Archive for category Iraq
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.
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”.
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.”
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.
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)
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.
Our country does not want war, it wants peace. It has not decreed this memorial season as an honor to war, with its terrible waste and attendant train of suffering and hardship which reaches onward into the years of peace. Yet war is not the worst of evils, and these days have been set apart to do honor to all those, now gone, who made the cause of America their supreme choice.
–President Calvin Coolidge, 1923
To date, there have been over 112,000 documented U.S. troop casualties in the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of these, 6,461 troops have died; 48,253 have been wounded in action; and more than 58,000 medically evacuated due to injury or disease.
…Every day, five U.S. soldiers attempt suicide, and fully 5 percent of the warzone deaths of U.S. troops are the result of suicide. In addition, 18 U.S. veterans attempt suicide every day, more than four times the national average.
…Estimates of civilian deaths from violence in Iraq alone range from a conservative current figure of 116,000 (Iraq Body Count project) to over a million (the 2008 report by Opinion Research Business). The World Heath Organization report in 2008 determined that the casualty figure was double the IBC’s tally, and a 2006 Johns Hopkins report said the total civilian casualties in Iraq numbered 655,000 to date. Certainly, more than 125,000 civilians have been injured in Iraq and 4 million displaced internally. By most estimates, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed or injured since the 2001 invasion, and over 3 million displaced.
There is no end in sight. Our worldwide war has spread to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and other countries.
UPDATE: The New York Times delves into President Obama’s secret drone war:
Justly or not, drones have become a provocative symbol of American power, running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents. With China and Russia watching, the United States has set an international precedent for sending drones over borders to kill enemies.
Mr. Blair, the former director of national intelligence, said the strike campaign was dangerously seductive. “It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness,” he said. “It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.”
UPDATE: Andrew J. Bacevich: Obama Expands Secret Wars Across the Globe
As U.S. special ops forces roam the world slaying evildoers, the famous question posed by David Petraeus as the invasion of Iraq began — “Tell me how this ends” — rises to the level of Talmudic conundrum.
Yesterday, Bush announced “I’m takin’ a bunch ‘o Vets mountain bike riding.” “I like mountain bike riding.”
And, I realize Chimpy was trying to be self-deprecating when he said, “what I don’t like is to be beaten on a mountain bike ride by a one-legged Veteran.”
All I could think is, how will he find a one-legged Veteran who won’t try to beat him on sight?
The Chimpster goes on to brag that his “Institute” is sponsoring a golf tournament for Vets. How thoughtful. And why not? Most of them have fairly flexible schedules nowadays (unemployed).
Except for the few lucky troops who found time to practice at the driving range when not dodging IEDs, I imagine most have never stepped onto a golf course, other than to pick up trash, turn on the sprinklers or to find a quiet spot to spend the night?
Yes, a golf tournament. What better to say I love you and avoid missing a day on the links?
The 2008 Iraq Winter Soldier hearings took place in a news blackout. Last year, WikiLeaks showed us a U.S. Army video of Iraqi civilians (including children and two journalists) being gunned down by an attack helicopter, but there was little media attention.
Now, the New York Times has uncovered classified documents about the 2005 massacre of civilian noncombatants in Hadita, Iraq by U.S. Marines. Some 24 people were killed, including a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, women and children, some just toddlers.
The 400 pages of interrogations, once closely guarded as secrets of war, were supposed to have been destroyed as the last American troops prepare to leave Iraq. Instead, they were discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.
The biggest “secret” of U.S. war crimes in Iraq, of course, is really not a secret to anyone who wants to know. At the height of combat against insurgents, atrocities against civilians took place nearly every day. For American commanders, reports of incidents in which innocent noncombatants were killed became routine– “just a cost of doing business,” in the words of one officer.
The same “secret” is hiding in plain sight in Afghanistan. Former commanding general Stanley McChrystal: “We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”
Retiring the colors, US Forces Iraq.
Most accounts of the pullout are brief. Five years after Americans voted for withdrawal in the 2006 elections, the U.S. departed Camp Adder on December 16, the last base to be turned over to Iraq. It is now called Imam Ali Base and will be used by the Iraqi Air Force. (Shi’a Muslims regard Ali as the first Imam).
