2:00PM Water Cooler 12/12/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Torture Report

No weasel wording here: “I was an interrogator at Abu Ghraib. I tortured” [New York Times].

Weasel wording: “[V]eterans of the Latin American counterinsurgency wars were key players in the questionable post-9/11 interrogation practices” [Newsweek]. That is, torture.

A tour de force of weasel wording: The opposite of “ordinary interrogation,” “harsh interrogation,” “the measures,” the opposite of “conventional questioning,” “[harsh tactics],” and “severe interrogation techniques.” That’s the, er, reporting. CIA torturer Brennan goes the extra mile and invents an acronym: EITs (“Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”). And then there’s this, paragraph five: “[W]hile [Brennan] said some of the tactics were harsh, he refrained from calling them torture.” As does the Washington Post! [Washington Post]. And we have many additional bonus points: The ticking bomb scenario (“the ‘right’ response at a time when the agency believed al-Qaeda was intent on preparing another wave of terrorism”); and a classic “mistakes were made” non-apology apology (“acknowledged that the agency made mistakes”). Somebody should take this up with Jeff Bezos, owner: If Obama can say “we tortured some folks,” why can’t Pravda on the Potomac?

Weasel wording in a minor key: “With comparatively little commentary, lots of ongoing shows — such as ‘Homeland,’ ‘The Blacklist’ and ‘Chicago P.D.’ — continue to lean heavily on violent coercion [Catherine Rampell, Washington Post]. Oh, another euphemism! Somebody should ask WaPo’s Ombudsman “Reader Representative” if the Post’s Style Guide actually prohibits the use of the word “torture,” and, if so, whether it supplies a list of euphemisms.

More weasel wording: [Bloomberg]. For shame, Michael Bloomberg. Can we not limit obfuscatory verbiage to financial matters, and not torture?

One more document we should have: The Panetta Review [Salon]. Interesting, even with the long wind-up from a Democratic loyalist on what Udall didn’t have to do, given that the heavily redacted executive summary of the full report we most definitely are not seeing came out. Unmentioned is how Udall airbrushed Obama’s role as President and President-elect, speaking of his “tough, principled talk” in January 2009. However, in November 2008, Obama had appointed pro-torture Bush holdover John Brennam to his transition team on intelligence policy. Which turns out to have said exactly what it seemed to say: No accountability, exactly like Obama’s July 2008 vote to grant retroactive immunity to the telcos for Bush’s program of warrantless surveillance.


Dozens of Congressional staffers walk out in Brown/Garner protest [McClatchy].

Suits filed against seven St. Louis County municipalities, alleging they charge illegal fees in their municipal courts [St Louis Post-Dispatch]. One hand grasps, the other manipulates. This is the grasping hand.

St Louis Post-Dispatch turns off comments for editorials, columns and letters in the opinion section [St Louis Post-Dispatch].

University of Pennsylvania President participates in die-in, outrages campus cops [Inquirer, Paul Tioxin].

Lewiston principal reverses course, allows Ferguson poster to go up [Sun Herald]. Note the conflict was on #alllivesmatter vs. #blacklivesmatter. (Would you crash a funeral shouting “I too have suffered!”?)


“In a big win for House Republicans and President Barack Obama, the House passed a $1 trillion-plus funding bill Thursday night” [Politico]. ‘Nuff said?

Headline: “GOP, Obama stop liberal revolt, push through budget to narrowly avert shutdown” [McClatchy]. “Revolt” on Dodd-Frank and campaign finance (though not, apparently, gutting pensions, which affects working people directly).

Steve Israel: “I do not share the White House’s view” as “liberals” “revolt” against White House sponsorship of budget deal [Politico]. Israel also makes Taegan Goddard’s “Quote of the Day” [Political Wire]. I’m tempted to say “When you’ve lost Steve Israel…” except whatever the election-throwing, Blue Dog-lovin’ Israel says is a lead pipe cinch to be kayfabe. I mean, now that the Democrats are out of power, it’s easy for them to play the rotating hero collectively. So if there is in fact a serious Warren-led insurgency, the clever minds involved will need to rule that scenario out very, very decisively.

Explainer on Warren v. Weiss: Very narrowly focused on Wiess’s role doing tax inversion at Lazard [WaPo]. The real issue is how come Wall Street dudes like Weiss think Treasury owes them a job and a $21 million reach-around just because.

More of the usual suspects come out in favor of Weiss [Business Insider]. Warren’s press secretary responds:

Senator Warren has been pointedly questioning the Wall Street-centric culture that has existed at Treasury and understands that various insiders find that threatening.

Indeed. Maybe somebody should ask Weiss what he would do if, in the course of his duties, he encountered criminal behavior by bankers, given that he has little regulatory experience. Would he even recognize it?

In today’s Senate, if no more Democrats come out in opposition to Weiss, that will allow his nomination to pass with 50 votes and a tiebreaker from Vice President Biden [The Hill]. But “Warren’s campaign is turning [Weiss] from the White House’s pick to the first nominee of the new Republican Senate” [Bloomberg].

Hmm. Is the Weiss fight a proxy for the TPP fight? [HuffPo]. Triangulation:

Obama, meanwhile, has signaled his willingness to defy his Democratic base and partner with Republicans in the coming month on international trade and approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Hong Kong
Explainer on the short- and long-term effects of the Hong Kong Occupations [Quartz].

