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News :: International
How Obama Lost Iraq -- by SHAMUS COOKE
15 Jun 2014
The War on Terror Has Failed
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The fall of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, to an al-Qaeda linked militia elicited a curiously muted response from the Obama administration. Yes, Obama “denounced” the terrorist invasion, but when the Iraqi government asked for U.S. airstrikes to repel perhaps the most powerful terrorist group in the world, Obama thus far refused, only hinting at some form of aid in the yet-to-be-determined future.

This is perhaps the first time Obama has initially refused such an offer from an allied government. Indeed, he’s suspected to have approved airstrikes in 8 other countries under the guise of fighting terrorism. So why the hesitation?

One might also ask why the Obama administration didn’t act earlier to prevent this invasion, since the Iraqi government has been asking for U.S. aid for over a year to combat the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been building its strength on the borderlands between Iraq and Syria.

One likely reason that Obama refused aid to his Iraqi ally is that he has other, much closer allies, who are funding the terrorist group invading Iraq. For example, since the war in Syria started, it’s been an open secret that Qatar, Kuwait, andSaudi Arabia have been giving at least hundreds of millions of dollars to the Islamic extremist groups attacking the Syrian government.

This fact is occasionally mentioned in the mainstream media, but the full implications are never fleshed out, and now that the Syrian war is gushing over its borders the media would rather pretend that ISIS sprang from a desert oasis, rather than the pocket books of the U.S. allied Gulf States.

The Obama administration has consistently looked the other way during this buildup of Islamic extremism, since its foreign policy priority —toppling the secular Syrian government — perfectly aligned with the goals of the terrorists. Thus the terror groups were allowed to grow exponentially, as their ranks were filled with Gulf State cash, foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia and illegal guns trafficked with the help of the CIA.

The Obama administration hid the reality of this dynamic from view, calling the Syrian rebels “moderates” — yet what moderates existed were always a tiny, ineffectual minority. The big dogs in this fight are the Sunni Islamic jihadi groups who view Shia Muslims as heretics worthy of death and other religious and ethnic minorities as second-class citizens polluting their Islamic caliphate.

Middle East journalist Patrick Cockburn recently noted: “ISIS now controls or can operate with impunity in a great stretch of territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria, making it militarily the most successful jihadi movement ever.”

Now that ISIS has invaded Iraq, a U.S. ally, you’d think a different approach would be used. But Obama’s hesitation to support the Iraqi government against ISIS may be a reflection of the U.S. having yet more shared goals with the terrorist organization.

For example, the U.S. has never trusted the Iraqi government. Ever since the Iraqi elections brought a Shia-dominated government to power, the Bush and Obama administrations have looked at Iraq as an untrustworthy pawn of Iran. And there is some truth to this: the Shia dominated Iraqi government has many close religious and political ties with Iran.

Further upsetting Obama is that Iraq hasn’t prevented Shia fighters from traveling to Syria to fight on the side of Assad. Many in Shia-majority Iraq were stunned by the Sunni extremist massacres against the Syrian Shia population, which consequently drew Iraqi and Hezbollah Shia fighters into the Syrian war. Thus, Iraq was on the “wrong side” of the U.S. sponsored proxy war in Syria. In fact, Iraq went so far as to refuse Obama’s ”request” that Iraq deny Iran use of Iraqi airspace to fly military weapons to Assad. Iraq’s consistent refusal to bend to key U.S. demands has strained relations with the U.S., which demands obedience from its “allies”.

Most importantly, a strong independent Iraq is seen as a threat to U.S. “regional interests,” since Iraq is a potential ally to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, the regional powers that the U.S. does not have influence over and consequently desires either their “regime change” or annihilation.

Thus, when the Iraqi president came to the U.S. to plead for aid in October to fight ISIS, he was largely given the runaround, as U.S. politicians shifted the focus away from ISIS toward the Iraqi president’s “authoritarian” government. Of course, this criticism was pure hypocrisy; the U.S. never questions its Gulf State allies about their “authoritarianism,” even as these countries continue to be ruled by the most brutal dictatorships on earth.

Some analysts have speculated that Obama will allow the Sunni terror groups to carve out a section of Iraq to help partition the country into smaller nations based on ethnic-religious regions, each represented by a Shia, Sunni, or Kurdish government. This would be the easiest way to ensure that Iraq remains weak and is not a threat to “U.S. interests.” Mike Whitney describes the Iraqi partition idea:


“The plan was first proposed by Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and then-senator Joe Biden. According to The New York Times the ‘so-called soft-partition plan ….calls for dividing Iraq into three semi-autonomous regions…There would be a loose Kurdistan, a loose Shiastan and a loose Sunnistan, all under a big, if weak, Iraq umbrella.’”

The events in Iraq and Syria further prove that the Bush-Obama “war on terror” is not only a complete failure, but a fraud. Bush and Obama have not waged a war against terrorists, but wars against independent nation-states.

The secular nations of Iraq, Libya, and Syria were virtually free of terrorism before U.S. military intervention, and now they’re infested. The war on terror has done nothing but destabilize the Middle East, create more terrorists, and drain the U.S. economy of billions of dollars it could have otherwise used towards jobs and social programs.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).

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Re: How Obama Lost Iraq -- by SHAMUS COOKE
15 Jun 2014
Click on image for a larger version

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by GARY LEUPP

U.S. military occupations typically have two aspects, which are, at least theoretically, destructive and productive respectively. The classic U.S. occupation—the one held up as the model by those urging more—was that of Japan, from 1945 to 1952. Its two main missions were “demilitarization” following defeat in war and “democratization.” The latter meant the acceptance of a U.S.-dictated new constitution and at least the appearance of popular rule, and general incorporation into the U.S.-led imperialist camp.

Before and during the occupation of Iraq beginning in 2003, some neocons and President Bush himself offered this supposedly grand success story as the template for that project. (John Dower, a leading scholar on the Japanese occupation, pointed out from before the war the absurdity of assuming that the course of events in an advanced, industrialized country of ethnically homogeneous people could be replicated in a developing, ethnically and religiously divided society like Iraq. Bush, he argued, was misusing historical analogy for propaganda’s sake.)

The U.S. formally ended its occupation of Japan, while maintaining a vast military presence, in 1952. The economy, largely due to U.S. military special procurements, had finally revived to the 1937 level during the Korean War, then grown to 150% of that level by 1952. There was stability; labor demonstrations and protests against U.S. bases were common and sometimes violent, but there was nothing remotely resembling civil war. It surely was a success story, from Washington’s point of view, if not necessarily from the point of view of the Japanese obliged to forego neutrality in the Cold War.

Witness now, eleven years after the Iraq invasion, two and half years of the Pentagon’s sulky withdrawal, the fruits of that imperial project. Where is the demilitarization, the pacification, the law and order? Where is the “democracy,” or even any credible claim to central authority?

The lid that the secular Baathists had kept on the simmering historical conflicts between Shiite and Sunni, Arab and Kurd, religious and irreligious, was blown off by the occupier, who presided over the de facto division of the country into a quasi-independent Kurdistan seeking ever more autonomy, and the rest of Iraq divided through ongoing ethnic cleaning into exclusively Shiite and Sunni Arab communities.

Estimates of civilian deaths caused by the war between 2003 and 2011 are as high as over half a million. Over half the country’s Christians have fled. Over four out of twenty-three million Iraqis have fled the country or are internal refugees. The position of women in society has obviously declined; today headscarves and conservative attire are, if not legally mandatory in public, necessary to escape hostile attention. The Guardian reported in 2007 that Iraqi women’s lives had “become immeasurably worse, both rapes, burnings and murders a daily occurrence.” Gay people have it worse. A 2012 Reuters piece notes that while “many gays…had been able to live fairly comfortably in Iraq under Saddam’s largely secular rule,” hundreds have been murdered since the invasion and regime change of 2003—14 young men in eastern Baghdad alone in three weeks in 2012.

