Iraq parliament calls for US forces to leave

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MEMO | November 10, 2018

Iraqi MP Ahmed Al Asadi, senior leader of the Iraqi Construction Alliance [File photo]

Iraqi MP Ahmad Al-Assadi, senior leader of the Iraqi Construction Alliance, revealed on Friday parliamentarian moves to pressure the Iraqi government to evict US forces from the country.

Al-Assadi said that the previous Iraqi parliament had started the calls, but now the new parliament was calling for a clear timetable for the US withdrawal from Iraq, Arabi21 reported. He added that US forces had entered the country at the request of the Iraqi government for training purposes and assistance in fighting Daesh.

Yet Al-Assadi stressed that: “After the big victory against these gangs [Daesh], the Iraqi government has the right to evaluate the need for American forces to remain on Iraqi soil”. He also said that the calls for US forces to leave would be doubled during the next parliamentary term, noting that the parliament was likely to accept the existence of advisors and trainers based only on the need specified by the authorities.

Regarding the position of the government, Al-Assadi said: “The government has the right to estimate its need for advisors and trainers. The parliamentary discussions, which called for revealing the number, places and need for the American forces were not closed”.

He stressed however that the parliament is entitled to make the final decision regarding whether US forces remain in Iraq or are asked to withdraw.

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US Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan Killed 500,000 People

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Over 60,000 US troops either killed or wounded in conflicts

Jason Ditz

Brown University has released a new study on the cost in lives of America’s Post-9/11 Wars, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The study estimates between 480,000 and 507,000 people were killed in the course of the three conflicts.

This includes combatant deaths and civilian deaths in fighting and war violence. Civilians make up over half of the roughly 500,000 killed, with both opposition fighters and US-backed foreign military forces each sustaining in excess of 100,000 deaths as well.

This is admittedly a dramatic under-report of people killed in the wars, as it only attempts to calculate those killed directly in war violence, and not the massive number of others civilians who died from infrastructure damage or other indirect results of the wars. The list also excludes the US war in Syria, which itself stakes claims to another 500,000 killed since 2011.

The report also notes that over 60,000 US troops were either killed or wounded in the course of the wars. This includes 6,951 US military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.

The Brown study also faults the US for having done very little in the last 17 years to provide transparency to the country about the scope of the conflicts, concluding that they are “inhibited by governments determined to paint a rosy picture of perfect execution and progress.”

Those wishing to read the full Brown University study can find a PDF version here.

السلطة الفلسطينية أمام التاريخ.. الالتباسات اللغوية ممنوعة!!

أكتوبر 30, 2018

د. وفيق إبراهيم

هذه المرحلة التاريخية لا تسمح بالفرار نحو منفرجات اللغة وكمائنها.. فلا تصدر موقفاً يحتمل السلب والإيجاب مع الكثير من أدوات الشرط.

هناك سقوط عربي شبه كامل في أحضان «إسرائيل» بضغط أميركي وعلى حساب الإلغاء الكامل لقضية فلسطين التاريخية، فتصبح بناء عليه، مجرد أرض ميعاد يعود اليها اليهود مؤسسين عليها دولتهم.. مقابل بحث أميركي وخليجي عربي من أهل الانحطاط، عن أماكن في دول عربية وأجنبية، تقبل بتوطين فلسطينيي الداخل والخارج.. وبذلك ننتهي من الصراع العربي ـ الإسرائيلي الذي تحوّل بعد انتصار «إسرائيل» صراعاً فلسطينياً ـ إسرائيلياً بدعم لغوي عربي.

الى أن انتهى حتى هذا النوع من الدعم الخطابي، بتبني وضعية جديدة تصبح فيها «إسرائيل» عضواً أساسياً في جامعة الدول العربية.. لذلك بدأ بعض العرب والمسلمين يفهمون الآن أسرار العداء العربي الخليجي لإيران وحزب الله. بما هما آليتان مجاهدتان ترفضان الاعتراف بالكيان الإسرائيلي الغاصب بديلاً من فلسطين 1967 والتاريخية، وهما أيضاً آخر مَنْ يُصرّ على تحرير فلسطين. ويكتشفون ايضاً أنّ ما أسماه عرب الانحطاط مشروعاً إيرانياً مجوسياً ليس إلا محاولة لإعفاء كلّ مَن يفكر بفلسطين وأهلها.. يكفي أنّ هؤلاء المتخاذلين يستهدفون حزب الله بفبركة اتهامات له بالإرهاب منذ ثلاثة عقود متواصلة، مُسقِطين كلّ أنواع الحياء حتى القليل منه، وذلك بوضع حزب الله على لوائح الإرهاب وهو الذي يقاتل الإرهاب بشراسة الشجعان في ميادين سورية، حتى أصبح نموذجاً يُحتذى به في ميادين اليمن والعراق وأنحاء كثيرة.

إنّ ما يفعله عرب الخليج اليوم لهو أخطر من وعد بلفور 1917 الذي أدّى إلى تبرير سيطرة اليهود على ثلاثة أرباع فلسطين بالقوة المسلحة.

وإذا كان وعد بلفور يسمح لشتات اليهود في العالم بالاستيلاء على معظم فلسطين في خمسين عاماً، 1917 ـ 1967 من نكسة بلفور إلى نكسة الحرب فإن ما يجري ينقُلُ «إسرائيل» من وضعية دولة في الشرق الأوسط الى مستوى دولة تقود العالم العربي.. وكيف لا تفعل وهناك خليج متواطئ إلى درجة إنكار عروبته وسودان مستعدّ لبيع آخر ثباته حتى يبقى عمر البشير رئيساً ومقرّباً له علاقات عميقة مع «إسرائيل» منذ تأسيسها.

