Archive for the 'Iraq' Category

Public Meeting on War Reporting

Via Mediabite, a public meeting on war reporting, in DIT Aungier Street next Wednesday at 6:15pm.

Panel includes:

Pepe Escobar – Asia Times / Real News Network
Dahr Jamail – Independent Journalist
Patrick Smyth – Irish Times Foreign Editor
Joe Zefran – RTE.ie News Editor
Harry Browne – DIT lecturer
Ciaran O’Reilly – Anti-war Activist
Eamonn Crudden – Independent Film-Maker
Fergal Keane – RTE Journalist

Broadcast live on RTE.ie and theRealNews.com

This is a FREE event. Email editors@mediabite.org to reserve your seat.

Might see you there, if I manage to turn up myself.

Industrial-Military Complex

The government treats its soldiers the way most corporations treat their workforce–as an invisible, disrespected, disposable means to an end that is contrary to workers’ interests.

Michael Zweig in The Nation.

People Like Us

The holocaust happened to people like us, says this MTV advertisement. Yet the only thing ‘new’ about the images in the advertisement is that it shows a raid on an affluent white household. This sort of thing happens in Iraq and Afghanistan all the time.

So why not ‘The holocaust was carried out by people like us’?

Read Dahr Jamail on the Winter Soldier testimonies:

“Apr. 18, 2006 was the date of my first confirmed kill,” he said sombrely. “He was innocent, I called him the fat man. He was walking back to his house and I killed him in front of his father and friend. My first shot made him scream and look into my eyes, so I looked at my friend and said, ‘Well, I can’t let that happen’, and shot him again. After my first kill I was congratulated.”

And here is one of the testimonies.

Quote:

“I began to hear new words like ‘towel head’, and ‘camel jockey’, and -the most disturbing- ‘sand nigger’. And these words did not initially come from my fellow soldiers but from my superiors, my platoon sergeant, my company first sergeant, my battalion commander, all the way up the chain of command, these terms, these viciously racist terms were suddenly acceptable.”

Listen to it, and the story he tells about the raids on the houses. And then think again about the MTV ad.

Counting The Cost Thereof

There was an interview on Democracy Now! yesterday with Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes on the cost of the war in Iraq, which they conservatively estimate at $3 trillion: the second most costly war in US history after World War II. Three times spent per Iraqi than what was spent per European during the Marshall Plan. This excerpt deals with the impact of the war for the American economy.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: You know, in the election campaign, people said there are two big issues: the economy and the war. I think there’s one big issue, and that’s the war, because the war has been directly and indirectly having a very negative effect on the economy.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, could you talk about that somewhat, because you obviously go into that in your book, the impact of the enormous borrowing that occurred to finance the war at the same time that the President put through tax cuts—unheard of that we go into war and we cut taxes, rather than raise them—and also just the impact then that spread throughout the entire economy in terms of the housing crisis that we’re into now?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, this was one of the big points that came up in the joint committee hearing that we were in yesterday.
AMY GOODMAN: You testified yesterday before Congress.
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: That’s right. And this was one of the big points, that in every other war there has been what you might call shared sacrifice. Some people obviously sacrifice more, putting their lives at risk, but everybody was asked to sacrifice. This is the first time that, at the time we went into war, we actually cut taxes, rather than raised taxes. And even as we were cutting taxes, we already had a very large deficit. So that means this war has been totally financed by deficit. And that’s really been the trick that the Bush administration—it wanted people to think that there were no economic trade-offs. We could have a war for free.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And those deficits, the financing came increasingly from abroad, right?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Very much so, at least 40 percent from abroad. So that means that Americans will be paying those abroad interest and—the other aspect of that that’s really important to realize is that while we were saving zero, or household saving went down to zero, the government had negative saving and we were borrowing, the pools of wealth that were being created were in the Middle East, China. So when we have an economic problem, like the fact that Citibank and Merrill Lynch had to be bailed out, they had to turn to these others, to the sovereign wealth funds that were held by other countries, and that makes us more dependent on abroad.
AMY GOODMAN: Who is profiting from this war?
JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, actually, there are two big gainers in this war and only two: the oil companies and the defense contractors. And you see that where the pools of wealth are being created. One of the big pools of wealth are in the Middle East, the countries that are the oil exporters. We are transferring hundreds of billions of dollars from American consumers, businesses, to the oil exporters. You can look at it as simple as that.

The rest of the interview is well worth reading, or listening to. What struck me, however, while listening to Stiglitz and Bilmes outline how they estimated the cost of the war, is that they make their analysis solely from the standpoint of the cost to the American public of the war in Iraq. This is important, as far as it goes, and what they reveal is an absolute scandal by any democratic standard. Stiglitz refers to the opportunity cost of how the $3 trillion was spent, and points out that security could have been achieved by other means, by winning ‘hearts and minds’ and so on.

But the application of opportunity cost here, and in fairness, in most instances, only really takes into account the next best alternative as perceived by the entity allocating the resources, with little, if any, regard for those who must deal with the consequences of the decision. If we want to extend its application to the people that the US said it was liberating, and it seems reasonable to do so since a fair amount of US public support rested on the perception that the war was an instance of altruism, if not full-blown humanitarian intervention, then the opportunity cost of unleashing the war would have to include having one million people still alive and getting on with their lives, two four million people still living in their homes, countless millions of people not traumatized by pervasive violence and suffering. All that seems incalculable.

