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Posts Tagged ‘Iraq

Obama Moves to Massively Expand Covert Military Abroad

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Via The New York Times, President Obama has just ordered a “broad expansion of clandestine military operations” in an attempt to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda”. The ‘covert operations’ will likely include anything from target assassinations, ‘drone’ attacks in Pakistan, secret bombing campaigns, money transfers to client states (a la Karzai and Maliki), and many things in-between. This is a significant move for a variety of reasons, not least of which stands the utter lack of public consultation for such a policy.

Mr. Greenwald has a timely essay on why Mr. Obama can undertake such extreme actions in the absence not only of opposition to his imperial policy, but indeed, any discussion whatsoever. Our major news outlets have reported the order in classic ‘objective’ style, assigning as little controversy to it as possible and treating it instead as a run-of-the-mill executive action. But it is interesting to examine why, in this year 2010, after nine continuous years of war, public opinion is such that a unilateral expansion of our secret military complex can occur with as little discussion as imaginable.

First, Mr. Greenwald notes, because this military expansion is taking place under a “Democratic” President, it creates the illusion of so-called ‘bipartisan support’. Back when President Bush was carrying out covert operations in Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc., they were painted as the actions of an ‘extremist’ administration, one which regards the opposition with disdain and made a point of treating international law with utter contempt. However, after 18 months of military escalation, these wars are as much Mr. Obama’s (that is, “Democratic” wars), as they were Mr. Bush’s. As such, the number of “Democrats” willing to risk their political futures by opposing military action has dropped precipitously, as have the number of war-opposers in the general population. Specifically, the subset of people for whom Mr.Obama can do no wrong will automatically agree with his war policy – or if they disagree, put forth some excuse as to how Mr. Obama ‘has no choice’.

The biggest reason Mr. Greenwald identifies, however, is the complete lack of documented impact these wars have on our livelihood. It has been often mentioned that, unlike in Vietnam, very few Americans have had to go to war against their will. Our press is largely censored as to the true cost of our warfare not only on the beleaguered people of Iraq and Afghanistan, but even our own soldiers. Recall the recent dust-up when our Secretary of War, Robert Gates, “harshly condemned” the media’s display of a flag-draped coffin. And that was just one soldier, who had admittedly died in combat, but whose grisly death we had been totally shielded from.  As much as possible, we citizens are encouraged not to think about our military “commitments” abroad, and instead to simply carry on with our daily lives, a few dollars shorter than the day before, a little more ragged perhaps, but still inestimably “proud” of our “commitment” to “democracy in the Middle East”. One wonders just how far that pride would take us if more than 1% of the US population was involved in our military escapades, as the statistic stands now.

But beyond that, what Mr. Greenwald hints at but never explicitly states, is the psychology of powerlessness to which we citizens are routinely subjected. We literally have no say in what our government does abroad, and we have less and less of a say in even its domestic policies. In the 2008 elections, both candidates were unabashedly pro-war, Mr. Obama more so than even his most fervent supporters might have dreamt. For whom are we to vote if we wish to exit Iraq and Afghanistan immediately? Which Congressman, which Senator would even entertain such a possibility? To whom do we donate that we can be sure our paltry $50 will not be rendered irrelevant by the millions of dollars industry interests donate in order to keep these wars going? It is an implacable question, one made all the more urgent by President Obama’s dramatic escalation of our already over-stretched ‘commitments’.

The feeling of powerlessness can lead to apathy, but also to fear. When one recalls the brutality to which previous “anti-war protesters” have been subjected in the US, including savage beatings with nightsticks, water-cannons, ear-splitting sound emitters, tear gas and rubber bullets, it is not hard to imagine from whence this fear of dissent arises. Recall, also, that since the Homegrown Terrorism Act of 2007 passed, civil disobedience – the mere act of peaceful protest – has been defined as ‘terrorism’. And once you are accused of ‘terrorism’, citizen or no, you are immediately stripped of every right you think you have.

This latest move towards military hegemony is particularly insidious, and I suppose it follows that Mr. Obama merely announced his policy, in true decree style, with little or no discussion. With one stroke of a pen, Mr. Obama has resserved the right to carry out military operations anywhere around the globe, from “surgical strikes”, bombing campaigns, ground incursions, assassinations, or, indeed, anything his enigmatic mind may wish. It is worth remembering at this point that Mr. Obama also reserves the right to assassinate US citizens in their beds (that is, far from a battlefield), and ‘render’ accused terrorists to a global prison complex where no defense attorney dares enter. There, they can be beaten, tortured, or even murdered, far from the watchful eye of the Red Cross.