أما مصر فَمُطَبّعةٌ مع العدو منذ السادات الذي أساء الى الصراع العربي ـ الإسرائيلي مسدّداً له ضربة قاتلة بصلح كامب ديفيد 1979 ـ لعلّ أقدر نتائج هذا الصلح انه أخرج مصر من الصراع العربي ـ الإسرائيلي من جهة مؤدّياً الى إضعاف مصر وإلغاء دورها من جهة ثانية.

وكذلك الأردن الذي انتقل من الصلح مع «إسرائيل» إلى التحالف العميق معها عسكرياً واقتصادياً.. لكنه يخشى من توطين فلسطينيّي الضفة والداخل 48 في أراضيه.. فيصبح الأردن وطناً بديلاً للفلسطينيين حسب مقتضيات المشروع الإسرائيلي الفعلي.

هل يمكن هنا نسيان السلطة الفلسطينية التي تبحث عن اتفاق فلسطيني ـ إسرائيلي أوسلو . لذلك فهذه عملية تطبيع على أساس اعتراف السلطة بإسرائيلية معظم فلسطين باستثناء الضفة الغربية وغزة عند الحدود التي كانتا عليهما في 1967 والقدس الشرقية عاصمة لهم.

لقد اعترف فلسطينيو السلطة بهذا الاتفاق ونفذوه، لكن «إسرائيل» اخترقته بتوطين يهود على نحو 30 في المئة من الضفة والتهام كامل القدس والتضييق على غزة.. وأصرّت على «يهودية» دولتها بما يدفع تلقائياً إلى طرد مليون ونصف المليون فلسطيني يعيشون في أراضي 1948 ـ أراضيهم التاريخية.

بذلك يزداد عدد المطبّعِين من مصر والأردن والسلطة وعُمان والسعودية والإمارات والبحرين والسودان والمغرب ومعظم العالم الإسلامي باستثناء إيران.

إنّ من يُمكنُ المراهنة عليه اليوم في ردع الاستسلام الكامل هي سلسلة دول معظمها مصاب بأزمات كبيرة لكنها ترفض الاستسلام للكيان الغاصب.

تمثل سورية رأس لائحة المجاهدين.. لديها حروب تاريخية مع الكيان الغاصب منذ ثلاثينيات القرن، عندما كان يذهب متطوّعون سوريون لقتال الميليشيات الصهيونية المغطاة من الاحتلال البريطاني على أراضي فلسطين.. ولا تزال سورية البلد الوحيد بين الدول المحاذية لفلسطين التي لم توقع على اتفاقية سلام مع «إسرائيل».

وتلقت 220 غارة إسرائيلية على مراكز جيشها السوري.. ولم تأبه او تستسلم للغايات الإسرائيلية الحقيقية وهي الصلح مع «إسرائيل».

وفي جذبها للاعتراف بـ »إسرائيل» على حساب فلسطين التي تشكل تاريخياً جزءاً بنيوياً من بلاد الشام.

أيّ أنه كان مطلوباً من سورية أن تتنازل عن «سوريّة» فلسطين وعروبتها وقداستها المسيحية والإسلامية في آن معاً.

العراق بدوره المنغمس وطنياً في قضية فلسطين لم يقترب من أيّ تطبيع مُصرّاً على أنّ «إسرائيل» عدوّ أساسي للعرب. لكن أرض الرافدين أنهكها الأميركيون باحتلال مباشر ودعم للإرهاب وإطلاق صراعات عرقية ودينية فيها.. ما أدّى إلى استنزاف امكانات هذا البلد القوي.. لكنه على المستوى السياسي لا يزال يعتبر فلسطين أرضاً عربية كاملة غير قابلة للمساومة.

يمكن أيضاً المراهنة على الجزائر الرافضة كلّ أنواع التطبيع والداعمة لحركات المقاومة الفلسطينية حتى الآن.. هذا بالإضافة إلى اليمن الذي لا يزال أنصار الله فيه يرون أنّ المؤامرة بدأت بفلسطين وتواصل انتشارها من خلال الأدوات «الإسرائيلية» في الخليج.

تشكل هذه الدول المذكورة أكثر من النصف الفاعل من العرب، ما يعني أنّ صفقة القرن التي انكسرت في الميدانين السوري والعراقي، يحاول الأميركيون تمريرها مجدّداً من خلال دول الخليج المتهاوية في مشاريعها الخاسرة في سورية والعراق واليمن ولبنان، وتحاول إعادة كسب الأميركيين بواسطة التحوّل أدوات للترويج لصفقة القرن بين العرب و»إسرائيل» وتبنيها على كلّ المستويات تمهيداً لإنشاء حلف عربي ـ إسرائيلي في مواجهة إيران وحزب الله.. فهم يتهمون الحزب ليس بالإرهاب فقط بل بالسيطرة «المعقولة» على لبنان.

فهل بإمكان السلطة الفلسطينية الإسهام في تدمير صفقة القرن؟ لا شك في أنّ لديها مصلحة بحماية سلطتها.. المهدّدة من قبل «إسرائيل» ووطنها في الضفة وغزة عند حدود 67 وتاريخها على تراب فلسطين المحتلة.. وأيّ خيار تتبنّاه يعني ضرورة مجابهة صفقة القرن.. إنما كيف وهي التي تمتلك إمكانات متواضعة والكثير من الألاعيب اللغوية..

يكفي أن تنظم السلطة مؤتمراً صحافياً مع كامل تنوّعات المقاومة في غزة والضفة ودول الشتات، تطالب فيه من العالم العربي حماية فلسطين العربية والمسيحية والإسلامية من خطر الاندثار نهائياً. وتصرّ على دول الخليج لوقف تراجعاتها وتستنهض العالم الإسلامي وأوروبا والصين وروسيا والفاتيكان والأزهر والكنائس الأرثوذكسية والمعابد البوذية، لمنع إلغاء فلسطين، كما تلجأ إلى خطوات عملية أهمّها قطع العلاقات مع «إسرائيل» وتجميدها مع واشنطن حتى تصحيح الخطأ وإعادة الضفة وغزة إلى حضن دولة واسعة على حدود 67 ولا تتنازل عن باقي فلسطين التاريخية.