Jimmy Lai quits as publisher of Apple Daily, pro-Occupy Hong Kong paper, having been arrested [Marketing].

The 420

How Representative Andy Harris ruined legalizing recreational marijuana for DC, even though 70% of voters are for it [attn:].

Justice won’t try to prevent the tribes from growing marijuana on their land [Los Angeles Times].

Class Warfare

“Once you have been poor, you always fear it” [Guardian].

News of the Wired

  • “Chan culture” and gamergate [A Man In Black].
  • If society were like a software program… [Nick Bradbury]. Except it isn’t. Unless you’ve included a ton of self-modifying code, which I understand is frowned upon.
  • “Wakie Social Alarm Clock” app allows you to sign up to be awakened by strangers, and volunteer to awaken them [Tech Crunch]. Next, reminders? The argument clinic? Clive: “What you guys think Monty Python is all about has my head spinning.” OK, I’ll bite. What do we Americans think Monty Python is “about”? I’m not sure I know.
  • A Message from Mars, first British science fiction film, restored with new soundtrack [io9].
  • London Heathrow air traffic control has computer failure, is now restored [CNN].
  • Handy chart shows the spread between GDP growth and the growth of “inclusive wealth,” which includes “human capital” and “natural capital” [Economist]. Problematic idea of capital, but interesting charts.
  • Apaches ask Senate not to approve House bill that allows a massive copper mine on sacred land [Indian Country].
  • Pro-Israel donors fund UCLA student government candidates against divestiture [Daily Bruin].
  • The “Ulyssess strategy” of “precommitment to potential self-punishment” [New Yorker]. Call it self-nudging. I wonder if this would work for squillionaires and looting, as opposed to dull normals preventing themselves from grabbing one too many cookies from the jar?
  • President Obama plans to sign into law a bill that would impose sanctions on Venezuelan government officials responsible for human rights violations or violence against protesters [New York Times]. Maybe the Venezuelans could call in DHS or STLPD for a consult? Maybe we could ship ’em over a few extra armored vehicles?
  • Self-promoters underestimate how boring they are [Science of Us].
  • Xmas cards from Salvador Dali [Open Culture].

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant:


Talk amongst yourselves!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Sam Adams

    Weasel words are fun, they flag where the MSM has their panties in a bunch trying to maintain a place at the table.

  2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I am not familiar with ‘Chan culture,’ but in ancient Peru, there existed a Chan Chan culture.

    Is one the square root of the other?

      1. ambrit

        As the storify (???) says #gamergate and Gamers are another very “interesting” subculture. I was surrounded with variations of this population when working at the Bigg Boxx Store. Everything from Zelda to Fantasy Football to one nice young woman exploring the western fringes of the Japanese Karaoke phenomenon. As much as the internet is blamed for the atomization of “common culture,” it has created a vast panoply of international sub cultures. Interesting times indeed.

      2. Jack

        While these tweets do make some interesting points, for a large number of people the entire gamergate nonsense really is about ‘ethics in games journalism’, a phrase which itself is now a meme. Which for me doesn’t actually make it any less stupid, it merely reveals how hopelessly naive a lot of these people were to begin with. What, an entertainment subcultures journalism is corrupt and runs in large part on bribery? I’m shocked, SHOCKED. Well, not that shocked…

        He is right though that there is a huge amount of privilege involved. Gaming is the equivalent of the boys fort with a ‘no girls allowed’ sign on the front for a lot of these people. Women can come along and play if they want, but they aren’t allowed to complain about anything they dislike, or they will elicit an avalanche of criticism and vitriol in response. And that avalanche in the minds of ‘gamers’ isn’t itself also a type of whining, it’s being ‘rational’.

        “Hey, isn’t it kind of weird that male video game characters get a wide variety of designs but women are usually T&A and wear stripperific outfits?”

        “Go away feminazi, you and your beta-male whiteknights ruin everything.”

        Is pretty much how all the ‘debates’ go. The whole thing is incredibly painful to watch (I can practically feel my braincells dying at times) and probably the single worst part is the various YouTube D-list celebrities who post video after video ‘debunking’ various aspects of gamergate. Some really toxic characters have bubbled to the surface in the long months of this stupid controversy, including an incredibly pretentious (literal) skinhead.

  3. Andrew Watts

    The US AUMF, the Islamic State, and the military weakness of client-states and fall of empires.

    A geopolitical struggle for power erupted across the Middle East during the post-WWII European decolonization and the Russo-American Cold War. This battle for supremacy was being waged primarily by the rising regional powers. Theoretically independent nation-states like Iraq were used as proxy battlegrounds in conflicts such as the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) by these powers to settle their various differences. Meanwhile the major powers of the Soviet Union and the United States struggled to maintain a semblance of regional stability and maintain a balance of power during the conflict. This war never fully subsided as the Sunni tribes, Baathist factions, and forces of the Islamic State are now pitted against the very same forces of Iran, Shia militias, and the Kurdish PKK/PUK. This array of forces is a relatively familiar sight to those knowledgeable about the region.