According to a recent article in Lebanon’s Daily Star, entitled “Once an Arab model, Baghdad now the world’s worst city”: “Massive concrete walls, designed to withstand the impact of explosions, still divide up confessionally mixed neighborhoods [in the capital of Baghdad], while the government sits in the heavily fortified Green Zone, which is also home to parliament and the U.S. and British embassies, access to which is difficult for ordinary Iraqis…”

According to Amir al-Chalabi, head of an NGO working to improve Baghdad urban services, the city which was once the wonder of the world “has become deserted, and it suffers from instability. At night, it turns into a ghost town because of the lack of lighting.” The standard of living attained under the vilified Baathists has collapsed, and while the oil sector has revived, it provides little employment, now (if we can believe the CIA) at 15%.

The U.S. game plan in Iraq was not to install what would look like a multi-party democratic system post-haste; Paul Bremer, commissar of the “Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq” from May 2003 to April 2004, publicly opined that a rush towards democracy might damage U.S. interests. (He had initially said, “We’re going to be running a colony almost.”) It was not U.S. benevolence but massive pro-democracy, anti-occupation demonstrations that forced the U.S. to gradually allow “free” elections (but minus the banned Baathist party, how could they be free?) and the more or less formal transfer of sovereignty in 2009.

The regime of Nuri al-Maliki midwifed into power by the U.S. is corrupt, dysfunctional, and unpopular. Sympathetic to and influenced by neighboring Shiite Iran, it has avoided complete U.S. domination. (It does not, for example, support the U.S. policy of toppling the Syrian regime.) But it is now appealing for U.S. aid in repressing its foes and is dependent on the U.S. for aid. The U.S. is providing $14 billion in F-16 fighter jets, Apache attack helicopters, Hellfire missiles and reconnaissance drones, and al-Maliki can’t bite the hand that feeds him.

The regime is dominated by religious-sectarian (as opposed to more secular) Shiites who have elbowed aside top Sunni officials (on grounds of “terrorism”) and provoked a massive resurgence of Sunni resistance in the vast province of Anbar . That is where the famous “surge” of 2007 occurred: U.S. forces and Sunni mercenaries united against al-Qaeda, repressing them temporarily.

But all for naught. The al-Qaeda split-off faction called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has in recent days rapidly and dramatically taken the cities of Fajullah (site of the deadliest battle U.S. troops have fought since Da Nang, in November 2004), Tikrit (where government troops surrendered to ISIS at their officers’ command), and Mosul. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians who had taken refuge in the latter city are now fleeing again for their lives.

ISIS now controls territory larger than Israel and Lebanon combined. The U.S. successfully, at the cost of 4488 U.S. soldiers’ lives, transformed a secular modern country in which al-Qaeda had no significant presence, and was seen as a terrorist threat to the Baathist state, into an al-Qaeda base a million times the size of bin Laden’s puny training camps in Afghanistan.

I wonder what extra dimension of meaning this adds to the many veterans of that imperialist war, effectively brainwashed at some point to think that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were comrades in arms, and that by toppling Saddam they’d dealt a big blow to al-Qaeda terrorism.

Instead, with the steady inspiring echo of “USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!” in the background, their actions inflated bin Laden’s small group into the welter of jihadi armies now controlling sections of at least seven countries.

There is no end to the war launched by George W. Bush in 2003. No end to the pain nor the national humiliation. There is none of the demilitarization or democratization of the “successful” Japanese model. Secretary of State Colin Powell told George W. Bush in the war planning stage that the Pottery Barn rule pertained: “If you break it, you own it.” The U.S. has broken Iraq, and now awkwardly shares ownership with Iran, which Washington’s been trying to break for years. The war was a total disaster, a catastrophe, a colossal crime that the Obama administration refused from the get-go to investigate and punish. It is hard to see how it even enhanced the global position of U.S. imperialism; it has not even been a great boon for the energy companies. Its chief historical function has been to sicken and terrify the world, convincing it that that the U.S. is run by madmen. Don’t you dare fuck with us, is the message, because we are really crazy!

And witness now, eight years, eight months and four days after the invasion of Afghanistan, the fruits of that other imperial project. Let us ask the same questions. Where is the demilitarization, the pacification, the law and order? Where is the “democracy,” or even any credible claim to central authority?

The cruel peace that the Taliban imposed on Afghanistan (or at least, 90% of it) from 1996, following eighteen years of incessant civil war, was also destroyed by the occupier from late 2001. Disdaining to distinguish the Taliban from al-Qaeda, the U.S.-Coalition forces bombed them both, causing the Talibs on the plea of tribal elders to abandon the cities including their headquarters of Kandahar and fade into the countryside to regroup and fight another day. Al-Qaeda camps were leveled and an unknown quantity of these militants escaped into Pakistan, along with Taliban who quickly organized support in the latter country, which is now—thanks to the U.S. invasion of its neighbor—plagued with its own Taliban spin-offs fighting the Islamabad regime.

At least 20,000 civilians are thought to have died as a result of the ongoing war. But the Taliban has steadily regained strength and is now capable even of bold strikes in Kabul. It has forged alliances with erstwhile foes such as Hezb-e-Islami (headed by former CIA asset Gulbuddin Hekmatyar). Its success has persuaded military intelligence analysts and top generals that the Afghan War can’t be won militarily but there must be a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. (This is not what they were saying in the first years of the hopeless war, but a conclusion they’ve rationally drawn no doubt realizing that for many, many Afghans, the Taliban is far less onerous than the western infidel presence.)

Missile strikes “accidently” wiping out wedding parties. Night time home raids—doors kicked in and all. Drone strikes which, whether or not they hit innocent civilians, terrorize whole regions along the Afghan-Pakistan border causing sleepless nights, heart attacks, miscarriages… This terror-war causes Afghan parliamentarians to walk out and protest every so often. It causes current President Hamid Karzai (if only to affect a strident nationalism and save his own political ass) to periodically lash out at the U.S. The indifference of the foreign troops to Afghans’ lives and perceived insults to Afghan culture have produced the ongoing wave of “green on blue” attacks. In the crucible of war, U.S. trainers and the Afghan soldiers they train—the friendliest forces—have reached a toxic level of mutual contempt.

The U.S.-subsidized Afghan National Army, designed to establish and maintain peace, theoretically has 200,000 men (versus an estimated 25,000 Taliban). It is trained by the most modern army in the world. But its annual desertion rate is around 25%, and in serious encounters with the Taliban it’s had a tendency to crumble leaving most of the fighting to U.S. forces. It’s unlikely that, as the number of these U.S. forces reaches 10,000 or even zero (an unlikely though possible, as occurred in Iraq) and the Afghan army assumes full responsibility to handling the “insurgency,” the fighting will appreciably abate.

And democratization in Afghanistan? From the Loya Jirga farce in 2002, in which the U.S. envoy, Afghan-American State Department mentee of Paul Wolfwitz thrust the CIA asset down the Afghans’ throats, to the last election in 2009 so plainly fixed to favor Karzai that Peter Galbraith, a U.S. diplomat sent by the UN as a special envoy responsible for elections monitoring, was obliged to resign in protest. Elections in Afghanistan have been mere theatrical events, producing media images of inked thumbs and lines of voters, designed to legitimate the occupation.

Isn’t it wonderful, we’re supposed to think—whatever else has gone a little wrong—that the Afghan people can finally enjoy democracy? Soon another CIA asset, the winner in the last rigged balloting, Abdullah Abdullah, will ascend to power (or such power as is allowed him) having assured his sponsors that yes indeed, he will sign the agreement for the maintenance of U.S. military presence beyond this year, as demanded by the Obama administration.