هذا هو الحدّ الأدنى المطلوب لوقف إلغاء فلسطين. فهل تتجرأ السلطة على ذلك؟!

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Why American Leaders Persist in Waging Losing Wars

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By William J. Astore
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As America enters the 18th year of its war in Afghanistan and its 16th in Iraq, the war on terror continues in Yemen, Syria, and parts of Africa, including Libya, Niger, and Somalia. Meanwhile, the Trump administration threatens yet more war, this time with Iran. (And given these last years, just how do you imagine that’s likely to turn out?) Honestly, isn’t it time Americans gave a little more thought to why their leaders persist in waging losing wars across significant parts of the planet?  So consider the rest of this piece my attempt to do just that.

Let’s face it: profits and power should be classified as perennial reasons why U.S. leaders persist in waging such conflicts. War may be a racket, as General Smedley Butler claimed long ago, but who cares these days since business is booming? And let’s add to such profits a few other all-American motivations. Start with the fact that, in some curious sense, war is in the American bloodstream. As former New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges once put it, “War is a force that gives us meaning.” Historically, we Americans are a violent people who have invested much in a self-image of toughness now being displayed across the “global battlespace.” (Hence all the talk in this country not about our soldiers but about our “warriors.”) As the bumper stickers I see regularly where I live say: “God, guns, & guts made America free.” To make the world freer, why not export all three?

Add in, as well, the issue of political credibility. No president wants to appear weak and in the United States of the last many decades, pulling back from a war has been the definition of weakness. No one — certainly not Donald Trump — wants to be known as the president who “lost” Afghanistan or Iraq. As was true of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the Vietnam years, so in this century fear of electoral defeat has helped prolong the country’s hopeless wars. Generals, too, have their own fears of defeat, fears that drive them to escalate conflicts (call it the urge to surge) and even to advocate for the use of nuclear weapons, as General William Westmoreland did in 1968 during the Vietnam War.

Washington’s own deeply embedded illusions and deceptions also serve to generate and perpetuate its wars. Lauding our troops as “freedom fighters” for peace and prosperity, presidents like George W. Bush have waged a set of brutal wars in the name of spreading democracy and a better way of life. The trouble is: incessant war doesn’t spread democracy — though in the twenty-first century we’ve learned that it does spread terror groups — it kills it. At the same time, our leaders, military and civilian, have given us a false picture of the nature of the wars they’re fighting. They continue to present the U.S. military and its vaunted “smart” weaponry as a precision surgical instrument capable of targeting and destroying the cancer of terrorism, especially of the radical Islamic variety. Despite the hoopla about them, however, those precision instruments of war turn out to be blunt indeed, leading to the widespread killing of innocents, the massive displacement of people across America’s war zones, and floods of refugees who have, in turn, helped spark the rise of the populist right in lands otherwise still at peace.

Lurking behind the incessant warfare of this century is another belief, particularly ascendant in the Trump White House: that big militaries and expensive weaponry represent “investments” in a better future — as if the Pentagon were the Bank of America or Wall Street. Steroidal military spending continues to be sold as a key to creating jobs and maintaining America’s competitive edge, as if war were America’s primary business. (And perhaps it is!)

Those who facilitate enormous military budgets and frequent conflicts abroad still earn special praise here. Consider, for example, Senator John McCain’s rapturous final sendoff, including the way arms maker Lockheed Martin lauded him as an American hero supposedly tough and demanding when it came to military contractors. (And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.)

Put all of this together and what you’re likely to come up with is the American version of George Orwell’s famed formulation in his novel 1984: “war is peace.”

The War the Pentagon Knew How to Win

Twenty years ago, when I was a major on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, a major concern was the possible corroding of civil-military relations – in particular, a growing gap between the military and the civilians who were supposed to control them. I’m a clipper of newspaper articles and I saved some from that long-gone era. “Sharp divergence found in views of military and civilians,” reported the New York Times in September 1999. “Civilians, military seen growing apart,” noted the Washington Post a month later. Such pieces were picking up on trends already noted by distinguished military commentators like Thomas Ricks and Richard Kohn. In July 1997, for instance, Ricks had written an influential Atlantic article, “The Widening Gap between the Military and Society.” In 1999, Kohn gave a lecture at the Air Force Academy titled “The Erosion of Civilian Control of the Military in the United States Today.”

A generation ago, such commentators worried that the all-volunteer military was becoming an increasingly conservative and partisan institution filled with generals and admirals contemptuous of civilians, notably then-President Bill Clinton. At the time, according to one study, 64% of military officers identified as Republicans, only 8% as Democrats and, when it came to the highest levels of command, that figure for Republicans was in the stratosphere, approaching 90%. Kohn quoted a West Point graduate as saying, “We’re in danger of developing our own in-house Soviet-style military, one in which if you’re not in ‘the party,’ you don’t get ahead.” In a similar fashion, 67% of military officers self-identified as politically conservative, only 4% as liberal.

In a 1998 article for the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, Ricks noted that “the ratio of conservatives to liberals in the military” had gone from “about 4 to 1 in 1976, which is about where I would expect a culturally conservative, hierarchical institution like the U.S. military to be, to 23 to 1 in 1996.” This “creeping politicization of the officer corps,” Ricks concluded, was creating a less professional military, one in the process of becoming “its own interest group.” That could lead, he cautioned, to an erosion of military effectiveness if officers were promoted based on their political leanings rather than their combat skills.

