Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lies About Iraq

The pile on of Brian Williams over the last couple of days is pretty ironic when you consider that Fox News and other right wing media outlets are gleefully dancing about lies told about Iraq. Actually, ironic isn't the word for it.

Hypocritical, pathetic, and disgusting are more like it.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Until There Is Plurality...

The political world is all in a tizzy today as Hillary Clinton described the president's decision not to support the Syrian rebels early on as a "failure." Let's set aside the fact that her motivations were purely political and likely planned far ahead of time by both her and the White House. What I'm wondering today is this: what action would have been better and why?

The issue here is the massive growth of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in both Syria and Iraq. Many of the president's critics seem to think we could have prevented this from occurring. How, exactly? We tried taking over Iraq and staying there for years and that didn't work. We've been nation building in Afghanistan for nearly 13 years and that hasn't worked. In Libya, we helped the rebels get rid of Gaddafi and that didn't work.

And who exactly we were supposed to arm in Syria? The rebels weren't even soldiers and were made up of doctors, lawyers and ordinary citizens. They wouldn't be able to fight against the power of a state run military. Further, the various factions in Syria (as in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya) all hate each other and are mostly enemies of the United States, the one exception being the Kurds in Northern Iraq whom we are now arming and assisting with an air campaign.

In looking at all of this information, a pattern emerges. These turbulent countries are filled with people who don't like each other. Juxtapose this simple fact with the two Arab Spring countries that haven't had any of these issues-Kurdistan and Tunisia. These two countries contain citizens that do like each other and thus, have a desire for plurality. They are also two nations that have zero involvement from the United States which likely also contributes to their sunny disposition.

Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are never going to be stable countries until there is a desire for plurality in each nation. No sole power on earth (especially the United States) can force that on people. We can, of course, protect the innocent and our interests as we are right now in Iraq but until we get the buy in from the world community, there is nothing to be done.

Blaming President Obama for all these problems and calling his policies a failure is ludicrous.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Not On Display

With the recent dedication of the George W. Bush presidential library, I think it is only fitting that I reprint, in its entirety, Tomas Young's letter to our 43rd president and vice president. No doubt, this will not appear on display in Dallas.

To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From: Tomas Young 

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care. 

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. 

I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief. I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. 

I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole. Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage. I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. 

I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences. I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. 

I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire. I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? 

I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul. My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Can't Squeeze Oil out of a Burning Turnip

Most of the Republican candidates for president are now criticizing President Obama for withdrawing our troops from Iraq. The gist of their argument is that by removing our troops from Iraq we will strengthen Iran's hand. Michele Bachmann even said:
The United States needed a working democratic partnership in Iraq and we should have demanded that Iraq repay the full cost of liberating them given their rich oil revenues.
So, we should just take their money if they don't think they should pay us for invading their country, destroying its infrastructure, sparking a civil war and killing a hundred thousand Iraqis?

To begin with, former President Bush is the one who signed the agreement with the Iraqis to withdraw troops from Iraq by the end of this year. Obama has tried to modify the agreement to extend the stay of some American troops, but since our primary demand is that Americans who commit crimes in Iraq can't be charged under Iraqi law, the Iraqis won't agree. Could anyone blame them, given the history of Blackwater "contractors?"

The reason Iran is in a position to exert so much influence in Iraq in the first place is that President Bush invaded Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein and his fellow Sunnis from power. These people were opposed to (and repressed) the majority Iraqi Shiites, who are now in power and are much more sympathetic to Iran, which is also a majority Shiite country.

When the allegations that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and had huge stockpiles of WMDs were revealed to be false, Bush changed his tune about why we needed to invade. He said we needed to liberate Iraq, depose a dictator and establish a beachhead for democracy.

The people of Iraq have now legally elected a government run by Shiites, who are the majority. It is a democracy, however imperfect, and the United States doesn't invade democracies. Our troops are guests of one of our erstwhile allies, and we remain only at their request. And they're not asking us to stay.

When Bush and Cheney pushed the invasion of Iraq they claimed it would be a cakewalk and we would be welcomed as liberators. They made this claim because the Iraqi National Congress, headed by Ahmed Chalabi, told them this would be so. It wasn't, and the war lasted years instead of weeks as Cheney and Rumsfeld promised. It now appears that Chalabi was actually an agent for the Iranians, something also alleged in a FOX News editorial from 2004, after the US had a falling out with Chalabi. It's now clear that Chalabi and the Iranians used Bush and Cheney's lust for revenge and oil to get rid of Saddam for them. Bush's invasion of Iraq is what actually strengthened Iran's hand. Bush has left Obama with empty coffers and a very poor poker hand.

Because the United States and the rest of the Middle East had long relied on Saddam and Iraq as a bulwark against Shiite Persian influence George H. W. Bush stopped short of invading Iraq after ejecting Saddam from Kuwait in the Gulf War. Allowing a dictator to stay on to fight our enemies is somewhat cynical and self-serving, it is true, but such is the calculus of Republican administrations. But then W and Cheney fell into the trap that HW and Cheney had avoided a decade earlier.

