by Alan Gilbert
At great cost, the United States under Bush and Cheney illegally and immorally aggressed against Iraq (it eventually overthrew the Saddam Hussain regime which it had previously installed and, under Reagan, for example, armed). Under that leadership, the US became the leading outlaw and torturer state in the world, illegally flying prisoners to be tortured in tyrannies like Syria (a regime the American elite is also trying to overthrow) as well as organizing its own secret torture prisons and becoming specialists in war crimes.No Bush official can now go abroad for fear of being arrested under international law and tried; the only one who has a case under American law and precedent not to be locked away for years or even shot – fortunately, Europeans are sufficiently civilized to have done away with capital punishment – is perhaps Colin Powell. For torturers on parade who meet strong democratic protest from below in the United States, i.e. Rumsfeld, Condi Rice and W., see here, here and here.
Mr. Jeppeson, owner of the Boston Red Sox and for whom the Denver Airport Terminal is named, is of course hardly noticed as a war criminal. He made his planes available for CIA flights on which those “extraordinarily rendered” were tortured or occasionally murdered…
Over 100 prisoners, by Pentagon statistics, were also homicides in Pentagon custody.
As an unusually sensible and occasionally decent member of the elite, Barack Obama has, after much too long, withdrawn Occupying American troops from Iraq. But there has been no discrediting of the stupidly criminal, aggressive faction in the elite which campaigned for this aggression, as Robert Parry underlines below. In fact, Democratic “neo-neo cons”\”humanitarian interventionists” like Hilary Clinton and Samantha Power as well as some military officials pushed hard for the disastrous troop escalation in Afghanistan and interventions in Syria and against Russia (Clinton, however, just spoke against the use of military force, at least boots on the ground, in the case of Malaki – see here and here).
Fortunately, the American people, who had a huge anti-war movement against the aggression in Iraq before the War joined to an huge international movement, do not want war. There is an emerging unity of serious conservatives, a positive aspect of the Ron Paul movement, and of liberals and radicals against the continuing aggressions of the US rogue establishment.
This establishment is, in fact, a war complex with 1280 military bases abroad (a figure never mentioned in the corporate media) and a more than $700 billion “official” military budget every year. The real military-intelligence budget is well over a trillion dollars….
America, an empire dominated by a military-industrial-political-media-financial-intelligence-foreign military client complex, is a big ship, and cannot be turned, that is, weaned of making unjust wars, no matter how protracted, costly and stupid, easily.
In this context, Obama’s useful dictum, “don’t do stupid stuff” is thus hard even for him not to fall into.
For even under Obama, US drones sail out and kill often innocent people, located as Edward Snwoden reveals in the vicinity of suspect (no word to the American public as to who or why the government is killing) cell phones…The “enemy” knows of this, so it is unlikely that a phone is actually in the hands of a “suspect.”
If this is precision according to CIA chief John Brennan and Barack Obama, what is random killing?
Even when the US “gets its man” it also deliberately takes out children (any male child, being in the same house and killed in the vicinity of a “terrorist” is counted by the US government as a “terrorist”), women and other innocents and makes itself despised and as a preliminary to being fought, feared.
In villages in Yemen formerly well disposed toward the United States, as a Congressional hearing discovered last year, drones overhead waiting, waiting, waiting for a day or two before striking, drive fearful children to sleep in the beds with their parents…
A University of Denver Law School conference also “debated” whether drone murders of people in other countries are “legal” or not last year rather than acts of aggression; one wonders about the sanity of people who think they might be.
Still, Obama is trying to move America away from large scale war illegal invasions and occupations, and has resisted the potential disaster of bombing Iran and embroiling the US in a further, unpredictable Middle East War with no troops to send. Ironically, it suddenly looks like Obama may ally with Shiite Iran to prevent the victory of a Sunni Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (now blown up with the acronym “ISIS” in the US press, overlooking the fact that both Sunnis and Shia – the fleeing forces in Mosul – are troubled by the tyranny of Malaki).
Yet Bill Kristol, who has not been right about any issue in his adult life, and the neo-cons and the neo-neo con (Democratic) claque in Washington who campaigned for aggression in Iraq have not been discredited in the American corporate media (the neo-cons are often deteriorated followers/students of Leo Strauss and students he trained, on the extreme anti-democratic authoritarian – “commander in chief power” – Right. Strauss himself, an interesting scholar\decoder of texts and veiled follower of Martin Heidegger, was long, as a young and middle aged man, a fascist and though Jewish, surprisingly sympathetic to Hitler – see here and here on Heidegger and Strauss; yet many of his followers, favoring a kind of national socialism in Israel i.e. the current, meticulously calculated transfer or ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories by a government which wants a “Jewish” i.e undemocratic, authoritarian, apartheid regime, see here – are not quite aware of, resist noticing the parallels.
