Friday, 29 October 2010

How to Spin it that Iran Caused the Catastrophe in Iraq.

Meir Javedanfar has attempted here in today's edition of The Guardian to draw an equivalence between the US and Iran as regards the Wikileaks reports of the reality of the US occupation.

What he writes is interesting but does not bear out exactly his partisan agenda as an Israeli-Iranian nationalist which is to prove that Iran's interests in creating further chaos was one thwarting the US agenda of bringing beneficial regime change.

Iran's concerns are understandable. There are serious allegations that could damage its image abroad, especially with its allies in Iraq and in the Shia world. One such revelation is the report about Iran supplying new forms of suicide vests for al-Qaida.

Al-Qaida is the sworn enemy of Shias in Iraq. It has been involved in the killing of thousands of Shia civilians, among them many pilgrims in holy cities such as Najaf and Karbala. Iranian co-operation with al-Qaida, even if it was aimed at hurting US forces, is not going to go down well in Shia areas of Iraq.

There is also political damage from this. How can Nouri al-Maliki persuade Iraqis, especially his own Shia constituents, that the government of Iran is a true friend?

Other revelations, such as the revolutionary guard's al Quds force training Iraqi Shia militants on Iranian soil, are also damaging. They could make the idea of tougher sanctions against Iran an easier sell to the public in Europe, since countries such as the UK have suffered numerous casualties in southern Iraq.

The evidence, from the Wikileaks that Iran supported Sunni insurgents and Al Qaida after the collapse of Iraq into bloodshed and chaos, has to take into account the status of the source, a US military document in which the filer might have assumed that what was fact was fact. It was a "threat report".

AL-QAIDA REMAINS THE STRONGEST ORGANIZATION AMONG THE INSURGENT GROUPS IN IRAQ AND DIRECTS THE MAJORITY OF ATTACKS THAT TAKE PLACE IN IRAQ, NFI. INSTRUCTORS AT THE ISLAMIC JIHAD CENTER IN TEHRAN ARE TEACHING A NEW TACTIC FOR SVIED DEPLOYMENT.
Until real evidence can be offered that Iran backed Al Qaida this remains simply an assumption whilst Iranian backing for Shia groups in far more obvious as an established part of exerting Iran's influence there, on that the US has also been prepared to collude in to defeat Sunni insurgents.

That this was done by colluding in the practice of allowing torture by Shi-ite death squads, as well as co-opting Baathists of Saddam's secular dictatorship to kill off opposition to the US client state is hardly diminished by the assumptions of the Threat Reports in the Wikileaks.

Reversals of alliances and doublethink are routine in the New great Game where the main ambition in a pathological struggle to control oil and gas and its transit between exporting nations and the overdependent nations of the West that rely on it to keep its life support machine going.

As Iran borders both Iraq and Afghanistan it has an interest in seeking to avoid encirclement by US client states. In Afghanistan, the Taliban was supported by the US between 1994 and 1996 through its allies in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan because the Taliban was anti-Iranian, anti-Shia and pro-Western.

Iran objected to this US policy as the Taliban was fanatically anti-Shia which is why it started to back the Northern Alliance against the Taliban and nearly went to war with Afghanistan after Taliban forces seized the Iranian consulate in Mazari Sharif and executed Iranian diplomats in 1998.

Just as in Iraq, where Iran has backed those forces that will serve its interests, so too has it been prepared to do the same in maintaining links with members of the Northern Alliance and even the Taliban who want to block US interests in Afghanistan, most obviously the construction of the TAPI pipeline.

Without any real mention of the geopolitical context, such an article is essentially propaganda which insinuates that had Iran not meddled, then everything would have proceeded a lot better in Iraq and that this shows Iran is a rogue state ( hence the conflation of support for terror with the nuclear issue ).

The Rferl article linked to makes this quite explicit, ( How WikiLeaks Makes Confrontation With Iran More Likely )

... what is now beyond dispute is that ( Tehran ) clearly sees itself as engaged in a war against the United States and those attempting to forge an independent and democratic Iraq.
Yet the scale of US double standards and cynicism in the Persian Gulf and the fact it bears responsibility for triggering off the collapse of Iraq into anarchy in the first place, is hardly going to be linked to a widespread sense of outrage in Iraq or in the Middle East that Iran bears the blame all along for what happened.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

More Hype than Hope-Tariq Ali on President Obama.

Tariq Ali has opined on President Obama ( Obama hope was all hype ),


The hope of 2008 soon morphed into hype. Admirers in the liberal media who had linked Obama vicariously to the civil rights movement sounded increasingly ridiculous; claiming the mantle of Martin Luther King for their man was an extravagance that had to be rapidly discarded.


In one of his last big speeches, a year before he was assassinated, King had argued "that if our nation can spend $35bn a year to fight an unjust, evil war in Vietnam, and $20bn to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God's children on their own two feet right here on earth".


What had any of this to do with a seasoned machine politician from Chicago?As a candidate, Obama projected himself as a new Reagan, above narrow party politics. He wanted to please all, but has ended up annoying many.
Contrary to what Ali thinks, and as with his hero Trotsky it is always self serving, Obama is in many ways the embodiment of 1960s identity politics made convenient for the world of corporate capitalism and admass society. Identity politics, economic self interest and public relations can flow seamlessly.


In any case, at what exact stage did "hope" morph into "hype" and who created that ? Partly Obama's political choreographers but also all those people who voted for him for progressive reasons, not least deluded US blacks, a chorus of approval mirrored across the Atlantic here in Britain.


Obviously, Obama is a PR creation , a visual embodiment of "The American Dream" that was meant to rebrand the image of the US against those in more soppily liberal countries that he was some kind of amalgam of Martin Luther King and JFK against the image of "stupid white men" like Bush II.


Obama thus did not project himself as the "new Reagan" at all. Ali assumes that because he has to link the explicit ideology of neoliberal capitalism with the 1980s and not as one outcome of 1960s identity politics with 1980s economics. The political myth of Obama is pure 1960s. And it was kitsch.


Anyway, to get to the nitty gritty, Obama was always going to disappoint on foreign policy because it was not really so different from Bush II's from the outset, a point that Ali at least, unlike numerous others at the time of Obama's election, seems to have been able to grasp.


Obama may have opposed the Iraq War but he did so only because it was a strategic mistake and because Afghanistan should take preference and was always the "war of choice" that represented "The Good War", an opinion shared by his foreign policy advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.


Not only did Obama vote in Congress for the Patriot Act and suspending the liberties enshrined in habeas corpus, that Bush initiated as part of the 'war on terror', but he also outlined a foreign policy vision that had many neoconservatives quite content that their legacy would not be reversed.


In April 2007 Obama delivered a speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in which he declared that,


"America must....lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good....We have heard much over the last six years about how America's larger purpose in the world is to promote the spread of freedom. I agree".

Yet how imposing democracy and human rights through war and conventional military force on a nation such as Afghanistan has never been clearly outlined by 'liberal imperialists' or 'humanitarian interventionists'. Then again, the war there became evermore clearly about the ensuring the construction of the TAPI pipeline.


Obama made it clear he wanted to increase defence spending and to add 65,000 troops to the Army and recruit 27,000 more Marines so that the US military could"stay on the offence, from Djibouti to Kandahar" as "the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face."


That was a statement that yet again conflated global terrorism of the Al Qaida variety with rogue states in which the pre-emptive use of force was legitimate, without concerning itself with the UN. As with Iraq, a 'mistake', Obama maintained,


"no president should ever hesitate to use force -- unilaterally if necessary.....to protect ourselves . . . when we are attacked".


When the USA's "vital interests" were "imminently threatened" then it could invade other nations as it deemed fit. And those who know anything about the USA's "vital interests" now that this has been defined at least since the 1980 Carter Doctrine as protecting the USA's oil supply.


With regards Afghanistan, the war now remains centrally concerned with getting the TAPI pipeline built as this will, it is thought, block off the rival IPI pipeline, contribute towards isolating and encircling Iran and integrate the regional economies under US protection and power.