How has the civil-military relationship changed in the last two decades? Despite bending on social issues (gays in the military, women in more combat roles), today’s military is arguably neither more liberal nor less partisan than it was in the Clinton years. It certainly hasn’t returned to its citizen-soldier roots via a draft. Change, if it’s come, has been on the civilian side of the divide as Americans have grown both more militarized and more partisan (without any greater urge to sign up and serve). In this century, the civil-military divide of a generation ago has been bridged by endless celebrations of that military as “the best of us” (as Vice President Mike Pence recently put it).

Such expressions, now commonplace, of boundless faith in and thankfulness for the military are undoubtedly driven in part by guilt over neither serving, nor undoubtedly even truly caring. Typically, Pence didn’t serve and neither did Donald Trump (those pesky “heel spurs”). As retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich put it in 2007: “To assuage uneasy consciences, the many who do not serve [in the all-volunteer military] proclaim their high regard for the few who do. This has vaulted America’s fighting men and women to the top of the nation’s moral hierarchy. The character and charisma long ago associated with the pioneer or the small farmer — or carried in the 1960s by Dr. King and the civil-rights movement — has now come to rest upon the soldier.” This elevation of “our” troops as America’s moral heroes feeds a Pentagon imperative that seeks to isolate the military from criticism and its commanders from accountability for wars gone horribly wrong.

Paradoxically, Americans have become both too detached from their military and too deferential to it. We now love to applaud that military, which, the pollsters tell us, enjoys a significantly higher degree of trust and approval from the public than the presidency, Congress, the media, the Catholic church, or the Supreme Court. What that military needs, however, in this era of endless war is not loud cheers, but tough love.

As a retired military man, I do think our troops deserve a measure of esteem. There’s a selfless ethic to the military that should seem admirable in this age of selfies and selfishness. That said, the military does not deserve the deference of the present moment, nor the constant adulation it gets in endless ceremonies at any ballpark or sporting arena. Indeed, deference and adulation, the balm of military dictatorships, should be poison to the military of a democracy.

With U.S. forces endlessly fighting ill-begotten wars, whether in Vietnam in the 1960s or in Iraq and Afghanistan four decades later, it’s easy to lose sight of where the Pentagon continues to maintain a truly winning record: right here in the U.S.A. Today, whatever’s happening on the country’s distant battlefields, the idea that ever more inflated military spending is an investment in making America great again reigns supreme – as it has, with little interruption, since the 1980s and the era of President Ronald Reagan.

The military’s purpose should be, as Richard Kohn put it long ago, “to defend society, not to define it. The latter is militarism.” With that in mind, think of the way various retired military men lined up behind Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016, including a classically unhinged performance by retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (he of the “lock her up” chants) for Trump at the Republican convention and a shout-out of a speech by retired General John Allen for Clinton at the Democratic one. America’s presidential candidates, it seemed, needed to be anointed by retired generals, setting a dangerous precedent for future civil-military relations.

A Letter From My Senator

A few months back, I wrote a note to one of my senators to complain about America’s endless wars and received a signed reply via email. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that it was a canned response, but no less telling for that. My senator began by praising American troops as “tough, smart, and courageous, and they make huge sacrifices to keep our families safe. We owe them all a true debt of gratitude for their service.” OK, I got an instant warm and fuzzy feeling, but seeking applause wasn’t exactly the purpose of my note.

My senator then expressed support for counter-terror operations, for, that is, “conducting limited, targeted operations designed to deter violent extremists that pose a credible threat to America’s national security, including al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), localized extremist groups, and homegrown terrorists.” My senator then added a caveat, suggesting that the military should obey “the law of armed conflict” and that the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) that Congress hastily approved in the aftermath of 9/11 should not be interpreted as an “open-ended mandate” for perpetual war.

Finally, my senator voiced support for diplomacy as well as military action, writing, “I believe that our foreign policy should be smart, tough, and pragmatic, using every tool in the toolbox — including defense, diplomacy, and development – to advance U.S. security and economic interests around the world.” The conclusion: “robust” diplomacy must be combined with a “strong” military.

Now, can you guess the name and party affiliation of that senator? Could it have been Lindsey Graham or Jeff Flake, Republicans who favor a beyond-strong military and endlessly aggressive counter-terror operations? Of course, from that little critical comment on the AUMF, you’ve probably already figured out that my senator is a Democrat. But did you guess that my military-praising, counter-terror-waging representative was Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts?

Full disclosure: I like Warren and have made small contributions to her campaign. And her letter did stipulate that she believed “military action should always be a last resort.” Still, nowhere in it was there any critique of, or even passingly critical commentary about, the U.S. military, or the still-spreading war on terror, or the never-ending Afghan War, or the wastefulness of Pentagon spending, or the devastation wrought in these years by the last superpower on this planet. Everything was anodyne and safe — and this from a senator who’s been pilloried by the right as a flaming liberal and caricatured as yet another socialist out to destroy America.

I know what you’re thinking: What choice does Warren have but to play it safe? She can’t go on record criticizing the military. (She’s already gotten in enough trouble in my home state for daring to criticize the police.) If she doesn’t support a “strong” U.S. military presence globally, how could she remain a viable presidential candidate in 2020?

And I would agree with you, but with this little addendum: Isn’t that proof that the Pentagon has won its most important war, the one that captured – to steal a phrase from another losing war — the “hearts and minds” of America? In this country in 2018, as in 2017, 2016, and so on, the U.S. military and its leaders dictate what is acceptable for us to say and do when it comes to our prodigal pursuit of weapons and wars.

So, while it’s true that the military establishment failed to win those “hearts and minds” in Vietnam or more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, they sure as hell didn’t fail to win them here. In Homeland, U.S.A., in fact, victory has been achieved and, judging by the latest Pentagon budgets, it couldn’t be more overwhelming.

