Archive for the ‘Iraq War’ Category

The Iraq Status of Forces Negotiations: Exposing the Republican Lie

June 19, 2008

For five years now, Republicans high and low have scoffed at the Iraq War skeptics. They’ve routinely protested any suggestion that the conquest had anything to do with oil or empire. This is a war of liberation, an act of benevolence to free an oppressed people, a noble act to spread Democracy. The regrettable use of military force was necessary, but was merely temporary. Our forces will be removed as soon as the legitimate government of Iraq no longer needed or wanted our services.

Variously naive and duplicitous, these assurances have been proven wrong. We now know that the Bush administration has been in negotiations for a new Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, one which would permit U.S. forces to maintain dozens of indefinite-term military bases, control of Iraqi airspace, carte blanche to pursue military operations, and immunity from Iraqi law for not only members of the U.S. military, but U.S. contractors.

That is not a mutual aid agreement between sovereign nations. That is a pact turning Iraq into a client state of the U.S.

Yes, the conservatives insist that the bases are intended to be temporary. The bases in Saudi Arabia established during Gulf War I were supposedly temporary as well. So was Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, but the idea that this sprawling, expensive base will be dismantled anytime soon is rather absurd. As Chalmers Johnson pointed out in his book The Sorrows of Empire, its network of military bases is a primary means by which the U.S. stretches its influence and exerts political pressure on nations throughout the world. This is nothing more than the neo-imperialism practiced by the U.S. for the better part of a century.

You don’t think the war had anything to do with petroleum? I have a hard time believing that the administration didn’t see potential of leveraging the influence of long-term military bases to help assure the pipeline to the U.S.

And what of the desires of the legitimate government in Iraq? They find the U.S. demands to be unacceptable.

We have reached an impasse, because when we opened these negotiations we did not realise that the US demands would so deeply affect Iraqi sovereignty and this is something we can never accept (Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki, from “Impasse in US-Iraqi forces talks,” BBC)

It reminds me a great deal of the agreement between the U.S. and Cuba after the Spanish-American War. Cuba, now “liberated” from Spain, was required to grant the U.S. military bases (of which Guantanamo is a remnant), exempt U.S. entities from Cuban law, and even permit the U.S. government a veto over the Cuban legislature. Some liberation.

It is worth considering that the hubris of the U.S. and their insistence that Cuba become a vassal played a very key role in the resentment which ultimately enabled a meglomaniacal dictator to lead an uprising and defy the U.S. for almost half a century now.

Time for the conservatives to face facts and or own up to the lies. There are clearly ulterior motives at play—motives which must be terminated. The Middle-East is explosive enough right now without pouring more gasoline on the fire.

Then Again…

March 29, 2008

…when I am reminded of McCain’s foreign policy, and the general attitude of the vast majority of the Republicans in that regard, the prospects of voting for McCain dim considerably. While I’m not certain either of the Democratic candidates are as willing to stand for an ethical foreign policy as I’d like, and Clinton seems very willing to take a belligerent stance when it suits her purposes, neither seem to relish the imperator role like their presumptive opponent.

Jeff Huber, retired Navy Commander, is a rather witty commentator on the military and politics in his blog Pen and Sword. He had some rather scathing thoughts on McCain’s recent faux-pas in Iraq.

It must be a kick in the head to base your claim to the presidency on your savvy in foreign affairs only to have it get out that Joe Lieberman knows more about them than you do. I bet it’s a lot like how I feel when my dog corrects my grammar in front of people.

One would like to think that Senator John McCain misspoke when he said in Jordan during his tour of the Middle East that the Iranians have been “taking Al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back.” He is, after all, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the GOP’s designated crown prince, so you’d think he’d be aware that the official rant is that Iran is training Shiite Iraqi militants, not the Sunni al Qaeda guys. But no, McCain made the Iran-al Qaeda accusation four times in just over three weeks, and it wasn’t until Lieberman cooed something in his ear that he said, “I’m sorry. The Iranians are training extremists, not Al Qaeda.”