It is easy to imagine this latest move on the part of Mr. Obama is merely a continuation of Mr.  Bush’s odious policies. It is that, of course, but its implications go far deeper. Mr. Bush’s covert actions were largely piecemeal: an assassination here, a few ‘drone’ attacks there, maybe some ‘cash assistance’ to some friendly dictator or another for spice. In contrast, Mr. Obama’s new ‘national security strategy‘ systematizes these covert acts of aggression, and sets up, in essence, a new governmental body, with no congressional or popular oversight, to carry out his murderous will around the globe. It is difficult to overstate the significance of this ‘overhaul’, yet it is even more difficult to convince anyone of that significance.

Mr. Hitler once coined the term for the Germans as a ‘sleep-walking people’, but the same could easily be said of Americans (or, for that matter, anyone else). We face, in our generation, a confluence of crises of which we are only just beginning to see the magnitude, and unfortunately the first step to solving a crisis is to realize it exists, something for which, at least with regards to our present constitutional crisis, we still have quite some ways to go.

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Written by pavanvan

May 27, 2010 at 10:05 pm

How The US Funds the Taliban

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I want to draw attention to this article by legendary investigative journalist Aram Roston in last November’s The Nation, which gives some pretty compelling evidence that the US plans Afghanistan to be an endless war. The US taxpayer is apparently the Taliban’s single biggest donor.

Now, many would argue that we’re merely ending the war through monetary means, but you have to really think about what this implies. The Taliban may decide not to shoot at us for the time being, but this money being  given to them now can be used against us at any future date. The Taliban are evidently a cheap organization to run, and with millions of US dollars they can continue resisting forever.

This is simply not rational behavior for a country who’s avowed goal is to “defeat the Taliban”. It is rational for a country who wishes always to have a “Taliban” around to fight.

As one of the truck drivers on the route we pay the Taliban not to fire upon says:

Hanna explained that the prices charged are different, depending on the route: “We’re basically being extorted. Where you don’t pay, you’re going to get attacked. We just have our field guys go down there, and they pay off who they need to.” Sometimes, he says, the extortion fee is high, and sometimes it is low. “Moving ten trucks, it is probably $800 per truck to move through an area. It’s based on the number of trucks and what you’re carrying. If you have fuel trucks, they are going to charge you more. If you have dry trucks, they’re not going to charge you as much. If you are carrying MRAPs or Humvees, they are going to charge you more.”

We have been pursuing the same strategy as part of our “Surge” in Iraq with the so-called “Sunni Awakening”, and while every pundit to the right of an anarchist crows that “The Surge Worked”, we have not seen any political reconciliation there, no disarmament, and no end to suicide attacks (an average of 1.5 of which occurred every week in 2009).

I have no doubt that the “Afghan Surge” or whatever it is they’re calling it nowadays will be trumpeted from every news outlet within six months as the greatest victory since Julius Caesar. But, as in Iraq, I think we will find a full withdrawal to be still in the infinite future.

Written by pavanvan

April 18, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Why Ben Metcalf Pays His Taxes

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Harper’s has just made for free an outstanding essay by their literary editor, Ben Metcalf, entitled “Why I Pay My Taxes“. It was first published in April, 2008, and should be required reading for everyone on tax day.

Excerpts:

Who has nottoppled republics and tyrannies alike so that a corporation he took no personal interest in might enhance by meaningless increment an already criminal profit? Who has notwatched on his television set as a bomb or a tank he helped personally to pay for made a charred and limbless stump out of what previously was an innocent (if un-American) child? I might also ask, if only out of curiosity: just how many of these children needed to be chopped up and burnt before at last my fellow citizens thought to stop payment on the meat grinder and the furnace? One hundred? One thousand? Ten thousand? More?

Does not a single such death constitute a villainy no latter-day tax protest could hope to overcome? Was even that one small tragedy not predicted by our military accountants well in advance of any physical war, to be folded neatly into their projections of “collateral damage”? And have we not all of us long understood this phrase to be but a transparent attempt to log beforehand a formal regret over the slaughter to come while implying also that said slaughter will be accidental and therefore, magically, unforeseen?

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In 2007, to take but my most recent foray, I paid something on the order of $20,000 into the federal pail. Of this sum, I can be assured that 31 percent, or $6,200, was put toward current military expenses (which would strike me as almost miserly if it did not far surpass what I have given at any one time to any other cause). Of this $6,200, I know that roughly 23 percent, or $1,400 (also more than I have given at any one time to any other cause), went immediately to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which our current administration, the second Bush, claims already to have won.

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Surely, though, I can say with some certainty that the $1,400 I sent last year to the wars abroad scored at least on occasion. That unassuming sum, after all, would have paid for 5,000 M16 machine-gun bullets at 28 cents per. Five thousand bullets! Is notone of these now lodged in a foreign corpse on my tab and my behalf? True, the price has gone up since then (by a whopping 2 cents), but that still promises a good 4,666-bullet year, and with luck I might get a cost-of-living raise to make up the difference.