If you ask – and few Americans do these days – why this country’s losing wars persist, the answer should be, at least in part: because there’s no accountability. The losers in those wars have seized control of our national narrative. They now define how the military is seen (as an investment, a boon, a good and great thing); they now shape how we view our wars abroad (as regrettable perhaps, but necessary and also a sign of national toughness); they now assign all serious criticism of the Pentagon to what they might term the defeatist fringe.

In their hearts, America’s self-professed warriors know they’re right. But the wrongs they’ve committed, and continue to commit, in our name will not be truly righted until Americans begin to reject the madness of rampant militarism, bloated militaries, and endless wars.

Bush & Blair’s Iraq war was key that opened door to Syria’s current hell

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The ruins of buildings near the Clock Square in Raqqa, Syria, October 18, 2017 © Reuters / Erik De Castro

By John Wight
Source

As with the Vietnamese people, so with the Syrians. Their struggle against imperialism and hegemony has earned them a place at history’s table that can never be relinquished. Because, if you penetrate beyond the obfuscations peddled by Western ideologues, the conflict in Syria at its core has been anti-imperialist in character.

The hell visited on Syrian society has been in many respects a continuation of the hell visited on Iraq in 2003, after 13 years of sanctions had already killed two million of its people, including half a million children.

During this sanctions period, former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, in a rare moment of candor for a functionary of the empire, provided us with an invaluable insight into the pristine barbarism which lurks behind the mask of democracy and human rights that such people usually wear for the purposes of confusing the public mind as to who and what they truly are.

The interviewer, Lesley Stahl, put it to Albright that half a million Iraqi children had died due to the sanctions, and asked if she thought the price “is worth it.” Albright without hesitation answered Yes. “We think the price is worth it.

Getting to the grips with the beast of Western hegemony obligates us to grapple with the salient truth that Albright’s grotesque and perverse worldview, providing her with the ability to insouciantly account for the murder by sanctions of half a million Iraqi children, is the same worldview which drove the US war against Vietnam, that has underpinned the six decades of economic warfare against the Cuban people, the covert military interventions in South and Central America in the 1980s, support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan over the same period, and the ongoing effort to effect regime change in Venezuela.

It is also, be in no doubt, the thinking that informed the West’s approach to Libya in 2011 when the country’s difficulty presented itself as their opportunity.

In other words, it is the worldview of those so sick with the ideology of hegemony there is no monstrous act, no crime or slaughter that cannot be undertaken in its cause, necessitating the abstraction of millions of lives as mere flotsam and jetsam in order to justify their suffering as a “price worth paying.”

Returning to Iraq in 2003, the scourge of Salafi-jihadism that has scarred Syrian society was hatched in the course of that war, wherein ISIS (Islamic State) began life as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) under one Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. According to Stanford University, an institution not hitherto known to be a hotbed of pro-Assad sentiment, this particular history unfolded thus:

The Islamic State (IS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) is a Salafi-jihadist militant organization in Syria and Iraq whose goal is the establishment and expansion of a caliphate. The group has its origins in the early 2000s, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi began training extremist militants. The group was a major participant in the Iraqi insurgency during the American occupation, first under the name Jama’at al-Tawhid wa’al-Jihad and then, after swearing fealty to Al-Qaeda, as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

This reason why this trajectory is so important to reaffirm, and why it must detain us, is to emphasize that the roots of what later befell Syria were planted in Iraq by the US-led war unleashed there in 2003. Bush and Blair’s war was the key that unlocked the gates of hell out of which this medieval barbarism sprung to devastating effect. Those who believe otherwise, such as former US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, would do well to ponder that without Iraq being pushed into the abyss of societal collapse, carnage and resulting sectarian bloodletting, the Salafi-jihadism of al-Zarqawi et al would have been denied the conditions required to feed its growth and spread.

Washington not Damascus or Moscow created and incubated the Frankenstein’s Monster of ISIS, in the same laboratory of US imperialism in which the Khmer Rouge was created in the 1970s and Al-Qaeda in the 1980s.

What Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, Afghanistan in the 1980s, and Syria today have in common, of course, is Moscow’s stance. It is a matter of historical record that without Soviet (Russian) aid to the Vietnamese in the 1960s and 70s, they would not have prevailed, and it is likewise a matter of record that the grim fate to befall Afghanistan in the 1990s was predicated on the forced withdrawal of Soviet forces as the country began to flounder under the weight of the internal contradictions that were to lead to its demise.

Though the cost to the world of the end of the Soviet Union will never be compensated – measured not only in the medieval abyss into which Afghanistan was plunged, but also in the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the aforementioned decimation of Iraq – without Moscow’s recovery to the point of being able to intervene militarily in Syria in 2015, Damascus today would be occupying a place in the same graveyard.

Iran and Hezbollah have also played an indispensable role in the struggle for Syria’s survival, expending blood and treasure in the event, while the Syrian Arab Army’s sacrifice has been immeasurable.

The glorification of war and conflict, especially among those living safely many miles away from its horrors and brutality, conceals and sanitizes its bitter truths. Those who do glorify it, who view it in the manner of a parlor game, should take a moment to study and imbibe the words of Jeannette Rankin, who said: “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.”

The war in Syria confirms the abiding truth of those words when we take into account the mammoth destruction it has wrought, the tragic human cost, and how it has shaken Syrian society to the very limits of endurance. It means that while the country’s survival as an independent non-sectarian state may by now be certain, its ability to fully recover from the earthquake Rankin describes is something only time will tell.

But the fact that the country has managed to achieve its survival and, with it, the opportunity to recover, is predominately the achievement of the Syrian Arab Army, whose complexion is a microcosm of the very society and people it has defended – Sunnis, Shia, Druze, Christians, Alawites, etc.

