Treason: Leaked Wiretaps Reveals Netanyahu Bribed Republicans To Sabotage Obama’s Iran Peace Deal

Source:Occupy Democrats

Author: Colin Taylor

Emphasis Mine

You may remember the ridiculous doomsday prophecies and outrageous fear-mongering that defined the Republican campaign against President Obama’s nuclear peace deal with Iran. The motivation behind their unwise and ultimately ineffective resistance to the President’s diplomatic agenda has finally come to light. A new report from the Wall Street Journal reveals that NSA wiretaps found that the the Israeli Prime Minister and other officials of the Israeli governments attempted to, and most likely succeeded, to bribe American legislators in exchange for their support against the deal.

“A U.S. intelligence official familiar with the intercepts said Israel’s pitch to undecided lawmakers often included such questions as: “How can we get your vote? What’s it going to take? Mr. Netanyahu and some of his allies voiced confidence they could win enough votes.” The answers to Israeli proposals have yet to be fully revealed, but it is clear that favors were offered – bribes were proposed – and from the subsequent behavior of Republican lawmakers, we can only infer that our legislators accepted those bribes, from a foreign government in exchange for opposing the diplomatic efforts of the Obama Administration. At the very least, the very discussion itself indicates that they conspired with a foreign government to undermine the foreign policy agenda of their elected Commander-in-Chief, which certainly amounts to treason.

Given the fact that Republican politicians are notorious for the amount of money they accept from special interests within the United States, what makes anyone think they wouldn’t accept them from a foreign government? The fact that forty-seven Republican Senators sent a letter to the Iranian government without consulting the administration in a direct attempt to undermine the President’s policies is only further evidence of their treachery, putting their ill-gotten rewards above the effectiveness of our foreign policy and consequently the good of our nation and the security of the voters they claim to represent.

It’s painfully ironic that the Republican Party is a major supporter of the NSA’s rampant spying on American citizens without warrants, but as soon as the tables are turned, they are suddenly die-hard supporters of privacy and free speech – which only further implicates them for treasonous activities, strongly implying that they have something to hide. While the Israeli government shrugged off the revelations that they had been spied upon (“Everyone listens to everyone else all the time”), the Republicans in Congress and the right-wing echo machine is working overtime to paint President Obama as the bad guy and accusing him of committing some kind of enormous diplomatic sin, while having laughed off the complaints of our allies when our intelligence organizations targeted Germany and the United Kingdom.

The Republican Party’s seditious letter to Iran has completely backfired and exploded in their faces. Sure, Tom Cotton, Mitch McConnell and their band of traitors in the Senate may have expected to be touted as heroes for defying the evil Obama administration and ensuring we risk starting a war with Iran and once again destabilizing the entire Middle East. Instead, the 47 Senators have widely received nothing but mockeryfrom Fox News, from President Obama, and even from Iranian government officials.

Now, the New York Times Editorial Board has joined in the universal mockery and condemnation of these 47 traitors in a scathing editorial posted on Wednesday. “After helping to ignite a firestorm over a possible nuclear agreement with Iran, Senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate, is now sort of acknowledging his error. ‘Maybe that wasn’t exactly the best way to do that,’ he said on Fox News on Tuesday,” the Times began.

Indeed, McCain is scrambling to backpedal on his decision to sign the letter. Politico reported that McCain’s excuse…is a snowstorm:

“Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Republicans — many of whom blessed the missive during a brisk signing session at a Senate lunch a week ago, as senators prepared to flee a Washington snowstorm — should have given it closer consideration.

“‘It was kind of a very rapid process. Everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm,’ McCain said. ‘I think we probably should have had more discussion about it, given the blowback that there is.’”

“The letter was an attempt to scare the Iranians from making a deal that would limit their nuclear program for at least a decade by issuing a warning that the next president could simply reverse any agreement,” the Editorial Board noted. “It was a blatant, dangerous effort to undercut the president on a grave national security issue by communicating directly with a foreign government.”

“Instead of trying to be leaders and statesmen,” the Board continued, “the Republicans in Congress seem to think their role is outside the American government, divorced from constitutional principles, tradition and the security interests of the American people.”

