Iraqi government worst ever

Dominated by Shi’ites who are allied with the death squads which are “now the leading cause of death in Iraq,” the Iraqi government has marginalized the opposition which should have been embraced in a unity government.

Most Iraqis see no future for [Prime Minister Noori al-]Maliki’s struggling government, which barely controls the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad where its offices are located. The rest of the country is fragmented, and the economy and infrastructure are in ruins.

Delusions of Historical Grandeur: Comparing Bush to Truman

Mark Updegrove, writing for the Baltimore Sun, in an article reprinted in the San Jose Mercury News, compares George Bush with Harry Truman, who evidently faced similar difficulties in the last two years of his term.

Updegrove writes:

If the growing appreciation Truman enjoyed is any indication, Bush has at least one thing going for him: the indisputable historical significance of the post-9/11 period, offering him the greatest leadership test of his generation. President Clinton was cursed by ruling during relatively placid times, serving as president after the fall of the Iron Curtain and before the fall of the twin towers. Whether history determines that he acted responsibly in the face of the threat from Al-Qaida might not matter if his times aren’t ruled to have counted much anyway. Bush will face no such issue.

Clinton was cursed not “by ruling during relatively placid times,” but by Republicans determined to get something out of the Whitewater investigation, which after “[s]ix years and more than $50 million in taxpayer money,” found a blow job. I’m not going to take on the question of whether Clinton “acted responsibly in the face of the threat from Al-Qaida;” he and his aides seemed to have a fairly vigorous defense to allegations he didn’t:

“I think they ought to tell the truth, particularly if they’re going to claim it’s based on the 9/11 commission’s report,” Clinton told reporters in Arkansas on [7 September 2006].

“They shouldn’t have scenes that are directly contradictory to the factual findings of the 9/11 commission. I just want people to tell the truth.”

Updegrove’s article, published by the Mercury News as news, not an opinion piece, goes on:

And like Truman, Bush may have another thing going for him: the bold decisions he made without hand-wringing and focus-group measuring. Afghanistan had been “the graveyard of empires” before the United States led coalition forces over the border and drove out the Taliban.

Updegrove writes as if the war in Afghanistan were over. That would be news to the NATO forces fighting America’s war there. An article on casts Operation Baaz Tsuka, earlier reported to have several hundred Taliban fighters trapped, as apparently successful, yet acknowledges that the Taliban had not put up much resistance there:

“The assessment is there was a heavy concentration of Taliban in that whole peninsula but the ground force resistance wasn’t that significant,” said Lieut.-Col. Omer Lavoie, commander of the Canadian Battle Group.

“The Taliban, in typical insurgent type of tactics, are willing to take pokes at you and retreat quickly but when it comes to overwhelming combat power I think they learned their lesson in Medusa,” he said.

In other words, the Taliban forces either got away or melted away into the local population.

“The Jihad will be going on until we kick them out of Afghanistan,” said [Taliban spokesman] Qari Yousaf Ahmadi in an interview with The Canadian Press by satellite phone. “The non-Muslims came and occupied our country.”

Meanwhile, “Pakistan has decided to put in place landmines and a fence along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as a ‘last resort’ to stop cross-border movement of terrorists,” according to DAWN, which also reports an angry Afghan reaction to the plan. This border, in mountainous country, is notoriously porous. Even if Operation Baaz Tsuka was successful, the Taliban are likely still to have several thousand recruits, and it seems unlikely that this entire border can be effectively fenced or mined.

Updegrove isn’t done yet. “But it is [Bush’s] decision to invade and occupy Iraq — overthrowing its malevolent dictator in the hopes of democratizing the country and having a transformative effect on the Middle East — on which his historical legacy hinges, particularly because he did so without direct provocation.” To believe this is to accept the last of several rationalizations the Bush administration used to justify the invasion. Even if it was true, no one now believes that Iraq can be “democratized;” it is now engulfed in an increasingly bitter civil war. The “transformative effect on the Middle East” can be seen in a disastrous Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon, power struggles in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, and American sabre-rattling against Iran.

Walter Shapiro, writing in, asks rhetorically:

How bad a year was it for Bush? There are four distinct stages in the death spiral of a presidency — and Bush managed to reach three of them in 2006. He began the year with desperate, reality-defying belief in spin, as symbolized by this brazen line from the State of the Union: “We’re on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory.” Then came denial, as the president in his bunker believed Field Marshal Karl Rove’s assurances that the Republicans had wonder weapons they would deploy on Election Day. Now we are in the Harry Truman phase, as Bush frequently likens himself to that midcentury president whose approval rating hit 23 percent during the Korean War. Pretty soon the star-crossed Bush (whose own popularity score is barely hovering above 30 percent) may display this motto on his desk: “The Luck Stops Here.” All that is missing in this four-part saga is for Bush to start talking to the portraits on the White House walls — the political version of the Book of Revelation that truly heralds Nixonian end times.

Christmas at the White House: Four Iranian “senior military officials” held

For the neoconservatives who desperately seek a provocation to invade Iran, what merrier a Christmas? According to the New York Times:

The American military is holding at least four Iranians in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi and American officials in Baghdad and Washington.

Of course, the sourcing for this claim consists of the Americans and their puppets, “at least seven officials and politicians in Baghdad and Washington,” really a single-source claim, but “[o]ne official said that ‘a lot of material’ was seized in the raid, but would not say if it included arms or documents that pointed to planning for attacks. Much of the material was still being examined, the official said.” In other words, they don’t really even know what evidence they have. “‘We conduct operations against those who threaten Iraqi and coalition forces,’ [a senior western] official said. ‘This was based on information.'”

