Category Archives: war

Scahill Tries to be Heard Through Din of “Change”

Change change change change change hope hope hope hope hope change change cha -

I’m sorry – did you say something, Jeremy Scahill?

Anyone who took the time to cut past Barack Obama’s campaign rhetoric of “change” and bringing an “end” to the Iraq war realized early on that the now-president-elect had a plan that boiled down to a down-sizing and rebranding of the occupation. While he emphasized his pledge to withdraw U.S. “combat forces” from Iraq in 16 months (which may or may not happen), he has always said that he intends to keep “residual forces” in place for the foreseeable future.

It’s an interesting choice of terms. “Residual” is defined as “the quantity left over at the end of a process.” This means that the forces Obama plans to leave in Iraq will remain after he has completed his “withdrawal” plan. No matter how Obama chooses to label the forces he keeps in Iraq, the fact is, they will be occupation forces.

Announcing his national security team this week, Obama reasserted his position. “I said that I would remove our combat troops from Iraq in 16 months, with the understanding that it might be necessary — likely to be necessary — to maintain a residual force to provide potential training, logistical support, to protect our civilians in Iraq.” While some have protrayed this as Obama going back on his campaign pledge, it is not. What is new is that some people seem to just now be waking up to the fact that Obama never had a comprehensive plan to fully end the occupation.

Bu-bu-bu-but – change! Changey change. Hopey change hopey?

Answering anti-war liberal critics who seem surprised that Obama isn’t Dennis Kucinich, Scahill parses Obama’s voting record, his public statements, and the comments of his foreign policy campaign advisers. Worth a full read.

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Greenwald’s Running Tally of Revisionism

Glenn Greenwald has been on a roll pointing out revisionism and hypocrisy (not to mention complicity) among the big media commentariat on subjects like the War on (t)Error, Iraq, imperialism and torture and detainment. Joe Klein and Tom Friedman have distinguished themselves as happy-talking fools in defense of the most egregious actions of state power and utter disregard for human rights. Greenwald’s posts are long, but worth reading at least for the twists and turns these “hired pens” (as the ultimate statist Lenin once put it) take in their efforts to justify the abuses of the war-mongering powers. All of which lays the foundation for future wars waged with the kind of ahistorical blindness that made the current mess in Iraq conceivable in the first place:

For a short while, it appeared that the one silver lining in the carnage and devastation wreaked by the U.S. attack on Iraq would be a palliative effect on the war-loving pathology among our political establishment. As Vietnam did for some short period of time, Iraq could have re-taught both the evil and stupidity of commencing optional wars against countries that haven’t attacked us and couldn’t do so, and more generally, could have underscored the grave error in viewing the battle against Muslim extremism through the glorious prism of “War.”

But with this intense Friedmanesque revisionism well underway — whereby war cheerleaders like Friedman were Right and Good all along and it was only the incompetent Bush and Rumsfeld who ruined everything with their “bumbling” — it seems increasingly likely that the opposite lesson will be learned. Attacking, invading and occupying other countries in order to change their governments to ones we prefer is the smart, wise and just thing to do. Friedman’s term for it today is “collaborating with them to build progressive politics.” Especially if there is another terrorist attack on U.S. soil — but even if there isn’t — the only lesson being drawn from the Iraq debacle in these precincts is that from now on, we just need to plan and execute it better, so that the Good and Just people who cheer these wars on have their noble schemes vindicated a lot sooner and a lot more proficiently.

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Victory?

Let’s start by saying nice things.
Gary Varvel cartoon
I like the caricatures. No need to label Chris Matthews or David Whatsisname fron MSNBC. They’re recognizable and funny.

The main criticism is valid: indeed, the mainstream media has paid too much attention to the personal life of a 17-year-old girl and a political figure. To be more accurate, through MSNBC Varvel is targeting the “liberal media,” but we’ll let that slide by. I’m feeling generous.

So, really what’s the problem? Let’s see…what could it be?….hmmmmm… Oh, yes!

“U.S. has won a major victory in Iraq.”

We did?! Really? Perhaps Varvel means the recent developments in the Anbar province. The Wall Street Journal is certainly agog with plaudits.

And on Monday, U.S. forces formally handed control of a now largely peaceful Anbar to the Iraqi military. “We are in the last 10 yards of this terrible fight. The goal is very near,” said Major-General John Kelly, commander of U.S. forces in Anbar, in a ceremony with U.S., Iraqi and tribal officials. Very few in the American media even noticed this remarkable victory.

And this from the Christian Broadcast Network:

Time, Tenacity and Toughness — that’s what it took to win the “unwinnable” province of Anbar in Iraq. In a ceremony on September 2 that victory was consummated by handing the reigns back to the people of that province.

Think about that — the United States doesn’t conquer, it liberates. We kick down the rotten door, clean house and then remodel the place — and pay with our national treasure and the blood of our young men. Then, when the house is completely rebuilt and the thieves and thugs thrown out, we hand the keys back to the people who own the property.

See? That’s what the invasion of Iraq was all about. Geopolitical remodeling!

