Posts Tagged 'Iraq'

Picking the Right Fight

ISIS Ebola

The Prime Minister and Conservative Party are beating the war drums in Ottawa today, offering a motion on the floor of Parliament to have Canada supply warplanes in support of the US mission against ISIS. A vote on the resolution will pass sometime next week, enjoying the support of a broad majority of Canadians. It will commit more than 600 Canadian Forces, six CF-18 fighter-bombers, two CP-140 surveillance planes, one aerial tanker aircraft to a six-month “limited mission” of air combat. The cost of this war has not been estimated; but Canada’s seven-month air war in Libya, which involved similar force and equipment commitments (650 personnel and 7 fighter jets at the mission’s peak) cost Canada $347 million.

ISIS is hardly the only source of bad, scary news these days. The ebola epidemic is on-pace to kill more people than ISIS ever could and has the likelihood of a much broader global calamity.  By all accounts, the international response has been way too small and way to slow. Canada’s contribution to “humanitarian and security interventions” addressing the ebola outbreak total a mere $5 million, although Canada pledged last week to spend up to an additional $30 million. The United Nations and World Health Organization have estimated that it will cost nearly $1 billion over the next six months to fight the spread of the epidemic.

Here’s an idea for Canada: take all the economic and military resources we are so ready to spend in Iraq and Syria and deploy them against the ebola catastrophe. Canada could exercise real leadership in this fight, thereby re-establishing its moral credibility on the global stage and demonstrating that it chooses its international engagements thoughtfully. Continue reading ‘Picking the Right Fight’

Posted

Washington Post Masthead

This has been a lucky stretch for me in getting letters to the editor printed in major daily newspapers. Today the Washington Post ran a badly edited version of this letter I sent in response to Josh White’s report of a former Guantanamo prisoner involved in a suicide bombing in Iraq.

To the Editor:

Your story, Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Joined Iraq Suicide Attack (8 May 2008) states that “the Defense Intelligence Agency has estimated that as many as three dozen former Guantanamo detainees are confirmed or suspected of having returned to terrorist activities.”

This characterization begs the question which is absolutely central — and completely unaddressed in your report — as to whether this activity is, indeed, a “return” to terrorist activities or an initiation into terrorist action prompted, at least in part, by resentment based on the Guantanamo imprisonments. In a system which puts habeas corpus, not to mention release, beyond the reach of most detainees, is it plausible to believe that the DoD had evidence of prior terrorist participation on those it had released?

Mark B. Jacobs
San Francisco, California

Continue reading ‘Posted’

Lebanon Once Again Ignites While on America’s Back-Burner

Beirut Gunman, May 2008
Photo: Associated Press

Beirut is once again in flames as Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias and Lebanese government forces clash in the worst outbreak of violence there since the end of the fifteen year civil war in 1990. The underlying political stalemate between the government and Hezbollah-led opposition parties, which has left the country without a president for nearly a year-and-a-half, is still unresolved. And, once again, America stands idly by and watches.

Continue reading ‘Lebanon Once Again Ignites While on America’s Back-Burner’

The Quiet American and the Cost of Civic Disengagement since 9/11

Protest circa 1963 Non-Protest circa 2006

George W. Bush likes to say the world changed on September 11, 2001. He’s absolutely right, of course. But then, he should know. He and his administration were the chief architects of that change.

Six years later, it is fascinating and horrible to trace the course of those transformations, and to assess our culpability as citizens of a democracy. We have looked-on like a herd of docile sheep as the Bush administration emasculated Congress, radically altered our conceptions of life in a free society, and embarked on a war contrary to nearly every national value or policy objective one might have otherwise articulated.

Continue reading ‘The Quiet American and the Cost of Civic Disengagement since 9/11’

Good War Gone Bad

Soldiers in Afghanistan

In May of 2006, I posed the question: how could the United States allow the pointless and probably illegal war in Iraq derail the imperative and morally justified conflict in Afghanistan? Mine was not an up-to-the-minute, breaking news sort of analysis. It had long been clear that Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq was draining precious resources from the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda, and, more importantly at that point, the reconstruction projects which would create the economic and social stability to allow the feeble Kharzai government to consolidate political authority throughout the county. The game had already turned by the time I wrote:

America failed to eradicate the Taliban, failed to deliver development aid in the amounts promised, and diverted troops which might have helped to secure the problematic southern provinces — all to focus on Iraq. Any reasonable semblance of a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan would have been cheap and easy, especially when compared against the invasion of Iraq. Now, Afghanistan is under siege by a resurgent Taliban and religious fundamentalism again dominates social behavior in Afghanistan’s cities. The appallingly corrupt Kharzai government has never been able to exert its authority much beyond Kabul. Opium production is at record levels. The people of the country are poor, hungry, and frustrated. Each day the situation gets worse.

