Archive for category Iraq

Remember This?

h/t HuffPo

When it comes to “dumb wars,” how about giving a speech about going to war in Syria ON THE SAME SIDE as al-Qaeda? On the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

More: Obama’s Syria address: do we look that dumb?

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Can the US Stop Being a Blundering Giant?

Perhaps the most painful part of the wildly ill-conceived response to 9/11 was the way in which the US behaved like a blundering giant, lashing out at the world, smashing things like Iraq that had nothing to do with the attacks.  The Bush administration’s policies – arrest, torture, secret prisons, drone attacks, two failed wars – were seductive and disastrous and arose from a worldview formed by the Cold  War that saw the world in stark, dualistic ways.

The Obama administration had been stymied by Congress in its efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  They’ve managed to unwind our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and this week the President delivered the kind of speech that reminded me why I liked him in the first place – morally, ethically he seems to understand the issues, to speak them eloquently.  Too rarely, he’s matched his rhetoric and his action.  But at long last, it seems he wants to move our nation in the right direction, giving up the seductiveness of the imperial presidency and its vast powers.

In an article for the AP, from KSL, for example:

Some call it wishful thinking, but President Barack Obama has all but declared an end to the global war on terror.

Obama is not claiming final victory over extremists who still seek to kill Americans and other Westerners. Instead, he is refocusing the long struggle against terrorism that lies ahead, steering the United States away from what he calls an equally frightening threat – a country in a state of perpetual war. In doing so, Obama recasts the image of the terrorists themselves, from enemy warriors to cowardly thugs and resets the relationship between the U.S. and Islam.

The point is that the tools needed to successfully combat terrorists aren’t armies and drones.

Maureen Dowd, channeling her inner smart person, wrote about the President’s speech.

After four years of bending the Constitution, the constitutional law professor now in the White House is trying to unloose the Gordian knot of W.’s martial and moral overreaches after 9/11.

Safely re-elected, President Obama at long last spoke bluntly about the Faustian deals struck by his predecessor, some of them cravenly continued by his own administration.

The rest of her article describes her visit to Bush’s presidential library, with more than few choice phrases:

You could fill an entire other library with what’s not in W.’s.

And:

Decision Points Theater — a whiny “Well, you try being the Decider” enterprise — lets you make the decisions after getting taped briefings on W.’s crises from actors playing experts. But it is rigged with so many false binary options that the visitors I voted with ended up agreeing with Bush’s patently wrong calls on Iraq and Katrina.

I’m reminded that throughout his Presidency, Barack Obama has been a maddeningly cautious and centrist leader.  The result has been a slow, but steady, progression in the right direction.  No whiplash policy changes for this president, instead a constantly calibrating and recalibrating movement away from the disastrous policies of the Bush administration.

The War On Terror was always a misnamed, mishandled, misconceived thing, a disaster from beginning to end.  It was a fatally misconceived adventure that did more damage than good.  If at long last the Obama administration is turning away from it, rejecting its tactic and premises, I’ll suffice to say better late than never.

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Did the Iraq War Cause the Great Recession?

My initial response to that question was to say, “Huh?”

But we’re talking about complex, interconnected systems.  The argument goes something like this:

Start by recognizing that international economics and politics are a set of networks.  Each national economy is a network connected to a larger, international network.  These networks have key nodes.  In terms of finances, the US and UK are two nodes whose influence is outsized simply because they are connected to so many other networks.  The more links a network has to other networks, the easier it is to spread problems.

. . . if contagion spreads across links, network topology will have important consequences for the likelihood of spread. As it turns out, there is strong reason to believe that the international financial system is one of the latter kinds of networks rather than one of the former. On two measures of financial ties, most countries on the periphery of the network have few links to other peripheral countries, but pretty well everyone has links to the US, and many have links to the UK too.

In other words, the US exported its economic downturn to the rest of the world when our financial system crashed.  What does that have to do with Iraq?

Military Keynesianism, says Thomas Oatley.

Now consider the Iraqi case. The sharp increase of military spending sparked by 9/11 and Iraq followed a massive tax cut (and coincidentally, we had a massive tax cut in 1964). Like Vietnam, therefore, the US borrowed to pay for the War on Terror. If the Vietnam War experience is any guide, this budget deficit must have had consequences for US macroeconomic and financial performance. The deficit was larger and persisted for longer than the Vietnam case. I argue that the choice to finance the War on Terror by borrowing rather than by raising taxes worsened the US external imbalance and the resulting “capital flow bonanza” triggered the US credit boom. The credit boom generated the asset bubble the deflation of which generated the great global crisis from which we are still recovering. Obviously, it takes a lot of heavy lifting to get from the war-related budget deficit to the global financial and economic crisis.

