Iraq’s occupation: the role of the UN

There is a very interesting article in Al Akhbar on the role the UN (along with the US and UK) plays in crystallizing the division between executive and legislative powers in Iraq (empowering the former, and bypassing the constitutional rights of the latter, a constitution they not only imposed on Iraqis but are happy to violate). The examples include the decision to keep international forces (mainly American) in the country, something Parliamentary members whether Kurds, Arabs, Sunnis, Shi’as and what have you have dominantly voted against but was rejected by executive power and sanctified by a UN resolution.

The Truth about Iraq

A 2003’s “Soldier’s Guide to the Republic of Iraq,” issued by the Army on the eve of the U.S. invasion, tells troops that Arabs see “little virtue in a frank exchange” and are “by American standards… reluctant to accept responsibility.”

There is a 1943 version as well, which can be accessed here.

(This article was stolen off Hassan’s facebook profile.)

Damning the Dead …

Four policemen were wounded when a coffin bomb went off in the district of al-Sayediya, western Baghdad, an Iraqi police source said on Saturday.

Le toupet des Kurdes

If you were a Turk in an executive political position what would you do with a statement like this one:

The president of Iraq’s Kurdish region on Thursday rejected Ankara’s declaration that it was ready for dialogue with Iraqi Kurds provided they took measures against Turkish Kurd rebels holed up in the autonomous enclave.
“We do not accept the conditions laid down to deal with the PKK. We have always said that we would help Turkey if it chooses the path of dialogue and we confirm this,” Massoud Barzani told a news conference alongside Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, also a Kurd.

You know I wonder what Israelis were thinking when they started training Kurds and giving them military aid. Maybe they thought that selling weapons to Turkey on one side and to Kurds who just found themselves with the presidency of Iraq on the other, is something that could pay off eventually. Maybe they thought this would help the Americans… I mean what is the logic behind all these moves?
See, this is why I don’t believe much in grand conspiracy theories. People conspire don’t get me wrong, but people cannot accommodate for the desires/interests (depending on which terminology you want to use) of every ally.

Turks enter Iraq

That is it, the moment that has been feared for quite some time finally happened, Turkish troops entered Kurdish Iraq yesterday to tame guerrillas ardor. This adds a new variable to the already explosive situation in the Middle East. Overlapping contradictory political agendas are multiplying. How will the US deal with this while preserving Turkey as a strategic ally? What is going to happen to Turkish-Israeli relations especially that it is Israel that has been training these Kurdish troops.

Goldsmith on Human Rights …

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is facing accusations that he told the Army its soldiers were not bound by the Human Rights Act when arresting, detaining and interrogating Iraqi prisoners.

Previously confidential emails, seen by The Independent, between London and British military head-quarters in Iraq soon after the start of the war suggest Lord Goldsmith’s advice was to adopt a “pragmatic” approach when handling prisoners and it was not necessary to follow the ” higher standards” of the protection of the Human Rights Act.

Meanwhile, Back at the Faculty Lounge …

Mr. Tenet also directs scorn at the Pentagon intelligence analyses by Douglas J. Feith, then undersecretary of defense for policy. He describes his fury in August 2002 as he watched a slide show by Mr. Feith’s staff at C.I.A. headquarters suggesting “a mature, symbiotic relationship” between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
He said C.I.A. officers came to call such reports, in a play on words, “Feith-based analysis.” In an interview on Friday, Mr. Feith said Mr. Tenet’s account distorts the facts of the Pentagon effort and obscures Mr. Tenet’s own public statements before the war. Mr. Feith noted that Mr. Tenet, in October 2002, sent the Senate intelligence committee a letter that said, “We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.”

For Reasons That Are (Not Yet) Clear…

For reasons that are not yet clear, America’s general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq’s government and security forces, and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq,” Lt. Col. Paul Yingling said in the article published Friday in the Armed Forces Journal.