As for women coming out from “behind the burqa” (the traditional Pashtun female outfit) thanks to the liberating progressive introduced by foreign occupiers? This is nowhere in sight. The current leadership shares the extremely conservative patriarchal mindset towards women we see in the Taliban. Many women remain in prison for the crime of deserting their husbands or refusing their parents’ marriage choices. The occasional death penalty decision meted out from the Afghan Supreme Court for such offenses as alleged conversion to Christianity tells us much about progress of “freedom” acquired under U.S. tutelage over the last dozen years.

No. The most creative defense lawyer trying to defend these two occupations—these twin crimes against humanity—will be hard-pressed to do so, or even to defend them as ultimately vindicated by results. The results, it turns out are horrific.

These occupations, conducted in the name of the people of this country, are a national shame. But they were not the decision of the people, however the people may have been misled by warmongers’ disinformation. They resulted from decisions based on geopolitical calculations underlined by an amoral and brainless commitment to U.S. exceptionalism, including the right to slaughter without any international legal consequences.

The consequences are unfortunately not felt at the Hague, in the International Court of Justice that the U.S. refuses to join (on the straightforward grounds that U.S. forces must never be tried by foreigners, possibly falling victim to anti-American sentiment).

The consequences are rather felt in the innumerable ways rage and hatred express themselves, when the most arrogant and vicious attack the most weak and vulnerable. By inflicting such ongoing pain throughout the “Greater Middle East,” those secretly praying for another 9/11 seem hell-bent on provoking one, following their last gangbang in Libya and the abortion of the planned Syria assault last August based (once again) on lies. Their failures never deter them. They know they need never apologize. They are assured of employment as cable news “foreign policy experts,” fawning interviews and sometimes book sales.

These occupations have been failures, even if if judged by the occupiers’ expectations and plans. If judged by common global moral standards, they are world-class atrocities. That they should be followed by an al-Qaeda faction’s conquest of much of Iraq and Syria, and the prospect of a Taliban return to power in Afghanistan, is deeply troubling.

But hardly less so than the prospect of an ongoing U.S. berserker rampage designed to instill fear and obedience in a world less and less inclined to fear, respect or obey the exceptional nation, and the One Percent who drive its global aggression.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University
Re: How Obama Lost Iraq -- by SHAMUS COOKE
15 Jun 2014
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While President Barack Obama’s top political and military advisers deliberate on how best to address the growing crisis in Iraq, a small army of battle-hardened Islamic extremists, volunteers and ex-Baathists have swept to within 50 miles of Baghdad threatening to seize the Capital, topple the government of President Nouri al-Maliki and ignite another firestorm of sectarian violence. Although Obama has characterized the bloody onslaught as an “emergency situation” requiring a prompt response, he has not yet committed to particular course of action. Meanwhile, the increasingly-anxious residents of Baghdad are hurriedly stocking up on food and bottled water figuring that another war could be just hours away.

Even now, little is known about the shadowy group of Sunni radicals who call themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). What is known, however, is that they are an extremely proficient military force that can strike with lightening speed, dispatch their better-equipped adversaries effortlessly, and enlist the support of the local people to join their ranks. ISIS could never have captured a city the size of Mosul unless the bulk of the population saw them as liberators not occupiers. It’s clear that al-Maliki has failed to win the hearts and minds of the people in the Sunni heartland where he is seen as a dispassionate tyrant who rules with an iron fist. Still, none of this explains why the ISIS has emerged from obscurity just recently or what their real objectives are. Here’s a clip from the Alakhbar News that helps answer that question:


“A lot of theories are being bandied about…The most logical analysis leans in two directions that meet at some point. The first argues that ISIS… sensed a US-Iranian understanding on the horizon and the signs of a regional front emerging to liquidate the takfiri Islamist movement including ISIS. The seeds of this front emerged first in Syria, and its signs were detectable in Iraq given the talk about military preparations and arms deals to regain state control over al-Anbar province. All this prompted ISIS to wage a preemptive strike to fortify its positions and prepare for the crushing battle expected to come.

The second direction alludes to an operation meant to lure ISIS into a trap similar to what the United States did with Saddam Hussein before he invaded Kuwait in order to rally regional support to eliminate him…..The international reaction to the fall of Mosul reinforces the second analysis. ” (Theories behind the ISIS takeover of Iraqi province, al-Akakhbar)

So, is ISIS march on Baghdad a preemptive strike designed to undermine a US-Iranian alliance that would sabotage their political future or has the disparate militia been lured into a trap? It is impossible to say at the present time, but at least one veteran journalist thinks he knows where the groups funding comes from. Here’s a short excerpt from an article by Robert Fisk with the revealingly title “Iraq crisis: Sunni caliphate has been bankrolled by Saudi Arabia”:


“So after the grotesquerie of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 suicide killers of 9/11, meet Saudi Arabia’s latest monstrous contribution to world history: the Islamist Sunni caliphate of Iraq and the Levant, conquerors of Mosul and Tikrit – and Raqqa in Syria – and possibly Baghdad, and the ultimate humiliators of Bush and Obama.

From Aleppo in northern Syria almost to the Iraqi-Iranian border, the jihadists of Isis and sundry other groupuscules paid by the Saudi Wahhabis – and by Kuwaiti oligarchs – now rule thousands of square miles…

Remember that the Americans captured and recaptured Mosul to crush the power of Islamist fighters. They fought for Fallujah twice. And both cities have now been lost again to the Islamists. The armies of Bush and Blair have long gone home, declaring victory.

Under Obama, Saudi Arabia will continue to be treated as a friendly “moderate” in the Arab world, even though its royal family is founded upon the Wahhabist convictions of the Sunni Islamists in Syria and Iraq – and even though millions of its dollars are arming those same fighters. Thus does Saudi power both feed the monster in the deserts of Syria and Iraq and cozy up to the Western powers that protect it.” (Iraq crisis: Sunni caliphate has been bankrolled by Saudi Arabia, Belfast Telegraph)

Fisk is not alone in pinning the blame on Saudi Arabia. There’s also this from Al-Thawra news which is Syrian state media:


“Terrorism is spreading in front of the eyes of the western world… and alongside it are the fingers of Saudi Arabia, providing money and arms…In the events in Iraq and the escalating terrorist campaign, no Western country is unaware of the role Saudi is playing in supporting terrorism and funding and arming different fronts and battles, both inside and outside Iraq and Syria.

The emergence of these organizations is not the result of a vacuum but rather long and clear support for terrorism… which the Gulf has dedicated its finances to expanding.” (These actions were taken) “with Western knowledge and in most cases clear and explicit orders.” (Saudi behind ISIS onslaught in Iraq: Syrian state media, Alakhbar)

While neither Fisk nor al-Thawra provide any proof of their claims, we suspect that when the money-trail is finally uncovered, the evidence will once again point to Riyadh, the Capital of global terrorism. Here’s more from Alakhbar:


“Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki addressed his military officers on TV in light of security reports stating that the attackers are Baathists affiliated with Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri – who was vice president under Saddam – as well as officers from the former Iraqi army and Fedayeen Saddam. According to the reports, more than 40 officers who had served in Saddam Hussein’s army conspired with the attackers. There are tales of betrayal involving senior military leaders including General Abboud Qanbar, Lieutenant General Ali Ghaidan and General Mahdi al-Ghazzawi, all members of the former army.” (ISIS “success” facilitated by betrayal, Iraqi government inadequacies, Alakhbar)

So the ISIS is not just a group of disgruntled jihadis after all. The ranks of full of ex-Baathists and professional military who are ready for a winner-take-all, no-holds-barred clash in Baghdad.

And what does al-Maliki intend to do to defend the capital from this rampaging horde of highly-motivated, combat-tested Sunni troopers?

He plans to launch an enlistment campaign to organize a “popular army” similar to the National Defense Forces in Syria.

Got that? The ISIS militia is just a few miles from Baghdad and al-Maliki thinks he’s going to whip up an army in the next couple hours that will repel them.

Good luck with that, Mr President.

