Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘Iraq

American Foreign Policy: The Bull in the China Shop

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I’ve been writing less about world events lately because it has gotten so insane. And the insanity is driven by the USA. The specific insanity I refer to is the USA’s unwavering continuation of policies that are clearly fails. And fails in that they not only didn’t achieve what they were promised, they made things worse. It’s like Vietnam never happened, we just keep intervening in parts of the world for little or no reason, oblivious to the harm we are causing. And not only harm to other parts of the world, harm to the USA itself. In any event, a short case by case analysis:

Afghanistan: Ten years later and it’s still painfully apparent that the “government” we set up in Afghanistan is totally corrupt, extremely unpopular, just as misogynistic as the Taliban, and is only in power because western troops keep it in power. This isn’t nation building, it’s refusal to see that the Afghans aren’t ever going to accept rule by foreign imposed satraps. And of course this endless war has slowly and steadily destabilized Pakistan, a far more important country to the USA than Afghanistan.

Iraq: The poster child for failed interventions. We removed a tin pot dictator who was no threat to anyone outside of Iraq, and replaced him with an Iranian aligned government that is looking more like a dictatorship every day. Not to mention the Iraqi people paid a terrible price for this act of beneficence on our part. And it’s never mentioned that while there was no terrorism in Iraq before our invasion, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is now a powerful force launching attacks daily. And there’s numerous other insurgent groups killing people, and a horrible mess has been made of Kurdish Iraq to boot. Which is spilling over into Turkey. This invasion cost the USA trillions, made the situation far worse, and is basically considered one of the most disastrous foreign policy decisions in US history. And most Americans couldn’t find Iraq on a map.

Libya: Well, turns out that intervening in Libya has had the same effect it had in Afghanistan and Iraq, a country that was formerly relatively stable is now a bloody factionalized mess with violence spilling out into foreign lands. A coup and Civil War in Mali being the immediate aftermath, and no end in sight.

Somalia: 20 years on the Somalis are still refusing to accept as legitimate a foreign imposed government, no matter whose army tries to impose it! Why not let the Somalis form their own government? I guess it might give other countries ideas. Or more likely the people running Washington are so full of themselves that they can’t even contemplate the idea that people in other lands might not want the “benefits” of a foreign imposed colonial government.

And despite it all, the calls for foreign intervention and the foreign interventions themselves are never-ending. We are now involved in Kenya and Nigeria, and looks like we will get involved in Mali. Pundits and members of congress have even talked about the “threat” posed to the USA by events in Mali! Dear God, Mali is a tiny, impoverished country in the middle of the Sahara desert, if they are a “threat” to the USA then any country is a “threat” to the USA. This is crazy. And coming soon it seems, intervention in Syria. That will almost certainly cause problems elsewhere, Lebanon being the first example.

The second pillar of the USA’s failed policies is sanctions. Refusing to have diplomatic relationships with nations and hitting them with sanctions and international isolation almost never works. The last ten times it was tried, it worked once, in South Africa. And it only worked there because everyone in Africa knew that eventually a tiny white minority was going to have to share power with the rest of the citizens of the country. Other places it has been tried it has been a complete failure, in some cases for decades. Normalizing relations with China and Vietnam didn’t end the world, far from it. Yet somehow the idea that recognizing Iran, Cuba, or North Korea and actually having diplomatic relations with them is off the table? I’m getting really sick of hearing Obama (yeah, he’s a progressive, snort) claim that “all options are on the table.” What he means is “violence and threats are the only course of action we will pursue, diplomacy and peace are not on the table.”

And our corporate controlled media just regurgitates Washington’s propaganda and sound bites as if they were facts, while Americans watch American Idol and the beauty contest our election campaigns have turned into. At least there was debate about the invasion of Iraq, now it seems like almost every week the government launches some absurd new intervention overseas, and Americans couldn’t care less. Or worse, blame the victims of these policies, be they domestic or foreign. I think the final thing  recently that illustrated to me the psychotic inability of Washington to understand that it reaps what it sows, was Obama telling Mexico that the drug gang violence in their country was endangering relations with the USA. As if somehow the fact that the money, market, and weapons for all of the violent drug cartels on Mexico are primarily American. Basically, we are unable to stop Americans from funding and arming Mexican gangs … but it’s their problem? Jesus wept.

Or maybe it’s just me.

(The above image is claimed as Fair use under US copyright law. It’s from World of Tanks, a free online game that I waste a lot of time playing. So I recommend it. If one looks closely it does nicely illustrate the point of this post.)