On a lighter note, it is amusing to note all those offering spasms of pseudo-orgasmic ecstasy back in 2008, some of which I could not resist collecting at the time for future reference, if only to show the utter bollocks spouted by columnists whose job it is to genuglect before power instead of offering critical commentary.


First, Niall Stanage offered this tripe It's America's time Monday 1 December 2008,


There was a moment, early on, when I realised he had something special.Back in February, I went to hear Barack Obama speak in Baltimore, Maryland.


I had seen Obama in person plenty of times before, and the rally was, on its face, unexceptional. It took place the day before the Maryland primary, a contest that elicited little media excitement because Obama was expected to win with ease (which he duly did).


That campaign restored a faith in politics that most of us thought we had lost. On an unseasonably mild Chicago night last month, when a disembodied voice announced the next first family of the United States, and Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha Obama strode into the lights, it restored a faith in the United States too.


America was, once again, a place where astounding things could happen.

People get paid to write this.Another piece of idiocy was offered by Michael Paulin who wanted to make the following very clear,


It is unfortunate that this needs to be said but, for the avoidance of doubt: Barack Hussein Obama is black. Yet he is also mixed-race. Perhaps more important, he is a black, mixed-race intellectual.

If that was not idiotic enough, Jonathan Freedman wrote this in a column 'America has not lost its talent for renewal, even redemption'. It was drivel then and it looks no less fundamentally deluded and stupid now,


For the last eight years, it's been hard to keep the flame alive. ...But on Tuesday night I stood in Grant Park and watched a crowd of 200,000 erupt as they saw Barack Obama become America's next president..... From now on, admiration for the US will no longer need to be whispered nor weighed down with a thousand qualifiers....

It was obvious that the emoting was forced, an attempt to try and feel some "change in the air" in opposition to that boring thing called reality. But that was not the best of the worst.


A supreme Obamagasm came from the almost satirical piece written by Johnathan Raban. who chimed in with this,


On Tuesday, dodging the hubbub of election parties, I watched the results come in with two close friends and my teenage daughter. We might have been patients showing up at a hospital for a surgical procedure, nervously joking over the early returns from Vermont (predictably, Barack Obama) and Kentucky (predictably, John McCain).

When, at 8:01pm, Pacific time, CNN called the race for Obama, we collapsed in one another's arms. Even my dry tear ducts did their job, and, for a few moments, the room swam out of focus. The champagne, whose presence in the fridge I had thought to be ominously bad karma, was opened. No toast. Just "Thank God, thank God, thank God", spoken by four devout atheists.

This sounds like the sort of totalitarian political kitsch that could have been offered in favour of Stalin, Mao, Castro and numerous others. Even so, it was unintentionally very amusing.


Yet the scale of the stream of arrant drivel issuing out from the liberal-left commentariat surely came from the banal and witless Polly Toynbee,


There has never been a day like it for Britain's postwar generations. As that inauguration speech echoes out, the globe itself seems to inhale a mighty, collective intake of breath, frighteningly audacious in its hope.A BBC World Service poll shows a tidal wave of optimism about what Obama will do, spread out across a rainbow of nations.

Here is the world's wish list: first save global finance from ruin; next get out of Iraq; then fix the climate and bring peace to the Middle East. Yes he can, is the world's expectation.How does the man's arrival feel here? A day like no other, in a time of multiple crisis like none other.

In Gaza, the horror of so many dead Palestinian children is a monstrous challenge to greet Obama. If ever the world needed saving, it's now.So here comes the man who says he can.

It's an American mystery that this great pool of genius has usually thrown such minnows into the White House. But the monumental present danger has summoned forth a man who promises the intellect, character and power of persuasion to match the hour.

And such windbags often get indignant at why so many people get cynical at politicians and journalists.

An Update on TAPI

The fact that the TAPI is a major strategical aim of the US in Afghanistan and is a rival to the IPI pipeline was further confirmed by a report carried by The International Herald Tribune on October 25 2010

...the cancellation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s visit to Pakistan was in fact a protest against Islamabad’s signing of the Turkmenistan- Afghanistan–Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project which would obviously mean for the Iranians abandoning of the Pakistan-Iran gas project.

Iranian Minister Mostafa Najjar had announced in August that President Ahmedinejad would visit Pakistan soon to see the devastation caused by the recent flooding.

In June, 2010 Islamabad and Tehran finalised the gas pipeline project dubbed as “Peace Pipeline” to start supply of natural gas to Islamabad by 2014. However, Pakistan had to face severe criticism from the US over the deal.

Reports suggested that Islamabad abandoned the project under pressure from the US and Western countries and signed the TAPI agreement.

Well, this should obviously convince those that keep denying the centrality of the TAPI pipeline as a major goal that they are willingly colluding in a denial of the reality. Naturally, Pakistan keeps hedging its bets between all the contending Great Powers vying for control in the region.

Under the gas sale and purchase agreement (GSPA), Pakistan will import about 750 million cubic feet a day (mmcfd) from Turkmenistan with provision to increase it to one billion cubic feet a day (bcfd).The volume of the imported gas will be about 20 per cent of Pakistan’s current gas production and the agreement is for a period of 25 years, renewable for another five years.

Ejaz Chaudhry, Additional Secretary at the ministry of petroleum and natural resources, said it was absolutely incorrect to suggest that Islamabad has shelved the project. “Throw him out of the window whoever has said so,” he said in anger. “The process for the implementation of the project is under way.”

“You cannot abandon international agreements with a single stroke of pen,” Chaudhry said. “It will take about two-and-a-half years to start construction on the project,” he added.

“China may be interested to finance the project,” Chaudhry said when his attention was drawn to the fact that both Pakistan and Iran may be short of funds required for the project. In April 2008 Iran expressed interest in China’s participation in the project.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Delusion about a Middle East "Peace Process" and Oil.

If the liberal illusions of those who supported President Obama as a potential new figure for peace can be understood , they can be encapsulated by Jonathan Freedman who wrote in the Guardian,
A president who was inaugurated amid great hopes – generally and for the Middle East in particular – has seen his stock tumble in the intervening 21 months. Obama won great credit for making Israeli-Palestinian peace a priority on his very first day in office, declaring it a national security interest of the US, and for appointing the elder statesman of the Northern Ireland effort, George Mitchell, as his special envoy. Since then there have been crockery-throwing rows with the Israelis, and a nice speech in Cairo, but little tangible progress. The most Obama has to show for his labours is an opening round of direct talks between the two sides, currently on hold.
Usually when people debate the Israel-Palestine conflict and the "peace process", there will be those prepared to see it as a proxy conflict between "the West" and the "Muslim World" without looking at the bleak reality of the bigger picture ( as if the psychopathogical conflict there was not intractable enough already ).

The reason is that the conflict between Israel and Palestine really is a proxy battleground between those powers who see the Middle East as a struggle for hegemony and influence. The USA backs Israel and the Iranians back Hamas and Hezbollah.

This is determined by the New Great Game for oil and gas, which the USA is ever more dependent upon to maintain its current standard of living no less than Israel is too. Iran backs Hamas and Hezbollah as it ramps up tensions in such a way as to discredit any regime change, most obviously its own.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has its own long standing enmity, but it has become more intractable by the wider conflicts across the Middle East caused by the US presence in Arab lands like Saudi Arabia, where the rentier elite diverts discontent outwards through funding Islamist charities.

Again that reflects the US foreign policy of being so dependent upon Saudi oil and the hatred that US military bases cause across the region. As well as the fact that most people living under dictatorships do not benefit from that oil wealth. When tied together with Islamist ideology that causes endless problems

Unless the West can find alternatives to oil, the problems in the Middle East have no chance of a solution. Regimes feeling uncertain of quelling domestic discontent will ramp up hatred of Israel in order to gain domestic legitimacy. Israel depends on that to retain support from the US too.

Likewise Hamas has every interest in ratcheting up conflict by rocket attacks in order to get the disproportionate retaliation that will kill Palestinians, force Israel to become more ruthless and thus improve their standing over political rivals. So too Hezbollah.