    The aftermath of the Iraq invasion of 2003 simply re-ignited this previous regional conflict with a distinct tone of sectarian difference thrown into the fray. From the beginning the consequences of re-opening these old wounds was never fully understood by the US government as a whole. Even now do they seem to only begin to grasp how much trouble the American empire is in.

    “Despite all we understood about the capabilities of ISIL and the Iraqi Security Forces, we have no intelligence tool that could have predicted the ISF’s sudden collapse in northern Iraq and the resultant ease with which ISIL forces captured territory,”DNI James Clapper in a memo to the US Intelligence Community

    They were incapable of predicting the fall of Mosul and other areas now outside of the control of the Iraqi government because they’re not thinking like an empire. What Director Clapper and the analysts of the US intelligence community don’t realize is how common the military collapse of imperial client-states is.

    “When your independence is guaranteed by a foreign overlord, you have no incentive to build an even moderately efficient army – and said overlord may not be so happy at your doing it, as it makes regime change [A.Watts: “Like, I don’t know, during the political overthrow of Nouri al-Maliki perhaps?”] more costly…

    Besides, when you can count on a powerful ally to intervene and save the day when things get rough, you tend to become complacent… and not to fight to hard. That’s why a few hundreds rag-tag rebels managed recently to conquer a great part of the Central African Republic, sweeping away a 4.500 strong national army, which most of the time did not even bother to fight. Only French, South-African and Angolan sabre-rattling saved President Bozizé’s regime and convinced its opponents that negotiating was a better idea than storming a capital held by somebody who could actually shoot back.” -Damien Perrotin, Client-States

    This is a common outcome repeated time and again throughout history. In the war against the Islamic State it happened twice when the Iraqi Army failed to demonstrate or organize much resistance in the battle for Mosul and with the Kurd’s embarrassing military performance that could have ended with the fall of Iraqi Kurdistan. The only thing that has saved Iraq so far has been the intervention of American and Iranian forces and even that seems to be failing in Anbar province. The city of Ramadi, the last bastion of government forces in Anbar, is barely holding on under the onslaught of the Islamic State.

    Our Iraqi client-state was also denied access to an adequate air force that would’ve allow them to project power outside their borders and among other operations like the bombing of IS strongholds. This has further kept them dependent and militarily weak in the face of the enemies of the Iraqi state.

    If we lose Anbar, that means we will lose Iraq,” Ahmed al-Dulaimi, Anbar’s governor

    As I’ve said before, the Islamic State poses a serious threat to Baghdad. If the capital was to fall the country of Iraq would cease to exist overnight. Just as the American client-state of South Vietnam disappeared with the fall of Saigon. Additionally, this would free the forces of the Islamic State to focus their efforts on Iraq’s Sunni neighbors; Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Who, by the way, are also client-states of the American empire even if they seem to be politically non-compliant ones like the Saudis.

    The question is, will the military forces of Jordan or Saudi Arabia fare any better than Iraq if they were attacked? If history is any guide I sincerely doubt it. While both countries could easily ward off an internal insurrection a combined external assault, whether convention or unconventional, with an internal uprising by a disaffected portion of the population it could threaten to topple both governments. If the government of Saudi Arabia actually fell to the Islamic State, as unlikely as that may seem, the lynchpin of American imperial power; OPEC and the international petrodollar, would likely disintegrate with it. This has enormous economic consequences for the region and world as a whole.

    “In an effort to prop up the value of the dollar, Richard Nixon negotiated a deal with Saudi Arabia that in exchange for arms and protection they would denominate all future oil sales in U.S. dollars.[2] Subsequently, the other OPEC countries agreed to similar deals thus ensuring a global demand for U.S. dollars and allowing the U.S. to export some of its inflation” -Wikipedia entry on the Petrodollar

    This war has the potential expand much further than the Obama Administration, Congress, or the US intelligence community currently imagines. The AUMF probably only has the IS forces located in Libya and the Sinai in mind as targets of American military force. The unexpected expansion of conflict across a vast region is a feature and not a bug of wars fought throughout history. This is due to the fact that war…

    War never changes.

    1. grizziz

      Thanks for the well thought out analysis. One has to imagine what a post Sykes-Picot would look like to see what could burn out the war. Would there be a lot of self-determined tribal states or a centralizing force like IS to provide a unification for disparate Sunni tribes. Would Kurds carve out portions of Iraq, Iran and Turkey for a state even if they have separate economic systems? Would Turkey and Iran just grow larger and eliminate the kingdoms. I could guess, but I only sense that the USA is too tired(outside the State Dept.) to carry forward and its moral authority in light of torture and the erosion of due process makes our propaganda taste like swill.

      1. Andrew Watts

        I don’t think either Turkey or Iran has the power to completely assert a regional hegemony over the area. The Turks look like they’re going to be fighting the Kurdish PKK again soon. Iran has it’s own internal and external problems caused in no small part by the United States.

        In terms of the Sunni tribes, IS has taken a lesson out of Saddam’s book and provided arms and money to the tribal councils in an effort to destabilize the leadership and maintain it’s control over them. This is why I do not believe there will be another Sunni Awakening. I cannot prove it but I suspect younger members of Anbar’s Sunni tribes are fighting with IS in an effort to climb the ladder so to speak.