Written by unitedcats

April 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm

9/11 … The Maddened Elephant

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Just a few more hours and the tenth anniversary of 9/11 will be history. Of course in a  sense 9/11 will never be over, we have entire institutions and wars devoted to the memory of 9/11, and they aren’t going to slip quietly into the night. In a way, and not a good way, 9/11 is becoming a cult. I’m sick of it. 9/11 was like a rat biting an elephant on the snout. Yeah, it hurt like hell, and yeah it pissed us off. And we should have squashed the rat and carried on. Instead, we have spent ten years trumpeting and snorting wildly, wreaking havoc around us and wearing ourselves into exhaustion in the process. And even though a few months back we finally trampled on the rat that bit us, there’s no sign of an end to the madness.

Sigh. I’ve avoided most of the news today, but I did catch that Obama said that 9/11 “made us stronger.” No surprise there, this is the guy who claimed that Navy Seals gunning down an unarmed old man in his PJs was one of the “greatest military operations in US history.” Obama’s ability to utter the most egregious nonsense while appearing sober and presidential is what got him elected, and he’s clearly not lost his touch.

No, 9/11 did not make us stronger. Or to be more accurate, our response to 9/11 did not make us stronger, it made us weaker. The Bush administration and a compliant media encouraged the USA to hysterically over-react to 9/1, and we paid and are still paying a terrible price for it. A price in both treasure and blood, a price vastly greater than our losses on that day ten years ago. And the horrors we have inflicted on other lands in the name of 9/11, are these the actions of a Christian nation?

Our costs though. In treasure, it’s been enormous. Three trillion dollars at least for the cost of our wars and increased homeland “security.” And even if we ended the War on Terror tomorrow, there would still be trillions more to go in terms of veteran’s care in decades to come. This is money we didn’t have, it was borrowed from our grandchildren, plain and simple. There’s not any question that we got almost no economic benefit from this spending, aside from obscenely enriching the arms and security industry. This added debt is a huge part of why our economy is on the ropes, how the hell does piles of debt make a nation stronger?

Then there’s the cost in blood. Several tens of thousands of Americans have been killed and maimed in our wars, the actual numbers are muddy because the Pentagon works very hard to conceal and obfuscate them. And hundreds of thousands more veterans will have permanent psychological issues and trauma from their service, about one in three combat veterans never really get over it in one sense or another. This is a terrible cost by any measure, and for what? Propping up two of the world’s most corrupt field states? Sending Americans to die on the other side of the planet doesn’t make us stronger, it makes us weaker.

And then there’s the psychological cost. The hysteria mongering after 9/11 was among the most intense in history. The government left no stone unturned telling Americans that terrible monsters lurked everywhere, and that we had to give the government a blank check, including suspending some of our own freedoms, to fight this new menace or surely a falling airliner or a dirty bomb or germ warfare would be coming soon to a neighbourhood near them. And Americans, traumatized by the endlessly repeated sights of 9/11, fell for this twaddle by the tens of millions and gave the Bush administration the green light to seize control of the world’s oil. And it continues to this day, tens of millions of Americans dutifully regurgitate “our troops are fighting for our freedom” while the administration continues to weave tales of terror and death. Letting fear of a trivial enemy guide our national policy does not make us a stronger nation, it makes us a nation of cowards and sheep.

Lastly, I’m saddened and disgusted by what a narcissistic spectacle 9/11 and the “War on Terror” has become. It’s like when Commodus, the Emperor of Rome, took to fighting naked gladiatorial contests in the Colosseum. And charging the city staggering sums of money for the privilege. All right thinking Romans were horrified. The survivors and heroes of 9/11 should be mourning quietly and privately, not being paraded through the streets of Rome for the glory of the Empire.

It’s really that weird.

(The above image is claimed as Public Domain under US copyright law as it was painted in 1526. It’s a Painting titled “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It’s just another way to articulate the situation we find ourselves in: America went mad on 9/11, and its going to get worse before it gets better.)

Written by unitedcats

September 11, 2011 at 10:09 pm

The myth of nation building, or why you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

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Another Friday, another week of an all too fleeting life passed by, yadda yadda yadda.  And as is my wont, Friday is the day I burble about random or not so random nonsense that has crossed my mind or hurt my eyeballs the previous week. It’s been a pretty good week here in Berkeley, nice warm fall weather, but our plague of rodents continues. Never seen anything like it, one couple in my building has even been driven from their apartment by them. On the plus side, my orange cat is self feeding now. And immensely popular with the neighbours, I’ve literally heard people cheering him in the yard as he trots home with yet another rat or mouse in his jaws.