Oatley is writing a book exploring this theory.

In a less networked, less connection international economy, the effects of the US economic crash might have been limited to the US.  Instead, however, the distortions of the US economy caused by the spending for the War on Terror in general and the Iraq war specifically, and the massive tax cuts that caused us to pay for it through borrowing, created ripples in the US economy the ultimately caused a US crash which, through our connection to all the networks, casued a worldwide economic crash.

Everything is connected to everything else.    We’re talking aobut complex systems here, systems playing out in unexpected ways.  It’s a prime example of the levels of complexity Adam Kahane talks about – social, dynamic and generative complexity working concurrently in crazy making ways.  Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 causing a crash in 2008?  The Iraq war causing a global economic meltdown?  It seems daft until you start thinking about interlocking parts connected to other interlocking parts.  So, in a way, you can start building a case that the 2001 Bush Tax cuts are ultimately responsible for the economic problems in Greece, Spain and Cyprus.

One of Oatley’s colleagues explores the idea further, arguing that there’s a distinction between core and peripheral nodes and their crises.  A peripheral node crisis is unlikely to spread further while a core node crisis will spread further:

Or take the examples of Iceland and Ireland. Iceland repudiated the debt of its banks, imposed capital controls, and told international investors to take a hike. Once again, this is a recipe for contagion yet systemic crisis did not result. Ireland did the opposite: it guaranteed the debt of its banks, did not institute capital controls, and paid off international investors. Systemic crisis also did not result. The opposite local policy response produced the same global outcome. Only the local outcome varied.

Contrast those cases (and all the other eurozone cases, and Argentina, and E Asia, and etc.) with the US in the Fall of 2008. A couple days of dithering — of the sort that the eurozone has made its speciality — lead to an immediate and profound downturn in global markets, including the largest single-day evaporation of wealth in absolute terms in history. The US tried to kick the can down the road, but couldn’t because it is the core node; the EU has been able to repeatedly kick the can down the road because those crises are in the periphery.

I conclude from this that policy always matters locally, but it only matters systemically when the crisis is in a core node. No matter what the policy response to peripheral crises is, systemic contagion is exceedingly unlikely.

This is a fascinating intellectual exploration.  The part that should have been predictable but apparently wasn’t is the transmittability of economic problems throughout the network designed to facilitate capital flows.  The US exported its financial crash to the rest of the world. 

 

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Bradley Manning’s Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Prize

PFC Bradley Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alfred Nobel’s will left funding for a prize to be awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The intent of the prize was to fund this work. As a result of enormous legal expenses, Bradley Manning is in need of that funding (currently $1.2 million).

A record 259 nominations have been received for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, with candidates including PFC Manning and 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an education activist who was shot in the head by Taliban militants while on her way home from school in Pakistan. Around 50 of the nominations are for organizations. Last year, the prize went to the European Union for promoting peace and human rights in Europe following the devastation of World War II. Nobel Prize winners are usually announced in October.

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Iraq Was Not a Mistake; It Was Something More Malignant

Read the whole post from Meteor Blades at Kos:

After all the trickery and fakery were implemented came the ground and air assault. Followed by the no-bid contracts, the billions in unaccounted for shrink-wrapped Benjamins, the pathetic aircraft carrier spectacle of Bush declaring an end of major combat. Then came Rumsfeld’s ludicrous but aggressively delivered claims to the media that there was no insurgency. Then came the IEDs, and the photos from Abu Ghraib where Rumsfeld had told the new chief there to “Gitmoize” it. And there were the press conferences with Dan Senor claiming everything was just peachy in Baghdad.

A steady stream of lies. No weapons of mass destruction. And a never-ending flow of blood.

Some critics like to call the invasion of Iraq a “mistake,” and a “blunder,” a “folly.” But those terms all suggest mere errors and foolishness. The reality was far more malignant.

The consequences, for Iraq and for America in that war built on lies, hubris and imperialist dreams, were horrific. Thanks to last week’s report from the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, we have a better idea of its costs.

The whole thing is worth your time.

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A Complete Failure of Our Political System

From Kos:

Of all the people in that video, the only ones to get it right were the ones outside the White House protesting—and they didn’t even get a full sentence of coverage. It’s yet another example of how Iraq represented a complete failure of our political system . . .

I don’t think anyone in America’s political or media establishment has effectively grappled with their personal culpability for the Iraq fiasco.  A lot of people who knew better went along.  The voices speaking out against the war were ignored and silenced.

Krugman on the dynamic that still plays out in American politics:

The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that “everyone” thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents — but they were out of the mainstream.