The whole thing is grimly hilarious, and well worth reading.

Written by pavanvan

April 16, 2010 at 10:09 am

Iraq Elections: US Chooses its Favorite

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It looks as though our trusty client Maliki will come out ahead in the 2010 Iraqi elections after all, if this McClatchy dispatch is any indication. Carrying out long-standing political discrimination against the disgraced Ba’ath party, six major candidates will lose their votes and seats, costing Allawi (another US client) his victory. The six candidates committed the awful crime of having been associated with the Ba’ath party before the US invasion:

Six winning candidates in Iraq elections will be stripped of their votes and lose their seats – which would cost secular politician Iyad Allawi’s bloc its narrow victory – if a federal court upholds a broad purge of candidates who are suspected of past involvement with the late dictator Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath Party, Iraqi officials said Monday.

What’s most appalling about this development is not that the Iraqis had to choose between two pro-occupation candidates, but that Ahmad Chalabi is in charge of the so-called ‘de-baathification”, and thus in a position to unilaterally decide who can and cannot contest elections in Iraq. Chalabi, you must remember, was a major architect of the 2003 invasion, and went so far as to provide fake intelligence to convince Bush to bomb Baghdad. Astoundingly, Chalabi also contested the 2010 Iraqi Elections, while retaining the power to disqualify candidates at will. (Unsurprisingly, he won re-election.)

Aram Roston has written several excellent articles detailing Ahmad Chalabi’s crucial role in the Iraq invasion, and his 2008 article in The Nation entitled “Chalabi’s lobby” is a must read. Why Chalabi is still in such a powerful position after the Senate Intelligence Committee determined he had (in their words) “attempted to influence United States policy on Iraq by providing false information” is totally beyond me.

Somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon, some master brain or another must have decided that the US would rather have Maliki in the Prime Minster’s seat rather than Allawi, and gave the order to Chalabi (who has been collaborating with the US Department of War since the ’90s) to disqualify such-and-such candidates to make Maliki come out on top.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter – not to the Iraqis, anyway. Either Allawi or Maliki would have carried out US policy like the obedient servants they are. Whoever won, the Iraqis would still be saddled with a long-term occupation force of 50,000, their oil would still have gone up on the international market, with no chance of nationalizing it, and their elections would continue to be rigged in favor of the US – just as this one was.

When they said we’d be bringing “democracy” to Iraq, I’m sure our leaders meant “US-style democracy”. You know, the kind where the electorate chooses between two candidates with identical policies and who are funded by the same corrupt sources. Just like we have it here!

Written by pavanvan

March 30, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Mendacity and the Recent Iraq Elections

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The Times has a review of Iraq’s recent parliamentary elections that is written from a rather blatant pro-occupation standpoint. Our main client, Nuri al-Malki, the current Prime Minister, has apparently just lost, leaving Iraq’s future “uncertain” and maybe provoking “violence that could threaten plans to withdraw American troops.”

The rest of the article covers how our client is outraged that he lost and demands a recount, something of which the Times would seem to approve. The Times quotes some scary-sounding US generals to justify its fears of “violence”, even though very little has yet occurred. Then comes the obligatory “one side says – the other side says”, as they give us a couple spot interviews with Allawi supporters and detractors. They end the article with speculation that Allawi may  not be able to form a government, and if this is the case, the Prime Ministership will go back into the hands of our faithful client Maliki. After reading the article one gets the distinct impression that the Iraqis have to choose between Allawi and Maliki, with Al-Sadr (the “anti-American cleric) a somewhat distant third.

Mind-bogglingly, The Times completely neglects to mention that Ayad Allawi is also an American client, having led the Iraqi interim government along with Ahmed Chalabi, the main Iraqi collaborator in the US invasion. (It was Chalabi that sold us fake records of Saddam’s WMD program). I cannot wrap my mind around why The Times would not consider this important information. All they say is that Allawi was “once derided as an American puppet”, a phrase that gives the distinct impression Allawi has stoped collaborating with the US – but he hasn’t.

By focusing primarily on the mysterious “violence” that may or may not occur as a result of this election, the Times elides the true scandal of this election, that only pro-occupation candidates are allowed to win. Hyping up this rather pathetic squabble between to very similar candidates does nothing to help us understand the political undercurrents in Iraq. Al-Sadr was mentioned only once in this article (as a “possible kingmaker”), but remains largely irrelevant to the narrative The Times purveys, one which seeks to justify further US occupation of Iraq and gives voice only to candidates who will ensure that.