Of course, many people feel that Obama and Co. are just pretending to be surprised at the sudden turn of events; that they actually knew something like this was brewing all along but decided to look the other way figuring that the ISIS’s aggression would help to implement their larger regional strategy to disempower Arab-controlled nation-states by erasing existing borders and creating a “soft partition” that would strengthen US-Israeli hegemony making it easier to repress the indigenous population and pilfer their resources. This is from an article by Al Hayat correspondent, Raghida Dergham:


“While ISIS, with its haphazardness, destructive ideology, and appalling ignorance, spreads from Deir al-Zour to the borders of Kurdistan, achieving its wretched victories, regional and international powers are rushing to take advantage of the situation to further their interests…

All trans-border armies think themselves as makers of a new history by overturning Sykes-Picot. These are the armies of destroying and abolishing borders. As it seems, no one is standing in their way no matter how much NATO powers pretend to be panicked and no matter how many concerned statements the United Nations make. What is frightening is that there are international forces supporting mobile radical armies in their bid to cross borders, to use them in wars of attrition against traditional armies, with a view to partition existing countries in the Arab region.

ISIS not the response to the plans to fragment the Arab region and strengthen Iranian hegemony but is actually an instrument in those plans, whether ISIS is aware of this or naïvely oblivious to the fact. ISIS is destroying the Arabs and undermining Sunni moderates, because it is part of a sinister project to which it was driven voluntarily or by coincidence. All those extending help to ISIS and similar groups like al-Nusra Front, and other Salafist or Wahhabi militias, are directly contributing to the collapse of Syria and Iraq, no matter how much they think they are making history.

Iraq today is on the brink of collapsing into civil war and partition, if not fragmentation. No one will come out victorious in the coming Iraq war.” (ISIS ‘Achievements’ in Iraq and Syria a Gift to the Iranian Negotiator?, Raghida Dergham, Huffington Post)

The author clearly believes that Iran is a big player in these regional games of power politics, but as she concedes later in the article: “the United States is not innocent of these plans. In the minds of many, it is the side that manufactures and encourages extremism, be it Sunni or Shiite, to divide the Arab region and allow Iran to dominate it, with Israeli collusion.”

Isn’t this what’s really going on? While outside observers may not know the particular details, they can assume with some confidence that foreign powerbrokers — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the US — are all deeply involved and are looking for ways to shape the outcome. All four of these countries are up to their axels in the bloody game of geopolitics, and are using Iraq as a staging ground for the own hegemonic ambitions.

Although we have no idea what will happen in the next few weeks, we know who the losers will be in this latest regional slugfest, the Iraqi people.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney (at) msn.com.
Re:
15 Jun 2014
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The debacle in Iraq

14 June 2014

The events that have unfolded in Iraq over the past several days represent the greatest debacle for US imperialism since the fall of Saigon in 1975 sent the last Americans scurrying onto helicopters atop the embassy roof.

The collapse of the Iraqi army, a force the Pentagon spent some $22 billion and a decade to arm and train, and the overrunning of much of the country by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), an offshoot of Al Qaeda, represent more than the failure of a single foreign intervention. What is involved is the implosion of an entire set of policies that have been pursued over the course of the more than two decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The decision to invade Iraq in 2003, using the pretexts of the “war on terrorism” and “weapons of mass destruction,” flowed from the conclusion reached by the US ruling elite that, with the end of the USSR, nothing stood in the way of utilizing America’s military might to assert unrestricted domination over strategic regions of the globe.

The conception was that by means of preemptive war and the use of military power, American capitalism could reverse the consequences of its long-term economic decline. After the events of September 11, 2001, the “war on terrorism” was continuously invoked to justify the unrestrained use of militarism to attain the aims of US imperialism.

The crude ideology underlying this imperialist strategy was exemplified by the infamous statement of the Wall Street Journal, following the first invasion of Iraq in 1991, that “force works.”

The war launched against Iraq in March of 2003 was based on out and out lies combined with a callous contempt for the lives of the Iraqi people. Almost from its first hours, the delusional policies and expectations that underlay the war began to unravel. Washington’s response to each new crisis and failure was to ratchet up the violence, laying waste to what had been one of the most advanced societies in the Middle East.

In an editorial on the Iraq crisis Friday, the New York Times took the position, increasingly popular with the American corporate media, that Iraq’s President Maliki “more than anyone… is to blame for the catastrophe” now unfolding in the country.

The obvious question raised by such a claim is, “Where did Maliki come from?” The answer is that he was a chosen instrument of the US invasion, installed as president during the American occupation of Iraq.

The problems that US imperialism now sees in Maliki’s rule are the product of the contradictions of US policy in Iraq and the surrounding region.

An essential component of the American strategy in launching a war to topple Saddam Hussein was to exploit Shia resentments in order to win allies against the Sunni-based Baathist regime. Washington crassly manipulated sectarian tensions as part of a divide and conquer strategy that ultimately unleashed sectarian warfare that led to countless thousands of deaths and the displacement of entire populations.

Even as it encouraged Shia religious parties in Iraq, the US simultaneously pursued an aggressive policy against Shia-led Iran, where these same parties had sought refuge during the reign of Saddam. Until last year, it appeared that Iran would be the target of a US-Israeli attack.

These contradictions have only intensified as Washington has sought to exploit Sunni Islamist radicalism as a force to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad in neighboring Syria. The net result is that, while opposing Al Qaeda-linked forces in Iraq as “terrorists,” US imperialism is supporting them on the other side of the border in Syria as fighters for “democracy” and “freedom.”

The policies pursued in one country collide with those employed in another. The US is now sending arms and contemplating air raids to prosecute the “war on terrorism” against an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq, even as it and its Arab Gulf allies continue to send arms and aid to promote and strengthen these very same tendencies in both Libya and Syria.

Everywhere, US foreign policy is based not on principles, but on crude pragmatic maneuvers in pursuit of immediate interests, with the “war on terrorism” or “human rights” invoked as increasingly discredited justifications.

Now this same kind of operation is being pursued in the US-led intervention in Ukraine and the escalating tensions in the South China and East China seas, posing the danger of far more devastating wars against nuclear-armed powers, Russia and China.

There is no iron wall separating US foreign and domestic policy. The same combination of recklessness and shortsightedness that characterizes US militarist interventions abroad dominates every aspect of policy within the United States itself, as manifested in the criminal methods employed by Wall Street that precipitated the financial meltdown of 2008-2009.

Whether it is a matter of financial collapse, social devastation or murderous wars, no one is held accountable, much less punished, for bringing these disasters about, and no truthful or rational explanation is offered to the American people as to the source of these catastrophes.

This was exemplified by the appearance Friday of President Barack Obama for ten minutes beside a waiting helicopter on the White House lawn. Speaking with unconcealed callousness and indifference, he gave no sense of the magnitude of the disintegration in Iraq, which has already killed many people and turned over half a million Iraqis into refugees.

Obama indicated that US military aid to the besieged regime of Prime Minister Maliki—including US air strikes—would be conditioned on unspecified efforts by the Iraqi government to “promote stability.” One likely condition is that the regime sign the “status of forces” agreement it rejected two-and-a-half years ago and allow the Pentagon to reclaim its bases in Iraq.

Pointing to US interests in Iraq, Obama declared, “obviously our troops and the American people and the American taxpayers made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny.”

What lies! The Iraq war was not a humanitarian crusade to bring democracy to the Iraqi people. It was justified on the basis of lies about “weapons of mass destruction” and nonexistent ties between Baghdad and Al Qaeda and was carried out to further US imperialism’s drive to assert hegemony over the Middle East and its vast energy reserves. Far from providing a “better destiny” to the Iraqis, the war laid waste to an entire society.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed by the US war, millions more were turned into refugees, and every facet of the economic, social and political infrastructure holding the country together was reduced to rubble. Nearly 4,500 US troops lost their lives, tens of thousands were wounded, and hundreds of thousands were left with the psychological and emotional toll of having been part of a dirty colonial-style war. Trillions of dollars were squandered on a criminal enterprise that enriched politically connected contractors and oil companies, while leaving Iraq’s population in a state of abject misery.