Robert Fisk, whose reports from Syria since the conflict began have been indispensable in helping us navigate its trajectory, informs us that something of the order of 70-80,000 Syrian soldiers have perished. This constitutes a staggering toll in a country whose army stood at 220,000 at the start of the conflict. More crucially, it is a toll that could not possibly have been borne without the solid support of the Syrian people for the army and its government, led by President Bashar Assad, over these past eight years.

Idlib is now the last bastion of militant-held territory in the country and, though of course folly to count chickens, by all accounts events on the ground point inexorably to the complete liberation of the country sooner rather than later. Yet isn’t it an interesting study in the space that exists between the ideology and reality of Western hegemony and unipolarity that not one mainstream journalist has joined the obvious dots between ascribing rebel status to the assorted Salafi-jihadist groups whose conception of a society is a living hell, and the government and armed forces fighting to prevent it from coming into being.

This is never better illustrated than the fact that not one Western journalist denouncing the Syrian government and its motives during the war would have dared to set foot within so much as an inch of militant-held territory, knowing that if they did they would be peremptorily abducted, tortured and slaughtered.

In which direction Syria heads after the fighting ends is without reservation a matter for its people. It is hard to believe that it could hope to return to the status quo that existed before, though, not after the elemental suffering and sacrifice that has been endured and made by so many.

One thing that is quite certain: the nation and society that began life as a colonial construct has, over the course of the conflict, rallied at a seminal point in its history to assert the right never to be colonized by anyone again.

Insider Attacks. Blow-back From US Policy in the Greater Middle East

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He was shot in the back, the ultimate act of treachery. On September 3rd, a U.S Army sergeant major was killed by two Afghan police officers – the very people his unit, the new Security Force Assistance Brigade, was there to train. It was the second fatal “insider attack,” as such incidents are regularly called, this year and the 102nd since the start of the Afghan War 17 long years ago. Such attacks are sometimes termed “green-on-blue” incidents (in Army lingo, “green” forces are U.S. allies and “blue” forces Americans). For obvious reasons, they are highly destructive to the military mission of training and advising local military and security forces in Afghanistan. Such attacks, not surprisingly, sow distrust and fear, creating distance between Western troops and their supposed Afghan partners.

Reading about this latest tragic victim of Washington’s war in Afghanistan, the seventh American death this year and 2,416th since 2001, I got to thinking about those insider attacks and the bigger story that they embodied. Considered a certain way, U.S. policy across the Greater Middle East has, in fact, produced one insider attack after another.

Short-term thinking, expedience, and a lack of strategic caution (or direction) has led Washington to train, fund, and support group after group that, soon enough, turned its guns on American soldiers and civilians. It’s a long, sordid tale that stretches back decades – and one that, unlike the individual instances of treachery that kill or maim American servicemen, receives next to no attention. It’s worth thinking about, though, because if U.S. policies had been radically different, such green-on-blue incidents might never have occurred. So let’s consider the last decades of American war-making in the context of insider attacks.

The Ground Zero of Insider Attacks: Afghanistan (1979-present)

In 1979, the Washington foreign policy elite saw everything through the prism of a possible existential Cold War clash between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Such a focus tended to erase local context, nuance, and complexity, leading the U.S. to back a range of nefarious actors as long as they were allies in the struggle against communism.

So in December 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded neighboring Afghanistan, Washington knew just what to do. With the help of the Saudis and the Pakistanis, the CIA financed, trained, and armed –eventually with sophisticated anti-aircraft Stinger missiles, among other weapons – a range of anti-Soviet militias. And it worked! Eight years later, having suffered more than 10,000 combat deaths in its own version of Vietnam, the Red Army left Afghanistan in defeat (and, soon after, the Soviet Union itself imploded).

The problem was that many of those anti-Communist Afghans were also fiercely Islamist, often extreme in their views, and ultimately anti-Western as well as anti-Soviet – and among them, as you undoubtedly remember, was a youthful Saudi by the name of Osama bin Laden.

It was, then, an easy-to-overlook reality. After all, the Islamist mujahideen (as they were generally called) were astute enough to fight one enemy at a time and knew where their proverbial bread was being buttered. As long as the money and arms kept flowing in and the more immediate Soviet threat loomed, even the most extreme of them were willing to play nice with Americans. It was a marriage of convenience. Few in Washington bothered to ask what they would do with all those guns once the Soviets left town.

Recent scholarship and newly opened Russian archives suggest that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was driven as much by defensiveness and insecurity as by any notion of triumphal regional conquest. Despite the fears of officials in the administrations of presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, the Soviets never had the capacity or the intent to march through Afghanistan and seize the oil fields of the Persian Gulf. Like so much Cold War-era thinking, this was pure fantasy and the meddling that went with it anything but necessary.

After the Soviet exit, Afghanistan fell into a long period of chaos, as various mujahideen leaders became local warlords, fought with one another, and terrorized average Afghans. Frustrated by their venality, former mujahideen, aided by students radicalized in madrassas in Pakistani refugee camps (schools that had often been financed by America’s stalwart partner, Saudi Arabia), formed the Taliban movement. Many of its leaders and soldiers had once been funded and armed by the CIA. By 1996, it had swept to power in most of the country, implementing a reign of Islamist terror. Still, that movement was broadly popular in its early years for bringing order to chaos and misery.

And let’s not forget one other small but influential mujahideen group that the U.S. had backed: the “Afghan Arabs,” as they were called – fiercely Islamist foreigners who flocked to that country to fight the godless Soviets. The most notable among them was, of course, Osama bin Laden – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Bin Laden and other Afghan War veterans would form al-Qaeda, bomb American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, blow up the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, and take down the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. These, though, were only the most well known acts of those anti-Soviet war vets. Thousands of Afghan Arabs left that war zone and returned to their own countries with plenty of zeal and fight still in them. Those veterans would then form local terror organizations that would challenge or help destabilize secular governments in the Middle East and North Africa.

