A Nation on the Brink: How America’s Policies Sealed Iraq’s Fate

Yves here. I’m publishing this piece on Iraq not just on its own merits, but as a vehicle for discussing America’s ever-more destructive foreign policies. I was disheartened by the events of yesterday. It wasn’t simply the tragedy of the Malaysian Airlines plane crash and the almost certain intensification of the Ukraine conflict, and the escalation in Gaza. It was also the speed with which some of the leftie hawks who’d eagerly called for the invasion of Iraq were quick to demonize Putin.

I can understand what Israel is doing, even if I don’t approve. Younger Jews do not identify with Israel and many are opposed to its apartheid policies in the Palestine. In the next five to ten years, generational changes in the US will put Israel in a much more tenuous position. On top of that, who knows how long the US, with its military already under stress, will hold on to its hegemon status. Both argue for Israel taking as much ground as it can, literally and figuratively, versus the Palestinians and the Iranians sooner rather than later.

But I can’t fathom the US reasoning. We’ve created a failed state in Iraq. You could see it coming after the invasion. I was in Australia at the time, and the reporting of conditions in Iraq was far less censored than in the US (I’d check daily with friends back home who were news junkies, and over 85% of the negative stories either did not appear at all or were buried). For instance, it was evident that many educated professionals who were in a position to were leave were leaving permanently. Hospitals were in a complete shambles, stripped not just of medicines but of equipment. Electricity operated for at best part of the day in Baghdad. Even though physical conditions improved, the account below describes how Iraq was dangerous for many on a day-to-day basis even before the army disintegrated.

It’s clear that that is where Ukraine is headed. Has anyone articulated a plan of what the US wants to put in place in Ukraine, and why it would be any better than what the people had before? At least in Iraq, there were vague fantasies of how the US was bringing democracy and that had to be better. We’ve got no such claim in helping depose a democratically-elected leader.

Similarly, it’s hard to comprehend the logic of putting Putin’s back against the wall. Russia is a critical energy supplier to Europe. The US depends on land routes through Russia to supply troops in Afghanistan. Early on, a military expert wrote that we’d find extremely difficult to evacuate troops if we couldn’t use those land routes. Similarly, as this article notes, the Russia is playing a useful role in the Middle East right now.

Chinese belligerence in the South China Sea looked reckless and counterproductive. As I said to Lambert, we look to be aiming to outdo them in that category.

By Dahr Jamail, who spent more than a year reporting, unembedded, in Iraq during several trips there between 2003 and 2014. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism for his work in Iraq. He is the author of two books: Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq and The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Originally published at TomDispatch/Truthout

For Americans, it was like the news from nowhere.  Years had passed since reporters bothered to head for the country we invaded and blew a hole through back in 2003, the country once known as Iraq that our occupation drove into a never-ending sectarian nightmare.  In 2011, the last U.S. combat troops slipped out of the country, their heads “held high,” as President Obama proclaimed at the time, and Iraq ceased to be news for Americans. 

So the headlines of recent weeks — Iraq Army collapses! Iraq’s second largest city falls to insurgents! Terrorist Caliphate established in Middle East! — couldn’t have seemed more shockingly out of the blue.  Suddenly, reporters flooded back in, the Bush-era neocons who had planned and supported the invasion and occupation were writing op-eds as if it were yesterday, and Iraq was again the story of the moment as the post-post-mortems began to appear and commentators began asking: How in the world could this be happening? 

Iraqis, of course, lacked the luxury of ignoring what had been going on in their land since 2011. For them, whether Sunnis or Shiites, the recent unraveling of the army, the spread of a series of revolts across the Sunni parts of Iraq, the advance of an extremist insurgency on the country’s capital, Baghdad, and the embattled nature of the autocratic government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were, if not predictable, at least expectable. And as the killings ratcheted up, caught in the middle were the vast majority of Iraqis, people who were neither fighters nor directly involved in the corrupt politics of their country, but found themselves, as always, caught in the vice grip of the violence again engulfing it.

An Iraqi friend I’ve known since 2003, living in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad, emailed me recently.  He had made it through the sectarian bloodletting of 2006-2007 in which many of his Sunni compatriots were killed or driven from the capital, and this is the picture he painted of what life is now like for him, his wife, and their small children:

“All the dangers faced by Iraqis from the occupation — arrests, torture, car bombs, and sectarian violence — those killings have become like a toy in comparison to what we are facing these days. Fighting has spread in all directions from the north, east, and west of Baghdad. Much of the fighting is between the government and Sunni insurgents who have suffered a lot from the injustice of Maliki’s sectarian government.”

As for his daily life, he described it this way:

“As a result of this fighting, we can’t sleep because of our fear of the uncertainty of the situation, and because of the random arrests of innocent Sunni people. Each day I awake and find myself in a very hard and bad situation and now am trying to think of any way I can to leave here and save my family. Most of my neighbors left back when it was easier to leave. Now, we have both the U.S. and Iran helping the Iraqi government, and this will only make the fighting that is going on across Iraq much worse.

“Life in Iraq has become impossible, and even more dangerous, and there is now no way to leave here. To the north, west, and east of Baghdad there is fighting, and with so many groups of Shiite militias in the south, it is not safe for us to go there because of the sectarianism that was never here before the invasion. The price for bus tickets has become very expensive and they are all booked up for months. So many Iraqi families and I are trapped in the middle now.”

“Every day, the Iraqi army is raiding homes and arresting many innocent people. So many dead bodies are to be found at the Baghdad morgue in the days following the mass arrests in Sunni areas.”

He concluded his email on a stark note, reminiscent of the sorts of things I regularly heard when I was in Iraq covering the brutal results of the U.S. occupation.  “Horror, fear, arbitrary arrests, indiscriminate bombing, killing, an uncertain future — this is the new democratic Iraq.”

And don’t for a second think that this summer it’s just Sunni communities who are living in fear. Claims of massacres and other atrocities being carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the group spearheading the Sunni revolt across the northern and western parts of the country, abound along with well-documented accounts of their brutal tactics against Shiites.

In one incident, according to witnesses, ISIS forces kidnapped at least 40 Shia Turkmen, blew up three Shia mosques and another Shia shrine, and raided homes and farms in two Shia villages near the city of Mosul. And that’s just to start down a long list of horrors.  Meanwhile, the sectarianism shredding the social fabric is being stoked further by the posting of images online that show at least 10 ancient Shiite shrines and mosques destroyed by ISIS fighters.

The Disintegration of Iraq

As for myself, I can’t claim to be surprised by the events of recent weeks. Back in March 2013, on a visit to the embattled Sunni city of Fallujah (twice besieged and largely destroyed by U.S. troops in the occupation years), I saw many signs of the genesis of what was to come.  I was at one point on a stage there alongside half a dozen tribal and religious leaders from the area. Tens of thousands of enraged men, mostly young, filled the street below us, holding up signs expressing their anger toward U.S.-backed Prime Minister Maliki.

Having written about the myriad human rights abuses and violations Maliki’s regime was responsible for, I was intimately familiar with the way the bodies, dignity, and rights of much of the Sunni population in Fallujah’s province, al-Anbar, had been abused.  That same month, I had, for instance, interviewed a woman who used the alias Heba al-Shamary and had just been released from an Iraqi prison after four grim years.

“I was tortured and raped repeatedly by the Iraqi security forces,” she told me. “I want to tell the world what I and other Iraqi women in prison have had to go through these last years. It has been a hell… I was raped over and over again. I was kicked and beaten and insulted and spit upon.”  Heba, like so many Sunnis the Maliki regime decided to detain, torture, and sometimes execute, had been charged with “terrorism.”

That very month, Amnesty International released a report that highlighted what it called “a grim cycle of human rights abuses” in Iraq. When I was in Baghdad, it was common to hear Maliki referred to in many areas as “worse than Saddam [Hussein].”

In late 2012, the young among the politically disenfranchised Sunni population began to organize peaceful Arab Spring-style rallies against the government.  These were met with brute force and more than a dozen demonstrators were killed by government security forces. Videos of this went viral on the Web stirring the already boiling tempers of youths desperate to take the fight for their rights to Baghdad.

“We demand an end to checkpoints surrounding Fallujah.  We demand they allow in the press [to cover the situation].  We demand they end their unlawful home raids and detentions.  We demand an end to federalism and gangsters and secret prisons.” This was what Sheikh Khaled Hamoud Al-Jumaili, a leader of the demonstrations, told me just before I went on stage that day. As we spoke, he clutched a photograph of one of his nephews killed by Maliki’s forces while demonstrating in the nearby city of Ramadi. “Losing our history and dividing Iraqis is wrong, but that and kidnapping and conspiracies and displacing people is what Maliki is doing.”