While the last of the US occupation troops were pulled out of the country at the end of 2011—as a result of the Obama administration’s inability to secure a status of forces agreement—the Iraq war was hardly an aberration. It was part of a series of operations launched by Washington. From Afghanistan to Libya, Syria and Ukraine, US imperialism has left a trail of blood and destruction wherever it has intervened. Everywhere it is driven by the most base motives: what resources can be plundered, markets seized and financial interests advanced.

The criminal character of these policies is rooted in the very nature of the US ruling elite, whose wealth is embedded to an overwhelming extent in financial parasitism and swindling.

Every section of the American ruling establishment is deeply implicated in the destruction of Iraqi society and responsible for the catastrophe that is unfolding in that country today. This includes at least the last four US administrations—Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama—which have attacked and occupied the country over the course of a quarter century.

It includes Congress, which has consistently rubber-stamped decisions to wage aggressive war, not bothering even to hold serious hearings on actions that have claimed so many human lives.

And there is the US media, which has ever more directly defined its role as providing propaganda to support whatever policies are pursued by those in power.

It is nauseating in the context of the present debacle in Iraq to see the same talking heads and read the same columnists who a decade ago promoted and, in some cases, embellished upon the lies used to foist a war of aggression on the American people.

One only has to contrast the myopic and lying analyses provided by these elements with the statements produced by the World Socialist Web Site at the time.

In March 2003, at the outset of the US war in Iraq, David North, the chairman of the WSWS international editorial board, wrote: “Whatever the outcome of the initial stages of the conflict that has begun, American imperialism has a rendezvous with disaster. It cannot conquer the world. It cannot reimpose colonial shackles upon the masses of the Middle East. It will not find through the medium of war a viable solution to its internal maladies. Rather, the unforeseen difficulties and mounting resistance engendered by war will intensify all of the internal contradictions of American society.”

This perspective has been fully borne out. The disaster has happened, and it will by no means be the last. The deep crisis of American imperialism will produce similar consequences within the US itself.

The decisive political question today is the development of a socialist and anti-imperialist political movement in the American and international working class to confront the growing danger of world war and the relentless attacks on social conditions—a movement armed with a socialist program to put an end to the rule of the financial oligarchy and the capitalist economic system.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/06/14/pers-j14.html
Re: How Obama Lost Iraq -- by SHAMUS COOKE
15 Jun 2014
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And so the inevitable is unfolding: a possible collapse of the U.S.-imposed Iraqi state, the apparent triumph of the most brutal extremists in the world, and more to come in Syria, Afghanistan, and possibly Jordan, Mali, Libya, and who knows where else. The first step to recovery -- if recovery is even feasible -- is an honest reckoning of why this is happening.

The discourse in Washington, as always, will be superficial, partisan, and knowledge-free. The blaming of Obama for leaving Iraq in 2011 will be the Fox News mantra of coming days and weeks (and, judging from the Benghazi flap, for years). Even the New York Times on Wednesday morning -- reporting that the forces of the extremists, the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, or ISIS, had overrun Mosul and were headed toward Baghdad -- mentioned that this was another blow to the White House's faltering foreign policy. But while Obama has his share of missteps, the responsibility for this catastrophe rests with the neocons of the George W. Bush years and the liberal hawks who can't help but propose war when they see a wrong that needs righting.

Middle East historian Juan Cole explains the tumultuous history in his excellent blog, and makes the useful point that the Iraqi Parliament had rejected the U.S. proposal to keep a residual force in Iraq beyond 2011. Their rejection was rooted in eight years of mayhem that the U.S. invasion wrought. As I have argued exhaustively, the scale of killing was enormous -- likely 600,000 or more Iraqis died in those years as a direct result of the war. That and displacement and impoverishment create and sustain bitterness that no amount of training and equipping the Iraqi army can salve. Many people would ask me why the mortality figures were so important (and a source of contention). This is why. The country was left a ruin, torn by sectarian politics and crippled by mistrust and fear and death. It is easy prey for the jihadists.

The second charge against Obama is that he failed to arm the moderate rebels in Syria, thereby giving the extremists an advantage. Obama should not have encouraged rebellion. The human-rights lobby has been at the center of the Arab Spring fiasco, egging on the rebels and feeding the media narrative of despicable despots that needed deposing. That the likes of Al Qaeda has appeared at virtually every newly created power vacuum to wreak its own special havoc seems to have escaped the notice of every do-gooder from San Francisco to Oslo. The same thing happened in Afghanistan 13 years ago, when prominent feminists argued for war to liberate Afghan women. As my colleague Anna Badkhen points out in her brilliant on-the-ground account, The World Is a Carpet, Afghan women don't need such patronizing attitudes. And, in any case, the Taliban will be back in power in two to three years: war for human rights is increasingly being exposed as an oxymoron.

The question of whether arming the "moderates" among the rebels in Syria would have made a difference in dealing with Assad is anyone's guess. The argument is that it would put pressure on Assad and his supporters, and enable the "moderates" to defeat ISIS. A bigger civil war might unseat Assad (and might not), but the only certainty of that course is more civilian deaths, already at 200,000, and more immiseration of ordinary Syrians. Meanwhile, our longtime buddies in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, have been pouring their oil treasures into ISIS and other extremists. Why the U.S. has not used its leverage to stop that is a more important question than why Obama has been reluctant to arm rebels. It is that Gulf pipeline of oil lucre and weapons that has enabled ISIS to win Mosul and Fallujah, march toward Baghdad, and possibly threaten the next obvious target, Jordan.

That all of this was spurred by the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is a truism, though one often smothered by the blame-Obama meme. Much else has contributed to this fiasco, including the Clinton-imposed sanctions on Iraq that weakened society irreparably, the failure to leverage Israel to settle with the Palestinians (which would have isolated Assad), and the absence of an energy policy that would diminish the political and social power of the petro-states. And lest we forget: the arming of the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Reagan's gift to jihadism that keeps on giving. Arming dodgy rebels has enabled enormous scales death and instability, yet we continue to treat "rebels" as if they were the loyalists in 1930s Spain -- a trope much beloved by Christopher Hitchens and other would-be Orwells. The American news media is enamored of this brave narrative too, framing a debate in which a small liberal cohort can shame the president for not arming the Syrians and now will blame him for the disaster in Iraq.

The fundamental lesson here -- though much more needs to be explored -- is that the root of our blunders is the heavy reliance on military solutions, whether invading countries, imposing sanctions, arming proxies, or propping up authoritarians. The authors of these "solutions" have not all retreated to right-wing think tanks; many are in powerful posts at the UN, the White House, and the presidential campaigns of the future. If we and they don't grapple with this failure of common sense, the catastrophe will continue to unfold.

Follow John Tirman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JohnTirman
Re: How Obama Lost Iraq -- by SHAMUS COOKE
15 Jun 2014
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Iraq crisis: Sunni caliphate has been bankrolled by Saudi Arabia

Bush and Blair said Iraq was a war on Islamic fascism. They lost

By Robert Fisk – 13 June 2014

So after the grotesquerie of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 suicide killers of 9/11, meet Saudi Arabia’s latest monstrous contribution to world history: the Islamist Sunni caliphate of Iraq and the Levant, conquerors of Mosul and Tikrit – and Raqqa in Syria – and possibly Baghdad, and the ultimate humiliators of Bush and Obama

From Aleppo in northern Syria almost to the Iraqi-Iranian border, the jihadists of Isis and sundry other groupuscules paid by the Saudi Wahhabis – and by Kuwaiti oligarchs – now rule thousands of square miles.

Apart from Saudi Arabia’s role in this catastrophe, what other stories are to be hidden from us in the coming days and weeks?

The story of Iraq and the story of Syria are the same – politically, militarily and journalistically: two leaders, one Shia, the other Alawite, fighting for the existence of their regimes against the power of a growing Sunni Muslim international army.

