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Category: Iraq Page 1 of 4

Remembering Colin Powell

Colin Powell was the first black secretary of state. He was the consummate insider, who climbed the military bureaucracy with great skill and vigor. A man who always knew what had to be done to get ahead and get along. In Vietnam, for example, he understood his role perfectly:

his time as a young U.S. Army Major posted in Saigon, when, after the My Lai Massacre, he was asked to investigate a soldier’s letter describing atrocities against the Vietnamese people. Powell rejected the charges and famously wrote, “In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.”

Most famously, Powell understood that when it’s time to lie in order to attack a country which is no threat to you, that’s what you do: Powell used his high prestige to help sell the Iraq WMD lies. While we’ll never know how many Iraqis died in the ensuring war, because America sure as hell didn’t want to count, we can round it at a million with reasonable justification. Events like the war with ISIS would also never have happened without the Iraq war, and while it doesn’t bother me, it might bother Americans that the Iraq war actually made the US’s international position substantially weaker, and turned Iraq from an Iranian enemy into an ally.

Powell was also “in the room” during the discussions about what sort of torture was acceptable.

Colin Powell’s Legacy

We have a norm in our society that one shouldn’t speak badly of the dead, but it applies to private citizens, not to war criminals. In a just world Colin Powell would have been tried for his war crimes, then hung from the neck till dead, just like America hung Nazis who had nothing to do with the Holocaust, simply for starting aggressive war, because all the deaths and rapes and orphans and torture and other horrors of war come from the simple decision to have one.

Powell certainly wasn’t the worst criminal. He’s a fair bit below Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. One can argue if he was more guilty than Senators who voted for the war like Clinton, but no matter one’s all-star team of war criminals, Powell’s in the deck.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise, though it was to many. Powell got where he got by being a yes-man, who did what he had to do for his career. Like many such men he reaped the reward he wanted. It only cost him his soul, and the respect of every decent human.

I don’t like the idea of hell, and even someone like Powell doesn’t deserve eternal torment. So I hope, if there is an afterlife, he simply goes somewhere where he comes to understand what he did wrong, and why.

But none of us who remain on this world should excuse his war crimes; doing so makes other men and women more likely to follow in his footsteps.

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The Criteria for Forgiveness of Public Policy Mistakes

So, a while back, the noted NeoConservative, Max Boot (what a name), wrote the following:

What does it take to atone for a mistake in public policy?

Let me suggest the following:

  1. Admit the mistake?
  2. Reassess the reasoning and argument that led to your support, so that you won’t make the same mistake again?

There are major public intellectuals who are wrong about, well, everything. (Thomas Friedman, take a bow.)

One of the largest mistakes of the past twenty years was supporting the Iraq War. It accomplished none of what it was supposed to, killed a pile of people, and weakened the United States. (I’m OK with it weakening the US, but American pundits who believe in a strong US probably shouldn’t be.)

It was, also, yes, a massive war crime–exactly the same war crime for which most Nazis were hung at Nuremburg (no, they mostly weren’t hung for the Holocaust).

So if you were foolish enough, or evil enough, or stupid enough to advocate for the war, and you want to be taken seriously in the future, you need to show that you now know you were wrong AND that you wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

This, by the way, is why I was unwilling to endorse Hilary Clinton in 2016: Because Libya showed that, even though she said she knew the Iraq war was a mistake, she hadn’t actually learned. She went and did it again, though fortunately at a somewhat lesser scale (not that that’s any comfort to those Libyans whose lives were destroyed, or the people being sold in Libyan slave markets today).

But let’s leave aside Iraq, Clinton, and the wonderfully-named Mr. Max Boot.

This rule works for all mistakes. It isn’t enough to admit you made a mistake, you have to understand why you made the mistake and be determined not to make that same mistake.

Merely apologizing, or knowing you made a mistake is worthless if you would do the same thing again.

This is true in our small personal lives, as well as in the big, public mistakes important people make.

None of this should be controversial: This is kindergarten-level ethics. This is the sort of thing children are taught: To understand why they made a mistake and to change their thinking so they won’t make it again.

Iraq was more than a mistake, of course, and the best way to make sure it wouldn’t happen again would be to try the war criminals who made the decisions (including voting for it) and either putting them in prison or hanging them from the neck. Because I generally oppose the death penalty, I’ll settle for sending them to maximum-security prison to do hard time, as is appropriate for people as dangerous as mass murderers.