The editorial noted that, out of spite for President Obama, Republicans are not only willing to sabotage any deal with Iran but “to diminish America’s standing as a global power capable of crafting international commitments and adhering to them.”

The Editorial Board expressed concerns that this inappropriate and illegal attempt to interfere with negotiations could “embolden hard-liners in Iran who, like the Republicans and some of the Democrats in Congress, oppose any nuclear agreement between Iran, the United States and its major allies.”

So far, Iranian leaders have treated the letter as though it was a poorly-executed joke, mocking the signatories’ lack of knowledge of international law and of the U.S. Constitution. Iran’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, replied to the letter, pointing out that “the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.”

Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran’s peaceful nuclear program,” Zarif added. “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.”

For now, the letter has had no visible impact on negotiations — but it has told our allies, enemies, and future allies that the United States does not honor its commitments. And, of course, if the negotiations fall through, the Republicans’ stunt will place millions of lives at risk.

“The best and only practical way to restrain Iran from developing a bomb is through negotiating a strict agreement with tough monitoring,” the Board concluded. “In rejecting diplomacy, the Republicans make an Iranian bomb and military conflict more likely.”

These 47 Senators broke the law in contacting the Iranian government outside official channels in an attempt to sabotage ongoing talks — specifically, the Logan Act, which  prohibits unauthorized citizens from directly or indirectly corresponding with foreign government officials  “with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.”

A petition asking that all 47 Senators be charged under the Logan Act has accumulated more than 230,000 signatures — well above the threshold required to receive a response from the White House.


Noam Chomsky: The Major Crime of This Millennium Is the US Invasion of Iraq


Author: RT

Emphasis Mine

Major American media organizations diligently parrot what US officials want the public to know about global affairs, historian Noam Chomsky told RT. To US leaders, any news outlet that “does not repeat the US propaganda system is intolerable,” he said.

The culpability of the West – namely the United States – for world affairs, such as the Ukrainian conflict or tensions with Iran, is another idea that is not permissible in leading American media, Chomsky said, adding that world opinion does not matter when that opinion counters US strategy.

“The West means the United States and everyone else that goes along,” he said. “What’s called the international community in the United States is the United States and anyone who happens to be going along with it. Take, say, for example, the question of Iran’s right to carry out its current nuclear policies, whatever they are. The standard line is that the international community objects to this. Who is the international community? What the United States determines it to be.”

He added that, “any reader of [George] Orwell would be perfectly familiar with this. But it continues virtually without comment.”

Chomsky’s remarks came this week just before a congressional hearing that was officially titled ‘Confronting Russia’s Weaponization of Information.’ Of the meeting, House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ed Royce said, “The Russian media is now dividing societies abroad and, in fact, weaponizing information.”

The social philosopher and MIT professor said, “if there were any imaginable possibility of honesty,” Rep. Royce could be talking about the American media. He pointed to a recent New York Times story that discussed reasons not to trust Iran amid the tentative agreement between Tehran and Washington, along with other major global powers, over the former’s nuclear ambitions.

“The most interesting one is the charge that Iran is destabilizing the Middle East because it’s supporting militias which have killed American soldiers in Iraq,” Chomsky told RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky.

“That’s kind of as if, in 1943, the Nazi press had criticized England because it was destabilizing Europe for supporting partisans who were killing German soldiers. In other words, the assumption is, when the United States invades, it kills a couple hundred thousand people, destroys the country, elicits sectarian conflicts that are now tearing Iraq and the region apart, that’s stabilization. If someone resists that tact, that’s destabilization.”

Chomsky also related American media propaganda to recent moves by US President Barack Obama to reach out to Cuba, which the US has long considered a state sponsor of terror while instituting a harsh embargo regime. Chomsky said top American media outlets go to great lengths to pit Cuba — and not the US — as the isolated party in the Western Hemisphere.