Those stateside like me have had to endure an endless amount of blather — legal and otherwise — about what role the US Congress should play in the government’s war-making powers. Those who argue for an expansive reading of Article II’s CinC powers often suggest that the legislature should not be involved in battlefield decisions, lest the military be compromised by vissicitudes of politics. This is utter bullshit. Having abandoned its constitutional role in matters of war and peace by deferring to the Executive, the US Congress has only futher politicized the ranks of the US military leadership. Instead of our elected representatives making such decisions, we have generals deciding whether we are at war or peace. One can witness this phenomenon in the fetish over the Pentagon’s IED presentation or in the revolving door of the Iraq command structure.

I will edit and elaborate when I get the chance.

Cash Cow …

Much of the rest was taken by the UN compensation commission, entrusted in handling claims of damages made by those allegedly harmed by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. According to von Sponeck, the Iraqi oil pie was so large, there was plenty for everyone: Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey, and all the rest. But most ironically, the commission awarded a large sum of money to two Israeli kibbutzim in the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights, for allegedly losing some of their income due to the fact that the war damaged the tourism industry in Israel.

Crack Kills …

A traveler who moves between Baghdad and Washington is struck by the gloomy despair in Washington and the cautious sense of optimism in Baghdad.

The prosecution rests.

The Wild West …

I want to kill somebody today,” Washbourne said, according to the three other men in the vehicle, who later recalled it as an offhand remark.

Welcome to Kurdistan …

It was, in other words, a story about influence-building, buying, and profit, albeit with subplots that were equal parts John le Carre and Keystone Kops, and a cast of characters ranging from ex-Mossad head Yatom to a former German superspy, with Israeli counterterrorism commandos, Kurdish political dynasties, powerful American lobbyists, Turkish business tycoons thrown in—not to mention millions of dollars stashed in Swiss bank accounts.

Proceed to Nearest Shelter!

“I want to have my conscience clear with Him. Then it doesn’t matter so much what others think.”

Greenwald, the author of linked piece, is a crank, but the quotes are priceless or terrifying or whatever …

Abu Ghraib: The Movie …

Watch the HBO documentary. It is well-done and has a very “banality of evil” feel to it.

Lost in Translation …

The new force was a low priority to Rumsfeld, he says; it was called “the New Iraqi Corps,” or NIC, until a linguist on Eaton’s staff noted that nic meant “fuck” in Arabic.

Lessons Unlearned …

The French and the Russians, for example, won asymmetrical wars in Algeria and Chechnya in the 19th century, but lost asymmetrical wars in those same places in the 20th century. “In the 19th century, there was not a literacy for nationalism. You look at a lot of these colonial wars. The great powers could play off tribes against each other. By the 1960s, you cannot do that anymore.”

I would aver that “nationalism” is only one of now available technologies that doom such adventures.

Why I Don’t Vote …

At the same time, we must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs.

So sayeth Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama at an AIPAC event a couple of days ago in Chicago. When asked, I will tell people that I was born both a Democrat and a Catholic, but that I regularly fail to meet any of the membership requirements of either institution. As the late great Billmon pointed out before he disappeared from cyberspace, the Democrats are in some ways much more dangerous when it comes to US policy in the Middle East. And thus while Obama will never match Hillary in his support for American and Israeli militarism, I cannot bring myself to support any of the Democratic candidates. I will give Obama credit, however, for directly mentioning the defense programs that drive the relationship.

It should be noted that despite recent conservative inroads, Jewish Americans vote overwhelming in favor of the Democrats as they generally prefer the Democratic position on a host of civil rights and social justice issues. It should also be noted that over 70 percent of Jewish Americans opposed the US war on Iraq.

But we are not talking about Jewish Americans. We are talking about AIPAC and those who butter their bread on the “unique” military relationship between Israel and the United States. One should also note that the vast majority of those who benefit from this relationship are not in fact Jewish and have no particular position on Israeli policies as long as the register keeps ringing.

