Currently viewing the category: "War"

It’s pretty pathetic when a tin-pot lapsed Commie KBG thug like Vladimir Putin is smarter about the Middle East than America’s foreign policy “experts.”

But he was — and probably still is.us-journalist-critical-of-putin-kicked-out-of-russia

A year ago Putin warned the Obama administration about the folly of intervening in Syria on the side of the rebels.

We (i.e., Obama) chickened out/smartened up and did not  send troops to Syria to dethrone the tin-pot thug Assad. We had already turned the Middle East into a bigger political hellhole than it already was by going into Iraq in 2003.

The Washington Post has a piece out now  entitled “Was Putin right about Syria?” Based on these quotes from a Putin op-ed in the  New York Times op-ed last September, he was:

A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Obviously, real bad shit was happening in Syria and it would have kept happening with or without inserting U.S. men and planes.

But as Putin’s ghostwriter  said, “Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multi-religious country.”

Putin correctly/sensibly/realistically said that Assad, though a major league monster, was a stabilizing force who was preferable to the religious fanatics who’d replace him. He also pointed out that the rebel cause in Syria was attracting Islamist zealots/morons from the West.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria?

It really is depressing how stupid American foreign policy-makers have been since President Woody Wilson came up with the idea that America should use its guns, money and soldiers to force Western-style democracy on all nations.

Our great leaders never learn about the folly and inevitable failures and (always predictable) unintended consequences of sending armed missionaries to take over bad countries and make them good.

Guess who was right all along about the folly of going to war in Iraq?

That is, not counting Pat Buchanan, 156 members of Congress (seven brave Republicans) and thousands of others who opposed or voted against the Bush administration’s war plans for a multitude of good moral, principled, pragmatic, partisan or personal reasons.

The damn French were right. So was a nobody from the American Heartland.

On Feb. 14, 2003, as President Bush and his neocon dream team geared up to take down Saddam, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin  made a vain attempt to cool Bush’s pre-emptive jets.

De Villepin sounded pretty sensible about Iraq, not to mention prescient.

The “premature recourse to the military option,” he began, might appear to be the “swiftest” way to strip evil Saddam of the weapons of mass destruction.

But “let us not forget that having won the war, one has to build peace. Let us not delude ourselves; this will be long and difficult because it will be necessary to preserve Iraq’s unity and restore stability in a lasting way in a country and region harshly affected by the intrusion of force.”

Nine months later, as Iraq began its spiral into bloody chaos, De Villepin offered this unheard advice to America on CNN: “Don’t believe that you are going to solve Iraq because you are going to send more troops or more money.”

America had plenty of its own anti-war Cassandras who predicted the many bad things that invariably go wrong when you send armies to occupy, democratize and police a foreign land. They were all ignored, ridiculed or slurred for being cowards, just like the surrendering French.

One of the sharpest-eyed predictors who warned America’s Interventionist Industrial Complex to stay out of the Middle East came in 2002 from some unknown state senator from Middle America, where American non-interventionism used to be a religious tenet.

“I don’t oppose all wars,” the nobody said in a speech no one heard as the Bushies rattled their sabers and eyed Iraq.

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

The nobody droned on.

Even a successful war against Iraq, “will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.” Among other accurate things, the nobody added it also would “strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida.”

That wise counsel, of course, came in English from Illinois state senator Barack Obama. But even he didn’t listen to himself.

 

 

Politico.com is a pain in the ass.

It’s running a great excerpt detailing how Washington, D.C., grew in size and power during WWI from Christopher Capozzola’s book Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen

“America has a real capital at last,” wrote journalist Harrison Rhodes in March 1918, in the thick of World War I. Although the United States had only joined the war raging in Europe less than a year earlier, those 11 months were enough to transform American politics and its capital city. Gone was the sleepy crossroads capital with its swampy southern feel, and in its place stood something bigger, faster-paced and heftier—a city commensurate with America’s capacity to govern at home and wage war abroad.”
I wrote a comment under the Politico piece  (longer and rantier than the one below, but now lost in the blogosphere) and it was rejected. I was not deterred. But this one was rejected too.

Thanks to Politico for this history lesson too few know. It’s a reminder that WWI-critic and wise socialist Randolph Bourne’s observation that “war is the health of the state” is true — for DC as well. WWI started us down the road to our current bipartisan warfare/security/welfare/crony-capitalist state. Those WWI Democrats who worried that we’d turn into Prussia were right, except that we turned into something much worse.

