply too complicated a story to tell.)

So … Saddam Hussein was our kind of thug. Until he disobeyed orders. More on the consequences of that transgression later.

luv u,

jp

Another week that was.

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I know we’ve all been drinking from a news fire hose this week and you hardly need me to remind you of that. Still, I’m going to do some short takes on various topics … unless I get on a tear, then all bets are off. (No betting!)

Iraqi-versary – It’s been fifteen years since the American invasion of Iraq. Still seems like yesterday, particularly when you consider the state Iraq is in right now – divided on a sectarian basis, barely holding together, bombs going off at regular intervals, struggles persisting over the rubble of its cities. Our war cost them upwards of a million lives, and that’s compounded on the many hundreds of thousands who died in the 11 years of sanctions that preceded the 2003 attack. No one has been held accountable for this, so I’m confident it will happen again in some form.

Total ass clown.Bolton – Speaking of being held accountable, HE wasn’t, and now he’s going to be National Security Advisor. All I can say to that is, expect war with Iran … but don’t expect it to be the cakewalk that Iraq was. (Yes, I know … but Iraq will seem like a cakewalk once we wade into Iran.)

Yemen Vote – The Sanders-Lee-Murphy amendment to force debate on an authorization for supporting the Saudi assault on Yemen garnered 44 votes, which is encouraging but not enough to save the millions facing hunger, cholera on a biblical scale, and endless death and destruction rained down by a U.S. sponsored and guided Saudi air force. We need to do better for the people of Yemen. Be sure to remind your federal legislators (and our president) that this is on them. And bear in mind that Trump pushed for the bill to fail as not to displease his beloved weasle-prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is a primary architect of this slaughter.

Cambridge Analytica – Count me as someone who doesn’t believe the machinations of Russian bots and dodgy data companies like CA had a decisive effect on the 2016 election. That’s not to say it didn’t have ANY effect. And that’s also not to say that they aren’t tremendous dicks for steeling millions of people’s data and using it to help elect a self-aggrandizing racist moron president of the United States. My feeling is that they – and, in fact, Facebook as well – should be broken up and scuttled for all they’re worth. If you want to stop rogue billionaires, the best way to do it is by taking away their billions. Let them rough it as mere millionaires, poor sods.

Russia Probe – Message to Donald Trump: Please, please talk to Mueller or to the grand jury. Get your side of the story down, dude. It’s the only way out of this mess. You can do it, Donald. Just wear your white sheet and speak truth to power.

luv u,

jp

Donnie’s excellent adventure.

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It’s been quite a week for our low-rent gropen-fuhrer, and as of this writing it’s only Wednesday. First we saw him re-tweet Euro-fascist videos, then excoriate the FBI in response to Flynn’s indictment, followed by a full-throated endorsement of Alabama Senate Candidate, state Supreme Court Justice (twice removed), and mall stalker (many times removed) Roy Moore on Monday, opening of vast Western lands to oil and gas development on Tuesday, and U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday. Throw in little details like the travel ban being reinstated by the Supreme Court Tuesday, his allies in the Senate passing a draconian “tax” bill (larded with much else besides) the weekend before, and stepped up provocative war games on the Korean peninsula this week, and you’ve got … well … just what you voted for, America.

Trump lighst the fuse. Again.The Jerusalem announcement basically lights a fuse that’s been rolled out and set for decades. As Trump pointed out, Congress has voted for this more than once, passing resolutions in support of the shift by large bipartisan margins. In terms of the fundamentals, it’s a minor step, but as a symbolic gesture, it has the potential for disaster. I’m certain it is already being used as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, ISIS, Al-Shabab, and what have you. Another tremendous gift to jihadists the world over. Trump may as well take out full-page ads for them, plaster billboards all around the Muslim world, and flood Facebook with pop-ups – Al Baghdadi wants you!