The Iraq fiasco started as a war of aggression labeled “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (OIL), which quickly changed to “Operation Iraqi Freedom” because the acronym gave away the real objective. At the end, it was “Operation New Dawn” (specially formulated for grease-cutting, but gentle enough for your hands).
More than 1.5 million U.S. soldiers have served in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, with around 4,500 of them losing their lives, out of more than 30,000 American casualties. At least 104,000-113,000 Iraqis were killed, though exact totals are nearly impossible to calculate. More than 1.6 million Iraqis fled the country, with another 2.5 million internally displaced. We lost $3 trillion of our taxpayers money.
For America, the occupation of Iraq was unwinnable. Intended to demonstrate the extent of our military power, it instead exposed how limited it really is. At one point almost all our ground forces were either in Iraq, just returned from Iraq, or preparing to deploy back to Iraq. The winners, such as they are: the Kurds, the Shiites, the Iranians and the Chinese.
Iraqis continue to live with a level of violence that would be considered apocalyptic anywhere else. Parts of Baghdad still get only 5 hours of electricity a day. A bomb attack on the oil fields halved production again this week.
Now, the “Mission Accomplished” banner is in storage awaiting the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in 2013.
We can hope to assign to the history books (but never forget) Saddam Hussein, WMD, “shock and awe,” “enhanced interrogation,” Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Haditha, “Concerned Local Citizens,” and The Sandbox.
Still with us: security contractors (aka mercenaries), “kinetic operations,” PTSD, and the unfinished unwinnable war in Afghanistan/Pakistan.
UPDATE: Andrew Bacevich: “Seldom in the course of human history have so many sacrificed so dearly to achieve so little.”
Posted by Larry Bergan in 4th Estate (Media), Activist groups, Afghanistan, American History, Barack Obama, censorship, Crimes, Democracy, Dick Cheney, Egypt, Free Speech, George W. Bush, Guantanamo, Human Rights, Hypocrisy, Iran, Iraq, Joe Biden, Military Industrial Complex, Occupy SLC, Occupy Wall Street, Peace, Veterans, War on December 18, 2011
I really hate associating myself with Michael Moore or Bradley Manning with an insignificant post, because I’m not anywhere near worthy, but:
From Michael Moore:
A Man in Tunisia, a Movement on Wall Street, and the Soldier Who Ignited the Fuse
Protesters chant slogans against the political party of former President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on January 21, 2011. The city was where Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit seller, had a confrontation with a municipal inspector that eventually led to his self-immolation in front of the governor’s office in protest. The act fatally burned Bouazizi and is said to have sparked the protests that toppled President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali’s government.
It’s Saturday night and I didn’t want the day to end before I sent out this note to you.
One year ago on December 17th, Mohamed Bouazizi, a man who had a simple produce stand in Tunisia, set himself on fire to protest his government’s repression. His singular sacrifice ignited a revolution that toppled Tunisia’s dictator and launched revolts in regimes across the Middle East.
Three months ago on December 17th, Occupy Wall Street began with a takeover of New York’s Zuccotti Park. This movement against the greed of corporate America and its banks — and the money that now controls most of our democratic institutions — has quickly spread to hundreds of towns and cities across America. The majority of Americans now agree that a nation where 400 billionaires have more wealth than 160 million Americans combined is not the country they want America to be. The 99% are rising up against the 1% — and now there is no turning back.
Twenty-four years ago on December 17th, U.S. Army Spc. Bradley Manning was born. He has now spent 570 days in a military prison without a trial — simply because he allegedly blew the whistle on the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. He exposed what the Pentagon and the Bush administration did in creating this evil and he did so by allegedly leaking documents and footage to Wikileaks. Many of these documents dealt not only with Iraq but with how we prop up dictators around the world and how our corporations exploit the poor on this planet. (There were even cables with crazy stuff on them, like one detailing Bush’s State Department trying to stop a government minister in another country from holding a screening of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.’)
