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Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

In the Loop

I saw In the Loop last night and I can’t recommend it enough. The film is an offshoot of the British television series “The Thick of It” which I have only seen a couple of episodes of. The series and film have a sort of docu-drama feel although the actors don’t confront the camera at any time and you don’t get the idea that what they are saying is made for public consumption, but it has the shaky camera the quick cuts that are normal in such films.

The premise is to take the events that led up to the UN Resolution to attack Iraq and to show them through lower level cabinet officials of both the British and the American governments. What’s fascinating about this film is that each major point is fact. We know that the British supported America in their endeavor to declare war on Iraq. We know that the reasons were inexplicable to a large percentage of the British and American public. Tony Blair’s inexplicable unconditional support of the Bush Administration led many to characterize Blair as being the lap dog of the Americans. We know that British intelligence was used by the Bush Administration as justification to the war. We know that opposition was squashed despite very serious reservations about the quality of such intelligence.

So in this film, we see a fictionalized account of how all of the above came to be. The characters are fictional, but again I think the major points of the film are accurate. The film is funny. Depressing. How can so many people put their careers above the common good in such a callous way? It’s hard to swallow. The dialogue is great though I think the dialogue of the American characters is somewhat off. I think Americans are more likely to smile to your face and tell you what you want to hear than stab you in the back, so I guess what I’m saying is the Americans talk a little bit too much like the Brits. The Brits swear with such foul relish. It’s poetry really and very clever. And very funny. But not so American which is why it sounds odd when the American characters do it. I suppose we’ve heard of politicians like Cheney throwing fuck yous out there, but that’s not really so clever and funny. Just foul.

I loved Peter Capaldi’s performance. Just like on the television series he is fantastic. I wasn’t so taken with James Gandolfini but again I think that’s because the words coming out of his mouth just didn’t quite sound right. A little too British and not so American. It’s certainly an uncomfortable film to watch at times because the humor is so incredibly dark. This is an incredibly dark subject and very smartly done. The next day I’m still thinking of what a tragic clusterfuck this all was.

Update: I’ve just been looking on google for what other clips they show of this film. Ignore all the trailer clips. The film’s charm is the swearing which sadly is not included in any trailer.
I enjoyed the crossest man in Scotland: “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa3eoMnMC80”

And the Steve Coogan clip: “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5kdOvsyv98”

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Oh, it will make you angry.

There are several dimensions to the debate over the U.S. prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba that the media have largely missed and, thus, of which the American people are almost completely unaware. For that matter, few within the government who were not directly involved are aware either.

The first of these is the utter incompetence of the battlefield vetting in Afghanistan during the early stages of the U.S. operations there. Simply stated, no meaningful attempt at discrimination was made in-country by competent officials, civilian or military, as to who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation.

This was a factor of having too few troops in the combat zone, of the troops and civilians who were there having too few people trained and skilled in such vetting, and of the incredible pressure coming down from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others to “just get the bastards to the interrogators”.

It did not help that poor U.S. policies such as bounty-hunting, a weak understanding of cultural tendencies, and an utter disregard for the fundamentals of jurisprudence prevailed as well (no blame in the latter realm should accrue to combat soldiers as this it not their bailiwick anyway).

The second dimension that is largely unreported is that several in the U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.

But to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called Global War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers. They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim that everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of enduring intelligence value, and would return to jihad if released. I am very sorry to say that I believe there were uniformed military who aided and abetted these falsehoods, even at the highest levels of our armed forces.

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We are the enemy

The widow of US anthrax victim Robert Stevens has called for US government compensation for her husband’s death.

Maureen Stevens thanked the FBI for their investigation into Bruce Ivins, who killed himself last week after being told he was to be charged.

But she said it was “shocking” that the army scientist had been able to handle dangerous chemicals when he had a documented history of mental illness.

It is shocking isn’t it that in order to give ourselves “protection” from others we create biological weapons that end up being used on us? What else could we expect? Ironic that we claimed we went to war in Iraq because Sadaam Hussein was creating weapons of mass destruction. Of course, we ourselves would never do anything like that.