There’s a temptation to frame this clusterfuck as something uniquely Trump, but that doesn’t even begin to hold water. Trump is truly a reflection of America’s worst tendencies, a fun-house mirror for us to peer into with fascination and horror. But having a drunk at the wheel of the wrecking machine that is Imperial America is only marginally different than having a college professor in the driver’s seat. Yes, Trump is worse than even a neoliberal Democratic administration – court appointments and judicial decisions alone confirm that much. But America as it is currently configured is designed to kill and destroy on a massive scale, regardless of who is running the show. Destruction is the default position, and like any large exploitative enterprise, this machine has its ways of perpetuating itself. Every family Trump (or Obama) shatters in Yemen or Syria or Iraq generates more hatred against us. Our bombs and policies like the Jerusalem decision are investments in future conflicts that will fuel the military machine long after we’re gone.

It’s not hopeless, people. We live in a democratic society. We can change how we do things, but we have to get started … like, now.

luv u,

jp

 

Between truces.

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It’s been more than 15 years and we’re still at war in Afghanistan; a deployment and occupation considerably longer than that of the now-defunct Soviet Union. It’s been more than 14 years and we’re still at war in Iraq, a conflict longer than the one military historian Dilip Hiro once described as “The Longest War” (the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s). We’re killing people in Roqqa, Syria, in Mosul, Iraq, in Yemen, and quite a few other places. Far from stepping away, we are preparing to double down, sending another contingent of thousands of American troops to Afghanistan on some quixotic effort to tamp down the wildfire we helped ignite thirty-seven years ago.

Well, it was at the time.Endless war in an of itself is now an invariant reality of modern U.S. foreign policy, regardless of which major party holds the reins of power. The broad political consensus has built a nearly unassailable war machine – not in the sense that it is impervious to military defeat, but rather that it is designed to run on and on regardless of what the American people have to say about it. The killing machine is well insulated from the voting, tax paying public – there’s no conscription, no war tax, no apparent sacrifice associated with these extended deployments except with respect to the volunteer soldiers who are sent to fight, be grievously wounded, and even die. The beauty of this political creation is that it appears to defy gravity; only a herculean effort on the part of the American people could stand a chance of ending these wars.

Of course, Donald Trump has now been stitched into the driver seat of the killing machine. I am among those who consider this a very dangerous state of affairs, even though the background level of warfare remains about the same. The danger is in the fact that Trump is (a) phenomenally ignorant, (b) supremely incurious about any topic that doesn’t bear directly on him, his image, his family, his fortune; and (c) recklessly arrogant in a third-world dictator kind of way. His response to foreign policy challenges reminds me of D’artagnan on his first day in Paris, unwittingly challenging all three of his future fellow musketeers to a duel. A dispute with the Syrians, the Russians, the North Koreans, and the Iranians all in one week. It’s not too hard to imagine a quintet of new conflicts breaking out all at the same time, largely because Trump doesn’t really understand or believe in diplomacy.

We live in dangerous times, to be sure. But at the very least, unless we all decide to make a point of it, we are well and truly stuck with these wars for years – even decades – to come.

luv u,

jp

A look overseas.

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Another turn at the fire hose. Man, this is kind of dizzying. We’ve just seen a week in which the President has essentially undone the clean power plant rules, scuttled the Paris Accords on climate change, approved the Keystone XL pipeline project, and escalated his attacks on undocumented residents and on the poor miserable souls in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen who cope with our bombs on a daily basis. I could write five posts, but that would take the rest of human history, so suffice with this sorry tirade on foreign policy.

Making Mosul great (again).I didn’t want to let the week go by without saying something about the hundred-plus killed in a coalition raid in Mosul. Civilian deaths have been on the rise in that conflict since our military began its air assault on the more densely populated western side of Mosul. Well, that’s predictable enough. We are fighting the legacy of the previous decade’s catastrophic policy, which was itself a response to another previous decade’s catastrophic policy, and so on. ISIS or ISIL is Al Qaeda in Iraq 2.0, drawing on ex Baathist military personnel for many of its cadres, as well as disaffected Sunni youth, targeted by both the U.S. and the Baghdad government. The destruction/”liberation” of Mosul will not change the fundamental problems that prompted these people to turn, in desperation, to the extremists they once fought against.