The continued military presence of the US in the oil rich lands of the Arab states such as Saudi Arabia provides the reason for the resentment that leads to Islamist fanaticism and the cash that fuels it. Just as it did in Afghanistan in the war against the Soviet Union.

The bitter irony is that within Britain, those like George Galloway, a leader of Respect. extol the Palestinian cause and Islamist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and gain great support whilst being fans of Arab nationalists like Colonel Nasser who was a secular nationalist who executed Islamists.

Naturally, Galloway is a dolt. But those supporting an increasingly large constituency of leftists and alienated and politically aware Muslims in Britain fail to realise the underlying conflicts lie mostly in the self interest of the various states in the region.

The USA is one of those along with Israel but so too are states like Iran, whose Press TV funds Galloway to mouth out about Palestine. That makes him merely a "useful idiot" but it points to a wider problem of proxy wars concerned with geopolitics and the West's over dependence upon oil.

The issue of oil dependency never gets much mention in the discussion about the potential to peace in the Middle East. One need only think about Bernard Lewis' "The Crisis of Islam" to realise that that the crisis is thought to be one of Islam more than Western dependency upon oil.

But ultimately the crisis between Israel and Palestine and the Middle East as a whole is based on the crisis between the need of these states to modernise and gain a measure of legitimacy by having control over their own oil wealth and moving towards an Islamic form of democracy.

That cannot be achieved by military invasions of states such as Iraq. But that war reflected the need to control the oil, of geostrategic desperation by the USA and Britain. It can only be achieved by the Western states reducing their dependence upon oil by investing money in R & D on alternatives.

The well intentioned liberal nuances and pieties of those like Freedman will fail to enlighten or gain support unless the nub of what is really at stake is addressed. Suffice it to say that few liberals ever grasp the dilemma because they talk about what the West must, can, should, ought to or must do.

Without first looking at the reality of what is at stake.

Without that we are condemned to perpetual conflict. Obama offers no greater solution because he is the leader of a nation no less dependent upon oil than Western Europe. But is leader of a nation that Europe cravenly hopes will protect it whilst remaining greedy for oil no less.

Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it."-Joseph Conrad.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Lifestyle Conversions to Islam and the Attraction of the Political Exotic.

Andrew Brown writes on Lauren Booth's conversion to Islam that,
There is quite a lot that could be said about anyone who converts to Islam in Iran under the impression that it is less inhumane than New Labour, but as a piece of theatre, Lauren Booth's conversion could hardly be beaten.

Conversion....is also always a political and social act, a statement about where you fit into the world. To convert is to announce your allegiance to a new tribe, or a new idea of humanity.
Lauren Booth is not "nutty" but neither is this act of conversion much to do with religion but as more of a lifestyle option. As Booth put it in A Daily Mail interview, after she spoke of her "holy experience” whilst visiting the Fatima al-Masumeh shrine in the city of Qom, something that hit her like a “shot of spiritual morphine”,
‘Now I don’t eat pork and I read the Koran every day. I’m on page 60. I also haven’t had a drink in 45 days, the longest period in 25 years,' she said.

'The strange thing is that since I decided to convert I haven’t wanted to touch alcohol, and I was someone who craved a glass of wine or two at the end of a day.’
The move is partly political and more based on a rejection of what she does not like as opposed to what she does.

Booth converted as part of the usual pathetic quest for some form of identity which Islam obviously offers in a bleak, atomised and deracinated Britain that depends for its consumer lifestyle, it is thought, on the subjugation of Muslims. Its a spiritual quest perverted into self indulgent identity politics.

By conflating all Islamist causes into one global form of revolutionary and emancipatory kitsch, the attraction of middle class women like Booth to Islam is really more to do to with a fetish for the political exotic, the sort that pulled in women to extol Cuba and handsome guerillas as Che Guevara in the 1960s.

Booth was given a Palestinian diplomatic status by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in 2008 claims that she now covers her head with a hijab when she leaves the house and prays five times daily. Booth did not exclude the possibility of wearing a burka, even though its not part of Islam itself.

Booth was already a member of the "political religion" that is the Islamo-Trotskyist hybrid Respect, but with the split with the SWP, Booth has moved more to the more ostensibly Islamist wing as did that other halfwit Yvonne Ridley after being captured by the Taliban back in 2001.

The conversion is due to the usual mixture of careerist motives ( she works as does Galloway for Iran's state network Press TV ) and as an act of repudiating her civilisation and culture more than through any real acceptance of Islam. It makes for good propaganda for Iran, which is what Press TV is about.

Both Ridley and Booth work for Press TV and are prominent in RESPECT. This is the party that Ridley claimed was “Zionist-free” in 2006 and who described Israel as “that disgusting little watchdog of America that is festering in the Middle East”. She could have said satellite or client without using this lurid language.

Ridley opined “If there was any Zionists in the Respect Party they would be hunted down and kicked out. We have no time for Zionists”.

There is no reason why both US foreign policy and Israel's actions cannot be condemned whilst at the same time condemning the inhumanity of the repressive aspects of Iran's regime. The reason Booth and Ridley do not is due to the mental vice defined by Orwell as "transferred nationalism".

The Failure to Look at the Facts of the Iraq Conflict.

With the Wikileaks it has become even clearer now the US colluded with death squads such as the 2nd battalion of the interior ministry-the Wolf Brigades-as the price of defeating the Sunni based militias opposed to the new Iraqi government and involving leaders of Shia Badr militias.

Many such as Christopher Hitchens, Nick Cohen and others who backed the Iraq War have remained silent on this or simply "moved on", despite having attempted to use the invasion of Iraq as a great cause with which to upgrade their reputations as stalwart defenders of the West's essential liberal values in the war against global Islamofascism and totalitarianism.

Some such as Peter Bracken still think they are fighting the good cause, almost parodying the language of Hitchens and Paul Bermann about the need for democratic or "decent leftists" to stand up for the West against barbarians who seek to destroy it. Bracken seems to have transposed the fight in Iraq against barbarians to anti-war opponents in Britain too,

,....the authentic left renounces everything the deluded left has embraced. And in embracing an illiberal perspective on world politics it has – I believe – forfeited its right to membership of the left.....this section of the left denies the mainstay of the authentic left's agenda: liberalism.
Yet few supporters of the Iraq war to defend liberalism not their opponents bothered to look at the facts of Iraq on their own terms, waging polemical battles as part of their ideological creed wars and fitting the facts to them accordingly. Compared to what was really at stake-energy security and geopolitical hegemony-these disputes will remain a footnote in history.

Even so, what is curious about Bracken's sententious waffle about the USA's "moral authority" in invading Iraq is precisely the moral relativism of the practice of the US strategy for "pacification". It was prepared to co-opt fanatical Islamists and former Baathists to crush other insurgents. As the Guardian reported,

In Samarra, the series of log entries in 2004 and 2005 describe repeated raids by US infantry, who then handed their captives over to the Wolf Brigade for "further questioning". Typical entries read: "All 5 detainees were turned over to Ministry of Interior for further questioning" (from 29 November 2004) and "The detainee was then turned over to the 2nd Ministry of Interior Commando Battalion for further questioning" (30 November 2004).

The field reports chime with allegations made by New York Times writer Peter Maass, who was in Samarra at the time. He told Guardian Films : "US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing," while members of the Wolf Brigade beat and tortured prisoners. The interior ministry commandos took over the public library in Samarra, and turned it into a detention centre, he said.

An interview conducted by Maass in 2005 at the improvised prison, accompanied by the Wolf Brigade's US military adviser, Col James Steele, had been interrupted by the terrified screams of a prisoner outside, he said. Steele was reportedly previously employed as an adviser to help crush an insurgency in El Salvador.

The Wolf Brigade was created and supported by the US in an attempt to re-employ elements of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, this time to terrorise insurgents. Members typically wore red berets, sunglasses and balaclavas, and drove out on raids in convoys of Toyota Landcruisers. They were accused by Iraqis of beating prisoners, torturing them with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects.