As of 12:24 pm, this third attempt at commenting by me was still there:

WWI critic Randolph Bourne was right when he said “war is the health of the state.” It was healthy for DC too.

Meanwhile, while my contribution was being purged by some moron-in-charge, for the previous 12 hours, this spambot was among two spambots residing happily in the commentaries:

I just got<- paid $7500 parttime working online with a lap-top b­­­­­­­­y G­­­­­­­­­­­­oog­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­l­­­­­e­­­­­­­­­­­­­.I­ a­­m ­­­­­­­­­m­­a­­k­­­­i­n­­­g ­­­­­­­­­a ­­­­­­­­­go­­od ­­­­­­­­­sa­­la­­ry ­­­­­­­­­fr­­­om ­­­­­­­­­h­­.o­­m­e ­­­­­­­­­$­­5­5­0­0­­­­­­­­­-­­­­­­­­­$­­70­0­0/w­­­­­e­e­kL­­­ast Monday got a brand new BM­­­W since getting a check for $647­­­4 this – 4 weeks past. I beg­­­an this 8-months ago and imm­­­ediately was bringing home at lea­­­st $97 per hour. I wo­­­rk thr­­­ough this link, go to tech tab for work det­­­ail­­­

As of 12:40 my comment was removed, but the spambots remained. Maybe the screener is a robot.

A libertarian panel hosted by Lucy Steigerwald, where ranting is encouraged, and smashing the state is mandatory.

-Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag

-Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude; @steigerwaldino

-Michelle Montalvo: Perpetual intern, sci-fi enthusiast, technical failure; @michellePHL

-Adam Berkeley: libertarian-sympathetic friend who knows foreign policy and hates DC.

-M.K. Lords; editor at Bitcoin Not Bombs, writer for various bitcoin and anarchists sites, firedancer, poet; @mklords

Our cranky, liberty-loving panel discussed warmongers, necons, Israel, and other depressing news of the day, then wrapped it up with a comic chat about the impending death of Archie, and the new female status of Thor.

Everyone but Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol is now claiming they never thought going to war in Iraq was such a good idea.

Most of them are full of it, of course.  War fever, as usual, swept up almost everybody back in the spring of 2003.

But not me and not the paper I worked for, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Unfortunately, not enough power people in the Bush Administration were reading the enlightened, prescient and principled op-ed pages of the Trib in 2003.

They were too busy studying where to drop their smart bombs. Not to mention  promising 1,000 years of peace and democracy in the Middle East if we invaded Iraq, took out Bad Saddam and his invisible weapons of mass destruction and began teaching the Iraqi tribes how to act Swiss.

We at the Trib, including the publisher Richard Scaife, knew better. We, like Pat Buchanan and a lot of other smart non-interventionist Cassandras who understood the traditional limitations of invading other lands, knew the decision to go to war in Iraq was the stupidest American international move since Vietnam.

A lot of people in DC not named Bush and Cheney have a lot of blood on their hands. They’ll all go free. What’s 5k dead Americans and $1 trillion down the drain?

Iraq was a bipartisan blunder — a predictable tragedy (and an epic war crime)  that many predicted.

How to punish the guilty?

My idea would be that every political dickhead in Washington who had anything to do with promoting or voting for the Iraq war should do the right thing — go to the Capitol steps and  publicly apologize  to the families of the dead and wounded Americans, ask forgiveness from the whole country and quit whatever job they have.

Soon they’ll be holding a war tribunal to round up all the hawks who thought Iraq was such a great idea. They won’t come looking for me. I was against the war 1000 percent.

For the record, this is drawn from just one of the dozen or so columns I wrote pointing out how foolish, immoral and futile the war in Iraq was. It’s from July 0f 2003, when we were still celebrating our great victory and still looking for Saddam and his invisible weapons of mass destruction.

Stuck in Iraq’s mess

Having second thoughts about the war yet?

….

Sure, it’s early yet. Baghdad wasn’t built in a day. Neither was a democracy. But cities and free societies are notoriously hard to build from the top down by the most enlightened of conquering armies, especially when the natives don’t buy into the master plan.

Unfortunately, the price of occupying Iraq will only get higher. A few years from now, sooner if there’s regime change in Washington, we’ll find an excuse to leave or hand Iraq over to the United Nations. Meanwhile, why is anyone surprised things aren’t going well?

Long before the smart-bombing started, the most principled anti-war critics — left, right and libertarian — warned over and over that the hardest part of going to war would be the occupation afterwards.