As I wrote at the time, the sheikh went on to assure me that many people in Anbar Province had stopped demanding changes in the Maliki government because they had lost hope. After years of waiting, no such demands were ever met. “Now, we demand a change in the regime instead and a change in the constitution. We will not stop these demonstrations. This one we have labeled ‘last chance Friday’ because it is the government’s last chance to listen to us.”

“What comes next,” I asked him, “if they don’t listen to you?”

“Maybe armed struggle comes next,” he replied without a pause. 

Maliki’s response to the Fallujah protests would, in fact, insure that the sheikh’s prediction became the region’s future.

The adrenaline-pumping energy on stage and in the crowd that day mixed electric anticipation and anxiety with fear. All of this energy had to go somewhere.  Even then, local religious and tribal leaders were already lagging behind their supporters.  Keeping a lid on the seething cauldron of Sunni feeling was always unlikely. When a tribal sheikh asked the crowd for a little more time for further “diplomacy” in Baghdad, the crowd erupted in angry shouts, rushed the stage, and began pelting the sheikhs with water bottles and rocks.

In pockets of that crowd, now a mob, the ominous black flags of ISIS were already waving vigorously alongside signs that read “Iraqis did not vote for an Iranian dictatorship.”  Enraged shouts of “We will now fight!” and “No more Maliki!” swept over us as we fled the stage, lest we be hit by those projectiles that caught the rage of the young, a rage desperate for a target, and open to recruitment into a movement that would take the fight to the Maliki regime.

Enter ISIS

Funded by Arabian Gulf petrodollars from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, among other places, and for a long while supported, at least implicitly, by the Obama administration, radical Islamist fighters in Syria opposing Bashar al-Assad have been expanding in strength, numbers, and lethality for the last three years. This winter, they and their branches in Iraq converged, first taking Fallujah, then moving on to the spring and summer debacles across Sunni Iraq and the establishment of a “caliphate” in the territories they control in both countries.

It was hardly news that ISIS, a group even the original al-Qaeda rejected, had a strong presence in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of the situation defensively last fall in attempting to explain Washington’s increasingly controversial and confused policy on Syria, the rebels, and the regime of Bashar al-Assad they were trying to fell.  He described the “bad guys” as radical fighters belonging to ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, calling them the lesser part of the opposition in that country, a statement that even then was beyond inaccurate. He went on to describe those “bad guys” as having “proven themselves to be probably the best fighters… the most trained and aggressive on the ground.”

Of course, Kerry claimed that the U.S. was only supporting the “good guys,” another convenient fiction of the moment.

Fast forward to just a few weeks ago: in a meeting with Syrian opposition leader Ahmad al-Jarba, Kerry proposed arming and training supposedly well-vetted “moderate” Syrian rebels to help take the battle to ISIS in Syria but also in Iraq. “Obviously, in light of what has happened in Iraq,” he said, “we have even more to talk about in terms of the moderate opposition in Syria, which has the ability to be a very important player in pushing back against [ISIS’s] presence and to have them not just in Syria, but also in Iraq.”

The confusion of this policy remains stunning: Washington hopes to use “moderate” Syrian rebels, in practice almost impossible to separate from the extreme Islamists, “in pushing back against” those very Islamists, while striking against the Assad regime which is supporting — with air strikes, among other things — the Maliki government which Washington has been arming and supporting in Iraq.  The U.S. has already invested more than $25 billion in support for Maliki — at least $17 billion of which was poured into the Iraqi military.  Clearly that was money not well spent as that military promptly collapsed, surrendering a string of cities and towns, including Tal Afar and Mosul, when ISIS and other Sunni insurgents came knocking.

More aid and personnel are now on the way from Washington. The Obama administration already admits to sending at least an extra 750 Marines and Special Operations troops into Iraq, along with missile-armed drones and Apache helicopters.  It is now pushing hard to sell Iraq another 4,000 Hellfire missiles. The Pentagon insists its troops in Baghdad are either guarding the huge U.S. embassy or serving in an “advisory” capacity to the Iraqis, but is also claiming that its forces need “flexibility” in order to carry out their missions. As a result, there are already plans for U.S. pilots to fly those Apache attack helicopters there.

While Washington might be at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the crisis in Ukraine, the Obama administration is undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief that Russian military aid, including fighter planes, is now flowing into Baghdad. Blurring opaque political alliances further, Iran has supplied Iraq with ground attack jets, has drones carrying out reconnaissance missions over the country, and Iranian Kurds could be joining the fight on the ground.

Considering all these twists and turns of the Iraqi situation, political analyst Maki al-Nazzal shared these thoughts with me, which are increasingly typical of Sunni opinion: “Iraq is still suffering from the U.S. occupation’s sins and now self-operating to remove the cancer the U.S. planted in its body. Iraqi nationalists and Sunni Islamists have had enough of being wasted through 11 years of direct and indirect occupation and so revolted to correct by guns what was corrupted by wrongful politics.”

Meanwhile, the ongoing crisis has sent the government in Baghdad into free-fall just as the opportunistic Kurds of northern Iraq have called for a referendum in the next two months to address a long-fostered desire to become an independent country. Given all of this, hopes for any kind of Sunni-Shia-Kurdish “unity” government that could save the country from collapse have been repeatedly dashed. Making matters worse, with thousands of Iraqis being slaughtered every month and the country coming apart at the seams, even the Shiites in the country’s parliament seem deadlocked. “Things are moving faster than the politicians can make decisions,” a senior Shiite member of parliament told a reporter.

No wonder the Iraqi army won’t stand its ground when facing ISIS fighters, who are more than willing to die for their cause. What exactly is it to die defending?  And it’s not just army troops who are refusing to put their lives on the line for Nouri al-Maliki. Powerful Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq’s volatile Anbar Province are also refusing to fight for Maliki, too. In a recent interview, Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman, head of the Dulaimi tribe, insisted that Maliki was more dangerous than the ISIS fighters, adding, “I believe that Maliki is responsible for ISIS coming to Iraq.”

Washington’s man in Baghdad for so long, Maliki himself now adds to the crisis by refusing to budge, no matter the pressure from his former patrons and Shiite religious leaders.

The Nightmare of Ordinary Iraqis 

The disintegration of Iraq is the result of U.S. policies that, since 2003, have been strikingly devoid of coherence or any real comprehension when it comes to the forces at play in the country or the region.  They have had about them an aura of puerility, of “good guys” versus “bad guys,” that will leave future historians stunned. Worst of all, they have generated a modern-day Middle Eastern Catch-22 in which all sides are armed, funded, and supported directly or indirectly by Washington or its allies.

Meanwhile, ISIS and other Sunni insurgent groups have effectively tapped into the tens of thousands of angry young men I saw in Fallujah last year and are reportedly enjoying significant popular support (as, in some cases, the best of a series of terrible options) in many of the towns and cities where they have set up shop.

In all of this, the nightmare for ordinary Iraqis has only been accentuated.  I recently received an email from a friend in Fallujah, a city now occupied by ISIS after having been brutally shelled by the Iraqi military earlier in the year.  At that time, hundreds were killed and even Fallujah’s main hospital was hit. Tens of thousands of people in the city, including my friend, had to flee for their lives.  He has now been a refugee for months and summed up his life this way:

“Words cannot explain what we are suffering now. I do not believe what is happening to us. Imagine a life lived in permanent fear, with shortages of all-important services like electricity, water supply, fuel, and food in the very hot Iraqi summer and during the fasting month of Ramadan.

“The most important part of the whole story is that all of these tragedies are happening — and let me say with sadness, are happening while we are now refugees and deprived of our houses and belongings. Fleeing Maliki’s bombardment, we travelled to Anah City [northwest of Fallujah and closer to the Syrian border] seeking safety, but now Anah has become unsafe and was attacked twice by Syrian helicopters, which killed five Fallujan civilian refugees. Everything in our life is sad and difficult. We are under the control of senseless criminals.”

As Iraq’s disintegration into darkness progresses, it sickens me to think of all the Iraqis I met and became friends with, who have since been killed, disappeared, or have become refugees. What is left of Iraq, this mess that is no longer a country, should be considered the legacy of decades of U.S. policy there, dating back to the moment when Saddam Hussein was in power and enjoyed Washington’s support. With Maliki, it has simply been a different dictator, enjoying even more such support (until these last weeks), and using similarly barbaric tactics against Iraqis.

Today, Washington’s policies continue in the same mindless way as more fuel is rushed to the bonfire that is incinerating Iraq.

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  1. Skeptic

    The Best And The Brightest by David Halberstam told the story of the US Vietnam Quagmire.
    Who will write the Worst And The Dumbest to chronicle the luxuriously expensive Iraq Debac?