Breaking Eggs

Miliband has invented a catchphrase – the “civilian surge“. He develops this theme: “There are 200 million Chinese learning English; there are more bloggers in Iran than any other country in the world per capita; Buddhist monks march for democracy in Burma. I got the idea of a civilian surge when I was talking to David Petraeus [the US military commander] in Iraq because, he says, ‘You can’t kill your way out of this problem – you need politics as well as security.'”

Miliband’s shouldn’t stop there in his bumlicking quest for inspiration. If one can have a ‘civilian surge’, then one can apply civilian to other military terms to produce expressions of splendidly democratic reverie. Like civilian aerial bombing, or civilian air strikes, or civilian terror, or civilian murder. His rhetorical skills would be more than sufficient to disambiguate between his own inspirational catchphrases and nasty events such as aerial bombing of civilians, air strikes on civilians, terror on civilians or murder of civilians.

His hero Petraeus would doubtless be among the first to acknowledge that whilst you can’t kill your way out of the problem, you can sure kill a good way in that direction:

The U.S.-led coalition dropped 1,447 bombs on Iraq last year, an average of nearly four a day, compared with 229 bombs, or about four each week, in 2006.

The core reason why we see the increase in strikes is the offensive strategy taken by General [David H.] Petraeus,” said Air Force Col. Gary Crowder, commander of the 609th Combined Air Operations Center in Southwest Asia. Because the United States has sent more troops into areas rife with insurgent activity, he said, “we integrated more airstrikes into those operations.”

The greater reliance on air power has raised concerns from human rights groups, which say that 500-pound and 2,000-pound munitions threaten civilians, especially when dropped in residential neighborhoods where insurgents mix with the population. The military assures that the precision attacks are designed to minimize civilian casualties — particularly as Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy emphasizes moving more troops into local communities and winning over the Iraqi population — but rights groups say bombings carry an especially high risk.

“The Iraqi population remains at risk of harm during these operations,” said Eliane Nabaa, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq. “The presence of individual combatants among a great number of civilians does not alter the civilian character of an area.”

Note how blithely the article accepts the dropping of a 2000lb bomb as a ‘precision attack’. Then there’s this:

Marc Garlasco, a military analyst at Human Rights Watch who tracks airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the strikes carry unique risks. “My major concern with what’s going on in Iraq is massive population density,” he said. “You have the potential for very high civilian casualties, so you need really granular intelligence on what you’re going to hit. But I don’t think they’re being careless.”

Well, if they’re not being careless, that’s ok then.

Someone on Slugger O’Toole the other day said that whilst the IRA were reckless in their actions when setting off the Shankill bomb, they did not deliberately intend to kill civilians. I replied as follows:

Suppose I blow up a bus with a load of civilians on it. I have no intention of blowing up the load of civilians. Rather, I want to blow up the bus, but an inevitable consequence is that I am going to blow up civilians. How, then, can I deliberately intend to blow up the bus without deliberately intending to blow up civilians? It seems to me like saying that whilst I deliberately intended to make an omelette, I did not deliberately intend to break the eggs: breaking the eggs were just an inevitable consequence of my intended actions.

I think it’s fair to observe that the US continues to deliberately kill civilians in Iraq (and Israel does the same in Gaza with US approval), whilst the public is regaled with sentimental claptrap about snow in Baghdad.

Palma Chameleon

I posted a comment on the Independent site on Ian O’Doherty’s article on Brian De Palma’s new film about the Iraq war. For all I know the film is a pile of turd, but O’Doherty’s criticism of it is, as I see it, misplaced.

Uh Huh Oh Yeah

Here’s an interesting article in the New York Times about the presence of ‘foreign fighters’ (i.e. ones there against the expressed wishes of the US administration) in Iraq.

Saudis accounted for the largest number of fighters listed on the records by far — 305, or 41 percent — American intelligence officers found as they combed through documents and computers in the weeks after the raid. The data show that despite increased efforts by Saudi Arabia to clamp down on would-be terrorists since Sept. 11, 2001, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, some Saudi fighters are still getting through.

Libyans accounted for 137 foreign fighters, or 18 percent of the total, the senior American military officials said. They discussed the raid with the stipulation that they not be named because of the delicate nature of the issue.

And:

In contrast to the comparatively small number of foreigners, more than 25,000 inmates are in American detention centers in Iraq. Of those, only about 290, or some 1.2 percent, are foreigners, military officials say.

So most of those fighting against the Americans are in fact Iraqis, although that is not how things are normally portrayed. Yet it’s hardly surprising, seeing as 60% of Iraqis are in favour of attacks on U.S. troops.

It is clear who the culprits are, however:

American officials have accused Iran, the largest Shiite nation in the Middle East, of sending powerful bombs to Iraq and of supporting and financing Shiite militias that attack American troops. They also contend that top Iranian leaders support efforts to arm Shiite fighters.

But whatever aid Iran provides to militias inside Iraq does not seem to extend to supplying actual combatants: Only 11 Iranians are in American detention, United States officials say.

So what to do? Prominent US senator Joseph Lieberman, for instance, advocates bombing Iran because of its role in the Iraqi insurgency. Given the preponderance of fighters from Saudi Arabia and Libya, one expects Lieberman and others to call for the bombing of these countries.


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