While the Americans support the wretched Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his elected Shia government in Iraq, the same Americans still demand the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his regime, even though both leaders are now brothers-in-arms against the victors of Mosul and Tikrit.

The Croesus-like wealth of Qatar may soon be redirected away from the Muslim rebels of Syria and Iraq to the Assad regime, out of fear and deep hatred for its Sunni brothers in Saudi Arabia (which may invade Qatar if it becomes very angry).

We all know of the “deep concern” of Washington and London at the territorial victories of the Islamists – and the utter destruction of all that America and Britain bled and died for in Iraq. No one, however, will feel as much of this “deep concern” as Shia Iran and Assad of Syria and Maliki of Iraq, who must regard the news from Mosul and Tikrit as a political and military disaster. Just when Syrian military forces were winning the war for Assad, tens of thousands of Iraqi-based militants may now turn on the Damascus government, before or after they choose to advance on Baghdad.

Now we'll march on Baghdad, vow Iraqi insurgents

No one will care now how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been slaughtered since 2003 because of the fantasies of Bush and Blair. These two men destroyed Saddam’s regime to make the world safe and declared that Iraq was part of a titanic battle against “Islamofascism”. Well, they lost.

Remember that the Americans captured and recaptured Mosul to crush the power of Islamist fighters. They fought for Fallujah twice. And both cities have now been lost again to the Islamists. The armies of Bush and Blair have long gone home, declaring victory.

Under Obama, Saudi Arabia will continue to be treated as a friendly “moderate” in the Arab world, even though its royal family is founded upon the Wahhabist convictions of the Sunni Islamists in Syria and Iraq – and even though millions of its dollars are arming those same fighters.

Thus does Saudi power both feed the monster in the deserts of Syria and Iraq and cosy up to the Western powers that protect it.

We should also remember that Maliki’s military attempts to retake Mosul are likely to be ferocious and bloody, just as Assad’s battles to retake cities have proved to be.

The refugees fleeing Mosul are more frightened of Shia government revenge than they are of the Sunni jihadists who have captured their city.

We will all be told to regard the new armed “caliphate” as a “terror nation”. Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, the Isis spokesman, is intelligent, warning against arrogance, talking of an advance on Baghdad when he may be thinking of Damascus. Isis is largely leaving the civilians of Mosul unharmed.

Finally, we will be invited to regard the future as a sectarian war when it will be a war between Muslim sectarians and Muslim non-sectarians. The “terror” bit will be provided by the arms we send to all sides.

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/robert-fisk/iraq-cr
Re: How Obama Lost Iraq -- by SHAMUS COOKE
15 Jun 2014
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American critics of U.S. foreign policy (as well as some neoconservative supporters) often refer to the United States as an empire. This is not an emotional outburst but a substantive description of the national government’s role in the world. But what exactly is an empire? This question is all the more relevant today with Iraq is being consumed by sectarian violence and calls for renewed U.S. intervention here are increasingly louder.

In 1952 the journalist and novelist Garet Garrett (1878–1954) took up this question in contemplating post-World War II America. The resulting essay, “The Rise of Empire,” is included in his anthology, The People’s Pottage (PDF). It bears close study today.

Garrett was an important figure in what has come to be known as the “Old Right,” an eclectic group of writers and politicians (mostly Republican) who emerged in the 1930s to oppose militarism and the centralization of power under the New Deal. (For a history of the Old Right, see my “New Deal Nemesis: The ‘Old Right’ Jeffersonians” [PDF].)

Garrett began with this somber message:


We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire. If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night; the precise moment does not matter. There was no painted sign to say: “You now are entering Imperium.” Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history was saying: “Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible.” And now, not far ahead, is a sign that reads: “No U-turns.”

If you say there were no frightening omens, that is true. The political foundations did not quake, the graves of the fathers did not fly open, the Constitution did not tear itself up. If you say people did not will it, that also is true. But if you say therefore it has not happened, then you have been so long bemused by words that your mind does not believe what the eye can see, even as in the jungle the terrified primitive, on meeting the lion, importunes magic by saying to himself, “He is not there.”

(For evidence that the American empire is older than Garrett thought, see my “Empire on Their Minds.”)

The country’s institutions may look the same, Garrett wrote, but a “revolution within the form” has occurred:


There is no comfort in history for those who put their faith in forms; who think there is safeguard in words inscribed on parchment, preserved in a glass case, reproduced in facsimile and hauled to and fro on a Freedom Train.

Garrett next proceeded to carefully isolate the characteristics of empire. After examining Rome’s transition from republic to empire, he wondered,


If you may have Empire with or without a constitution, even within the form of a republican constitution, and if also you may have Empire with or without an emperor, then how may the true marks of Empire be distinguished with certainty? What are they?

Republics, he said, can make war, conquer territory, and even acquire colonies, depending on how one defines the term, so “let us regard the things that belong only to empire, and set them down. Then we shall see.”

He came up with five traits:


(1) Rise of the executive principle of government to a position of dominant power,

(2) Accommodation of domestic policy to foreign policy,

(3) Ascendancy of the military mind,

(4) A system of satellite nations for a purpose called collective security, and,

(5) An emotional complex of vaunting and fear.

It’s easy to see how closely this fits the United States today. For a long time, the executive branch has been the dominant branch of government. For example, as Garrett noted, the war power has moved entirely into the hands of the president, despite the Constitution’s language and Congress’s half-hearted attempt to hold on to some power with the War Powers Resolution. Since the Korean War, it’s the president who decides when the country goes to war. (Even when Barack Obama tossed the question of bombing Syria to Congress last year, he and others maintained that he had the unilateral power to act if he wanted to.) During the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, lawyers inside and outside the government spun broad theories of autocratic executive authority over national security based entirely on the apparently thin Article II of the Constitution.

Garrett wrote that the “aggrandizement of the executive principle of government” occurred by congressional delegation, reinterpretation of the language of the Constitution, innovation, the appearance of administrative agencies, usurpation, and increasing involvement in foreign affairs. This last is especially relevant, because the executive can always assert that foreign policy cannot be made by 535 members of Congress.

The subordination of domestic policy to foreign policy is accomplished by claiming that without national security, nothing else matters. So domestic concerns must take a back seat to foreign affairs. The national-security establishment’s sheer demand for goods and services — which produces the military-industrial complex — diverts the economy from serving consumers to serving the state. As long as the president can keep the people in fear of foreign enemies, he can justify the transfer of resources from the private sector to the government sector. It is too easy for the executive to answer any challenge by playing the “I know things that you don’t know” card. As Garrett wrote,


It needs hardly to be argued that as we convert the nation into a garrison state to build the most terrible war machine that has ever been imagined on earth, every domestic policy is bound to be conditioned by our foreign policy.

One need only look around to see evidence of the “ascendancy of the military mind.” Not even a looming fiscal crisis prompts a serious reconsideration of America’s far-flung military presence or its putative “interests” everywhere. Reverence for the military intrudes on everyday life; one cannot watch a ballgame or even a televised cooking competition without being subjected to sappy expressions of gratitude for supposed “service to our country.” Americans did not always have a worshipful disposition toward the military.

As in Garrett’s time, satellite nations are today called “allies.” Americans are not only obliged to cough up billions of dollars each year in armaments and cash to support those alliances, they also must be prepared to go to war to defend countries throughout the world. In his recent speech at West Point, Obama included the defense of allies in his definition of America’s “core interests.” Thus the American people are on call should most of Europe up to the Russian border, Japan, South Korea, Israel, and other nations find themselves threatened — even if their own conduct provoked the alleged threat.

Garrett’s phrase “an emotional complex of vaunting and fear” couldn’t better apply to today’s America. Government officials beat their chests in describing how powerful, exceptional, and indispensable America is for the world. No one, they say, can challenge America’s dominance and leadership in the world. Yet at the same time they advise Americans to fear Islamic terrorism, China, Russia, Latin American drug lords, and sundry other threats. That’s vaunting and fear.

