Archive for August, 2010

Fear and Loathing in Manhattan; a Partially True Tale of Bigotry

August 26, 2010 Leave a comment
Classic example of yellow press

IT’S AMAZING HOW I always seem to find myself surrounded by crazy assholes who don’t get how bigoted or contradictory or just simply full of shit they are. I am sitting in a public space and the news is on. Of course the story would have to be about the Muslim man who, when a white Christian man asked if he was a Muslim and answered in the affirmative, was attacked with a knife! The story goes on in more detail about rising anti-Islamic sentiment throughout the country over an Islamic cultural center being built in Manhattan.
            “It’s insulting for them to build a mosque so close to ‘Ground Zero,’” a relatively nice but overly-talkative Hispanic woman in her late-50s told me. She’s sitting there not looking at anyone but clearly talking out loud in an effort to find someone to share her hate with. She doesn’t find a single person.
            “Whose them?” I ask with a bit of disbelief in my voice.
            “The Muslims!”
            “Which Muslims?”
            Before she answers I interrupt her: “Listen, there are a billion Muslims in this world and it makes about as much sense to generalize them . . .”
            “Now!” another woman interjects with approval.
            “. . . and say ‘they’ shouldn’t build a Mosque in their neighborhood because 19 others flew planes into buildings a few blocks away (nearly ten years ago) as it does to deport you because other Hispanics come here illegally. Because, ya know, just as the issue on ‘immigration’ is not that your Hispanic or that others come here ‘illegally’ but because they are economic refugees, so it is not the issue on the mosque that they are Muslims or that others attacked us but rather the broader issues of imperialism and aggression that lie behind why people would do it in the first place! If you want something to be upset about then be upset about the things our government does with our tax money and in our name and not that Muslims unrelated to a terrorist act build a place of worship.
           “Seriously, how many Christians have blown up abortion clinics? Should we prohibit Christians from building churches . . .”
            “Exactly,” the friend of the first interjector chimes in.
            “. . . near such occurrences? Or what about the Oklahoma City Bombing? Timothy McVeigh was a Christian and there is a church across the street from the memorial. Do you think it should be taken down?”
            “Well . . . all I know is that putting the mosque there is controversial.”
            “Come off it! Limiting the rights of others because something is controversial is no valid excuse. Perhaps we should reinstate slavery since abolishing it was controversial at the time.
            “I tell you what, if you are going to fall prey so easily to these scare mongering, xenophobic, bigoted issues raised by cheap political opportunists during election season then don’t forget to vote for the ass-clown demagogues who prefer to make an issue out of this and not the real important issues like the economy or the wars or how both sides of the isle are hooking for Wall Street while attacking those of us on Main Street, okay?”
            She rolls her eyes and the conversation ends but the other folk just wink.

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Confronting the Empire: The War and Occupation of Iraq Continues

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

It was a strange thing to watch. As 5,000 soldiers at Fort Hood (near Killeen, Texas) were being deployed to Iraq this past weekend the media was having a field day with the alleged ending of the “War in Iraq” (though no mention of the resistance to the deployment by some local vets). It has to be asked but if we really wanted the war to end then why has there been silence for the last year? What happened a year ago that would have me pose such a question? In June of last year the New York Times reported that President Obama (see “American diplomats”) was pressuring al-Maliki not to hold a referendum calling for early withdrawal. At the time the Iraqi government was going to go ahead with it but eventually it was canceled.

The “combat” mission is done for now – despite more than 50,000 soldiers remain along with the bases and mercenaries – leaving leading military officials to say it would take a major failure on the part of Iraqi forces to get “combat” soldiers back in Iraq. The play on words about “combat” troops is very misleading much like the statement Brigadier General Josef Blotz, the spokesman for NATO forces, told reporters in May about the escalation of the War in Afghanistan: “We would like to call it a process that is encompassing military and non-military instruments.” It’s not war but a “process” and it’s not fought with weapons but rather “instruments.” The focus on the current media extravaganza has been the deceptive posturing on ending the “combat” mission (even though the remaining soldiers will still face armed resistance), not the entire war and occupation, and certainly not apologizing to or compensating our victims or holding ourselves accountable for our crimes. Just a celebration of finishing the job (a “responsible end” as President Obama would call it) as if we are the Mafia or that war is as normal of an economic activity for us as delivering the mail.