        I suspect that in the absence of an outside enemy the Kurds will once again descend into civil war. The PKK and PUK are already jockeying for position in Kirkuk and that’s in the face of Islamic State encroachments in the region. I don’t have a clue about the larger picture, nor do I make any claims to being right for that matter, I mostly just wanted to make a joke about Fallout.

    2. James

      I must admit, I don’t know what to make of any of this anymore. Although I have no doubt whatsoever as to DC’s utter incompetence in foreign policy, I’m also damn sure that there are private/hidden agendas being played out to capitalize on the appearance of American incompetence. I think controlled chaos as a smokescreen for the all real skullduggery hidden underneath is the loosely stated overarching goal. Yeah, that’s mostly a hunch, but I think it’s mostly supported by the reported “facts” on the ground, as well as we are able to discern them at least.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I’ve been toying with something along the lines of “Terraforming Planet Earth for finance capital.”

        Like any very large project, there can be teams in conflict but still working toward the same goal.

        1. James

          Something along those lines. I must admit, I’m humbled by the scope of the grand plans that have apparently been at work for generations while humble rubes like me and mine grasped for a clue.

          In that same vein, I can’t help but at least entertain the idea that perhaps these psychotic assholes really are better than the rest of us, and that this is how it feels to come out on the losing end of the evolutionary game.

          1. psychohistorian

            If those at the top are “better than the rest of us” then why idiocies like Fukushima which will kill their children indiscriminately with the rest of us?

            Humanity has the virus of Gawdumb. Some humans think themselves gods because they can manipulate others and some elements of the environment we inhabit. The delusion of Gawdumb can lead to extinction of our species and we may be blessed/cursed with a front row seat as it happens in real time. The cure for Gawdumb is elimination of private property accumulation and wealth accumulation, IMO. It is never too late to try and change the course of humanity in spite of the perceived odds of success.

      2. Andrew Watts


        Ultimately, chaos and instability does not serve the purpose of empire. That’s why both the Soviet Union and the United States backed Iraq when Iran and it’s allies started to gain the upper hand in the Iran-Iraq war. As for domestic plots, they are neither as grandiose or as far reaching as you suspect. In my mind it boils down to keeping the war profiteering going.

        However, if I was Israel I’d want the Sunni-Shia war to keep going as long as possible. As their disastrous war against Hezbollah proved they are neither ready or capable of projecting power beyond their borders. In light of this weakness instability is very much in their interests.

    3. Jackrabbit

      There are some that see ISIS as ‘run’ by, supported (to some degree), or greatly influenced by, KSA and the Gulf States which are allied to US, which in turn is allied to Israel. Despite the much-trumpeted beheadings of a few Westerners, ISIS is predominantly concerned with attacking Iran-backed Iraq and Syria. This is rather convenient (suspiciously so) for those States that see Iran (especially) and Syria as threats.

      Critics also disparage the US bombing campaign as little more than an effective recruiting tool (it hasn’t curtailed ISIS operations much).

      At any rate, at this time, it is UNCLEAR AT BEST, if ISIS would ever go after Sunni states.


      Further, we are told that ISIS threatens every state in the region and beyond. If that is true, how can ISIS possibly survive such opposition? Wouldn’t it be an easy matter for these countries to cut off their trade (especially arms); stop people from traveling from other countries to join ISIS; and track down/seize their funds? And any country that wouldn’t help to eliminate this dire threat would face the ire of the US and other countries in the region.

      H O P

      1. Andrew Watts

        I can always count on you to force me to think deeply about these matters. :D

        “There are some that see ISIS as ‘run’ by, supported (to some degree), or greatly influenced by, KSA and the Gulf States which are allied to US, which in turn is allied to Israel.”

        The Saudis have been arresting IS sympathizers at a rate of about a dozen a week. They’re being infiltrated and actively subverted. You seem to think that just because a nation-state provides support that means that the group receiving it is under the direct control of the patron state. The American OSS supported Ho Chi Minh during the second World War did that make him a puppet of the American empire and the whole Vietnam War a sham?

        There is a better historical example than that recent one. When the Romans left Britain to it’s own defenses, the native Britons hired Germanic mercenaries, usually Saxons, to help wage the petty wars they fought between their native tribes and kingdoms. Eventually the Saxons carved out their own kingdoms and that’s at least half the reason why we commonly refer to the “race” that originates from that geographic area as “Anglo-Saxons”.

        “Critics also disparage the US bombing campaign as little more than an effective recruiting tool”

        The bombing campaign is meant in part to break up the cohesion of the combined convention and guerrilla assault launched by IS forces. This is only going to be effective if there is a ground force capable of opposing IS forces and taking advantage of these tactical opportunities. In the battle of Kobani, the Kurdish PKK was able to lose major parts of the city, hold other small pockets, and launch a counter-assault to re-capture lost ground.

        “Further, we are told that ISIS threatens every state in the region and beyond. If that is true, how can ISIS possibly survive such opposition?”

        It’s opposition is neither united nor capable of projecting power beyond their borders. This was central to my argument about the military impotence of client-states. If the United States had invaded Iraq with at least 300,000 troops and maintained the Iraqi Baathist military as a whole it’s likely the emergence of the Islamic State wouldn’t have happened.