Iran and Iraq fought a long and bloody war in the 80s, during which the United States publicly backed Iraq, providing intelligence and weapons. In 1987 the USS Stark was hit by two Iraqi Exocet missiles, killing 37 Americans. There were no repercussions for Saddam. The Reagan administration removed Iraq from the list of terrorist sponsoring countries, allowing Saddam to obtain the chemical precursors for poison gas WMDs. These were ultimately used for nerve gas attacks against Iranian troops and Iraqi civilians in Halabja in 1988 (though at the time the Reagan administration tried to blame Iran). This crime against humanity was one of the charges that ultimately led to Saddam's execution. After the Gulf War we destroyed all those WMDs, scouring the country for years.

Earlier in the Iran-Iraq war, the Reagan administration sold TOW and Hawk missiles to Iran in exchange for Hezbollah releasing some hostages, using Israel as an intermediary. This was what Ron Paul was talking about when he shocked everyone in the last debate by saying that Reagan cut deals with terrorists. The Reagan administration then used that money to fund right-wing death squads in Central America. Oliver North went to jail because of this, but the higher-ups were all pardoned by George H. W. Bush while the case was still being investigated.

Finally, there have been credible allegations from a former National Security Council member and a Reagan White House staffer that Reagan had dealings with Iran as long ago as 1980, even before he was elected. To improve his chances of election, Reagan's minions worked to prevent the release of Americans taken hostage at the American embassy in Tehran so that Jimmy Carter would look bad. The Israelis sent equipment to Iran after William Casey (Reagan's eventual CIA director) cut a deal with the Iranians. Perhaps the most telling point was that Iran released the hostages on Reagan's inauguration day.

The Republicans have a long history of cutting deals with the Iranians or being duped by them. The current crop of Republican candidates -- with the exception of Ron Paul -- is either willfully ignorant of history, or lying about it. They have demonstrated that they would make exactly the same kinds of mistakes that Republicans have made on Iraq and Iran all the way back to the 1950s.

We've already spent a trillion dollars on Iraq. If we overstay our invitation to extract Bachmann's price from Iraq, the whole place will erupt in fire and war again. But you can't squeeze oil out of a burning turnip.
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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Reagan "Doctrine"

When I was a grad student in 1979 I had two friends: Rommel, who was from Nicaragua, and Said, who was from Iran. Even though they were from opposite sides of the world, they had a lot in common: both their countries were torn by revolution and civil war. You could see the mutual understanding in their eyes whenever our group talked about the situation, something the rest of us couldn't really understand.

Those two revolutions, as far as they were from the United States, had a tremendous effect on American politics. The revolution in Iran cost Jimmy Carter his reelection, and the intertwining of Iran and the Nicaraguan counter-revolution that Reagan supported could have cost him his.

In Iran the American-backed dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown by Islamic revolutionaries. The American embassy was stormed and 50-some hostages were taken. In Nicaragua the American-backed dictator, Anastasio Somoza, was overthrown by the Sandinistas, who eventually established a liberal democracy and held elections after a bitter civil war, funded in part by Reagan.

This history is important because some people's hazy memories of those days are leading them to the wrong conclusions about events in the Middle East, in particular, Libya. A recent column written by Marc Thiessen, a commentator at the Washington Post, tries to explain what a smashing success Reagan's doctrine was:
From his days as deputy CIA director during the Reagan administration, Gates knows there are options for removing a dictator short of sending in "a big American land army." In the 1980s, U.S. policymakers figured out a way to roll back Soviet expansionism without committing American ground forces to every flashpoint around the world. There were motivated people willing to fight their own wars of liberation. They did not want American soldiers to fight for them. They wanted America to provide weapons, training, intelligence and other support so they could fight and win those wars themselves. By providing such assistance, America helped resistance fighters in places such as Nicaragua and Afghanistan liberate their countries. It was called the "Reagan Doctrine," and the time has come to apply it in Libya.
Thiessen's thesis is that we should help the rebels in Libya in the same way that we helped the Taliban in Afghanistan and the right-wing death squads who killed American clergy in Nicaragua.

But a closer examination of the facts -- actually, just remembering what happened -- shows that the Reagan Doctrine caused many of the problems we face today.

When the shah of Iran, who had been installed in the 1950s by the CIA, MI6, and oil companies like BP, was overthrown the American embassy was overrun and hostages were taken. The hostages were held for more than a year, during which there was a presidential election in the United States. The hostage-taking was probably the last nail in the coffin of Jimmy Carter's presidency.

The thing Reagan's campaign feared the most was an "October Surprise," where the hostages would be released during the last phase of the campaign, and the good feeling of their homecoming would give Carter the boost he needed. That never happened.

However, there was an "Inauguration Day Surprise:" the day Reagan assumed office the hostages were freed. Coincidence? Wait and see what happens next...

During 1980 Iran and Iraq went to war. Reagan publicly supported Iraq; the US allowed war materiel to be sent to Saddam. This included chemicals that could be used for manufacturing nerve gas.