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In response to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s endorsement of Barack Obama’s withdrawl plan, Dana Perino makes what certainly sounds like a threat to me.

“We don’t think that talking about specific negotiating tactics or your negotiating position in the press is the best way to negotiate a deal,” Perino said after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was quoted in a magazine article supporting the 16-month troop withdrawal timeline proposed by Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate.

Frankly I don’t think openly threatening the Prime Minister of a country you claimed to have liberated is such a good idea either. Let’s face it the White House pushed al-Maliki into this position. Had they not tried to firm up a permanent presence in Iraq in the last few months of Bush’s presidency maybe Maliki wouldn’t have had to have pushed back.

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A good short article by Arianna Huffington.

Republicans love to portray Obama as naïve when it comes to foreign policy. Let’s go to the scorecard. Iraq: Prime Minister Maliki just announced he supports Obama’s troop withdrawal plan. Afghanistan: Obama has long argued that Iraq has been a dangerous distraction from what should be the real focus of the war on terror, Afghanistan, and has recommended sending additional troops there. McCain, who has opposed sending additional troops, did an about-face on Tuesday, all but yelling “Me too!” Iran: Obama has taken a lot of GOP fire for his willingness to negotiate with Tehran. This week, we learned the Bush administration has decided to send a top diplomat to a meeting with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, and is planning to open an “interests section” in Tehran. Score three for naiveté.

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I like how Naomi Wolf always takes a subject that the average American may think is far removed from themselves and puts that subject in a context that is recognizable.

I had a sense of déjà vu when I saw the photos that emerged in 2004 from Abu Ghraib prison. Even as the Bush administration was spinning the notion that the torture of prisoners was the work of “a few bad apples” low in the military hierarchy, I knew that we were seeing evidence of a systemic policy set at the top. It’s not that I am a genius. It’s simply that, having worked at a rape crisis center and been trained in the basics of sex crime, I have learned that all sex predators go about things in certain recognizable ways.

All this may sound bizarre if you are a normal person, but it is standard operating procedure for sex offenders. Those who work in the field know that once sex abusers control a powerless victim, they will invariably push the boundaries with ever more extreme behavior. Abusers start by undressing their victims, but once that line has been breached, you are likely to hear from the victim about oral and anal penetration, greater and greater pain and fear being inflicted, and more and more carelessness about exposing the crimes as the perpetrator’s inhibitions fall away.

The perpetrator is also likely to engage in ever-escalating rationalizations, often arguing that the offenses serve a greater good. Finally, the victim is blamed for the abuse: in the case of the detainees, if they would only “behave,” and confess, they wouldn’t bring all this on themselves.

Silence, and even collusion, is also typical of sex crimes within a family. Americans are behaving like a dysfunctional family by shielding sex criminals in their midst through silence.

Via Huffingtonpost.

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It’s encouraging to know that it is the Iraqis themselves who may end this war and thus control their own destiny. Think about every justification you have ever heard about the war from George Bush. Those justifications are tremendously hollow when the liberated people don’t want you there.

Iraq will not accept any security agreement with the United States unless it includes dates for the withdrawal of foreign forces, the government’s national security adviser said on Tuesday.

The comments by Mowaffaq al-Rubaie underscore the U.S.-backed government’s hardening stance toward a deal with Washington that will provide a legal basis for U.S. troops to operate when a U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

On Monday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appeared to catch Washington off-guard by suggesting for the first time that a timetable be set for the departure of U.S. forces under the deal being negotiated, which he called a memorandum of understanding.

Rubaie said Iraq was waiting “impatiently for the day when the last foreign soldier leaves Iraq.”

So Congress, including a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, have failed to end this war. The Iraqis must be very proud to know they have the power to end it on their own.

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Remember how we lost (literally) billions of dollars in Iraq? This needs to be read in full so I have posted it in full. The link to the article is here.

A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

For the first time, the extent to which some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding has been researched by the BBC’s Panorama using US and Iraqi government sources.