It has been more than seven years since we illegally, immorally and unjustifiably invaded and occupied Iraq. We have literally wrecked the place. We turned a culturally and economically affluent society into a nightmare in less than a decade with the Sanctions Regime and somehow managed to worsen that following the 2003 war. Unemployment is still high, millions of people are still displaced, over one million people (some children and all with names and loved ones) have been killed, countless more injured physically and psychologically, cancer rates are at an all time high (in Fallujah, the city that has endured the most punishment from the occupying forces due to its resistance activities, the cancer rates are higher than in Hiroshima after the nuclear bombing of the city in 1945), and child malnutrition is up (see this piece from Science Daily for a recent study on the wars effect on children). This, following the genocidal sanctions regime we imposed on the country and whose costs the Clinton administration found was “worth it.” (former Secretary of State Madeline Albright)

Even before the war the claim that Iraq had WMD was dubious at best. Despite the persistent focus on WMD’s it has largely been accepted that the issue is oil and empire (and this was highlighted when former President Bush issued a “signing statement” singling out a clause that would prohibit the US from building permanent military bases in Iraq or from controlling the country’s oil). Anyone familiar with the US-Iraq history of relations knows that while Saddam was our ally we helped equip him with the weapons, provided him with information on Iranian troops while Iraq used chemical weapons on “almost [a] daily” basis. We also knew that Iraq independently destroyed their stockpiles following the 1991 Gulf War, that as far back as 1996 they no longer had the infrastructure to create or store them outside of what was heavily guarded by inspectors (and which was looted following the war) and that defectors, like one of Saddam’s son-in-laws, had told us that all biological, chemical and nuclear programs were terminated. The disarming of these programs was the basis of the “single question” the former administration had in order to keep a war from happening. Not bringing democracy or liberation. In fact, if you go back to the major speeches between September 2002 and March 2003 it becomes clear (i.e. the amount of times the policy makers made references to WMD’s and what not as opposed to liberation or bringing democracy). There was a lot of hyperbole and fear mongering about weapons known to not likely exist – I mean, the “v” in UNMOVIC, the UN inspection team in Iraq, was for verification because their mission was to verify that all the materials were destroyed; the idea that Iraq was creating or storing WMD was no longer a thought seriously entertained beyond warmongers in Washington and London. Colin Powell admitted as much back in 2001 when he said that, “He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.”

Regardless of international law and the clear fact that Iraq was no threat to either us or its neighbors, the US attacked Iraq. The death and destruction that followed could only be summed up with the poem Our Country is a Graveyard by Mahmoud Darwish:

Gentlemen, you have transformed
our country into a graveyard
You have planted bullets in our heads,
and organized massacres
Gentlemen, nothing passes like that
without account
All that you have done to our people
is registered in notebooks

Indeed, with a simple Google search we can see for ourselves the horrors that have been done with our tax dollars and in our name and all of it has been registered in notebooks.

At the height of the resistance or civil war or sectarian fighting, whatever you want to call it, the morgues in Baghdad were overflowing with the dead bodies of “young Sunni men” – the demographic largely comprising of the resistance to the occupation and the new Iraqi government (which only came to power because Ayatollah al-Sistani issued a fatwa calling for direct elections which the US initially opposed but succumbed to when they realized they could face a mass revolt if they continued to block the spiritual leader). This followed after it was reported the US would rely on the “Salvadoran option.” (Back in the 1980s the US military trained and armed death squads to attack the civilian population and any opposition to the US-friendly government.)

The violence eventually began to simmer and while apologists for the war attribute it to Bush’s “surge” it was in fact largely due to three particular factors that had next to nothing to do with how many occupiers we had in the country:
  1. The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad was largely completed. Mixed neighborhoods were segregated and walls erected
  2. Al Sadr and his militia accepted and honored a cease fire agreement
  3. The US paid off much of the Sunni resistance fighters via the Awakening Councils

If anyone expected the Sunni resistance fighters to forgive and forget then they were badly mistaken. It should have been expected that when the former death squads who targeted the “young Sunni men” and their families no longer had all the GI Joe’s around to back them up that the violence would escalate and with less than a week from when the US forces (excluding the mercenaries) were reduced to 50,000 the violence has begun to increase rapidly.

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Cuba: From the Monroe Doctrine to the Cuban Five

August 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Cuba has been through a lot over the years: genocide, colonization, slavery, liberation, more colonization, more liberation, terrorism and sabotage, more terrorism and more sabotage and . . .

