Open Thread: Debacle for US Iraq Policy as Protesters Seize Parliament in Green Zone

If you think “debacle” is harsh, here’s the Times front page (1:50AM, EST):


Perhaps the talking points have not been issued?

Iraq parliament stormed Deutsche Welle:

* * *

Readers, normally I’d put what follows in Links under Syraqistan, but since this is a major event, you might want a chance to talk about it. Please add thoughts and links in comments as the story develops.

Protests in Baghdad throw administration’s Iraq plan into doubt WaPo. Lot of “whistling past the graveyard” quotes in here.

April 28: Vice President Joe Biden Visits Iraq Amid Political Turmoil Wall Street Journal. “”In the last few days, things have trended in a more stabilizing direction,’ one official said. ‘So it’s actually a good time to be here.'”

April 29: Biden presses Iraq to not let political chaos upend gains AP

Hundreds of demonstrators stormed the heavily-secured Green Zone in Baghdad Reuters. “Hundreds” seems low. And although they broke down the concrete barriers in the Green Zone, the security services offered no resistance. So….

The initial breach was mostly peaceful, but around sunset security forces fired teargas and bullets into the air in an effort to stop more protesters from entering. Around a dozen people were wounded, police sources said.

A United Nations spokesman and Western diplomats based inside the Green Zone said their compounds were locked down. A U.S. embassy spokesman denied reports of evacuation.

Iraqi security personnel and Sadr’s militiamen formed a joint force to control protesters’ movement, a source in Sadr’s office told Reuters. Most protesters had evacuated parliament and some were preparing for a sit-in in its courtyard, he added.

An army special forces unit with armored vehicles was dispatched to protect sensitive sites, two security officials said, but no curfew had been imposed.

All entrances of Baghdad were shut “as a precautionary measure to maintain the capital’s security,” another security official said.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has warned that the months-long political crisis prompted by his efforts to overhaul the cabinet could hamper the war against Islamic State, which controls vast swathes of northern and western Iraq.

Protesters storm parliament in Iraq’s Green Zone Al-Masdar News

Iraq Shia protesters camp out after storming Green Zone BBC. Tactically, this is a Capitol occupation, along the lines of Madison, Wisconsin. So “camp out” suggests that the “protesters” are in this for the long haul.

Sadr followers dig in inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, political crisis deepens Reuters

Baghdad in State of Emergency After Supporters of al Sadr Storm Green Zone NBC and Baghdad Chaos: Protesters Topple Green Zone Walls, Storm Parliament (photo gallery) NBC

Who Will Rule Mosul? Foreign Policy. Just to show where our delusional foreign policy establishment was focusing….

* * *

Of course, it will be interesting to see how “Who lost Iraq?” plays out in election 2016. After eight years, Obama (and Clinton) own Iraq policy.

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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. EndOfTheWorld

    Trump, if nominated, will talk about Iraq. The way he sent Jeb Bush home crying to his mother was mainly by pointing out that brother W was a failure in everything. It’s incomprehensible to me that Hill would hug W for all the cameras to see at Reagan’s funeral. She really likes him, I guess.

    1. jgordon

      The domestic politics aspect will be huge–and not in a good way for the entrenched establishment–which might explain it’s being downplayed by the MSM. While I’m sure that everyone is hoping that this will be conveniently ignored, there is at least one presumptive nominee running right now who loves lambasting the dumb people in the national security and who also has a rabidly fanatical following in the tens of millions. That is of course Hillary Clinton.

        1. johnnygl

          I’m always amazed at how quickly that gets deployed to explain away failure by pundits and corp media.

          Victim-blaming and racism rolled into one!

          But remember, only Trump is racist, rest of the political class is just fine!

        2. SufferinSuccotash

          Or the related meme that goes “those people over there have been killing each other for centuries, etc. etc.”, the subtexts being that nothing that happens in the Middle East is ever the fault of the US and that “those people” are all a bunch of savages anyway, so who cares.
          It’s the Tom and Daisy Buchanan approach to foreign policy.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I wish it weren’t so but Teflon Hilary will be unlikely to receive any generously-deserved scorn for this. Nor will her former boss our wonderful Teflon Basketballer-In-Chief. Nor the Bush Crime Family, their cheerleaders, Colin Powell, or their enablers, the American voting public.
        We’re in a Post-Consequences Age. Lost the soccer game? That’s OK you get a nice trophy anyway. Collapsed the global financial system? Here, have a big bonus and Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card. Ran off with your trillions to Panama and the Caymans? Don’t worry, hon, your money will be completely safe from any of those mean-o mean-o taxing authorities.
        The Guy With The Orange Hair And The Foul Mouth is like the little boy watching the naked emperor parade around…he’s simple enough to state what is utterly obvious for everyone to see. But seeing it, recognizing it for the truth of what it actually and really and unarguably is, is enough to make you squirm. It’s just no fun at all.
        “But we could have brought freedom and democracy to the world” to which Jake replies “Yes…isn’t it pretty to think so”.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Now, if there were an “imperial collapse” narrative in play, this debacle would provide the perfect news hook to deploy and amplify it — and hang it round Clinton’s neck; I’m sure there’s plenty of video out there. Of course, that would hand it round Obama’s neck too, so that’s not permissible, and after all, the White House Correspondents Dinner is a bigger story….