Finally, Garrett made a point that is entirely relevant today: “a time comes when Empire finds itself — a prisoner of history.” A republic, Garrett wrote, can determine its own history. “But the history of Empire is world history and belongs to many people.”

We’ve all heard presidents say that America’s responsibilities to the world have been thrust upon it and cannot be avoided. It is not a matter of choice. That’s the doctrine which Garrett had in mind:


What is it that now obliges the American people to act upon the world?

As you ask that question the fear theme plays itself down and the one that takes its place is magnifical. It is not only our security we are thinking of — our security in a frame of collective security. Beyond that lies a greater thought.

It is our turn.

Our turn to do what? you may ask. Garrett nails the political establishment’s reply, which is calculated to awe Americans into blind compliance:


Our turn to assume the responsibilities or moral leadership in the world.

Our turn to maintain a balance of power against the forces of evil everywhere — in Europe and Asia and Africa, in the Atlantic and in the Pacific, by air and by sea — evil in this case being the Russian barbarian. [This is especially pertinent now.]

Our turn to keep the peace of the world.

Our turn to save civilization.

Our turn to serve mankind.

But this is the language of Empire.

We’re told, however, that American empire is unique because it is dedicated to freedom and peace. This claim cannot withstand scrutiny: look at the regimes American administrations have supported and support today. But Garrett said that even if this claim were granted, the case for empire would be self-defeating because its price is bankruptcy.

So even if “this is Imperialism of the Good Intent,” he wrote, it would also have to be the “Empire of the Bottomless Purse.”

http://fff.org/explore-freedom/article/tgif-we-were-warned-about-the-ris/
Re: How Obama Lost Iraq -- by SHAMUS COOKE
15 Jun 2014
The invasion of the major Iraqi city of Mosul by the Sunni militant group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has US reporters recalling the Iraq War–and showing once again how they see that deadly conflict mostly through the prism of US sacrifice and suffering.

On ABC World News (6/10/14), Martha Raddatz declared that "Mosul was once a focal point of America's fight to bring peace and stability to this country." It is hard to imagine many Iraqis would think of the Iraq invasion as an effort to bring peace, but this is not a new approach for ABC. When militants seized control of Fallujah in January, ABC's Terry Moran spoke of "a decade of US-led war to plant democracy in Iraq" (Extra!, 2/14).

Raddatz went on to talk about ab out how more than 200 Americans had "given their lives to secure this city," and that Mosul "is just the latest city to spiral out of control after the US pulled out"–which might suggest that Iraqi cities were in fine shape when they were occupied by US troops.

Her report closed: "So 11 years after the US invaded Iraq–lost nearly 4,500 American lives and spent over $730 billion–Iraq is in crisis."

Iraq is in crisis not in spite of the US war, but because of it. And it's beyond perverse to frame the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq through the prism of US suffering, as if Iraqi lives are of secondary concern. According to the most comprehensive study (PLOS Medicine, 10/15/13), approximately half a million Iraqis lost their lives as a result of the Iraq War–a hundred times the number of Americans killed there.

Still, US news programs tended to focus on US deaths, ignoring or downplaying the much larger number of Iraqis killed in the war the US launched. As NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams (6/10/14) put it, "After all the American lives there were lost, all those who came home grievously wounded, Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, has now fallen under the control of an Al-Qaeda offshoot. " And CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley told viewers (6/10/14), "Another major piece of what America fought for in Iraq was lost today."

And here's CNN host Wolf Blitzer (6/10/14):


This is heartbreaking. The United States spent 10 years there. We assumed that Iraq would emerge a peaceful, stable democracy after the hundreds of billions of dollars the US invested, the 4,500 US troops killed, tens of thousands who came home without arms or legs or burned, post-traumatic stress, and look at this disaster.

Blitzer was interviewing Peter Brookes of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, who refused to concede that the war was a mistake because Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. "We didn't know that at the time," he told Blitzer–which of course depends on who "we" are. But it's not as if Brookes thinks US government should avoid blame–just not the Bush administration: "The real blunder is when the Obama administration got out in 2009 and left the Iraqis on their own."

Brookes goes on to reject arguments about starting the Iraq War based on hindsight, since it's clearly not fair to re-assess Iraq based on what politicians know now about how the war would go. At one point, Brookes says that predictions are difficult–it's "especially hard about the future, right?"

But right before the Iraq War started, it wasn't so hard. In fact, Brookes told CNN (3/5/03) that the Iraq War was "going to last a couple of weeks."

He was wrong, of course–but he's still an Iraq expert in the corporate media.

http://www.fair.org/blog/2014/06/11/iraq-is-a-place-where-americans-suff/
Re: How Obama Lost Iraq -- by SHAMUS COOKE
15 Jun 2014
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Imperialists Shift Military Forces

Iraq Hellhole Made in U.S.A.

All U.S. Troops, Mercenaries Out of the Near East, Afghanistan Now!

On December 18, the U.S. rulers withdrew virtually all uniformed soldiers from Iraq, after having subjected that country to over a decade of starvation sanctions, two devastating wars and brutal military occupation. In announcing the withdrawal, which frees up the U.S. military to focus its firepower elsewhere and in no way marks the end of U.S. intervention in Iraq, President Barack Obama hailed the country as a “model for the entire region.” But the reality is that Iraq, once one of the more advanced countries in the Near East and a regional cultural center, lies in ruins, a testament to the nature of capitalism in its imperialist stage of decay.

By some estimates, more than 1.2 million people have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion, in addition to some 1.5 million killed earlier through starvation sanctions under the aegis of the UN. Repeated U.S. military attacks on civilian neighborhoods and the communal warfare, especially between Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs, unleashed by the occupation have driven roughly five million people from their homes. With the country’s infrastructure demolished, electrical shortages are the norm, 40 percent of the population lacks access to potable water and many families live in desperate poverty without sufficient food. According to the UN, almost one-third of Iraqi children between the ages of six months and five years suffer from acute or chronic malnutrition.

An estimated 30,000 detainees, a third of whom were turned over to Iraqi forces by the departing U.S. troops, rot in prisons with no hope of a trial or even, in many cases, contact with their families. According to Amnesty International and the Red Cross, the hideous tortures commonly used to extract “confessions”—which in hundreds of cases have served as the basis for death sentences—include electric shocks, suffocation, breaking limbs, ripping out fingernails, piercing the body with drills and rape using sticks or bottles. Such sadistic acts closely parallel those that were routinely carried out by U.S. forces at detention centers throughout Iraq, such as the notorious Camp Nama on the outskirts of Baghdad, where the torture inflicted on detainees was far more gruesome than that documented in photos from Abu Ghraib prison.

Exemplifying the impunity with which U.S. troops have indiscriminately killed Iraqi civilians, the Marine who in 2005 led the coldblooded massacre of 24 men, women and children in Haditha was recently let off with a simple reduction in rank. Even Washington’s puppet regime in Baghdad considered it impolitic last fall to extend the agreement granting U.S. troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution. The Obama administration chose not to leave regular troops in Iraq but instead to maintain a small army of 5,500 mercenaries under the jurisdiction of the State Department, which is running an 11,000-person embassy. The U.S. also is operating a fleet of surveillance drones in Baghdad. By this arrangement, the mercenaries will reportedly be granted diplomatic immunity.

Throughout the occupation, the U.S. imperialists manipulated and reinforced sectarian divisions, including by mobilizing Shi’ite militias and the Kurdish pesh merga to crush Sunni insurgents in Falluja in 2004 as U.S. forces leveled that city. Bombings of residential neighborhoods, assassinations of religious pilgrims and other forms of interethnic bloodletting, while not reaching the gory levels of five years ago, have escalated in recent weeks. Throughout the occupation, Christians and other smaller minorities have been victims of violence.