The US government has coveted Cuba since the earliest days of its foundation. The Monroe Doctrine is still in effect.

By the late 1800s Spain was losing control over Cuba and with the assistance of the Platt Amendment, the US was finally taking over. The domestic liberation movement would have to wait another half century to even begin realizing itself.

Cuba as a US colony came to a stop in 1959 (though the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay remained). And ever since then Cuba has paid for their tenacity to be free from foreign domination.

When Uncle Sam calls in Ed Lansdale for his assistance you know you’re in trouble. This is a man who played a big role in the Phoenix Program in Vietnam and a similar one in the Philippines. In Cuba he oversaw Operation Mongoose, a terrorist operation that involved sabotage and assassination attempts on Fidel Castro.

In the lead up to the “Cuban Missile Crisis” Cuba maintained that the US was plotting another invasion following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. The US denied it but as historian Richard Reeves has pointed out,

In the Caribbean, and along the southern Atlantic coast, the United States was openly escalating military planning and actions obviously targeting Cuba, including amphibious invasion exercises around Puerto Rico through the summer and early fall [1962]. The last exercise involving 7,500 Marines was aimed at the overthrow of a dictator names ‘Ortsac’ – Castro spelled backwards. The Air Force transferred combat aircraft to Key West and other southern Florida bases from other parts of the country and, on September 18, the Air Force had begun training exercises simulating attacks on Cuba. More than 70,000 men participated in the largest exercise – ‘Operation Swift Strike II’ – and both Castro and Khrushchev stepped up charges that a U.S. invasion was in the works.

Cuba then turned to the Soviet Union for help. They did by placing some nukes on the island to deter US aggression. In the US the incident is seen as USSR and Cuban aggression that Kennedy coolly overcame. It’s the Cuban Missile Crisis. They are the “crisis.” What the US was doing to Cuba was not a crisis. The crisis is when someone deters the US. It should be noted that there was no “Turkey Missile Crisis” despite the US having nuclear weapons in Turkey and aimed at Moscow. The nukes in Turkey were brought up by Khrushchev, and Kennedy agreed to remove them though he didn’t point out they were already being phased out in place of nuclear submarines. But it’s not as if the USSR had a history of belligerence towards Turkey and was in the middle of terrorist operations aimed at overthrowing their government, like the US was in Cuba. The US nukes in Turkey were for aggression against Russia whereas the nukes in Cuba were clearly for deterrence.

In the middle of the “crisis” the US continued its terrorist operations and actually fired on a Russian sub in international waters. US planners didn’t realize the sub was armed with nuclear weapons and that the attack knocked out their communications resulting in the orders to “blast” the nukes. Fortunately for the world a defiant Russian named Vasili Alexandrovich Arkipov didn’t.

Over the ensuing decades little had changed. The embargo the US put in place following the 1959 revolution is still in effect, strangling their economy for no other reason than they are not subservient to us (a few years ago a US military spokesman made the comment about how the US was resuming the training of Latin American militaries because with their absence China was moving into “our area of responsiblity” as if the entire Western Hemisphere is property of Old Glory). Throughout the 1990s Cuba was the victim of numerous terrorist attacks by anti-Castro groups located in Miami. And in comes five Cuban intelligence officials who illegally  went into Miami (they didn’t disclose themselves as foreign agents), infiltrated a terrorist organization suspected for its attacks in Cuba. Once they compiled enough evidence they went to US officials and pleaded for them to put a stop to it. Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González, also known as the Cuban Five, were all arrested tried in a Kangaroo court and sitting in US prisons right now.

The US has similarly criticized Cuba for its “political prisoners,” dozens of people proven to have taken funding from the US government to carry out anti-government activities. Imagine dozens of Americans taking funding from Iran or North Korea or Al Qaeda to fund anti-government activities. Cuba has a legitimate reason to clamp down on dissidents who accept funding from a government that has spent decades attacking it. The Cuban Five were not committing violent acts but trying to stop them. True, they did violate laws by not revealing themselves as foreign agents but it’s clear that if they would have done so they never would have been permitted in the country and the terrorist groups in Miami would not have been infiltrated. There is good reason to believe these groups are CIA assets despite US denials.

And while Cuba is freeing all of their “political prisoners” none of the Cuban Five are being released and in fact it is being reported that Gerardo Hernández is being tortured with solitary confinement at his prison in California.