“The facts are very clear. This is a free and open society, so we have access to internal documents at an extraordinary level. You can’t claim you don’t know. It’s not like a totalitarian state where there are no records. We know what happened. The Kennedy administration launched a very serious terrorist war against Cuba. It was one of the factors that led to the missile crisis. It was a war that was planned to lead to an invasion in October 1962, which Cuba and Russia presumably knew about. It’s now assumed by scholarship that that’s one of the reasons for the placement of the missiles. That war went on for years. No mention of it is permissible [in the US]. The only thing you can mention is that there were some attempts to assassinate [Fidel] Castro. And those can be written off as ridiculous CIA shenanigans. But the terrorist war itself was very serious.”

Obama has changed course on Cuban policy not for reasons pursuant to freedom or democracy, as is peddled in the US media, Chomsky said.

“There is no noble gesture, just Obama’s recognition that the United States is practically being thrown out of the hemisphere because of its isolation on this topic,” he added. “But you can’t discuss that [in the US]. It’s all public information, nothing secret, all available in public documents, but undiscussable. Like the idea — and you can’t contemplate the idea — that when the US invades another country and the other resists, it’s not the resistors who are committing the crime, it’s the invaders.”

As for international law, Chomsky said it “can work up to the point where the great powers permit it.” Beyond that, it is meaningless. Thus, is international law an illusion if the US picks and chooses — while exempting itself — from what is enforced?

“To say that [international law is] dead implies it was ever alive. Has it ever been alive?” he said, citing US stonewalling of the world court’s demand in the 1980s that the US halt its war on Nicaragua and provide extensive reparations for damage done.

“International law cannot be enforced against great powers,” he said. “There’s no enforcement mechanism. Take a look at the International Criminal Court, who has investigated and sentenced African leaders who the US doesn’t like. The major crime of this millennium, certainly, is the US invasion of Iraq. Could that be brought to the international court? I mean, it’s beyond inconceivable.”

Chomsky said the so-called American Dream and US democracy are in “very serious decline, as social mobility is among the worst among the richest nations. He added that, formally, the US retains a democratic veneer, but actual manifestations of democracy are dwindling.

“Basically, most of the population is disenfranchised,” he said, referring to public polling. “Their representatives pay no attention to their opinion. That’s roughly the lowest three-quarters on the bottom of the income scale. Move up the scale, you get a little more influence. At the top, essentially policy is made. That’s plutocracy, not democracy.”


The U.S. in the Middle East: A Remarkably Rich Menu of Foreign-Policy Failures

n a recent speech, noted retired U.S. diplomat, Charles Freeman Jr., offers a frank assessment of the “remarkably rich menu of U.S. foreign-policy failures” in the Middle East. Most, he says, are due to America’s noisy but strategy-free approach, adding, “don’t just sit there, bomb something” isn’t much of a strategy. But, to cure the dysfunction in U.S. Middle East policy, Freeman says, we must cure the dysfunction and venality of our politics.

Source: PortSide

Author: Charles Freeman

Emphasis Mine

I want to speak with you today about the Middle East. This is the region where Africa, Asia, and Europe come together. It is also the part of the world where we have been most compellingly reminded that some struggles cannot be won, but there are no struggles that cannot be lost.

It is often said that human beings learn little useful from success but can learn a great deal from defeat. If so, the Middle East now offers a remarkably rich menu of foreign-policy failures for Americans to study.

• Our four-decade-long diplomatic effort to bring peace to the Holy Land sputtered to an ignominious conclusion a year ago.

Our unconditional political, economic, and military backing of Israel has earned us the enmity of Israel’s enemies even as it has enabled egregiously contemptuous expressions of ingratitude and disrespect for us from Israel itself.

• Our attempts to contain the Iranian revolution have instead empowered it.

Our military campaigns to pacify the region have destabilized it, dismantled its states, and ignited ferocious wars of religion among its peoples.

• Our efforts to democratize Arab societies have helped to produce anarchy, terrorism, dictatorship, or an indecisive juxtaposition of all three.

In Iraq, Libya, and Syria we have shown that war does not decide who’s right so much as determine who’s left.

• Our campaign against terrorism with global reach has multiplied our enemies and continuously expanded their areas of operation.

