Saturday, June 05, 2004

Col. Nate Sassman Active Again

"With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them."
--Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman

Col. Nate Sassaman seems to be the most insane US commander on the ground in Iraq. Whenever his name comes up in the news, it is some extreme atrocity resembling Nazi occupation in Russia or Poland.

First we read he ordered the entire town of Abu Hishma razor-wired, and he forced 126 family sheiks to sign a contract that they turn in themselves to prison if there are more attacks in the region. Also see this followup.

Here is a reminder of how Abu Ghraib detainees are collected. On December 17, 2003, Sassaman's troops carted off the entire male polulation of Abu Siffa village, and then proceeded to blow up all the houses.

Sassaman is also the officer who was trying to cover up the murder of an Iraqi captured at night curfew, who drowned after being forced to jump off a bridge - incidentally, he was a relative of the most pro-us Iraqi blogger, Zayed (see this and this update too!).

But Sassaman is not fired, not imprisoned for war crimes. Lately, he was handing out medals to his deranged racist troopers.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Byzantine Intrigues in The Chalabi Case

We are supposed to believe that international crook and would-be king of Iraq Ahmed Chalabi is an Iranian spy, who duped all the neocons into war for Iran's benefit and later sold out the secret that NSA broke Iran's secret code.

This storyline stinks to heaven.

First, Chalabi has his own ambitions, namely to lead Iraq, thus his contacts with Iran are of the same quality as that with the USA. Second, the neocons needed no duping into war: it is fairly well established that WMDs were an excuse to start a war out of geopolitical motivations (Middle East reorganisation, control of own oil sources, control of Europe's and East Asia's oil sources, military bases, Israel's security, power demonstration, testing reformed military etc. - of course, for each Bush admin player a different subset of the previous). Third, to critical observers it was fairly obvious before the war that WMD claims are fishy, and that government response to this criticism was always hot on rhetoric and weak on sound arguments - and after the war, we learnt that there was critical analysis even within the government, but it was sidelined. Fourth, all this is just all too convenient for a vengeful CIA and State Department.

Fifth, the reported details of Chalabi's indiscretion and its discovery just don't add up.

The leakers' claim is that the Iranian intel officer doubted Chalabi's info, thats why he used the same code, but just in case included false info on a weapons storage, action on which would have proved Chalabi's claim, but the Americans didn't fall for the false info.

Now which intel officer would express doubts, name the source rather than use a code name, and include fake info in the same message? And how did the Americans deduce what was the false info? They don't tell us. And anyway, didn't going after Chalabi prove the code claim true? I'm afraid to say Perle's reasoning is more sound here, namely that implicating Chalabi was the fake info.

So New York Times again proved itself to be an uncritical repeater of government spin - nothing new under the media sun, part MCMXXVIII.

But, I repeat, the good thing about this charade is that while it brings down the neocons, it also brings down the attacking Republican paleohawks, as it leads to election loss.


There is a further issue here: think the neocon way!

Neocons view themselves as great analysts, strategic thinkers, chess players on a grand scale. For them, Iran-Contra was not treason or a reckless dirty deal, but a wise tactical sacrifice for strategic gain (a somewhat better armed Iran for the possible overthrow of the only far-leftist government in Central America).

Whatever deals Chalabi truly had with Iran (and he certainly had some), those would be a fair price in neocon eyes for getting Iran to tolerate (rather than plot to undermine) their puppet in the neighbourhood.

And what's the importance, after all, they planned to overthrow Iran anyway!

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Nothing Changes in the Media

New York Times came out with mea culpas for its WMD/terrorism coverage. Pundits and lots of bloggers trashed them for going only half-way. I'll trash them for continuing in the same vein on more current subjects. They still spin like hell.

My example is an article on the increased influence of Sunni Muslim clerics (which, I note here, I'm not at all happy about). I'll only quote criticised parts with some context:

"They have many plans to make conflict between Iraqis, between sects, between ethnic groups, between tribes, between students and teachers, between the military and civilians," he said, chopping his fist through the air. "They shake hands with the people of Falluja with their right hand, but they shoot them with their left hand."