But because, instead, the people behind the Iraq War and other horrible decisions (like all the decisions leading up to catastrophic climate change) have been rewarded, they, of course, have kept committing crimes and “mistakes.”

Not sending everyone involved in Watergate to prison was a mistake, with the pardoning of Nixon being the original sin here. The same people involved in Watergate (minus Nixon, of course) were involved in Iran/Contra, and then they were the people involved in Iraq.

Hilary Clinton and George W. Bush (whom, I notice, Democrats have rehabilitated) are monstrous war criminals who should be in prison. Max Boot is an enabler of war crimes.

At the very least such people need to show that they understand what they did was wrong, and that they have changed and won’t do it again.

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Al-Sadr to Receive Largest Number of Votes in Iraq Election?

So says a poll.

Sadr’s an interesting figure. His party (he’s not standing for election himself) ran on an anti-corruption, anti-American, and anti-Iranian platform. His father opposed Saddam (and died for it) and the Sadrists opposed the US invasion (and rose twice against the occupation). Sadr became even more powerful after the invasion simply because the Sadrists provided security and services and were non-corrupt themselves.

To put it simply, even though he gained much from his father, he and the movement he is the head of appear to me to “deserve” their popularity. They have served their people and they have had integrity.

In this, they are similar to Hezbollah, who, whatever one thinks of them, have served their people and done what they said they would: Free their country from Israel, and keep it free.

As a general rule, I admire those with integrity, whether I agree with them on everything or not. I am no Muslim, nor likely ever would be (only the Sufis appeal to me at all), but I can always get behind feeding the poor, genuine anti-corruption, and the bravery and integrity to oppose tyranny.

I am sure there are nuances of the Iraq situation I’m missing; I don’t keep up, I don’t speak or read Arabic, Persian (to understand Iran), Kurdish, and so on. And just getting the largest vote bloc doesn’t guarantee leading the government.

But overall, this seems like a good thing to me.

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George Bush Is Responsible for Innumerable Murders and Rapes

The rehabilitation of George W. Bush because he says some bad things about Trump needs to stop.

Not only was Bush responsible for Iraq, he is responsible for everything that happened during it, and everything that comes from it. That includes ISIS, which absent the Iraq invasion, DOES NOT HAPPEN.

Every rape, every murder, every torture is George W. Bush’s responsibility.

His crime.

Anyone, and I mean anyone, who does not understand this is entirely part of the problem.

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Iraq Army Attacks Peshmerga Near Kirkuk

Peshmerga Flag

As seemed likely last week, the fighting has started. Kirkuk controls over half Iraq’s oil, and Iraq was unlikely to let them keep the oil. Both sides do need the revenue it represents.

Iraq claims to be attempting to take control of military positions around Kirkuk without entering the city proper. Whether that’s a viable strategy, we will see, but it makes sense: If this moves to city fighting, there will be a lot of civilian casualties and various atrocities will occur, making the rift (aka: hatred) between Iraq and the Kurds even more severe.

Understand that this rift exists on both sides: Many Iraqis feel that the Kurds betrayed them in the Iraq war, cooperating with the invaders, and want revenge. Kurds feel that Iraq has occupied them and committed atrocities against them. There is no love lost on either side.

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Update: I see that Iraq’s PM wants more than just control of Kirkuk, he’s now stating that he wants control of the Peshmerga. I can’t see the Kurds doing that unless they’re 100 percent sure they’ll lose an all-out war, and maybe not even then. Granted some could stand down and become effectively militia on-call, so all would not be lost, but a great deal would be.

Update 2: It looks like a some of the Peshmerga have withdrawn, rather than fight. Remarkable. Without Kirkuk, Kurdistan is not viable. Period. Looks like this may be turning into a non-battle, and the unwillingness to fight has emboldened Iraq to demand control of the Peshmerga.

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Is There Going to Be an Iraqi-Kurdish War?

Peshmerga Flag

Iraqi Kurds voted in a referendum for independence from Iraq. Iraqi forces are now poised near Kirkuk, in position to attack, though the Iraqi PM claims they will not do so.

