Stop whatever your doing, right now. I mean, RIGHT NOW!!!
There is a great, must-read piece in The Post by a former U.S. official who worked in Iraq that relates how the Premiere Nouri al-Maliki came to power, and how his past and current actions, along with many of U.S. officials involved, has led to the dire situation Iraq finds itself in today.
The author is Ali Khedery who was the longest continuously serving American official in Iraq, serving from 2003 to 2009, who acted as a special assistant to five U.S. ambassadors and as a senior adviser to three heads of U.S. Central Command. He was also a close associate to Premiere Maliki and explained his relationship with him in the following paragraph:
I have known Maliki, or Abu Isra, as he is known to people close to him, for more than a decade. I have traveled across three continents with him. I know his family and his inner circle. When Maliki was an obscure member of parliament, I was among the very few Americans in Baghdad who took his phone calls. In 2006, I helped introduce him to the U.S. ambassador, recommending him as a promising option for prime minister. In 2008, I organized his medevac when he fell ill, and I accompanied him for treatment in London, spending 18 hours a day with him at Wellington Hospital. In 2009, I lobbied skeptical regional royals to support Maliki’s government.
By 2010, however, I was urging the vice president of the United States and the White House senior staff to withdraw their support for Maliki. I had come to realize that if he remained in office, he would create a divisive, despotic and sectarian government that would rip the country apart and devastate American interests.
America stuck by Maliki. As a result, we now face strategic defeat in Iraq and perhaps in the broader Middle East.
Hopefully, after reading that excerpt, you are hurriedly clicking on our link to get to this op-ed immediately. It is even more compelling than the excerpt leads on. So go read it! NOW!
With the troubling news coming out of Iraq these past few days I can only think what a waste the War was. We lost over 4500 service men and women and hundreds of billions of dollars, not to mention the fact that we were led into the conflict under false pretenses regarding WMDs. We were then sold a moralistic argument that we removed of a brutal dictator from power that Donald Rumsfeld, former Sec. of Defense, met and shook hands with in the 1980’s during the Iraq/Iran War.
Now the jihadi, Sunni-led ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is spilling out of Syria’s bloody civil war and invading Iraq at an alarming speed, taking city after city. They are now heading to Baghdad to settle old scores with Prime Minister Nurem Maliki, a Shiite, who has excluded Sunni’s from the government. Even former Baath Party members (the ruling Party of the Hussein Sunni era) are joining with ISIS in the goal of establishing a Islamic caliphate practicing Sharia law. Maliki now wants help from the U.S. in the form of airstrikes with jet fighters and drones, which according to sources reporting to the NYT seems very unlikely.
The borders of Iraq were set up by colonialists in the 19th century with no bearing or regard for lumping together people of different tribes, and now the current borders are being threatened by sectarian violence. It seems to me, more now then ever, that the Iraq War was a tragic waste.
As what once looked like an inevitable march to war in Syria stays on hold longer, it seems the United States’ public has put to use the lessons learned from the debacle in Iraq. And one of the most important lessons was the reality that we can’t predict what the future will bring no matter how sure we think we are about it.
One of the biggest reasons for this unpredictability is the various groups found in these countries and the infighting that occurs after changes in power, a residual effect of their borders being created by colonialism. Iraq is no exception and the violence there continues as we saw over the weekend.
And it’s possible the outcome of a power switch in Syria might be even more unpredictable than Iraq. The CSM illustrated this in a recent article that attempted to estimate the number of fighters in various groups fighting against the Assad regime:
Jihadists – 10-12,000
Hardline Islamists – 30,000
Ikhwani Islamists – 30-40,000
Genuine moderates – 20-25,000
Kurds – 10,000
…statements that so-called “moderates” dominate the fight against Mr. Assad, as both US Secretary of State John Kerry and influential politicians like Senator John McCain have asserted, are not accurate.
The path ahead is very murky in Syria and that could very well be one of the reasons Americans are so reluctant to support military action against Assad, a clear change from the lead-up to the Iraq War as most polls illustrate. A look at old data from Pew show 72% believed Iraq was the “right decision” in March of 2003 when the war began. A look at their data on Syria show 63% of Americans oppose airstrikes.