        “At any rate, at this time, it is UNCLEAR AT BEST, if ISIS would ever go after Sunni states. “

        They or rather their affiliated forces have already launched bombings in Egypt and established training camps in Libya. I already mentioned the infiltrators they’ve sent into Saudi Arabia and the only country I haven’t seen much IS activity in is Jordan. Outside a bunch of people waving IS flags in…. uhh I forgot what city in Jordan that took place in.

        1. Jackrabbit

          Thanks for your reply, though I don’t think it adequately addresses the concerns.

          1) How much credence should we give to KSA arrests when KSA, is rumored to have been involved with establishing ISIS? AFAICT, a few ISIS arrests and a few beheadings of western hostages pale in comparison to the attacks on Shia’s.

          2) That Nations that say they are threatened by ISIS are “neither united nor capable of projecting power beyond their borders” makes no sense. If ISIS is the threat they say it is, there is no reason not to be united. And since every nation surrounding ISIS (except maybe Turkey) is threatened, only they have to do is:

          a) control their own borders;
          b) act against those in their population that might support ISIS;
          c) apply diplomatic pressure on Turkey, if necessary.

          But as you point out, that is not happening.


          The incredible amount of propaganda, covert actions, and behind the scenes maneuvering means that one has to think about events carefully, and challenge every assumption.

          1. Jackrabbit

            Everytime you scratch the surface, the ISIS story stinks:

            ! ISIS overcomes a US-trained force defending Mosul that was 15 times larger that the attacking force.

            !! The US/Obama claimed to be surprised at the quick rise of ISIS despite the enormous intel resources trained on the ME by US/KSA/Israel/etc. These states almost certainly knew who funded and supported ISIS (said to be wealthy Gulf businesspeople). Why wasn’t funding cut off before ISIS became a ‘problem’? Because they wanted Maliki out? But ISIS’s success now makes it even more difficult to unite the nation AND Maliki’s successor doesn’t seem much better (in terms of ties to Shia groups and Iran whi9ch are now needed more than ever to combat ISIS).

            !!! ISIS took Mosul and gained tons of military equipment and hundreds of millions of dollars shortly before the 6-month deadline to reach a deal with Iran (On July 21) would end The Iran talks were clearly going south and would be extended to Nov 24 (and then extended again after another failure to reach agreement).

            !!!! ISIS beheading videos of Westerners have been criticized for as stage-managed, bloodless performances.

            !!!!! The Obama Administration still wants to supply money and weapons to ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels despite the fact that it is know that many of these fighters and their weapons wind up with ISIS.

            One might argue that US/KSA/Israel just looks the other way. That they don’t take the threat as seriously as they might because ISIS is ‘useful’ or mostly aligns with their interests. For example, the US has tried to use the possibility of joint efforts against ISIS as an incentive to reach an agreement in the nuclear talks.

            1. Andrew Watts

              Okay, now you’re just heading into crazy territory.

              “! ISIS overcomes a US-trained force defending Mosul that was 15 times larger that the attacking force.”

              Most of the Iraqi Army only existed on paper. In reality the Iraqis probably had a 2-1 advantage that was a mixture of Sunni, Shia, and Kurds. That combination probably didn’t work so well together. On top of that the leaders of the military force stationed in Mosul were either targeted for assassination by IS or fled at the first sight of violence.

              Read Patrick Cockburn.

              !! The US/Obama claimed to be surprised at the quick rise of ISIS despite the enormous intel resources trained on the ME by US/KSA/Israel/etc.

              Because they’ve proven themselves to be so smart, capable, and infallible. Are you f—ing kidding me? When was this exactly? When they were torturing people?

              !!! ISIS took Mosul and gained tons of military equipment and hundreds of millions of dollars shortly before the 6-month deadline to reach a deal with Iran (On July 21)


              !!!! ISIS beheading videos of Westerners have been criticized for as stage-managed, bloodless performances.

              Conspiracy. Do you find it odd that a lot of those American aid workers and journalists that IS captured usually have a military background? Guess not.

              !!!!! The Obama Administration still wants to supply money and weapons to ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels despite the fact that it is know that many of these fighters and their weapons wind up with ISIS.

              The US military hasn’t even began the vetting process… training is far off in the future. I assume you haven’t heard?

              1. Jackrabbit

                From Wikipedia:

                On 6 June, ISIL attacked Mosul from the northwest and quickly entered the western part of the city. The ISIL forces numbered approximately 1,500, while there were at least 15 times more Iraqi forces.

            2. Andrew Watts

              According to “b” at Moon of Alabama…

              “As Congress struggles to pass a bill to fund the government for the rest of the year, one curious and significant item was left on the cutting room floor: a request from the Barack Obama administration for $300 million to expand the secret CIA program to arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels.”

              So even the funding for “moderate” rebels has dried up.

          2. Andrew Watts

            This response almost qualifies as part 2… aww well!

            “How much credence should we give to KSA arrests when KSA, is rumored to have been involved with establishing ISIS?”

            You’re still assuming that if a state gives support to a group that they’re able to maintain control over it’s actions as time goes by. You have not provided a shred of evidence that the Islamic State is even dependent on outside aid or their current resources are somehow insufficient to meet their needs.