• Our opposition to nuclear proliferation did not prevent Israel from clandestinely developing nuclear weapons and related delivery systems and may not preclude Iran and others from following suit.

• At the global level, our policies in the Middle East have damaged our prestige, weakened our alliances, and gained us a reputation for militaristic fecklessness in the conduct of our foreign affairs. They have also distracted us from challenges elsewhere of equal or greater importance to our national interests.

That’s quite a record.

One can only measure success or failure by reference to what one is trying to achieve. So, in practice, what have U.S. objectives been? Are these objectives still valid? If we’ve failed to advance them, what went wrong? What must we do now to have a better chance of success?

Our objectives in the Middle East have not changed much over the course of the past half century or more. We have sought to

1. Gain acceptance and security for a Jewish homeland from the other states and peoples of the region;
2. Ensure the uninterrupted availability of the region’s energy supplies to sustain global and U.S. security and prosperity;
3. Preserve our ability to transit the region so as to be able to project power around the world;
4. Prevent the rise of a regional hegemon or the deployment of weapons of mass destruction that might threaten any or all of these first three objectives;
5. Maximize profitable commerce; and
6. Promote stability while enhancing respect for human rights and progress toward constitutional democracy.

Let’s briefly review what’s happened with respect to each of these objectives. I will not mince words.

Israel has come to enjoy military supremacy but it remains excluded from most participation in its region’s political, economic, and cultural life. In the 67 years since the Jewish state was proclaimed, Israel has not made a single friend in the Middle East, where it continues to be regarded as an illegitimate legacy of Western imperialism engaged in racist removal of the indigenous population. International support for Israel is down to the United States and a few of the former colonial powers that originally imposed the Zionist project on the Arabs under Sykes-Picot and the related Balfour Declaration. The two-state solution has expired as a physical or political possibility. There is no longer any peace process to distract global attention from Israel’s maltreatment of its captive Arab populations.

After years of deference to American diplomacy, the Palestinians are about to challenge the legality of Israel’s cruelties to them in the International Criminal Court and other venues in which Americans have no veto, are not present, or cannot protect the Jewish state from the consequences of its own behavior as we have always been able to do in the past. Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza are fueling a drive to boycott its products, disinvest in its companies, and sanction its political and cultural elite. These trends are the very opposite of what the United States has attempted to achieve for Israel.

In a stunning demonstration of his country’s most famous renewable resource — chutzpah — Israel’s Prime Minister chose this very moment to make America the main issue in his reelection campaign while simultaneously transforming Israel into a partisan issue in the United States. This is the very opposite of a sound survival strategy for Israel. Uncertainties about their country’s future are leading many Israelis to emigrate, not just to America but to Europe. This should disturb not just Israelis but Americans, if only because of the enormous investment we have made in attempts to gain a secure place for Israel in its region and the world. The Palestinians have been silent about Mr. Netanyahu’s recent political maneuvers. Evidently, they recall Napoleon’s adage that one should never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake.

This brings me to an awkward but transcendently important issue. Israel was established as a haven from anti-Semitism — Jew hatred — in Europe, a disease of nationalism and Christian culture that culminated in the Holocaust. Israel’s creation was a relief for European Jews but a disaster for the Arabs of Palestine, who were either ethnically cleansed by European Jewish settlers or subjugated, or both.  But the birth of Israel also proved tragic for Jews throughout the Middle East — the Mizrahim.

In a nasty irony, the implementation of Zionism in the Holy Land led to the introduction of European-style anti-Semitism — including its classic Christian libels on Jews — to the region, dividing Arab Jews from their Muslim neighbors as never before and compelling them to join European Jews in taking refuge in Israel amidst outrage over the dispossession of Palestinians from their homeland. Now, in a further irony, Israel’s pogroms and other injustices to the Muslim and Christian Arabs over whom it rules are leading not just to a rebirth of anti-Semitism in Europe but to its globalization.