Indeed, it is my sneaking position that many of these individuals and corporations actually find solace in attacks on the “Israel lobby,” as it works to deflect criticism of the real movers-and-shakers in this unholy alliance. This is the glaring hole in Walt and Mearsheimer’s analysis, as pointed out by no less than Noam Chomsky, and leaves such analysis open to charges of anti-Semitism. One can see this clearly in the trajectory of former AIPAC officials, many of whom move directly on to high-paying positions with various defense contractors and their lobbyists on K Street.

This is the cause and consequence of the US becoming Israel’s largest military supplier and if you need an object lesson in seeing how structure translates into superstructure, witness the dramatic shift in the 1970s and 1980s in magazines such as Dissent and Commentary, which had previously been the site of vigorous debate over the direction of Israeli policy (insert Woody Allen joke here).

As always, do as Obama does, follow the money.

Blair’s Legacy …

There is now a widespread belief in the United Kingdom that Iraq has been the worst disaster in British foreign policy since 1956, when Britain and France invaded Egypt with Israeli help after Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal.

Are the sub-editors at the WaPost reading this blog?

Signs of Imperial Decay …

At $923 million for the 2006 fiscal year, the budget was 20 times that of the Beijing embassy’s that year, according to the State Department.

One of my little screwball theories is that the Cold War is, in fact, not over, in that the US has not fully paid the bill of waging that worlwide war for markets and resources. Many of those debts can be witnessed across the globe today and the US, politically, economically and militarily, faces a physics not dissimilar to the management crisis that afflicted the over-extended, and deeply indebted Soviet regime.

Needless to say, the US adventure in Iraq provides something of a microcosm for many of these difficulties. To be sure, some would argue that control over the Middle East remains central to US superiority over its economic rivals and thus is worth the cost. But the failure of the US to secure Iraq raises critical questions about the ability of the empire to maintain its global position.

I will elaborate when I have the time, so pardon me if I sound too hysterical or apocalyptic.

Liberation …

“They also have something of an equal chance to participate in the misery of a destroyed national order. A somewhat leveled opportunity to be kidnapped, to be forced into exile, to have their daughter abducted or raped, to have their father murdered, families killed in the suicide bombings.”

Hersh, (Sigh) …

Well, just read Sy Hersh’s new piece and must admit I was disappointed. I found almost nothing original in either content or analysis and believe the piece could have been written by piecing together already very public information.

I was not going to post on it, until I heard Wolff Blitzer call the piece “explosive” this morning on CNN. Perhaps the only gaseous discharge I heard was the allegation concerning Negroponte’s motivations:

I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.)
The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’ ” (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.) Negroponte stayed on as Deputy Secretary of State, he added, because “he believes he can influence the government in a positive way.”

This is absurd puffery and a little reverse engineering leads one to believe that Hersh completely got played by his “sources” on this issue. This is one of the two problems I have with Hersh’s work as it often takes bureaucratic infighting as evidence of the direction of US policy. The blatant ass-kissing of Negroponte suggests that the source may have been Negroponte himself or one of his close aides in Foggy Bottom or supporters on the Hill. Of course, I have no idea, but Negroponte, as the intelligence czar, likely encountered significant antagonism from the DOD and thus one must understand this “information” in this context. To go from that rather quotidian reality to the Contras is ridiculous and the ass-kissing should make all very suspicious. To be sure, many on the Hill and at the CIA and State have bureaucratic reasons to talk with Hersh, but I just wonder how far this really get us with respect to US policy in the Middle East. I agree that the Pentagon has usurped the CIA with respect to covert operations and intelligency, but this is not a new story and evidence can be gathered on this point without polishing Negroponte’s apple.

I would also say that his interview with Nasrallah was really disappointing, or at least what he chose to include in the interview. To be sure, it seems he only included quotes to fit his thesis, but this has the effect of making Nasrallah look like a wild conspiracy theorist, something he is decidedly not:

I can assure you that the Saudi kingdom will also be divided, and the issue will reach to North African states. There will be small ethnic and confessional states,” he said. “In other words, Israel will be the most important and the strongest state in a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East.”

