Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category
I’m trying to have a sense of humour about the dreadful situation in Iraq and Syria, but it’s hard. It’s been going from bad to worse for two weeks now as the ISIS blitz continues. They have consolidated their control of Northern and Western Iraq and are tightening the noose on Baghdad. It’s pretty clear at this point that the Iraqi army is an army in name only, they just keep running when the ISIS attacks as town after town falls without a fight. Some Iraqi special forces are trapped in the refinery in Baiji and have held out for days, but they can’t run and know surrender means almost certain death, so not surprising they are fighting. The Iraqi government has been unable to relieve them as the ISIS controls the roads to Baiji. There’s no question the ISIS has captured huge stores of military goods, captured Humvees have already been used to capture a town in Syria. How long Baghdad will hold out is anyone’s guess, but they are using volunteers with a weeks military training to fill the gaps left by massive desertion in the Iraqi army.
And if the situation wasn’t bad enough, just today Israel launched major air strikes against the Assad regime’s military in Syria. Assad was making progress, but his forces were being bolstered by Iranian supplies and Shia fighters from Iraq. Well, the ISIS has cut the roads to Iran, and the Shia fighters are returning home to defend Baghdad. It seems crazy on Israel’s part, they’d prefer the ISIS to win? Apparently an anti-tank gun fired from Syria killed an Israeli teenager in the Golan Heights. I can’t imagine that Assad would provoke Israel that way, makes me wonder if the ISIS tricked Israel into attacking their enemy. I can only suspect that Israel has decided that the situation is hopeless, and they want it to get worse so they have an excuse to ethnically cleanse the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the so called “transfer” plan.
In other words, I think this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. I don’t really see how the situation can be stabilized. US air strikes aren’t going to stop the ISIS, if anything they will strengthen it. And it would be unpopular in the US and put Americans at risk. Washington doesn’t have any good options I can see, and is paralyzed by partisan politics. One of the most amazing aspects of this is that the architects of the US invasion of Iraq, people that lied us into an invasion and were utterly wrong on every count, are now sought out by the media as “experts” on the crisis. This is why I refer it it as the “lamestream media.” At least in other countries they have real experts on the news. On the plus side, at least we know since they were wrong about the invasion, and still haven’t admitted it was a disaster, it’s safe to say every word out of their mouths now is garbage. Still garbage I mean.
So what now? Who knows. I think this is the worst international crisis in decades, and I don’t see it going anywhere but downhill from here. I think the Maliki Regime will collapse. We might see Iran with Russian help hold onto the oil fields in Southern Iraq. The Assad regime’s days are numbered, and with the ISIS in charge, Israel will expel millions of Palestinians into Syria, making what is already a horrific humanitarian catastrophe all the worse. And a defacto caliphate in Iraq and Syria, with an independent Kurdistan to boot. Even this scenario could be optimistic, this could be the start of a much larger war or even a world war.
My current take on history falls into the “punctuated equilibrium” realm. IE history is long periods of more or less stasis, with smaller periods of “shit happens.” And no one ever correctly calls the specific results when the shit is coming down. Could I be freaking out? Maybe. Will this affect us in the USA? Not likely. I do think now is a good idea to fill those extra gas cans. The price of oil is going up, and there might even be temporary disruptions of supplies. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Lastly, the human aspect. Imagine what people in Baghdad are going through now. For the second time in a decade conquering forces are approaching the city. A city of seven million people. I can’t imagine. I really can’t. God save us all.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit. Etc. I hope I don’t have to majorly update this tomorrow. What a mess.)
Tuesday Morning. Don’t really have time for a full review. Christians are fleeing to what is now effectively Kurdistan. The Kurds have announced they have no interest in helping the Maliki regime recapture Mosul. No kidding, they have their homeland and they are digging in, at some point soon I would expect them to declare independence. And fighting has gotten closer to Baghdad, the ISIS appear to have resumed their push south. The city of Baquba is being fought over, less than 40 miles from Baghdad. It’s an important city of 500,000, many whom are fleeing south. I think the image is Iraqi volunteers heading north out of Baghdad.