Moving right along, nation building. Now I’ve always known this was more propaganda than reality. People initially loved giving the analogy of Germany and Japan after World War two, and how they turned into modern nations under  US occupation. However, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, Germany and Japan were already modern nations, so the US occupation had nothing to do with them becoming nations. Iraq and Afghanistan are lines drawn on a map by nineteenth and early twentieth century colonial powers, and have little or no identity as nations. The idea that they would magically transform into modern (western compliant!) nations under US tutelage was at best insanely optimistic.

The best illustration of this is communism. Most people by now are aware that a centrally planned economy doesn’t work. The utter failure of the world’s communist nations during decades of communism attests to that quite nicely. So OK then, if a centrally planned economy doesn’t work, how does going one step higher and having a centrally planned nation going to work? It can’t of course, it’s even more absurd than trying to centrally plan an economy. In any event this article, Can a Nation be Built?, gives some nice background and context to this idea, it’s where I got it from.

In local news the American Tea Party movement and Republicans have announced a “Pledge to America” where they outline their party’s goals. I tried to read it but frankly it was pretty painful. All sorts of flowery stuff about getting back to the nation’s founding principles, followed by what appears to be basically a promise to completely re-institute every single policy of the Bush years. Yes, the party that brought us the greatest expansion in government in the history of the world is now going to make government smaller. When asked what actual programs or departments are going to be cut, it’s well, um, er, we’ll get back to you on that.

Americans have to be pretty stupid if they think the Republicans are going to cut government spending and make government smaller. I’m beginning to think actually that Americans are the stupidest people on earth, because every election both parties trot out the same old lies and broken promises … and people still swallow them and think they are voting for change. Nothing is going to change with either the Republicans or Democrats in power. Borrow and spend will continue, and our military juggernaut will continue to expand and build bases and buy weapons for wars that are never going to be fought. Till the whole edifice collapses under it’s own unsustainable weight.

I think one of the most incredible absurdities of all this is how the idea that cutting taxes for the rich is going to create jobs. This canard has been repeated so often that people actually seem to believe it. Listen very carefully, when rich people and rich executives get a  tax break, what do you think they are going to do with the money? They are going to keep it, not run out and hire people. If you give poor people money, they will run out and spend it and stimulate the economy. If you give rich people money, it goes in an offshore account. This isn’t rocket science, it’s just human nature. You can’t make America richer by transferring wealth upwards, but apparently the Republicans are going to keep on trying.

So yeah, I’ve become pretty disillusioned with what passes for politics in the USA. I’m with John Galt, frequent commenter, the whole nation and economy is such a gargantuan mess that it’s all going to collapse under its own weight. You can’t build a future or an economy by borrowing and spending endless amounts of money, but apparently we’re still trying. Then there’s the whole problem of trying to kill our way out of the mess we made in Iraq and particularly Afghanistan. History has not been kind to people who tried to kill their way out of the ridiculous situations their politicians got them into, but they sure can try. “War is Murder” is a nice overview of some of the folly this engenders.

On the plus side there hasn’t been another 9/11 yet. Boy, that’s gonna be fun when it happens. Have a great weekend everybody.

(The above image, The Tower of Babel, was painted by Pieter Bruegel in 1563 and is thus safely Public Domain under US copyright law. I chose if for obvious reasons, it’s a nice analogy for both nation building in general, and the incredible government/military structure the US is ever expanding in hopes of achieving world domination, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I’ll be using more Pieter Bruegel images, I like his style. Next week, an unsolved historical carpentry mystery and other random nonsense.)

Written by unitedcats

September 24, 2010 at 9:07 am

“What a thing it is to have a country that can’t be wrong, but if it is, is right, anyway!”

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Well, I tried to watch Obama’s speech on Iraq, but couldn’t do it. I read the text though, and was appalled. Frightened even. According to Obama, the Iraq War was a glorious and successful undertaking. Right. The above quote says it all, Iraq was at best an expensive miscalculation. Redefining it as some sort of glorious victory doesn’t change the facts. And it’s especially scary that this nonsense is coming from Obama, whose election was in many ways made possible by his opposition to the Iraq war and promise to pull out. And now the Iraq War has  magically transformed into a  “Mission Accomplished” moment for Obama? Is every future president now going to have a chance to declare “victory” in Iraq?