The American corporate news media are, to a great extent, plumping for war in Iraq and blaming Obama for “withdrawing too quickly.” See, for example, the repulsive article by David Brooks in the TimesFriday here and those referred to by Parry and Sullivan below. This is the opposite of the truth. This claim exhibits a startling amnesia – common in state policies across the world – about aggression, occupation, torture and extraordinary rendition. This is the dead, mechanical voice of the war complex.
Renewed American aggression would waste our lives and steal our security and income at home to further futile mass murders of innocent people and hatred of America elsewhere, and further monetize the war manufacturers, banks, and the very rich.
The US is not today a force for good in the world – it destroyed Iraq through aggression and occupation and has no good alternatives for furthering its interests – American military and business interests – at the moment, but some really bad, loudly called for within the elite military “options.”
But renewed aggression is evil, stupid (the very definition of “stupid stuff”) and self-defeating and needs to be stopped from below (the only way to change things in this country). Every nonviolent form of protest is needed now.
And for those who sat by when Mr. Bush was honored at DU or Condi at Minnesota and Rutgers, note that American war criminality – against the wishes and morals of the American people, to be questioned or stopped only by protest from below – springs out from the elite a moment’s notice. If such crimes are not discredited and punished, America will harm others and ordinary Americans will be put in danger.
That non-knee jerk aggressive actions are stigmatized even in the elite – once again, the Right is trying blame Obama for withdrawing from Iraq too soon, a “stab in the back” as they used to say in Germany in the 1920s – is frightening. That the American aggression in Iraq is forgotten even in the New York Times is close to – as foreign policy commentary – dementia (worthy of its lobbying for war in the run-up to Iraq…).
If we are to live in a decent society, the roots of American aggression must be sought out and changed. That is something that Thich Nat Hanh has some striking insights about (that many Americans live out of balance lives, often filled with frustration and anger – listen to Fox News or even Democrats about the Republicans…). But at least one major public step is a transition over time to something other than a militarized economy – ironically, it is now the machines speaking through the elite and not the American people – and society.
“Obama Didn’t Destabilize Iraq
By Robert Parry
After Islamic militants captured the major Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday, the danger of Official Washington’s false narratives again asserted itself, a direct consequence of the failure to enforce any meaningful accountability on the neocons and others who pushed the Iraq War.
The emerging neocon-preferred narrative is that the jihadist victory in the northern city of Mosul and the related mess in neighboring Syria are the fault of President Barack Obama for not continuing the U.S. military occupation of Iraq indefinitely and for not intervening more aggressively in Syria’s civil war.
For instance, the New York Times on Wednesday wrote that “the swift capture of large areas of [Mosul] by militants aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria represented a climactic moment on a long trajectory of Iraq’s unraveling since the withdrawal of American forces at the end of 2011.”
What is perhaps most striking about such accounts, which are appearing across the major U.S. media, is that the narrative doesn’t go back to the most obvious starting point: President George W. Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was that invasion and the ensuing occupation that hurtled Iraq and – to an extent – Syria into their current chaos.
Bush’s invasion, which was justified by bogus claims about Iraq hiding weapons of mass destruction, was in clear violation of international law, lacking the explicit approval of the United Nations Security Council. Yet, even after the WMD falsehoods were exposed and the body counts soared, there was almost no accountability enforced either on the public officials who carried out the aggressive war or on the opinion leaders who rationalized it.
In many cases, the same pundits and pols continue to shape U.S. public opinion today and are dominating the narratives on Iraq and Syria. Thus, there is almost no attention to the fact that before the U.S. overthrow (and subsequent hanging) of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, there was no al-Qaeda threat in Iraq or Syria.
That threat emerged only after the U.S. invasion and the Bush administration’s rash decision to disband the Iraqi army. Then, as U.S. forces fought to crush Sunni resistance to Iraq’s new U.S.-backed Shiite-dominated government, Iraq became a magnet for Sunni extremists from across the Middle East, a force that coalesced into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Yet, the great divide in the Iraq War narrative came in 2007-08 when the neocons sought to salvage their blood-spattered reputations by inserting the myth of the “successful surge,” hailing Bush’s decision to escalate the war by dispatching some 30,000 additional U.S. troops. Though the “surge” initially was accompanied by a surge in killing, the gradual reduction in the violence was cited as proof of Bush’s heroic wisdom.