Obviously, we can’t say this is the only reason for the change as many factors will play a role in each situation. But the reality that one of these groups would eventually take power and then be tasked with holding onto it peacefully in a post-Assad Syria should be a concern when judging this issue. It would be foolish to think a magic wand could be waved and things would work out just perfectly, particularly when you consider the groups are already fighting each other at times instead of the Assad regime.
The situation in Syria is messy but Western intervention will likely only make matters worse in the long run.
There is very little in the way of a rational argument supporting the idea the Iraq War was in any fashion a success. By just about any measure imaginable, it was an outright failure. And the situation in the country continues to get worse, as indicated by just a sample of recent attacks:
And those reports are from the month of July alone. As one article notes, “more than 2,500 Iraqis have died in attacks since April.”
This is also not counting the legacy of depleted uranium used by U.S. forces in Iraq which is causing huge increases in birth defects in cities such as Najaf and Fallujah where very heavy fighting occurred.
It appears Afghanistan is now headed for the same type of violent situation. Civilian casualties are on the rise according to the UN, as noted by the CSM:
The report said that Afghan civilian casualties are rising, noting an increase of 23 percent in the first half of 2013…According to the report, between January and June of this year, 1,319 civilians were killed, while 2,533 more were injured. Women and children casualties are also on the rise, increasing by 61 and 30 percent, respectively.
It’s not impossible for these countries to make miraculous turnarounds and be thriving democracies with strong economies one day. But that day is not in the foreseeable future and it would appear the U.S. occupations of both may have set that day back much further as the level of violence grows in each.
Which now begs the question: should the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan be considered a failure equal to that of Iraq?
A good article in The Post on how things are progressing in Iraq 10 years after the U.S. invasion. The country seems to be flourishing (if that is not too strong of a term) in the Kurdish occupied north and the Shiite controlled south as the Sunni controlled central region continues to experience much violence along with many other troubles. The problem seems to be that, under dictator Saddam Hussein, the Sunni’s were the ruling faction, but now the Shiites have gained the majority of power under the al-Maliki government for they are the majority of the population their.
Article from the AP in the Washington Post reporting that a military contractor operating in Abu-Ghraib from 2003-2007 has been ordered by a U.S. court to pay former detainees $5 million in cash for abuse during the Iraq War.
An interesting article appeared today from Reuters laying out some of the findings about terrorist attacks around the world over the past decade. Most of the info is not particularly surprising, such as the most affected countries being Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, but a few tidbits in the article deserve some attention. The first is something well known and long told but always bears repeating since some doubt about this point continues:
The U.S. military interventions pursued as part of the West’s anti-al Qaeda “war on terror”, the researchers suggested, may have simply made matters worse – while whether they made the U.S. homeland safer was impossible to prove…”After 9/11, terrorist activity fell back to pre-2000 levels until after the Iraq invasion, and has since escalated dramatically,” Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace.
Invading Iraq in the name of the War on Terror was a colossal mistake and little more needs to be said about that considering this fact has been driven home by the experts since before the invasion began.
Two other pieces of info should be noted from this study. Both have to do with the wording in the study and what is not included to ensure the numbers do not potentially embarrass certain world actors. The first bit:
The researchers used the University of Maryland definition of “terrorism”: “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation”. It did not include casualties from government-backed action such as aerial bombing or other killings. (Emphasis added.)
This means any action taken by a country’s internationally recognized government, such as the Syrian government killing its own citizens or the United States invading another country, would not be included in the results. Drone attacks would also be excluded from the findings. That being said we must ask, if the words “by a non-state actor” were removed from the definition given, would the actions of the U.S. government be terrorism? The answer is left for the reader to decide but shouldn’t we ask why governments aren’t included in this definition? Technically, one of the key reasons the U.S. went to war with Iraq was the falsely alleged Iraqi support of terrorism, particularly al-Qaeda. If we can claim a government is involved in terrorism to the point of invading to overthrow said government, shouldn’t these actors be included in such a study?
The second bit of info in the article intended not to attract attention to the United States’ internal issues:
The study said its methodology allowed researchers the scope to exclude actions that could be seen as insurgency, hate crime or organized crime and incidents about which insufficient information was available.