In the light of the hundreds of thousands killed and displaced by the invasion of Iraq back in 2003 and the cost in lives and morality amount of evidence will convince those Bracken of the sheer scale of the criminality involved in getting control of Iraq.

The stupidity of some self styled "liberal imperialists" or "humanitarian interventionists" from Hitchens to Cohen et al is that they shared the same mental vices that they accused the anti-war protesters of having: a lack of interest in the real situation in Iraq and scoring polemical points.

Obviously, those like Tariq Ali and Seumas Milne who referred to some "the Iraqi resistance" were using the term to glorify and dignify the Sunni militias and trying to impose a left wing Third World anti-colonial narrative on to a brutal sectarian and ethnic conflict where the Vietnam model failed to fit.

Yet that does not absolve those who argued the case for invading Iraq of responsibility for the that it was a catastrophically bad move, of very dubious legality and which from the outset had control of Iraqi oil as its purpose, as most of the military effort went into securing the oil infrastructure and not on nation building.

......................................................................................................................................................................

An Exchange with Peter Bracken.

Peter Bracken responded today,

You misunderstand the term moral relativism. In a sentence, moral relativism disables discrimination between the moral behaviour of states or cultures or individuals.

On your own terms by colluding with precisely the forces that the US set out to overthrow the US mission in Iraq was very much defined by moral relativism, that morality can be defined according to the principle wholly of the means justifying the ends.

That necessarily means overlooking the behaviour of those 'on our side' simply in order to advance a political objective thought of more overriding importance than preserving precisely those universal moral injunctions enshrined in prohibitions of torture.

The irony is that even if those such as Seumas Milne only cared about Iraq is so far as to discredit the USA whilst simultaneously extolling Sunni Militias as "the resistance", the advocates of war in Iraq also overlooked atrocities committed in the name of a higher cause.

Clearly, moral relativism disabled any critical capacity from many in the left, not only some "anti-war" activists ( who at the same time rationalised ideological violence from "the resistance" ) but those who supported Iraq.There is one more flaw in this definition.

By the terms of reference set out by those who supported the invasion of Iraq to get rid of torture, the whole point is that moral relativism is not an absolute category that applies only to enemies of the USA and UK as defined for purposes of political expediency and realpolitik.

If that is the case, then logically it is essential that the moral behaviour of the USA and UK is judged according to the standards that are set up for others to follow ( e.g the universal prohibition on torture ) but which have not been followed by both powers in the light of the evidence coming from Iraq.

So instead of looking at the truth of the Wikileaks, the collusion of the US with murderous Baathists people such as yourself assured people the invasion was about removing for moral reasons, you prefer to take pot shots at the apparent self-interest of lawyers to deflect attention from the substance of the accusations of collusions in torture.

And that is known as taking the moral position.

Peter Bracken

..what's interesting about the Wikileaks is how few atrocities have been committed.

Collusion with that there is a just measure of atrocity that is acceptable. How that calculus can be arrived at is curious. What's interesting is that the US worked with the Baathists who were depicted as the enemy even after 2003.

Moreover, the Frago 242 order to the US miltary to ignore detainee abuse by Iraqi authorities is illegal in international law.

Supporters of the Iraq War cannot have it both ways. To maintain that the war was fought to prevent humanitarian abuses but that the success can only be achieved by systemic collusion with torture is exactly what the hero of the supposedly "decent left", George Orwell, called doublethink.

..all you ever do is highlight the self-interest of states - it's all about oil.

Well, its necessary to do so, though it becomes claustrophobic to have to re-iterate the damned obvious. But contrary to this, I emphasise oil and its role in geopolitics and the balance of power and not the standard obsession with the USA as though it were a vampiric power drinking oil like blood.

Nor that wars for energy security are about sinister waxen faxed silver haired plutocrats loving the thrill of war for profit, the sort of tripe that comes from anti-war activists of the kind who seem intent on emulating the cliched radicals of something from the 1980s anti-terrorist film Who Dares Wins.

Clearly losing the argument Peter Bracken snarls,

You are hamstrung by your contortions. One doesn't have to be a saint to apply moral judgements. That's the point of the anti-relativist stance
No, but clearly you think there is a God given right somehow for the USA and UK not to be held accountable for colluding with torture when the ostensible point of the invasion was supposed to be to remove Saddam and hence torture.

So no contortions but simply the plain obvious truth. It's clear to any sane person that the actual conduct of the war as well as the bogus pretexts used to justify it in the first place failed to be in any sense ethical or moral at all.

Unless morality is subordinated to the ultimate victory of the politically correct creed. In which case, those justifying Iraq ( as you still are ) are paradoxically coming very close to the rationalisations people made for Stalin's USSR in the 1930s.

Bracken on collusion with torture through Frago 242 retorted then,

Nonsense, and you know it to be. By your reckoning one case of abuse would be enough to condemn the military and its government.
The point is that the collusion with torture was systemic, a consequence of the Frago 242 which provided a licence to torture. That decision meant that "abuses" such as torture were not a series of unfortunate one off but implicit in the very way in which the US decided to conduct the war.

As Nick Davies wrote in the Guardian,
A frago is a "fragmentary order" which summarises a complex requirement. This one, issued in June 2004, about a year after the invasion of Iraq, orders coalition troops not to investigate any breach of the laws of armed conflict, such as the abuse of detainees, unless it directly involves members of the coalition. Where the alleged abuse is committed by Iraqi on Iraqi, "only an initial report will be made … No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ".

Frago 242 appears to have been issued as part of the wider political effort to pass the management of security from the coalition to Iraqi hands. In effect, it means that the regime has been forced to change its political constitution but allowed to retain its use of torture.

The systematic viciousness of the old dictatorship when Saddam Hussein's security agencies enforced order without any regard for law continues, reinforced by the chaotic savagery of the new criminal, political and sectarian groups which have emerged since the invasion in 2003 and which have infiltrated some police and army units, using Iraq's detention cells for their private vendettas.
This should not be so difficult to grasp. The continuities with the old Baathist regime are clear here. It could be maintained, ruthlessly of course, that such collusion in barbarism was necessary to defeat barbarians but that reduces the moral case for the Iraq War to dust.

Today Peter Beaumont writes on Iraq,
...when things sometimes became too embarrassing – too obvious – a local police chief implicated in killings might be removed or officials at the ministry re-organised. But the murder continued.There was a new excuse: the police had been infiltrated by Shia extremists. Which was true, up to a point. Except it wasn't really infiltration, more of an alliance in many places: a coincidence of sectarian interest.
So the "liberal interventionist" case for Iraq has been disproved by the facts: the systemic collusion in torture represented by Frago 242 by which US troops were to allow Iraqi militias such as the Wolf Brigades to torture their enemies and ethnic cleansing tacitly permitted as the price of controlling Iraqi oil for which the war was fought.

Peter Bracken responded robotically,

Iraq is no longer under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam. The innocent life that has been lost since the occupation is due almost entirely to the campaign waged by Iraqi insurgents.

It is your suggestion (read the quote) that coalition forces are equivalent to Saddam's murderous regime that is the sad, despicable feature of this Wikileaks episode.

There are no "Iraqi insurgents" as such. They were Sunni or Shia insurgents as Iraq from the start of its creation was never more than an artificial state held together by the Baathists.

With the evidence that the US colluded with Shia militias infilitrating the police and partaking in Wolf Brigade practices of torture alongside Baathists, that means that relevant comparisons between before and after the invasion can me made.

The fragmentation of the Iraqi state and sectarian war as a consequence of the invasion was predictable before the invasion of 2003. Therefore the responsibility for the deaths is attributable to that invasion.

No invasion, then not hundreds of thousands of deaths. No collusion in torture by the US. And no collusion with the very Baathist operatives that sustained Saddam's brutal dictatorship.

Moreover, the loss of innocent life created by the Shia militias as well as the Baathists both before and after the "liberation" , including the murder of civilians, was rewarded by the US by co-opting them to serve the new regime.

...............................................................................................................................................................