Tuesday Evening. The ISIS appears to be advancing on Baghdad. A few larger perspective points. Right now, the events of the past week appear to have been game changers. I don’t see how the clock can be turned back and the “status quo,” whatever that was, will be restored. I think that the Sykes–Picot Agreement, the unnatural borders imposed on the former Ottoman Empire by France and England after World War One, may finally be unravelling. A major war may be in the offing, no one knows how those ever turn out. The ISIS advance so far has been stunning and almost unprecedented. Certainly in recent history. Other points:
“It’s Obama’s Fault.” Sigh. Well, at least the GOP is consistent. Anything bad is Obama’s fault. On the first pass, Obama’s foreign policy was the same as Bush’s foreign policy in any significant regard, so, wtf? Secondly, Bush was the one that invaded Iraq on lies followed by an occupation based on wishful thinking. Bush couldn’t fix the mess he created in his six years, so it’s Obama’s fault he couldn’t fix it? I don’t think anyone expected the ISIS to explode, although I was raising alarms a few months back, but the GOP certainly wasn’t. In any event looking for blame in a situation like this is like blaming Pearl Harbor on Roosevelt. Which the GOP didn’t do. The rise of the ISIS is the worst crisis the US has faced since 9/11, partisan politics has no place here. At the very least they should tone it down and try to help.
As a codicil to this, the people who thought the invasion of Iraq was such a great idea in the first place are now doubling down. Excuse me, but could we just give Senator McCain and his ilk rifles and send them to Iraq? Misguided US military action is what created this mess, it’s clearly not the solution. As Obama recently said, paraphrasing here, “Just because you have the best hammer, doesn’t mean every problem is a nail.” Sure, the US military could likely recapture Mosul and the rest more or less with ease. Then what? The ISIS would just melt into the population and wait for us to leave. They aren’t from Mars for God’s sake, they live there.
Which is the last point, the Manichean heresy. In essence, the idea that there are good guys and bad guys. And by extension the idea that if the good guys just kill all the bad guys, everything will be just fine. (That’s been tried repeatedly, it never works.) Or as the Manichean heresy might be called today: the 12 year old boy’s comic book view of the world. The ugly truth is that people are people, they are all pretty much the same, and differences between them are due to circumstances and history, not inherent good/evilness. I’m not saying there aren’t just wars, and indeed people like Hitler do show up. My point is that when leaders say “They are the bad guys, we must wage war,” it’s not a logical argument. The first is simplistic at best, the later is a does not follow argument.
We’ll see what tomorrow brings. There are other points I should toss out for discussion. Like the fact that this could result in a huge loss of American influence in the world. Two Saudi Arabias, neither of which require the US as an Ally. Sleep tight.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit. It is arguably an historic image. I will gladly properly attribute it if I find out who to attribute it too. God save us all.)
As anyone knows who hasn’t been in a coma the past week, Iraq has exploded into war as the jihadist group ISIS has roared through northern and central Iraq, the Iraqi army basically cutting and running. As a person who was adamantly opposed to the US invasion of Iraq, this is all very disturbing to me. This is the legacy of the senseless toppling of the Saddam regime. It’s easy to turn a country into a failed state, putting it back together again is a whole other kettle of fish. In any event events on the ground are moving too fast for me to write dedicated posts on it, so I am going to just start posting updates once or twice a day. I have been following this situation intensely since it exploded on the scene last week. and at least have some grip on what’s going on. Things are changing quickly though, sources tend to be very unreliable in situations like this, especially since all involved are lying as they try to manoeuvre for their advantage. My opinions may very well change as new information arises, or gentle readers argue otherwise. As ever, I am on the side of all the innocents caught up in this unholy mess. Here then is my latest update. I also have a group on Facebook, Doug’s Darkworld, readers so inclined are welcome to join the debate there.
Monday Evening, 16 June, 2014.