Other explanations for the decline in Iraqi violence were ignored, including the fact that some key policies, such as buying-off Sunni tribes in Anbar Province and applying high-tech methods for hunting down al-Qaeda leaders, were initiated before the surge although their impact only became clear later. And, the violence also subsided because the Iraqi people finally recognized that a timetable was being set for the removal of all U.S. troops, a process completed in 2011.
However, across Official Washington, the simplistic – and self-serving — conventional wisdom was that the “surge” was the sole explanation for the drop in the killings, a myth that had lethal consequences in 2009 when pro-surge hardliners, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Gen. David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton maneuvered President Obama into adopting a similar “surge” in Afghanistan.
The Unsuccessful Surges
It should now be clear that neither “surge” was successful in altering the strategic arc of those two conflicts. At best, one could say that the military “surges” – paid for by about 1,000 U.S. military deaths eachand many tens of billions of dollars – bought time for Bush and his neocon advisers to depart the government before the ultimate failures of their war polices became obvious, a “decent interval” that now has enabled these war architects to reframe the narrative and shift the blame to Obama.
The new narrative, which you can find across the media spectrum, is that Obama is to blame for the unfolding disaster in Iraq because he didn’t insist on continuing the U.S. military occupation indefinitely. He’s also being blamed for the spread of Islamic militancy in Syria because he resisted demands from Official Washington’s opinion leaders for a major U.S. intervention aimed at overthrowing Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
Thus, the same U.S. news media that fumes over speculation that Russia may somehow be aiding separatists in eastern Ukraine and sputters about Moscow’s violations of international law has been openly lusting for an expanded U.S. military intervention in Syria in clear violation of international law.
Though U.S. assistance to Syrian rebels has so far been limited to light arms and non-lethal supplies, U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have been the principal supporters of radical Sunni jihadists who have flocked from around the Middle East to wage war against Syria’s government, which is run by Assad, an Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Regarding Syria, Official Washington’s narrative is that if only Obama had intervened earlier in support of “moderate” rebels or if he had launched a full-scale bombing campaign last summer as he threatened, everything would have worked out just wonderfully – Assad would be gone and “moderates” would be governing Syria.
The fact that none of the U.S. interventions in the Middle East have had such a happy ending doesn’t deter this latest “group think” on Syria.
Besides the bloody examples of Iraq and Afghanistan, there is the case of Libya where Obama acceded to the demands of his war hawks, including Secretary Clinton and now-Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. He committed U.S. air power to remove Muammar Gaddafi (who was later captured and murdered), only to see Libya descend into chaos, violence that has fed Islamic radicalism (including the lethal attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012) and has spread to Mali and other nearby African countries.
Obama’s Real Failure
If Obama is to be criticized for his handling of the Middle East, it would make more sense to excoriate him for not making a clean break with the neocon strategies of the Bush years and for not purging the U.S. government of hawks who are too eager to use military force.
Rather than adopt realistic approaches toward achieving political solutions, Obama has often caved in when confronted with pressure from Official Washington’s still influential neocons and the mainstream media that follows their lead.
For instance, Obama could accept help from Iran and Russia in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war but that would require him getting down off his high horse about how “Assad must go.” This month’s Syrian elections – despite their shortcomings – showed that Assad retains significant public support from the Alawites, Shiites, Christians, secularists, and even some Sunnis.
But a workable peace negotiation also would require Obama to acknowledge that Shiite-ruled Iran has legitimate interests in the region, and he might have to shake hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the current bete noire of all the smart people in Washington.
Rather than dealing with the real world where the United States might have to settle for the best of the worst options, there are signs that Obama is again falling in line with the preferred neocon strategy of expanded U.S. military assistance to Syria’s supposedly “moderate” opposition, thus widening and prolonging the civil war and resulting in more chaos and death.
The notion that Syria’s “moderates” can somehow fight a two-front war against both Assad’s army and the Islamists who have been the most effective force against Assad has become the latest wishful thinking of Official Washington’s best and brightest, similar to their earlier certainty that the U.S. invading army in Iraq would be greeted with flowers and candies.