    1. Keith Ackermann

      There’s been a few. I think the best is Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, though not limited to Iraq.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        “We can all have our own opinions but we must all share the same facts”. What chance does America have to solve its problems if it can’t even recognize simple facts? And if it can’t even remember anything? The prime example of course is Dick Cheney, here is a man who was and has always been categorically and undeniably 100% wrong about Iraq. So why is he still allowed to speak? Why is he not ridiculed and pilloried when he even shows his face these days? $6 trillion, our national prestige and 2 million innocent lives later and this man is somehow still allowed to enter our living rooms with his latest vitriol and poisonous falsehoods? Obomba’s jumping to conclusions about Putin (notice the Dutch are much more circumspect) is a symptom of the same thing…I mean just because the Israelis want their Gaza genocide off the front pages does not mean Obomba needs to be quite so fast to make political hay. Just because the IMF can’t wait to loot Ukraine does not mean the US needs to abandon reality quite so fast. No, we don’t know who shot this missile, or why.

  2. vlade

    Iraq was a FUBAR of the FUBARs. There never was any rational reason to invade (unless US wanted to invade North Korea at the same time, and arguably would NK deserved the invasion more..). There was never a plan as to what to do once Saddam was out (even if he stepped out and went into exile voluntarily). There was nothing.

    Ukraine is similar for US, in that there’s no (visible) plan. That said, I don’t believe the situation is going to be as bad as in Iraq, as Russia, if it choses so, can act as a stabilising force (ignoring the fact it played a major role in destabilization in the first place, but that’s par for the course for superpowers or superpowers wannabes). There wasn’t anyone in Iraq who could do it.

    On the balance of probabilities, I believe that the plane was shot down by a mistake by the separatists. That’s what you get when a sophisticated kit gets into untrained hands. That said, I don’t believe we’ll ever find the truth in any objective way (confirmed by irrefutable proof, like confession of the man who pulled the trigger, corrobated by witnesses) – the other side will always say “but how do you know it’s not a conspiracy?”.

    Putin has a great chance now to act a world stage politician, if chooses to, and stuff it to Obama. But he also has a great opportunity to escalate further. If I was a disinterested observer from a remote planet, I’d say it’s going to be interesting to watch which way he chooses – longer term strategic, or short-term local.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The problem is the US is trying to limit Putin’s options and force him to retaliate in some way. You’ve got the escalation of sanctions and now the effort to pin the plane crash on him (and I find it really creepy that Putin got word of the crash at the end of a call with Obama when Obama was hectoring him for letting the separatists have weapons…as if the US isn’t arming the government.)

      1. weinerdog43

        Excellent point. Regardless of what one thinks of Mr. Putin, since when do we have any business bossing him around in his own back yard. Many of the crash victims hold EU passports, wouldn’t it be smarter to let someone who has been directly affected take the appropriate steps?

        1. Jim @economicsnz

          I think Putin may simply be forced to protect Russia – I may simply be fastening on a language difference here – but there seems a difference between retaliation and defensive action. Crimea was defensive? Direct invasion to protect Ukranian Russians from ethnic cleansing in concentration camps – what would that be? Direct defense of its Crimean fleet, defense from direct invasion of Russia – what are the other actions we should permit ourselves to call defensive? In the face of US provocation we must prepare ourselves to be the few voices against Mad Max.

      2. vlade

        Putin has a few good ways to respond to any but generic blame being attached to him ( separatists captured and boasted to one of buks, if it was trained russian crew oprating it they would recognize civilian iff etc. etc.). A bigger problem for him is that he has to either very convinvingly pin the blame on ukrainians (which if it was possible I’m sure he’d have already done – say radar trackings of missile launch from ukrainian positons), or at least partially disown the separatists.

        if he does the latter in a smart way, with say spliting hardcore fighters and one who would accept just strong autonomy ala kurds, disowning the former (say even supporting us assertion that it was a separtist missile) but supporting the latter, he can stabilise for now, look good, and prepare ground for latter w/o US being able to do anything. what do you do when even russia agrees with your claim and wants to punish the perpetrators?

      3. lambert strether

        “The genuinely sly man will not rationalize any coincidence. Instead, he’ll slam doors.” — John MacDonald, The Turquoise Lament

        I would put Putin in the “genuinely sly” bucket, since he keep leaving Obama with his pants draped round his ankles, even though Obama’s resources are an order of magnitude greater.

        So I would consider the possibility that Putin thought that timing more than creepy; that is was a message. I mean, he is a KGB guy. He knows how this stuff works.

      4. susan the other

        It occurred to me last nite, watching the world blow up again, that Snowden is our Kim Philby. We have a strange relationship with Russia. We do not want to harm them too much; just enough. What real information was passed on is anybody’s guess. But to be simply an observer of geography, it still looks like everything is focused on the Caspian. And Russia’s Georgian sources of oil, now headed via Bulgaria to Austria seem to be exempted from the grab we are sponsoring via ISIS. So let’s say it is the southern Caspian which is in contention and that would explain the Tsarnev brothers failed plot, and Dagestan red herring, and it will also explain the rise of the Kurds, who should really be totally vanquished by ISIS which is so unbelievably brutal that a few Kurds are nothing. We, and Russia, are in the process of dividing up the Caspian. Maybe.

        1. susan the other

          And also yes. Israel can see the writing on the wall and is going to simply take over Gaza. We can hope for humane sensibilities, but we are all so weary of it.

        2. Mark P.

          ‘Snowden is our Kim Philby”

          [1] You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.

          Snowden is not our Kim Philby. Snowden is an honorable young man; Philby was narcissistic upper-class scum who gloried in the idea that he was responsible for the deaths of many men better than himself.

          [2] In Snowden’s case, the public releases of NSA data he took have only confirmed what anyone who understood global electronic networks knew NSA had to be doing to do surveillance at all. A lot of us were trying to get this information out and failing, whereas Snowden has been successful and at some cost to himself. The political landscape has begun to be somewhat transformed as a result, as it needed to be.

          Snowden and co. have been very careful in ensuring that nobody has died or been seriously jeopardized as a result. I repeat: contrary to the Washington name-calling about Snowden being a traitor, he has betrayed absolutely nothing that those with the least bit of understanding didn’t already know. What he has done is make denial by the TPTB about the true nature of modern mass surveillance impossible.

          [2] In Philby’s case, conversely, over quite a few years many brave operatives were dropped or otherwise placed Soviet-Warsaw Pact lines, there to be picked up the local or Soviet security forces, then tortured and executed at those locals’ leisure thanks to the information Philby supplied.

          And Philby narcissistically gloried in the idea that he was responsible for those deaths, if you read between the lines in the accounts of those who communicated with him in his Moscow exile. Both John le Carre and Graham Greene worked with British intelligence and had a pretty direct understanding of what was going on. I would take Le Carre’s word on this, and I think much less of Greene for his lies about Philby’s essential murderousness.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      There was an important reason above all others: we could invade Iraq.

      Between madness and greed, nothing else mattered. Libya was similar for the “smart” war thugs. The state of the army after Iraq and the risks to our air power have kept Iran and Syria from receiving the treatment Iraq did from the Pentagon. No officer wants to be the guy explaining why the pilots are in stockade in Tehran.

      1. digi_owl

        In other words, the only thing the hawks learned from Vietnam is “don’t produce bad PR”…

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          And don’t risk being killed yourself. One can’t cash out or achieve glory when dead, and Iraq was easy with plenty of targets.

          1. Lord Koos

            Depend on enlistment and privatization, don’t have a draft (very important), and don’t allow journalists on the front lines.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              Roving journalists and the draft didn’t stop Vietnam or Korea. It’s about the profit motive.

              1. Lord Koos

                Sorry but I believe you are wrong, having lived through the era myself — both the draft and roving journalists did help turn public opinion against the Vietnam war, which did finally end it. I have never seen that type of reporting in any of the post Vietnam conflicts. The war was in everyone’s living rooms every night at 6:00. I don’t think we would have been in Iraq for so long if we had honest, on the spot reporting. And if random middle and upper middle class kids had been getting sent over there it might have been a different story as well.

                1. NotTimothyGeithner

                  Public opinion turned against the Iraq War despite the absence of both. The large scale occupation lasted from 2003 to 2011.

                  The Gulf of Tonkin was the Summer of 1964, and the ceasefire was signed with over 100,00 troops still in country at the start of 1973. Yep, it certainly made a difference. Humans have a tendency to romanticize the past, and you like Obama supporters today who rang doorbells want to believe you made a difference with your actions.

                  As far as reporting, Kronkite followed the company line on Nam until early 1968. When did Olbermann start ragging on Iraq. A few months after Katrina in late 2005? Certainly, Klondike had a bigger audience, but the Internet was pretty big by 2003.

                  The time line for the draft and the myth of great reporting as a cause of discontent doesn’t add up. Middle class guys got out of the war. There were deferments and other places to be. One uncle was wrecked in Nam, and his brother chilled out in Germany. I might give you Afghanistan, but I would contend the relatively small number of troops until Obama’s surge and original causes for the conflict create a different paradigm.