The question is, of course, whether McCain is really that dumb and/or senile or if he’s just being a diligent echo chamberlain of the neoconservative agenda. It may be that he lives in a bubble even more opaque than the one Mr. Bush occupies. Then again, he may be a Cheney class Machiavellian. As historian and journalist Gareth Porter noted on March 22, “Sen. John McCain’s confusion in recent allegations of Iranian training of al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq is the result of a drumbeat of official propaganda about close Iran-al-Qaeda ties that the George W. Bush administration and neoconservatives have promoted ever since early 2002.”

Whatever the case, McCain is a key component of the disinformation campaign designed to revive the world order we thought we’d put out of its misery at the end of the 20th century (Pen and Sword, “McQaeda” ).

He also tackles Cheney’s duplicity regarding Al Qaeda and the administration’s simian chest-beating over Iran in the same post. Biting, but very shrewd.

Don’t Forget the Iraqi People

March 22, 2008

I’m far from the only blogger who commemorated the Iraq War’s pentannual mark with an evaluation. In response to my own, one commentor linked to the assessment of Bob Lonsberry, a right-wing journalist and radio personality who also happens to be lds. This commentor advertised Lonsberry’s essay, “Iraq is Costly and Successful,” as “honest” and “refreshing.”

Lonsberry has no reservations about the war. Oh, he is critical of the cost of the conflict, and the way the war was handled during the first few years. But for him, there is no doubt about the value of the war. “It was brilliant and successful.”

The essay is littered with the typical militarist cliches and language. “Weakness invites attack, strength assures peace.” “It is only in the last year—in the era of the surge—that we have begun to fight…In a war, you either fight all out, or you lose.” It wistfully mentions taking on the government of China, ruefully suggests that we should have taken control of Iraq’s oil resources, and hearkens back to the games of Realpolitik our nation played with Iraq and Iran (Lonsberry doesn’t miss out on the opportunity to send chills down his reader’s spine by hearkening back to Bush’s dreaded “Axis of Evil”). The essay virtually reeks of testosterone. That view of the world may be very exciting in paperback thrillers and Hollywood blockbusters, but is a rather dangerous way to try to maintain either peace or a democratic society.

Lonsberry’s central argument is based on the now trite conservative platitude: “We are fighting the terrorists over there so that we don’t have to fight them over here.”

The second success—the larger success—is of great significance to us. We changed the venue of the war with militant Islam. We captured the initiative in the war on terror.

They wanted to fight our civilians in our country. We wanted them to fight our military in their country. Instead of slashing unarmed stewardesses and killing helpless business people in America, we duped them into attacking armed soldiers and Marines in Iraq…

…We turned the stampede of militant Islam. We got these morons to engage us far from our homeland, under conditions favorable to us, in a situation where we could bring our military might to bear. The key to insurgency or terrorism is battlefield initiative—they get to pick the where and the when of the fight. By invading Iraq, and drawing the attention of the swarm of terrorist wasps, we asserted the initiative and picked the where.

It is true that we have yet to suffer any attacks on our soil since 9/11. We could argue that this is because of improved border and port security or intelligence operations in the aftermath of 9/11. You could argue that the invasion of Afghanistan disrupted the communications and organization of the most prominent terrorist network. Or you might argue that this is simply because the terrorists are biding their time, waiting for the next big opportunity to make a splash. It is ludicrous to argue is that there have been no terrorist attacks in our land because we’ve made Iraq the designated battleground.

Remember, we’re talking about terrorists. They don’t engage you where you prefer; they don’t even engage whom you prefer. If they did, we’d call them soldiers.

The successful London terrorist attack and the foiled transatlantic aircraft plot both show that terrorists can and will select their targets without any consideration for which venue we’ve chosen. The National Intelligence Estimates for 2006 and 2007, documents drawn up by experts on the subject, both suggest that we are at greater risk of terrorist attack because of the War in Iraq. Lonsberry’s premise is fundamentally flawed.

But sadly, this is not the greatest problem with Lonsberry’s perspective. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that he is right, and the decision to fight in Iraq has contained hostilities to the Mesopotamian region, like some vast sheet of flypaper. In his reasoning, I notice that he entirely disregarded one enormously crucial factor.

The people of Iraq.