A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations.

The order applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies.

War profiteering

While George Bush remains in the White House, it is unlikely the gagging orders will be lifted.

To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq.

The president’s Democrat opponents are keeping up the pressure over war profiteering in Iraq.

Henry Waxman who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said: “The money that’s gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious.

“It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history.”

In the run-up to the invasion one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth seven billion that was given to Halliburton, a Texan company, which used to be run by Dick Cheney before he became vice-president.

Unusually only Halliburton got to bid – and won.

Missing billions

The search for the missing billions also led the programme to a house in Acton in West London where Hazem Shalaan lived until he was appointed to the new Iraqi government as minister of defence in 2004.

He and his associates siphoned an estimated $1.2 billion out of the ministry.

They bought old military equipment from Poland but claimed for top class weapons.

Meanwhile they diverted money into their own accounts.

Judge Radhi al-Radhi of Iraq’s Commission for Public Integrity investigated.

He said: “I believe these people are criminals.

“They failed to rebuild the Ministry of Defence , and as a result the violence and the bloodshed went on and on – the murder of Iraqis and foreigners continues and they bear responsibility.”

Mr Shalaan was sentenced to two jail terms but he fled the country.

He said he was innocent and that it was all a plot against him by pro-Iranian MPs in the government.

There is an Interpol arrest out for him but he is on the run – using a private jet to move around the globe.

He stills owns commercial properties in the Marble Arch area of London.

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An interesting history of the Bush Administration with Leonard Cohen’s brilliant Everybody Knows as the soundtrack.

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Remember 4 years ago when all the networks played over and over the video of Howard Dean after the Iowa caucus. His wheeee replayed hundreds of times over several days probably had a lot to do with his poor showings in the primaries.

Yet John McCain acts like a crazy man and no one is replaying it over and over. Look at the 2:10 mark of this video. The way he shakes and quivers while say he will never surrender in Iraq. Anyone watching this can see he is deluded and mentally ill at least so far as Iraq is concerned. So why aren’t the networks playing this clip over and over?

Compare:

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Whoever takes the presidency in November will have difficulty finding a solution to the mess of Iraq. Though perhaps one individual may be worse than the others, Obama, McCain and Clinton are doomed to failure because this administration never considered part two of playing war.

In reference to the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay here’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates explaining there is no good solution for releasing the prisoners.

Efforts to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are at “a standstill,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a Senate subcommittee Tuesday.

“The brutally frank answer is that we’re stuck, and we’re stuck in several ways,” Gates told the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

Gates said that he favors closing the detention center, which currently holds about 270 detainees, but that a number of problems stand in the way.

For one, Gates said, there are about 70 detainees ready for release whose home governments either will not accept them or may free them after they return.

He referred to former Guantanamo detainee Abdullah Saleh al-Ajmi, who killed himself in a suicide attack last month in Mosul after being released from Guantanamo in 2005.

Who can say if this man would have blown himself up had he not be imprisoned? I can imagine that a lot of anger would have built up over the years being held. As for the the fact that some governments may free these men — if we don’t have enough to charge them with a crime how can we expect their home countries to.

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Wounded Girl in IraqAn often used argument for electing women leaders around the world is that women by their nature are not warmongers and that the world would be more peaceful if ruled by women. It is said women and mothers in particular better understand the value of life because they have the ability to give life.

Yet in this election we have a woman, supported by many other women, who seems to be arguing that she should be elected president because she would lead this country, insofar as war is concerned, exactly as a man. Not only did she vote to give the Bush Administration war powers, and vote against delaying war powers were the U.N. to not authorize war, she now seems to be stirring the fires of a war with Iran.

Clinton further displayed tough talk in an interview airing on “Good Morning America” Tuesday. ABC News’ Chris Cuomo asked Clinton what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.

“I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” Clinton said. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”

Aren’t we just finishing the eighth year of this macho bullshit of dick waving? Whatever happened to diplomacy? Whatever happened to women being reasonable enough to avoid a commonly considered shortcoming of men — that the answer is always to fight. Have we forgotten the very reason why women would make better leaders?