Well, the ISIS have been broadcasting their war crimes. They are trying to demoralize the Iraqi army and the Shiite militias still opposing them. They may also be trying to goad the US into doing something stupid. War is insanity, what can I say. And sadly the ISIS has no monopoly on senseless violence. In other developments a Shiite militia column on the way to Samarra was ambushed by the ISIS with heavy loss of life. However enthusiastic, untrained militias mostly consisting of teenagers are unlikely to prevail against the ISIS. As the map shows the ISIS now controls more territory that many countries. The UN is pulling personnel out of Baghdad, the US has sent more troops to defend the embassy. I can only assume that even if nothing else, the US forces sailing into the Persian gulf are preparing to evacuate the embassy in a hurry if need be. The Kurds and the ISIS appear to have a defacto truce, not good for Iraq, but makes sense for the Kurds. Lastly, the Syrian Air Force has launched airstrikes in Iraq against the ISIS. Might seem odd, but the Assad regime, Iran, and the Maliki regime have been cooperating for a long time. Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to destabilize the Assad regime, but good thing we didn’t go further when the pressure was on because of their (alleged) gas attacks. The ISIS would be all the stronger. Again, no clue how this is going to turn out, but the longer this goes on the more impossible it will be to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit. Credit and Copyright: Wall Street Journal. lastly I note that Paul Bremer, architect of the utterly botched and disastrous US occupation of Iraq is now sharing his “wisdom” on NBC. No wonder Americans are clueless about the world.)
A few days in the desert clearing my mind, and I’m back, safe and sound. Maybe not completely sound. No, I’m not in the above image. I’m the one in the 100 year old mine tunnel taking the picture. My friends did not share my belief that “It’s perfectly safe.” Of course it wasn’t perfectly safe, a half wheelbarrow full of gravel and rocks could have showered on my head at the entrance, falling from a few inches. I would have been bruised and dirty. Inside the tunnel, if it was a Hollywood movie, the entire tunnel could have caved in on me, crushing me in front of my horrified friend’s eyes. In real life, tunnels cut through solid dry rock are used as bomb shelters. Yes, there was a minuscule chance that a boulder could have fallen from the ceiling and killed me. Probably about the same risk I take crossing the busy corner by my house several times a day. It’s all about relative risk people.
Speaking of relative risk, standing near New York cops when they open fire clearly has some hazards. They managed to hit nine bystanders while gunning down an armed man?! Is this some sort of record? Fortunately only the suspect was killed, and none of the nine was seriously injured, few of them being directly shot. As police shootings go, this one seems justified to me, so hopefully there won’t be too much hue and cry. And another example of the need for cradle-to-grave health care. Sadly there will now be lawsuits instead.
Speaking of graves, Neil Armstrong is dead. He was a good man, a true hero. And not so much a hero for being the first man to step on the Moon, a hero for being humble about it and sharing the credit for what was a team effort involving tens of thousands of people. Yes, he “flubbed” his line when he was the first person to step on the Moon, but anyone with a functioning brain understood what he meant. He was kinda nervous at the time, so I think we can safely say he gets a pass. And no, he wasn’t an Atheist; and the Mr Gorsky thing is an urban legend.
Two nice segues in a row, but now I got nothing. I have done a bit of digging, and discovered that 31 states allow rapists some parental rights. And that Ryan, Romney’s running mate, co-sponsored a bill that would have given parental rights to rapists. I really hope some gentle reader can confirm that this isn’t true. I did seem to find evidence that Ryan believes that rape is “just another method of conception.” Yeah, and murder is just another form of death. This is the problem with ideology (and “life begins at conception” is as ideological as it gets,) it means that followed to its logical conclusions in any number of directions, one gets sick absurdities. No, rape is not “just another method of conception,” it’s a terrible crime. And rapists do not have parental rights. The Republicans need to clarify their position on this.
A Jason left a nasty comment on my “We Could Have Won Vietnam” post, it’s the last comment. Sigh. Aside from missing the point of the post, he not only regurgitates the myth that we fought the Vietnam War with our hands tied behind our backs for political reasons; he comes up with a new myth, that our victories in World War Two were due to barbarism and unrestricted warfare. No, our victories in World War Two were because the Allies built dozens of planes and tanks and ships for every one that Japan and German built. The war crimes the USA committed on the side had no appreciable effect on the outcome of the war. And no, I’m not going to make any pro forma remarks about competence and heroism by Americans during the war. Deal with it.