            Those rumors, and let’s be honest they’re probably true, do not account for the fact that the current version of the Islamic State we’re now facing is made up of other Arab Sunnis; like the ex-Iraqi Baathists. The current leadership and tactical command that has been revealed is like a rolex of former Saddam-era officials. It is an entirely different iteration than say ‘Al Qaeda in Iraq’ was. These people have a history of screwing with the Jordanians and the Saudis. Both Jordan/KSA were afraid of Saddam but they were more afraid of Iran at the time.

            I find the recent declaration of war by Islamic State on the Saudi state to be credible. The fact that this provoked the Kingdom to gather a coalition of regional states and attempt to make nice with Iran seems to support this supposition. Beyond that IS propaganda/views the Saudi royal family as illegitimate rulers/stewards of the Muslim Holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Eventually their Caliphate would want to take possession of these cities as it would solidify the religious basis of their political legitimacy.

            I’m not really qualified to talk about Islam, seeing as reading the Koran once really doesn’t make me an expert. However I can say with full confidence that this is an important detail of Islam. Unlike Jesus the Prophet was both a religious and military leader. Neither is more important than the other by the way.

            “That Nations that say they are threatened by ISIS are “neither united nor capable of projecting power beyond their borders” makes no sense.”

            It is if you consider the surrounding countries as military client-states of the American empire than their unity is very much dependent on the cohesive policies originating from the imperial capital. Remember when officials of the Obama administration fessed up that they didn’t have a plan of dealing with the IS?

            A well thought out plan is not unfolding… and I can prove that assertion. The civilians of the Obama administration are making sure they maintain absolute control, right down to the littlest details, over the US military so far during this war. This is a source of constant tension and frustration for the military that repeatedly happened during the Vietnam war too. Which was also a giant clusterf— too,

            *Note: This is not a criticism of the Obama Administration. They have EVERY reason to approach this in a extremely cautious manner.*

            “If ISIS is the threat they say it is, there is no reason not to be united. And since every nation surrounding ISIS (except maybe Turkey) is threatened, only they have to do is:”

            First of all I don’t think that IS poses any serious existential threat to Iran, Turkey, and/or Israel yet. The reason IS is fighting Iranian forces is due to the fact Iran wants to preserve some cohesive semblance of the Iraqi state. Probably to use their Shia puppets in Baghdad to avoid the sanctions that have been imposed by the West. The other reason is that the Iranians know that after the IS consolidates control over the Sunni areas of the region a massive showdown between Sunni and Shi’ite is inevitable… and they also want American help. If Baghdad falls I anticipate the Iranians to overtly intervene and set-up a new government in Basra.

            The unity you see simply does not exist. In Syria, the Saudis and their Gulf allies want to overthrow Assad for their planned energy pipelines. The Turks want to constrain the growth and independence of the Syrian/Iraqi Kurdish enclave allied with the PKK. While the US wants to hurt Russia by denying it access to naval bases in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel has it’s own goals, both internally with Palestine, and externally with securing a more defensible position and it’s dreams of a Greater Israel.

            These interests do not naturally align in harmony. Sisi probably doesn’t even care about the Saudi royal family outside the money they provide him. Pan-Arabism was never been what it’s been advertised as. When the United Arab Republic was in existence the Egyptians always treated the Syrians like shit.

            “The incredible amount of propaganda, covert actions, and behind the scenes maneuvering means that one has to think about events carefully, and challenge every assumption.”

            Where we differ is that I believe the unfolding events are the result of an empire in decline moving swiftly into the collapse phase. I’m assuming you’re beginning to see multiple agendas conflicting at once, yes?

            Anyway, events will soon prove me right or wrong in any case. The United States doesn’t have the troops it needs in place to maintain control over the territory it aspires to hold. Any offensive towards Mosul that makes any headway will soon degenerate into an insurgency that will make the previous one it faced look relatively tame… and IS knows we’re coming too.

            1. Jackrabbit

              Thanks for the reply. Very interesting.

              First a quick note: I don’t have it all figured out. But FSA failed and required bombing from USA – which was blocked by Russia. Then 10 months later – as talks with Iran are failing – ISIS takes Mosul (see my reply above – the US-trained defenders outnumbered the attackers by at least 15 times).

              You basically say that Washington doesn’t have plan and that Washington’s leadership is necessary for countries in the region to work together against ISIS. My response would be: WTF? What’s the delay? My GUESS is that TPTB find ISIS to be ‘useful’. Period. Your discussion of ISIS threats/actions against KSA only adds to the WTF-ness.

              1. Andrew Watts

                Sorry, I kinda lost my shit over the whole torture thing. I don’t have any faith in Washington due to this and other factors.

                If we assume they underestimated IS as their previous public statements support than they weren’t prepared to confront it. They were probably preparing a plan to overthrow Assad. This would’ve benefited the Islamic State’s expansion and when they finally realized the true extent of the IS threat their plans changed.

                …ISIS takes Mosul (see my reply above – the US-trained defenders outnumbered the attackers by at least 15 times).

                (I don’t really have an answer for the first part other than it’s a bit of coincidental timing and nothing more.)

                Your numbers are way off base for a variety of reasons. Nobody knows how many regular soldiers IS has. Allegedly they rolled into Mosul with 1200-2400 troops but nobody is counting the Baathist factions and Sunni tribes who rose up internally and fought beside them.