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Special Announcement: President Obama is in fact former President George W Bush

August 10, 2010 Leave a comment
U.S. President George Walker Obama

In a special press announcement from the White House, President Obama announced he is in fact former President George W. Bush. In a scene that could have only come straight out of an episode of Scooby-Doo, the President of the United States of America grabbed at his neck and began removing his face. When President Obama was done what was revealed was the 44th president was still the 43rd.

“If it weren’t for those meddling ‘professional leftists’ I would have gone the whole term without anyone suspecting a thing,” the president told a room full of reporters. President Obama/Bush even said he left many clues.

“I kept Gates in his job,” he said referring to the Secretary of Defense. Other examples were his catering to Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex, a repeat of his ineffective economic stimulus package consisting mostly of corporate welfare, the snubbing of international law and more. But it was the healthcare and financial reform of this year that the president said was the basis of his trickery.

“I had the idea of pretending to be on the left while advancing policies from the right.

“It was truly amazing that I, as a black Democrat, could propose deepening the power of the private sector over our health industry and have millions of Americans support me on that. I never could have done that as me, the decider. And don’t get me started on the financial reform: I did nothing but call it ‘consumer protection’ and you in the liberal media ate it up like you was Barney – my pet dog.”

When asked what provoked the supposedly former president to come clean and reveal himself he said it was Press Secretary Gibbs’ comment that, “I hear these people [in the “professional left”] saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested. I mean, it’s crazy.”

“When Gibbs said that I thought to myself, Hell I might as well tell the truth for once in my life,” the president said. “I mean, whose gonna stop me? Remember, I got the Supreme Court on my side.”

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Legacies of War: American Barbarism in Hiroshima and Fallujah

August 4, 2010 Leave a comment

It was 65 years ago today that the United States first used a nuclear weapon (“little boy”) on the battlefield. That was in Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later in Nagasaki another nuke (“fat boy”) was dropped.

Nagasaki, before and after
Apologists for the US claim it was to “end the war early” and to “save American lives.” This ignores the fact that we had known for at least half a year that Japan was ready to surrender. They had just one condition: let the Emperor stay in power. We demanded their surrender be “unconditional.” You see, we didn’t really care about ending the war early or saving American lives. For six more months the war went on and “our troops” died in battle (not to mention considerably more Japanese who perished in our firebombing that preceded the nuclear attacks which claimed more than 200,000 lives). And after we nuked Japan and they accepted an unconditional surrender, what did we do? We showed cruelty in about the only way we could: we left the Emperor in power. The message was clear: we had no problems with their condition but we did have a problem with them feeling they could ask for one. We wanted them to be so thoroughly degraded that they would do anything for us to stop inflicting pain on them and once they were we were happy to oblige their conditions.

Hiroshima, before
Hiroshima, after

Of course, how we got into the war in the first place is still of importance. We were attacked at Pearl Harbor, a military base in the Pacific. But it’s not as if it came out of the blue. And if the McCollum memo influenced FDR’s policies, which considering how all of the “eight points” were implemented makes it very likely that it was, then our provocations to get Japan to carry out an “overt act of war” just so the American public would shed their opposition is very troubling. FDR was saying to the public that we wouldn’t get involved unless attacked and the historical record gives some reason to believe he was secretly trying to get just that.

Regardless, we joined the war, we “defeated” Japan and even after we knew they were “defeated” we nuked them. In Mandate for Change, former US General and President, Dwight Eisenhower, wrote that,

…in [July] 1945… Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. …the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.

During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude…

Admiral William Leahy, who was Chief of Staff to both FDR and Truman, wrote that,

It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender…

Even Herbert Hoover pointed out to Truman that, “I am convinced that if you, as President, will make a shortwave broadcast to the people of Japan – tell them they can have their Emperor if they surrender, that it will not mean unconditional surrender except for the militarists – you’ll get a peace in Japan – you’ll have both wars over.”

According to General MacArthur’s own biographer, William Manchester, he was opposed too:

When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.

This barely touches the surface. Many within the state apparatus knew that it was unnecessary and repugnant. This is probably one of the most criminal and shameful legacies we have created for ourselves – it’s up there with the American Holocaust, neatly packed in a dark closet with all the other skeletons (i.e. slavery, Monroe Doctrine, gunboat diplomacy, Ludlow, Red Scare, support for dictators, Dresden, My Lai, Kent State, COINTELPRO, Operation Gladio, the Contras, mujahideen, Grenada, Panama, Libya, Haiti, Kosovo, Afpak, Haiti again, Iraq, Honduras, Cuba, Colombia, Palestine, NPT, etc.).