All of the evidence coming from US war records now has failed to dissuade Peter Bracken, Nick Cohen or Christopher Hitchens who still bang on about Iraq as though it was a struggle for civilisation. Or as Hitchens put it in an interview rather feebly in an interview in May 2010

"Do I ask myself do I think our civilisation is superior to theirs? Yes, I do. Do I think it's worth fighting for? Most certainly."

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Even if It Wasn't True it Ought to Have Been.

Nick Cohen tries to re-establish his radical credentials by commenting on the greed of society, comparing the fuss of Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney's demand for an increase in pay to city fat cats who give themselves colossal salary rises and the morality of such people,
The rumour in Manchester is that Coleen Rooney wanted an audience with the Pope to ask what she should do about Wayne. It's one of those stories that journalists don't like to check too strenuously because even if it isn't true, it ought to be.
A bit like the idea that the invasion of Iraq was about a "humanitarian intervention" then. As far as Rooney is concerned he's an overpaid oaf and football long ceased to be a merely entertaining game but a crashingly boring form of bread and circuses for the masses.

The destruction of the game by greed and too much money is fairly obvious, rather like the greed for oil that motivated the invasion of Iraq and the debt fuelled financial crash of 2008 that has compounded the decline of the USA and Britain as their colossal deficits expanded.

Just to remember how misjudged Cohen's support for the Iraq War was, it needs to remembered what he wrote in The Times ( The Left betrays the Iraqi people by opposing war, Jan 14 2003 ).
The truth is that the overwhelming majority of Iraqi dissidents are an embarrassment to the Left. After enduring misery few of us can imagine, they have discovered that, without foreign intervention, their country won't be freed from a tyrant who matches Stalin in his success in liquidating domestic opponents. Only America can intervene. Therefore an American invasion offers the possibility of salvation.
The first prediction that only the US offered salvation looks perverse now in the light of the Wikileak evidence about the scale of US collusion with the torture imposed by Iraqi state authorities and the napalming of Fallujah in 2004.

The second prediction was the complete reverse of what actually happened.
The Iraqi opposition had a right to expect support. The alternative it offers to Saddam's secular tyranny is not Islamic theocracy. The INC and the London conference of exiles both want a democratic Iraq that gives a voice to the suppressed Shia; a federal Iraq that allows autonomy for the Kurdish minority; and a secular Iraq that can contain the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam.
It seems that much of Cohen's support for Iraq was a faux Orwell stance to establish his credibility as some "decent left" writer who wanted to 'rub the cat's fur backwards' as Orwell did with the pro-Soviet supporting left in the 1930s.

If so, he failed pitifully.
I hear that the peoples of Iraq will slaughter each other if Saddam goes; that any US-sponsored replacement will be worse. They may be right, although the second prediction will be hard to meet. What is repulsive is the sneaking feeling that they want the war to be long and a post-Saddam Iraq to be a bloody disaster. They would rather see millions suffer than be forced to reconsider their prejudices.
It was idiocy for Cohen to project on to all those who opposed the war in Iraq the mental vices of some cranks and trendy poseurs in the anti-war movement, even if it's true that some reflexively opposed the war simply through disliking the USA.

Yet when supporting a war on the scale of Iraq, it was incumbent upon those like Cohen to provide authoritative evidence that the war was being fought for the humanitarian reasons posited and whether it had a realistic chance of a stable outcome.

Cohen did not. One has the sneaking feeling Cohen did not give a fig about millions of Iraqis either but in scoring polemical points over his opponents and who expected to attach himself to the success of the US war to portray them as spineless and craven.

For few really take the Socialist Workers Party seriously. They latched on to the anti-war protests in order to channel them into permanent agitation and created RESPECT which failed to mobilise opinion on any long term basis.

Michael Klare on Oil, Iraq and US Foreign Policy

Today I bought Michael Klare's Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet about the potential for global resource wars over a diminishing supply of oil and gas and the inexorably rising demand from new emerging powers that control large supplies or else have entered the New Great Game to control states that have it.

Here in these videos Klare outlines the case he argued in Blood and Oil about the centrality of oil in the consumer economies of the Global North and its increased over dependence on supplies from unstable nations in the Global South. This accounts for the invasion of Iraq, to control the supply of oil and maintain US hegemony over the Persian Gulf.







The Centrality of Oil in the Decision to Invade Iraq in 2003.

The spurious notion that oil being a central objective in the invasion of Iraq was a "conspiracy theory"ought to refer only to those who have espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories-such as that Iraq was invaded to profit Halliburton and Cheney or else that 9/11 was a choreographed inside job to justify invading Afghanistan and Iraq.

Evidence is always important, despite most newspaper and TV news journalists failing to do their job by investigating the reality of what was at stake in Iraq .Explaining the reality of why Iraq was a resource war is not the same as offering arcane conspiracies. It was journalists that failed to correct the official version of events.

Indeed the absurd forms of conspiracy theory are not that much more absurd than the conspiracy of silence in much of the mainstream media about the central importance of oil, one admitted after the invasion by Paul Wolfowitz in Vanity Fair and who also in on record stating that WMD's were a pretext.

Wolfowitz stated,

The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason....

...there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two.

WMD were "the one issue that everyone could agree on" . By that Wolfowitz means that it was the one rationalisation that they would be able to sell as public diplomacy. He then later on a tour of Iraq claimed after the non-existence of WMD's was confirmed that it was now a "historical issue".

Neoconservatives and "liberal interventionists such as Thomas Friedmann expanded on Wolfowitz's portrayal of Iraq as an imminent threat to conflate terrorist threats from various regions in the Middle East with different causes into one seamless threat of which Saddam was just one part.

The issue of WMD's was a peripheral sideshow. The centrality of oil was revealed by Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve, who stated “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil” .

The evidence is clear from what the main architects said about the Iraq invasion themselves.

Wolfowitz claimed in Vanity Fair that the geopolitical objectives were about withdrawing from Saudi Arabia, removing Saddam, installing a democracy and thus inaugurating a domino process as other states would thus feel compellled by an upsurge of pro-democracy activism to want the same as Iraq.

That control of Iraqi oil was essential if the revenue was to flow into the new model states coffers made it crucial but the claim that this would amount to a foreign policy of enlightened self interest, as claimed by Niall Ferguson in Colossus, was mistaken. ( Ferguson , however, dismissed the oil motive as a "conspiracy theory" too ).

On the contrary, little thought about the post-invasion plans reflected less of a "mistake" but the utter ruthlessness of the Bush II regime. The Oil Ministry was protected along with the oil infrastructure. Yet little or no investment was made in civilian infrastructure. There was no interest in nation building.

As Condaleeza Rice put it, the American forces were not in Iraq to help make sure children got safely to school. So the humanitarian intervention argument or enlightened interest case that was fervently adhered to by those advocating regime change such as Nick Cohen and Christopher Hitchens was false.

The reason for the failure of any post-invasion aftermath was not incompetence so much as a fervent belief that creating a secular market democracy would necessarily create of itself the conditions to get oil flowing again for the mutually beneficial interest of the USA, UK and, so it was claimed, Iraq.

All evidence that pointed to the contrary was ignored, mostly because Bush and Blair were prepared to gamble on being able to control the oil, maintain Western hegemony against an energy hungry China that had been flexing its military power in the Pacific before Afghanistan and Iraq.

Cheney thus got a geologist Louis Christian to work on surveying other sites in the south of Iraq that were not as yet tapped. Fears that Iraqi oil's drilling components were failing apart ( and once they do completely the wells are lost forever as any oil geologist knows ), meant that it was ever more necessary to remove Saddam.

The reason Iraq's oil husbandry was poor and failing to yield enough oil for the future projected increase in energy predicted by Cheney's task force was that sanctions had prevented the components getting through. The sanctions were set to cripple Iraq's potential oil producing capacity.

Cheney's advocacy of the Iraq War did not lie in the simple hunger for the profit he would make from having Halliburton involved in the reconstruction of Iraq's oil infrastructure. Conspiracy theories and paranoid focus on hidden hands and profiteers are irrelevant. As an oilman he looked at the diminishing oil capacity.