Iran has opened the Summit of Nonaligned Nations with a call for a world wide ban on nuclear arms. A prominent Israeli spiritual leader called for Jews to pray for “the annihilation of Iran.” What’s wrong with this picture? Not to be out done, North Korea’s Kim has threatened war over a joint US/South Korean military drill. Of course if Russia and Mexico held an annual military drill in the Gulf of Mexico involving tens of thousands of Russian troops and nuclear weapons, the USA would be threatening war as well. Alas, most people are so wedded to their good guy/bad guy world view that they can’t imagine other perspectives. I still remember an online friend who insisted that it was “illogical” for Iraqi insurgents to be attacking US troops. One of the finest examples of Straw Vulcan Logic I have ever heard.
I hope everyone had a great weekend. ;)
(The above image is Copyrighted with the awesome might of the US legal system behind it, and may not be reproduced for any purpose. Credit and copyright 2012 Doug Stych, all rights reserved. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to publish it, but am very reasonable if asked. Coming someday, more desert pictures, some inspired by the fine photography of Mary Molnar.)
I made the mistake of watching the TV news last night. Senator McCain was openly calling for the USA and the west to support the rebels in Syria. Heck, even Angelina Jolie is calling for intervention. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that it’s gonna happen one way or the other. And I do mean out on a limb, anyone who has been paying attention knows that all bets are off in the Middle East right now. Well, specific bets at least. In general, it seems safe to say that the trend has been from order to disorder. It’s also very safe to say that the west has been batting 1000 when it comes to recent humanitarian interventions in the greater Middle East. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya are all text book failed states … it’s hard to imagine Syria ending up any differently.
So, what happens if Syria turns into a failed state? Well, note Syria’s proximity to Iraq. Iraq is still out of control a decade after the fall of Saddam, it’s kinda like a free trade zone for non western approved activity. This means whatever is going on in Iraq will be able to spread freely to Syria, in fact there’s evidence it’s already doing so. Kurdish insurgents will now have access to the Mediterranean coast. Hezbollah will have more secure supply lines to Iran. Turkey, Israel, and Jordan will have more border issues. It’s interesting to note that Iran is hedging its bets, Iranian warships have docked in Syria. So they likely win either way. And Jordan and Saudi Arabia may very well see more internal unrest.
So who benefits? Israel will be happy to see the Assad regime go, though it may well end up being a mixed blessing for Israel. Other than that, it’s hard to see who is going to benefit from having the bloody stain on the map that is Iraq spread to Syria. Syria has no oil and is no threat to the international bankers. So what gives, is the USA really driven by humanitarian concerns? Um, no, similar rebellions are crushed all the time without “benefit” of western intervention. Heck, usually with little or no mention in the western press at all. Maybe some of the people calling for intervention are driven by humanitarian impulses, if so, they haven’t been paying attention the past decade or so. Insert obligatory comment about how one definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results here.
My current theory is that US foreign policy is driven by, well, inertia. The World War Two and Cold War “arsenal of democracy” and liberator mentality lurching forward of its own momentum. Driven by an array of well healed special interests, most purely looking out for themselves, some by the attendant ideological canard that peace and freedom can be brought to other lands at the point of a gun. And none of these interests seems really cognizant of the fact that the world is moving beneath their feet. Profits are still up, the rich are still getting richer, what’s the prob?
In Iran it’s even clearer that the same old dog eared, blood stained, playbook is in use. Make an ultimatum that is basically outrageous (shut down your nuclear industry or else in Iran’s case,) refuse to talk until they do so, and simultaneously claim to be using “diplomacy” to “solve” the “crisis.” The only crisis is that the USA is making demands that it would never bow to if it was on the receiving end, but oddly enough, despite many American’s claiming that we are a Christian nation, apparently they are comfortable with a foreign policy that is about as far from the golden rule as it is possible to get. Which I am beginning to suspect is the primary function of religion in society, to mask and justify the kinds of hypocrisy that allow massive inequities of wealth and power to exist both domestically and internationally.
