Category Archives: Iraq

Read about Ahmadinejad’s visit to Iraq…please.

I’m sure this means we’re in for another bout of saber-rattling from Dick Cheney’s lunatics, to whom peace means war and war means peace.

Robert Scheer:

Are the media dumb or just out to lunch? Sorry to be intemperate, but how else can one explain the meager attention paid to the truly historic visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Iraq? Not only is he the first Mideast head of state to visit the country since its alleged liberation, but the very warm official welcome offered by the Iraqi government to the most vociferous critic of the United States speaks volumes to the abject failure of the Bush doctrine.

How interesting that Ahmadinejad, unlike a U.S. president who has to be airlifted unannounced into ultra-secure bases, was able to convoy in from the airport in broad daylight on a road that U.S. dignitaries fear to travel. His love fest with Iraq President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who fought on Iran’s side against Iraq and who speaks Farsi, even took place outside of the safety of the Green Zone, adding emphasis to Ahmadinejad’s claim that while he is welcome in Iraq, the Americans are not.

Nor did the Iraqi leaders take exception to Ahmadinejad’s insistence that the U.S. has brought only terror to the region and that the continued American presence is the main obstacle to peace. On the contrary, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pronounced his talks with fellow Shiite Ahmadinejad “friendly, positive and full of trust.” Video of Talabani, who asked that Ahmadinejad call him “Uncle Jalal” after holding hands and exchanging kisses with the Iranian president, was broadcast throughout the region.

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Guns or butter? Bombs or healthcare? participatory democracy or plutocracy/fascism?

Washington Post talks about Clinton and Obama tying the economy to the war in Iraq.

That is getting close to what this election is about. This election is fundamentally about the survival of this nation as a good place to live and as a positive force in the world.

There are two directions we can go. The first is the Bush/McCain way. We can allow entrenched multinational corporations to run our country in the best interest of their short term profits. This will involve using our tax dollars to maintain our control of the world and its resources by military might, and we will press on with fossil based fuels that we will try to steal from others. This will require enormous military expenditures, and a virtual fascist state. The world will be our enemy, and we will be perpetually at war. This will entail loss of our freedoms and civil rights, domestic spying, racial and religious intolerance, and turning away from transparency, and from intellectual and scientific pursuits. History and reality will be defined by the ruling class.

Our citizens will do without healthcare coverage, and major illnesses will result in bankrupcy for all but the wealthy.  Our country will eventually go bankrupt, our currency will be worthless, and social security will vanish. We will do nothing to mitigate global warming.

Our citizens are already fed up with the corruption and sleazy politics, and our young people are turned off by, and to, the democratic process. Election of John McCain will further entrench those attitudes.

The other way is to elect someone who represents and gives hope to young people, who will go to the polls, who will demand some say in their future, who will demand that their tax dollars buy something useful, like universal healthcare. This way sees the rest of the world as a partner, not a slave or a colony. This way sees change as necessary, and will put money into generating new solutions, rather than holding on to the fossil fuels of the past and present. This approach will revitalize our economy. This is the way (we hope) Barack Obama can lead us. Some fear that he has not had enough experience. What presidents in the past have had “enough” experience? Lincoln? FDR? Teddy Roosevelt? Kennedy? Reagan? By the time you get a candidate with “enough” experience, they are in their sixties, and unable to inspire and lead those to whom the country really belongs.

Barack Obama has a record as an intelligent and responsible leader, and is an inspiring person. He connects with the young; he can bring them into the process. He is the hope of this country and, I dare say, the world. It took me a while to figure out what Obama’s message was about…it seemed like empty rhetoric…but now I get it.  This is about mobilizing our people, and taking back our country.  It’s leadership. Hillary Clinton is not the person who can do this. She represents the aspirations of millions of women, but she just can’t inspire large numbers of people to enter the system. Perhaps that is sad. Already she has become a less admirable figure, because of the lies and slurs she has employed in the campaign.  She cannot bring more people into the process and she cannot win against John McCain, even if she were to defeat Obama for the nomination by sleazy tactics.

It seems ironic that Texas would be the state that can decide the issue. A year ago, who would have expect that an African American could win a primary there? No one who has ever lived there, I can tell you that. But let’s see if it happens. It would be a powerful statement.