After 9/11, the question on many American minds was simple enough: “Why do they hate us?” Too few had the knowledge or the sense of history that might have led to far more relevant questions: How did the U.S. contribute to what happened and to what extent was it blowback from previous American operations? Unfortunately, few such questions were raised as the Bush administration headed into what would become a 17-year, still-spreading regional war not on a nation or even a set of nations, but on a tactic, “terror.”

Still, it’s worth reflecting on America’s complicity in its own 9/11 devastation. In a strange fashion, given Washington’s history in Afghanistan, 9/11 could be seen as the most devastating insider attack of all.

The Many Iraq Wars (1980-present)

The 2003 invasion of Iraq – Operation Iraqi Freedom as it was optimistically named – may go down as one of the more foolish wars in American history – and many of the attacks on U.S. troops that followed from it over the years might be considered green-on-blue ones. After all, Washington would, in the end, train and back so many diffuse groups that a number of the members of various terror and insurgent outfits were once on the U.S. payroll.

It began, of course, with Saddam Hussein, the brutal Iraqi dictator whom the American people would be assured (in 1990 and again in 2003) was the “next Hitler.” In the 1980s, however, the U.S. government had backed him in his invasion of Iran (then as now considered a mortal enemy) and the eight-year stalemated war that followed. The U.S. even gave his forces crucial targeting intelligence for the use of his chemical weapons against Iranian troop formations, embittering the Iranians for years to come.

The Reagan administration also took Iraq off the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror and even allowed the sale of components vital to Saddam’s production of those chemical weapons. Nearly a million people died in that grim war and then, just two years after it ended, the U.S. found that, for its efforts, Saddam would send his troops into neighboring Kuwait and threaten to roll over America’s key ally in the region (then as now), Saudi Arabia. That, of course, kicked off another major Iraqi conflagration, again involving Washington: the First Persian Gulf War.

At the end of that “victory,” President George H.W. Bush encouraged Iraq’s oppressed Shia and Kurdish populations to rise up and overthrow Saddam’s largely Sunni regime. And rebel they did until, bereft of the slightest meaningful support from Washington, they were defeated and massacred. More than a decade later, in 2003, when the U.S. again invaded Iraq – this time under the false pretense that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction – Americans were assured that most civilians (especially the embattled Shia majority) would cheer the arrival of Uncle Sam’s military machine.

In reality, it took less then a year for Shia militias to form and begin openly attacking U.S. troops (with a helping hand later from the Iranians, who had their own bitter American legacy to recall). You see, those Shia – unlike most Americans – still remembered how Washington had betrayed them in 1991 and so launched their own versions of insider attacks on U.S. soldiers.

However, from 2003 to 2007 (including the period when I served as part of the U.S. occupation force in Baghdad), the main threat came from Sunni insurgents. They were a diverse lot, including former Saddam loyalists and military officers (whom the U.S. had thrown out onto the street when it disbanded his army), Islamist jihadis, and Iraqi nationalists who simply opposed a foreign occupation of their country. As Iraq fell into chaos — I was there to see it happen — Washington turned to a ‘savior’ general, David Petraeus, armed with a plan to “surge” U.S. troops into key Sunni regions and lower the violence there before Democrats in Congress lost patience and started calling for an end to the American role in that country.

In the years that followed, the statistics seemed to vindicate the Petraeus “miracle.” Using divide-and-conquer tactics, he paid off the tribal leaders, who became known as the “Sunni Awakening” movement, to turn their guns on more Islamist-focused Sunni groups. Many of his new allies had only recently been insurgents with American blood on their hands.

Still, the gamble seemed to work – until it didn’t. In 2011, after the Obama administration withdrew most American troops from the country, the Shia-dominated (and U.S.-backed) government in Baghdad failed to continue to pay the “awakened” Sunnis or integrate them into the official security forces. I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Sunni grievances led to mass protests, which led to a Shia crackdown, which led to the explosion of a new insurgent terror group: the Islamic State, or ISIS, whose origins — talk about “insider” – can be traced back to the inspiration of al-Qaeda and to a group initially known as al-Qaeda in Iraq.

In fact, it was a dirty secret that many of the Awakening veterans either joined or tacitly supported ISIS in 2013 or thereafter, seeing that brutal group as the best bet for protecting Sunni power from Shia chauvinism and American deceit. Soon enough, the U.S. military was back in action (as it still is today) in response to ISIS conquests that included some of Iraq’s major cities. And if all of that doesn’t qualify as a tale of blowback, what does?

Yemen, Syria, and Beyond (2011-forever)

Syria is a humanitarian disaster area and no U.S. administration has demonstrated anything resembling a coherent or consistent strategy when it comes to that country. Torn between Iraq War fatigue and military overstretch, the Obama team waffled on what its policy there should even be and ultimately failed to achieve anything of substance — except to potentially sow the seeds for future insider attacks. Indeed, a paltry (yet startlingly expensive) CIA attempt to arm “moderate” rebels opposed to the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad turned out to be wholly counterproductive. Some of those arms were ultimately reported to have made their way into the hands of extremist groups like the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda franchise in Syria. In a situation where truth proved more farcical than fiction, the $500 million effort to train anti-ISIS rebels managed to train “four or five” of them, according to the top U.S. military commander overseeing the Syrian effort.

In Yemen, in a Saudi-led war in which the U.S. has been shamelessly complicit, a brutal bombing campaign waged largely against civilians and a blockade of rebel ports have undoubtedly sown the seeds for future insider attacks. Beyond the staggering humanitarian toll – a minimum of 10,000 civilian deaths, mass starvation, and the outbreak of the world’s worst cholera epidemic in modern memory –there is already strategic blowback that could harm future American security. As the U.S. military provides in-flight refueling of Saudi planes, smart bombs for them to drop, and vital intelligence, it is also undoubtedly helping its future enemies. The chaos, violence, and ungoverned spaces that war has created are, for instance, empowering the al-Qaeda franchise there, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the most active and dangerous jihadist crews around. When, however, AQAP inevitably succeeds in some future strike aimed at Americans or their property, precious few pundits and policymakers will call it by its proper name: an insider attack.