Fallujah, Iraq

Which brings us to today: a medical report was recently released which shows the effects of our November 2004 attack on Fallujah is worse than what we did to Hiroshima (you can google “fallujah, cancer, birth defects” and find some really grisly images, especially of children, but Zeus the Almighty, I don’t have the stomach to share them).

We are also in the middle of a shit storm about the Wikileaks regarding the Afpak War. That uproar is centered mostly on the criminality of the leaks and not the war itself. It turns my stomach when warmongers from both sides of the narrow political divide say those who leaked the “war logs” have “blood on their hands” as if bloody hands really bother them. If these pieces of excrement really cared about saving human lives they would be for ending the wars and not conveniently accusing those who leak documents showing the futility of the war as killers. But these leaks are pale in comparison to the study on Fallujah, which is getting a predictable silent  treatment.

Early on, in our illegal war of aggression, when we “liberated” Iraq we set up a base near a school in Fallujah. Naturally the residents, who were no lovers of Saddam, protested. And the protests swelled and the US soldiers, realizing they weren’t being greeted with applause, opened fire on them, killing 17 and wounding 70. Tensions increased and escalated when the locals got their hands on four Blackwater mercenaries, hung them from a bridge and set fire to their hanging bodies. The US responded in a heavy-handed and disproportionately manner as usual and Fallujah became a symbol of resistance to US troops. That was Spring 2004.

After Presidential elections in November 2004, and as the resistance grew like wildfire, the US carried out another massive assault that resulted in numerous war crimes. We literally destroyed the town but before we did we refused to let “men of fighting age” to leave despite it being widely known that the resistance fighters had already left. What followed was an orgy of destruction involving conventional and chemical weapons (white phosphorus/Whiskey Pete). Some apologists will say WP is not a chemical weapon. That’s pure bullshit because we relied on the chemical properties of WP as a weapon and used them against people. Furthermore, back in 1991 Saddam used WP against Kurdish rebels and the DIA referred to his use as being a chemical weapon.

Fallujah may never recover from the physical damages of our aggression, and the health effects will probably go on for years and years to come. Like Japan, who still struggles with the atomic fallout and a US military presence where the population is expected to foot much of the bill for our destructive presence (Okinawa’s residents are still trying to evict us), the people of Fallujah have a hard life ahead of them and there is no reason to believe the US has any intentions on making it easier for them. In fact, about the only time President Obama has referred to Fallujah has been in the context of the suffering we endured.

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Israel and Lebanon Tensions Flare… Again

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment
Rescue workers evacuate a wounded Lebanese soldier.
(Mahmoud Zayat, AFP/Getty Images / August 3, 2010)

Back in the 1980s Israel pounded away at Beirut and other parts of Lebanon in a war of aggression that killed more than 20,000 Lebanese (human beings with names and loved ones left to grieve them). All just to send the PLO a message: to hell with your “peace offensive.” The term was provided by an Israeli analyst who noted that the war was intended to squash the PLO’s willingness to make peace.

When the smoke had cleared and the blood of Sabra and Shátila had dried, Israel occupied parts of Lebanon and the Hezbollah resistance followed until 2000 when Israel finally left.

But it wasn’t over.

Israel continued to provoke Lebanon. They continued to kidnap Lebanese and torture them in Israeli dungeons like Camp 1391. They continued to carry out assassinations in the country. They violated Lebanese air, land and sea space thousands of times. The months preceding the 2006 war Lebanon complained persistently to the UN about these acts.

Nothing changed after the 2006 war. And now Israel is escalating a conflict with Hezbollah once again. In a recent incident four Lebanese were killed and one Israeli soldier may have been killed when Lebanese soldiers apparently fired warning shots for Israelis to get off their land. Israel responded like it always does: disproportionately and needlessly lethal.

Israel claims it was clearing trees on their side of the border. Okay. The UN agreed the trees were on their side of the border and assuming that was it and they didn’t cross over it’s real interesting to note that Israel acknowledges their border when it suits them, and not when, say, they are gobbling up Palestinian land!