Helping to touch off the renewed wave of communalist slaughter, in October the Shi’ite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a roundup of hundreds of mainly Sunni Muslims accused of being former members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party and issued an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, the country’s highest-ranking Sunni official. With the Shi’ite dominance of the government in Baghdad, Iran has gained significant influence in Iraq while itself being a target of increased imperialist economic sanctions and U.S./Israeli military threats. The deepening sectarian bloodshed underlines the fact that Iraq is not a nation but rather a patchwork of different peoples and ethnicities—primarily Shi’ite Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds—carved out of the collapsing Turkish Ottoman Empire by the British imperialists at the end of the First World War.

The nightmare that has been inflicted upon the Iraqi peoples by both Democratic and Republican administrations in Washington reflects the normal workings of imperialism—from the massacres by U.S. troops in the Philippines following the Spanish-American War to the slaughter of millions of workers and peasants by American and other imperialists during counterrevolutionary wars against Korea and Vietnam. The scramble among the capitalist-imperialist powers for markets, natural resources and sources of cheap labor necessarily produces a drive toward war—colonial-style wars as well as interimperialist conflicts (e.g., World Wars I and II). Along with exploiting the working class at home, the capitalist classes of North America, Europe and Japan exploit and oppress the downtrodden masses of Asia, Africa and Latin America, imposing inhuman conditions on billions of people.

Defeat U.S. Imperialism Through Workers Revolution!

As with the 2001 attack on Afghanistan, when the U.S. launched the invasion of Iraq, it was asserting its right to run roughshod over the planet. The Spartacist League/U.S. declared (WV No. 800, 28 March 2003):

“It is in the class interest of the international proletariat to clearly take a side in defense of Iraq without giving any political support to the bloody Saddam Hussein regime. Every victory for the U.S. imperialists can only encourage further military adventures. In turn, every humiliation, every setback, every defeat they suffer will serve to assist the struggles of working people and the oppressed around the globe.”

We continue to demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops and mercenaries from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Near East.

Above all, we stressed that the chief means of defending neocolonial Iraq against the overwhelming military might of American imperialism was through international class struggle, particularly in the U.S. The U.S. rulers’ devastation of Iraq—carried out in the name of the “war on terror”—went hand in hand with their onslaught against working people at home, from gutting union rights and slashing health care to driving down wages. This open-ended, concocted “war” has also served as the pretext for shredding democratic rights at home and massively increasing the state’s repressive powers, targeting not only Muslim immigrants but also black people and the multiracial working class as a whole. Centrally, we have sought to promote the understanding that the historic task of the working class is to sweep away the imperialist order through socialist revolution.

Our revolutionary perspective stands in stark contrast to that of reformist “socialists” like the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Workers World Party and Party for Socialism and Liberation. These groups built a liberal-pacifist “antiwar movement” designed to mobilize masses of people in the streets to pressure the imperialist rulers to “stop the war” in Iraq. Seeking to forge a political alliance with sections of the bourgeoisie that saw the Iraq quagmire as a losing proposition for U.S. imperialism, the various antiwar coalitions set up by the reformists never raised the basic demand to defend Iraq and Afghanistan against imperialist attack.

The reformists and their antiwar coalitions promoted such slogans as “money for jobs and health care, not war”—as if it is possible to convince the capitalist rulers to reorder their priorities to serve human needs. Contrary to the bourgeois-democratic myth of government “by and for the people,” the policies of U.S. imperialism are determined not by the electorate or by pressure from mass demonstrations but by the interests of the capitalist ruling class, as overseen by the Republicans and Democrats alike. By sowing the illusion that the Democrats in office could be pressured to carry out a humanitarian foreign policy and to meet the needs of working people at home, the reformists act to retard the political consciousness of workers and radical-minded youth, opposing the perspective of proletarian revolution as the only way out of imperialist war, racist oppression and poverty.

Pentagon Changes Focus

The “Anybody but Bush” sentiment pushed by the ISO and other reformists at the antiwar protests came to full flower with their enthusiasm for Obama in 2008, who will undoubtedly enjoy at least their backhanded support this November as a “lesser evil.” During the election campaign, Obama promised that as president he would draw down troop levels in Iraq and escalate the war in Afghanistan. As president, Obama has stepped up military incursions in Pakistan, joined in launching a war against Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya and carried out murderous drone strikes in half a dozen countries. Today, the withdrawal of forces in Iraq has coincided with a sharp buildup of U.S. combat troops and warships in the Persian Gulf as the U.S. and European powers ratchet up military and economic pressure aimed at forcing Iran to abandon its nuclear program. Stationed within 85 miles of the Iranian border, the U.S. contingent in Kuwait has been transformed into a major “quick reaction” force of 15,000 troops.

On January 23, the European Union imposed a total ban on oil purchases from Iran that is to start on July 1, adding to the sanctions imposed in November by Washington. When Iran threatened to respond by closing the Strait of Hormuz, through which nearly 35 percent of globally traded oil passes, U.S. officials threatened to “take action” and sent an aircraft carrier, accompanied by British and French warships, through the strait as a warning. Meanwhile, Israeli officials continue to threaten the possibility of air strikes against nuclear research sites in Iran.

The stated purpose of these belligerent moves is to stop Iran’s purported attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Workers must oppose any economic sanctions against Iran, which are an act of war. Iran has repeatedly stated that its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes. In fact, in the face of imperialist nuclear blackmail and continuing military threats, it would be entirely rational and necessary for Iran to pursue developing nuclear weapons and adequate delivery systems to deter attack.

In the event of any military attack by the U.S. or Israel on Iran, working people and the oppressed internationally must not be neutral but must take a clear side with Iran. As Marxists, we do not give an iota of political support to the reactionary Islamic regime in Iran. But it is the nuclear-armed U.S. imperialists who are the main enemy of the world’s working people and oppressed.

The unrivaled military dominance of the U.S. today is the result of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, which removed a vital counterweight to American imperialism. The rape of Iraq is one of the grim consequences of that world-historic defeat for the international working class. Currently, the U.S. is stepping up its years-long drive toward military encirclement of China, the largest of the remaining countries that have overthrown capitalist rule and as such the chief strategic target of U.S. imperialism. Although bureaucratically deformed from its inception in the 1949 Revolution, the Chinese workers state is based on a collectivized economy and represents a historic gain for the world proletariat.

With the U.S. redirecting its forces from Iraq, Commander-in-Chief Obama on January 5 unveiled a new Pentagon strategy document that calls for a “rebalance” of the U.S. military “toward the Asia-Pacific region” to counter China. In recent years, Washington has strengthened military ties with the Japanese imperialists and has continued to buttress capitalist Taiwan. Adding to the U.S. military bases encircling China, from South Korea and Japan to Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, Obama announced plans in November to deploy 2,500 Marines to Darwin in northern Australia (see “U.S., Australia Reinforce Alliance Against China,” WV No. 994, 20 January).

Ultimately, the aim of the U.S. and other imperialists is to destroy the Chinese workers state and restore bourgeois rule in order to turn the mainland into one gigantic sweatshop for the generation of capitalist profits. It is in the direct interest of the international proletariat to defend China against the imperialists and internal forces of capitalist counterrevolution. At the same time, as Trotskyists we fight for proletarian political revolution to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucrats and to establish a regime based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism.

The imperialist fervor against China and Iran will continue to heat up as the November elections draw nearer. Adding fuel to the fire is the trade-union officialdom, which wallows in chauvinist anti-China trade protectionism and pro-imperialist flag-waving. Avid supporters of the capitalist Democratic Party, this bureaucracy is the central obstacle to winning the U.S. working class to the understanding that it has the social power to eradicate capitalist imperialism and the wars this system breeds. It is through political struggle against the program of class-collaborationism put forward by the leaders of the working class and the reformist left that the revolutionary workers party necessary to lead the working class to power will be forged. 

http://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/995/iraq.html