Everyone knew our preemptive intervention in Iraq was inevitable a year before H-Hour. The Bush administration only did what governments of every ilk and every political party do after they decide to go war — use exaggerations, scare tactics and fibs to make their moral/political case to the people.

No biggie. That’s how governments operate. What was most annoying about our inevitable march to war was that so many conservatives in Congress and the media were so gung-ho about it. They saw war with Iraq not as folly but as a really neat way to transplant democracy, free markets and the rule of law into a strategically vital region that needed all three.

STUPID, RISKY

Many of these conservative war hawks believe devoutly in limited government, or pretend to, and they understand why government programs at home rarely work the way they are intended. When they see Washington declare war on poverty or set out to nationalize health care, they denounce it for what it is – social engineering by Big Dumb Government.

Yet what is mounting a massive expeditionary force and setting out to remake a Muslim penal colony in the image of Switzerland? It’s social engineering of the most ambitious and insane kind.

Trying to graft Western ideas and values onto a culture halfway around the world – by military force – is so stupid, so risky, so costly, so fraught with unknowns, so likely to fail, only a government would try it.

If a Democrat administration had dreamed up such a boondoggle, conservatives would have fought it tirelessly, not cheered it on. Maybe conservatives lost their selective distrust of big government because Iraq was invaded in the name of national security. Maybe it had to do with simple party partisanship or the delusory side-effects of war-making and patriotism.

Whatever it was that made a federal government takeover of Iraq look like such a swell idea to conservatives a year ago, it doesn’t look so smart now. We’re stuck with a big mess. And it’s not un-American to start saying “We told you so.”

Iraq is returning to the hellhole of civilization it’s been for three thousand years.Iraq_Dec05_Elect

Anyone who says he’s shocked at what’s about to happen there is a fool or a liar.

Smart people knew this would happen, just as smart people knew that the assholes in Washington who took us to Iraq in 2003 were making a huge mistake.

It was the same mistake the Brits made in the early 1920s when for geopolitical purposes they invented Iraq by combining three provinces of the Ottoman Empire into one dumb country where each third hated the other two thirds and they all wanted to kill each other for stupid religious reasons — just like Europe’s religious nuts did in the 1500s.

Sadly, Iraq is just America’s latest travesty of interventionism.

We wasted $1.7 trillion on trying to turn it and its moronic tribes into another Switzerland.

We lost 5,000 Americans and killed X-tens of thousands of innocent Middle Easterners.

We’ll be paying for our wounded and maimed soldiers for another 70 years.

The major-party assholes who run Washington will point to each other and say it was Bush’s fault for taking us there and Obama’s fault for pulling us out too soon.

But Iraq — like all our misguided foreign misadventures starting with World War I — was brought to us by Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, who’ve never read a history book and can’t understand that dropping bombs on foreigners and taking over their countries with tanks, soldiers and dreamy democratic ideals never works as planned.

Back in 2005 smart guys like Ivan Eland and Peter Galbraith, and even dumb guys like Joe Biden, were trying to convince the powers  in DC that the only long-term solution to the mess we had gotten ourselves into was to partition Iraq into three autonomous parts.

There would be one part for the Kurds to screw up, one for the Sunnis to screw up, and one for the Shiites to screw up.

They’d have to figure out the problem of sharing the oil revenue, which would have taken a few wars and a hundred years. But decentralizing an artificially created and wobbly Humpty Dumpty state would have been better than trying to keep it together by American force.

No one listened to Eland, Galbraith and Biden, of course. Now Iraq is being partitioned by an army of Muslim extremists in pickup trucks who already are imposing sharia law.

But in case you want to know what Eland and Galbraith thought, and what I thought about their idea, below is what I wrote about the idea to partition Iraq back in 2006, when it was probably already too late to fix the country we invaded and broke.

Here’s an op-ed column I wrote about the partition idea based on my conversation with Peter Galbraith, the Kurd expert, son of John Kenneth and former ambassador to Croatia:

Time to partition Iraq

Turn the channel. Except for the final score, the war in Iraq is over.

We played hard and did many good things. But we had a lousy game plan and really bad coaches. We lost.

After three years, the grand illusions the Bush administration foolishly took us to war for — to free Iraq, to defeat the terrorists in their own backyard, to seed democracy in the Middle East, whatever — are less attainable than ever.

The bloody sectarian and ethnic violence of the last few weeks may or may not signal the start of the oft-predicted civil war between the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. But some experts say the violent unraveling of Iraq — plus the inability or unwillingness of its new leaders to create a working central government — are signs that the nation of Iraq is breaking apart.

