Archive for category Iraq

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

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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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Faux News: Iraq WMD Intel ‘Turned Out To Be Correct’

Via Media Matters. Faux News version:

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): [T]he last thing I would say, the other talking point from the administration put out through the media is, well what about Condoleezza Rice, who talked about weapons of mass destruction and still got to be Secretary of State, when there were no known weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? And the answer to that is simple — about 80 percent of the Western world and the Middle East from Egypt to Jordan thought he had weapons of mass destruction. All the evidence was there. He actually was caught with them. And there is evidence that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting his nuclear program. So everything turned out to be correct. You had the world, and an eight-month investigation, and a report that was out. That’s a lot different than what Ambassador Rice was either given or said.

Real-world information:

In 2004, the Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence released a final report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq Survey Group, as it was known, found that Iraq “ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war. ISG found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program.”

As for the claim that Iraq still possessed chemical weapons, the report stated:

While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter, a policy ISG attributes to Baghdad’s desire to see sanctions lifted, or rendered ineffectual, or its fear of force against it should WMD be discovered.

The Iraq Survey Group report also judged that after 1995, Iraq “abandoned its existing [biological warfare] program in the belief that it constituted a potential embarrassment, whose discovery would undercut Baghdad’s ability to reach its overarching goal of obtaining relief from UN sanctions.” The report also stated that Iraq destroyed its undeclared stocks of biological warfare-related weapons in 1991 and 1992.

How many times and how thoroughly does a lie have to be debunked before the Faux News Channel stops repeating it?

I’m not even going to address Faux News Channel’s Benghazi conspiracy theory, because it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.

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‘Justice will be done… history is on our side… a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed’

Obama at UN

President Obama gave a great speech at the United Nations General Assembly this morning. The rest of the world wants to believe that America has not abandoned its founding principles, and our President says we have not. If only his actions conformed to the Constitution, I’d be happy to support him.

We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets.

We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people.

We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.

We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.

We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values – they are universal values.

American foreign policy ought to be on the side of the 99 Percent. Similarly, our government ought to stand up for the 99 Percent of Americans.

Citing Nelson Mandela, President Obama received loud applause.

And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot. Nelson Mandela once said: “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and businesses can be opened without paying a bribe. It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear; on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.

In other words, true democracy – real freedom – is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.

And he offered this comment on the limits of American power:

Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad, and we do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue.

He implicitly rejected the neocon view of a world divided, but failed to address the violence against innocent civilians that is perpetrated by the USA:

A politics based only on anger –one based on dividing the world between us and them – not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it. All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces. Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism. On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.

…We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights.

President Obama concluded (as he began) by citing the example of Chris Stevens, our murdered ambassador to Libya.

And today I promise you this – long after these killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’ legacy will live on in the lives he touched. In the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the sign that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.

They should give us hope. They should remind us that so long as we work for it justice will be done; that history is on our side; and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed. Thank you.


UPDATE:
New Stanford/NYU study documents the civilian terror from Obama’s drones

The study’s purpose was to conduct an “independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians”.


UPDATE:
Romney’s Version of Diplomacy: Insult Egypt, Paint the Developing World as Global Welfare Queen

In his first major foreign policy address, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today laid out a vision for international development steeped in Tea Party ideology… Romney …threw some red meat at his base by ticking off unfavorable developments currently faced by the U.S. in the Muslim world, listing among them the fact that “the president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim brotherhood.”

…A foreign policy expert texted me a single word: “Thud.”

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Romney’s Total Neocon Meltdown

Romney's self-satisfied smirk

The Romney-Ryan campaign achieved a new low on September 11. Willard (“Mitt”) Romney attempted to suggest that President Obama is in league with Arab terrorists, and implied that “American values” include bigotry and hatred based on religious differences. He left the press conference with a self-satisfied smirk reminiscent of the last Republican president. Indeed, Romney’s irresponsible reaction to violence in Libya and Egypt is the surest indication that he plans to repeat the mistakes of George W. Bush.

Because Romney has had almost nothing to say about foreign policy, not enough attention has been focused on who he would appoint to key positions in the White House, Pentagon, and State Department. Of Romney’s forty identified foreign policy advisers, more than 70 percent worked for Bush. John Bolton and other rabid neocons head the list.