The late King `Abdullah of Saudi Arabia engineered a reversal of decades of Arab rejectionism at Beirut in 2002. He brought all Arab countries and later all 57 Muslim countries to agree to normalize relations with Israel if it did a deal — any deal — with the Palestinians that the latter could accept. Israel spurned the offer. Its working assumption seems to be that it does not need peace with its neighbors as long as it can bomb and strafe them. Proceeding on this basis is not just a bad bet, it is one that is dividing Israel from the world, including Jews outside Israel. This does not look like a story with a happy ending.

It’s hard to avoid the thought that Zionism is turning out to be bad for the Jews. If so, given the American investment in it, it will also have turned out to be bad for America. The political costs to America of support for Israel are steadily rising. We must find a way to divert Israel from the largely self-engineered isolation into which it is driving itself, while repairing our own increasing international ostracism on issues related to Israel.

Let me turn, very briefly, to the second U.S. objective in the region, security of access to energy supplies. Triumphalist nonsense about North American energy independence has just suffered a major comeuppance, as Saudi Arabia has shown its capacity to let oversupply rip, bankrupting or sidelining frackers and forcing mass layoffs in our previously booming oil and gas industry. The Middle East, where two-thirds of global fossil fuel reserves are located, still matters.

The question, therefore, is not whether untrammeled access to the energy resources of the Persian Gulf is essential to global prosperity. It is. Rather, it is whether the United States should or even could indefinitely bear the sole burden of ensuring access to Gulf energy resources on our own. Should we seek to share responsibility for assuring energy security with Europe and countries like China, India, Japan, and Korea that are far more dependent on Middle East oil than we are? Current U.S. policy assumes that “no” is the answer. Watch that space!

The third U.S. objective, sustaining freedom of transit through the region, is more subtle still. Tens of thousands of U.S. military flights transit Saudi and Egyptian airspace annually en route between Europe and Asia. Flight clearance is a fundamental privilege of sovereignty. It is done  in the region on an incredibly labor-intensive ad hoc basis. There are no agreements obligating countries there to grant it. The prevailing overflight regime reflects relationships with the countries of the region that are now fraying. Transit is not currently in jeopardy but it cannot be counted upon. Every once in a while, to remind us of this reality, the Saudis refuse permission for overflight. These refusals remind us of the importance to our position as a world power of cordial relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the other countries of the Red Sea-Persian Gulf area.

Our fourth objective has been preventing the rise of a serious threat to Israel, energy flows, or freedom of navigation through the region’s air and sea space.

First: a little history.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and regional allies like Egypt and Syria seemed to pose such a threat. The United States balanced it with our own security partnerships. In 1964, we dropped our arms embargo on Israel. Nine years later, in 1973, we delivered massive military assistance to Israel to enable it to avoid defeat in war with Egypt and Syria. We have since become committed to sustaining Israel’s military supremacy in the region. To keep Egypt at peace with Israel, since 1979 we have provided it with generous subsidies. In 1994, we added Jordan to this equation.

After the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979, we first bolstered Saudi Arabia as a counter to the Islamic Republic of Iran and then helped Iraq avoid defeat in its eight-year war with Iran. In 1990, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq annexed Kuwait and threatened to dominate the region and hence global oil prices, we and the Saudis organized coalitions including Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria to dislodge Iraq from Kuwait, reduce its power to levels that Iran could balance, and thus end the threat it posed to the Gulf Arab states. So far so good.

But in 1993, the Clinton Administration abruptly abandoned the effort to use Iraq to balance Iran. Instead, it proclaimed a policy of “dual containment,” under which Washington undertook unilaterally to balance both Baghdad and Tehran simultaneously. This made sense in terms of our interest in protecting Israel from either Iraq or Iran, but it placed the primary burden of defending Persian Gulf energy resources on the United States rather than on the Gulf Arabs or the international community. It secured a place for U.S. forces astride the routes between Asia and Europe. But it also required the creation of a long-term U.S. military presence in the Gulf Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom was strapped for cash but we wanted  it to pay for our presence and, amidst popular resentment, it did. The stationing of U.S. troops on soil considered by many Muslims to be sacred and off-limits to unbelievers was a political irritant that helped stimulate the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

A fully justified and brilliantly executed U.S. punitive raid on al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in Afghanistan somehow morphed into a military campaign to pacify Afghanistan and save it from militant Islam. Most Muslims, like the rest of the world, stood with Americans on 9/11. We have long since squandered that support. Over time, we began to kill Muslims we suspected of opposing us with drones — remote-controlled robots that rain death from the sky, killing militants along with their families, friends, and coreligionists as well as innocent bystanders.  The practical effect of this is that we kill one (possible) terrorist and get ten free.