          1. pretzelattack

            im just gobsmacked the nyt isn’t all over this, after their sterling iraq war coverage. they’re the liberal new york times, after all.
            i eagerly await krugman’s next blisteringly honest assessment of our failures in iraq. oh wait, he was anti war then with a republican administration in power.

          2. Brindle

            “Comedian in Chief”, “Nerd Prom”—a couple of the the headlines about the WHCD. I have not actually clicked on any of these, as the fawning, self-congratulatory drivel is not what what goes well with my morning coffee. Yucking it up past the graveyard.

        2. Pavel

          “Teflon Basketballer-In-Chief”??? I won’t have that!

          Surely it is the Teflon Golfer-In-Chief?

          I hope his golf game is better than his basketball — there is that Youtube clip of Obama trying a few times to sink a basketball against some 12 year old kids and failing:

          Barack Obama’s basketball fail (1:08)

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Excellent point, after all, basketball is for…um…melanoderms

        3. Whine Country

          “We have met the enemy and he is us” – Pogo the possum, Earth Day, April 22, 1970

    2. cwaltz

      Of course she likes him, it’s not like Chelsea is going to have to be stationed overseas in harm’s way.

      Our elite sociopaths have no problem with supporting each other when it comes to putting other people’s kids in harms way.

  2. Skippy

    Might I assume that pallets of money to special interests does not not equate to a social fix in all circumstances…

    Disheveled Marsupial…. not that back at home its the same thingy….

      1. Skippy


        How to reply… ummm… maybe the market is not all knowing and seeing because it only fixates on numbers and not sociology… hence numbers become the only tool… by which too influence outcomes…

        Disheveled Marsupial… I miss Phillip and the PK philosophy to reconcile the neoclassical bent…

          1. Skippy

            Sorry if you thought it was implied Lambert…. amends…

            Disheveled Marsupial… cough defective…

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              IIRC, that’s what drove the vaunted “Sunni Awakening.” And I do remember those palettes of cash from the Fed. It works until it doesn’t!

              1. JTMcPhee

                I like that homonym: “palettes of cash.” Isn’t that one of the paint colors that gives “Guernica” its universals?

        1. skippy


          There are so many ways we could cut that, without the verbiage, its maddening that some profess – if’en – they were on top of the process, by numerical expression its validated.

          Dishevel Marsupial… how does one discount that without seemingly being against any accumulation of wealth… for the sake of it…

          PS. your early pod casts… same lady… thank you….

  3. Pavel

    Maybe we’ll get that iconic photo of the helicopters landing on the US embassy in Iraq yet…

    And I urge everyone to check out today’s “Doonesbury” comic in which Trudeau points out how wrong the initial predictions were:

    Doonesbury, 1 May 2016

    Kudos to Lambert for pointing out the shameless NYT downplaying of this news.

      1. Pavel

        thanks johnnygl :)

        If I could post images I have that Saigon one at hand. The Dutch photographer (Hubert van Es) wrote that the “embassy” was really not the US Embassy. (It turns out, ironically & fittingly, to have been the local CIA headquarters).

        The helipad was not, as UPI’s Tokyo bureau wrongly attributed and many today ‘know’, on the roof of the US embassy. It was on an apartment complex which housed the CIA. The helicopters belonged to Air America, a CIA cover organization. Van Es was in United Press International’s own offices across town when he spotted the evacuation and took photos with his long-distance lens; he was one of the last Western journalists to stay behind in Saigon; As he filed his pictures, more and more people gathered to wait for more helicopters to show up. None did. On an informative New York Times editorial, he remembered that fateful day:

        After shooting about 10 frames, I went back to the darkroom to process the film and get a print ready for the regular 5 p.m. transmission to Tokyo from Saigon’s telegraph office. In those days, pictures were transmitted via radio signals, which at the receiving end were translated back into an image. A 5-inch-by-7-inch black-and-white print with a short caption took 12 minutes to send.