David Strahan in his The Last Oil Shock outlined in detail the fact that the sanctions by banning "dual use" equipment meant crucial chemicals water pumps could not get through. Experts working such as Paul Wood reporting to the UN Security Council claimed that,

" A sharp increase in production would severely damage oil-containing rocks and pipeline systems, and would be against accepted principles of "good oilfield husbandry"
A second report claimed,

"Poor oilfield husbandry has already resulted in an irreversible reduction in the ultimate recovery of oil from individual reservoirs. Crisis management will continue to exacerbate the permanent loss of huge reserves of oil"
Cheney became aware that inaction would possibly lead to up to half of Iraq's recoverable oil being permanently lost and with Saudi Arabia becoming more unstable and a major financer of Islamist charities that funded terrorism, Iraq as the third largest oil producer was targeted for regime change.

This was nothing to do with WMD's as what capacity Saddam had had been destroyed in the First Gulf War in 1990-91. Condaleeza Rice admitted that in the early days of the Bush II administration but the tune changed by 2001 when sanctions were found to be damaging Iraq's oil capacity.

That was a concern not only to Cheney but also Rice who had served on the board of Chevron for a decade and whose oil production had slid by 1998 donwards in consecutive years. Blair, close to BP, was also concerned about North Sea Oil peaking in 1999 and impact of the 2000 Fuel Protest.

That dovetailed at the same time with a build up of ideological zeal from neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Richard Perle who supported the Project for the New American Century and coalesced around various think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute.

The oil objective was made clear in a PNAC open letter to President Clinton as early as 1998 which called for Saddam to be removed and conjectured that if Saddam acquired WMD's,

"the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil, will be put at risk"
The Cheney Energy Taskforce was convened expressly to look into the oil capacity of Iraq before 9/11 happened in February 2001 and which was found in some 39,000 disclosed documents, that they were forced to reveal under the FOI act, that some 36 energy representatives had lobbied for influence.

It was then that Louis Christian's geological map was revealed ( below ) with the new virgin oilfields in 9 slab blocks divided up the spoils amongst different oil companies from across the globe. The invasion of Iraq was not about benefiting US companies. It was to control Iraq and get supply increased.

At the Crawford Meeting in 2002 Bush and Blair had agreed to invade Iraq and had set up a permanent diplomatic liason team known as The US-UK Energy Dialogue which had as its main aim to get "energy security and diversity" and "mitigating the risks of increasing global reliance on Middle Eastern oil.

The next cliche that needs dispelling is Blair's contention before Iraq that

"If the oil had been our main concern we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It's not the oil that matters but the weapons".
Not only was the statement on WMD false but also the assumption that Saddam would trust the US.

Saddam was hardly going to strike a deal with the UK and US and had sanctions been lifted, then it was France, Russia and China that would benefit, not least as they had already had their major companies positioned to attain a stake in the 9 virgin oilfields. This is the cynical reason for why France's Chirac opposed the Iraq War.

The USA and UK were interested in invasion for geopolitical advantage, control and energy security and not profit. Oil would be an essential part of that strategy also as It would also allow US and UK companies to get a share of the oil contracts and reconstruction work. As Strahan put it, ( p 29 Last Oil Shock )

'for the US-UK axis the conundrum was this: Iraqi production could only be raised if sanctions were lifted, but lifting sanctions would benefit their international rivals. It followed that the only way to raise Iraqi output , fend off the global peak oil threat and keep some kind of US-UK stake in the new Iraqi production was to depose Saddam
This is precisely why Iraqi exiles such as Dr Salah al-Sheikhly of the Iraqi National Accord and Chalabi were positioned into power once regime change was successfully secured and who would then reward American and European lobby groups, those who had helped install their clients.

Yet overwhelmingly the objective of the invasion of Iraq was to maintain control over Iraqi oil as a lever in bargaining with emerging new power blocks that threatened the USA's global hegemony. Strahan cites a despatch from Washington from the US Embassy in 2002 ( p 30 ) ,'

The British strongly support this dialogue with the US and want to use it to leverage US and UK influence on energy issues in Russia, the Caspian, and the Middle East....Officials report that the Prime Minister's office request regular updates on the preparatory work'
By' preparatory work' is meant the invasion that it was hoped would raise Iraqi oil production twofold by 2010. That has not happened. But that has no bearing on the centrality of oil in the invasion, a fact borne out in Michael Klare's Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: How Scarce Energy is Creating a New World Order.

Klare emphasises the importance of strategic necessity in exercising ultimate control over Persian Gulf as "an American Lake" and preserving unhindered American access to petroleum supplies, something made explicit in the Carter Declaration of January 1980,

Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.
That was manifest in the decision to remove Saddam Hussein as well as the threats to Iran following the implosion of Iraq into sectarian conflict and the rise of Shia militias. Though Bush II's diplomacy was "catastrophic" according to Zbigniew Brzezinski, the strategic necessity of controlling the Persian Gulf unites leading figures both Republican and Democrat.

Indeed the last part of the Carter Declaration was worded by his National Security Adviser Brzezinski himself who opposed the invasion of Iraq as it would contradict the objective of controlling Afghanistan and isolating and encircling Iran as a priority, as well as getting the TAPI pipeline built.

This has represented a continuity dating back to 1979 when Brzezinski viewed Soviet Union's ambitions in the Middle East with distrust and reacted to the invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 and the Iranian Revolution with the foreign policy of controlling Central Asia and in the process the Middle East by hemming in Iran.

To that extent, Brzezinski's policy of funnelling aid to the mujahadeen to fight the Soviet Union, to give it its own Vietnam and thus brought about both the collapse of the Cold War enemy. This subsequently would open up oil and gas rich Central Asian republics to US influence but bring about the failed state of Afghanistan and the growth of Al Qaida.

Yet as in Iraq, so too Afghanistan can be seen to exhibit the same problems where the protection of pipelines again insurgents diverts colossal sums of money away from economic redevelopment and undermines the ostensible political goals of bringing freedom and democracy.

Klare writes of the continuing problem of guarding the oil, that the decision to create a navy "command and control facility" in 2007 on top of an offshore Iraqi oil platform in the Persian Gulf to protect vital oil-loading terminals was,

"an unambiguous signal that the United States intends to play a direct role in defending Iraq's vulnerable oil infrastructure for years to come" ( p 188 )
The navy facility was designed with guard operations at two main terminals, Khawr Al Amaya and Al Basra which loads 2 million barrels of oil a day, some 2.4% of global demand. The USA retains some 4 of its existing mega-bases in Iraq to safeguard the oil for which the war was fought.

Bibliography.

David Strahan, The Last Oil Shock.

John Gray, Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions.

Michael Klare, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet.


Saturday, 23 October 2010

Iraq was an Oil Grab.

The Observer seems to specialise in sententious waffling editorials every Sunday. On the subject of the Iraq War, the editorial today opines,
There was no single reason why Britain and the US went to war in Iraq. The motives that inspired George W Bush and Tony Blair have been variously dissected, analysed and psychoanalysed. It is too early for history to have formed a settled view on the war, but the case that it was a monumental error gets ever more compelling.
There never is exactly just one reason why wars are fought. Yet that Iraq was an oil grab was clear at the time and even more so now. Leading establishment figures have admitted oil as the principle driving force. In 2001 Cheney set up an Energy Task Force to look into Iraq's reserves and got a geologist to work on it.

Iraq was invaded because of geostrategic desperation, the need to control some of the largest reserves in the world after the increasingly unstable Saudi Arabia and hostile Iran. By controlling Iraqi oil , the USA would have increased its hegemonic bargaining power vis a vis a rapidly industrialising and energy hungry China.

That it did not work out that way, which China taking over many of the Iraqi oil concessions as the chaos ensued and the US dollar stopped being the globe's strongest petrocurrency was made worse by the costs of invasion, did not invalidate the fact that the Bush II regime invaded Iraq for oil.