Meanwhile, our invasion of Iraq in 2003 accomplished none of its declared objectives but ended domestic tranquility in that country and resulted in a huge number of Arab deaths. No country, other than Israel, had urged us to attack Iraq. No weapons of mass destruction were found there. We were not welcomed as liberators. We staged elections but did not transform the country into a democracy. Iraq neither embraced Israel nor became our ally. In 2011, at Iraqi insistence, we withdrew, leaving behind a divided, shattered, and embittered country. We not only failed to impress the world with our power, as the proponents of the war hoped we would, we demonstrated our limitations. We showed that our military can defeat armies and militias but that it cannot bend foreign societies to our will, pacify their populations, or refute their ideas.

The net effect of our invasion and occupation of Iraq was to install a pro-Iranian Shiite-majority government in Baghdad that tyrannized Iraq’s Sunni minority. Thus, we at once added Iraq to the list of Iran’s client states and incubated a new crop of anti-American terrorists.

Earlier, we had driven Iran’s enemies from power in Afghanistan. In 2006, Israel’s aerial maiming of Lebanon elevated the Iranian-supported Shiite Hezbollah to the commanding heights of Lebanese politics. We did not respond to efforts by Damascus to dilute its dependence on Iran by establishing a more cooperative relationship with us.

In sum, we carelessly sponsored the rise of the very sort of anti-Israel and anti-Gulf Arab alliance our policies were aimed at precluding. We handed Iran dominant influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. The Arab uprisings of 2011 added Bahrain to the list of places where Iran can exploit Shiite grievances. Now pro-Iranian Houthi tribesmen have seized control of much of Yemen. The Gulf Arabs see Iran encircling them.

The Saudis and others in the Gulf remember the days when the United States saw the Shah’s Iran as the regional gendarme. Their fears that those days might come again are far-fetched but understandable, given all that has happened. As a result of U.S. bungling in Iraq and elsewhere Iran has, after all, greatly expanded its reach in the region. Gulf Arab apprehension about the proposed agreement to cap and constrain Iran’s nuclear programs is less about a military threat from Iranian nuclear weapons than about the possibility that we and other members of the U.N. Security Council will effectively acknowledge, if not endorse, Iran’s new proto-hegemony in the region.

America is at war with the renegade Islamist insurgency that calls itself “the Islamic State.” (I see no reason to dignify it with that title and, like most people in the region, I prefer to call it by its pretentious Arabic acronym, “Daesh.”) For many reasons, the Gulf Arabs doubt our reliability. Iraq has emerged as the most effective regional opponent of Daesh. The Gulf Arabs fear that we Americans may be driven to make common cause with Iran to combat Daesh.

Despite Mr. Netanyahu’s recent public hysteria about Iran and his efforts to demonize it, Israel has traditionally seen Iran’s rivalry with the Arabs as a strategic asset. It had a very cooperative relationship with the Shah. Neither Israelis nor Arabs have forgotten the strategic logic that produced Israel’s entente with Iran. Israel is very much on Daesh’s list of targets, as is Iran.

For now, however, Israel’s main concern is the possible loss of its nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. Many years ago, Israel actually did what it now accuses Iran of planning to do. It clandestinely developed nuclear weapons while denying to us and others that it was doing so. Unlike Iran, Israel has not adhered to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or subjected its nuclear facilities to international inspection. It has expressed no interest in proposals for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. It sees its ability to bring on nuclear Armageddon as the ultimate guarantee of its existence.