Photo via dpatterson.blogspot.com.

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Then George W. Bush and a half dozen cabinet members in some back room somewhere authorize the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody, but we can’t pay attention to that because we’ve all got to decide whether we want a president with good bowling scores.

Where did we get this notion that the President of the United States should be a drinking buddy? Where did we get the notion that the strongest nation on earth should be led by a folksy, easy-to-like drunk? I don’t mean where did the country get this notion, I mean when did the media decide that this was a valid measure of a leader, something worth endlessly discussing, and analyzing, and tittering over? When facing down the leader of a rogue nation in a series of intense negotiations, I don’t want the guy shooting pool at the corner bar, I want someone with a head for the job, for God’s sake, and I don’t give a rats ass if he likes buffalo wings, or bowling, or can smash an empty beer can on his head.

And it goes on. Worth the read.

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Things To Do

  1. Straighten out that whole Israeli-Palestinian peace thing. (Roadmap drafted in October 2002)
  2. Find Osama Bin Laden. (Said I would September 13, 2001)
  3. Bring peace and stability to Iraq. Oh yeah, shirked that off on the next guy. Phew.

Suggestions welcome for part II.

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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he is confident about explaining to the US President his decision to bring combat troops home from Iraq.

Australia has been pretty supportive, so I think this shows how most everyone thinks it is time to go home.

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Have we misread the world?

Read a post on Andrew Sullivan wondering why there hadn’t been another 9/11. Here’s my take (sent him an email):

I can think of a good reason why America hasn’t been attacked since 9/11, because to do so would be a strategic mistake in Al Queda’s military struggle against the USA. Al Queda’s war aim at the start of all this was to provoke the USA to attacking them in a place (Afghanistan, and latterly Iraq) where our advantages would be nullified and they would be able to bleed us out in a war of attrition. Basically they want to repeat their successful struggle with the USSR. Within this framework they have actually been very rational, despite their religious zealotry. Their “big picture” aim, that by defeating America they cause regimes across the Middle East to collapse and a new caliphate to rise from the ashes is obviously a little bit less rational. At the moment this strategy is working, the war has turned into a war of attrition and America is losing patience, mostly because for us a withdrawal wouldn’t be a defeat the way it would be a victory for them.
So how would a terrorist attack on the USA help this strategy? It wouldn’t, it would just make Americans more determined, we might even get angry enough to raise taxes or bring back the draft, and thats the last thing they want. Because if we did that their strategy would fail. You don’t win a war of attrition by making your opponent more determined.
So when will the next terrorist attack on America take place? I’d say the ideal time from their point of view would be when America pulls its troops out of Iraq or Afghanistan. We’ll have declared victory and will be trying to make it look like we are leaving because we won, a terrorist attack on America, (launched of course from whichever country we just pulled out of) would be the best way to make it look like they were the victors. And thats what these men want, they are warriors and they want to win a war.

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The worry is that if we leave Iraq now, all the benefit of the surge will have been squandered as a corresponding reverse surge from our enemy will diminish our gains.

This is why Mr Gates signalled during his Baghdad visit that he favoured the idea that US troops should be held at pre-surge levels – about 130,000 – for a period of “consolidation and evaluation”, once the surge ends in July.

Attacks are still happening in Baghdad, although controlling the city has been the main focus of the year-old “surge” in US troop levels.

I’m not a military leader, but surely we had to have had a plan for what would happen after the surge?

The decision to go to war in Iraq is something we cannot take back. I am sorry that our stupid idiot leader decided to go to war, but how is prolonging it going to make anything better? I have no doubt that as soon as we leave something awful will happen, but I don’t see how it will be any different if we leave now, next year, three years from now, or longer.

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Every day, five U.S. soldiers try to kill themselves. Before the Iraq war began, that figure was less than one suicide attempt a day.

The dramatic increase is revealed in new U.S. Army figures, which show 2,100 soldiers tried to commit suicide in 2007.