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How Bush, Rice and Abrams started the war in Gaza

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According to Dahlan, it was Bush who had pushed legislative elections in the Palestinian territories in January 2006, despite warnings that Fatah was not ready. After Hamas—whose 1988 charter committed it to the goal of driving Israel into the sea—won control of the parliament, Bush made another, deadlier miscalculation.

Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)

But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.

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Film review: Persepolis

This is a feature-length black and white animation in French, with subtitles. It is the story of a girl growing up in post-Shah Iran. The film is surprisingly moving at times, and generally informative, but it is rather long and, let’s face it, a little boring. It has won a number of awards, and rightly so, but don’t expect miracles.

I am constantly annoyed by the portrayal of Iranian history as starting at the time the Shah was overthrown. The overthrow of the democratically elected leader of Iran by Britain and the US, and the installation of the Shah, set the stage for the revolution and repression that has followed. It’s all about the oil, today as it was back in the 50′s. Don’t let the oily president and vice president of the US fool you.

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British will release minutes of 2003 Iraq war discussions

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“There is a widespread view that the justification for the decision on military action in Iraq is either not fully understood or that the public were not given the full or genuine reasons for that decision,” Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said in his ruling on a request made under the British version of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Cabinet Office had argued to him that public disclosure of minutes would inhibit free and candid debate about sensitive issues in future cabinet sessions.

Thomas, who was allowed to inspect the minutes as part of his deliberations, said that while he respected the government’s position, “arguments for the withholding of the information are outweighed by the public interest in its disclosure.”

Wow, So that’s how they do it in a democracy. Simply amazing. Just think, there actually was a day when we had the democracy on this side of the pond and Britain had the king. (or, was that a dream?)

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Iraq war cost: THREE TRILLION; dragging down US economy

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THE Iraq war has cost the US 50-60 times more than the Bush administration predicted and was a central cause of the sub-prime banking crisis threatening the world economy, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

The former World Bank vice-president yesterday said the war had, so far, cost the US something like $US3trillion ($3.3 trillion) compared with the $US50-$US60-billion predicted in 2003.

….
Professor Stiglitz told the Chatham House think tank in London that the Bush White House was currently estimating the cost of the war at about $US500 billion, but that figure massively understated things such as the medical and welfare costs of US military servicemen.

The war was now the second-most expensive in US history after World War II and the second-longest after Vietnam, he said.

The spending on Iraq was a hidden cause of the current credit crunch because the US central bank responded to the massive financial drain of the war by flooding the American economy with cheap credit.

“The regulators were looking the other way and money was being lent to anybody this side of a life-support system,” he said.

That led to a housing bubble and a consumption boom, and the fallout was plunging the US economy into recession and saddling the next US president with the biggest budget deficit in history, he said.


The money being spent on the war each week would be enough to wipe out illiteracy around the world, he said.

Just a few days’ funding would be enough to provide health insurance for US children who were not covered, he said.

The public had been encouraged by the White House to ignore the costs of the war because of the belief that the war would somehow pay for itself or be paid for by Iraqi oil or US allies.

“When the Bush administration went to war in Iraq it obviously didn’t focus very much on the cost. Larry Lindsey, the chief economic adviser, said the cost was going to be between $US100billion and $US200 billion – and for that slight moment of quasi-honesty he was fired.

“(Then defence secretary Donald) Rumsfeld responded and said ‘baloney’, and the number the administration came up with was $US50 to $US60 billion. We have calculated that the cost was more like $US3 trillion.

“Three trillion is a very conservative number, the true costs are likely to be much larger than that.”

Five years after the war, the US was still spending about $US50billion every three months on direct military costs, he said.

Professor Stiglitz and another Clinton administration economist, Linda Bilmes, have produced a book, The Three Trillion Dollar War, pulling together their research on the true cost of the war, which does not include the cost to Iraq.

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Great video: Fox “News” is a festival of ignorance

Once in a while reality rears its ugly head.

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Meanwhile, Turkey invaded Iraq

Of course, that wouldn’t make the news, would it?

Turkey is more than justified….certainly the Kurd terrorists attacking Turkey from Iraq are the worst in the world at the moment. So why doesn’t Mr. Globalwaronterrruuursists care about THESE terrorists? Well, because his pals in Texas are signing oil contracts with them. Do the math.