Seven hundred thousand dead. 4.5 million displaced. Communities in shambles. Chaos reigning in many regions. No end in sight. The people in whose land we fight apparently don’t even enter into the equation for Mr. Lonsberry. The closest he comes to addressing the issue is his tepid support for the elimination of Hussein. He does not seem to consider whether the subsequent government will be able to survive or better meet the needs of the Iraqis as relevant to the conversation. The people of Iraq are seemingly superfluous.

How barbaric.

Perhaps a few trillion dollars and a few thousand lives is the going rate in defense of our homes, our families, and our liberties. But it would be reprehensible to claim that we are justified in thrusting the cost on the backs of a foreign people, of making their homes the battleground for our freedoms! We cannot be so ignominious as to consider it acceptable that the Iraqis serve as proxy casualties.

This war in Iraq, with all its attendant destruction and misery, can be considered worthwhile and a success only if as a result of it the people of Iraq are assured greater liberty and security. If such success is not achieved, no amount of U.S. benefit can justify the catastrophe; their suffering shall be answerable upon our heads, and we deserve all the animosity which our arrogance has engendered. As it is not our own society being ravaged, our own benefit must be of secondary import.

I’m deeply ashamed that so many of my faith have supported the sort of arrogance which presents U.S. interests as far more important than that of other people, and which suggests that those interests trump basic morality. Perhaps more people need to spend some time in reflection upon what it means to follow a Deity who is the father of all mankind, and who implores us to consider the needs of others at least as much as our own.

Iraq: Five Years and Counting

March 19, 2008

Five years ago, I was involved in an online Christian forum which frequently veered off topic and onto politics. The invasion of Iraq was a primary subject of conversation for much of 2003. Most of these people proudly counted themselves among the Religious Right, and staunchly defended the conquest. Even when no WMDs were found and the primary justification for the war proved to be a sham, these people were unwavering.

“It doesn’t matter,” they insisted. “Hussein was a menace, a tyrant. His people suffered at his hand, and they are better off liberated.”

I cautioned them to temper their exuberance. I agreed that Hussein was a thug, a brute, and a butcher (one who obtained the tools for his butchery courtesy of the Reagan administration…). But merely because Hussein had been deposed and then apprehended did not mean that Iraq had been “liberated.” Even putting aside the criminality of the war itself, the invasion could only be considered worthwhile if Iraq turned out better in Hussein’s absence. The invasion could not be judged from the point of Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” banner and speech. Lets see where we are at five, ten, twenty years down the line.

So here we are, five years from that fateful day. Things have hardly gone as the administration presumed. They insisting that we would be greeted with flowers and chocolates, able to pull out in a couple years and a few billion dollars, leaving the seeds of an enlightened democracy to blossom in the the Fertile Crescent and spread throughout the Middle East.

What is the state of Iraq?

  • Iraq does indeed have a fragile, newborn Democratic government. If the U.S. doesn’t interfere and require Iraq to institutionalize their client status, as they did with Cuba after the Spanish-American war, and if the government doesn’t implode in sectarian/ethnic bickering, this might possibly develop into a legitimate and functional government.
  • Instead of several billion, the war has cost at least half a trillion dollars. In looking at the hidden costs of the war, Joseph Stiglitz suggests that the real cost is three trillion. Until our troops are entirely withdrawn, that figure continues to burgeon. There is no indication that either our current administration nor the Republican presidential nominee has any inclination to reduce our troop commitment.
  • Almost four-thousand U.S. troops have sacrificed their lives for the war. Actually, they’ve died. Many more than that have sacrificed their lives, now suffering emotional illness which may dog them for a lifetime, shattered marriages, and other tragedies. Again there is no reason to think these numbers won’t continue to climb.
  • Over 700,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the invasion. Well over four million have become refugees, displaced because of the chaos and violence. The basic infrastructure is still not restored to pre-war condition.
  • The national intelligence estimates for 2006 and 2007 suggest that the conquest of Iraq has resulted in the growth of terrorist organizations and increased their threat to our national security.
  • In the aftermath of the occupation, Al Qaeda has now established a presence in Iraq—one nonexistent before.

Maybe things will improve in the future. Maybe the violence is nearing its end. Maybe at ten or twenty years, we will see the beginnings of a prosperous Iraq, a model for a new, modern Middle East and ethnic/religious cooperation.

