The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: September 2012

Comments on the cost of Iraq

Elevated from the comments, MarkFromIreland:

Greetings Ian,

Do you remember Mohammed Ibn Laith?

Gorilla’s Guides » 2007 » February » 15:

I am a Muslim I am Iraki maybe you believe that God told you that must turn aside when you have been struck.That is not what God tells me.

What God tells me is what he tells every other Muslim when you are attacked you defend yourself and you keep on figthing until your attacker is in such pain that they offer truce or surrender. You attack back and you continue attacking relentlessly, never ever giving any respite, until the invader flees worn out with grief and horror and pain. Any sacrifice is warranted to expel the American I feel no grief when I see an American soldier die. I feel only relief that this one less barbarian to kill innocent Iraki children.

And then there’s this from Colonel Iihsan:

Gorilla’s Guides » Blog Archive » It is not only Americans who can say “Mission Accomplished”:

The Resistance’s Tactics Were SuccessfulThis is the lesson of the Iraki Resistance’s war on the American invaders. The goal was not just to inflict death and physical wounds they goal was to drive American troops into mental and moral breakdown.

The tactic was to attack American troops relentlessly — to force the American invaders to live in a situation where they never ever had any respite.

The American invader was never to be able to relax they must be denied any respite, they were denied meaningful rest.

The resistance consciously set out to inflict constant tension,constant sleeplessness, constant mental pain, and constant uncertainty, and fear upon the American invaders. The idea was to do this until a large proportion of the invaders were worn out with fatigue, grief, horror and pain.

The Resistance’s intent was to not just inflict pain and horror on the invading troops for the sake of doing, the object was to shatter their minds so that while they were still in Irak they turned on their comrades. And then after they returned to America that they turned on the American civilian population at large.

This tactic was, one resistance commander told me, far more successful than they had dared hope.

The American high command, and American civilians are only now beginning to appreciate what the resitance did to them. They are only now starting to realise that they are not the only ones who can inflict “collateral damage” and that there is more than one form of it.

It is not just Americans who can say “Mission Accomplished”.

As you no doubt worked out a long time ago the murder of first his grandfather, followed by the murder of his parents, and the murder of his younger brother all by American forces decided Mohammed to join the resistance. He was a very successful commander who ensured that in his sector no Americans ever set foot outside their FOB’s other than in heavily armed convoys. He made sure that PRT leaders went home dead or wounded he made sure that civilian PRT members never ever got to leave their compounds. The Iraki resistance won their war – America ran away from Irak leaving its “enduring bases” and an awful lot of TOE behind them. All of which is a long-winded way of saying you’re right. Napoleon used to talk about “moral force” as a force multiplier which is what you’re discussing above.

Hope you’re well. I very very very rarely comment here (I think this is my third) but I read you regularly.

Keep well.


My reply:


yes, thanks for the comment. I do remember Mohammed.

I haven’t written about it, but I have discussed with friends, the collateral damage. I’m especially noticing it in police departments. The vets come back, join police departments and the results are ugly. They have no fire discipline, act as if they’re in a war zone, blowing away civilians indiscriminantly if they feel in the least danger (the guy who killed his boss in NY comes to mind) and often when they clearly aren’t (a man running away from them). They also have a taste for brutality, and the only people they have fellow-feeling for are their mates, certainly not anyone who isn’t in their “unit”.

Then, of course, there are the homeless veterans, the suicides, the wife and child beaters, and the rapists.

A lot of these people are VERY badly damaged. Occupation is always brutalizing, for everyone involved, but this bunch has been particularly brutalized. One of my friends is an ex-US military officer, out before Iraq, and to say that he is livid is a vast understatement.

The same thing happened to the Israeli army, over time. And Americans went and copied failed Israeli tactics.

We saw it happening at the time. Not just immoral, and unethical, but a mistake.

But the resistance did not win much of a victory. Brutalizing your brutalizers is all very nice and I have no moral qualms against it. If Canada was invaded, I would fight, and I would join the resistance, and if the invaders were American (and who else could it be) I would rejoice at every dead American soldier.

