Showing posts with label iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label iraq. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A quiet reflection on history...

It is not quite 5 years since the blogger known as "Riverbend" signed off her "Baghdad Burning" blog with a final post from Damascus, Syria.

At that time she was soundly lauded as a beacon of hope and democracy through here cronicaling of events in Baghdad following the deposing of Hussein. In more recent times there have been doubts cast on the truth and validity of both her existence and her record of events.

I have thought of her a number of times over the past few weeks. What is she thinking now of her beautiful new home?

Friday, February 18, 2011

A quick visit to the past...

Isn't it curious to revisit blog posts like this one, five years after the event?

The news this week - best summary I have found comes from the Guardian...
The defector who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons programme has admitted for the first time that he lied about his story, then watched in shock as it was used to justify the war.

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed Curveball by German and American intelligence officials who dealt with his claims, has told the Guardian that he fabricated tales of mobile bioweapons trucks and clandestine factories in an attempt to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime, from which he had fled in 1995.

"Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right," he said. "They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy."

The admission comes just after the eighth anniversary of Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations in which the then-US secretary of state relied heavily on lies that Janabi had told the German secret service, the BND. It also follows the release of former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's memoirs, in which he admitted Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction programme.

I remember the news video of that speech well. I recall posting that I had the strong impression Powell was speaking with at least one of his minders (Cheyney? Rumsfeld?) "holding a gun" to his side.

Be that as it may, I hope that Mr Janabi has been able to comfort his conscience with the 20 talents of silver... sorry, German citizenship and Mercedes Benz car that he was given for his story.

More important, take the time to go back and re-read the commentary from the link I gave at the beginning. That was the beginning of the legacy he created.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A quiet reflection and retrospective...

I have to say that GWB’s acknowledgement of the distinct lack of WMD’s in Iraq has a sad feeling of ennui to it; a tired feeling of “better late than never” is completely overwhelmed by the fact that he truly believed the lie. I must add my personal acknowledgement that there is no joy – on my part at least – in knowing that along with a great many others I was right all along.

The saddest aspect to the whole sorry saga is that the success of the “Bush lie” remains. And, for the comfort of those who might be thinking I am about to deny the Holocaust I explain.

The “Bush lie” is not that 9/11 never happened, nor any of the far fanciful conspiracy theories that have sprung up around and since those tragic events. The “Bush lie” swings far more on the conflation of statism, realpolitik, and religious zealotry on the part of the few.

“Statism”, at least the context in which I prefer the term –
“… the ideology of statism that holds that Sovereignty is vested not in the people but in the national state, and that all individuals and associations exist only to enhance the power, the prestige, and the well-being of the state. The concept of statism, which is seen as synonymous with the concept of nation, and corporatism repudiates individualism and exalts the nation as an organic body headed by the Supreme Leader and nurtured by unity, force, and discipline.[4]

This first part of the conflation stems from, and clearly explains; the actions of al Qaeda; the actions taken by the US against Afghanistan and Iraq specifically (and militarily). The justifications, outcomes and consequences of all are not at issue but are now matters of history. What is critical is the confusion (of and by) the individual – such as Saddam, bin Laden, Bush and Cheney – with Nation.
“A usually expansionist national policy having as its sole principle advancement of the national interest.”
“Governmental policies based on hard, practical considerations rather than on moral or idealistic concerns. Realpolitik is German for “the politics of reality” and is often applied to the policies of nations that consider only their own interests in dealing with other countries.”

The combination and confusion of statism and realpolitik is understandable, especially on the part of the US as these are the foundation stones of their modern Republic. Yeah, I know that will get into the noses of quite a few from the US right but please remember, as your blood pressure rises, that that statism is exactly what you are trying to fight against.

Realpolitik comes from, rather than leads to, the opportunities presented by events. There is no question that 9/11 was seen as a prime opportunity to gain considerable advantage in the national interests of the US, quite apart from the social and national impact of the attack. Those opportunities were seen as providing potential solutions to a number of perceived and quite intractable problems looming in the not too distant future. Similarly, the political motives of binLaden and al Qaeda were aimed at consolidation and confirmation of their statism by the creation of their realpolitik.