Unlike Israel, Iran does not have nuclear weapons and seems prepared to settle for more conventional means of ensuring its security. Despite all the pain our sanctions have inflicted and whether the current nuclear negotiations with it succeed or fail, Iran seems destined to exercise strategic suzerainty in a major part of the Middle East

Like the Israelis, the Saudis do not trust Iran to halt at nuclear latency if there is a deal with it by the United States and its Security Council partners. But unlike the Israeli prime minister, Riyadh judges that, if the negotiations with Iran fail to produce an agreement, this will precipitate an Iranian decision actually to build a nuclear deterrent. An agreement would confer added prestige on Iran.  That’s bad. A nuclear deterrent would give Iran added freedom from U.S. or other coercion. That’s worse.

The Saudis have little confidence in U.S. protection, given America’s inadvertent  empowerment of Iran and incubation of Daesh, as well as the erratic behavior of the United States during the Arab uprisings that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. They now seem to be building a coalition to counter Iran and contain Daesh, with or without the United States.

In recent weeks, King Salman has met in rapid succession with King Abdullah II of Jordan, Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan, President Al-Sisi of Egypt, and President Erdoğan of Turkey. After initially seeing Daesh as a useful opponent of Iran’s allies in Damascus and Baghdad, the Saudis have concluded that it is a menace that they must confront. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is Daesh’s next intended battleground. It is also the Saudi gateway to Syria, in whose affairs Turkey is also a key player. The threat to Jordan is such that Amman  may now finally be regaining the regional backing it lost when it sided with Saddam Hussein in 1990.

Egypt and Turkey have been at odds over the Muslim Brotherhood and related issues. Egypt fears the Brotherhood, while Turkey sees it as a democratic Islamist movement that is not only legitimate but a potential pan-Arab antidote to Daesh. King Salman has begun an effort to persuade the Egyptians and Turks  to reconcile and resolve their differences. This will not be easy but, given the stakes for his Kingdom, Salman is likely to persist.

King Salman’s interest in convening the recent flurry of dialogue was, however, far from limited to Daesh and matters of religious interpretation. His main concern was undoubtedly how to balance and contain Iran.  There is a potential division of labor between the countries with which he met. Pakistan could extend nuclear deterrence to the Gulf Arabs. Egypt could provide the military mass and manpower the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs lack. Turkey’s powerful army could flank Syria and Iran to the north.

All three of these countries have significant armaments industries. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arabs are the world’s largest importers of armaments. There are real synergies to be gained by cooperation among the parties who have just gathered in Riyadh. The fact that these are being explored signals momentous change.

In 2006, then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice infamously proclaimed the birth of a “new Middle East.” A new order in the Middle East is now belatedly coming into being. But it is not the one Secretary Rice envisaged. The influence of the United States and the prospects for the peaceful integration of Israel into the region have both been adversely affected by the events of the past fifteen years.

To many, Israel now seems to have acquired the obnoxious habit of biting the American hand that has fed it for so long. The Palestinians have despaired of American support for their self-determination. They are reaching out to the international community in ways that deliberately bypass the United States. Random acts of violence herald mayhem in the Holy Land.

Daesh has proclaimed the objective of erasing the Sykes-Picot borders and the states within them. It has already expunged the border between Iraq and Syria. It is at work in Lebanon and has set its sights on Jordan, Palestine, and Israel.

Lebanon, under Saudi influence, has turned to France rather than America for support. Hezbollah has intervened militarily in Iraq and Syria, both of whose governments are close to Iran. Egypt and Turkey have distanced themselves from the United States as well as from each other. Russia is back as a regional actor and arms supplier.

The Gulf Arabs, Egypt, and Turkey now separately intervene in Libya, Syria, and Iraq without reference to American policy or views. Iran is the dominant influence in Iraq, Syria, parts of Lebanon, and now Yemen. It has boots on the ground in Iraq.

And now Saudi Arabia seems to be organizing a coalition that will manage its own nuclear deterrence and military balancing of Iran.

To describe this as out of control is hardly adequate. What are we to do about it?

Perhaps we should start by recalling the first law of holes — “when stuck in one, stop digging.” It appears that “don’t just sit there, bomb something” isn’t much of a strategy. When he was asked last summer what our strategy for dealing with Daesh was, President Obama replied, “We don’t yet have one.” He was widely derided for that. He should have been praised for making the novel suggestion that before Washington acts, it should first think through what it hopes to accomplish and how best to do it. Sunzi once observed that “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” America’s noisy but strategy-free approach to the Middle East has proven him right.

