Our kind of guy.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

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

Best forgotten.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

The news media has marked the approach of a significant anniversary – that of Iran’s revolution, and it should come as no surprise to anyone who bothers to read this blog that they are leaving a lot out of the story. My main source on this is NPR, and while I don’t set out to single them out (as a news organization, they’re better than some, worse than others), they do have a remarkable capacity, by and large, to hew to the center of political and economic power in the United States. Their perception seems generally representative of that of the current administration at any given time.

History, once over lightlyAnyway, there was the usual stories about boys choirs singing “Death to America!”, the “Down with Israel” chants, etc. (Probably could hear that in Times Square if you listen hard enough.) One report I heard on NPR’s Morning Edition on the 35th anniversary celebration in Teheran made passing mention of the eight-year Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s. Here’s an excerpt:

INSKEEP: Although we should remember this 35th anniversary marks the overthrow of a ruler who was supported by the United States and who was regarded by many as very repressive.

KENYON: That’s right. Again, they see that as an official government policy, not something necessarily being generated by the American people. So they do make that distinction. And this holiday is important across the country partly because of people who want to support the Islamic revolution and also because it was followed by a long and bloody war with Iraq. And many people simply turn out on February 11 to remember the young people who gave their lives in that cause.

Given the context, you’d think it might be worth mentioning our role in that “long and bloody war”. For those who don’t recall, we – the Reagan administration, that is – sided with Saddam Hussein, providing him with substantial economic and logistical assistance, treating him as a top-shelf client, even allowing him to get away with shooting up the U.S.S. Stark during the tanker war phase late in the conflict. If Inskeep and Kenyon think that honoring the dead from the Iran – Iraq war takes people’s minds off of America, they’re smoking crack.

I don’t want to be unfair, but seriously – if reporters don’t know or acknowledge history, we are bound to repeat the bad parts again and again.

luv u,

jp

The week that was.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Well, what did we learn this week, girls and boys?

We learned that the Afghan war is more pointless and destructive than many of us had given it credit for, thanks to the wikileaks papers. We also learned that the Iraq war is – very much like its predecessor, the Gulf War – leaving a trail of grave illness and lingering death years after the height of our attack. Patrick Cockburn of the Independent of London reports that cancer and infant mortality rates in Fallujah have reached ridiculously high levels in the wake of the U.S. assault, very likely the result of our use of depleted uranium munitions. The casing materials from these armor-piercing shells caused untold misery in Iraq in the years following the Gulf War, during which time essential medical supplies were being withheld from them by virtue of U.S. /U.K. sanctions. (Cockburn’s colleague Robert Fisk tells the story in his book The Great War for Civilization.)

This is a vastly underreported impact of war and its aftermath, at least in this country. During the twelve years of sanctions against Iraq Americans heard very little from their media or their politicians about what was happening to the general population. During the Gulf War, we attacked Iraq’s infrastructure, not sparing its water treatment and distribution facilities. The sanctions that followed that war disallowed the requisite technology to repair that infrastructure. In a country such as Iraq, this is tantamount to biological warfare. Literally hundreds of thousands of people, many of them children, died of preventable water-born diseases because of this, according to the U.N. Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State during much of that time, said the policy was worth the cost. There seems to be a bipartisan consensus there.

As an imperial power, we make these cost-benefit calculations all of the time. Our estimates always seem to devalue the lives of those we invade and occupy, however. It isn’t that life is cheap – it’s more specific than that. Their lives are cheap, not ours. (Though with respect to our military, ours, too.) I’m sure there are many who feel that the human costs of the most recent Iraq war were worth the benefit of removing Saddam Hussein from power. I cannot agree. This war resulted in the deaths of upwards of a million people and generated something like 4 million refugees, 2.5 million of whom landed in squalor in Jordan and Syria. There is no political end that can justify that much suffering, not in Iraq or Afghanistan or any other country we’ve been targeting.

So what did we learn, after all? Not much, it appears. Let’s keep trying.

luv u,

jp