                  1. jonboinAR

                    For the Vietnam conflict the draft was enormously important in terms of dividing the country, splitting the gung-ho “my country right or wrong” American veterans of the two previous wars and their ilk against everyone else. The country experienced nothing of the same kind of division during the Iraq War. Two things stand out: the Draft, and the number of young Americans dying, especially, in Vietnam, those recently out of high school who died who didn’t volunteer but were drafted against their will to go die.

                    I get your point about the war (Vietnam) going on to long to truly say the protest movement ended it. I don’t know what to make of that. But it surely had a bearing on its course and, especially on certain cultural directions that the US headed in as a result of the war and the movements it engendered.

    3. Garrett Pace

      Think back to the 90’s, there was a sense of unfinished business regarding Iraq. Bush I “lost” the conflict because “we made the badguys go home” is not an agreeable narrative for American chickenhawks.

      Now how does that decision look? Bush I not going to Baghdad might be the last episode of genuine statesmanship by a US president. And it cost him the next election, I think, giving credence to wimp narrative.

      It was also a cautionary tale to future presidents, who realized that making others die for US interests can make themselves look tough.

      It’s not the stars, it’s ourselves…

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The economy and his lack of charisma cost 41 the election. The proto-Teabaggers voted for Ronnie Raygun over 41 in 1980, and 41’s campaign message in 1988 was “don’t change horses midstream.” He was never well liked within his coalition. The lower and middle class tax increases hurt him, and Perot and Clinton’s messages were only about economics and feeling pain, something 41 never could pull off.

        He had a 72% at some point in ’92. Iraq was an unparalleled victory for him, so much so Bill had to keep Powell around.

        1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

          George I was definitely the last of the old breed. WASP, banking, intelligence connections, Nazi connections, white shoe Wall Street law firm connections….had hands on experience with war. He was evil in the way Otto Skorzeny or Darth Vader were.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Not at all. Romney was backed by the same ilk as 41, but there problem is the GOP doesn’t have the numbers at the local country clubs and local machines they once had. They had to make a deal with the proto-baggers to get close enough to steal elections. W. was surrounded by cruel Republicans from 41 and before. They are still out there. Oh sure, Team Blue has become a refuge of sorts for some, but look no further than Homeland Security, Mike Chertoff, and the Patriot Act or all the good Republicans Democrats love so much. They are all nasty as Palin. They just went to cotillion.

        2. Garrett Pace

          Militarily it was very impressive, but I think it galled for Saddam to still be around, like he got away with something because Bush I was such a wimp. It sure galled Bush 42.

  3. vlade

    One thing I believe is also worth pointing out is how little of real control our “leaders” have.
    In the days of yore, you had to be a state or at least a very rich company (think East India Company, VOC etc.) to do something with true impact.
    With the increased weaponry sophistication (and I’m not even bringing in the fragility of our society resulting from dependence on the technology), you can get a band of a few people who no-one can really control and they have the ability to cause massive damage.

    Say, up till now, the various groups didn’t think they could threaten commercial airliners, because mostly what they had was MANPADs. Now they were shown that a BUK can do it. Syria got at least 8 of them from Russia, are we sure all of them are still in Syrian army hands as opposed to ISIS? If you look at Flight Radar24, you’ll notice that most airlines now avoid Syria and Iraq (and of course eastern Ukraine), and likely with a good reason. But Turkey’s border is quite porous, so while it’s not easy, I think it would not be impossible to get one of those into Turkey, with some very unpleasant implications (especially since Turkey is in NATO).

    1. Mark P.

      Vlade: ‘With the increased weaponry sophistication (and I’m not even bringing in the fragility of our society resulting from dependence on the technology), you can get a band of a few people who no-one can really control and they have the ability to cause massive damage.’

      Yes. Yes. Yes.

      The whole history of conflict for the last century-and-a-half is the story of technology placing ever-greater destructive power in the hands of ever-smaller groups and individuals.

      Fred Iklé, for instance, was the Pentagon strategist responsible in the 1980s for arming the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan with shoulder-carried Stinger missiles despite the CIA’S opposition. By the end of his life, Iklé was having nightmare about this stuff and the last book he published in 2006 was ANNIHILATION FROM WITHIN: THE ULTIMATE THREAT TO NATIONS —-

      All this cannot be stressed enough, especially given the standard laments here and elsewhere about popular powerlessness in the face of TPTB’s ability to suppress mass opposition in the US with police equipped with modern military tech, drones, etc.

      When the real strategists for the Deep State formulate long-term U.S. strategy — the Albert Wohlstetters, Fred Ikles, Andy Marshalls, and their modern-day equivalents (and these are the people that Banger’s boogie-men, the neocons, merely work for) — think about the future, this is maybe the main thing they think — and sometimes have nightmares — about.

      For example, to belabor the obvious: what might a Ted Kaczynski-type who was a molecular biologist with DIY synth-bio skills do in their garage in 2014?

  4. weinerdog43

    Considering how secretive our federal government has become, combined with the general ineptitude of our national news media, my initial reaction was to think ‘false flag’. Who cares what’s in the black box. It’s not going to provide evidence of who fired the missile (if indeed it was a missile).

    No, all these warlike actions appear to me to be powerful interests desperately trying to get the American people to ‘follow the flag’ and nevermind about your crappy job and our past foreign disasters. I hate being so cynical, but Vlade is right. We’re never going to get the truth on this. But if it’s great for TV ratings, who cares?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Pretty much. Not investigating, reforming, and prosecuting the MIC has created a permanent divide which will last a generation at least, but anyone who trusts any thing by the U.S. government is simply stupid at this point.

      Obama could produce all the evidence in the world Vladimir personally fired the missile, but Obama is a liar, his truest essence*, and can’t be trusted on any issue.

      *If Ted Kennedy hadn’t dropped a puppy at the White House door, there would be no BO despite his public promise.

    2. lambert strether

      Yep. “You provide the pictures and I’ll provide the war.” I mean, it’s super that Izvestia The Times had that Johnny-on-the-spot reporter, and many war correspondents are heroic and legit, but you put that together with beating the war drums on the Editorial page, and their role in getting us into Iraq — the paper’s still under the same ownership, after all — and you just gotta wonder.

      Maybe after that Syrian thing didn’t pan out, the elite concluded that we need a stronger casus belli, so they decided to invest in the next item in the portfolio, which would be the Ukraine (and apparently not ISIS, oddly, or not.) I suppose the next option — and I use the word deliberately — would be an assault of some sort on a major urban center, which would be why the “returning jihaadi” narrative is heating up. London, maybe, the Brits being such good friends. Nothing in the continental US until closer to the midterms; you don’t introduce new products in August”.

      What’s odd in all this is that elites in the United States still seem to believe they possess some sort of moral authority, that there’s good will still on the balance sheet. I don’t think that dog will hunt, and not just because the best we can do for a foreign policy team is a collection of second-rate hacks whose imperial robes are far too large for them.

      I hate to be cynical… (Note I’m not picturing global elites as Illuminati who make conference calls and plot mechanically, as if the world were a giant billiard table; in fact, I think there are so many intersecting plots it’s impossible to untangle them. Rather, I see the elites as leaving booby traps everywhere, and periodically checking back to see what they’ve caught. Not all the booby traps come to war, just as plenty of pre-cancerous cells never metastatize.)

      1. weinerdog43

        Yep. I think the elite were very surprised when the public resoundingly shrugged regarding Syria. Obama clearly didn’t have a Plan B and Putin profited. I think that despite all the sabre rattling, they still won’t be able to round up much enthusiasm for moar war. Wasting a couple trillion dollars not to mention human lives will do that. The only people paying any attention to the Cheney clan or Bill Kristol are those same nitwits at the NY Times and WA Post. (I should also point out that the teevee nitwits love ’em as well.) You’re right about the elites; they really seem to think have any sort of moral authority remaining. My fear is that they’ll up the ante with a booby trap that will kill Americans in the hope we’ll follow the flag anywhere.

        1. Lambert Strether

          I can see Obama wanting to mess about with Putin’s head out of sheer pique, because Putin got in the way of his Excellent Syrian Adventure; remember his comment about Putin slouching like a schoolboy? Yes, I think he’s that shallow.

          (Not to say that Putin’s the good guy; he isn’t. It’s just that so far, he’s played a smarter game, with fewer resources. I don’t want to imply that either of them are on my side; they aren’t.)

          1. weinerdog43

            Strangely enough, when I wander over into Right Blogistan every so often, those people luv them some Putin. I’m not sure if its the macho shirtless guy with a gun image, or if it is sheer hatred for anything Obama that makes them swoon so over Putin. Weird.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              There is another issue at play. Obviously there are the traditional isolationists and people who have learned about U.S. intervention the last few years.