        And this is where the confusion began. For the caption, I wrote very clearly that the helicopter was taking evacuees off the roof of a downtown Saigon building. Apparently, editors didn’t read captions carefully in those days, and they just took it for granted that it was the embassy roof, since that was the main evacuation site. This mistake has been carried on in the form of incorrect captions for decades. My efforts to correct the misunderstanding were futile, and eventually I gave up. Thus one of the best-known images of the Vietnam War shows something other than what almost everyone thinks it does.

        Iconic Photos: The Fall of Saigon

        And after all those decades the US is still making the same frigging mistakes.

          1. Steven

            Ditto!! (I almost hesitate to read NC articles anymore because it means I’ll have to read ALL the comments as well.)

            1. MtnLife

              On days where my time is limited (more than I like) I’ll often skip the links/skim the article and go right to the comments. You can get the gist of the links/article right alongside insightful commentary and analysis. I then ensure I read anything that has sparked a heavy discussion. Of course, my favorite way to consume NC is lazily and completely with a nice cup of coffee but that’s usually a luxury.

  4. PlutoniumKun

    Juan Cole has what seems the most detailed explanation of what is happening –

    And the always reliably good Patrick Cockburn writes about it in the Independent.

    It seems clear that the Iraqi government has been losing control of the country as a whole – the ongoing saga of the Qatari royal family members who were kidnapped and held for ransom shows large swathes of the south are in the hands of local tribes, and the government simply has no say in what happens.

    Iraq is rapidly becoming a failed state in the truest sense. The central government will become increasingly a small elite with control only over most of the oil and parts of Baghdad and some smaller cities. The rest will either fall to anarchy or become largely self governing, either formally (like in Kurdish areas), or informally.

    The only bright side for Iraq is that the occupiers seem to be led by al-sadr who seems a genuine reformist and moderate. He genuinely wants reform of the government system, not its destruction. The problem of course is that on past history the US Administration will do everything it can to stop this happening – it is still mired in the sort of thinking that sees Al Sadr as an enemy, not part of a solution.

    1. rusti

      Pardon the tangent, but this caught my attention:

      A sitting President, James A Garfield, was assassinated in 1881 over the spoils system (his assassin had supported the party but wasn’t rewarded as he thought he should have been).

      Wasn’t Garfield’s assassin, Charles J. Guiteau, insane? From the Wikipedia article:

      Guiteau’s interest turned to politics. He wrote a speech in support of Ulysses S. Grant called “Grant vs. Hancock”, which he revised to “Garfield vs. Hancock” after Garfield won the Republican nomination in the 1880 presidential campaign. Ultimately, he changed little more than the title. The speech was delivered at most twice (and copies were passed out to members of the Republican National Committee at their summer 1880 meeting in New York), but Guiteau believed himself to be largely responsible for Garfield’s victory.

      Is the modern equivalent the expectation of an ambassadorship after trolling comment sections for Hillary or having provided something outrageous for Trump to re-tweet?

      1. Yves Smith

        Also IIRC Garfield was the President who was killed by his doctors. The gunshot wound was not that deep, but they took the bullet out with out cleaning their hands or their implements, so he died of the resulting infection.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        Well, both are true – Guiteau was undoubtedly insane to some extent (although maybe nowadays he’d be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder), but he seems to have been enough of an insider to at least have been able to talk (and become a nuisance to) people at the very highest level. I’ve no doubt he wasn’t the only disgruntled supporter, but it was his derangement which made him shoot.

      3. lyman alpha blob

        Guiteau was a member of the Oneida free love colony and got kicked out because nobody liked him. According to Sarah Vowell’s excellent “Assassination Vacation” he was quite the whackadoo.

    2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      We leave it to Donald Friggin’ Trump to call it like it is. In a recent interview he gave the 2-minute history, the only one that mattered.
      “Iraq and Iran were kicking the living sh*t out of each other for a decade in the 1980’s. Millions dead, young kids marched out across minefields, medieval carnage. It was ugly and horrible but it was contained and relatively stable. So we go and eliminate one side of the battle, poof, they’re gone. What did you expect to happen? Of course it’s going to be as unstable as hell”.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        It really has come to a sad state when we have to rely on Donald Trump being the voice of reason.

        1. Harry

          It’s not so much the voice of reason, but the little boy who was too dumb not to mention that the emperor is naked.

    3. Andrew Watts

      The only bright side for Iraq is that the occupiers seem to be led by al-sadr who seems a genuine reformist and moderate. He genuinely wants reform of the government system, not its destruction. The problem of course is that on past history the US Administration will do everything it can to stop this happening – it is still mired in the sort of thinking that sees Al Sadr as an enemy, not part of a solution.