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“A Victory of the Better America?”

You really should read this; the best piece of writing I’ve seen on the Clinton/Obama race.

Andrew Arato, Dorothy Hart Hirshon Professor of Political and Social Theory, The New School for Social Research, New York

Is it possible? At least we have found a likely leader. The Battle of the Potomac is over. Despite the name that resembles the bloody exchanges of the Civil War, the mini civil war of the U.S. Democrats will hopefully not last very long. I am watching Obama’s victory speech from Madison, Wisconsin, a famous left wing university town. It is his best yet, combining the thoroughness of Harvard Law School and the emotional fervor of the Black Protestant church. Because McCain wants to stay in Iraq a hundred years, we should not give him four years…..The post-imperial candidate laid down his markers. The students (and myself even more) loved what we heard, expressed so clearly and so eloquently. Is it possible for an imperial Republic, after the failure of Athens and Rome, , for the second time in history after the lone British case, to willingly divest itself of a significant part of its imperial possessions that have become so dangerous for what makes the republican core still great? Yes we can is the Obama slogan, even if coined not exactly for the project that I have in mind. His personality and foreign policy ideas fortunately embody it. He was always against the Iraq war. He wants comprehensive negotiations with all regional powers of the Middle East. He wants to withdraw from Iraq relatively rapidly. But, and it is a big but, despite a series of successful battles, he has not yet won. Not yet against Clinton, and more importantly not yet against the other America, against McCain.

If Clinton loses it is not because she is a woman. In the Democratic Party that fact is rather a plus, ideologically and also because there are more women voters and more woman Democrats. It is because she is a woman, that she is still a serious contender in the race. She is losing instead, aside from Obama’s own strengths, because of her unforgivable two votes on the Iraq War in 2002 that already cost John Kerry (now an Obama supporter) the presidency. Making things worse, she still defends not only her positive vote on the Authorization of the Use of Force, but also the negative one on the Levin Amendment that would have required that the U.S. President go to the UN Security Council first, and, in case failure to get Chapter VII authorization under the Charter, to go back to Congress for explicit authorization to go to war. While in case of the Authorization itself, Clinton now says that knowing everything she knows today (i.e. that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that Bush would abuse the authorization) she would have voted no, she does not say why it was right to trust this particular President and his circle at all, given all the planning for war. But in the case of the Levin Amendment the issue is even more serious. The proposal was eminently sensible as well as deeply constitutional. It is Congress’ constitutional power to declare war. This power cannot be delegated, because it is given by the constituent power. The only possible exception is a Chapter VII war, where under a binding international treaty signed by the U.S. the Security Council is the source of the authorization. This is what happened in the Korean War; the first time the Congressional right to Declare was seriously bypassed. Recently Congressional declarations have been replaced by Authorizations that however do not leave it up to the president to decide whether to go to war or not, as did the Iraq authorization in question. The aim of the Levin Amendment was to replace a “blank check” authorization, clearly unconstitutional, by the choice: either authorization by the Security Council or a more specific, Congressional re-authorization. It is this choice that Hillary Clinton still repeatedly represents in speeches, quite wrongly, as surrendering the powers of the United States to the United Nations. In reality however, she like Bush, wishes to keep the presidential prerogative free of both international and constitutional restraints.

We have seen the consequence of such a liberation from both types of law in Iraq, in Guantanamo, and all places where extraordinary rendition, kidnappings, torture, and detentions without due process have been practiced by U.S. authorities. Hillary Clinton may be an opponent of all that, but she does not attack the problem at its roots even if she goes further than McCain in the one and only case of Iraq. The empire is not only Iraq, and presidential power in an imperial setting would remain a danger also after an Iraqi withdrawal, assuming she would carry it out. As the famous colonel in the film Battle of Algiers said to the assembled French journalists: if you want an Algerie Francaise, you must put up with all that. If you want to protect the American empire as is . . . if you are unwilling to negotiate with all our adversaries without pre-conditions that is of course the pre-condition of orderly withdrawal…then you must put up with the means necessary to protect it. Clinton’s positions on negotiations with Iran indicate that she has not yet learned much from the past, indeed from the war in Iraq itself. And McCain is one of the most aggressive American politicians with respect to both continuing the war in Iraq and risking a new one with Iran. Only Obama, not Clinton, nor McCain in spite of his loud verbal opposition to torture is ready to do what it would take to end the situation in which there is any kind of imperial rationale (however mistaken technically) for torture. Obama (tutored here by Zbigniew Brzezinski) is the only realist among the three candidates still standing, in spite of his soaring rhetoric.