              One aspect overlooked is much of the GOP base is conservative not Republican. They loved Dubya because he was a born again drunk and was a legit member of their tribe which was recruited by Nixon with the Southern Strategy. For them, the GOP elite are usually not their rightful leaders and there is currently no GOP leader with the power to speak to these people. In many ways, they are actually thinking on their own because there isn’t a Dubya in the GOP. Without 43, Republicans are tolerated the way 41, McCain, and Romney were as foils to Democrats, blood traitors, but they aren’t their leaders. This is what gave Perot strength against 41. Newt and his cronies in ’94 took over the party recruitment in the 80’s. They were outsiders who spoke to the “base” for a time.

              They won’t make great decisions because they are still too conservative, but without a genuine leader, they make decisions on their own. It’s why so many of those sites fight between non-intervention in Syria and agree with McCain’s latest mumbling while still despising McCain. They don’t care about McCain because he isn’t one of them, and since McCain, Hillary, Obama etc. have problems with Putin, they probably will gravitate to Putin without Shrub’s input if they still love him.

          2. Jim Haygood

            ‘Remember [Obama’s] comment about Putin slouching like a schoolboy? Yes, I think he’s that shallow.’

            Or horny.

          3. Banger

            I think Obama May or may not be shallow but he is merely a kind of broker among contending constituencies within the Washington power-elite. Even where he to delineate some coherent policies the people “under” him would simply do as they please on the sly like they have always done since Alan Dulles and his cohort took over the National Security State–only now there are, in my view, more factions than back in the day.

        2. Synopticist

          i agree at the elite were very surprised (and disappointed) that they couldn’t whop up a war fever over Syria, or even make people sympathise with the rebels. The sheer voluume of propaganda and lies they shoved down our throats has been unprecedented since WW2 in my opinion, but it still didn’t work. The fact they’re the very sort of people we’ve been fighting since 9-11 seemed not to present too big an obstacle for the foreign policy elites, but it was for we normals.

          I also agree with Lambert’s point about Obama’s pique at Putin, but I think it goes further than Obama. The whole FP elite were outraged when Putin wouldn’t rolll over in Syria, even though he has been proven 100% correct about the nature of the rebels.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            It’s an element of projection. When the “friends of Syria” started meeting, they had 60 or so countries, and now it’s 5 or so. Every U.S. politico made a statement about how awful Assad was, and they were met by a collective yawn or rejection. Kerry made the point about Americans thinking we are a poor country. Also, they are still pissed about the lack of statues being dedicated to them in Libya.

            The narcissists can’t openly blame voters, so they have moved to Putin. The anti-Russian propaganda went into overdrive six months before the Olympics. Now, Putin may have been the one to actually stop NATO aggression in Syria, but the chemical weapons canard was meant to convince us Versailles is interested in defense.

  5. timotheus

    The testimony of the Sunni woman taken prisoner is chilling and provides a good insight into the Maliki regime’s character. It is also a reminder that there was zero effort by the U.S. occupiers to rein in the proliferating brigades of free-lance nazis that sprang up in the aftermath of the invasion. Then again, how could U.S. advisors or commanders even advocate for the rule of law when the Americans were running their own torture centers at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo? This, to me, is another reason why Obama’s refusal even to hold hearings and investigations about the crimes of the prior government (much less prosecute any of them) has led us to the directionless and principle-less floundering so perfectly embodied by John Kerry. While a measure of ruthless cynicism is unavoidable in international affairs, there is a long-term cost to having no goals except projection of imperial power and lucrative business deals for your buddies. Why shouldn’t everyone else behave the same way? Despite the mounting evidence, Americans generally continue to cling to faith in our leaders’ inherent virtue and accept that our side is comprised of the “good guys”–amazing that Kerry is using this actual phrase. No wonder the Ukrainian and Russian nationalists seem to be the only social forces capable of mobilizing vigorous support. We seem to be reverting to a pre-modern state of clan-based identity that historians describe from 1914. For that matter, it is not much different from the jingoistic spirit of Livy writing in the first century BCE.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘Americans generally continue to cling to faith in our leaders’ inherent virtue and accept that our side is comprised of the “good guys” …’

      The US Navy actually styles itself as a ‘force for global good.’ But the public isn’t buying it:

      Only 20 percent of Americans support the Navy’s message of, “America’s Navy: A Global Force for Good,” a new national poll reports.

      Seventy percent of the 1,000 respondents said the Navy’s responsibility was primarily to defend the nation, while 20 percent said it was to be a global force for good, according to the polling company’s data.


      Unfortunately, it’s not just a cringe-making tagline. Our deluded leaders really believe themselves to be a force for global good.

  6. David Lentini

    Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes—It’s Not Bug, It’s a Feature

    I think we have to look at what’s happening in the Middle East and Ukraine as the next—and logical—stage of the laissez faire capitalist monster we’ve created. The belief that “greed is good” has led inexorably to the most rapacious behavior by the most wealthy individuals and corporations. They now control our governments for their own uses. Those uses are largely directed toward increasing their weath and power, which has been transitioning from the destruction of social and governmental institutions within countries to destroying entire countries and societies. These are the new sacrifice zones, a term coined by Chris Hedges to describe the social, governmental, and economic destitution left by corporations after they have exhausted the resources and wealth of geographic regions and moved on.

    To increase their wealth and power at the global scale, the wealthy now foment wars and uprisings with impunity by using public and private monies to create, train, and equip various terrorist organizations who sign up to do their bidding. Using the press, they whip up stories to enrage and terrorize the public into supporting their “good guys” who are stopping the hated “bad guys”. Of course, who’s good or bad change from moment to moment. In the target locations, they use money and propaganda to recruit the fighters who, they plan, will install leaders (not necessarily governments) who will do the bidding of their sponsors.

    All of this behavior has ample historical precedent from ancient times, through the poltical collapse of Renaissance Italy (just read Machiavelli), and the expert use of these tactics by the Europeans, especially Britain, in colonizing so much of the globe. At the moment it’s hard to see when this will stop or who can stop it. We are heading toward the libertarian dystopia in which the large majority of humans becomes cannon fodder for the whims and greed of the few.

    1. Banger

      Great stuff. I usually like to say that Deep Politics is just the old world view of classical historians. Two of my favorites are Thucydides and Livy the former for foreign and military policy the latter for domestic policy. There is on major difference today though and it is something that has emerged in the past couple of decades and that is the emergence of a foreign policy of chaos–constructed to enrich certain warrior elites and their suppliers and not pursue “national” goals but, rather live as parasites of the state.

  7. Jim Haygood

    ‘The young among the politically disenfranchised Sunni population began to organize peaceful Arab Spring-style rallies against the government. These were met with brute force and more than a dozen demonstrators were killed by government security forces.’

    Sort of a hardball version of Feb. 2003, when 400,000 of us mobbed the streets of Manhattan to protest the impending phony war. We were herded into ‘protest pens,’ while Mayor Bloomberg thoughtfully put black-clad sharpshooters up on the building roofs to menace us.

    If this is ‘democracy,’ I have no freaking use for it.

  8. Steve H.

    “The problem with not living according to your stated ideals is that soon your potential allies catch on and work with you only so long as they see something in it for them. As time goes on, you become isolated from your real friends and eventually from yourself.”

    Chet Richards

  9. DJG

    So much in this article and in the comments to contemplate. First, though, the war in Iraq is a failure of the U.S. business/political elites and their ideas of privatization of war (as a reading of Naomi Klein will explain). The events in Iraq and in Ukraine have reminded me repeatedly of the ineptitude of the current administration. Can anyone explain why the EU would want to take in a basket case when it already has Romania and Hungary in semi-permanent meltdowns? The current finger-pointing over the destroyed Malaysian Airlines plane indicates that we are now up to our proverbial eyeballs in the European version of Iraq (another fabricated country built on resentments). Throw in the “pivot,” the Obama administration’s almost-malicious idea that we must confront China, and you have two things exposed:
    (1) Obama’s eleventy-dimensional chess is a cover for his thin record and judgment only a step or two up from Double-Ya (this must be his foreign-policy equivalent of The Grand Bargain). (2) Endless war is designed to control domestic politics (when outright repression of Occupy doesn’t suffice).

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The EU is a flawed structure. NATO and the fall of the USSR and other communist party regimes largely destroyed the need for the EU. It’s constitutional power is weak except to curtail the powers of nation-states and it serves the interests of local politicians who can blame the EU for their own failures.

      if you were a Euro politico, what’s the universal situation for Europe? On one hand economic growth is limited and the short term benefits of neoliberalism and pent up demand have passed. Two, the parties at the national level are smarter versions of the Democrats. Losers were elected during the promise of the post Soviet world and they recruited people like them, and because of the seeming prosperity in the West and the public decay of Russia, the left withered as we all could become rich playing stocks. Most importantly, there was a great deal of faux-intellectual chatter about the end of history and new world orders which pops up from time to time. I think there was an idea that the world’s peace was at hand except for a few pariah states who would fall just like the USSR and Apartheid with moderate liberal denouncements and sanctions. The EU was hailed as the 21st century wonder of the world. Everyone wanted to join even those crazy Brits played footsie with more than just the French. Young people were identifying as Europeans first and backwards nation-states second. Oh to be alive, Herbert Hoover in 1928 was super excited his promises would come true.