      Hah, al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army butchered thousands of civilians for being the wrong sect in the not-so-distant past. Do you think those actions constitute moderation? The anti-corruption movement is being co-opted by Sadr in an attempt to seize power. That’s probably why his goal isn’t to destroy the government.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Actually, Al-Sadr is on record as trying to purge the Mahdi army of the worst sectarian elements – he essentially quit and retired to Iran primarily because of his disgust at what happened – he had lost control of many elements of the army at the high point of the conflict within Baghdad. It is a matter of record that he has been a voice of moderation within the Shia camp (in relative terms) and had to be persuaded to return from Iran. Of course, nobody really knows what his long term plans are, and no doubt he is personally ambitious, but he has consistently refused to be drawn into the governments web of corruption, and he has kept relative peace within Sadr City.

        1. Andrew Watts

          Your version of events is so far from reality I don’t know where to begin to correct you. Al-Sadr’s sojourn in Iran for two years was enforced exile, more or less, after both the military and political situation turned against him. The commanders of the Mahdi Army could’ve easily been purged for incompetence after the Iraqi Army beat their troops in subsequent rounds of fighting. His re-invention as a Shia-Iraqi nationalist came much later.

          but he has consistently refused to be drawn into the governments web of corruption,

          …because he’s always been an enemy of the Dawa party. His political bloc has never dominated the Iraqi government.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            There are plenty of competing versions of what really happened with Al Sadr and the Mahdi Army – I have no claim to be an expert, but I’m inclined to believe Patrick Cockburn who is one of the most reliable of writers on Iraqi affairs – he has tended to view Al-Sadr much more sympathetically than others. Unlike the War Nerd (of whom I’m a big fan generally), Cockburn has actually spent a lot of time in Iraq.

            1. geoff

              Cockburn literally wrote the book on al-Sadr, “Muqtada al-Sadr and the Battle for the Future of Iraq” (Scribner 2008).

  5. Nick

    According to Patrick Cockburn, who seems to be widely regarded as the guru when it comes to Mideast analysis, “It is unlikely that the populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr wanted the invasion by his supporters because it will lead to a further weakening of the government rather than its reform”

    Yet as the NYT reports “In recent weeks, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. all rushed to Baghdad to show support for Mr. Abadi and try to refocus attention on the war against the Islamic State.”

    So the question is, why would the US (which is roundly despised by the Iraqi people) rush three of its top politicians to show support for its current government and try to shift the focus to ISIL? Surely they must have known that that would be incendiary?

    The Obama administration are either complete fools (by no means unlikely), or they saw this coming, but to what end?

    Normally, the speculation would be, “of course they wanted this to happen,” yet it runs completely counter to establishment interests. Perhaps it was just hubris.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Occam would say that the deepest, most ingrown, and most virulent strain of national, collective, institutional, and individual stupidity would do the trick nicely.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I think that the overwhelming evidence from the past 15 years or so is that really, the best answer is not ‘conspiracy’, but ‘cock-up’. The ineptness at every level, from POTUS (both of them) to grunt on the ground with intelligence services in between has been all too obvious.

      I don’t think there is any evidence whatever that the US military/intelligence/State Department has at any stage in the past 15 years had any real grasp of what it is dealing with in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East. You need only read what are regarded as ‘academic insiders’ to see the shallowness of their approach. It is not that they are all stupid, but that the institutions are designed so the stupid get to make the main decisions.

      1. James Levy

        I think blind and blithely arrogant works better in describing the people who make foreign policy rather than stupid. The facts must always be fixed around the policy. And the policy is always domination and control. Trump thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room and is going to hoodwink the bumpkins. Obama came into office believing the same thing. As soon as Trump is disabused of this and embarrassed on the global stage it will be back to neocon business as usual.

        1. jsn

          It’s a feedback problem: our wars too distant and enemies too weak, thus far, to register inside the bubble. Until there are real consequences in DC there will be no change in policy.

    3. Fiver

      I’m sorry, but unless he’s had a recent epiphany, Patrick Cockburn is a ‘guru’ only to those who cannot let go of the construct that US/Western policy is driven by more or less legitimate interests, and that most of the horror show we’ve witnessed this century is ‘us’ responding to things, as opposed to ‘us’ doing the driving. Cockburn completely missed that Libya and Syria were pre-planned US/NATO/Saudi/Qatari/Turkish/Israeli regime change operations under cover of a largely manufactured ‘Arab Spring’. He buys entirely into ISIS as an independent, organic entity, rather than a direct creature of US & regional allies’ efforts to overthrow Assad. He toes the main line on all of this stuff.