The meme that the U.S. media highlights only the bad news from Iraq when it isn’t obsessed with celebrity/political scandal (babies out of wedlock! cheating! bathroom hi-jinks!) works powerfully through the conservative mindset. Yet there is some truth to the cliché – after all, look at this past week. I would have preferred a deeper analysis of the events in Anbar Province. Go back to the NY Times article:

Indeed it was. Anbar Province, a flat, Wyoming-size desert split by the Euphrates River, became the most intractable region following the toppling of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. More than 1,000 American marines and soldiers have died in Anbar Province — a quarter of the American death toll in the country.

Anbar’s second city, Falluja, was the site of the biggest battle of the war, an invasion by 6,000 marines and soldiers, most of them on foot, to wrest the city from insurgent control. In that battle, nearly 100 Americans died and more than 500 were wounded; the American military estimated that it had killed more than 1,000 insurgents. Bordering on three countries — Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria — Anbar was also the primary transit point for foreigners coming to Iraq to join the insurgency.

The fighting devastated much of Anbar. Falluja was razed; whole neighborhoods in Ramadi were likewise flattened. The city and provincial governments, and the local police forces, ceased to function — and in many cases ceased to exist. By the summer of 2006, Anbar’s governor, Mamoon Sami Rashid, had survived 29 attempts on his life. Others were not so lucky: Mr. Rashid’s immediate predecessor, Raja Nawaf, was kidnapped and killed; his deputy, Talib al-Dulaimi, was shot to death; the chairman of the Anbar Provincial Council was also killed; and Mr. Rashid’s personal secretary was beheaded. By then, most of his ministers were in hiding.

In other words, the invasion destabilized border security, let Al Qaeda in as the American occupation alienated the Iraqi people by shooting at demonstrators, raiding their homes, indiscriminately bombing them, appropriating national resources and selling them off to American companies, the whole “de-Baathification” thing, etc. Petraeus’ main job has been to clean up after a tremendous screw up by the BushAdmin; so far, his counter-insurgency tactics seem to have improved security in Iraq. Of course, we’re not accounting for the absence of Muqtada Al-Sadr, currently in Iran preparing to be an ayatollah, and for the disgust with Al-Qaeda’s tactics, which have been more extreme than the occupying forces in alienating the Sunnis and Shias enough to overcome their rivalries.

McCain et al. will crow about Anbar Province as evidence that “the surge is working” and “victory is possible.” Yet they will leave unanswered questions of Original Sin: why were we there in the first place? How were we misled into this war? Who profited most from the destruction and bloodshed? What was the real point of sacrificing so many lives, American and Iraqi, to this fiasco? Moreover, they will ignore the fact that Petraeus and “the surge” are by-and-large damage control. There will be no discussion of what “victory” looks like, what it really means, and whether it’s really the point in the first place when your government has thrown so many bodies, so much money and squandered so much time and good will in pursuit of such an ill-considered distraction.

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In Contempt (8/14/2008): Shrinking Emprie, Part 3

Shrinking Empire Part 3 reduced
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I had considered doing something on the John Edwards scandal, but after a moment’s reflection, I realized I really didn’t give a shit. I hadn’t done a strip on Larry Craig or Rush Limbaugh or Bill Bennett or even Bill O’Reilly, whose falafel/loofah confusion was tempting. I did do something on Eliot Spitzer, but that was really a response to the sexist apologist notion that prostitution is a “victimless crime.” There are more important issues to do a cartoon about.

Blogging is a different story. Were Edwards the prospective nominee, I would feel more outrage, that he had basically handed the election to McCain (unless those allegations of the Maverick being literally in bed with a lobbyist turned out to be true, at which point the infidelity scandals cancel each other out.) Instead we learned that yet again another politician has lied about cheating on his wife. Shocked, shocked.

This morning I heard the editor from the National Enquirer on NPR justify investigating the story by recalling Edwards’ condemnation of Bill Clinton’s infidelity and his bringing his family out on the campaign trail. But … all politicians drag their family out on the stump, just as all of them will deny extra-marital affairs, at least those who are having them. They do so because our culture expects them to be good Family Men (and, we should note, Family Women are expected to be model mothers), even as the system is rigged to reward the sleaziest bastard going. Hypocrisy is built into game. It would be nice if our public servants could keep it in their pants for the sake of their families, but really, I’d be happy if they just did what they were elected to do —in that most pollyannish sense— serve the public. And not, say, the corporations or the military industrial complex.

If John Edwards could have seriously resolved issues of class in the United States (admittedly, another pollyannish dream), would we really care about his private dalliances? Maybe that’s why Elizabeth Edwards agreed to keep mum and fought so hard to get him elected. I don’t know. No one knows. That’s why private issues should stay private; it’s not only beyond our ken and none of our biznezz, but we should be focused on far more pressing public issues. When we reach the promised land, then we can call out the morality police — at which point, of course, utopia vanishes in a puff of smoke.

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In Contempt (7/31/2008): Shrinking Empire

Shrinking Empire reduced
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