Or maybe things will take a turn for the worse. Maybe the region will explode in bloodshed, or this delicate coalition will snap and pave the way for some new bloodstained junta to take the reigns. Maybe the U.S. will be forced to maintain a presence, to establish a protectorate in Iraq to prevent rivers of blood—and perhaps to protect U.S. national interests. McCain isn’t opposed to a thousand years…

Who can know? All I can say is that here, at the five year anniversary of the War on Iraq, the results look questionable, and hardly worth the price.

Centerville Citizen and a First Presidency Message

December 26, 2007

In a day when some think that Utah is “for war,” it is worth recalling with the Centerville Citizen the words of the First Presidency during WWII—a war which was unquestionably a just war (at least in the Atlantic Theatre). How much more should we take to heart their words during this current explosion of U.S. military adventurism?

AMT confusion

December 15, 2007

One of the big issues which has been looming over the federal government over the past several weeks is the Alternative Minimum Tax. The House of Representatives recently passed a bill reforming the AMT and making up for the reduced revenues in other places. The administration, however, has consistently warned against such a fix.

“The administration does not believe the appropriate way to protect 21 million additional taxpayers from 2007 AMT liability is to impose a tax increase on other taxpayers,” the White House said in a policy statement.

They would prefer a bill like that passed by the Senate, which does not compensate for the lost revenues.

How confusing. I thought part of conservatism was living within your means, paying as you go. Strange that conservatives today are so eager to reduce revenues, but not to reduce expenditures. Oh, sure, they’ll talk about cutting back on social programs. But this administration and most conservatives have no desire to cut back on military spending—by far the biggest drain on government coffers, as has been mentioned before. Never before has this nation—any nation—engaged in a war without requiring sacrifice from their citizens in order to help pay for the war. This administration? They would prefer for citizens to act as if the war didn’t exist. These conservatives want to buy their illegal and immoral war on credit.

Why not. Go ahead, cut taxes. Our kids can figure out a way to pay for our generation’s blunders.

The Cheney Forecast: Warm and Sunny in Iraq

December 8, 2007

Vice-President Cheney is confident that the administration’s war policy is the correct one, and is boldly predicting success by 2009.

…by the middle of January 2009, it will be clear that ‘we have in fact achieved our objective in terms of having a self-governing Iraq that’s capable for the most part of defending themselves, a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a nation that will be a positive force in influencing the world around it in the future (“Political Bulletin,” U.S. News and World Report).

What a pleasant thought. Maybe we should give this administration a break, since things are going so well. After all, he did so well in his prior prognostication regarding Iraq.

They’re going to welcome us. It’ll be like the American Army going through the streets of Paris. They’re sitting there ready to form a new government. The people will be so happy with their freedoms that we’ll probably back ourselves out of there within a month or two (“The Imperial Presidency,” The New York Times).

I appreciate that Cheney has become a bit less…brash…as his term wanes. But I’m not about to hold my breath over this augury either.

Evaluating The Surge

December 7, 2007

So many current events and issues to blog on, and so little time. Sigh. Maybe I’ll be able to get to a few of them.

In the meantime…

Over the past month or so, I hear a lot of politicians and pundits claiming that evidence proves that The Surge has worked, and was the right strategy. Richard Warnick suggests otherwise.

Bush Doesn’t Want Congressional “Wasteful Spending”; That’s His Job

December 4, 2007

President Bush gave a stern admonition this morning to Congress in their unwillingness to acquiesce to his spending priorities and demands.

Americans also expect their tax dollars to be spent wisely. Yet today 11 of the 12 annual spending bills that fund the day-to-day operations of the federal government remain unfinished. And now, congressional leaders are talking about piling these bills into one monstrous piece of legislation which they will load up with billions of dollars in earmarks and wasteful spending.

Taxpayers deserve better. And if the Congress passes an irresponsible spending bill, I’m going to veto it.

After all, this administration has proven to be a paragon of financial and government restraint.

An Unjust and Illegal War

November 21, 2007

There are two related charges leveled against the conquest of Iraq. The first regards the essential moral questions about the war—charges that the war is unjust. The second relates to the legal issues regarding the war. While many denounce such charges, sometimes more vehemently than the moral charges, there is a clear body of evidence pointing to the fact that the war is illegal.