As the Washington Post’s David Ignatius – often a mouthpiece for U.S. intelligence – put it on Wednesday, “The administration is finally developing a serious strategy for Syria, which will include a CIA-trained guerrilla army to fight both President Bashar al-Assad and al-Qaeda extremists. In addition, (if skittish Arab allies agree), U.S. Special Operations forces will train Free Syrian Army units to create a stabilization force for liberated areas. If the ambitious plan moves forward, the hope is to train 9,600 fighters by the end of this year.”
Similar delusional thinking about a two-front war has been at the forefront of the State Department’s deliberations on Syria. Ex-U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford wrote on the New York Times’ op-ed page on Wednesday, “with partner countries from the Friends of Syria group like France, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, we must ramp up sharply the training and material aid provided to the moderates in the armed opposition.”
But it has been Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia that have been most directly implicated in helping al-Qaeda-linked jihadists to flood Syria in the first place. Their thinking was that it would be better to have Sunni extremists controlling Syria than Assad because the Sunni powers and Israel see the spread of Iran’s regional influence as their greatest threat. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Israel Sides with Syrian Jihadists.”]
There is also the question of whether there remains any real nucleus of “moderate” Syrian rebels who could carry out this two-front war. Last September, 11 leading rebel groups repudiated the U.S.-backed civilian opposition and sided with al-Qaeda-connected Islamists in their demands for a religious state to replace Assad’s more secular regime.
The New York Times reported then that the rebel groups were “distancing themselves from the exile opposition’s call for a democratic, civil government to replace Mr. Assad” and urging “all military and civilian groups in Syria to ‘unify in a clear Islamic frame.’” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Syria Rebels Embrace Al-Qaeda.”]
Going back at least to 2003, this more complete – and more troubling – narrative would better inform the debate that Official Washington should be having about the twin crises in Iraq and Syria, a discussion that should not shy away from the devastating role that the neocons have played in undermining real U.S. interests in the Middle East and around the world.
However, if you rely on the mainstream media, you can look forward to the more truncated narrative, the one that the neocons prefer, the one that starts in 2011 and pins the blame on President Obama.”
Will Obama Attack?
JUN 13 2014 @ 2:06PM
Tragically, it seems possible:
President Obama announced on Friday that in the “days ahead” he will decide on a package of military and diplomatic options to halt the rapid advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), as the jihadist army’s march from Syria through Sunni Iraq has upended Obama’s achievement of extricating the US military from the Iraq conflict.
Obama has ruled out sending US soldiers and marines back to the Iraqi streets they patrolled from 2003 to 2011, but signaled a new, reluctant openness to returning the US to war in Iraq. .. Options under discussion include an air campaign, using either or both air force or navy warplanes, the potential duration of which has yet to be determined. Drone strikes remain under consideration, but manned aircraft are said to the preferred option, owing to their superiority against moving and manoeuvrable targets.
Zack Beauchamp calls the following sentence the “most important line from Obama’s Iraq speech”:
The US is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis.
I certainly take some comfort from the president’s strong words of caution. But he’s going to have to withstand an army of bedwetter interventionists in the Beltway. Zack comments:
If this is is true, then Obama has ruled out the most likely scenario for military action in Iraq: a short-term drone campaign designed to help the Iraqi military halt ISIS’ momentum.
Political reform inside Iraq is really complicated, and would involve serious reform from Nuri al-Maliki’s Shia sectarian government to accommodate Sunni demands. Putting together a credible political reform plan will take a long time, and certainly won’t happen in time for the US to get involved in the immediate fighting.
Throughout his speech, Obama took pains to emphasize the importance of Iraqi political reform and minimize the prospects of US military involvement. While he said he was considering military action, he flatly ruled out deploying US troops. He also repeatedly stressed the need for the Iraqi government to reform itself to deal with the root causes of ISIS’ success, sectarian divisions and poor governance.
Tom Ricks is against air strikes:
The last thing we need is American pilots being held prisoner by the new guys. And where would you base your combat search & rescue helicopters, and what do you do when one of them gets show down? I don’t think Obama faces hard choices in Iraq.
The one interesting suggestion I’ve heard is that the U.S. government make military aid to Iraq dependent on Maliki stepping down. But I think Iran has more say in that than we do.
Hayes Brown sees no good options for the US. How airstrikes could backfire:
Air strikes, while often effective in the short-term, are not a long-term strategy for defeating ISIS. It’s also far more expensive than many realize. There is also still the chance of accidentally killing civilians, which would provide backlash so soon after a decade in which the United States occupied the entirety of Iraq. There’s also the risk that air strikes could lead to mission creep and a full reinsertion into Iraq.”