      It’s not working out. The EU itself lacks the power to run things. If you are a mainstream Euro politico, do you want to be the person who says the EU isn’t working? Hamilton and Madison were not nobody legislators when they pushed for major changes to the USA, and they did it when the Articles of Confederation were still working and there was still good will towards the existing political class. They were Washington’s surrogate sons and Revolutionary War veterans. What’s is Angie Merkel? To the tin foil hat brigade, she is Hitler’s artificially inseminated daughter. Other than that tripe, she is what? To the Europeans, what standing does Merkel, Hollande, Cameron, Berlusconi, the guy who founded Volvo, etc. have? These people haven’t walked on the moon or anything special.

      The final result is they are stuck doing what they did before and hope it works this time because Merkel cant withdraw Germany but she can no longer lead Europe through a change. They will keep digging, and the result the EU is an organization which largely exists now to beget itself because expansion is all they can do.

      1. Ed

        There are some historical errors in NTG’s comment, though they probably don’t impact his main arguments.

        The Articles of Confederation were definitely not working, because they didn’t provide a realistic way to fund an army and a navy. They were supposed to be funded by voluntary contributions by the states. These were never made, and the war effort nearly collapsed in 1780 because there was no way to pay for the Continental Army, despite the British having conceded independence and having withdrawn half their forces from the North American mainland before that point (in the event the French picked up the tab). The whole project of the Constitution and the debate over ratification can be viewed without much distortion about whether the US really needed a standing army and navy, and a permanent commend for the armed forces. There are some implications for the EU in that this and other examples indicate that confederations don’t really work if they are attempted beyond a small scale, you have to either go to a full fledged nation state, though it can have a federal structure, or back to a collection of smaller entities, though they can be aligned (despite its name, the Confederate States of America had much more in common with the federal United States of 1859 than the pre-1787 Confederation, though it didn’t really “work” either so this doesn’t invalidate my point).

        The other error is that in the 1920s Herbert Hoover opposed and tried to change the boom and bust policies then in effect.

        Politicians do seem to be getting less impressive each decade, which I think is a symptom of there jobs becoming pretty similar to those of actors and PR flacks.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          What errors? There was no war to expose the future problems except in hypothetical terms. EU had obvious structural issues 10 years ago, but unlike the U.S. with Hamilton and Madison, they didn’t move to address them. The difference is there people of standing with abundant goodwill among the population. Before accusing me of inaccuracies, try reading the comment.

  10. Cynicism

    “We’ve got no such claim in helping depose a democratically-elected leader.”

    What exactly did the U.S. do to help depose Yanukovich? No, John McCain going over there and yukking it up for the cameras doesn’t count. Did the US provide troops? Weapons? Money?

    Yanukovich was deposed by protesters in Kiev because he reacted poorly to said protesters. By the time Sochi came about, ignoring the protesters was working pretty well and it looked like Maiden would meet the same fate as Occupy in Zucotti park. But then he stopped ignoring them…

    In any case, the US didn’t put in troops so suggesting the US has some responsibility for the future of Ukraine beyond its own monetary interests is laughable.

      1. Abe, NYC

        I’m surprised anyone still believes in the $5 billion tale. From here.

        Victoria Nuland claimed in a speech America had put 5 billion dollars into Ukraine. I used to write those kind of speeches for British ministers. First you take every bit of money given by USAID to anything over a very long period, remembering to add an estimate for money given to international projects including Ukraine. Don’t forget to add huge staff costs and overheads, then something vast for your share of money lent by the IMF and EBRD, then round it up well. I can write you a speech claiming that Britain has given five billion dollars to pretty well anywhere you claim to name.

    1. Abe, NYC

      Most likely the US had only a marginal role Ukraine’s coup. This is Russia’s backyard, Putin in any case had far more influence.

      But it still has not been conclusively proven who sent the snipers. That was certainly an event which changed the course of history. Suspicion automatically fell on Yanukovich but now it doesn’t appear very likely.

  11. Hal Johnson

    I’m looking for an informed discussion re: the use of unmanned vehicle systems (UVAs, I.e., drones) against the US.

    They are not comparatively expensive and it seems a matter of time until someone flies them against us, across the Atlantic Ocean.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Do you mean the fleet of balsa drones Iraq had? They need fuel, and to conserve fuel, they need to be high which can put them out of range of ground based operators, so they would need satellite infrastructure, electronic hardening, up to date real time atmospheric conditions, they would need a payload or they would be useless. Gradually, they would have to reach a certain size, and the drones would be picked up the Atlantic Command. Then they would need countermeasures to interceptors, and obviously, they would need bases of a fair size because these drones still have to be aerodynamic.

      It seems like ballistic missiles or traditional planes would still make more sense.

    2. Mark P.

      It’s what we’re going to do to ourselves with drones.

      Start here w. Robert Carlson’s analysis–

      Are These The Drones We’re Looking For?

      Part I – Drones for Destruction, Construction, and Distribution

      Part 2 – Pirate Hunting in the Clouds

      Part 3 – Photos, Bullets, and Smuggling

      Part 4 –
      The Coming War Overhead

  12. John

    I’ve been in the Middle East neighborhood for many years and can say chaos is always the state of affairs. No country is immune from outside/inside forces that want to do others harm. Iraq was a problem state long before the US was on the scene. Sadaam ran a very ruthless regime for decades, mustard gased Kurds, caused humanitarian exodus into Turkey, Syria, Jordan, attacked Iran, no fly-zones, invaded Kuwait, tortured its enemies, kept minorities and Shia under constant threat. When the US invaded in 2003, unbeknownst to the Americans, Iraq experienced a large scale ethnic cleansing by the hands of the Shia. It was pay back time. The Americans should not have gone in. They, indeed, made matters much worse. Iraq and Americans will pay for this for decades.

    As for Ukraine, Putin, MH17, etc…. My friends here in Europe need to take a look in the mirror and reasses our mercantilist mindset. Our softpower approach to dealing with threats, while the US handles the hardpower side of the equation emboldened the pro-Russian position. Deliberately short changing our defense budgets has had consequences.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Yeah, Hussein was a problem especially when we armed him to the hilt all through the 1980’s.

    2. Lyle

      Iraq from its design was a state very much like Yugoslavia. It took a strong man to keep the ethnic rivalires down. In Yugoslavia it took Tito, when he died the country began to fall apart. In Iraq it took a leader like Saddam to keep the piece by having everyone fear him worse then the other religious groups. I thought long ago it was time to break it into 3 pieces (Kurdistan having essentially done this).

    3. Banger

      You seem to be bringing up the canard that the region was always chaotic and the people had been killing each other for millennia. This is simply false. Chaos in the region resulted from the rotting of the Ottomans but achieved its more substantial level with British machinations and brutality between the two wars and then picked up by the U.S. during the Cold War where U.S. policy was to oppose socialists and Nasserites by both aiding Islamists and fanning tribal hatreds in much the same way the Brits did previously in the region and pioneered in India centuries ago. I can say without blushing that the chief cause of chaos has been caused by the U.S. and it’s Saudi allies with a minor supporting role of the Israelis and Turks.

      1. Lyle

        Iraq has always been a battle ground. Recall that Iraq was were Persia and the Roman empire fought wars with Rome taking and loosing the area. The Eastern Empire was more or less in continious war with Persia back then. Or going back further the nomads would every so often conquer the settled areas and the like. Consider the mongols killed the Caliphate in Baghdad.(Abbasid). Indeed after Alexander the Greats death the area was a battle field also. Then the arabs also had civil wars and rebellions let alone the Sunni vs Shia thing which goes back to almost the time of Mohammed.

  13. Lord Koos

    There is some history of the American CIA using chaos as a strategy, although not usually on the scale of Iraq. If they can sponsor intrercine warfare in the middle east, a lot of arms dealers and manufacturers can make a lot of money.

  14. Working Class Nero

    The common thread in all these foreign policy challenges is the protection and nurturing of Israel. Along with this come the problems of Jewish power, and the limitations of the settler colonial model applied in Israel. But to understand the world people have to stop listening to the pretty lies policy makers and the media tell and instead look at the world through some pretty harsh Machiavellian-tinted glasses.