                Combined with the fact at least a third or maybe as much as a half of the stated Iraqi Army stationed in Mosul was a corrupt sham and the fact that only a little under half of the real force was deployed puts things in perspective. When the ranking military officers of the garrison fled it was all over.

                The lack of internal cohesion or leadership eroded morale and willpower of any and every unit. These factors contribute to the general level of military incompetence and their total disintegration in northern Iraq makes complete sense to me.

                “WTF? What’s the delay? My GUESS is that TPTB find ISIS to be ‘useful’. Period. Your discussion of ISIS threats/actions against KSA only adds to the WTF-ness.”

                I’m guessing that the divergence of interests between countries of any potential coalition is keeping them from working together. The American empire is going to go down in history as the empire which allowed it’s client states to bribe, bully, and harass it. It’s no different than what Wall Street does in Washington.

                The other reason why Washington doesn’t have a plan is because nobody wants to fight the Iraq War Part III, especially with a sufficient amount of ground troops that it’s going to take to win. Which is kinda funny when you think about it. The Iraq War Part II never really ended and they didn’t want to invade with enough ground troops in the beginning either.

                1. Jackrabbit

                  Thanks. Much to think about. Would love to hear from Fiver (and others), who is also very knowledgeable and very skeptical about the goings-on.

                  I believe that understanding ISIS is important because I am doubtful that an agreement will be reached with Iran. Iran already has support from Russia and China and it seems likely that Iran will join SCO (next year?). On its face, ISIS seemed to me to make a good (abeit ruthless) ‘Plan B’ that could be successful against Syria and then destabilize Iran. I have assumed that Shia-Shiite antagonisms are stronger than Inter-Shia rivalries.

                2. Jackrabbit

                  Well, I may as well just add that Fiver has written that he believes that US, Israel, and KSA are all on the same page wrt ME.

                  The apparent confusion over what is the bigger threat/nuisance (Syria, Syria/Iran, or ISIS) and the consequent inability to create a plan may be the best indicator that ISIS is not as controlled/influenced by others as some speculate.

                  I still think they could crush ISIS if they really wanted to.

                  1. Andrew Watts


                    “I still think they could crush ISIS if they really wanted to.”

                    I’m not so sure about that. We’re kinda in the position the Western Roman empire was… and the Caliph is Attila the Hun. Even if we manage to beat him and his forces we still lose.

                    I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but Mosul was the birthplace of Iraqi Baathism. This fact has made it hostile territory since the 2003 invasion.

              2. different clue

                How many of those defenders even existed in physical reality? How many of them were merely “ghost soldiers” invented and put on military rosters so the officers commanding those formations could get salary-money for “X” soldiers and keep the money for the percent of that X which were “ghost soldiers”? Also, didn’t all the officers run away fast, demoralizing whatever physical soldiers actually existed in place there, so they ran away too? They could hardly be called “defenders”.

                Colonel Pat Lang’s Sic Semper Tyrannis blog has been writing about this as it has developed.

                1. Andrew Watts

                  @different clue

                  This is not a question of his personal honor or integrity, but I don’t trust Colonel Lang.

                  1) The US military isn’t capable of thinking like an empire. They actively reject this notion even though my definition of empire (not a ‘snarl’ word btw) is in line with Leopold Kohr’s in the Breakdown of Nations.

                  2) Whenever a retired or active duty member of the armed forces speaks out in public, whether through the media or the internet, they are doing so on behalf of various groups, factions, and other individuals in the military establishment.

                  I’m not going to elaborate upon this point as it would violate several people’s trust in me.

                  3) The events building up to the Iraqi military collapse in Northern Iraq was quite obvious. In his (Damian’s) piece on client states he was using Mali and the Central African Republic as an example of imperial collapse.

                  Nor does the US intelligence community or the US military appear to have learned anything from this experience. Instead they’d rather point the finger at President Obama and the civilians in his administration.

                  I will spell out why (and how) this has a corrosive on the internal unity of an empire thrown into it’s phase of collapse… that’s if I ever do a part 2. I’m not even sure I want to write it for a variety of personal reasons.

                  The short version that I’ve already covered in the past when I spoke of Toynbee and such is that the bad economic situation, mass protests over police brutality, the as-of-yet unrealized fallout from CIA torture, and the bickering between the civilian and military officials of our government is the beginning of events that will likely threaten the unity of our nation.

  4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    In Chado, at the end, after the guest has been served tea, we will have a conversation about the utensils used, some have poetic names. One of the famous red Raku chawans is called ‘Kimamore’ – it means the last persimmon clinging to life on a branch.

    The tenacity of life…the plant du jour reminds me of that.

    1. ambrit

      You’ve come up with a perfectly proper and usable word to describe the Chan World discussed earlier: CHAN-DO. The Way of Chan.

  5. timbers

    A few horrible facts about the just passed Obama-Boehner Budget:

    “Trustees would be enabled to cut pension benefits to current retirees, reversing a 40-year bond with workers who earned their retirement packages. Voters in the District of Columbia who approved legalized marijuana will see their initiative vaporized, with local government prohibited from taxing or regulating the drug’s sale. Trucking companies can make roads less safe by giving their employees 82-hour work weeks without sufficient rest breaks. Pell grants for college students will be cut, with the money diverted to private student loan contractors who have actively harmed borrowers. Government financiers of overseas projects will be prevented from stopping funding for coal-fired power plants. Blue Cross and Blue Shield will be allowed to count “quality improvement” measures toward their mandatory health spending under Obamacare’s “medical loss ratio” provision, a windfall saving them millions of dollars.