Gordon D. Johndroe, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said two Iranian diplomats were among those initially detained in the raids. The two had papers showing that they were accredited to work in Iraq, and he said they were turned over to the Iraqi authorities and released. He confirmed that a group of other Iranians, including the military officials, remained in custody while an investigation continued, and he said, “We continue to work with the government of Iraq on the status of the detainees.”

Apparently, the raids

have deeply upset Iraqi government officials, who have been making strenuous efforts to engage Iran on matters of security. At least two of the Iranians were in this country on an invitation extended by Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, during a visit to Tehran earlier this month. It was particularly awkward for the Iraqis that one of the raids took place in the Baghdad compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leaders, who traveled to Washington three weeks ago to meet President Bush.

Homeless to fight for imperialism

Now that just about everyone agrees we need to expand the Army and the Marines, the New York Times explains that we’ll fill the ranks with homeless veterans:

A 39-year-old woman who once worked as a chemical specialist in the Army found herself down and out and living in a women’s shelter, he said. The Army came calling one more time, and she re-enlisted. Now, the woman is back in uniform at her previous job, serving in South Korea.

In other words, the very people we’ve already exploited and used up and failed to support afterwards will return to military life because now they’re “down and out.” The widening gap between rich and poor thus serves a strategic purpose; it ensures a supply of cannon fodder. But don’t worry too much: “The Army also raised recruits’ maximum allowable age to 42 from 35 and accepted a larger percentage of applicants who scored at the lowest acceptable range on a standardized aptitude examination.” These are people who don’t matter. We can use them up and exploit them some more and turn them out on the streets with no prospects when they’re even older.

Appeals to the sense of personal growth, and patriotism remain a dominant part of the recruiting pitch for the Army and the Marines. In advertisements and at sporting events, recruiters now emphasize intangibles, like the camaraderie of combat, at least as much as the financial incentives like extra money for college.

Let’s see now, how did that bumper sticker go? Something about adventure and seeing the world and seeing foreign people… and killing them? 655,000 Iraqis at last count, and that’s what we call personal growth.

Iran nuclear controversy diverts attention from human rights–and the neoconservative agenda

BBC Newsnight carried a story about a renewed student uprising in Iran. The president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has gained attention by denying the Jewish Holocaust in Nazi Germany while convincing western powers he is developing a nuclear weapon, appointed a cleric, who has no university degree, as chancellor of Tehran University, and called for the purging of “secular and liberal” thinking from universities. A number of professors were purged including the head of the Political Science Department at Tehran University. A number of students with “three stars”–marks for political activism–are being banned from universities.

The students claim that by drawing world attention to the nuclear controversy, Ahmadinejad diverts attention from the human rights situation. Of course, this isn’t all that Iran has been up to. I’m hearing from many sources–from various points on the political spectrum–that the sectarian violence in Iraq is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. After tilting in favor of the majority Shi’ites (backed by Iran), the U.S. now seems to be tilting towards the Sunnis (backed by Saudi Arabia). A civil war that serves foreign interests, be they of the United States or anyone else, is, of course, the most cynical human rights violation of all, and while the U.S. might have difficulty raising additional troops to mount an attack on Iran, everything I’ve seen since Israel’s incursion against Lebanon (primarily against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah) has led me to believe that the neoconservatives want just this.

Three civil wars in the Middle East–within the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, and Iraq–all bear the mark of U.S.-Israeli involvement with a purpose of justifying at attack on Iran.

I don’t think the neoconservatives can pull this off. But there is a terrible risk of an horrific conflagration in the Middle East, worse than anything seens since the Crusades. Oh wait, the Crusades are still going on.

Canada to stay the course in Afghanistan

The war against the Taliban is being lost, from every account I can gather (and I’m finding more sources) and I’ve been somewhat amazed by Canada’s willingness to fight the United States’ war for it, while the U.S. diverted a significant force to Iraq. As the casualties have mounted, it appears this has become more controversial. Now Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that “what does influence him is the notion the Canadian soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan should not have died in vain.” He is thus portraying himself as supporting the military.

This is an argument we keep seeing. In other words, Harper supports the military by sending soldiers to their death in a losing fight. He’s willing to lose an election over this:

If ultimately I were brought down on that, and even defeated on that, I can live with myself. I could not live with myself making a decision on Canada’s role in the world and our strategic and defence interests if I knew I had done that for political reasons that were the wrong reasons. That I could not live with.

This identifies Canadian “strategic and defence interests” with American imperialist interests, even as America is being defeated politically in Latin America and America is about to face a humiliating defeat in both Afghanistan and Iraq. How, again, does this make sense?

Clinton foe joins Libertarians

Even as the Libertarians–at least those at the Cato Institute–cozy up with the Democrats, former Representive Bob Barr, who helped manage the impeachment case against then-President (and Democrat) Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair, has left the Republican Party and joined the Libertarian Party.

The Libertarians, of course, should be of a mind that a blow job is a private matter involving Clinton, his wife, and Lewinsky. They seemed most offended that Clinton had “perjured” himself and “obstructed justice,” even though, as they should well appreciate, the definition of sexual contact in the case–agreed by all the lawyers–was so restrictive as to exclude oral sex. Clinton erred in using this definition with the public, but while statements to investigators can constitute obstruction of justice, and false statements made under oath can constitute perjury, public statements can not.

Barr will undoubtedly be entirely comfortable with Libertarians’ antipathy towards Clinton. But Barr cited other reasons:

“It’s something that’s been bothering me for quite some time, the direction in which the [Republican] party has been going more and more toward big government and disregard toward privacy and civil liberties,” said Barr, 58, a lawyer and consultant living in Atlanta. “In terms of where the country needs to be going to get back to our constitutional roots … I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to do that is to work with a party that practices what it preaches, and that is the Libertarian Party.”