Continue reading ‘Good War Gone Bad’

$1.2 Trillion: Build a Great Future or Destroy One

$1.2 Trillion

As anyone who takes even a cursory look at this blog knows, I generally like to post original ideas — or at least my own take on ideas already in circulation. Some memes are so helpful to our understanding of the world, however, that they deserve a nod and a link — on my blog and elsewhere.

That’s how I feel about David Leonhardt’s column in a recent edition of the New York Times, entitled “What $1.2 Trillion Can Buy.”
Continue reading ‘$1.2 Trillion: Build a Great Future or Destroy One’

Lebanon: Overlooked Centerfold of Neoconservative Wet Dreams

At the end of May, I posed this question: why would the neoconservative narcissists choose Iraq as domino-one in their design to remake the Islamic world, when Afghanistan was so much easier, available, appropriate, and economical a target?

A year before I posed the question about Afghanistan, in June of 2005, I commented on the astonishing non-response of the Bush Administration to the political assassinations that were decimating Lebanon’s fledgling democratic government. Syrian operatives had murdered both Prime Minister Rafique Hariri and influential anti-Syrian politician George Hawi, as well as a prominent anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir. Despite the administrations macho rhetoric toward Syria in those few heady days of the illusory “mission accomplished”, it seemed that they were missing an opportunity to control a situation that had spun well out of control. One of my points at the time was that Condoleza Rice — who must surely be the worst Secretary of State in the history of the institution — not only fucked up by pursuing policies that were wrong-headed; she also fucked up by failing to pursue the few administration policies that made good sense.

Allow me to tie these two threads together and suggest that Lebanon offered another perfect fixation for neoconservative wet dreams of secular – pluralistic, even! – democratization of the Islamic world.
Continue reading ‘Lebanon: Overlooked Centerfold of Neoconservative Wet Dreams’

Drifting through the Flames of Iraq

Eleven months ago, I wrote an essay on this blog pleading for clarity in the crucial debate about the way forward in Iraq. I called it, “Reassessing the Pottery Barn Rule” after the you-break-it-you-buy-it admonition of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

I was frustrated by the unhelpful noise generated from both the right and the left, and the inability of American leadership to frame the alternatives, and to lay out the justifications and perils of each. I wrote:

The war in Iraq was wrong from the start. But that is old news, and each new day brings a imperative to avoid fresh mistakes. The situation is dynamic and the analysis problematic. It is time for the Pentagon, the State Department, and the United Nations to openly discuss the alternatives to a protracted guerilla war in Iraq, rather than simply allowing momentum to carry policy forward. If America does not have the moral courage and political will to engage in this kind of honest, open discussion, then perhaps it should pull up its stakes, admit defeat, take responsibility for the devastation it leaves in its wake, and refocus its energy to addressing the global consequences of its failure.

We broke it, but do we really have to own it? Do the Iraqis even want that? Perhaps they would ultimately be better off absorbing the loss and having the bull out of the china shop. This reconsideration of the Pottery Barn Rule must happen, and happen soon.

How far have we come in a year? Nowhere.
Continue reading ‘Drifting through the Flames of Iraq’

Democracy Envy

Five years ago, President Bush, looked Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin in the eyes and pronounced him a worthy soul. Mr. Putin, having looked into Mr. Bush’s eyes, clearly saw the lights on, but no one home. In the years that have passed, Mr. Putin has made the most of his new-best-friend’s disengagement.
Continue reading ‘Democracy Envy’

Why Iraq?

Let’s try to take the neoconservatives at their word. The invasion of Iraq was never about oil. And it was never about “finishing the job” Bush pere left undone following the first Gulf war. It was not even about establishing a base of military operations in this critical region which would allow America to begin to distance itself from its problematic alliance with the Saudis.

It was solely about replacing a murderous, autocratic regime with a democracy, which would then embolden democratic reformers throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. Iraq was to be the first domino in the democratization of the region.

Let’s leave aside the fact that metaphor was always a little careless. Dominoes topple a bit more easily than governments, systems of government, and the social values that have enabled or created those systems. Fallen dominoes dispossess no one, threaten no stakeholders, and force no radical realignment of interdomino relations. And they leave far less collateral damage.

Also try to ignore, as the neocons themselves did, that democracy in much of the Islamic world is likely to yield popularly elected theocracy. I personally have no problem with this notion; but I can’t help imagining it would have troubled the neocons, had it occurred to them.

One must still wonder: why Iraq?

Continue reading ‘Why Iraq?’


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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