That was inherent in the way that in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, Iraq descended into anarchy and the treasures of the museum in Baghdad were looted whilst the Oil Ministry was secured along with the infrastructure. With regard the collapse of civilian infrastructure Donald Rumsfeld callously remarked that "Stuff happens"

Those who routinely denied oil as the key objective are not only deluded but are obfuscating the facts about the West's lethal over reliance upon petroleum in dangerous lands and that really needs discussion if civilisation is to continue. The invasion of Iraq was not a "mistake". It was an intentional resource war.


The Observer then has it that,
Most of the official justifications for war, on grounds of security from terror and weapons of mass destruction, have been discredited.
Well, it's a pity that loopholes in the official version and the spin that was used to justify going in to Iraq was not discredited by newspapers such as The Observer at the time of the invasion as opposed to actually supporting the Iraq War as a "humanitarian intervention". But that would mean doing some journalism of the investigative kind.

Iraq War Logs: The Humanitarian Catastrophe of the Iraq War.

The Wikileaks Iraq War Logs provide detailed confirmation about how the USA colluded with the Iraqi authorities in appalling crimes that were inherent in the ruthless way this war was conceived and executed, an invasion that reflected the "geostrategic desperation" of the USA and Britain in wanting control over Iraqi oil.

The fact that the USA and Britain failed to get that as China makes inroads in controlling Iraqi oil concessions simply shows the unintended consequences of Iraq, a war costing trillions of dollars which intensified the colossal debts of both nations, brought about overstretch and permanently damaged the standing of both powers across the globe.

The Guardian reported on the significance of the leaks that,
A grim picture of the US and Britain's legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.

Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.

The new logs detail how:

• US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.

• A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.

• More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.

The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent death.

This is the first draft of the history of the Second Gulf War's humanitarian impact. Those who supported this oil grab on the basis of a "humanitarian intervention" should have pause for thought. Yet those like Kingston University's Brian Brivati have fallen curiously silent. Christopher Hitchens has not written much on Iraq recently.


The Unspecial Relationship.

In the wake of the defence cuts and the reduction of British forces to a military auxiliary in the USA's grand strategy, it seems that a necessary revision of the cliches about the "special relationship" need to be revised is is long overdue. Dr Mark Almond in July 2010 wrote an interesting column in the Daily Mail ( It's Time to Hit America's Reset Button )

Pressing the 'reset button' has been President Barack Obama's favourite term for trying to restore relations with Russia since they got frosty again, Cold War-style, in the past few years. But Britain and the United States ought to be thinking about that reset button, too.

Since the Second World War, Britain's leaders have liked to think they enjoyed what Winston Churchill called a 'special relationship' with Washington. Even as Britain's status as global Number One disappeared, our leaders believed this country could 'punch above its weight' because American presidents would listen to Whitehall's wisdom.

But like all US presidents, Obama strokes the egos of foreign leaders by emphasising Washington's 'special friendship' for their country. Only the British think they are unique.

In fact, the relationship between Britain and America has often been astonishingly one-sided, as demonstrated after BP's huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Many in Britain were amazed by the ferocity of Obama's response and the xenophobic emphasis on the Britishness of BP, ignoring the fact that lax US environmental regulation and the American obsession with a right to cheap oil for their gas-guzzlers contributed to the disaster.

Although the consequences of BP's mess are bad for the United States, they are far worse for us. In many ways it is the British public, not BP, which is paying for the Gulf cleanup through tax write-offs and the collapse in its value to pension funds here. Now, having driven its share price to record lows, the US oil company Exxon Mobil has been given tacit approval by the Obama administration to make a bid for BP.

Coming at the same time as the rising casualty toll in Afghanistan, the combination of economic woe and military misadventure should make Whitehall rethink long decades of blindly standing by Washington.

In truth, this is not the first time America has sought to undermine Britain. Even before the Second World War had seemed to tie Britain and America together, Whitehall had responded to growing US power by pursuing a policy of appeasement, Britain's diplomats deciding America's ever greater global influence should be accommodated, even at the cost of our own interests.

At the end of the First World War, Washington made it plain that it did not like Britain's alliance with Japan. The Japanese had got uppity by demanding Americans publicly accept racial equality. At America's insistence, Britain snubbed Japan.

The Washington Naval Conference in 1921 is often heralded as a model of disarmament talks, but in reality it paved the way for the Second World War. Britain conceded naval equality to the United States, but since America did not act as an ally, the limits on the Royal Navy made it weaker as Japan, Italy and Germany rose as rivals. America was further away from these threats and left Britain to face them alone.

In the Twenties, American central bankers plotted to detach Commonwealth countries such as South Africa from the sterling area in a bid to weaken the pound and allow the dollar to become the dominant international currency. As Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1925, Churchill put Britain back on the gold standard to head off this threat, even though it plunged our export industries into depression and helped provoke the 1926 General Strike.

Britain was alone against Nazi Germany in 1940. It is true President Franklin Roosevelt arranged for military aid to be sent from America under the Lend-Lease agreement, but it came at a heavy price. In return for Britain handing over billions of dollars' worth of economic assets in the Americas, the United States sent military equipment and other supplies. It saved Britain's bacon, but when it was cut off the moment the war ended in 1945 it left this country without its traditional markets in the Western hemisphere. US companies now dominated what had once been the basis of Britain's balance of trade surplus.

America did not join the war until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and Hitler declared war on the United States. But Roosevelt made it clear America was not fighting to restore the British Empire. Behind Churchill's back Roosevelt used to joke to Stalin about him being an old imperialist. Until well into 1944, more British forces than Americans were fighting the Nazis.

The Second World War did produce a uniquely close relationship. Even today the British armed forces and intelligence services are embedded with their US partners. But the balance of power in the alliance has shifted decisively. From Britain's sacrifice of its nuclear know-how to help produce an American-owned atomic bomb in 1945 to the subordination of our unique code-breaking skills to the US National Security Agency, this country gave as much to make America a superpower as it got back from the alliance.

When British interests clashed with US ones, Washington had no problem in torpedoing them. In 1956, President Eisenhower was right about Suez but the price of failure was paid by Britain. Fifty years later, Tony Blair and the whole Establishment failed us and ordinary Americans by backing George Bush even though MI6 had sources inside Iraq saying Saddam had no WMDs.

Getting realistic about this country's relationship with Washington does not mean swinging wildly to Cubanstyle anti-Yankee hostility, but unless Britain's leaders pay more than lip service to Britain's national interests, a combination of economic hits and costly wars originating on the other side of the Atlantic could poison the alliance.

Dropping the phrase 'special relationship' is not enough. It would be healthier on both sides of the Atlantic to recognise those things we really do have in common. Honest disagreement among friends is a better basis for stability. A partnership of unequals cannot be securely based on illusions, however comforting.

"Dread juggernaut of conflict with Iran is drawing closer"

Simon Tisdall, one of the Guardian's foreign affairs columnists, writes,
The US is quietly ratcheting up economic and financial pressure on Iran amid signs that talks about Tehran's suspect nuclear programme could resume next month. These two developments may be connected. But neither sanctions nor diplomacy can wholly obviate the dread possibility of military confrontation unless something fundamental changes soon at the heart of Iran's fundamentalist regime.
The USA would be crazy to think of launching a military attack on Iran. Even if Iran were to get a nuclear missile, the driving force of the US foreign policy of isolating and encircling Iran for geopolitical hegemony and energy security, exists independently of Tehran actually having nuclear weapons.

But the need for change lies not merely in Iran.


There needs to be a fundamental change in the West's over dependence upon oil and gas. To merely shift the responsibility for the aggression on to Iran only and to totally screen out what the USA wants in ramping up tensions with Tehran.


Indeed the USA and Britain's is fighting in Afghanistan is to get a rival TAPI pipeline to the Iranian IPI scheme. The US is not keen on Iran having any nuclear capacity for civilian use either, as that would mean the greater use of gas and oil as levers over neighbouring states like Turkey.


Moreover, US bases under the auspices of Centcom ( Central Command ) set up under Reagan do encircle Iran from all sides. The reason is to enforce The Carter Doctrine of 1980-that any threat to supplies of oil and gas would be considered a threat to national security and the USA's vital interests.


