Another “great” socialist dictator bites the dust — 49 years too late. Castro cared about the poor so much he created an island full of them, plus he made sure they stayed poor and oppressed for half a century. He and his moronic, despotic ideas wrecked his country, freezing it into a 1950s museum/prison. All that dreamery about him improving his people’s education and creating a health care system is a joke, right up there with all that 1930s-1980s swill about the great accomplishments of Soviet society. He gets credit for allowing farmers to sell surplus crops and letting ordinary people open four-seat restaurants, like he’s Adam Smith Jr. He was as clueless about economics as he was human rights. Not sure about the current status of his cigar industry, but the only thing I can think of that Castro’s leadership did to improve the world was give Miami a large middle class of exiles and create a farm system for major league baseball players — if they could fly or swim to freedom.
- Today in world’s smallest violin/if it works, let’s go for it.
- The drone program has killed more people than who died on 9/11. Thanks, Obama!
- Me at Antiwar: ‘The Nonsense of War’
- Me at Rare: ‘On marijuana, Obama is a huge hypocrite’
- On March 30, I was on The Bob Zadek Show to talk about the war on drugs and private prisons.
- A Liberty.me LIVE spreecast where I chat with Sheldon Richman on ‘The Poison Called Nationalism.’
- And the slightly less polished Sheldon Richman and I talk Iran one. (Also my mic is too loud at the start. Lo siento.)
- 1) What the hell happened to this Salon? 2) What the hell happened to this Christopher Hitchens?
- Let’s take a break from antiwar talk to note that I would totally go to this if I could. Dunkirk little ships! The internet claims that Sundowner will be there. Sundowner being the yacht of Charles Lightoller, the surviving senior officer on the Titanic. Lightoller was told they were taken his boat for the evacuation, and he was all, nah, I’m taking it. So he went over, grabbed 160 fellas, and came back. One of the last adventures in a long life of them. Seriously, somebody make a BBC series about his life. Please. I can’t. I’m not British enough.
- Apropos of the above, I totally wrote Titanic fanfiction when I was 19. Except it was HISTORICAL. And I only did it twice.
- Yep. I had some excellent talks while smoking — or standing next to– M.R. and K.H. in Reason days. (But then, that wouldn’t have been so if smoking were still allowed in buildings!)
- This is a very lazy response to the conspiracy theorists who wonder why/how the BBC reported the fall of Building 7 20 minutes before it happened. But the comments are amazing. I might have missed one or two, but it appears that every single comment is by a truther. Every one.
- Still, I am not #readyforhillary
- Here is a great twitter essay, as they call it. It’s short, but should be in a blog somewhere.
- Apparently Sam Quinn used to have a moderately (for alt country, etc.) successful band called the Everybodyfields. I thought he was just the amazing maker of a live tape that S.T. and I listened to all the way to Nashville from Richmond, and back which includes the most stunningly slide guitar-filled, beautiful cover of the “Juicy Fruit” song you could possibly imagine. But, uh, this song is also on that tape.
- The Milk Carton Kids are a band I have seen twice, technically. They opened for the Lumineers who were opening for Old Crow Medicine Show, and I saw all three bands for a two night stand at DC’s 9:30 club in 2012. The Milk Carton Kids are definitely bigger fish now. They are a little too pretty and slow sometimes, but they’re really good. And if 12-year-old me had known that a duo that sounds this Simon and Garfunkel-ish was coming along, she would have rested easier.
- “You call me up again/just to break me like a promise/So casually cruel/in the name of being honest” is T-Swift lyrics at their finest. This is a solid power ballad, or whatever it is. I like the reckless mixture of cliches and legitimately good lines.
- Pokey LaFarge has written a hell of an earworm for his new album (due out later this month). I am excited to see him on the 30th! And to dance. It’s impossible not to with him playing.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
- Obama (via the CIA?) to send ‘small arms, ammo’ to Syria. Guess that “red line” counts after all? Or is it a super distraction from the various scandals plaguing the White House? Not saying they wouldn’t have done it anyway, just saying now seems like a terrific time for a distraction.
- Edward Snowden seems to not have had security clearance access to the files he snagged; he also used a USB drive, which is a big NSA no-no. That’s some safe-sounding data, y’all.
- Obama ’80 percent worse than Bush on medical marijuana’
- More on that bullshit from LA Weekly
- Somebody tell Bill Maher and Rolling Stone, okay?
- Fascinating Telegraph UK piece on what happens when you disown conspiracy theories and Trutherism [h/t: Austin Petersen]
- And for more on paranoia and conspiracies, check out Reason’s Jesse Walker being interviewed by VICE’s Harry Cheadle. These two awesome writers discuss Walker’s forthcoming United States of Paranoia, which I have been looking forward to for like two years.
- Oathkeepers founder Steward Rhodes supports Edward Snowden
- But libertarian 101 staple John Stossel writes a baffling piece on how we have bigger things to worry over than NSA spying.
- And Cato’s Roger Pilon and Richad A. Epstein wrote an appalling editorial that waves away the spying while managing to ipply that everything about USA PATRIOT was open and above board.
- But thankfully there’s Red Eye‘s true-Scotsman Andy Levy, who gave a great response to David Brooks’ “oh noes, cynicism! Wah!” column on Snowden. Watch.
The great North Carolina fiddler Tommy Jarrell playing my favorite murder balled of the moment, “Poor Ellen Smith.” Rumor has it that Jarrell learned the song from his father, who in turn learned it from the killer of Ellen Smith himself. I hope that’s a true story, I don’t care if it isn’t.
Yesterday’s piece, in which I speculate, probably too soon, over whether Snowden is more sympathetic to certain folks than was Manning.
Today Edward Snowden, a former computer analyst for the CIA recently employed at the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, voluntarily revealed his identity as the source of The Guardian and The Washington Post‘s massive scoops about the NSA’s PRISM program, as well as its system of logging the metadata from every single call made from Verizon phones (and Sprint and AT&T, turns out).
Snowden fled to Hong Kong on May 30, and was interviewed there on June 6 by Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald. In the interview he is amazingly well-spoken about the principles surrounding his decision to leak top-secret documents.Until late last month, the 29-year-old seems to have had a comfy life in Hawaii with a girlfriend and a $200,000 a year job with Booz Allen. But the reported Ron Paul supporter who voted for “a third party candidate” in 2008, wasn’t interested in keeping that level of coziness while possessing information that he believed the public has a right to know.
“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under,” Snowden told Greenwald.
Snowden also seems eerily resigned to the likely consequences of his actions — namely that he may never see his home country again, and that government officials may come for him at any time.
The rest over at Antiwar.
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