The trouble with this argument is that it was and is circular: support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration. This was true in political circles; it was equally true of much of the press, which effectively took sides and joined the war party.

I’m thinking about systems stuff lately and the Iraq war represented a massive breakdown but it didn’t happen overnight.  The Clinton impeachment nonsense was part of the breakdown.  The election of 2000 was part of the breakdown.  The arrogance and hubris of the followed the first Gulf War was part of the breakdown. 

 

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Ten Years Ago Today . . . And No It Was Not Worth It

I hate looking back.  Ten years ago today the US invastion of Iraq began. 

The push for war with Iraq felt like a time of public madness.  The American media has never been less absolutely incompetent than in those months.  Yeah, the media pretty much sucks now, but back then they were awful beyond the telling of it.  The largest peace rallies in history got no coverage.  American media has spent the last decade hoping no one reminds them how bad they were, how gullible, how insanely biased for the Bush administration they were and how they mindlessly lapped up any lie they were told. Read the rest of this entry »

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Costs of Illegal Iraq Invasion Still Mounting

What was the reason?

As we near the tenth anniversary of the USA’s illegal invasion of Iraq, we still haven’t been told a credible reason why it happened. However, a new report by the “Costs of War” project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies totals up the costs of America’s dumbest war.

Among the group’s main findings:

  • More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq have been civilians — an estimated 134,000. This number does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher.
  • The Iraq War will ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion. Because the Iraq war appropriations were funded by borrowing, cumulative interest through 2053 could amount to more than $3.9 trillion.
  • The $2.2 trillion figure includes care for veterans who were injured in the war in Iraq, which will cost the United States almost $500 billion through 2053.
  • The total of U.S. service members killed in Iraq is 4,488. At least 3,400 U.S. contractors have died as well, a number often under-reported.
  • Terrorism in Iraq increased dramatically as a result of the invasion and tactics and fighters were exported to Syria and other neighboring countries.
  • Iraq’s health care infrastructure remains devastated from sanctions and war. More than half of Iraq’s medical doctors left the country during the 2000s, and tens of thousands of Iraqi patients are forced to seek health care outside the country.
  • The $60 billion spent on reconstruction for Iraq has not gone to rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, health care, and water treatment systems, but primarily to the military and police. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found massive fraud, waste, and abuse of reconstruction funds.

NOW they tell us we need to cut Social Security and Medicare because we cannot afford such extravagances.

More info:
Study: Iraq War Cost U.S. $2.2 Trillion, Claimed Nearly 200,000 Lives
Iraq War Cost U.S. More Than $2 Trillion, Could Grow to $6 Trillion, Says Watson Institute Study
Study: Iraq War Cost More Than $2 Trillion, Killed At Least 134,000 Civilians

UPDATE: Nobody in authority has ever credibly explained why the U.S. invaded Iraq. John Tirman offers his take:

In my view, the Bush regime’s motives were instead about getting rid of Saddam, transforming the Middle East, protecting Israel, and guaranteeing access to oil.


UPDATE:
Aaron Belkin adds another possible reason for invading Iraq:

[Karl Rove] anticipated, correctly, that the war would divide the Democrats down the middle, and that the division would benefit the Bush administration politically. An appreciation of the administration’s political motivations deepens our understanding of why the debate over whether to go to war was so dishonest, in that senior officials’ accurate anticipation of a political windfall reinforced their insensitivity to evidence about risks and costs. The decision for war, in other words, was deeply political and deeply cynical. Explanations of the war that overlook the political dimension are incomplete.

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Bradley Manning: The Face of Heroism

PVT Bradley ManningThrough his lawyer, 25-year-old Army Private Bradley Manning has pleaded guilty to 10 charges that include possessing and wilfully communicating to an unauthorized person all the main elements of the WikiLeaks disclosure. That covered the so-called “collateral murder” video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq; some US diplomatic cables including one of the early WikiLeaks publications the Reykjavik cable; portions of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, some of the files on detainees in Guantanamo; and two intelligence memos.

These lesser charges each carry a two-year maximum sentence, committing PVT Manning to a possible upper limit of 20 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty to “aiding the enemy,” which carries a life sentence. Manning’s court martial is expected to begin on June 3.

For the first time, Bradley Manning explained why he decided to reveal U.S. government secrets to the media.

Manning spoke for over an hour as he read from a 35-page document detailing and explaining his actions that drove him to disclose what he said he “believed, and still believe… are some of the most significant documents of our time.”

