Tag Archives: US Foreign Policy

Chaos in Iraq: The Untold Story

The reports we have been hearing from U.S. officials and members of the American media about the situation in Iraq are quite alarming. They tell us a group of Muslim extremists known as the Islamist State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, an al Qaeda split-off, has been murdering Shiite families and government collaborators in the most brutal way as they take city after city in Iraq; Their goal? To overthrow the government of Nouri al Maliki in order to establish a strict Islamist government run by Sharia Law. The barbarians, we are told, have already taken several cities in the north of Iraq, including Mosul and Tikrit, the country’s second biggest city and the home of the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, respectively. They continue to push towards Baghdad, spreading death and destruction in their path.

What we are not being told is that ISIS is only one element of several that have risen to fight against the government of Nouri al Maliki, which has been unpopular from the beginning, and is said to have used fraud and intimidation to stay in power after losing parliamentary elections in 2010. As reports become available from various different sources, a different picture unfolds before our eyes, a picture of not only a sectarian government that, while established by the United States, seems to answer to the government in Iran, but also of a movement of armed resistance that includes members of the former Awakening Councils, Tribal Leaders, and former members of Saddam’s military. ISIS, it seems, is able to move easily through the country because of the pacifying effect of the other elements of the rebellion, which are said to have resorted to nonviolent means in the past, but to no avail.

According to a group of prominent European politicians the conflict taking place in Iraq is a movement of armed popular resistance in response to the al Maliki government, which they said has resorted to the indiscriminate killing of civilians and missile strikes against members of the resistance to crush political dissent, all under the guidance of elite Iranian military forces. They portray the al Maliki government as sectarian and violent, and hold it responsible for the crisis. The group of politicians is called the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA), and it is chaired by the President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq.

Meanwhile the United States government finds itself in an interesting position. On one hand, Washington has recently financed ISIS in their efforts to overthrow the Assad government in Syria, but the group itself is so extreme and brutal that even al Qaeda wants nothing to do with it! On the other hand, the al Maliki government, which is calling for U.S. airstrikes against the rebels, is being strongly supported by Teheran, and it is part of an oil pipeline an alliance with Iran, Syria and Russia. The Persian pipeline would bypass and rival an Arab pipeline financed by U.S. allies, prominently Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Which means that at this moment any strong response by the White House could lead to charges of aiding the enemy, therefore the response has so far been to limit involvement to the protection of American interests in Iraq.

Perhaps the Obama administration has gotten this one right, at least for the moment, as it seems that the best response is to wait until there is more clarity around who might end up arising as the leader of Iraq. Once a clear leader emerges, a great opportunity might also emerge: the opportunity to work with Iran in order to support a political solution to a crisis that Washington created and Teheran exacerbated; Such solution would only work if the end objective is to allow the Iraqi people to establish an inclusive government by and for Iraqis. Supporting such a solution would require both the United States and Iran to set their differences aside, and to work together for a new, democratic and inclusive Iraq, a goal above and beyond their own individual interests.

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The Curious Case of Sgt. Bergdahl and the Not So Curious Case of American Warmongering

Congressional outcry over President Obama’s exchange of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders, is not due to any real or perceived violation of trust or of the law, or to the emboldening of the enemy or the endangerment of American lives, as some politicians would like us to believe. It is due to the atrocious addiction to warmongering that has plagued our government for longer than we would like to admit. The condemnation of the prisoner swap is nothing more than a thinly veiled defense of American militarism.

The outcry has assumed different shapes and forms, but at the heart of it is a staunch defense of America’s self-attributed right to circumvent, manipulate, and violate the law, in order use military force to advance and protect war profiteering.

The politicians denouncing the swap as a sign of weakness that emboldens our enemies and threatens American lives have used the same argument to denounce the leaking of embarrassing, and in many cases incriminating, information about U.S. government behavior. From reportage of massacres in Haditha and Fallujah, to the whistleblowing of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, any time something comes out that threatens or even questions the ability of the United States to impose its will on other nations, we hear about threats to national security, and about the endangerment of U.S. troops. But those arguments are old and ring shallow to most people in the United States, who are of the belief that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was a mistake.

In reality, what creates enemies of the United States and places American lives at risk is the toxic combination of U.S. government violations of human and civil rights everywhere, the violation of International law, the endless wars and occupations, and the relentless attempts to overthrow democratically elected governments the world over.

The pro-militarist frenzy is also conveyed through careful manipulation of the impassioned opinions and feelings of members of military units who served in Afghanistan around the time of Sgt. Bergdahl’s disappearance. Those who consider him a traitor have received a powerful platform and sounding board to further exacerbate the right wing’s condemnation of his release. The corporate news network CNN has interviewed some of Bergdahl’s unit members, but mostly those who are calling him a deserter and who are requesting that charges are pressed against him. The network even broadcasted the pictures and names of soldiers who were allegedly killed searching for him, even though there is still no conclusive evidence to prove those claims.

Much is also being said about Sgt. Bergdahl’s disillusionment with the war in Afghanistan and about his expressed shame of being an American citizen. What we are not seeing are corporate media spaces where other service members, who share Bergdahl’s feelings about the war, can openly discuss their opinions.

The mainstream media blackout of public and military antiwar sentiment in the U.S. should not surprise anyone, since opening an honest dialogue about Bergdahl’s case may easily present the corporate elite that dominates the political establishment with a moral challenge to their warmongering agenda.

We are also hearing that the Taliban prisoners should not be released because they have killed Americans, because they are likely to rejoin the effort to kill more Americans, and because the United States has a policy not to deal with terrorists. By this rationale, however, no American prisoner of war should ever be released if there can be any possibility that he or she might have killed the enemy. And this “terrorist” organization, the Taliban, were they not dealt with already, wined and dined in Washington D.C., when U.S. companies were trying to sign pipeline deals with Afghanistan? Did we not deal with them when we were fighting the Soviets during the Cold War? Were they not portrayed as Freedom Fighters in one of the Rambo movies? Have we not been dealing with the Taliban for years? Of course we have. They control most of Afghanistan and they are winning the war. We have been dealing with them simply because we’ve had no other choice!

In truth, President Obama’s executive decision to free the five Taliban without Congressional approval represents a threat and challenge to every politician bent on keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison operational and its detainees outside the legal guarantees and protections to which every human being should be entitled. The exchange of America’s last POW is also an unequivocal sign that the American military is about to leave Afghanistan; the negotiated swap a tacit acknowledgement of the Taliban as an enemy that, in spite of all our military might, we could never defeat.

The hawks are livid!

Media blackout or not, and whether or not we fully understand Sgt. Bergdahl’s decision to walk off from his unit, it is of vital importance that all service members, military veterans, and civilians who are fed up with endless wars and occupations, expose this circus of false indignation for what it really is: a concerted effort by the American warmongering elite to keep the U.S. war machine marching forward.

We must decry the vociferous right wing’s condemnation of President Obama’s prisoner swap, as well as every effort to denigrate Sgt. Bergdahl’s decision to walk away from the war, as a pro-militarist attack against life. This we must do, not as a show of support of President Obama’s appalling foreign policy record, but because it is a step towards ending the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and against perpetual U.S. militarism; It also a step towards closing the Guantanamo Bay prison and towards upholding and honoring the inalienable rights of all human beings, prisoners or not. It is also a show of support of any human being, who for any reason whatsoever, decides to walk away from war. If we are truly committed to peace, then our moral duty is not to judge that decision, but to support it at all cost.

 

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