And, well, among genders. There has been a war of sorts going on in the USA ever since modern birth control gave women control of their lives in the 1960s, there are a lot of men who are still not comfortable with this at all, as bitter and ongoing efforts to limit access to birth control in the USA demonstrate. I am suspecting that the USA’s incredible effort to “control” the world is to some extent driven by the same social and cultural forces trying to force America’s women back into the home, barefoot and pregnant, where they belong. That however is a topic for future blog posts.
Or maybe we’re just insane as a species.
(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law, having been produced by the federal government. Note how large Iran is compared to Iraq. And anytime a country destabilizes, its borders destabilize. Notice how long Iran’s borders are.)
Just a few more hours and the tenth anniversary of 9/11 will be history. Of course in a sense 9/11 will never be over, we have entire institutions and wars devoted to the memory of 9/11, and they aren’t going to slip quietly into the night. In a way, and not a good way, 9/11 is becoming a cult. I’m sick of it. 9/11 was like a rat biting an elephant on the snout. Yeah, it hurt like hell, and yeah it pissed us off. And we should have squashed the rat and carried on. Instead, we have spent ten years trumpeting and snorting wildly, wreaking havoc around us and wearing ourselves into exhaustion in the process. And even though a few months back we finally trampled on the rat that bit us, there’s no sign of an end to the madness.
Sigh. I’ve avoided most of the news today, but I did catch that Obama said that 9/11 “made us stronger.” No surprise there, this is the guy who claimed that Navy Seals gunning down an unarmed old man in his PJs was one of the “greatest military operations in US history.” Obama’s ability to utter the most egregious nonsense while appearing sober and presidential is what got him elected, and he’s clearly not lost his touch.
No, 9/11 did not make us stronger. Or to be more accurate, our response to 9/11 did not make us stronger, it made us weaker. The Bush administration and a compliant media encouraged the USA to hysterically over-react to 9/1, and we paid and are still paying a terrible price for it. A price in both treasure and blood, a price vastly greater than our losses on that day ten years ago. And the horrors we have inflicted on other lands in the name of 9/11, are these the actions of a Christian nation?
Our costs though. In treasure, it’s been enormous. Three trillion dollars at least for the cost of our wars and increased homeland “security.” And even if we ended the War on Terror tomorrow, there would still be trillions more to go in terms of veteran’s care in decades to come. This is money we didn’t have, it was borrowed from our grandchildren, plain and simple. There’s not any question that we got almost no economic benefit from this spending, aside from obscenely enriching the arms and security industry. This added debt is a huge part of why our economy is on the ropes, how the hell does piles of debt make a nation stronger?
Then there’s the cost in blood. Several tens of thousands of Americans have been killed and maimed in our wars, the actual numbers are muddy because the Pentagon works very hard to conceal and obfuscate them. And hundreds of thousands more veterans will have permanent psychological issues and trauma from their service, about one in three combat veterans never really get over it in one sense or another. This is a terrible cost by any measure, and for what? Propping up two of the world’s most corrupt field states? Sending Americans to die on the other side of the planet doesn’t make us stronger, it makes us weaker.
And then there’s the psychological cost. The hysteria mongering after 9/11 was among the most intense in history. The government left no stone unturned telling Americans that terrible monsters lurked everywhere, and that we had to give the government a blank check, including suspending some of our own freedoms, to fight this new menace or surely a falling airliner or a dirty bomb or germ warfare would be coming soon to a neighbourhood near them. And Americans, traumatized by the endlessly repeated sights of 9/11, fell for this twaddle by the tens of millions and gave the Bush administration the green light to seize control of the world’s oil. And it continues to this day, tens of millions of Americans dutifully regurgitate “our troops are fighting for our freedom” while the administration continues to weave tales of terror and death. Letting fear of a trivial enemy guide our national policy does not make us a stronger nation, it makes us a nation of cowards and sheep.