Kirkuk oil field was seized by the Kurds in 2014, and it produces more than half of Iraq’s oil.

Neither Iran nor Turkey want an independent Kurdish state. (This is a violent understatement, especially with regards to Turkey.)

Since Kurdistan has no sea border, Iraq and Turkey control its access to world markets, and the Iraqi government has been closing its exports, restricting its sales of oil.

And the Kurds have just moved another 6,000 Peshmerga to Kirkuk.

The Kurds were treated very badly under Saddam, and haven’t been happy with the Iraqi government since then either. They have also been firm US allies, and they have quite a bit of support in Congress and the US military as a result.

Is this going to blow?

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I don’t know, but I do know that Iraq is not going to let Kurdistan go independent and take over half the oil with it, and I know that Kurdistan would need that oil to be viable. Kurdistan also needs to be able to get that oil to market, and has few friends in the region.

I don’t see how Kurdish independence works, and I say that as someone who has sympathy for their aspirations. If they weren’t landlocked…but they are. To remedy the landlocked situation, they could take land from Syria, Turkey, or both, something that is unlikely at best, because Turkey just isn’t going to allow it and has a large enough military to have a veto.

Not sure where this goes, or where it ends, but the bottom line is Iraq won’t voluntarily let Kurdistan leave with all that oil, and Kurdistan won’t voluntarily leave without it, and if Kurdistan insists on leaving, the issue will probably have to be settled violently.

That doesn’t seem to be a war that ends well for the Kurds, but perhaps I’m missing something. (Lord help them if they are counting on serious US support to even the odds.)

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Stopping Violent International Aggression

We need to clear up some fundamental thinking.

US politicians and foreign policy groupniks spew about how Putin is the next Hitler and must be stopped.

The implication here is that Putin will keep doing bad things if he isn’t forced to not do them.

What are the bad things that Putin’s Russia has done?

Put down an uprising in Chechnya, through mass killing, and with the justification of a likely false-flag attack. Note that Chechnya was, and is, part of Russia. This was a domestic operation.

Attacked Georgia over a couple of provinces which were majority ethnic Russian, and (sotto voce) because Georgia was talking about joining NATO.

Annexed Crimea, the majority of whose population wanted to join them. (There was a referendum in the 80s, which got the same results as the most recent referendum.)

Interfered in the Eastern Ukraine, which is majority ethnic Russian.

All of this happening after a coup, run by neo-Nazis and supported by the West, which would likely have (drumroll) lead to the Ukraine joining NATO.

Bombing the hell out of parts of Syria in rebellion against the Syrian government after being invited in by Syria. Russia has been Syria’s ally for decades and has interests there. Russia regrets allowing a no-fly zone over Libya after being assured by Clinton herself that it would not be used for regime change.

Now, what has the US done over the same span of time?

Invaded Afghanistan after the Taliban said they would turn over OBL if evidence was given to them that he was behind 9/11. You may not believe them, but the US did not even attempt to give that evidence. The US is still there, fifteen  years later, occupying a foreign country. (Yes, occupying, the Kabul government would fall if the US left, and we all know it.)

Invaded Iraq, which had done nothing to the US and was no threat to it, on the basis of lies (including that it was behind 9/11). Occupied it for years, and essentially destroyed it as a modern secular country (this after having subjected it to a bombing campaign in the 90s, which, among other things, targeted civilian sewer systems, then subjected it to punishing sanctions which restricted basic medicines and probably caused the deaths of half a million children, as well as many more deaths amongst adults).

Supported an attack on Libya which wound up destroying that country and leaving it in anarchy.

Supported the destruction of Syria, which has led to millions fleeing that country. The likely next US President wanted a no fly zone. This is, essentially, an explicit alliance with at least one al-Qaeda affiliate.

Meanwhile, the US runs a nearly worldwide drone assassination program which has killed thousands and regularly hits weddings and funerals. It is widely acknowledged that this program often kills civilians, often targets “the wrong” people based on an algorithmic “Well, he’s probably a terrorist” calculations, and has even been used to kill an American citizen without due process. This program, lacking all respect for sovereignty or due process, is clearly terrorism by any definition which doesn’t say “The US can’t engage in terrorism.”