We are also doubling down in Syria, now with hundreds of Special Forces on the ground. And as actual journalists like Anand Ghopal have reported, the U.S. is effectively fighting in tandem with the Syrian government, particularly in places like Palmyra, where nominally pro-western groups like the Free Syrian Army cannot operate. Our bombers hit a mosque a few weeks back – like the Mosul raid, our military denied it, then gradually admitted it. Each one of these generates more converts to the jihadi cause, and contributes to another catastrophic policy that we will be grappling with in the next decade.

Then there’s the bleeding sore that is Yemen. The Intercept’s Iona Craig has reported extensively on the Al Ghayil raid that killed dozens of civilians in a mountainside village on the pretext that Al Qaeda leadership were in hiding there. They weren’t – some low-level operatives were reportedly in one of the buildings. The village has been in the thick of the Yemeni civil war, and residents thought the U.S. attackers were Houthi rebels – hence the armed resistance. Again … this “highly” successful raid appears to have aided the side we officially oppose in that fight, though that’s a minor consideration in light of the heavy casualties suffered by the people of Al Ghayil.

Only eight weeks in and these conflicts are getting even more septic. Not a good sign.

luv u,

jp

Stays in Vegas.

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We were treated to the third and final presidential debate this week, moderated by Chris Wallace of FoxNews. I can’t decide which I found more annoying – the ridiculous utterances by the candidates themselves or the clueless pundit commentary on what a great moderator Wallace was. Maybe MSNBC is planning on hiring Wallace, I’m not sure – it seems like they were blowing him pretty hard the morning after, even though he apparently cribbed questions from the Peterson Institute and Operation Rescue. “Partial birth abortion,” really? And no questions about climate change, of course. What a great news man.

Real sense of proportion.I could sit here an write about the obviously outrageous statements made by Trump over the 90 minute program, but you’ve probably heard enough of that. Suffice to say that the guy proves his unsuitability for the office of the presidency every time he opens his big yap. No one should need additional convincing, but alas … this is America. No, what astonishes me is some of what gets discussed (and what doesn’t get discussed) in the wake of these debates. That in itself is enough to make you want to rip your own head off. Take Syria. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, it’s pretty much a consensus that the Syrian conflict is a failure of the Obama administration on the scale of Bush’s Iraq invasion. Scarborough himself regularly refers to the conflict with terms like “holocaust” and “genocide”, which is frankly offensive.

I have never been a fan of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, but the comparison with Iraq doesn’t pass the laugh test. For one thing, more people were killed in the Iraq conflict than thus far in Syria, and that was entirely down to us. Syria is a civil war stoked by extremist remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq (thank you, Bush and Cheney) and other elements covertly supported by the US (thank you, Obama), facing off with an ossified authoritarian regime that knows only one thing: crush dissent. The Morning Joe crew is apparently disappointed that we didn’t roll into Syria in 2013 and turn it into an even broader international conflict, which would have resulted in open war with Iran, probably Lebanon, and maybe Russia. Would Scarborough want one of his sons to fight that war? Doubt it.

Nothing out of either candidate last night gave me any confidence that we wouldn’t get more deeply involved in this wretched civil war after January 21.  It’s up to us as a nation to make certain that the war fever we heard last night stays in Vegas and doesn’t guide American policy moving forward.

luv u,

jp

Trojan horse.