Bolton is one of eight Romney advisers who signed letters drafted by the Project for a New American Century, an influential neoconservative advocacy group founded in the 1990s, urging the Clinton and Bush administrations to attack Iraq. PNAC founding member Paula Dobriansky, leading advocate of Bush’s ill-fated “freedom agenda” as an official in the State Department, recently joined the Romney campaign full time. Another PNAC founder, Eliot Cohen, counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2007 to 2009, wrote the foreword to the Romney campaign’s foreign policy white paper, which was titled, perhaps not coincidentally, “An American Century.” Cohen was a tutor to Bush administration neocons. Following 9/11, he dubbed the war on terror “World War IV,” arguing that Iraq, being an “obvious candidate, having not only helped Al Qaeda, but…developed weapons of mass destruction,” should be its center. In 2009 Cohen urged the Obama administration to “actively seek the overthrow” of Iran’s government.

…Romney’s team is notable for including Bush aides tarnished by the Iraq fiasco: Robert Joseph, the National Security Council official who inserted the infamous “sixteen words” in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union message claiming that Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium from Niger; Dan Senor, former spokesman for the hapless Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer in Iraq; and Eric Edelman, a top official at the Pentagon under Bush.

There is plenty to criticize in President Obama’s foreign policy, including his conduct of the war in Afghanistan, the failure to close Guantanamo and end preventive detention, the out-of-control drone war in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, the Libya intervention without congressional authorization, and his attempt to retain military bases in Iraq. However, short of starting a war with Iran, it would be hard to imagine how Obama could do as badly as Bush. America’s allies around the world (with the possible exception of Netanyahu’s Israel) see the Obama administration as an improvement. Our relations with Russia and China have gotten better, too.

Michael Tomasky:

Far from creating his own crisis as Bush did, Obama was hit with one, the Arab Spring. We can’t know how all that will turn out, and things certainly look bleak at this moment in Egypt and Libya. But Obama did the only things that could be done at the time. Can you imagine the United States siding with Hosni Mubarak against those people in Tahrir Square, or permitting the pre-advertised massacre of thousands in Benghazi?

The world is the world. Obama can’t wave a wand at it. But he can do what he has done, which is to run a sober and responsible foreign policy, not one based on theories developed in think-tank seminars underwritten by some hawkish Israeli billionaire. Obama’s approach to foreign policy is the one that has guided this country at its best moments (which have not, alas, been as frequent as we’d like), and it’s the foreign policy most Americans want.


UPDATE:
Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) says President Obama “is apologizing because he didn’t like America.” With friends like Akin, Romney doesn’t need enemies.

UPDATE: Bob Cesca: Mitt Romney Kneejerks Into Another Colossal Blunder (Given an opportunity to look presidential, Romney decided to channel Rush Limbaugh instead)

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The Consequences of the Invasion of Iraq – Exactly the Opposite of What the Bushies Proposed

In a devastating article, Dan Froomkin observes:

Ten bloody and grueling years later, Iraq is finally emerging from its ruins and establishing itself as a geopolitical player in the Middle East — but not the way the neocons envisioned.

Though technically a democracy, Iraq’s floundering government has degenerated into a tottering quasi-dictatorship. The costs of the war (more than $800 billion) and reconstruction (more than $50 billion) have been staggeringly high. And while Iraq is finally producing oil at pre-war levels, it is trying its best to drive oil prices as high as possible.

Most disturbing to many American foreign policy experts, however, is Iraq’s extremely close relationship with Iran. Today, the country that was formerly Iran’s deadliest rival is its strongest ally.

In other words, the Neo Cons were not just wrong but absolutely 100% wrong, their predictions turned out exactly 180 degrees from what actually happened.

Predicting what’s next in Iraq is next to impossible. In virtually no scenario, however, do things turn out how the neocons intended.

“Whatever [the war] was about, which was never entirely explained, it hasn’t worked out terribly well,” said Freeman, “and in fact Iraq continues to evolve in ways that are, if not fatal to American interests, certainly negative.”

At this point, I’m even more certain the Iraq war was not worth what it cost.  It was a colossal waste of time, resources, lives – an exercise in imperial vanity and posturing that was so destructive in every imaginable way, more costly, more ruinous than anyone  predicted.

We need a national truth and reconciliation commission.  We need it now.

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