So. Russia has acted to: (1) prevent nations on its borders, many of whom have been part of Russia for centuries, from joining NATO, which it considers an existential threat; (2) put down a rebellion in its own territory, and; (3) aid a multi-decade ally who is in danger due to a US- and US ally-supported uprising (these allies include Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States).

The US has attacked three countries, only one of whom may have attacked it, all of which are half the world away. Two of them were clearly no threat to the US, and the third threat was questionable (and there were plans on the shelf to just go in, and take out OBL without occupying Afghanistan). The US kills people with impunity throughout the world, with little regard for civilian casualties, in countries it is not even at war with.

Who is the rogue state? Who needs to be stopped before they kill, and kill again?

One can disagree with much of what Russia has done (the unfettered bombing of Aleppo and the atrocities of Chechnya inparticular) and still say that the US is clearly a rogue nation, and the greater threat to world peace.

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The Consequences of 9/11

iraqi_girlOn September 11, 2001, I was at work. As the reports came in, the company set up a TV in a large room and work ground to a halt as people watched.

I turned to a friend and said, “I hope America doesn’t attack the wrong country in retaliation.”

He scoffed.

Assuming that Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11, it was a master stroke. Osama was the first great man of the 21st century, the man who changed the course of history in precisely the way he planned. (Remember, “great” and “good” are not synonyms. Plenty of great men and women have been monsters.)

Osama was a smart man and had spent a lot of time considering the Muslim world’s situation.

He believed that the regimes he wanted to overthrow, like Egypt, survived due to the support of an enemy much further away: the US. His thesis was that US support propped up enemy societies.

The usual rule in Islam is to fight the local tyrant, but OBL argued that the US must be fought first: Only once it was defeated, or at least severely weakened, could Islam win the more local battles. He also wanted to prove that US soldiers could be defeated.

What he wanted to do was to draw US soldiers into a killing field. He figured it would be Afghanistan, and America did oblige and attack, but Afghanistan wasn’t much of a quagmire in those first years.

Then, the US decided to attack Iraq, one of OBL’s enemies, as Iraq was run by a secular regime. And Iraq turned out to be a complete mess.

The US walked all over the conventional army of Iraq, then was fought to a bloody loss by irregulars (and it was a loss–US troops had to pay bribes in order to leave the country without being fired upon).

And Islamic groups and revolution spread, and if the US wasn’t defeated, well, all the money, men, and attention spent on Iraq did contribute to the great financial crisis, and Muslims learned that they could beat the US if they were willing to take enough pain doing it.

Osama won. He got much of what he wanted. He must have praised Allah mightily for making his enemies attack Iraq.

As for the US, the “state of emergency” declared after 9/11 is still in effect. The Patriot Act is still in effect. The Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) is still in effect. These are the Enabling Acts of Bush’s republic–and of Obama’s.

US citizens did, in fact, lose many of their freedoms and a great deal of their prosperity as a result of 9/11.

9/11 was a milder form of the Reichstag Fire. No, Bush wasn’t Hitler, but he did change the nature of the US significantly–enough so that it is a recognizably different country than it was before.

Americans ratified those changes by re-electing Bush in 2004, knowing fully that he was torturing and so on.  Then came Obama.

Obama is Bush’s heir. Anything one party does can be undone by the next, but Obama chose to roll back very little of Bush’s republic, and in fact, he extended many of Bush’s policies. He is worse on whistleblowers than Bush (far, far worse). He has performed far more drone assassinations. He has deported far more immigrants.  And he has kept all the enabling acts in place.

I make no claim that the US before 9/11 was “good,” but it was better than the US after 9/11, to the great harm of very many people all around the world–including Americans themselves.

But 9/11? 9/11 was a success. It got the man who planned it about three-quarters of what he wanted.

A very great success. Too bad the US handed that success to Osama. He couldn’t have made you do anything, he had to to take a gamble on you.

Osama understood the US well enough to get the US to do what he wanted. The US did not understand Osama well enough to avoid walking straight into his trap…or they had so much hubris they figured they could walk through it unharmed.

So many dead. So many maimed. So many refugees. So many economically destroyed. So many better roads not taken.

But Osama, Osama at least was happy with 9/11.

That was Bush, and the US’s greatest gift to Osama, which outweighs his death a 1000/1. Men like Osama are not scared of death.

So much stupid, so much evil. But Osama was just evil, not stupid.

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