    I’m not done. The bill eliminates a bipartisan measure to end “backdoor” searches by the NSA of Americans’ private communications. It blocks the EPA from regulating certain water sources for farmers. It adds an exception to allow the U.S. to continue to fund Egypt’s military leadership. In a giveaway to potato growers, it reduces nutrition standards in school lunches and the Women, Infant and Children food aid program. It halts the listing of new endangered species. It stops the regulation of lead in hunting ammunition or fishing equipment. It limits contributions to the Green Climate Fund to compensate poor countries ravaged by climate change. I could go on. And even if the offending measures on derivatives and campaign finance were removed, all of that dreck would remain.”

    1. psychohistorian

      Thanks for the latest rape list. Where are the filibusters from those “progressives” in Congress? A tool to support the Tea Party but can’t be used for the rest of us? We don’t even get kabuki.

      More evidence we live in a country by and for corporations and their owners instead of the rest of us, mere people.

        1. steviefinn

          I don’t know why things like the above still shock me, after all it is just business or looting as usual. It reminds me of the time many years ago when I read a pile of books on various members of organised crime – which gave an in depth analysis of the methods of such characters as: Luciano, Lansky, Capone, Madden etc. Arnold Rothstein & probably Lansky would have been in their element & perfectly legal, as members of today’s banking casinos.

          Small time crooks in comparison – derivatives the greatest racket ever ?

  6. Jim Haygood

    ‘Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been the lead supporter over the years of Rio Tinto’s efforts to acquire the [Native American] land. McCain was instrumental in attaching the land swap bill into the NDAA at the last minute.’

    Attaching non-germane amendments to ‘must pass’ bills at 3 am, with text that no one but the [corporate] author has read, makes a mockery of democracy.

    Somebody should tell Hanoi John that’s communism.

    1. DJG

      John McCain is nothing if not self-serving, as well as being the addled step-daddy of Sarah Palin, for which we owe him thanks. He long ago gave up any moral authority he might have had from his stay in Hanoi. I contrast McCain with President Bachelet of Chile, President Roussef of Brazil, and President Mujica of Uruguay, all of whom were tortured and, somehow, kept their dignity intact. Is is characteristic of Americans to squander?

  7. Jess

    On the TPP and triangulation: Interesting that HuffPo uses triangulation in a their main headline about the budget bill. (Including a picture of Zero.)

    Also, would Dems filibuster either TPP fast-tracking or the bill itself? If so, would this lead GOPers to end the filibuster?

  8. Spirit of America

    The CIA torture report at least made it perfectly clear who runs this country. CIA puts out a 500 page report on their crimes against humanity without ever saying whodunit. They choreograph hammy amateur blowjob speeches from their putative boss Barack Obama, their oversight body, and the fourth estate. Everyone gets a couple of news cycles to go tsk tsk or OMFG or whatever, the Himmlers and Goerings and Mengeles at Langley pretend to give a shit, and your local CIA liaison at the state police barracks or the police station or the fusion center orders the cops some more tanks. Brennan gets another medal to play with in the vault. Cheney makes exaggerated jerk-off gestures and laughs until he starts to cough.

    1. psychohistorian

      Lets be clear that the CIA does not run the country/world but is a tool for those that do/attempt to.

      If the global plutocrats can have one of their (known to be bad occasionally) tools wash their dirty laundry in public and get away with it, do we understand the implications? It screams out that they can unleash more dirtying of the laundry by their other tools (FIRE sectors) and be sure of public complacency.

    1. kimsarah

      So Elizabeth Warren didn’t know what she was talking about, and Jamie Dimon and Barack Obama did us a favor:
      “The White House, in pleading with Democrats to support the bill, explained that it got something in return: It said that it averted other amendments that would have undercut Dodd-Frank, protected the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from Republican attacks, and won double digit increases in funds for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. “The president is pleased,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.”
      Re: Washington Post, followed up by The Hill:


      1. kimsarah

        Plus this little tidbit from Bloomberg News:
        “Next year, the banks’ wish list will be even broader. They will be targeting burdensome regulations on lenders deemed “too-big-to-fail” and the Volcker Rule, which bans Wall Street from making market bets with their own money, lobbyists said.”

        1. DJG

          Indeed. Did kimsarah take time to read the article? Dimon and Obama defended us from imaginary and unnamed amendments. Golly, gee, thanks.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I could use more. Do I have to threaten more images of plants in winter’s fatal crisper? I like rot, and I figure as long we’re sinking toward the equinox we might as well sink, dammit, but not all share this view…

      1. annie

        lambert, sorry i cant send photos via your format but if you will email me i can send plenty. nice ones.

  9. Propertius

    No accountability, exactly like Obama’s July 2008 vote to grant retroactive immunity to the telcos for Bush’s program of warrantless surveillance.

    A vote with which Udall concurred, back when he was my Congressman – which has cost him at least one vote in every election since.

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