But at the end of the day, Iraq is in shambles, appears to be essentially a protectorate of Iran, has a huge Kurdish problem (or the Kurds have an Iraqi problem, depending on where you sit), violence is ongoing, and so on.

Iraq was never a war anyone was going to “win”, that’s why people like me were against it from before the beginning. All anyone can claim, at best, is a Pyrrhic victory.

As for America, as I’ve said in the past, the first great man of the 21st century (great is not a synonym for good) was bin Laden. He wanted to draw America onto the ground, and bleed them like the USSR was bled, costing them so much treasure that their economy could no longer bear the costs of empire. He, essentially, succeeded, thanks to the sublime stupidity of his enemies. He must have gotten down on his knees every day and thanked God for George Bush and American high command and the NeoCons. And now the Muslim brotherhood is in charge in Egypt and that is a direct result of food inflation, which is a direct result of the costs and opportunity costs of Bush’s idiot eternal wars, and the mandate that 9/11 game him to be an evil moron.

The far enemy (US) is blowing up its goddamn satraps with its insane financial and economic policies. That strain is exactly what bin Laden wanted, he says so in his writing.

He’s dead, but he’s winning. And I think that’s a deal he would have happily taken if offered to him September 10th, 2001.

QE 3

The Fed has announced its third quantitative easing program.  To state what should be obvious, the effect on the economy for ordinary people will be minimal, as with QE1 and 2.  It will help banks, financial firms most, other large corporations will also benefit.  If you work at the executive level in one of those organizations, it will help you and raise your salary or bonuses.  It will not significantly raise demand for goods and services and will not do much for the rest of the economy.  Remember, 93% of the gains of the Obama recovery went to the rich, and that was not by mistake.

Respect for international law and America

There’s been a great deal of crying about the death of an Ambassador and others in an attack on the US embassy in Libya.

Now I’m a strong supporter of the inviolability of embassies but I wonder why other people should be?

Embassy inviolability is part of one of the oldest strata of international law, but it is a part of international law.

International law also says that aggressive war is a war crime.  Iraq was an aggressive war, and hundreds of thousands of people died as a result (the # is vague, because the US deliberately chose not to count).

International law requires that prisoners of war have certain rights.  If they are judged not be prisoners of war, then prisoners have civilian rights.  Note that the captives in Guantanmo have been deliberately denied both sets of protection.

Drone attacks in countries which do not permit them are acts of war.  The US engages in these all the time, in countries that they are not at war with.  The US gets away with it because those countries know they can’t win a war against the US, so they have to put up with it. Nonetheless, drone attacks are clear violations of international law.

Torture is a violation of international criminal law.  Granted, a lot of countries violate this, but you can’t really be a paragon of international law and torture as a matter of policy.

Meanwhile Egypt just had a revolution.  It was against a dictator who was supported, strongly, by the US.  That dictator engaged in routine torture.

Drone attacks hit funerals regularly, and weddings often enough.  This isn’t against international law, but should people whose families have been killed in attacks on weddings and funerals be respectful of the sanctity of embassies?  Would you?  Really?

If international law doesn’t protect the weak, but only the strong, why would we expect the weak to respect it?  Why should non-state actors care what the rules of states are, when states respect those rules only when it is to their advantage?

There will be more embassy attacks over time.  Bank on it.


Ok, my google-fu is failing me, so I’m asking for help.

What I need is a list of perceived risk vs. real risk.  Well, more perceived risk, I can easily find the real risk numbers.  So, how likely do Americans think they are to die of terrorism or being in a plane and so on, vs. real risk. What do Americans perceive as the risk of a child being kidnapped v. real risk. Homicide v. real risk of homicide.  Risk of dying in a car accident v. real risk.  Etc… Or non Americans.

Doesn’t even have to be a list, just specific numbers with sources.


People really, really, really want to be lied to.  And most progressive and liberal pundits are either so brain dead stupid they don’t remember the lies of the 08 convention and how Dems and Obama actually governed or are corrupt.

Evil?  Or Stupid?

A question not just for Republicans any more.

Some basics on the economy

1) the majority of new jobs are bad.