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The polls are tightening, and it’s no surprise. The Clinton campaign has spent the summer on the sidelines, courting centrist republicans and waiting for Trump to collapse under the sheer weight of his contradictions and xenophobic rhetoric. That strategy has been a dismal failure. Young people and the left are drifting away to third-party dead-end candidates or to simply sitting on their hands, mostly because the Clintons have done virtually nothing to attract them and plenty to piss them off, like naming fracking advocate Ken Salazar as transition chief and courting the approval of the likes of John Negroponte. When you see Trump ahead in Ohio, that’s down to the fact that fewer left-leaning members of the Obama coalition are self-identifying as likely voters. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Here they come.What would light a fire under these voters? Well, a more determined and effective candidate, for one. The Democrats have a good platform, they just need to push it harder. But there’s also clearly identifying and characterizing the opposition, not in terms of the singular problem of Trump but rather the broader Republican party as it is currently comported. Trump is a bombastic idiot and a hypersensitive man-baby with tiny hands, but his xenophobic rants reflect the core of the party that nominated him. Clinton should make that clear.

And if she can stop praising neocons from the Bush administration, Hillary might want to point out that because Trump is a total idiot on foreign policy, that area of his presidency is likely to be populated by recycled Bush people. And because he hasn’t spent five minutes thinking about domestic policy either, she might want to mention that his economic team, justice department, interior department, you name it, will very likely be run by right wing ideologues of the kind represented by his vice president or his (meaner) campaign manager from Breitbart. Trump, she can say, will basically be a Trojan horse for the crew who (a) started the Iraq war, (b) let New Orleans drown, and (c) crashed the economy into the worst recession since the 1930s.

Oh, and that crew has a name: it’s called the Republican party.

luv u,

jp

Good reads.

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Instead of making you read through my usual rantings and ravings, I wanted to share a few items I saw on the Web that I thought were particularly good, eye-opening, useful, etc. Let’s see if you agree.

Thinking About the Election
Michael Albert and Stephen R. Shalom
Z Magazine, September 2016
https://zcomm.org/zmagazine/thinking-about-the-elections/

This is one of the best-written, most thoughtful arguments in favor of strategic voting in the 2016 elections from a distinctly radical-left perspective. As someone who considered his support for Bernie Sanders a rightward compromise, I think this piece provides some really valuable answers to the Bernie-or-Bust obsession, as understandable as that sentiment may be. No one can accuse Z Magazine of watery liberalism or crypto-Clintonism. This article demonstrates that they have looked seriously at the current political moment and understand the full potential costs of a Trump presidency. It made me proud to be a longtime Z subscriber.

Ratfucked
Interview with David Dailey
Majority Report podcast, August 26, 2016
https://youtu.be/a-9giSMnVW0

Still more to be said about this.I am a fan of the Majority Report, particularly of their interview segments. This one is a must read for anyone frustrated with the state of legislative politics both on the state and the national levels. Dailey has done a deep dive into the Republican strategy to control redistricting after the 2010 census. Their calculated assault on the democratic process was wildly successful and will probably guarantee them House majorities for the rest of this decade and beyond. Using big data, sophisticated demographic mapping, and enough money to tip the balance in key state-level races in key states (i.e., states that would be redistricted after 2010), the GOP ran the table, catching the Democrats flat-footed. It’s a sobering indictment of the Dems’ lack of engagement and a real must-listen.

Remember the Iraq War? (Chilcot Report Episode)
Best of the Left Podcast – 2016/07/26
http://www.bestoftheleft.com/

This episode of BOTL goes runs through much of what was contained in the British report on their government’s rush into the Iraq war. I think the most valuable part of this is that it reminds us of how much was known before the invasion, and how much of what was argued by the left at that time turned out to be true. It’s worth listening to if only to remind ourselves that we must not be swayed by criticism, we must not be turned back by accusations of un-Americanism … we must fight on.

I’m also finally getting around to reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, which is amazing.

luv u,

jp

Week to forget.

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Another one of those weeks when it’s hard to know what to focus on. So many disasters and revelations in such a short time, I’m guessing that many of the media folks who took this week off (and you all know who you are) are chomping at the bit to get back. I, for one, am disgusted by what’s happened this week, and frankly I can’t find anything positive to say about it.