Peace won’t come until Israel and the US are held accountable for their transgressions. For decades Israel and the US have rejected and obstructed countless peace offers and various UN Security Council resolutions calling for an end to hostilities. Back in 2003 Iran offered a peace deal to Israel and the US which included cutting off ties to Hezbollah and Hamas, and like most other peace offers, including the Arab Peace Plan, the only condition was that the two countries do what they are already obligated to do in the first place: adhere to international law.

Will we see a third Israel-Lebanon War? Eh, that’s misleading. It’s not as if these military conflicts are symmetrical. Sure, Hezbollah has proven resilient to Israeli aggression and has somehow managed to come away, at least politically, stronger but the human toll is always lopsided. Israel comes away nearly unscratched while its victims are pounded into dust.

What we will likely see is another air assault by Israel, supplied with US weapons and provided with political cover at the UNSC (see veto record) by the US no doubt, and some anti-Iran propaganda which may then be used for a possible attack on Iran (which US military officials are already illegally threatening), all of which runs the risk of a nuclear war. And for what? So Israel can keep gobbling up land for settlers? So the US can augment its power in the region and snuff out anyone not subservient?

Watch out Beirut. Take cover. The Israelis and Americans are coming.

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Liberating Iraq to Death; Challenging the “nobility of US foreign policy”

August 2, 2010 Leave a comment

“For some Americans, belief in the nobility of US foreign policy may have taken a kick in the stomach by the release of the photos in the spring of 2004 showing abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners, but for most a lifetime of inculcated loyalty, faith, and conviction does not crumble without a great deal of resistance. Such people should be asked this question: “What would the United States have to do in its foreign policy that would cause you to forsake your basic belief and support of it? In other words, what for you would be too much?” Most likely, whatever dreadfulness they might think of, the United States has already done it. More than once. Probably in their own lifetime. And well documented in an easily available publication.” ~ William Blum

In this picture you see US soldiers arresting (AP called it “securing”) workers at a hospital in Fallujah, Iraq. This image was widely published in the Western mainstream media but no one pointed out that it depicts a war crime despite the fact that many articles did provide space for the US to make its excuse: the hospital was being punished for providing the media, notably Al Jazeera, with the horrific accounts of what had been going on. This was one of the first military acts of the November 2004 offensive, carefully timed after the US elections, was to shut down the source of discontent that was proving problematic for the killing machine/US occupation.

Challenging the “nobility of US foreign policy” is important but often times getting others to even understand it beyond the myths that have saturated them all their lives proves extremely difficult. Before we knew what politics was or how “money trumps peace” (George W Bush) we were victims of propaganda.

We are supposed to believe that we are bringing democracy to Iraq. And even if we disregard our support for antidemocratic forces all over the world (and at home) and just focus on Iraq we start to see a number of interesting things.

Let’s work backwards.

President Obama gave a speech today, August 2, 2010, where he said that the drawing down of troops in Iraq, what he calls a “responsible end,” is “on schedule.” He is using the carefully staged event – which as violence continues to rise in the country, may be his “Mission Accomplished” moment – to campaign for the midterm elections. Clearly his logic is to accrue political capital to maintain his party’s control of the country.

Mr. Hope and Change himself campaigned on a very questionable anti-Iraq War platform. He didn’t oppose the war for being immoral. He didn’t oppose the war for being illegal. He has never cared for the suffering in Fallujah, which was considerable, and still ongoing with birth defects plaguing the city, and he has never given a squat about us complying with international law or being a respectable member of the world. No, his opposition was that it was a “mistake” that caused us to “drop the ball” in the “just war”: Afghanistan*.

But what President Obama won’t say is that just last summer he pressured the Iraqi government not to hold a referendum that was calling for early withdrawal. At the end of the previous Bush administration the Iraqi government was successful in twisting Bush’s arm into accepting a provision in the Status of Forces Agreement. Their hard earned gain was quickly undermined when President Obama showed we have no desire to accept that provision.

Going back further we would note that the initial elections (under foreign occupation) were opposed by Washington. Massive protests were carried out all over the country and Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani threatened an uprising if the US tried to block an election. Washington relented and before the purple ink could dry on the fingers of Iraqi voters the US trumped the election as a victory despite not only our initial opposition but that our favored candidate was thoroughly defeated.