      Fact is the people who actually formulated US policy aimed to smash Iraq, not bring ‘democracy’ or ‘fight terror’ or find WMD. The balkanization of Iraq and Syria were long-term goals. The policy was: US wants control of oil, the Saudis want oil market primacy, and Israel wants the elimination or clear submission/weakness of any Arab/Muslim State now or ever capable of developing into a regional rival – Iran had been on that list until Obama opted for negotiations, while the Saudis were tolerated, as they were/are not remotely a match for Israel.

      Iraq is so badly broken because its permanent weakness or dissolution is intended. Ditto Syria. And Libya. Egypt has long been barely capable of maintaining itself. Turkey is in NATO. When Obama leaves, Iran is back on the list, and quite possibly the Saudis as well. You can almost see the flames coming out of the hawks’ nostrils as they contemplate the next phase of the ‘War on Terror’ – the deliberate subjugation or ruin of the enormous region extending from the northern half of Africa to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

      If there’s a God, Sanders’ quiet patience and sense of fair play will yet pay off.

      1. Nick

        I’m not sure what you’ve been reading, but in his book The rise of Islamic State he says that opposite of that, that the US and the West were responsible for creating the conditions for ISIS.

        He doesn’t strike me as having any delusions about what the US and West are up to in the Middle East – ie doing whatever we please.

        But feel free to send links to references.

  6. timbers

    All is normal in Hillaryworld & Obamaland. Don’t you people read any real news? Check out the headlines at Huffington.

      1. Pavel

        Since Arianna runs a company that profits from ripping off its employees (freelance and professional journalists), it makes sense for her to join Uber, which profits from ripping off its employees.

        Oops, sorry, that’s independent contractors. My bad.

          1. Pavel

            LOL, hadn’t heard that one.

            I guess their microprofits fit their label. I gather that after paying their own insurance, wear & tear on their car, petrol etc the Uber drivers don’t actually earn very much. Unlike Uber, with its $50 billion market value.

            As it happens I was in Paris the other day and needed a taxi, so called up my regular driver who had served me very well over a decade. It turns out I was lucky to find him; he had given up on Paris, partly or largely because of the Uber competition, and was now mainly working in his native Cambodia, which he says is booming. (But too hot– 40C+.) He was back in Paris just for a month or so.

            Uber appears to be destroying the European taxi industry. Of course people had complaints about cost and availability (as in many US cities — I remember trying futilely to get taxis on time in SF many years ago) but the new devil won’t be much better than the old devil. It just has a $50 billion market cap.

  7. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    And just where is America’s Muqtada Al Sadr? After all he summoned the disenfranchised masses who were fed up with one thing: rampant corruption.

    1. James Levy

      Our pie is very large here in America, and up until recently more people than not got a slice. Clinton and Trump (“make America great again”) are pushing a cargo cult promising a return to prosperity if you just vote for me. Clinton’s schtick is “opportunity” (that old Republican shibboleth) while Trump promises to “make great deals” to screw over foreigners while sticking it to immigrants (and you can bet your life the poor) here. No one, not even Sanders, is addressing the fact that growth is now the enemy (more people, more garbage, more fossil fuel consumption) and we’ve got to be managing contraction, not pining for the 50s (Trump supporters) or 90s (Clinton supporters).

      1. Paula

        Here’s a conspiracy theory for ya. Greenspan almost killed off the stock market blow-out that made everyone feel so prosperous in the 90’s with his warning of “irrational exuberance”. Andrea Mitchell married him and he STFU. Connection? Are they divorcing or ending a contract?

  8. PlutoniumKun

    Its an interesting question though as to why the MSM is so reluctant to report this. It was the main headline for a few hours on the Guardian website yesterday, but then slipped away. I immediately went to, as it seems the last of the major papers to have journalists who actually understand the Middle East and don’t parrot US/UK/French/SA talking points.

    There is of course a motivation not to provide any overt evidence of the mess Clinton made in State, or that Obama has largely been a failure in foreign policy. I suspect it is at least partly down to the major media simply not being bothered anymore with in depth reporting from the Middle East. No major paper now has any interest in publishing anything critical of western policy or Israel (at least not in any real, substantive sense), its too much expense and hassle for them. Much better to just write about the latest massacre or scandal and move on to something more interesting, like how horrible Trump is and how marvellous Hillary will be.