If you detect a subtle nuance here you are not wrong. The difference between the two comes from the motives of those involved. On the US side the actions and motives of individuals were undoubtably intended as for the national good. For alQaeda’s part, the motives and actions of individuals were as equally intended for personal reasons as for the good of their “State”.

It is that point which raises the third colour in the blend. I can remember very clearly the very first, short, statement made by GWB after 9/11. I can remember the very visible wince from Cheyney as Bush stated the US’s intention to proceed with a “crusade against terrorism”, corrected part way through the phrase to “war on terrorism”. The Freudian slip of “crusade” for “war” has to be accepted as unintentional. That it slipped into the line indicates that its use had likely been discussed prior and discarded as being the wrong word to use. The religious connotation did not fit.

The implied “US-Judeo-Christianity versus Islam” would immediately become a religious war. The consequence would be to exclude many, if not all, Middle Eastern states as potential allies. On the other side, the Bush slip was exactly what alQaeda wanted. It was their intention from the beginning to make 9/11 the beginning of “the greatest ever jihad against Islam’s greatest ever enemy”. The accidental and momentary slip of the tongue was more than they could have hoped for. That the intended enemy was Israel rather than the US became forgotten from the instant the first aircraft hit.

I can not be certain, and I doubt that Bush’s memoir will cover the point, whether the intensity of the religious reaction in the US to 9/11 was intended. It best remains as an “unintended consequence”; one which had only beneficial impact for those in power in the US; one which focussed public attention on “the enemy” of Islam; and a consequence which again was entirely what alQaeda had hoped for. It is this part of the “Bush lie” that remains. It is evidenced – mostly on the right to far right – as an intense and enduring fear and hatred of ALL Islam. In saying that, I realise that it is an over-simplification because it is also strongly evident to the left as well in that part of US which strongly supports Israel. That section is not Jewish, nor Israeli. There is a strong nationalist religious element to the support of Israel in realpolitik and the American electorate.

I started with the statement that the success of the “Bush lie” still remains. It is not a lie that was spoken, nor perhaps even intended by GWB himself. I have consistently put the “Bush lie” in quotes because it is not a conscious untruth, an intended misleading. It is a consequence of a whole society (intentionally? I do not think so) taking the fact, the statism, the realpolitik, and the religious zealotry as one.

On the other side, bin Laden (if he is still alive) and alQaeda have succeeded probably beyond their wildest dreams in provoking the US people into that conflation. Their success in that regard has not reached, nor suaded, more than a very few of the people of Islam. To that extent they have failed.

They have however created a “State” which carries their power. It has no boundaries. It has no recognition as a formal “State” for that reason. It needs neither of those. They have also created a realpolitik which will have a large influence on the actions of other nations into the future. The reason for alQaeda is enough to ensure its continuance into the immediate future. The very great danger in the longer term will be realised if the realpolitik of the alQaeda jihad becomes the norm of Islam. It will become so if the mirror image of the west’s conflation (statism/realpolitik/religion) can be created from the actions of western states against Islam through alQaeda.

Allah willing it shall not.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

On numbers. BIG numbers and perspective.

It is amusing - in that disquietly unsettling way - to read the kind of invective the the "new uber right" of the US uses in its opposition to "new" government policies.

There are few, a small number, expressing concern at the impact some of these changes are having, will have, on the US economy.

The BIG number I want to draw attention to - I don't know the exact value - is the cost of keeping two US Army divisions in Iraq for one year. I am informed (that is all) that the number, the cost is more than the total annual GDP of New Zealand.

That, in global terms is still a (comparatively) small number. But as a matter of personal perspective, it is still a BIG number.

Friday, June 25, 2010

It is just amazing me how the truth of a matter can be rotated on an imaginary axis in order to “prove” (or support) a preconception that has nothing more than personal opinion in its foundation.

Take the raruraru about Gen McChyrstal as an instance in point.

As I have heard it, the facts are –

1. Rolling Stone magazine approached DoD for permission to interview McChrystal. That permission was granted.

2. The journo took up the task and ended up in a bus with McChrystal travelling to an American installation “somewhere in Afghanistan”

3. Both the bus and those on board were “well fuelled” for the trip – though I doubt that the personnel had been at the diesel, or that the bus was ethanol powered.