Written by pavanvan

March 27, 2010 at 11:46 am

Obama Covers Up FBI Fraud in Anthrax Case

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You may remember the so-called anthrax attacks in 2001, which were widely cited as a reason to attack Iraq. The lasting image in the run-up to the war is of Colin Powell sitting in front of the UN, shaking a vial of anthrax and saying “We know this came from Saddam”. Of course it didn’t. And for years afterward, no one quite knew who the mysterious “anthrax attacker” was.

Then, in 2008, the FBI came out with its decision that the anthrax attacker was one Bruce Ivins, an apparently disgruntled Army biodefense expert who committed suicide just days before the justice department planned to formally charge him. Since Mr. Ivins was dead, the FBI saw no need to gather any additional evidence or reveal what evidence they had already gathered. Case Closed!

Not quite. Glenn Greenwald and several other bloggers have cast deep aspersions on the FBI’s investigation, stopping just short of calling it a fraud. In his sublime article, Greenwald noted several unresolved questions in the FBI’s investigation – questions which, it would now seem, will never be solved. Also see this, this, and this.

Greenwald isn’t the only one with questions. Last Thursday, Rep. Steve Holt called on Congress to begin a new investigation. As he wrote in a letter to Congress:

To date, there has been no comprehensive examination of the FBI’s conduct in this investigation, and a number of important questions remain unanswered.

We don’t know why the FBI jumped so quickly to the conclusion that the source of the material used in the attacks could only have come from a domestic lab, in this case, Ft. Dietrick. We don’t know why they focused for so long, so intently, and so mistakenly on Dr. Hatfill.

We don’t know whether the FBI’s assertions about Dr. Ivins’ activities and behavior are accurate. We don’t know if the FBI’s explanation for the presence of silica in the anthrax spores is truly scientifically valid. We don’t know whether scientists at other government and private labs who assisted the FBI in the investigation actually concur with the FBI’s investigative findings and conclusions.

We don’t know whether the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Postal Service have learned the right lessons from these attacks and have implemented measures to prevent or mitigate future such bioterror attacks.

You can read the full letter here. Rep. Holt joins Senator Pat Leahy, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Arlen Specter, and several others in expressing deep skepticism on the FBI’s narrative. What would cause all these senators and representatives, from both sides of the aisle, to question the FBI’s findings?

And on top of it all, President Obama has threatened to veto an intelligence budget bill (a move which I would normally be all for), because it carries a provision to investigate the FBI’s handling of the anthrax case. Why would he do this?

Well, according to him, an investigation “would undermine public confidence in a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of the attacks and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions,”. To tell you the truth, that statement did far more to undermine my confidence in the FBI than any investigation would have.

This whole thing stinks of a cover-up. At this point I think it extremely likely that the anthrax scare was deliberately put on by the Bush Administration (at the cost of five lives) in order to drum up support for the Iraq War. It was just too convenient! Think of how many speeches in which President Bush or one of his flunkies accused Saddam of manufacturing anthrax. The only thing that made those threats credible was the anthrax attack that already happened in the US.

So the FBI, under immense public pressure to find someone responsible decides upon Bruce Ivins. But they know if the case went to court, their fraud would be exposed. So they “arrange” for him to commit suicide, thus precluding the possibility of a trial but still closing the case once and for all.

Then President Obama uses his muscle to make sure the case stays closed, by threatening his first veto over the matter. It’s all too easy.

Also, see this. Dr. Meryl Nass is an expert in the subject, and was intimately involved with Bruce Ivins’s research. She rounds up 16 major holes in the FBI’s case against Bruce Ivins, including the fact that no autopsy was performed on Ivin’s body (so we’re supposed to just take their word that it was a suicide).

Remember, without these anthrax attacks, President Bush would have had a far more difficult time convincing the country to go to war with Iraq, and many think he could not have done it. The FBI’s case is full of holes and begs for a more thorough investigation. Ask yourself: why is President Obama so intent on letting sleeping dogs lie? What does he think this investigation will reveal? Why is he willing to veto a major intelligence bill to make sure that Bruce Ivins remains the sole anthrax perpetrator?

US Contractors Engage in Massive Iraq Fraud

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The Times with a startling report:

Some of the cases involve people who are suspected of having mailed tens of thousands of dollars to themselves from Iraq, or of having stuffed the money into duffel bags and suitcases when leaving the country, the federal investigators said. In other cases, millions of dollars were moved through wire transfers. Suspects then used cash to buy BMWs, Humvees and expensive jewelry, or to pay off enormous casino debts.

Some suspects also tried to conceal foreign bank accounts in Ghana, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Britain, the investigators said, while in other cases, cash was simply found stacked in home safes.

So the taxpayer paid to invade Iraq, then the taxpayer paid to rebuild Iraq. But really what the taxpayer was doing was paying corrupt “contractors” to shove money into duffel bags and make off into the sunset. Hooray for “deregulation!”

Written by pavanvan

March 14, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Posted in War

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