…Manning’s motivations in leaking, he said, was to “spark a domestic debate of the role of the military and foreign policy in general,” he said, and “cause society to reevaluate the need and even desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore their effect on people who live in that environment every day.” Manning said he was in sound mind when he leaked, and did so deliberately, regardless of the legal circumstances.

Remarkably, Manning said he first tried to take his information to the Washington Post, the New York Times and Politico, before contacting WikiLeaks.

…He said he took “full responsibility” for a decision that will likely land him in prison for the next 20 years — and possibly the rest of his life.

Glenn Greenwald:

Without question, Manning’s leaks produced more significant international news scoops in 2010 than those of every media outlet on the planet combined.

This was all achieved because a then-22-year-old Army Private knowingly risked his liberty in order to inform the world about what he learned. He endured treatment which the top UN torture investigator deemed “cruel and inhuman”, and he now faces decades in prison if not life. He knew exactly what he was risking, what he was likely subjecting himself to. But he made the choice to do it anyway because of the good he believed he could achieve, because of the evil that he believed needed urgently to be exposed and combated, and because of his conviction that only leaks enable the public to learn the truth about the bad acts their governments are doing in secret.

Heroism is a slippery and ambiguous concept. But whatever it means, it is embodied by Bradley Manning and the acts which he unflinchingly acknowledged Friday he chose to undertake.

This is where we are today. We only learn about government crimes when someone in the know is courageous enough to risk torture and life imprisonment in order to reveal the truth. Consider how thousands of people had access to the same information, but only Bradley Manning did the right thing. By the way, nothing he gave to Wikileaks damaged operational security. The court-martial judge will determine whether publishing evidence of un-prosecuted war crimes amounts to “aiding the enemy.”

More info:
Wikileaks Obtains Video of 2007 War Crime (April 5, 2010)

UPDATE: Leaked Audio: US Citizens Can Now Hear Bradley Manning Give His Statement

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The Real World Effects of “Negative Liberty”

Delving further into Tom Allen’s Dangerous Convictions, Winning Progressive points out four specific examples of how conservatives principles have led to disastrous real world policy consequences:

  1.  Budget
  2. The Iraq War
  3. Health care
  4. Climate Change

Consider the area of tax policy – conservative principles say “tax cuts pay for themselves” despite significant real world evidence that’s not the case. Read the rest of this entry »

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An Exercise in Truth-Telling

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tonight’s must-see TV is on MSNBC at 7 pm: “Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War” uses the occasion of the upcoming tenth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq for an unusual exercise in media truth-telling, hosted by Rachel Maddow. The documentary is based on a book co-authored by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.

In the documentary, many of those who were sources for the book “Hubris” appear on camera for the first time. One of them, Mark Rossini, was then an FBI counter-terrorism agent detailed to the CIA. He was assigned the task of evaluating a Czech intelligence report that Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague before the attack on the World Trade Towers. Cheney repeatedly invoked the report as evidence of Iraqi involvement in 9/11. “It’s been pretty well confirmed that he [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April,” Cheney said on Meet the Press on Dec. 9, 2001. But the evidence used to support the claim–a supposed photograph of Atta in Prague the day of the alleged meeting—had already been debunked by Rossini. He analyzed the photo and immediately saw it was bogus: the picture of the Czech “Atta” looked nothing like the real terrorist. It was a conclusion he relayed up the chain, assuming he had put the matter to rest. Then he heard Cheney endorsing the discredited report on national television. “I remember looking at the TV screen and saying, ‘What did I just hear?’ And I–first time in my life, I actually threw something at the television because I couldn’t believe what I just heard,” Rossini says.

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Our Multidimensional Crisis: Institutional Breakdown

The signs are all around us – our crisis continues to deepen and to engulf us in its complexity.

Manuel Castells, in the introduction to The Power of Identity:

The Iraq invasion was the return of the state in it most traditional form of exercising its monopoly of violence, and it followed a major crisis of international governance institutions, starting with the United Nations, marginalized by the United States, and the apparent triumph of unilateralism in spite of an objectively multilateral world.  [snip]

Not only was the United States drawn into protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as al-Qaeda wanted, but its inability to build a global governance system led to a multidimensional, global crisis of which the financial collapse of 2008 was only its most damaging expression.[snip]

. . .. in the long term the trends that characterized the social structure ultimately imposed their logic, but in the short term the autonomy of the political agency could oppose such logic because of the interests and values of the actors occupying the commanding heights of agency.  When such is the case, as during the Bush-Cheney administration period, the discrepancy between structure and agency induces systemic chaos, and ultimately destructive processes that add to the difficulties of managing the adaptation of the nation-state to the global conditions of the network society.

Read the rest of this entry »

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