    1. Yves Smith

      You are being too charitable. This is a major proof of how the MSM is morphing into Pravda circa 1987. Well, maybe 1982, since by 1987 pretty much everyone in the old Soviet Union knew the controlled media was all propaganda all the time, and the citizenry had gotten to be pretty adept at discounting the official lies. The American and I assume UK publics are still way too credulous. The US and UK are joined at the hip in suppressing and/or spinning news out of the Middle East.

      I’d love to get reader input on what the non-English language press is saying, both spin and prominence of stories. For instance, given Marine Le Pen, the French press might feel compelled to give the story more play, even if they still try to put as positive a face on it as possible under the lousy circumstances.

      1. Clive

        Japanese media buried this so deeply and so quickly the MH370 would have been easier to find, very anodyne reportage but, hey, it is Japan I’m talking about here so it’s insular at the best of times. However, I am still laughing at the verb in the headline used to describe the storming of the parliament complex “乱入 [らんにゅう (ran’nyuu)]” which is “trespassing” or “to barge into”. Like you interpreted a wedding reception or some such.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        Fair enough, if I’ve learned anything over the past decade or so of my re-education (much of it thanks to this website), it is that I am far too fair minded for my own good. But having said that, the MSM has been terrible at reporting non-Western news for many decades. I’ve often used Greenes’ wonderful novel The Quiet American for my template for how fairly decent and intelligent people (journalists and government types) can so grotesquely misunderstand the country they are bombing and reporting from. But yes, I do think it is getting noticeably worse, but I suspect this is as much due to the loss of good reporters as any (more) malign intent. But perhaps I’m being too charitable again – psychopaths do exist, and many are in positions of power.

        1. cnchal

          . . . how fairly decent and intelligent people (journalists and government types) can so grotesquely misunderstand the country they are bombing and reporting from. . .

          None of them are decent. They are indecent. We can’t forget the Saddam has “weapons of mass destruction” lie that was used as the official reason to bomb and mutilate Iraq. The mass media is just as responsible for this disaster. They were the watchdog that didn’t bark, and worse, were the watchdog that whimpered with joy at all the money they could make from reporting this disaster. Indecent all the way down.

          It is long past time to give them the benefit of doubt. An example from the recent past. The Air Force is having trouble finding drone pilots, so they offer a $100,000 plus reward to get people to do it. Is there anything decent about that? The drone pilot will end up a mental basket case, lots of innocent human beings on the other side of the world will be terrorized and killed by remotely fired missiles, and the makers of the drones and missiles get rich. Indecent all the way down.

          . . . psychopaths do exist, and many are in positions of power.

          The politicians are narcissists, and the advisers surrounding them and egging them on to do these horrible things are the psychopaths. There is something different this election though.

      3. grayslady

        My Dutch-and-German-reading friend and I checked various publications in those languages. The only paper we found carrying the story at all was Frankfurter Allgemeine. That newspaper had an excellent article explaining the background of the protests, what had been reported and by whom, and even including a typically useless comment by an EU bureaucrat. One of the most well-written news articles I’ve seen in years–enough facts to let you draw possible conclusions, but no editorializing. The gist of the article seemed to be that the anti-American supporters of al-Sadr are tired of being exluded from the Iraqi parliament and want their voices and opinions to be heard in the government. The article also mentions that IS is pretty much in control of northern and western areas of Iraq–something you won’t see much of, or at all, in US papers.

      4. bbrockva

        El Pais (Spain) had this under the “International” section: “The Prime Minister of Iraq Orders that Whoever Committed Aggressions in the Assault on Parliament Be Detained.” In the article there was a quote by Patrick Martin of the Institute of the Study of War (chaired by Gen. Jack Keane, Hillary’s good friend) who said it was an attempted “de facto coup” by Al Sadr.

        1. John Wright

          Here is the Wikipedia entry for the head of the “Institute for the Study of War”

          Kimberly Kagan’s brother in law is Robert Kagan, whose wife is Victoria Nuland of “F**k the EU” quote fame.

          Victoria Nuland remains as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and was principal deputy foreign policy advisor to Dick Cheney.

          Nuland “has been the lead U.S. point person for the Ukraine Crisis” .

          And HRC/Obama continue to employ Nuland,

          Definitely a well-connected family with a high level US State department connection (Nuland), Brookings (Robert Kagan), American Enterprise Institute (Kimberly Kagan’s husband, Frederick) and finally Kimbery Kagan at her own Institute for the Study of War..

          And Obama has invited Robert Kagan to lunch to “Compare world views”

          The Times article has a quote from highly trusted Bill Kristol, “A very nice family” and mentions Robert Kagan’s relationship with HRC, “who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes.”