So, as we lament the death of yet another soldier in a green-on-blue strike in Afghanistan, it’s worth thinking about the broader contours of U.S. policy across the Greater Middle East and Africa in these years. Is anything the U.S. doing, anyone it is empowering or arming, likely to make the Middle East or America any safer? If not, wouldn’t a different, less interventionist approach be the essence of sober strategy?

It may, of course, be too late. Washington’s military policies since 9/11 have alienated tens of millions of Muslims across the Greater Middle East and elsewhere. Grievances are gestating, plots unfolding, and new terror outfits gaining recruits due to the very presence of the U.S. military, its air power, and the CIA’s drone force in a “war” that is about to enter its 18th year. Seen in this light, it’s hard not to believe that more anti-U.S. “insider” attacks aren’t on the way.

The question is only where and when, not if.

By Danny SJURSEN
Source

العراق بدل سورية ساحة عدوان «إسرائيلي»

أكتوبر 1, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– لا يملك الأميركيون والإسرائيليون الكثير من الوقت للتفكير والمناورات في تحديد كيفية التعامل مع القرارات الروسية الحازمة والحاسمة، بعد سقوط الطائرة الروسية في المتوسط وتحميل روسيا لـ«إسرائيل» مسؤولية تعمد إسقاطها، والنتائج المترتبة على تسليم سورية أسلحة نوعية جديدة من طراز «أس 300» وربما «أس 400» عدا عن مساندتها من البحر بالتشويش الإلكتروني العالي المستوى، فالهامش الضيق لا يترك مجالاً إلا لأحد خياري دخول الحرب أو التراجع التكتيكي الذي يحفظ ماء الوجه ويمنع تعميم الانطباع بالهزيمة والانكسار.

– المواقف الأميركية تجاه سورية والليونة المستجدة في هذه المواقف تجاه التسليم بنصر سورية، والاكتفاء بتسجيل مواقف مبدئية من رفض الدور الإيراني فيها على طريقة كلمة الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب في نيويورك، والاستعداد لسحب القوات الأميركية من قاعدة التنف بالتنسيق مع روسيا، وصولاً للقبول بمسار سياسي يتضمن الانفتاح على مبدأي عودة النازحين وإعادة الإعمار خارج نطاق اللاءات الأميركية التقليدية، تتلاقى مع التهديدات الأميركية بضرب من أسمتهم وكلاء إيران في العراق وصولا للتهديد باستهداف إيران رداً على ما أسمتها هجمات الوكلاء، وقيام واشنطن بإغلاق قنصليتها في البصرة استعداداً لمواجهات مقبلة، تعني أن ربط النزاع الأميركي مع إيران في سورية يمهد للانتقال إلى العراق كساحة اشتباك، تتفادى واشنطن خوض المواجهة فيها مباشرة خشية التعرض لخسائر جسيمة، لكنها تستعدّ للتبعات.

– ما جرى في مضيق هرمز من استعراض قوة إيراني بطريقة احتفالية لعشرات الزوراق الإيرانية الحربية التي أقامت حلقات لولبية حول حاملة الطائرات الأميركية تواكبها حوامات إيرانية للحرس الثوري وتصوير المشهد في شريط فيديو وبثّه، هو تبشير ببعض ما ينتظر الأميركيين إذا تمادوا في العراق وغير العراق، لكن الحساب الأميركي منسّق مع «إسرائيل» التي لن تستطيع بعد الضربة التي تلقتها في سورية أن تحفظ ماء وجهها بمحاولات للمشاغبة على موازين القوى الجديدة، لن تتجرأ على رفعها لمستوى التحدي، وسيكون أمامها طريق واحد هو الانتقال إلى العراق كساحة اشتباك بديلة، بدأ التمهيد لها بالتحضير الإعلامي والنفسي للرأي العام الإسرائيلي حول كون العراق صلة الوصل بين إيران وسورية، وكون مخازن السلاح الصاروخي التي ترسلها إيران لحزب الله في لبنان تتخذ من العراق نقطة تجميع، وصولاً لمعادلة أمن «إسرائيل» في العراق.

– كلام رئيس حكومة الاحتلال بنيامين نتنياهو في نيويورك الذي أضاف العراق للمرة الأولى إلى جدول أهداف الضربات الإسرائيلية، إعلان بداية مرحلة إقليمية جديدة يريد خلالها الأميركيون مساومة روسيا على ترك العراق لواشنطن مقابل التسليم لموسكو بسورية، لتشكّل السيطرة الجوية الأميركية على السماء العراقية نقطة القوة الإسرائيلية للقيام بضربات تستهدف قوى المقاومة والوجود الإيراني، لتعويض خسارة سورية نهائياً، رغم مواصلة السعي للمشاغبة على التحوّلات الجارية فيها، وتعويض العجز عن تغيير قواعد الردع مع المقاومة في لبنان رغم مواصلة محاولات المشاغبة عليها.

– يتوقف على تسمية رئيس الوزراء العراقي كقائد عام للقوات المسلحة مصير شكل التعامل العراقي مع أي عدوان إسرائيلي، فليس بالضرورة أن يحتاج العراق قائداً عاماً لقواته المسلحة يقوم بطرد الأميركيين غداً، لكن الأكيد أن العراق يحتاج قائداً عاماً لقواته المسلحة يملك شجاعة تزويد قواته من جيش وحشد شعبي بوسائل الدفاع الجوي التي تلقن «إسرائيل» درساً لا تنساه إن حاولت القيام بأي عدوان.

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