All polls currently indicate that the great majority of the country is with Obama on questions of foreign policy, and has been for two or more years, though they may not yet correctly identify his views on all the issues. But given the threat of recession, the issue of external affairs retreated behind that of the economy. In general this would be an advantage to the Democrats. It is also to Hillary Clinton’s advantage, because of the superior track record of the Clinton administration, her own obvious competence, and better thought out position on very much needed health care reform – where she is an expert paradoxically enough because of her dramatic failure in 1993, that led to the so-called “Republican Revolution in 1994. The Obama idea of “change” has to do mostly with the large issue of identity and foreign policy posture in the world, while Clinton’s slogan experience refers to her managerial abilities in the domestic sphere where there is very little difference between the two equally liberal (in the American sense = social liberal) Democratic candidates. In spite of small, probably tactical differences, they both have dramatic health care reform as the centerpiece of their social program, and they would both pay for it the same way, by refusing to make the outrageous Bush tax cuts that produced huge deficits permanent for the wealthy. They are lucky, because unlike Kerry in 2004 they don’t have to promise to pass new legislation to finance health expenditures . . . all they have to do is the much easier thing, namely to oppose new legislation to make reduction of governmental resources permanent. This will still be called raising taxes by the Republicans; but the stress will be on rescinding tax cuts to the wealthy! In any case, the Democratic electorate is asked to decide whether the more experienced but more polarizing Clinton, or the more novice Obama who is willing to work with Republicans is likely to accomplish a similar domestic agenda. And we still do not know how they will decide this question.

So far, before the three Potomac Primaries, the young, the educated, men and most dramatically blacks were with Obama, older voters, the less well educated, women, and Hispanic-Americans were with Clinton. Obama could win the majority of whites in caucus states where the politically active vote in a kind of township meeting setting that suggests participatory democracy, and where the young and the educated have an advantage. Clinton won the whites in the primary states, where normal elections with secret ballots take place, the form also favoring the Brady (a former losing black Mayor candidate in Los Angeles) effect: the voter tells the pollster that he or she votes for the black but does not do so under the veil of secrecy. This was probably the reason for the huge discrepancy between polls and results in New Hamphshire and California, lost by Obama. Now in Virginia and Maryland, two primary states, the white vote was evenly split and there was no Brady effect! (There may be now a Haile Berry effect, still racist of course: “she is the one black that I would marry”). Admittedly there is also Hillary hatred, but this is measured by the polls; since we still allow substitute languages for misogyny but not for racism: as “she is so aggressive” or “she is such a know it all”. It seems however that her collapse in Virginia and Maryland where she is liked and where she used to be leading is due simply to the rise of Obama.

Obama will most likely take Wisconsin, powered by the young and the educated. Then the big three hurdles will be Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. If his current momentum is real he may take all three or two out of three. If he takes both Ohio and Texas on March 4, or one of them and later Pensylvania he has won, and the so-called super delegates will have to fall into line with Carter, Gore and Pelosi leading the pack. If Clinton takes all three she will win, narrowly perhaps depending on the size of her win in proportional elections, to the tremendous disappointment of Obama’s young army, and the super-delegates whose majority is now with her will also fall into line. She would do well in that case to offer the vice-presidency to Obama in a convincing manner, if she wants to win against McCain. If Obama wins only one of the three, and is narrowly ahead, the super-delegates may still want to decide for Clinton. There may even be attempts to illegitimately give Clinton the delegates from the Florida and Michigan primaries where Obama chose not to compete on the orders of the DNC. In either case, in August we will have riots in Denver, the site of the Democratic Convention, that will resemble the siege of Chicago in 1968, and with Clinton playing the role of Hubert Humphrey the Democrats will go on to lose the election. So if Obama has a narrow majority in the end, the party leaders better quickly shift to him and manage some deal. Their choice will be also motivated by electability (that does not = Hillary hatred, pace Stanley Fish!) as an issue, namely the legitmate concern regarding who does better against McCain in the polls. Today it clearly seems to be Obama, but how much of a Bradley effect is hiding in the numbers? Noone knows. Clinton however is more vulnerable on the question of Iraq, exactly like Kerry was, than is Obama with his far greater consistency on the issue.

