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Posts Tagged ‘War on Terror’

As “End” of Iraq War Is Announced, U.S. Digs In, Warns Iran

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

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[ cross-posted @ Daily Kos ]

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“In August [2002] a British official close to the Bush team told Newsweek: ‘Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.’

—Paul Krugman, “Things to Come,” March 18, 2003

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Where’s That “Mission Accomplished” Feeling?

On Friday, Oct. 21, President Obama announced that “as promised,” by the end of this year, 2011, the last remaining U.S. forces (about 39,000) will leave Iraq and be home in time for the holidays.

A few hours ago I spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. I reaffirmed that the United States keeps its commitments. He spoke of the determination of the Iraqi people to forge their own future. We are in full agreement about how to move forward. So today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.

The U.S.–Iraq status of forces agreement (2008) worked out between Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and the George W. Bush administration had provided for continued U.S. military presence of some 50,000 “advise and assist brigades” for security and training until the end of 2011, with a possible extension if negotiated.

As WhiteHouse.gov puts it, “President Obama Has Ended the War in Iraq.” Some 90,000 American combat brigades were withdrawn between early 2009 and August 2010 (see “As Combat Troops Leave Iraq, Where’s Our National Security?”); many were redeployed to Afghanistan. On Sept. 1, 2010, Operation Iraqi Freedom ended and Operation New Dawn commenced.

This month Prime Minister Maliki decided to have all U.S. troops leave by Dec. 31, 2011. By doing so, he would remove a political liability for himself and a social and political irritant, but would also forgo a potential stabilizing force in case of an outbreak of civil war—or of invasion by a foreign power, such as Iran. But the Americans are already negotiating to send a new round of military trainers to Iraq in 2012, along with equipment specialists for the weapons systems the U.S. hopes to sell, and to base a large contingency force nearby in Kuwait (see below). Thus the New Dawn.

Republican reaction to the president’s Oct. 21 announcement was mixed: G.O.P. presidential candidates and senators McCain and Graham denounced the withdrawal; other Republicans expressed approval, relief, or said nothing. (McCain this month recommended U.S. military action against Syria, like that against Libya, “to protect civilian lives.”) For an Iraq war veterans’ perspective on the announced withdrawal, see the statement from Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. (IAVA is on our blogroll, bottom left.)

Now that the “cakewalk” we were promised is ending, we have to ask of the George W. Bush foreign policy team (many of whom Mitt Romney wants to hire) and in particular those in Congress who voted to authorize military force against Saddam Hussein in October 2002: Where’s that “Mission Accomplished” feeling?

And where is our national security? How’s that workin’ out?

And to what kind of economy and job prospects are these soldiers returning—those who don’t have to turn right around and go fight in Afghanistan? What “job creators” will hire them? While they were risking their lives amid hardships and dangers that most of us can hardly imagine, what has become of their One Nation Under God? Fortunately for some of them, Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are leading a Veterans Jobs initiative to press the private sector to commit to hiring 100,000 veterans and their spouses by the end of 2013. That’s not very many jobs, but if it succeeds at all, it will help.

The Freedom and the Damage Done

Regrettably, even though it has been announced that some 40,000 troops like Stratego game board pieces will be returned to home base for a while, and despite the claims of a White House in reelection mode, we and many others do not see The War as ending. Iraq is, or was, only one theater—a particularly misguided, costly, and tragic one—in the larger War on Terror that has in effect already expanded into Pakistan and (hey, why not?) threatens Iran (“Tensions Flare As G.I.s Take Fire Out of Pakistan” [photo below]; “Iran Reacts to Pressure from America”). The United States is not moving from its strategic positions in the Middle East and Central Asia. And the financial costs to the United States, which may reach $3 to 5 trillion, are still being paid, and will paid for decades to come.

Indeed, beyond the financial cost, the damage done to the American economy, the psychic harm to our citizens, both combatant and noncombatant, and to the nation’s culture and political system, are incalculable. If you close your eyes and listen with your heart in the way a psychic or a shaman is able to listen, you might hear a great howl of agony resounding from the nation’s soul, a scream or roar as of a wounded giant that shakes the forests and mountainsides and echoes down the skyscraper canyons of Wall Street, bouncing off the concentric rings of the Pentagon, from all the needless pain inflicted, from the death groans of shattered, burned, eviscerated soldiers who will never come back, and those who are damaged for life, inside and out, in the veterans’ hospitals. And though we turn our iPods or TVs up to full blast, the roars and screams of pain could not be drowned out. If, that is, we could hear them at all. That we cannot hear the howls and cries doesn’t mean they’re not there to be heard.