It keeps on giving.It was a week that started with the obscene bombing in Baghdad, the death toll for which has exceeded 250. As has long been the case, this provoked some small response in American culture because of the magnitude of the crime, but the degree of “hair-on-fire” apoplexy about terrorism has been relatively minimal due to the cultural distance between Iraq and the United States. As these attacks move closer culturally to the U.S., our politicians get more worked up. Forget this export we call “freedom” – that bombing is our gift to the Iraqi people and it just keeps on giving.

Decisions were handed down on Hillary Clinton’s damn email and Tony Blair’s god-awful warmongering. Guess which one got more coverage in the U.S. It gives you some notion of what’s important to our great leaders. They lose their minds over some freaking private email server, but news about the enormous case against Blair and Bush over the Iraq invasion – the act that spawned the bombing I spoke of earlier – is met with a collective yawn.

What really disgusted me, beyond the sickening loss of life in Baghdad, Turkey, and Bangladesh, are the domestic shootings that made their way into the news cycle this week. The senseless killing of Philando Castile, caught on his girlfriend’s smartphone, is just sickening, as was the point-blank shooting of Alton Sterling – both incidents illustrating that there is no way for African Americans to feel safe.

Cap that off with the vicious, calculated assassination of five police officers in Dallas (six other officers wounded, as well as one civilian) during what was otherwise a very peaceful, very positive protest march, and it’s clear that we have some serious challenges before us. By all accounts, the police in Dallas behaved very well during the protest, which makes this last piece all the more painful. My hope is that the entire Dallas community can come together and show the rest of us how to overcome violence with compassion.

So yes, you can have this week, totally. I’m out.

luv u,

jp

The end, again.

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Troops are rolling into Fallujah once again, under the cover of our air force and whatever deadly ordinance it’s dropping this time around. Last time, during the “second battle of Fallujah,” our arsenal included depleted uranium and white phosphorus. Fallujah was one of the first points of resistance to our 2003 invasion. U.S. forces rolled into town and set up shop in a school building. There were protests about their presence as well as their use of the facility and on April 28, 2003 and again two days later, members of the U.S. 82nd Airborne fired on the crowd, killing 17 Iraqis. (See this synopsis in TruthOut, drawing on reporting by Jeremy Scahill.) That was the start of a long and beautiful friendship.

What "success" looks like.Today, the Baghdad government is ripping Fallujah yet another new asshole. It’s worth recalling that the ISIS militants they are fighting in that unfortunate city are mostly disaffected Sunnis, the most senior of which were probably part of Saddam’s army, the younger ones simply kids with no future, like so many Gazans or West Bank Palestinians. Malcolm Nance reminds us that, prior to our 2003 invasion, there were no Al Qaida to speak of in Iraq; after the invasion, they numbered in the low thousands. It wasn’t until the utter failure of the post-invasion regime to incorporate Sunnis into society (and, yes, the arrest and disappearance of many at the hands of the Iraqi security forces) that these young people became fodder for opportunistic Salafi organizations like ISIS.

Trouble is, we don’t remember much about even our most recent wars, let alone those fought decades ago. I heard an interview on NPR today with two New York Times reporters based in Beirut, reporting on the Syrian conflict, and they suggested that the rules of war are being broken in an unprecedented way in Syria. My first thought upon hearing this was, hadn’t these people heard of, say, Fallujah in 2004? Then a few minutes later in the broadcast, the reporters said one of them had covered the second Fallujah battle. So …. were we following any rules of war worth mentioning? Do we ever? Did we in Vietnam, really? Where did the Phoenix program fit into those “rules”? How about Operation Ranch Hand?

The Syrian conflict is horrible, truly. It won’t stop until the belligerents and all interested parties (including us) let go of their maximal objectives. But let’s not pretend it’s uniquely horrible. Not when we have the rubble of Fallujah to consider.

luv u,

jp