For me this is inexcusable, because Nasrallah does not give interviews to American journalists, so when he does, it is an irreducible opportunity that should not be missed.

I would add that Hersh’s descision to quote Armitage and Baer on Hizbullah is a bit ridiculous as their thoughts remain haunted by memories of the 1980s and they expose themselves as idiots when talking about a Hizbullah that no longer exists. To paraphrase and answer Baer, the dog did not bark because it died over a decade ago.

I would add that one part of Hersh’s thesis makes no sense. It has been widely understood that the CIA has been deeply involved in Lebanon, because the activities have been more political and financial, than military. This reality does not fit his contention about the DOD takeover of intelligence or the reporting requirements. I would agree in the case of Iran, but in Lebanon, this seems off the mark.

Again, I would say I was disappointed with the piece. He can do and has done better. I would add that it is a bit odd that the piece works mostly as a summary of the last 10 months, when I had understood that Remnick, his editor, had wanted a more newsy Hersh for the pages of the New Yorker. The quote retread is not good enough given the rapid pace of events on the ground.

Perhaps most distressing is Hersh’s take on the militant Salafi groups in Lebanon. There is some truth to what he says here, but I had hoped that the time he spent in Lebanon would allow him to understand a bit more of the complexity of the situation (his television appearance made me cringe). Sadly, it seems he is just as susceptible to generalities and misrecognition as the Beltway bureaucrats who drive his stories. To be sure, this bit is designed for American audiences, but without the proper local context, it falls flat. In sum, imperial muckraking may be a noble profession, but the full story (elucidating domestic and international connections) is not here and thus one feels the author is mirroring his sources by engaging in a narrowly targeted polemic. Oh, well …


Bloodthirsty …?

Right now I have more opportunities than I’ve ever had to use weapons where we know there aren’t any friendly people. In combat that’s very rewarding.”

From the Vault …

“For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who’s going to govern in Iraq strikes me as a classic definition of a quagmire.”

— Dick Cheney, 1991.

More an Antique Roman than a Dane …

Denmark announced that it would withdraw its ground troops serving under British command in Basra, as other countries review their participation in the coalition force.
Lithuania, which has 53 soldiers in Iraq serving alongside the Danish battalion, also said it was considering a pull-out.
The Romanian Defence Minister said that Bucharest would take a decision on the presence of its 600 soldiers in Iraq, mostly serving under British command, in the next few days. But President Traian Basescu, who is also under pressure to announce a withdrawal timetable, warned that a hasty pull-out of the international coalition forces “would cause chaos and the division of Iraq”.
Poland has already announced that it will bring home its 900 troops by the end of the year, and Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Japan and New Zealand have already withdrawn their troops.
South Korea, which has a contingent of 2,300 troops in the northern city of Arbil, intends to withdraw half by April, and its parliament is calling for a complete pull-out by the end of the year.

Wither the coalition of the willing? Mark your calendars: 100 days until solitude …

Say Anything …

Military chiefs had been pushing for much bigger cuts in the number of British troops in Iraq than those announced yesterday by Tony Blair, defence officials made clear last night. For months, army commanders have suggested that their presence on the streets of Basra was doing more harm than good … They were forced to agree to a more gradual reduction partly in deference to US sensitivities.

So, how did the White House respond to the news?:

Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, said the announcement was “an affirmation that in parts of Iraq … things are going pretty well“, while the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, was keen to stress “the coalition remains intact”.

The prosecution rests.

Enter the Clown, Stage Left …

Among the officials accompanying her was Karen P. Hughes, a longtime Bush confidant who currently serves as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

What is this idiot doing in Baghdad? Teaching the Iraqis to lie, badly, to Americans? I doubt they need much help in this …