          Sadly, I’m not expecting HRC to follow in Obama’s footsteps and dash their hopes (as he did in Syria and Iran) if she is elected.

      5. bbrockva

        And also, El Pais says “thousands” of protestors remain in the Green Zone.

  9. Clive

    I was watching the news on TV earlier this morning and was reduced to an even more apoplectic state than I normally am. Both BBC and Fox News’ European wolf in wolf’s clothing Sky led with the most inane tittley-tattley news-lite nonsense stories that I have seen in ages. If you must ask, at the top was an outsider football club maybe winning the premier league, then the Duchess of Cambridge doing a Vogue cover (yes, that was the second headline) followed by a vomit-inducing “story” about Obama giving some jokey address that was all media-in-the-know-insiders heartily slapping each other on the back. With a Prince George tie-in.

    Well, at that point I had to find something else important to do, lest I throw the cat at the TV, so I headed off to peel some carrots for lunch and regain my composure. I figured it was merely down to it being a holiday weekend here, hence the dire brain numbing silliness. I didn’t do more than glance back and saw some people in the Middle East (I could tell because there was a bit of footage of a dusty, hot and dry looking city) pushing over some concrete wall. Not being able to stand anymore MSM nonsense I didn’t stop to watch and find out more. Anyhow, the story blipped on to the screen and blipped off just as quickly and it was, well, just the Middle East again, so who cares, I’ll be watching “trouble in the Middle East” stories when I’m in the old folks home.

    I kid you not, but it was not until I did my daily check of what’s afoot in NC that I saw this open thread and realised a) this was indeed and important story and b) slapped myself on the forehead for being so bamboozled as to have almost missed it.

    Bread and circuses indeed.

    1. JustAnObserver

      Nah! These days TPTB think circuses are enough. Too much bread might affect their looting.

  10. Andrew Watts

    The clashes between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Shia militias in Tuz Khurmatu foreshadow a Arab-Kurdish war in the future while the storming of the Green Zone in Baghdad portends another Iraqi civil war. The War Nerd wrote a good piece about Dawa/Badr Brigade and al-Sadr’s struggle for power back in 2008. We’re merely witnessing a continuation of that struggle with the war against IS temporarily taking center stage.

    The central government in Baghdad has always been weak and I’ve previously dismissed it as nothing more than a client-state so seeing a bunch of protesters storm the Parliament isn’t much of a surprise. What was surprising was when Sadr went to the Green Zone a few days ago and ordered his followers not to follow him and they completely disregarded that order.

    The evolution of Muqtada al-Sadr has been interesting to watch through the years.

    1. Andrew Watts

      I loved how the War Nerd ended the article…

      Ten years from now, every player in the current game will still be playing this slow, shady game, except one: the Americans.

      File that under imperial collapse.

  11. Disturbed Voter

    LBJ and Nixon are hard acts to follow. George W got the failure party going again, in a new venue, which has been partly continued by Barak. D following R is pretty much the same as R following D. Money made by the usual suspects then and now. I hate to give George H W credit for not going full retard. If one recalls … it was Congress that cut off funding for the war … it will have to be Congress again or not at all.

  12. jen

    Well, that was fast. As of 8:10 am, narry a reference to be found on the NYT home page. Caught a brief piece about this on NPR whilst running errands yesterday. “Hundreds of protester stormed….pulling down cement barriers…” Then they played an audio clip of the protesters chanting. Hundreds. Yeah. Many, many multiples of hundreds. Move along, people. Nothing to see here.

    1. Code Name D

      Headline tomorrow: “Green Zone holds open house to grateful citizens.”

  13. ChrisFromGeorgia

    It’s difficult to see how US foreign policy could have backfired any more horribly than in Libya, Iraq and Syria, and yet there never seem to be any consequences for the architects of failure. (Well, perhaps Trump is one big consequence.)

    Cynicism seems the only proper way to view things these days. This won’t exactly help Hillary (or neo-cons in general) but until/unless body bags start coming home with Americans in them (and not random brown folk) I suspect the worst kind of apathy will prevail.

    1. Edward

      I think Israel basically runs U.S. policy and the policy hasn’t failed from the Israeli viewpoint. When the U.S. commits the same policy in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, and Yemen it is not a “mistake”. It is intentional. A mistake is when you do something once and then stop doing it.

      1. James Levy

        Confluence of interests, more like it. US and Israeli elites share a general worldview (everyone else is inferior to us and must serve our needs or else). Neither the US or Israel is as strong as it likes to pretend it is, and both are finding their preferred military solutions to every problem to be less efficacious than they once were. So if you can’t beat them, weaken and divide them. This is the joint US/Israeli strategy for the Middle East.