And just a quick fact review just so I’m not going off half-cocked:

1. There were no WMDs, as plenty of people pointed out beforehand.

2. The war cost staggeringly more than it was supposed to, with trillions to go even if we pulled out tomorrow.

3. Thousands of Americans are dead, thousands more are maimed, ten of thousands have life changing injuries and long term psychological damage. And the families and friends of each and every one of these is paying a price too.

4. Tens of thousands of Iraqis are dead (arguably hundreds of thousands,) millions are displaced, and by almost every measure the situation in Iraq is worse than before we invaded. Even oil production is still lower than it was under Saddam.

5. Terrorism and terrorists have been emboldened and created by the war, there was no “Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq,” and no suicide bombers before we invaded. Now it’s a hotbed of terror.

6. Iran’s position and influence in the region has been strengthened, Saddam was their worst enemy. Now Iran is for all practical purposes allied with their Shia brothers who are running Iraq. Maybe Iran should be declaring victory?

And this is success? To paraphrase Pyrrhus, another victory like this and we’re done for.

Moving right along, the economy. I posted it on twitter, and I recommend that people read it: Are We a Kleptocracy. It points out stuff that a lot of people should be frightened by, but aren’t. The rich have not only been getting richer for decades, the process has accelerated during the past few years. In fact the article makes the case that this might be the inevitable path that capitalism takes. Once the people with the capital have consolidated control over government and industry, they are going to do what the system is designed to do, accumulate even more capital. And in America there’s no effective opposition to this process, we are all being simply diverted by side issues. I liked this quote:

“Yet, if this is socialism, why are private health insurers the government’s go-to guys for healthcare coverage?  If this is fascism, why haven’t the secret police rounded up tea partiers and progressive critics as well and sent them to the lager or the gulag?

Consider this: America is not now, nor has it often been, a hotbed of political radicalism.  We have no substantial socialist or workers’ party.  (Unless you’re deluded, please don’t count the corporate-friendly “Democrat” party here.)  We have no substantial fascist party.  (Unless you’re deluded, please don’t count the cartoonish “tea partiers” here; these predominantly white, graying, and fairly affluent Americans seem most worried that the jackbooted thugs will be coming for them.)”

— William Astore, Tomdispatch.com

So anyhow, that’s why I don’t comment much on current events any more. It’s all farce and there is little or no public debate. A friend said it decades ago, like the quote in the title that was said a century ago: “We live in a world where right is wrong and wrong its right.” People who think our leaders, left or right, give a flaming f**k about the working class, are deluded. “Populist” Sarah Palin raked in a  cool 12$ million last year. Yeah, she’s a woman of the people.

As for Israel, same principle. Despite decades of very successful propaganda to the contrary, when Israel wants peace, there will be peace. The Palestinians are powerless and have no say in the subject. Like the USA, Israel talks peace but wages endless war. (Obama even had the gall to talk about achieving peace even as he was committing us to endless war!) The mock talks with Israel’s designated Palestinian “leaders” are just a further charade. The talks will fail and the dutiful western media will blame it all on the Palestinians.

I wasn’t really trying to make a point with these insane burblings, but the point I wandered across is this:  The rise of modern propaganda in the past century and a half has really multiplied the power of leaders to manipulate the masses. And simultaneously made it possible for leaders to get totally out of touch with reality, and maintain support for disastrously failed policies far longer than would have been possible in the pre-propaganda world. And as an ugly counterpart of this, has encouraged powers that be to use farcical methods simply to avoid bad publicity. The Roman’s, hell, nineteenth century Americans, would be appalled (or amused) at our deciding to fight two major wars, but refusing to use the draft and refusing to send in the number of troops needed to get the job done …  no matter what it took.

I’ll expand on that rant a little more some day, I’m still studying a lot of history just for fun. It’s amazing what stuff goes down and how people deal with it. I’ll likely mention the Batavia mutiny again, there’s still thoughts I didn’t get down on, well, electrons? Next week, another story that would make a great movie except for the same flaw that keeps the Batavia mutiny off the silver screen … grown men did all sorts of terrible things to women and children. Hard to fit that into the “war is glorious” or the “men are heroic” narrative that is so essential to modern American culture.

Have a great weekend everyone.

The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US cpyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is essential to illustrating the post. Credit and copyright: MPR Photo/Tom Crann. The quote in the title was said by William Dean Howells a century ago. I used the boot photo because before we invaded Iraq I had a dream where I was walking by an endless row of pairs of boots alongside a dusty road, and I was told they were the boots of the “dead Marines.” Well, seven years later and we’re still adding to that row of boots, all for, well, less than nothing.)

Written by unitedcats

September 3, 2010 at 8:35 am