That’s the last thing the Bush administration wants. It’s still stubbornly wedded to its original, unrealistic idea of re-creating a strong national government in Baghdad that can keep the three factions happy and from cutting each others’ throats every other holy day.

But Peter Galbraith, a former ambassador to Croatia, and Ivan Eland, a senior fellow at the libertarian Independent Institute, have a better idea: They both think the best way to “rebuild” a better post-Saddam Iraq always was, and still is, to partition it.

Galbraith, betraying his Democrat genes, calls his plan “a managed breakup.” But he and Eland both advocate decentralizing government power in Iraq, an artificial country whose borders and Sunni-dominated power structure were created after World War I by British diplomats.

The more you know about Iraq’s history, people and geography, and the more you talk to Galbraith and Eland, the more sense partition makes.

Iraq is similar to the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union, which Galbraith says were both “killed by democracy.” Partitioning Iraq — i.e., allowing its major ethnic and religious groups to set up and rule their own turf — would create many messy political, economic and security problems. Who gets how much oil revenue is the big one.

The U.S.-leaning Kurds up north and the Iran-leaning Shia down south favor a breakup, Eland says. The Sunnis (Saddam’s home tribe, centered around Baghdad) are against it. But if the Sunni get a cut of the oil wealth, Eland suspects they’ll play along. Meanwhile, what all three groups fear equally, he says, is a central government with a strong military that can be seized by a future Saddam and used to oppress them.

A breakup of Iraq is inevitable, Galbraith and Eland both agree, so why fight it? As Galbraith says, “If we seek to maintain an unitary Iraq, we will commit ourselves to an endless occupation of the country and we’re not likely to succeed.”

Unfortunately, neither Galbraith nor Eland sees any interest for a partition inside the Bush administration. Eland thinks Washington is still pushing a unified Iraq in part because of the president’s unwillingness to give up the idea of having permanent military bases there.

What the Bush administration wants or hopes for in Iraq has been moot for a long time, however. Partition will happen eventually anyway — violently or peacefully. The best thing for us to do now to salvage our blunder in Iraq, Eland says, is help the breakup process and work for a peaceful and stable Iraq, not thwart it.

Then, Eland says, we could tell the Iraqis: “We’ve toppled Saddam. We’ve helped you mediate this settlement. We’ve provided incentives for various groups to do things. And now we’re saying goodbye.”

Here’s the interview I did with Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute.

Why not partition Iraq?

Why does Iraq — an artificial country invented by British diplomats after World War I and composed of three religious and ethnic groups that pretty much hate each other — have to have a unified national government? Why not let Iraq do what Czechoslovakia and most of the Soviet Union did in the 1990s — carefully and peacefully partition itself? Why can’t the Kurds have their own democracy, the Shiites their own religious theocracy, and the Sunnis their own strongman, if that’s what they choose?

Ivan Eland is author of “The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed” and director of the libertarian Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty. A longtime advocate of partitioning Iraq, he argues it’s the best and probably only way to avert the bloody civil war he says is just getting started. I talked to him Wednesday by phone from his offices in Washington.

Q: How do you define a partition of Iraq?

A: My observation is that Iraq is already partitioned. You have all these militias running around with guns and the U.S. hasn’t disarmed many of them because they are helping with local security. But the problem is that this thing has turned into “sectarian violence,” as the president likes to call it, or “civil war,” as other people like to call it. What they need to do is have a conclave and manage the partition of the country. Iraq is going to break up because it already is broken up, and it can either be done on a peaceful basis or one that is very nasty and violent. I think a “managed partition” is the best way.

Q: Are we talking about breaking Iraq into three parts — for Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis?

A: Not necessarily. I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. What’s going to happen is that they are probably going to have a bloody civil war. It’ll be wherever the armies are. If one beats up on the other one, then the boundaries will be changed. When you have a war, it’s hard to determine what will happen. A peaceful partition would probably be three or more parts.

Q: Can this partition be imposed on Iraq by the United States?

A: No, I don’t think so. You have to let them sort it out. They should have done this before. It may be too late now, but it’s still the best hope for the place. The Kurds and the Shia don’t really want to be a part of Iraq. When you have 80 percent of the population that doesn’t want to be in the country, that’s a problem. The Sunnis are the only ones who don’t want to break up the country. The main reason is that they think they will be a rump state with no oil. If the Shia and the Kurds give the Sunnis some oil, they will be willing to go their own way, too.

Q: What’s the principle behind the partition — decentralizing power and local autonomy?