    Throughout their post-Roman history the Jews have been a mobile people with no fixed abode. This is important for a self-proclaimed “Chosen People” who, the Ashkenazi’s at least, tend to outperform their local hosts — because resentments tend to build up over time. With the founding of Israel they are now — at least partially — a fixed people, but with the traditional resentments growing in their neighbors. And given that by definition there is a very finite number of Jews, they are not going to be able to take over whole continents following the mass settler colonial model like the Anglo Saxons/Europeans in Australia or North America. So Israel has a limited growth and power potential and as a result a limited choice on how to approach their increasingly hostile neighbors. The two choices are to make their neighbors client states and those who refuse must be convinced to fight each other so as to not have the time or energy to be attacking Israel.

    So forget all the purple finger democracy bullshit in Iraq, the goal is to reignite the Iran / Iraq war until either country has enough and screams Uncle Sam, and agrees to a client state / ally relationship to Israel like Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Remember a healthy and robust Iraq is a threat to Israel; as is obviously Iran. And sure the WASP remnants of the elite get sweet oil contracts as well. So the Iraq adventure is going perfectly; as long as they are not attacking Israel it really doesn’t matter how much human misery the locals have to suffer through. That is straight-up orthodox Neoconservative doctrine.

    The second problem is one of Jewish power. Given the inherent weaknesses of Israel, Jews need a strong base of power elsewhere to nourish the motherland. Without going into too much detail, since there are powerful taboos against doing so, currently Jews have an extraordinary power base in the US. But will it last forever?

    No. Of course Jews would be fools to put all of their future eggs into the rickety American basket – especially if we take into account the rapid decline of America and the increasingly large patches of third world living standards in the US. Jews must plan for the day America crumbles into dust. They must find new potential hosts from which to obtain and project wealth and power. And that is not something that can be done in a day – fifty years is a better time line.

    This question is not new and the options were not many. Given old Europe’s history the chances were pretty limited of Jews getting much more a foothold there. Besides, Europe is on the same road to ruin as the US is on. And for example China was out of the question due to their being even more ethnocentrically nationalist than the Jews. But luckily there were other choices. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the perfect new host candidate for Jewish power appeared: Russia. There is a long history of Jews living in Russia and with the fall of Communism plenty of Russian nearly Jews were moving to Israel. And so a gang of Jewish Harvard economists (Larry Summers, Jeffrey Sachs, Andrei Shleifer, Stanely Fischer, and Jonathan Hay) wasted no time in “liberalizing” Russia and lo and behold six of the seven oligarchs that resulted were Russian Jews thanks to state assets being sold to them for pennies on the ruble. But seriously, there was no ethnocentric favoritism shown (!). The token gentile oligarch was a nice gesture; but from these six Jew-ligarchs the seeds of future alternative Jewish power base were planted. Here was a perfect Jewish hedge against the eventual collapse of American power.

    But lo and behold the evil Vladimir Putin (aka Putler) came along and crushed the tender Jewish oligarchic green shoot and completely reversed the oligarch line-up; sending five of Jew-ligarchs to the Gulags in London or the South of France and keeping one token alongside his many new Gentil-ligarchs. And because of this vicious destruction of the secondary Jewish power base, Putin has been public enemy #1 to ethnocentric Neocons in the US ever since – although they can’t really come right out and say it for obvious reasons.

    And so the goal in Ukraine is certainly not to destroy it like Iraq. Jewish Oligarchs are coming back to the Ukraine (according to the NYT), ironically thanks to the heroic efforts of fascist Right Sector, kind of like how the ISIS is useful for restarting the Iran/Iraq conflict. Ukraine will be nourished and made a forward base for a campaign to attempt to make Russia submit to US power (full spectrum dominance) and to allow the return of the lost Jewish oligarchs who were so rudely run out of Russia by Putin.

    Also by eventually dominating Russia, the Iranian resistance to US/Israeli hegemony will wither on the vine.

    But it’s all about the timing. How fast will all these things happen? The US decline? Russia finally submitting to rule by Jewish oligarchs? Is Iran getting sick of fighting the power and finally becoming a client state / ally of Israel? Or will things break the other way? Israel is relatively small. If things get out of control it would not take that much effort to make those lands uninhabitable. The last time settler colonialism was tried there, by the Crusaders, their Kingdom of Jerusalem didn’t last for 200 years. Is the US already in over-stretch mode? Will they, to paraphrase Napoleon, choke on their Ukrainian adventure and Russia will come out on top?

    1. RP 3

      It really says a lot about the mind set of the people behind this website when they allow such a sick, delusional, paranoid, anti-Semetic, Elders of Zion style comment to be posted and to remain up. Evidently, there is no shame, no introspection, just pile on the party line bullshit without a care.

      1. Jackrabbit

        You might help your case if you describe a) why it is sick, b) why it is delusional, c) why it is paranoid, and d) why it is anti-Semetic rather than simply labeling it as such.

        1. RP 3

          Duh! If you can’t figure it out for yourself by simpling reading it, then you have some serious problems. Do you totally agree with everything written there? If so, it kind or proves my point.

          1. Jackrabbit

            I am giving you some advice. If you can’t think freely or argue coherently then this is not the place for you. Ergo, NotTimothyGeitner’s tongue-in-cheek response to your comment (above).

            Asking if I “totally agree with everything written there” is a big red flag to everyone here. Its the kind of thing that will make everyone wonder if you are sick, delusional, or paranoid. Why do I have to TOTALLY agree or disagree?

            Knee-jerk responses and litmus tests will not get you far here.

      2. Working Class Nero

        Yes, you might want to show my comment to your Hasbara line manager for analysis. You seem a little wet behind the ears; a more seasoned vet might realize I was being kind of nice to Israel. By the way if he likes it I may be available for a little weekend work…

        But if you still have objections,by all means please spell them out. Facts incorrect? What you claim only five out of seven Russian oligarchs were Jewish? Here’s a link from the notoriously anti-Semitic rag The Guardian:


        And in a country where anti-Semitism is still rife and openly expressed, nationalist rabble-rousers have made much of the fact that of the seven oligarchs who controlled 50% of Russia’s economy during the 1990s, six were Jewish: Berezovsky, Vladimir Guzinsky, Alexander Smolensky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mikhail Friedman and Valery Malkin. That fact is incontestable – but it is the result not of some grand conspiracy, but of the way the Soviet Union restricted Jews’ ability to assimilate and rise up in society.

        Or on the new Ukrainian Jewish oligarchs: From that other anti-Semtitic rag, the NYT:


        Check out this title: Business Titans Too Rich to Bribe Seek to Ease Fears in East Ukraine Oh yes, another successful revolution:

        Some key excerpts:

        “This is a signal to society,” Mr. Kolomoysky said. “If oligarchs are in power, feel at ease and view their future as being in Ukraine, then ordinary people will feel even more that they are not under threat.” He conceded, however, that average people “might not respect oligarchs or like them.”

        But after being bombarded with Russian claims that fascists had seized power, he said, people in the east were heartened to see a move into government by multimillionaires with no interest in extremist turmoil or a neo-Nazi revival, “particularly when they are of Jewish origin.”

        Mr. Kolomoysky, a Russian-speaking citizen of both Israel and Ukraine, lived until recently in Switzerland, where his wife and son still live. Mr. Kolomoysky and his deputy, Mr. Korban, are both Jewish.

        Mr. Filatov describes himself as “100 percent Russian without a drop of Ukrainian blood.” He, too, fled to Israel in late January.


        “We need to change not only people but the whole corrupt system,” said Viktor Oryol, a leader of the local branch of a nationalist group known as Right Sector, which has clashed with the authorities in Kiev over what it sees as the slow pace of change. Mr. Oryol acknowledged that Mr. Kolomoysky had used his own money to help the military but suggested that he had done so only to ensure that an energy company he partly owns won a contract to supply the armed forces with fuel.

        Mr. Kolomoysky denied this and said the fuel contract was far from a juicy business deal: It represents a steep discount to market prices and allows the military to take delivery of the fuel without any payment upfront.

      3. Banger

        Well there it goes again the name calling. It is a fact that there were Jewish oligarchs in Russia who did, indeed, play the system. And yes, Jews are often well-organized–are you suggesting they should not be? Certain Jews do adhere to tribal politics and, in the U.S. many definitely put Israel first and these involve people I’ve known and liked–just as many do not fit into that category just like every NJ Italian is not connected to the mob.

        So really enter the discussion with something solid instead of critiquing this site for not enforcing political correctness or maybe DKOS might be the place for you–it’s full of hall monitors and Gauleiters who like nothing better than banning those who color outside the lines.

  15. The Dork of Cork

    Found something very strange on the SEAI (which is a Irish neo liberal energy outfit)
    It forecasts a massive rise in Irish agricultural energy inputs.
    This can only be acheived via the destruction of the Irish farm and the introduction of massive indoor American ranch style production
    (Irish farming remains chiefly a outdoor grass grazing system)
    Y2011 Irish energy farm inputs : 251 ktoe
    Y2020 Irish farm emergy inputs : 2,001Ktoe

    This is off the friggin scale.