Ultimately, with Iraq having been invaded on the pretext of having non-existent Weapons of Mass destruction there would seem to be some logic in Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb given the threat the USA is seen to pose. The squeeze on Iran would exist independent of the particular government it has, crudely depicted as a some totalitarian theocracy.


Indeed in 1952 the decision of the Mossadeq government to nationalise Iran's oil led to the USA blackballing Iran so that no oil could flow out and subsequently in 1953 the CIA orchestrated a coup that brought to power the Shah and his repressive police state. Which in turn then eventually led to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.


This current global situation with the dangerous colliding and clashing of strategic interests is increasingly similar to that which existed in the immediate run up to The First World War. There are numerous hotspots where ethnic and religious separatism interacts with a New Great Game for oil and gas that could trigger off global conflicts.


This is desperately worrying. Corelli Barnett summarised this in 2007 ( A War Too Far ),


To achieve its targets, the Pentagon would have to unleash waves of attacks by more than 100 aircraft on the 20 widely dispersed plants of the Iranian nuclear industry. Prolonged bombing of military bases, barracks and air-defence systems, many of them in or near great cities, would be needed. We saw it all before, in much smaller and less populated Iraq.


The loss of life among civilians would far exceed the 7000 slaughtered during the "shock and awe" blitz on Baghdad that heralded the invasion of Iraq. If the bombers struck an already "live" nuclear plant, the result would be another Chernobyl. In addition, such an onslaught would inevitably mean war.


And it would mean war with a nation of 70 million people -- 65 per cent of whom are under the age of 25 -- at a time when the combined might of American, British and other international armed forces have been unable to subdue a country with a population of no more than 27 million.


Iran is a mountainous country much bigger than Iraq or Afghanistan and extending from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, from Turkey to Afghanistan.


While the Iranian armed forces (including the 120,000 men of the Revolutionary Guards and the 200,000 in the Basij militia, all Islamic zealots) may be far inferior to the American forces in training and hi-tech weaponry, they fought a bloody war with Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army for six years -- proving that they are well able to take appalling attrition without buckling.


For them, every body bag contained a glorious martyr. No one should therefore underestimate Iran's capacity for prolonged resistance. War with Iran would be like Iraq plus Afghanistan multiplied by 10.


In a fresh demonstration of "asymmetrical warfare" (where the two sides are mismatched in their military capabilities), America's colossal firepower would be countered by guerilla ambush and terrorist bombings anywhere in the world where infuriated Muslims could inflict damage on the West.


Because of the connection between the Shias of Iran -- who make up 90 per cent of the population -- those of southern Iraq, and of Hezbollah in the Lebanon, the conflict would engulf the entire Middle East, from the Mediterranean coast to the borders of Pakistan and very probably sucking in the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia as well in reaction.


What's more, such a conflict would inflict terrible damage on the global economy because of its impact on oil supplies from the Persian Gulf.


It would be all too easy for Iranian suicide speedboats to make the narrow Straits of Hormuz too hazardous for the passage of the giant tankers on which the industrialised "First World" (now including China) depends. It would be all too tempting for the US Navy to try to clear that passage by force.


In short, an attack on Iran would effectively launch World War III.


The chilling reality is that such wars seem increasingly likely due to the lethal reliance of diminishing fossil fuels in dangerous far off lands, the contradiction between the West's need for stable or falling oil prices and the need in Iran and other Islamic nations for rising prices to stave off discontent.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Why John Gray is the Best Political Philosopher in Britain Today

Yet again Professor John Gray has hit the nail of the head in a brilliant piece for The Guardian in which he outlines what is at stake with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's slash and burn neoliberal economics.

It's short, pungent and to the point. Here it is,

Supporters and opponents of George's Osborne's cuts are comparing the changes with those made by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. But there are very few similarities. To begin with, Thatcher's cuts were on a far smaller scale.

Government spending during her years as prime minister rose by more than 1% a year, on average, and while the retrenchment imposed in Geoffrey Howe's historic 1981 budget was real enough it did not impose massive redundancies on the public sector.

Thatcher held back from any attack on the welfare state and by the time she was toppled, after 11 years as prime minister, government was much the same size as it was when she took up the role.

Just as important, the world economy was a lot less fragile. The oil shocks of the 1970s had left a legacy of "stagflation" but there was nothing like the credit crisis we now see. Thatcher's austerity programme had clear costs and risks, not least of social dislocation and civil unrest. But her's was far less of a gamble than Osborne's cuts.

Not only will the impact of the new chancellor's cuts be much greater, in addition their deflationary effect could easily be magnified by a downturn in the US, Europe or China.

In an economy as heavily exposed to the uncertainties of global markets as Britain's is today, it makes no sense to try to build neo-liberalism in one country. Yet something like that seems to be the coalition's aim.

A big difference between the 1980s and the present is in the rhetoric. Aside from a toe-curling speech citing Francis of Assisi, which she made on first entering Downing Street, Thatcher was overtly confrontational in her public statements, more so, in fact, than her policies warranted.

Cameron is the reverse, constantly wittering on about a fictitious "big society" while inflicting a larger shock on existing social relationships. Even Osborne finds it necessary to combine his customary sneer with an occasional hypocritical bow to fairness.

The paradox of the current cuts is that, despite Thatcher's inflammatory language, her policies were usually tempered by pragmatism, whereas the mawkish rhetoric of the coalition conceals a more doctrinally rigid turn of mind.

Whether you think Thatcher's cuts were a disaster or believe they were mostly a necessary response to Britain's near-collapse in the 70s, the fact remains that they installed a settlement that has lasted for nearly 30 years.

By contrast, the coalition's cuts look more like the short-lived bravado of the early Edward Heath. In an interview yesterday on Radio 4's Today programme, Osborne intimated that if the economy did not recover he would turn to the Bank of England for another round of QE – an electronic version of the Heath government's money printing, which led to such high inflation in the 70s.

Unwittingly, Osborne has forecast the almost inevitable upshot of these cuts. Clearly, he imagines he is bringing about the rollback of the state that Thatcher failed to achieve. But what he is enacting is the grand finale of the Thatcher era.
John Gray understands without illusions the true scale of the potential problems ahead for Britain. Those who call themselves Tories fail to grasp that Gray is a conservative. But he is not a neo-liberal and dislikes fanatical ideological schemes to remake the world. As a pragmatist and a realist he knows just what is at stake.

Moreover, those who have bothered to read what he was writing when Blair was in power will know that he was critical of New Labour ramping up debt fuelled consumerism. He predicted the coming crash.

Look at what he wrote in the New Statesman in 2005.
The denial of awkward facts is pervasive in British life, and is shown in the failure to address rising levels of debt. One of the paradoxes of Labour's embrace of neo-Thatcherite orthodoxy on the virtues of old-fashioned public finance is that it has gone hand in hand with the encouragement of a post-modern culture of reckless private borrowing.

A considerable part of the general prosperity of the Blair era has been fuelled by credit-card debt and home-equity release, and a "live today, pay tomorrow" mentality has become deeply ingrained. For many people - including students paying their way through university - debt has become a necessity, but for many others it has become the means whereby a standard of living that cannot be justified in terms of earnings is kept going on the never-never.

This carpe diem philosophy has been reinforced by the collapse of pensions. Old-style final-salary schemes are dying out in the private sector, and - though the government fell silent on its plans to scale them back in the run-up to the election - they are under attack in the public sector as well.

In these circumstances, planning for the future is a profitless exercise. Many people have decided simply not to bother about saving; they go on spending money they do not have, in the belief that ever-rising house prices or a resumption of inflation will bail them out of debts they cannot repay. For a large part of the population, avoiding thinking about the future is an integral part of their present quality of life.
Gray has not said that some means to remedy this problem are not needed. He has merely said that Osborne's neoliberal policies are ideological and risk plunging Britain into an even worse depression if the conditions for a return to growth are not met and this looks unlikely in the given circumstances.

As a conservative myself ( though long disillusioned with the Conservative Party ) , I find Gray to be the best political thinker in Britain today. Those who jump to conclusions with banal partisan zeal ought to look more closely at what Britain's best political philosopher has continually written.