A: Yes. Decentralization. The main fear of each group, the reason the Kurds and Shia want their autonomy and the reason the Sunni are fighting an insurgency, is that each group fears that the central government will be used to oppress the other group. So they either want control of the central government, or if they can’t get that, they want to be removed from it.

Q: What are the upsides of a partition for the U.S.?

A: If every group were confined to its local areas and they all knew what the boundaries were, and they would police people of their own ethnic or religious group, then it might reduce the chances of civil war. And of course then the al-Qaida terrorists would be the outcasts. If they were still bombing, even in the Sunni areas, the Sunni militias would turn against them because they are outsiders. I think you could actually reduce Iraq as a haven for al-Qaida, as well, because the security would be increased. This also provides the Bush administration with a way of saying, “Well, we toppled Saddam Hussein and we gave the Iraqis the best change for peace and prosperity.” If there is peace in Iraq, people aren’t going to care if there’s one Iraq or three or four Iraqs.

Q: Would we, the United States, play a role in the partition?

A: I think we can mediate it, but I think it must be done fairly quickly. We see these negotiations dragging on now because nobody has an incentive. Negotiations can happen real fast if there’s an urgent need. If the U.S. declares it’s going to pull out, I think you will see the Kurds and the Shia become very receptive to negotiating a settlement.

Q: Is there any interest in the Bush administration for a partition?

A: I don’t know. I think they would do this only as a desperation move. The problem is, if they wait too long, even a partition isn’t going to work because the civil war is already started. Unless they stop it, it’s going to get worse.

Q: Why is the Bush administration wedded to re-creating a strong central government?

A: The president is still holding on to the idea that we’re still going to have military bases there. They want them on the Gulf, but the Shia areas are not going to allow that, and they’re the ones closest to the Gulf, and that’s where the significant amounts of oil are. I think that’s one reason the administration is still clinging to the idea of a unified Iraq. The other is just probably bureaucratic inertia.

Q: What’s Iraq going to look like in 2008? President Bush said our troops will still be there.

A: I liken it to the pilot with two engines on fire who does not look for an alternate landing strip but tries to continue on his course to his original destination. He’s probably going to crash and burn, and I think that’s what’s going to happen in Iraq. I don’t think we’re going to make it for another three years there. I think there’s going to be a civil war in Iraq if the president doesn’t change course. The public won’t stand for U.S. forces being caught in a civil war. If all hell breaks loose in Iraq, those forces will be coming home much, much sooner — to the electoral peril of Republicans. I don’t think they have another three years to wait.

steigerwald-montage-2On May 21, the $700 million dollar National September 11 Memorial Museum opened to the general public,12 years and change after that awful, now-historic day in September.

The museum provoked controversy for years before it even opened. The astronomical cost – a mixture of private and government funding – to build the thing, as well as the $24 cost of admission is just one sore spot. More painfully, some families of 9/11 victims spent years in court fighting the placement of 8,000 unidentified remains of some 1000 people into a special mausoleum of sorts in the museum. These pieces of human beings are not going to be put on display for gawking tourists or anything, but it’s perfectly understandable that family members would still find the prospect of bits of their loved ones sitting behind a museum door for all eternity to be distressing. Yet, this is also the fundamental contrast between history and personal sorrow. Though the former is made from the latter, it’s trickier to know how to memorialize and remember when people who suffered or lost people are still here to witness how a tragedy is preserved.

This conflict was beautifully explored by Buzzfeed’s Steve Kandell. In a recent essay, Kandell describes a gut-wrenching visit to the new museum after 12 years of his family’s attempts to mourn the sister they loved alone and without any of the pomp and politics of having such “special” grief. Mostly, it’s a personal piece, but Kandell mentions briefly his trouble with the loaded quality of 9/11. Or at least what came after – blowback is not mentioned. Still, one guy mourning his sister should be forgiven for being unable to see the big picture; particularly when seeing the death of a sibling turned into a drop in the grand bucket is a large part of what upsets him.

The 330 million people who tolerated two aggressive wars and a decade and more of hysteria after 9/11 are another matter. And this brings up the question, what should be done about 9/11, historically? Can you make a museum about such a political moment – to use the most banal term for murder being paid back by more than two orders of magnitude – when it is still rippling throughout Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and all over the Middle East? When it is still being used to justify an incomprehensibly vast global spying enterprise? And when it gave us not only the PATRIOT Act, but also what one writer dubbed “the most dangerous sentence in U.S. history,” the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)?

The rest here