So says one cleric. And what is noteworthy about it? The insistence on unity among Iraqis? The implicit denouncement of harrassment of secular teachers and military, as well as that of Shi'a and non-Muslim Iraqis? No, the only thing the author insinuates this speech was about is anti-Americanism:

The enemy is America, and since the uprising last month that message has been hammered into the heads of worshipers every week across the country, more intensely and with greater effect than ever before.

Later, we again get Sunnis painted as Saddam supporters, and apparently supporters to this day:

The deeper one goes into the so-called Sunni Triangle, where supporters of Saddam Hussein's minority Sunni government remain defiant, the wider the clerics' appeal.

Saddam supporters supporting fundie Sunni clerics, now THAT is some spectacular example of double-think! Later:

Many of those men, including the ones in the Muslim Clerics Association, the most powerful Sunni religious group, are virulently anti-American.

Again, "anti-American". Rather than "anti-occupation". As if it were some irrational reality-removed ideologic standpoint, not opposition to an intrusion into their daily lives. And so NYT continues in the next paragraph:

The group has actually dived into politics, just not in a way the Americans would like. Although the interim government has yet to take shape fully, the association is already condemning it, which does not bode well for stability.

Now this really puts the cart before the horse! I mean, why should the Association wait for an illegitimate body of people, not elected by Iraqis but by a foreign power which insists on controlling executive decisions anyway, to materialise before denouncing it? And why is it this denouncement, rather than a foreign power picking a puppet government instead of letting Iraqis to establish a real government, that hinders stability?

As the clerics' power has grown, the group has become bolder in its verbal attacks against the occupiers and has tried to present itself as the political wing of the armed resistance.

Maybe the author of the article has information I don't but won't share with us, but nowhere have I seen them present themselves as a political arm to the armed resistance. Peaceful resistance yes, but I read them insisting on their independence from the armed resistance. In particular, they were keen to not have weapons in mosques like as-Sadr preferred, and were quite voiceferous about the fact that repeated US searches found nothing.

Liberal Hawks, Get Real!

Gary Younge in The Guardian writes the following about "liberal hawks", which is the first clear, focused denouncement of this group from the Left I saw (before, I only read Libertarians excelling in bashing them):

...wishful thinking has been the entire intellectual and political thrust of the "liberal hawks" - the lefties who backed the war. They wished that the UN would pass a second resolution, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, that the Iraqi people would come out and greet western soldiers, that the Bush administration had noble intentions and that Blair could exert influence over the US in the Middle East. Some of us wished that they would get real.

For one of the most pernicious baseless assertions in recent times is the notion that there is any such thing as a "liberal hawk". There isn't. People are not liberal just because they say so. For the term to have any meaning at all they have to share some common ground on which the bombing of Iraq has no place. There was no progressive case for bypassing the will of the UN and international law and bombing a country that posed no immediate threat to any other. There was a liberal dilemma about how you confront vicious dictators. But in the case of Iraq it no more led to war than the liberal dilemma over how to solve crime leads to capital punishment.

Having seen their wish-list shredded by the neoconservatives in the Pentagon and the White House, some now wring their hands and wonder where it all went wrong, while others become ever more bullish and bizarre in defence of a stance long since discredited.

Liberals never provided a case for this war. There was "liberal" cover for it. A fact for which conservatives are delighted and those coopted by them should be ashamed.

That's the crux of it. I was soooo dismayed at seeing many liberals (I'm more hesitant than Younge to apply the No True Scotsman argument), including some I respected, not getting simple truths. Especially as I am a liberal interventionist myself, having witnessed the effects of short-sighted diplomacy and inaction by Western powers relatively close-by in (now ex) Yugoslavia. (Yes, I only mention Western powers, and no, not because of sole responsibility but because only of them would I expect to sometimes act otherwise.)