The United Nations charter very specifically prohibits the use of force by member states (Chapter I, Article 2, Section 4). It provides exceptions only in the case of self-defence (Chapter VII, Article 51) and in situations in which the Security Council approves the use of force to promote international peace and security (discussed in the various articles of Chapter VII).

The U.S. was under no threat by Iraq, nor was it authorized by the Security Council to use force to enforce the various U.N. resolutions against Iraq which were part of the justification for the invasion. The U.S. did not have the authority to unilaterally make the decision to enforce the U.N. resolutions.

Those who challenge the authority of the U.N. charter or other forms of “international law,” should familiarize themselves with The Constitution.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land (Article VI; emphasis added)…”

The U.N. charter was presented to the Senate by the presidential administration and was there ratified, as required by the Constitution (Article 2, Section 2). Until such time as the U.S. officially withdraws from the U.N, the charter agreement is law.

It is sad not only that we have to remind U.S. citizens—and the administration—about the laws according to the Constitution, but that we would have to justify our obligation to follow international law. After all, a person’s integrity is in many ways defined by his ability to follow the conditions of contracts and obligations voluntarily entered in to. If we wish to be considered a principled nation, we should observe and abide by our treaties and international agreements, such as the U.N. charter and its rules against force, or the Geneva Conventions and their rules against torture, simply because we signed them, regardless of whether The Constitution requires us to.

Yes, the U.N. is flawed. Yes, the U.N. is in a great many ways rather impotent. Yes, many participating nations have violated the U.N. charter in the past (including the U.S. in many prior instances). So what? “He did it first!” never worked for me on my mother, and I doubt it did for any of you. If we are going to resort to such puerile rationalizations, our moral state is pathetic indeed.

It is interesting to note that noted neo-con hawk and war supporter, Richard Perle admitted that the war was illegal.

The Iraq war is illegal not only because it violates international law, but domestic law as well. It has been claimed that “Bush went through the same channels as you always do when you start a war,” but this is false. Ron Paul proposed a declaration of war on Iraq in 2002 (one which he insists he planned to vote against) precisely because no legal declaration of war had been made. Nor has one been made since. The legality of a war which has not been legally declared is questionable at best.

What about the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002? Congress made explicit in the authorization that the use of force was conditioned on a number of premises:

  1. Iraq was not complying with various U.N. resolutions.
  2. Iraq still had possession of WMDs in defiance of the U.N. resolution banning that possession.
  3. Iraq was connected with 9/11 or terrorist organizations involved in 9/11 or similar activities.
  4. The administration had exhausted all diplomatic avenues in trying to resolve the issue (contained in section 3 of the resolution).

The U.S, as I’ve already discussed, had no authority to act on the first condition. None of the remaining three conditions were met.

A policeman can go through the proper channels to get a search warrant. But if he falsified the conditions upon which the issuance of the warrant were bases, then the search is now an illegal search.

The administration’s assertion that Iraq was involved in 9/11 and that they were actively pursuing WMDs were fraudulent. They made no more than token efforts to resolve their concerns through diplomatic means.

This war can be no more legal than the policeman’s search conducted with a legal warrant obtained by fraudulence.

Those Democrats who allowed themselves to vote in favor of the authorization and who have not taken the steps to hold the administration accountable should be held accountable by their constituents for abetting crimes. But the fact that Congress allowed themselves to be manipulated into issuing the authorization and then did not have the moral courage to hold the administration to the conditions of the authorization does not make it any less illegal.

I’ve heard it said that what separates a Republic from other forms of government is that a Republic is a government of law. A Republic is not governed by the whim of an individual, of a small group of oligarchs, nor even the tyranny of the majority; all governance is confined to and shaped by established code. Whether or not this is strictly true, I think it fair to say that many of those involved in the American Revolution and the founding of the U.S. were most concerned about so constraining government. As they themselves saw, without the constraint of law government all too easily becomes tyranny.

Perhaps the most important area in which the government must be circumscribed to legally established practices and procedures is in the use of military force. For the sake of the Republic, it is imperative that we recognize offenses to that law for what they are. Abuses are far too costly to our nation to do otherwise—not only in gold, but in blood.