And then, even harder for us to imagine, is all the pain and destruction suffered by the people of Iraq, the bereft families of the more than 100,000 killed; the massive destabilization of political systems and relations in the Middle East; and the shattering of the ancient social systems, culture, and archaeological heritage, all symbolized by the looting of the National Museum and the torching of books and Korans in the National Library in Baghdad (“stuff happens,” shrugged Donald Rumsfeld), plus the damage to the archaeological heritage in Nineveh, Ur, Babylon, and other sites of irreplaceable relics of the cradle of human civilization around the Tigris and Euphrates with an archaeological record going back 7,000 years that includes the cultures of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Parthians, Sassanids, and Muslims. (See Chalmers Johnson, “The Smash of Civilizations,” and Frank Rich, “And Now: ‘Operation Iraqi Looting’.”)

 

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A Reader Replies re: the Killing of Osama bin Laden

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Our friend Archie in New Rochelle, New York, takes issue with part of yesterday’s post on the killing of Osama bin Laden. The points Archie makes about bin Laden’s pre-9/11 relationship to the United States—or the U.S.’s to bin Laden—are factually correct (and see Further Reading list below). Whether you agree with his argument or not, we regard Archie as one of the most knowledgeable writers and editors we’ve ever known: thoughtful, sober, and principled. And a good friend whose views we respect.

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Re: “Mission Accomplished. Now Focus on Threats Closer to Home”:

I’m with you on the second part of your message, which I read as that we need to deal with the problems we have created. I’m not with you on the idea that killing bin Laden is “a good thing.” I think a good thing would have been capturing him and, with the cooperation of others (who were not prejudicially involved), making him confront the things he did.

You may say, he and a lot of others can’t be expected to be held accountable because they are either (model A:) evil; or (model B:) mentally ill. I think that if these are the standards we’re “upholding,” we need to be clear that we are applying them to others when we’re unwilling to apply them to ourselves. To a large degree, we made bin Laden: he was our Golden Boy when he was anti-Soviet, just as Saddam Hussein was our Golden Boy when he was anti-Iranian. Bin Laden hid out in our client state Afghanistan, and then in our client state Pakistan. His family had gotten rich in our client state Saudi Arabia. The main difference between the client states is that Afghanistan and Pakistan are leftovers from the days when we had to support anyone who opposed our enemies—that is, anyone who was opposed to the Soviet Union or to a state (India) that was friendly with the Soviet Union—while Saudi Arabia’s main attraction—is there any other?—is oil (hello, Libya!). Pakistan illustrates the proposition, I forget at the moment whose, that we were so morally dominated by the Soviet Union (by “Communism”) that we signed up with any crook or tyrant who announced that he was opposed to it—Franco, the Diem brothers, you name ’em. Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s least democratic states, represents the proposition, so clearly seen here in the Slave Trade, as in more recent endeavors, that Money Talks. That we’re so worked up about the acts of a “twisted” member of the power structure of either of these countries speaks volumes.

Let’s deal with our own criminals.

—Archie Hobson

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Going to War Is Easy

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

“A continual state of war”: No need to consult Congress or those who must pay the cost.

Ned Resnikoff at Salon.com’s War Room writes a fine piece on “The Real Reason We Rushed into (Another) War.” Fine and troubling. But don’t let that stop you: Mr. Resnikoff’s piece is worth reading in full, but here are some key excerpts, with a strong passage from economist Joseph Stiglitz. Dr. Stiglitz has often been quoted here for his prediction that the Iraq war—remember, the one we were driven into almost a decade ago by leaders of the fiscally conservative Republican party? (our words, not his)—will end up costing $3 trillion. But we digress . . . Here’s Ned Resnikoff:

With our military already overextended and our economy still far from healed, how is it that we committed to such a large gamble with so little hesitation or public debate?