        1. Edward Qubain

          I think these wars are a disaster for the U.S. so I don’t see this as arising from a confluence of interest. Rather it is another example of political corruption bringing ruinous results for this country, whether concerning the environment, the economy, or foreign policy.

          1. hunkerdown

            #WhichAmerica? That’s the advantage of a cynical approach: recognizing that interests, let alone “US interests”, are not universal or homogeneous, and that the national baseball glory score doesn’t make hot dogs any cheaper in the stands. There absolutely is a confluence of interest — in the perpetuation and protection of elitism as a supranational institution. “Team” is for the rubes.

            1. Edward

              I think that the “confluence of interest” is that politicians want to stay on the good side of AIPAC. In the sense that corruption offers an “interest” to a politician to adopt a policy there is a “confluence of interest” but not a salutary one.

      2. kgw

        Your comment brings to mind the time I was taking my dear mother up to West L.A. for an older sister’s birthday…Wintertime, dark, roaring up the 405 freeway from Long Beach, traffic to the hilt. After scaring my mother with my driving skillz, I decided to get off at La Cienega, thinking it would be better than the freeway. No such luck, practically bumper to bumper all the way.

        Looking out at the traffic, the sprawl, I wondered to myself, whose idea of progress was this anyway? Intentional dysfunctional systems all the way down. No mistake about it.

        1. Edward Qubain

          “whose idea of progress was this anyway? ”

          Yeah, I wonder when did the U.S. public vote to overthrow governments in Iran, Guatemala, Chile or elsewhere? If the public had a say would any of this have happened? I don’t really know, but the government was afraid to act publicly in these cases.

  14. Peter Pan

    This event was the top story on RT News yesterday morning. Lots of video of the wall coming down.

    I found that it’s very difficult to say “holy shit” out loud with a mouthful of breakfast.

    Of course the coverage will be dismissed as Russian propaganda.

  15. ke

    Container rates are practically free, the value of life is trending to nil, and pillaging is the order of the day, with excess capacity a stone throw in any direction. Create black hole. Evacuate black hole. Sell arms. Send in diplomats. Repeat. Dumb and dumber. At 3am call Kissinger & kids.

  16. John Wright

    Ronald Reagan’s administration showed the political establishment’s ability to get the MSM and the American people to look the other way when something politically damaging is afoot.

    As I remember, Reagan beat Carter, at least in part because Reagan criticized Carter’s weakness and inability to retrieve the 44 American hostages held by Iran,

    The hostages were released on the first day of Reagan’s administration in 1981.

    But Reagan subsequently had his own hostage problems, but in Lebanon, aided by Iran:


    “in 1982, Hezbollah also began abducting Americans and other Westerners, in another attempt to force the United States to end its political and military involvement in Lebanon. Among the hostages was CIA station chief William Buckley, who was picked up in 1984, and eventually tortured and killed. Between 1982 and 1991, at least 96 hostages from 21 nations were kidnapped”

    As I remember the Reagan administration’s actions at the time, they simply made little mention of the hostages and the hostages were largely dutifully ignored in the media.

    The Reagan media game plan re-surfaces with this story, and this time both Democrats and Republicans want this to drop into the “move along, nothing there” bucket.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Or Carter decided not to campaign and attacked the truckers unions and failed to move on his 1976 campaign promise to repeal Taft-Hartley. 1980 was when white male union members abandoned the Democratic Party. Was it because of Iran or issues closer to home? ACA might not be chic anymore, but the loss of plans, rising prices, and junk insurance will cause more consternation than Iraq.

      Trump might tie her up with Iraq, but very few people vote on foreign policy you which is why Hillary can get away with this “experience” garbage. Ignoring domestic concerns will crush the Democrats just like it did in 2010 and 2014 and was in 2012 until Obama changed his rhetoric to empty promises.

      1. pretzelattack

        iirc carter was still pretty close till the media drumbeat (day 300 of the hostage crisis!) wore him down. not that carter was perfect in any respect, but his championing of human rights in central america was a bright spot. reagan totally reversed that, and took the solar panels off the white house. my biggest problem with carter was the support for the indonesian (continuing) genocide by selling weapons to the regime.

  17. D

    Has anybody commented that between isis comeback and losing iraq these dudes left the green zone?

  18. RBHoughton

    After we had bribed and bullied the cabinet into permitting us to take the oil, those b****s in parliament still declined to ratify the deal.

    We cannot leave any wealth in the country to them or they might vomit-up another Saddam and we’ll be back where we started.

  19. Blurtman

    These protests would not have happened when Saddam was around, so a small victory?

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