4. Most of the published article came from “conversations” on that bus trip.

The “right” are now blaming everyone from President to office boyo at the DoD for the screw-up and McChrystal losing his job as a result.

But in truth, whose “fault” should it be that Rolling Stone was able to print an article which in truth did not reflect well on the American effort in Afghanistan.

The President? Well, “the buck stops here” always should apply. In his position as CinC? He takes overall responsibility for the actions of the Armed Forces.

Secretary of Defence? As titular head of Defence, the buck rests on his desk for the fact that Rolling Stone was given direct access to McChrystal.

Well, how is about McChrystal, the man himself? Ask any person holding “office” in any organisation about their responsibility for presenting their employer to the outside word. What kind of answer would you expect? That they would start by giving the company line then, after a few beers start slagging off their boss, the Board, the Managing Director, The Chairman?

And this is where the “right” come off their trolleys. They ignore the reality of personal responsibility. “Someone” has to be responsible so rather than following events logically they lock the radar onto “the usual suspect”; primarily a person or position with whom they have a problem; whom they wish did not exist; whom they would want to see replaced by some other illiterate hick cowboy like their last.

So, rather than say “McChrystal lost the handle, dropped the ball, so he should take responsibility…”, his actions have to be the “responsibility” of someone else.

Well, let’s get real about this whole shenanigan for a moment. McChrystall is the equivalent of your “major corporate executive”. He should know his ropes. He should not lose the handle.

He did all of that.

He has done it before as well. Almost a year ago to the month.

So, who is right then comes to the fore. Is it McChrystal? His proposal a year back, his strategy then, required an additional 20,000 American troops. That does not seem to have changed. From 07/09 -

Even so, McChrystal has been instructed by his superiors -- including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen -- to conduct a thorough assessment of the war effort and articulate his recommendations. While McChrystal has indicated to some of his advisers that he is leaning toward asking for more forces, he has also emphasized that his strategy will involve fundamental changes in the way those troops are used.

One of the key changes outlined in the latest drafts of the assessment report, which will be provided to Gates by mid-August, is a shift in the "operational culture" of U.S. and NATO forces. Commanders will be encouraged to increase contact with Afghans, even if it means living in less-secure outposts inside towns and spending more time on foot patrols instead of in vehicles.

"McChrystal understands that you don't stop IEDs [improvised explosive devices] by putting your soldiers in MRAPs," heavily armored trucks designed to withstand blasts, said Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington who served on the assessment team. "You stop them by convincing the population not to plant them in the first place, and that requires getting out of trucks and interacting with people."

The report calls for intelligence resources to be realigned to focus more on tribal and social dynamics so commanders can identify local power brokers and work with them. Until recently, the vast majority of U.S. and NATO intelligence assets had been oriented toward tracking insurgents.

The changes are aimed at fulfilling McChrystal's view that the primary mission of the international forces is not to conduct raids against Taliban strongholds but to protect civilians and help the Afghan government assume responsibility for maintaining security. "The focus has to be on the people," he said in a recent interview.

Now that is a strategy which I fully endorse. It should have been to the fore in both Afghanistan and Iraq from the start.

The very great difficulty with the approach is that it puts American troops "in harm's way". They walk the streets; they talk to the locals; they present a totally different face.

The very big problem that McChrystal has with his military strategy is that runs very much against the political strategy of his CinC in the White House.

So, it comes to who is right?

The President, for whom his electoral mandate to minimise American losses in both theatres is paramount?

Or the man in charge on the ground, for whom a military solution to the Afghani theatre is a matter of personal and Service pride?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Predatory US...

Had a weekend up in Opo, where lack of 'net access - and lack of desire as well - prevented the recording of a number of events ranging from weather and the trivial to the more important.

The weather was crap, the trivial was finding a very pissed cockroach on the dregs of a kahlua drink.

The more important was the news that some petty little bureaucrat was criticising as "potentially illegal" the US use of UAV's in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

First thing to be said is that at last the US military machine and administration is showing a measure of strategy and sense.

The so-termed "war against terror" is and has never been anything other than an "assymetric war". That fact alone should have ruled out the use of the traditional "send in the US Cavalry". However the US, led by its cowboy administration, preferred the idea of the cavalry charging over the hill to save the day; or to up-date the image somewhat, "sending in the Marines" to secure territory by charging over the countryside.