The interesting item here is the exclusion of hate crimes from the study. Judging from the given definition of terrorism, there is little doubt hate crimes would actually fit the study and, according to the latest numbers(2010) given by the FBI, would look bad for the U.S. considering the number of hate crimes in 2010 (6,628) actually exceeds the number of global terrorist incidents in 2011 (4,564). It should be noted the number of deaths because of hate crimes is very small (7) but there is no argument against the reality they are carried out “to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation”.
This is not to suggest hate crimes are America’s biggest crime problem or only an American issue. This is simply a question of how we define and include information in studies that could potentially put a negative focus on the actions of the United States both internationally and domestically. We cannot be scared of what we might find and should recognize we are far from saints when it comes to the overall issue of violence on this planet. Only then can we take the proper steps needed to correct these injustices.
An interview with Israel’s ex-chief of Mossad (Israel’s CIA) appeared this week showing his opposition to a military strike against Iran. He is joined in his opposition in Israel by other ex-high level officials who believe the outcome of a preemptive Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be dire but doesn’t dismiss the idea of Iran pursuing nuclear weapons. His reason seems to be along the same lines Fareed Zakaria pointed out in recent months in terms of rationality for Iran. This should all be coupled with the reality of U.S. intelligence officials confirming there is no evidence Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons (I’ve previously mentioned). The situation with Iran continues to be seemingly volatile and very dangerous but for reasons that don’t seem to exist. Which makes one simply wonder, why?
To answer one aspect of this, we should start with a question. If defense is a big business and the government is the key producer and beneficiary, who is the marketer? If we look at other markets the government participates in, the answer is clear. Take, for example, education. There are private schools allowed to market their products along with state-run institutions (speaking mostly of colleges here but obviously some previous schooling is needed for that) and there is the reality we know an education is important when we get to the age of needing work. Health care is similar. As we move on in life we realize we almost certainly need both of these things at one time or another. There isn’t much need for the government to advertise for the necessity here since other elements of society do the marketing for them, but what about defense?
Everyone knows the United States stands alone in how much money goes into defense spending compared to the rest of the world. How does this market get sold to us so it can be maintained? Obviously, a commercial showing a country and making the case for an attack is a little over the top. I can just imagine the ridiculousness this could take on as comedic commercials would no doubt find their way even into this type of marketing (although, some of the recent commercials we have seen with celebrities and athletes pimping war-like video games have been along these lines and give us an idea of what they would look like).
The truth is the marketing derives from the idea there is an enemy for us to fight and we need to maintain these spending levels in order to keep this enemy in check. The enemy has evolved over time and when one runs its course another is chosen. If we looked at Iran logically and accepted the statements of our own intelligence officials that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons, we would be discussing significant cuts in defense spending since we have no real threat. But this isn’t happening. In fact, Republican presidential nominee Romney is even promoting the idea of defense spending increases. When the business is big, it must be continued and continuation means finding enemies, if necessary. Let’s not forget Rumsfeld’s push for attacking Iraq after the 9/11 attacks which stemmed from the “Clean Break” report. This is why there is little chance the Iran situation and the idea of military intervention as an option will die quietly, particularly in an election year.
The ultimate point here is: we have a big military (business) and we need a big enemy/threat (customer). If that customer is no where to be seen in one market, it is up to the people running the business to find a new market to sell, sell, sell. Hence, the marketing is now the suggestion of a threat whether real or perceived. The media obviously plays a big role in this by reporting the statements of government officials and (sometimes) not checking into the truthfulness of those statements. But then again, how can they check them at times when the only source is the marketer of a product/government official?
The only thing we can hope to do to keep this business in check and stop abuses and corruption is through some type of oversight, similar to the idea of having the FDA making sure our food isn’t poisoned. The way to do that is through more transparency by the government when a threat is suggested. We are moving into an age where information flows more freely but, as we saw with the buildup to the War in Iraq, still not free enough. If we knew the shakiness of the information to justify that war, the public would have overwhelmingly denounced it before the first shot was fired. We should ask for that type of transparency in every action moving forward.
And if we don’t ask for that transparency, the marketers win in the short run and we lose in the long run. Just like the Iraq War.