The Wikileaks trove was a fascinating look into how the United States conducts its business — and clearly those who don’t want the world to know how we do things in places like, say, Tunisia, were not happy with Bradley Manning.
Mohamed Bouazizi was being treated poorly by government officials because all he wanted to do was set up a cart and sell fruit and vegetables on the street. But local police kept harassing him and trying to stop him. He, like most Tunisians, knew how corrupt their government was. But when Wikileaks published cables from the U.S. ambassador in Tunis confirming the corruption — cables that were published just a week or so before Mohamed set himself on fire — well, that was it for the Tunisian people, and all hell broke loose.
People across the world devoured the information Bradley Manning revealed, and it was used by movements in Egypt, Spain, and eventually Occupy Wall Street to bolster what we already thought was true. Except here were the goods — the evidence that was needed to prove it all true. And then a democracy movement spread around the globe so fast and so deep — and in just a year’s time! When anyone asks me, “Who started Occupy Wall Street?” sometimes I say “Goldman Sachs” or “Chase” but mostly I just say, “Bradley Manning.” It was his courageous action that was the tipping point — and it was not surprising when the dictator of Tunisia censored all news of the Wikileaks documents Manning had allegedly supplied. But the internet took Manning’s gift and spread it throughout Tunisia, a young man set himself on fire and the Arab Spring that led eventually to Zuccotti Park has a young, gay soldier in the United States Army to thank.
And that is why I want to honor Bradley Manning on this, his 24th birthday, and ask the millions of you reading this to join with me in demanding his immediate release. He does not deserve the un-American treatment, including cruel solitary confinement, he’s received in over eighteen months of imprisonment. If anything, this young man deserves a friggin’ medal. He did what great Americans have always done — he took a bold stand against injustice and he did it without stopping for a minute to consider the consequences for himself.
The Pentagon and the national security apparatus are hell-bent on setting an example with Bradley Manning. But we as Americans have a right to know what is being done in our name and with our tax dollars. If the government tries to cover up its malfeasance, then it is the duty of each and every one of us, should the situation arise, to drag the truth, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the light of day.
The American flag was lowered in Iraq this past Thursday as our war on them officially came to an end. If anyone should be on trial or in the brig right now, it should be those men who lied to the nation in order to start this war — and in doing so sent nearly 4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to their deaths.
But it is not Bush or Rumsfeld or Cheney or Wolfowitz who sit in prison tonight. It is the hero who exposed them. It is Bradley Manning who has lost his freedom and that, in turn, becomes just one more crime being committed in our name.
I know, I know, c’mon Mike — it’s the holiday season, there’s presents to buy and parties to go to! And yes, this really is one of my favorite weeks of the year. But in the spirit of the man whose birth will be celebrated next Sunday, please do something, anything, to help this young man who spends his birthday tonight behind bars. I say, enough. Let him go home and spend Christmas with his family. We’ve done enough violence to the world this decade while claiming to be a country that admires the Prince of Peace. The war is over. And a whole new movement has a lot to thank Bradley Manning for.
That’s what I was called wearing my ribbons and my chevrons on my suit down at the Occupy SLC a couple days ago.
( as he wrenched his toddler into the air away from us )
Let we make one thing explicitly clear. You are the 99%.
As days go by we are all watching as the police beatings and media cover ups raging across the nation. Oakland and New York city police departments are now targeting war veterans. Even RT Television is referring to us as the new American “Civil War”. By definition I cannot condone violence against the system, as long as the rule of law still exists. However, I did swear to uphold the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.
This is the second time I fought for my country.
This is the first time I know who my enemy is.
A few weeks ago I looked my wife’s Iraqi roommate in the eye and apologized for what my nation did to hers, and realized the role I played in history was not all that different than any invading force.
The only thing I need to say to you is, America in Occupying. You do not want to grow old and remember the revolution against inequality and say you didn’t participate.
Hind sight is 20/20, and in 60 years when George W Bush will be looked at in the same light as Adolf Hitler, lets just say you need to get to the occupy SLC movement today and say you did something about it.
Thank you and Semper Fidelis,