Despite the fact that some 30% of the casualties to the Predator raids have been civilians, the numbers of non-combatants killed have been measured in tens rather than hundreds.

The "excuse" that the US did not have this technology available washes not. How long did the US have the U2, before the US public knew of it (courtesy of the Russians)? What other technologies already exist within the US armoury that are also unknown?

No, this is and always has been an assymteric war.

This is how you fight it. What a shame it took eight years, two Presidents, and thousands of dead to realise that.

Friday, January 30, 2009

For those who thought that Iraq would be over soon...

... there is a chilling reminder of how long and how deep the feelings can last.

Now I admit that until now I have taken the "peace" in Northern Ireland as an optimistic example of what can be achieved. This, however, must dampen the enthusiasm somewhat -
A new Northern Ireland reconciliation plan that gives the families of slain innocents and killers the same "recognition" payment provoked fury Wednesday from Protestants victimized by decades of IRA attacks.

Protestant hard-liners disrupted a Belfast press conference called to unveil - and sell to a sceptical public - the 18-month efforts of former Anglican Archbishop Robin Eames and former Catholic priest Denis Bradley.

As they prepared to speak, Protestant hard-liners jumped up from the crowd to hurl insults and condemnations - both at the two men and other audience members linked to the outlawed Irish Republican Army. The hecklers included men and women who lost relatives or were maimed in IRA attacks.

"My brother was an innocent man defending this whole community," said one protester, Hazlett Lynch, whose policeman brother was killed in a 1977 IRA ambush. "When IRA men died while launching cowardly attacks on this community, they actually received justice. The families of those murderers should not be consoled with a single penny today."

Their fury focused on an Eames-Bradley commitment to paying the nearest relatives of all 3,700 dead from the conflict 12,000 British pounds (US$17,000) each. The two former churchmen insisted that all families who lost loved ones deserve equal support - but once the anger had ebbed, Eames offered a qualified apology.

"Maybe this gesture, for those outside of our group, is too sudden. Maybe we did make a mistake in our timing. ... If so, we apologize," Eames said.

But he and Bradley stressed that their 192-page report, containing more than 30 proposals, would require citizens to take painful new steps down the road to lasting peace.

The recommendations by the leaders of a British government-appointed panel, called the Consultative Group on the Past, call for Britain to transfer investigative powers to a new panel called the Legacy Commission. Different branches of this group would seek to encourage former IRA members and other militants to come clean about their past; shed light on bitterly disputed killings involving British security forces; and encourage a divided public to talk to each other behind closed doors. The commission's work would take five years and require funding of more than 300 million pounds.

The British and Irish governments offered a muted welcome for the report's contents - reflecting their recognition of the Protestant side's undying hatred for the IRA.

In London, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he understood why the idea of paying out flat-fee payments to relatives of the dead "has evoked such controversy in Northern Ireland."

"The government is obviously going to consider the report with great care," he said.

But First Minister Peter Robinson, the Protestant leader of Northern Ireland's 20-month-old coalition government with Catholics, said he had "no doubt that many innocent victims will feel betrayed."

Robinson said he would ensure that Brown and other British officials do "not insult the innocent victims of terrorism by giving any weight to these offensive recommendations."

There is a video here. I recommend it because it does (if it is the same as that shown on last night's late news) also include comment from one from the Catholic side.

What the British are considering might, and might not, help to further heal the woulds of a now 100 plus year old conflict.

The dampened enthusiasm must reflect upon the likely outcome for Iraq. Certainly the history of the relationship between Sunni and Shia there is little different in scope and duration from the Catholic - Protestant "troubles" in Ireland.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Now, what was I saying?

Lessons for Countering al Qa'ida

By: Seth G. Jones, Martin C. Libicki

All terrorist groups eventually end. But how do they end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because (1) they joined the political process (43 percent) or (2) local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members (40 percent). Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame have achieved victory. This has significant implications for dealing with al Qa'ida and suggests fundamentally rethinking post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy: Policymakers need to understand where to prioritize their efforts with limited resources and attention. The authors report that religious terrorist groups take longer to eliminate than other groups and rarely achieve their objectives. The largest groups achieve their goals more often and last longer than the smallest ones do. Finally, groups from upper-income countries are more likely to be left-wing or nationalist and less likely to have religion as their motivation. The authors conclude that policing and intelligence, rather than military force, should form the backbone of U.S. efforts against al Qa'ida. And U.S. policymakers should end the use of the phrase “war on terrorism” since there is no battlefield solution to defeating al Qa'ida.