In the Iran-Contra affair, as it was known, Oliver North arranged for weapons to be sold to Iran. The proceeds of those arms sales went to finance the Contras, right-wing forces aligned with the former dictator Somoza trying to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Congress had passed a law making it illegal to supply arms to the Contras. Ultimately the Contras and their death squads were defeated; Nicaragua remains a democracy, but the Sandinistas have been in and out of power since then. Not from Reagan's secret machinations but because of elections held by the Nicaraguan people.

Was there a quid-pro-quo involved with the arms sales to Iran? Was Reagan paying for the delay of the release of the hostages until Inauguration Day? Many people believed so, and Reagan's CIA chief apparently went to Iran in the months before the election. Did Casey make a deal with the Iranians to release the hostages after the election, to seal a Carter defeat? He's dead, he died of a brain tumor about the time people started asking the question, so we'll never know.

Oliver North went to jail over Iran-Contra, and George Bush pardoned the high-level decision makers before they were convicted, preventing embarrassing details from coming out in court, and exposing the extent of Reagan's and Bush's involvement.

But back to Saddam. Using materiel provided by the US and Europe, Saddam made nerve gas which he used on Iranian troops and Kurdish civilians -- Iraqi citizens. The US Senate passed a resolution condemning Saddam and threatened to cut off all support to Iraq. Reagan vetoed this.

During the Bush presidency Saddam stated that Kuwait was part of Iraq. The American ambassador at the time made a statement to the effect the United States had no position on Iraq's territorial claims. Saddam apparently took this as a green light to invade Kuwait, resulting in the Gulf War.

Now, this has bearing on the other part of the Reagan Doctrine because, during the war in Afghanistan, Reagan funded the Taliban and proto-Al Qaeda against the Soviet occupation. Osama bin Laden was one of the guys we supported in Afghanistan. After the Soviets left, the Taliban turned the place into a misogynistic hell hole and haven for terrorists.

Many people credit Reagan for breaking the Soviet Union, but in reality Mikhail Gorbachov deserves most of the credit. The real reasons the Soviet Union fell were his policy of glasnost and allowing Poland to escape Soviet domination. Previous Soviet regimes had invaded Hungary and Czechoslovakia under similar circumstances. The Soviet Union fell because they finally had a decent man in charge, as much as the dire state of their economy and their corrupt system.

When Saddam attacked Kuwait George Bush assembled a grand coalition against Iraq. The world beat Saddam rather quickly. One thing we did was base our troops in Saudi Arabia, in order to protect that country and improve logistics for the Gulf War. Bush stopped short of deposing Saddam because he knew that Iraq was an important counterweight to Iran (a lesson his son never understood and Cheney soon forgot).

But after the war we kept our bases in Saudi Arabia. This raised the ire of Osama bin Laden, and was the direct cause of the bombings of the embassies in Africa and ultimately 9/11. George W. Bush quietly closed the bases in Saudi Arabia during the Iraq war, finally giving bin Laden exactly what he wanted.

The lesson we can learn from this is pretty simple: all the petty machinations instigated by the Reagan doctrine -- Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, Nicaragua -- all either backfired and gave us more death and destruction, or were contrary to democracy and peace. George W. Bush tried to extend the Reagan Doctrine with the unilateral invasion of Iraq, using lies and nonexistent threats to justify it. A trillion dollars and thousands of American lives later, can we really say we got a good deal?

We rarely get a good result when we overtly meddle in foreign countries. We used to be a lot more covert about it -- as in Iran in 1953 -- but in this day of CNN, Al Jazeera, Facebook, Twitter and Wikileaks, that's all but impossible.

Sending in "advisors," as Thiessen would have us do, was the first step we took in Viet Nam. If we send such advisors to Libya and they're killed, say by a bombing of their barracks, the way 241 Americans were killed in Lebanon in 1983, what will people like Thiessen demand Obama do? Certainly some kind of retribution, otherwise the world will perceive us as weak.

But what did Reagan do when those marines died in Lebanon? Nothing. We got the hell out of there because we had no business being there. We blamed Iranian-backed terrorists, but never did a thing about it. Perhaps because Reagan was selling missiles to the Iranians on the sly?

We should give the Libyan rebels our moral support, and lobby in the UN for international action. But charging in there on our own, setting up a no-fly zone and sending in advisors and weapons would be a colossal, Reagan/W caliber mistake.

Action against dictators can be taken and can succeed. The ejection of Saddam from Kuwait was a good example, and Clinton's bombing of Serbia -- with NATO's involvement -- deposed Slobodan Milosevic and sent him to the Hague for trial. So unified international action against tyrants is completely reasonable, and that's what we should do. Or even better yet, let the people of those countries do it for themselves, as they have in Tunisia and Egypt.

But any unilateral action taken in Libya without the consent of the Arab world is doomed to failure. Perhaps not in the next year, but most certainly in the next 20 or 30. And that's what we should be concerned about: not that gas might hit $4.00 a gallon next month.