Lastly, I’m saddened and disgusted by what a narcissistic spectacle 9/11 and the “War on Terror” has become. It’s like when Commodus, the Emperor of Rome, took to fighting naked gladiatorial contests in the Colosseum. And charging the city staggering sums of money for the privilege. All right thinking Romans were horrified. The survivors and heroes of 9/11 should be mourning quietly and privately, not being paraded through the streets of Rome for the glory of the Empire.
It’s really that weird.
(The above image is claimed as Public Domain under US copyright law as it was painted in 1526. It’s a Painting titled “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It’s just another way to articulate the situation we find ourselves in: America went mad on 9/11, and its going to get worse before it gets better.)
Doug: Woohoo! Mission accomplished, again! How many countries can win the same war twice? Of course Iraq is still a ghastly bloody failed state, and we simply relabeled the remaining troops in Iraq as “non-combat” troops, as if that means anything when people are shooting at you. Jesus wept.
Geoffrey: Or they’ll just find their way to another war. MACHINE…MUST…FEED.
Doug: When I was a kid, peace was a good thing. Now we have perpetual war, this is progress?
Geoffrey: I have no readily available facts to base this on, but my theory is that as populations increase, and available resources decrease, war increases exponentially. Could it be that nature, through war, is finding a way to control the population?
Well. That last was a thought provoking comment. Too interesting to pass up, and any response to it would be too long for a Facebook comment. So I am going to post my thoughts here in no particular order.
The last first: Could it be that nature, through war, is finding a way to control the population? There’s a number of reasons to suspect this isn’t the case. The basic one being, it’s historically been a trivial cause of death. In the 20th century, replete with two world wars and some of history’s greatest atrocities, only a few percent of deaths were war related. While locally wars may kill a huge percentage of certain populations (one of many good reasons to avoid them,) in the greater scheme of things most people die of old age, heart attacks, illness, etc. In fact the later seems to be nature’s favourite method of dealing with some troublesome organism that is breeding like mad and spreading out of control. Plague.
Still, Geoffrey’s first point still stands independent of that. … as populations increase, and available resources decrease, war increases exponentially. Well, wars have certainly been fought over access to resources. Heck, it might be safe to say that a majority of wars have been fought over access to resources. Any number of colonial wars, both against natives to steal their resources, or among the colonial powers as they fought over colonies. And even when wars weren’t initiated over resources, access to resources (or denial of same) became important strategies in virtually all large scale wars.
On the other hand, throughout most of human history, population increase has been relatively modest even in the best of times. Combine that with paucity of good data about same and, well, endless warfare, I think it would be hard to make a case that population increase led to war. Maybe some local squabbles, but I can’t think of any ancient war off hand that was triggered by population increase and strained resource access. I’m not ruling it out, but I think it would be hard to parse any real solid evidence pro or con, simply because human population increase was so modest … and war so common.
That was then. In the past few hundred years, human populations have been growing nicely. And it would be hard to deny that expanding populations drove some wars, especially wars against various of the world’s aboriginal people. And there’s no doubt that many other wars of the past few centuries have been about access to resources. However, were nations or people trying to access resources because of population pressure? Well, no. I can’t think of any modern large scale war (war between nation states) that was caused by population pressure.
So have I demolished Geoffrey’s theory? Well, no. The world’s population continues to grow at a dizzying pace, and good case can be made that along side Peak Oil, we will also be soon seeing Peak Water, Peak Wheat, Peak Rice, etc. And when one has steadily increasing demand against a backdrop of fixed or even dropping production, things can go from seeming OK to really bad in a very short time. Which is one of the reasons why population growth is one of the greatest threats facing humanity today. If something seriously disrupted global food supplies, and there’s all sorts of reasons why this is inevitable, people are still going to need food. So it’s not hard to imagine a future world where Geoffrey’s Theory proves frighteningly prescient. Maybe a very near future world.
Have a great weekend everyone. Keep stocking those larders!
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s central to illustrating the post, it’s arguably an important historical image, and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit and copyright: AP Photo. It’s the last American “combat brigade” pulling out of Iraq. And no worries, there will be a future follow-up post on overpopulation, lily ponds, and war.)