Maybe it’s because those in charge are gambling with other people’s money. In the past month, both Ezra Klein and Kevin Drum have written solid pieces noting that the policy preferences of the poor and middle class have ceased to matter at all to either major American party. . . . Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz noted that [the outsize political influence of the rich] also distorts how we go to war. In a recent piece for Vanity Fair, he wrote:

Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that. Foreign policy, by definition, is about the balancing of national interests and national resources. With the top 1 percent in charge, and paying no price, the notion of balance and restraint goes out the window. There is no limit to the adventures we can undertake; corporations and contractors stand only to gain.

“The interests of the rich are effectively the only interests now being represented in government.”

In other words: The more powerful the rich have become, the more they’ve shifted the cost of war downward. And because the interests of the rich are effectively the only interests now being represented in government, politicians have no incentive to avoid policies that exert pressure on the middle and lower classes. For the people in charge, war has gotten cheaper than ever.

. . . Even if [the White House] were to deploy a significant ground force to Libya, the reaction from Congress would be feeble at best—perhaps some symbolic outrage and an impotent, inconclusive Senate hearing.

. . . Congress has spent the past few decades gradually ceding its capacity to conduct meaningful oversight on matters of war. After all, if it doesn’t affect their constituency, why should it affect them?

“Even supporters of intervention in Libya should be alarmed by the manner in which the United States now goes to war.”

. . . No matter how the conflict in Libya ends, the rich will still be the only meaningful political constituency in this country. War costs them little. And until that changes, we can look forward to a continual state of war at the expense of everyone else.

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Ned Resnikoff is a freelance writer and researcher for Media Matters for America.

•  See also Steve Clemons’s Washington Note post titled “Obama Moved at Warp Speed on Libya,” in which the foreign policy blogger asserts that “there is simply no truth to the notion that Obama dragged his heels in orchestrating action [in Libya].”

•  And “Unequal Sacrifice” by Andrew J. Bacevich, a West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran, and author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.

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Photograph by Platon, from a portfolio on American soldiers and their families published in the Sept. 28, 2008, issue of The New Yorker.



“So Let Us Persevere . . .”

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

On the anniversary of the assassination of a peace-seeking, war hero president—and at a time when the arms-reduction efforts of another peace-seeking president are being opposed for only political, not strategic, reasons by a few obstinate Republicans in Congress—we thought it fitting to present passages from President John F. Kennedy’s famous commencement address at American University in Washington on June 10, 1963. In this speech President Kennedy outlined a vision of peaceful coexistence of nations and announced “a series of concrete actions and effective agreements” the U.S. was initiating to make peace a little more likely. Kennedy’s reasons in 1963 apply to President Obama’s efforts today. Following the excerpts, please also see some key quotations from a fine book by James W. Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, now in paperback.

“No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”

Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament—and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitude—as individuals and as a Nation—for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward—by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the cold war and toward freedom and peace here at home.

. . . Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable—that mankind is doomed—that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.

We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade—therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable—and we believe they can do it again. . . .

Let us focus . . . on a more practical, more attainable peace—based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions—on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace—no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process—a way of solving problems.

. . . So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it. . . .

. . . both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours—and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.

So, let us not be blind to our differences—but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

From JFK and the Unspeakable by James W. Douglass

We can know the essential truth of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. That truth can set us free. . . .

On our behalf, at the height of the Cold War [in the Cuban missile crisis, October 1962], John F. Kennedy risked committing the greatest crime in history, starting a nuclear war.

Before we knew it, he turned toward peace with the enemy who almost committed that crime with him.

For turning to peace with his enemy (and ours), Kennedy was murdered by a power we cannot easily describe. Its unspeakable reality can be traced, suggested, recognized, and pondered. That is one purpose of this book. The other is to describe Kennedy’s turning. . . .

John Kennedy’s story is our story, although a titanic effort has been made to keep it from us. That story, like the struggle it embodies, is as current today as it was in 1963. The theology of redemptive violence still reigns. The Cold War has been followed by its twin, the War on Terror. We are engaged in another apocalyptic struggle against an enemy seen as absolute evil. Terrorism has replaced Communism as the enemy. We are told we can be safe only through the threat of escalating violence. Once again, anything goes in a fight against evil: preemptive attacks, torture, undermining governments, assassinations, whatever it takes to gain the end of victory over an enemy portrayed as irredeemably evil. Yet the redemptive means John Kennedy turned to, in a similar struggle, was dialogue with the enemy. When the enemy is seen as human, everything changes.

—from the Preface

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