    All other areas of the irish economy is forecast to contract or remain static in its energy consumption.
    I am not sure this is related but the irish minister for agriculture was recently seen coming out of a Bildeberger conference with that Sutherland prick.
    Is this their new scheme for cathastrophic overproduction ???????


  16. Carolinian

    A curious feature of American history is how often our wars are started by Presidents who never fought in one. Woodrow Wilson would be one example or George Bush and Dick Cheney. Moving to Britain, Tony Blair was reportedly excited by Iraq because at last he would be “blooded.”

    The most egregious modern example might be Lyndon Johnson whose WW2 “combat” was confined to flying once as an observer on a Pacific theater bombing mission. While one can certainly argue that Kennedy–veteran–would also have escalated in Vietnam it’s likely that he would have been more cautious (and some say wouldn’t have done so at all).

    And of course our current drone-master in chief never fought.

    I believe it is Chris Hedges who, whatever you may think of him, has said that the people who love war are the people who know nothing of war. If you look at the record that seems true (not always….Bush senior was a veteran).

    Bottom line: time to bring back the Chicken Hawk “meme”? Perhaps shame will accomplish something.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      People who love war are incapable of shame. Didn’t the formerly celebrated blogger Digby ban comments when her little lackey Spoonfed was being trashed in the comments for his shameless cheering for “smart wars” and general hypocrisy?

      The nasty little cretin was trashed, but he was clearly incapable of shame. I have no idea if he has recanted. I refuse to read Digby after she stood by that chicken shot and his blood last.

      I’m reminded of arguments about drafting the children of the rich as a means to stopping wars. Their children are commodities. One has to remove the profit motive. The rich will March their kids to war for glory and honor; although it was fictional, the Godfather provides a great reminder that these people will parade their children for their ambition. The old man was still a drug peddler and purveyor of violence. Until, a war profiteer’s tax is passed and Congress is taxed first, the war mongers will dispatch their kids. Oh sure, an empty chair at Christmas might get to them, but they’ll subject t heir kids to crap about honor and polishing the family’s turds.

      1. Lord Koos

        There is language invoking strong penalties for war profiteering in the event of the US official declaration of war. This is probably why we haven’t had an an actual declared war since 1941.

  17. Jackrabbit

    Its difficult to understand Iraq without reading Sy Hersh’s The Redirection (and also The Red Line and the Rat Line). It all seems so ‘confusing’ and ‘murky’ otherwise. Yet how is it that what Hersh wrote of in 2007(!) was so prescient?

    To me, anyone that writes of the sorrows/horrors of Iraq today is NOT CREDIBLE unless they address what Hersh wrote in ‘The Redirection’. Too many want to depict what is happening as either a) hangover from US occupation of Iraq, b) spillover from the Syrian conflict, or c) both. Few seem to entertain the import of Hersh’s implicit indictment: that sectarian conflict and ‘chaos’ is intentionally stoked to counter Iran-Syria-Hezbollah.

    As for US antagonism toward Russia, it seems more straightforward. They become an impediment to the neolibcon New World Order by supporting Iran’s nuclear plans, blocking bombing of Syria, forging better relations with China (who has also drawn close to Iran), working with others to create alternate global financial systems, etc. They were _supposed_ to be defeated, and US-Israel-KSA was _supposed_ to have a free hand in the ME (and the world?).

    This leads me to ask: What has been the biggest foreign policy blunder?

    > Not working with a defeated Russia in a constructive way

    > The Iraq War

    > Supporting extremists that wage proxy wars

    > Losing the respect and admiration of the world via the hypocrisy of promoting democracy and human rights while supporting repressive regimes and engaging in rendition, pervasive spying, indefinite detention, war on whistle-blowers, etc.

    It seems that most Americans would say the Iraq War, yet all of these reflect a foreign policy that is driven by expedience and a haughty exceptional! attitude. The neolibcon monoculture that is driving US foreign policy lacks vision and a moral foundation. They have turned the “Shining City on a Hill” into a theme park. Because . . . markets!? They can’t see that their New World Order is toxic. Just as with global warming, US policymakers chose to fight the inconvenient secondary effects of bad policy (terr0rism ~ extreme weather) rather than address the cause (immoral FP ~ burning fossile fuels).

    H O P

    1. Banger

      Well put!

      I would only add that current de facto if not de jure foreign policy is to create chaos everywhere to keep the National Security State in business in perpetuity.

  18. VietnamVet

    We keep thinking that we the people still have some play in the game. Nope. There is a reason war is spreading like a contagion across the world. Since the turn of the century the world has been totally controlled by Western Oligarchs; the 0.01%.

    How do they make a profit? Looting, dealing in arms and scams.

    What tribe do they belong to? Multi-national, Jew and Sunni Oil Sheik.

    Who has benefited from Washington DC 21st century foreign policy? Israel, Neo-Nazis, ISIS, Wall Street and Arms Manufacturers.

    All that people of the United States and Europe have gotten is Austerity.

  19. Abe, NYC

    I remember asking myself at the time of the invasion, why on Earth is Israel supporting this? The neocons’ motivation was clear, but this is Israel’s backyard, there’s no way they didn’t realize the implications of the looming war on the stability of the region. There are only two explanations I could come up with:

    1. They understood the situation perfectly well but didn’t want to embarrass their neocon friends, or perhaps had an important quid pro quo.

    2. They welcomed destabilization of the region and its implications for Palestine as they believed it would provide them with endless pretexts for disengagement and land grab. Which of course it did.

    To me either option seems plausible, and even now I don’t know which one it was.

  20. Communal

    Since US dollar is pegged to OPEC Oil, America should solve Global Poverty. Otherwise it’s NOT a win-win proposition for US.
    Google “Triffin Dilemma”.

    1. Ben Johannson

      The dollar is not pegged to OPEC oil. “Pegged” has a very specific meaning and you do no one favors by using it improperly. If the dollar were pegged to oil then why does oil price fluctuate on a daily basis? That reality destroys any benefit gained from pegging, so you’re saying what; the U.S. is just stupid?

  21. ogee

    So far so good.
    It seems the profitability of major industrial complexes,the sweeping control /discretion that governments are taking from their governed,and the endless pretexts for speculation and profiteering on the trading floors real and dark, are all “what is good for business……”.
    Everything , is useful as a distraction for the people to hold no one accountable.
    This game plan has worked for so long, why would the puppet-masters change course now?
    In 1934, “the merchants of death” was a very popular book detailing how the largest arms manufacturers in England(Vickers) and in france(Schneider) were in cahoots using subsidiaries in czechoslavakia,austria/hungaryn were in violation of the Versailles treaty by building weapons for the germans throughout the twenties and were going strong, making money…. and were part of the force of destabilization.
    While people who read “nation states” are owners would think, why would they arm their enemies…. but really we are talking about “owners”, who happen to reside in certain nation states, who make money when the world is at war. And really make money when the world “gears up” for war.
    wars are the basis of the worlds economy. It facilitates major transfers of wealth, wipes slates clean or racks up debts to be repaid for decades….People who talk about markets and ism’s, are just flash in the pans… wars are the real driver of the worlds economies..
    as in Charles hingam’s 1983 book ” the Nazi American money plot 1933-1949″,the business leaders who chose business as usual, were the shapers of the twentieth century. ford,gm,ITT,chase,national city bank,dupont,rockefeller’s standard oil, the morgan syndicate,among others, were profiteering before,during and after the war.The major german firms were connected to the American ones by subsidiary or directors.American firms supplied war material,for all sides, all through the war, and collected payments the whole time. The industrialists saw the need for a safe clearing house once war officially began, and created the bank of international settlements for this specific task. After the war, it took decades for the legal wrangling of who owned what patents, and facilities were ironed out…..
    To think a generation of people, the world over were fodder for multinational corporate profit…
    Today, we still have the same system at work…
    To think of the unbearable crap millions of people have to endure, so that multi-national plunder can go forward…SSDD

  22. peteybee

    OOPS! wrong url. try #2

    Going to post a link to this on my blog .

    Shameless plug:

    Check out my blog for links to coverage on the Ukraine situation you won’t find in the mainstream media. There is effectively a media blackout on the actual war situation. (you can skip the flight MH17 stuff since that is well covered).


  23. Pepsi Girl

    Remember when Petraeus was being talked about as a future presidential candidate? His legacy is the creation and arming of death squads, and subsequent ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods and cities, to allow the US to withdraw from an Iraq. It seems the US can’t fight an insurgency without death squads.

    The climate of sectarianism resulting from those actions, puffed up , stirred, and funded from abroad is why Iraq is fucked.

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