“Suicide attempts are rising and have risen over the last five years,” said Col. Elspeth Cameron-Ritchie, an Army psychiatrist.

This is a very sad statistic. When the Iraq War began, I remember being excited about the bravery of these soldiers and the photos coming out of Baghdad even though I objected to the war. I can’t hide from the fact that I could never do what they do. Not only would I be a terrible soldier, I wouldn’t be able to set aside my own personal beliefs and put trust in my commanding officers or my government.

Clearly, this war is taking a toll on our soldiers. Probably, one of the most stressful things is not having a clear goal in mind. Has the Bush Administration ever laid out when the mission will be accomplished and what will signifiy that it is accomplished? In tangible terms I mean. Without having that, it must be difficult to have the motivation to keep going with no end in sight.

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Since training manuals actually have a practical purpose, they tend to be a whole lot more honest than official speak.

Take for instance a Canadian training manual for their diplomats:

A training manual for Canadian diplomats lists the United States as a country where prisoners risk torture and abuse, citing interrogation techniques such as stripping prisoners, blindfolding and sleep deprivation.

It also names Israel, Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Syria as places where inmates could face torture.

Or how about this Arab Cultural Awareness training manual produced by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence for the U.S. Army. Too bad the Bush Administration didn’t read it since they were telling us that the Iraqis would greet us with arms wide open.

Successful Negotiation Suggestions

  • Use Policies of Inclusion: Consult and involve in negotiations all the power brokers that have the ability to affect your project.
  • Xenophobia: Be prepared for some distrust of foreigners.
  • Historically, Middle Easterners perceive foreigners in the
    Middle East as invaders or exploiters.
  • Bartering: Expect Bartering- Expect an Arab to ask for what
    he wants rather than merely what he needs. Work towards a
    satisfactory medium.
  • Personal Provisions: Some Arabs may ask for provisions
    that appear self-serving. Personal rewards are a normal part
    of negotiation in the Arab world.
  • Commitment: Do not put your guests / hosts in a position to
    commit to a firm ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in front of other Arabs. Social
    pressure could compel your guest/host to agree to a commitment he has no intention of keeping.
  • Long Range Planning: Never accept a firm commitment
    farther than a week out at face value. Arab culture and the
    concept of fatalism are not conducive to long range planning
    and require at least a confirmation in the week prior to the
    planned event.
  • Compliance: To compel an Arab to keep a commitment in
    which he appears not to be keeping, attempt an indirect
    approach first before direct confrontation. Having a peer
    gently remind him of his commitment, could prevent him from
    feeling an affront to his honor. Keep verbal commitments or
    risk reinforcing the perception that “America never keeps its
    promises”.

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    This is a fascinating article on a therapy that uses mirrors to treat Phantom Limb Pain. Phantom limb pain is experienced by people who have lost a limb and is described as excruciating pain in the location where the limb used to be.

    He tried several painkillers, including methadone, but the pain didn’t let up. Then a Navy neurologist, Dr. Jack W. Tsao, asked him to try a new approach that requires patients to move the intact limb while watching the action in a mirror.

    “As soon as I started the treatment, I noticed a remarkable change,” says Paupore, who has stopped taking painkillers. “I could see really big improvement, really fast.”

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    A Modest Column

    Definitely worth the full read.

    People in high office — like the president and the vice-president — have difficult, complicated jobs. If they forget to do stuff, or if they cut corners here and there, or if they tell a white lie now and then, that’s OK, because the important thing is for them to protect us not only from bad things but also from thinking about bad things, unless they feel we need to. The only thing a president shouldn’t do is to have sex with someone who’s not his wife — because that’s a betrayal of the American people’s trust.

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    “America seeks, alongside its agents in the region, to create an allied government … that would accept in advance the presence of major U.S. bases in Iraq and give the Americans all they wish of Iraq’s oil,” he said.

    While I’ve no doubt the administration is preparing a response to the above, Bin Laden is not the first one to make this suggestion.

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