The electoral results will in any case be all important. Conventionally two things are said: First, that the one with momentum wins and that is now Obama, and, second, the one who can break through his or her prior demographic constraints wins, and that is Obama too, though only marginally. Clinton cannot hope to get the young, or the blacks or the educated to vote against Obama. But in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas she may not have to. If she can continue to get huge majorities among white women, the less educated, and among Hispanic Americans that may be enough. It is Obama who needs to break through his previous demographics, and he has not yet done so enough. Whether the momentum will do it for him remains to be seen.

If he does make it, the Democrats, unlike last time, will have a great convention, one for all the ages. And then debates will be incredibly exciting. McCain already admitted he knows little about the economy and economics, but has read Alan Greenspan’s book. Now that two bubbles (finance and real estate) Greenspan helped to create have burst, that should not be enough. Flip-flopping on taxes (first I was against them as unfair and unwise, before I was for making them permanent) and staying in Iraq permanently will not go over well in the debates with a clever lawyer like Obama. Just one issue remains for McCain: that of commander in chief in wartime, if we are willing to forget that we should not be in any war at all. And here McCain with his military experience looks more like such a figure, however wrong his policies! Obama will undoubtedly show that staying in Iraq even 5 and not 10 or 100 years makes the United States weaker in Afghanistan, weaker against the terrorists, less able to deal with new crises, more and more unpopular in the world and especially the Islamic world. What he then must be ready for is two things. To give a convincing answer to the question of how to withdraw from Iraq in a way that is not catastrophic for Iraq itself, and to deal with crises situations, external or internal, real or manufactured that probably will arise during the campaign, and do so in a very effective and presidential manner. He should be able to do these two things, but the other side that should have certainly lost in 2004 already cannot be underestimated.

We are not there yet. But it is already another country. I did not think I would say it so soon. After years of shame, I am proud of our democracy again. To nominate a very liberal black or a liberal woman, to force even the other America to choose someone with a human face, though largely the wrong policies that are not yet sufficiently known, is a clear repudiation of the politics of 2001-2008. The driving force behind all this is American civil society, and mostly the self-organizing young, and the gods of history have given us a perfect candidate to carry their message and their hope. The activists must not be disappointed by the eventual victory of McCain, or even Clinton. But the future is actually in their own hands. It is they who need to take their country back!

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Iraq mortality study showing 600,000 excess deaths NOT funded by George Soros

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Let me convey what I thought was a simple and unremarkable fact I told Munro in an interview in November and one of the Lancet authors emailed Cannon the details of how the survey was funded. My center at MIT used internal funds to underwrite the survey. More than six months after the survey was commissioned, the Open Society Institute, the charitable foundation begun by Soros, provided a grant to support public education efforts of the issue. We used that to pay for some travel for lectures, a web site, and so on.

OSI, much less Soros himself (who likely was not even aware of this small grant), had nothing to do with the origination, conduct, or results of the survey. The researchers and authors did not know OSI, among other donors, had contributed. And we had hoped the survey’s findings would appear earlier in the year but were impeded by the violence in Iraq. All of this was told repeatedly to Munro and Cannon, but they choose to falsify the story. Charges of political timing were especially ludicrous, because we started more than a year before the 2006 election and tried to do the survey as quickly as possible. It was published when the data were ready.

The New York Post and the Sunday Times of London, both owned by Rupert Murdoch, followed the WSJ editorial and trumpeted the Soros connection and the supposed “fraud” which Munro and Cannon hinted. “$OROS IRAQ DEATH STORY WAS A SHAM” was a headline in the Post, which was followed by a story in which scarcely anything stated was true.

The charges of “fraud” that were also central to the National Journal piece were based on distortions or ignorance of statistical method, such as random sampling and sample size, or speculations about Iraqi field researchers fabricating data. Nothing close to proof of misdeeds was ever offered. 

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