2) the economy has still not recovered all lost jobs, either in absolute #s or as a percentage of the population

3) so there are fewer jobs, and what new jobs have been created are worse. They pay worse.

4) The upper middle class job market has recovered, which is why those folks are no longer panicking and are telling you that the economy isn’t so bad as all that.

5) the failure to force the rich to take their losses and to break up the banks means that the same people who caused the 2007/8 financial crisis still control the economy and the government.

6) failure to restructure the economy to get off oil and over to an electrical economy means that the US (and the world) are caught in the oil price dilemna: any real recovery increases oil price and will be derailed by those high oil prices.

7) Europe, ex. Germany, is in recession.

8 ) the developed world is in depression, it never left depression.  During depressions there are recoveries (such as they are) and recessions, but the overall economy is in depression.

9) China’s economy is slowing down.  Since China is the main engine of the world economy, followed by the US, this is really bad.  If it goes into an actual recession, bend over and kiss your butt goodbye.

10) Austerity is a means by which the rich can buy up assets which are not normally on the market for cheap.

11) the wealth of the rich and major corporations has recovered and in many countries exceeded its prior highs.  They are doing fine. Austerity is not hurting them. They control your politicians.  The depression will not end until it is in their interest for it to do so, or their wealth and power is broken.

12) The US play is as follows: frack. Frack some more.  Frack even more.  They are trying the Reagan play, temporize while new supplies of hydrocarbons come on line.  Their bet is that they’ll get another boom out of that.  If they’re right, it’ll be a lousy boom.  If they’re wrong (and the Saudis think they are, and the Saudis have been eating their lunch since 2001) then you won’t even get that.  Either way, though, they’ll devastate the environment, by which I mean the water you drink and grow crops with.

13) For people earning less than about 80K, the economy never really recovered.

14) If you’re out of work more than 2 months your odds of getting another job drop through the floor.  If you do get one, odds are it will pay much less than your previous job.

15) Canada is undergoing austerity madness at all levels of government, and the corporations, with historically low tax rates, are not going to spend either. With Chinese demand for commodities dropping, expect a nasty recession.

16) Australia, having tied itself completely to China is about to reap the downside of that decision.

17) Wages are being systematically broken in the developed world.  The rich do not believe they need you, except as wage-slave labor.  You will all be company store slaves, paying rental streams to everyone to be allowed to continued to eke out a miserable existence.

18) Since the US sells protected works (so called “intellectual property”) you will continue to see a massive attempt to break anyone who doesn’t pay IP rent to the US.  Some countries (Sweden, Germany, among others) are going along.  But there are signs of rebellion.  Apple may have won against Samsung in their ridiculous attempt to enforce patents on obvious solutions, but both Japanese and Korean courts threw the cases out.  Paying rent to America, the hegemon, when the world system is working is one thing, paying rent when the world isn’t working is another.

19) Stirling Newberry says, and I agree, that none of this is stable, but it will last as long as the majority of the baby boom, the silents and a good chunk of the Xers still think they can hang on to their little piece of the pie, and screw everyone else.  It will most likely break down in 2020/24, which is when the demographics turn.  Young people today are completely screwed, they have astronomical student loans, no or shitty jobs, can’t afford a house and can’t afford to start a family.  Note that the places where revolutions, peaceful or otherwise, are happening, are places where the majority of the population is young.  Latin America, the Middle East.


20) The economic numbers you hear don’t mean squat. Headline inflation does not matter, ask yourself instead “what are my fixed expenses?”  Start with food.  Jobless claims #s cannot be compared to prior numbers because less people have the sorts of jobs that let you make those claims.  For the #s to make sense you’d have to adjust them for the reduced # of jobs which allow claims.  The unemployment rate has dropped even though there are, in absolute terms, less jobs, because people have given up looking.

21) The money the Fed floods into the financial markets (quantitative easing, among others) is mostly NOT getting to ordinary people, and whatever Bernanke and his apologists say, it was never intended to.  It is intended to prop up financial actors, and keep the rich richer.  It has done what it is supposed to do.

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