From there the US imposed “ministry advisory teams” on the government to help shape policy and even kept intelligence secrets from them. It was also reported that the Pentagon was carrying out the “Salvadoran option.” This is a reference to our supporting of death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s. Shortly after this was reported there was a major spike in killings of young Sunni men in Baghdad – the demographic that largely comprises the resistance to US troops.

But democracy was not the “single question” that provoked our illegal war of aggression against Iraq. According to the Bush administration it was whether or not Iraq was disarmed of its “weapons of mass destruction.” And while that question has thoroughly been answered it was already known before the war, a fact that is still often overlooked. And we don’t have to rely on the testimonies of Scott Ritter. Even Colin Powell had admitted it shortly before the war.

He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.

And UNMOVIC also reported days before the war that there was no evidence of a weapons program. We have to remember that inspectors were trying to verify the destruction of previous material. Following the 1991 Gulf War Iraq independently destroyed their stockpile and from 1996 until 2003 inspectors were just trying to confirm all was destroyed.

Of course moving even further backwards in time we see that the US and other foreign powers aided Iraq in acquiring its WMD programs and that in the late 1980s the US State Department even allowed Iraqi scientists to come to a nuclear conference. At the time our interests was to aid Iraq in its aggression towards Iran but just a little more than a decade before we were pleased to see Saddam building a relationship with the Shah of Iran even as Kissinger said Saddam’s “ruthless” behavior was to be “expected” and in the same 1975 USSD memo they regard the mass killings of Iraqi Kurds as the “Kurdish thing.” It’s interesting to point out that all of the mass grave sites the US pointed to in order to justify the 2003 war came from a particular period when we supported him and knew about the crimes.

And going back to the late 1960s we see the US and UK agreeing that Saddam is emerging into the “limelight” and is someone we can do “business” with.

We don’t need the admission of former Jay Garner, the (retired) Lt. Gen who was the first “administrator” of occupied Iraq that Iraq is our “cooling station” whose “presence there […] gives us a strategic advantage” but it helps.

For decades we supported Saddam Hussein and his tyranny because it helped us leverage power over the region but Saddam’s help played itself out and after 1990 we used opposing him to continue the same policy. Since then we have waged three wars (the Gulf War, the Sanctions Regime and the Iraq War) with horrific consequences. If we were to apply the toll we have imposed on Iraq to ourselves we would be talking about more than 36 million Americans killed, countless tens of millions more injured and psychologically damaged for life, nearly 80 million displaced from their homes and such horrifically high levels of birth defects and treatable diseases due to exposure to depleted uranium and destroyed water treatment sources (and the blocking of their repair or delivery of aid) that it’s hard to imagine walking a 1/10 of a mile in their shoes.

Our efforts to block democracy are insignificant to the human suffering we have created for Iraq, and that was one of the miraculous things about the Iraqi widow who was reported last week as having accepting the apology of a couple of US soldiers for what they had done. Ahlam Abdelhussein Tuman, whose husband died in the famous video of the 2007 US helicopter attack that was recently leaked, said “What the soldiers are doing is very good work, and we hope they continue their good work because I would like the American people and the whole world to understand what happened here in Iraq. We lost our country and our lives were destroyed.”

Just as President Obama is about to try and create political capital for the reduction (though not complete removal) of our soldiers in Iraq we should keep his actions of last summer fresh in our minds when he used his new executive powers to block them from justice.

* It’s real disturbing that President Obama thinks Afpak War is a just war. When we attacked Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 we had no idea who was behind the September 11th attacks. This means we waged a massive campaign of state terrorism against one of the poorest and most defenseless countries in the world with no credible pretext. We were just blindly dropping tons and tons of bombs. Even if we did know who was behind the attacks they still wouldn’t have been justified, morally or legally. Even if we could have proved on October 7, 2001 that the Taliban was in some way complicit in the attacks and not at all open to diplomacy or peaceful resolutions we still would not be defending ourselves. From September 11 to October 7 there was not another incident. As horrible as the attacks were they were isolated. They were not examples of armed aggression warranting the military campaign we are waging against Afghanistan. The single most important fact that so many Americans seem to struggle with is: we are not defending ourselves in Afghanistan. Any grasp of their military capabilities as compared with ours completely lays bare the absurdity in suggesting they are a threat we have to defend ourselves from. In fact, it is our aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan which provides a moral and legal basis for armed resistance. When we point to specific provisions of the UN Charter to display how our wars are illegal it is the same provisions which make the Iraqi and Afghan resistance legal.

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