They didn't get simple truths like, that you shouldn't obsess about the fate of one individual, even if he is the dictator, instead you should take into account the fate of all individuals affected by the war decision equally - and draw your conclusion then. By asking me, "But removing Saddam was the right thing?" you just continue Saddam's personal cult.

Or, that reality is not a Hollywood movie terminating with a happy end, but continues after 'Victory' - if you don't prepare for the post-war situation, things can get just as bad or worse than under the deposed dictatorship. It was bloodily obvious and I preached to no awail before the war that Saddam is not the only 'evil' force in Iraq, and neocon (lack of) plans will allow the others to reach for power as soon as he is removed. (And, well, this simple truth was amiss from heads already when Clinton tried regime change in Iraq via bombing in 1998, and later in the Kosovo intervention.)

Or, that if you wish an action with a certain outcome, but decisions are made by other people who promise something else and have a history of delivering something else, your endorsement for that action obviously won't result in the outcome you wish. What the neocons really wanted was in the public domain, how they deliver could be seen in Afghanistan, to rant on about the prospect of stable democracy in Iraq in this context was staggeringly idiotic. (Then again, many of these liberal hawks lived under the illusion that Afghanistan and also Kosovo as begun by Clinton and continued by Bush were examples of successful missions.)

Or, that crooks at home elected more or less democratically taking over another country from crooks who usurped power unelected is not at all an improvement (not to speak of comparing apples and oranges) - for they too are crooks usurping power unelected in the invaded country. And 'democratic' crooks should not be measured against foreign leaders, but domestic - well, not even domestic political rivals, but domestic laws and democratic standards, ideals. (True for Bush vs. Saddam/Sadr/Fallujahis as well as Sharon/Barak/Netanyahu vs. Arafat/Hamas.) That your opponents committed more sins is no more an excuse for breaking a democratic/'Western' norm than is not having taken part in drug trafficking as the victim did, for a mafia member on trial for killing a fellow mobster.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

How can the Iraqi Resistance win?

By winning, I mean driving the US out and not collapsing into chaos.

I thought for months there are three prerequisites, neither of which I saw as likely, yet one is already met and there is the first sign of aother getting met.

The first is to prevent a religious war. Essentially, a Suni-Shi'a peace. This seems to have been met.

The second is to boot out foreign meddlers from Islamic countries, too. That is, al-Qaida, Zharkawi's al-Tawhid, anything from Iran etc.

The third would be to persuase the majority of the Kurds that they can be lived with. This is especially iportant if we consider the US's options and likely moves if it is booted out: I think any possible US leadership would aim at weakening an independent Iraq, and do that by supporting whatever armed resistance to the new powers-that-be can be found in the country.

Now I read in a source I generally don't trust, London's Telegraph, that Iraqi insurgents turn against 'out of control' Saudi al-Qaeda fighters
, at least in Fallujah:

A well-armed group infiltrated the city before fighting erupted in March and is continuing to mount operations against the coalition and Westerners in the area, in defiance of leaders of Fallujah's mosques, the army and the police force...

...A senior sheikh in Fallujah said the group was "out of control", adding: "We are worried that they are part of al-Qaeda. That means that we will have to force them out and it will be hard. But this is our country we are fighting for, and it is our fight with the Americans. They have their own country and their own ideas which we do not share."

Fallujah's own independent militia, set up under the agreement with the Americans that ended a month-long battle for the city, is threatening to attack the Saudi group because of its persistent involvement in kidnappings and looting.

As a byline, another interesting tidbit about the re-use of US weapons:

Although some of their arsenal was smuggled into the country, the most effective anti-tank weaponry was American: rockets and missiles which, the fighters claim, was either salvaged from downed helicopters and vehicles or obtained from traders.

Missiles have been converted into weapons that are effective against tanks but produce a hot back-blast that burns the hands and faces of the fighters.