The full report will cost you about USD30 (that is about NZD40 than I can spare at the moment).

Now, who is going to prove Rand is wrong?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Aussies are coming home -

"Have further terrorist attacks been prevented? No they have not been.

Has any evidence of a link between WMD and the former Iraqi regime and terrorists been found? No.

Have the actions of rogue states like Iran been moderated? No.

After five years, has the humanitarian crisis in Iraq been removed? No it has not."

Sound like a left-wing blogger? Yes.

In fact it is Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister, announcing the return of Australian troops from Iraq.

THE withdrawal of Australian combat troops from Iraq reopened old wounds yesterday, when Kevin Rudd accused the Coalition of taking the nation to war based on a lie.

In a terse statement to Parliament, the Prime Minister said the Howard government had embarked on the mission using abused intelligence and "without a full and proper assessment" of the consequences.

Supporting the war without approval of the United Nations had set a dangerous precedent and undermined the international system, Mr Rudd said.

As a measure of the Australian committment -
"Roughly half of our infantry and cavalry is somehow tied to those deployments," he said. "This is an unsustainable position." The Iraqis had not asked the Australian troops for help in 20 months, he said, and they were needed elsewhere.

And in return all they got was an American Free Trade agreement - free for America, nothing for the Aussies for another 4 years...

Thanks smh...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yet another "TRAITOR"...

Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (ret'd).

Well, more power to his arm I say. Speak truth to power.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Who IS Blackwater - 2

I wrote on this back in March when the subject was raised by Sen Jim Webb in a Congressional Hearing, and the article in "The Nation" had me running (yep I admit I am a chicken).

WSJ has the best summary I can find in a hurry.
Blackwater USA's controversial private security work in Iraq and Afghanistan quickly came under heavy criticism at a congressional hearing Tuesday morning, with Democratic lawmakers reciting problems with State Department oversight of the firm and calling for broader contractor accountability by the U.S. government.


Mr. Waxman made clear that the Moyock, N.C., security company will have to address why Blackwater guards have been involved in 195 shooting incidents since 2005 and why contractors have not been punished for breaking rules that would land military personnel in jail.


Rep. Tom Davis (R., Va.), the ranking Republican on the committee, acknowledged "blind spots" in State Department oversight of its security guards but said there's not enough information to "know if one company's rate of weapons-related incidents is the product of a dangerous 'cowboy' culture or the predictable result of conducting higher-risk missions."

Perhaps my concern was not misplaced after all.

Oh, and an interesting little link led to this article on a quite unrelated topic.

Friday, March 16, 2007

What IS "Blackwater USA"?

Read it. It is long. It is detailed. I needed at least two toilet stops along the way...
...during confirmation hearings for Gen. George Casey as Army chief of staff, Senator Jim Webb declared, "This is a rent-an-army out there." Webb asked Casey, "Wouldn't it be better for this country if those tasks, particularly the quasi-military gunfighting tasks, were being performed by active-duty military soldiers in terms of cost and accountability?" Casey defended the contracting system but said armed contractors "are the ones that we have to watch very carefully." Senator Joe Biden, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, has also indicated he will hold hearings on contractors. Parallel to the ongoing investigations, there are several bills gaining steam in Congress aimed at contractor oversight.

Occupying the hot seat through these deliberations is the shadowy mercenary company Blackwater USA. Unbeknownst to many Americans and largely off the Congressional radar, Blackwater has secured a position of remarkable power and protection within the US war apparatus. This company's success represents the realization of the life's work of the conservative officials who formed the core of the Bush Administration's war team, for whom radical privatization has long been a cherished ideological mission. Blackwater has repeatedly cited Rumsfeld's statement that contractors are part of the "Total Force" as evidence that it is a legitimate part of the nation's "warfighting capability and capacity." Invoking Rumsfeld's designation, the company has in effect declared its forces above the law--entitled to the immunity from civilian lawsuits enjoyed by the military, but also not bound by the military's court martial system....