Again the starting point must be what we are trying to accomplish. Strategy is “the discipline of achieving desired ends through the most efficient use of available means” [John Lewis Gaddis].Our desired ends with respect to the Middle East are not in doubt. They have been and remain to gain an accepted and therefore secure place for Israel there; to keep the region’s oil and gas coming at reasonable prices; to be able to pass through the area at will; to head off challenges to these interests; to do profitable business in the markets of the Middle East; and to promote stability amidst the expansion of liberty in its countries. Judging by results, we have been doing a lot wrong.

Two related problems in our overall approach need correction. They are “enablement” and the creation of “moral hazard.” Both are fall-out from  relationships of codependency.

Enablement occurs when one party to a relationship indulges or supports and thereby enables another party’s dysfunctional behavior. A familiar example from ordinary life is giving money to a drunk or a drug addict or ignoring, explaining away, or defending their subsequent self-destructive behavior.  Moral hazard is the condition that obtains when one party is emboldened to take risks it would not otherwise take because it knows another party will shoulder the consequences and bear the costs of failure.

The U.S.-Israel relationship has evolved to exemplify codependency. It now embodies both enablement and moral hazard. U.S. support for Israel is unconditional.  Israel has therefore had no need to cultivate relations with others in the Middle East, to declare its borders, or to choose peace over continued expansion into formerly Arab lands. Confidence in U.S. backing enables Israel to do whatever it likes to the Palestinians and its neighbors without having to worry about the consequences.

Israel is now a rich country, but the United States continues to subsidize it with cash transfers and other fiscal privileges. The Jewish state is the most powerful country in the Middle East. It can launch attacks on its neighbors, confident that it will be resupplied by the United States. Its use of U.S. weapons in ways that violate both U.S. and international law goes unrebuked. 41 American vetoes in the United Nations Security Council have exempted Israel from censure and international law. We enable it to defy the expressed will of the international community, including, ironically, our own.

We Americans are facilitating Israel’s indulgence in denial and avoidance of the choices it must make if it is not to jeopardize its long-term existence as a state in the Middle East. The biggest contribution we could now make to Israel’s longevity would be to ration our support for it, so as to cause it to rethink and reform its often self-destructive behavior. Such peace as Israel now enjoys with Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians is the direct result of tough love of this kind by earlier American administrations. We Americans cannot save Israel from itself, but we can avoid killing it with uncritical kindness. We should support Israel when it makes sense to do so and it needs our support on specific issues, but not otherwise. Israel is placing itself and American interests in jeopardy. We need to discuss how to reverse this dynamic.

Moral hazard has also been a major problem in our relationship with our Arab partners. Why should they play an active role in countering the threat to them they perceive from Iran, if they can get America to do this for them? Similarly, why should any Muslim country rearrange its priorities to deal with Muslim renegades like Daesh when it can count on America to act for it? If America thinks it must lead, why not let it do so? But responsible foreign and defense policies begin with self-help, not outsourcing of military risks.

The United States has the power-projection and war-fighting capabilities to back a Saudi-led coalition effort against Daesh. The Saudis have the religious and political credibility, leadership credentials, and diplomatic connections to organize such an effort. We do not.

Since this century began, America has administered multiple disappointments to its allies and friends in the Middle East, while empowering their and our adversaries. Unlike the Gulf Arabs, Egypt, and Turkey, Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Tehran. Given our non-Muslim identity, solidarity with Israel, and recent history in the Fertile Crescent, the United States cannot hope to unite the region’s Muslims against Daesh.  Daesh is an insurgency that claims to exemplify Islam as well as a governing structure and an armed force. A coalition led by inhibited foreign forces, built on papered-over differences, and embodying hedged commitments will not defeat such an insurgency with or without boots on the ground.

There is an ineluctable requirement for Muslim leadership and strategic vision from within the region. Without it, the existing political geography of the Arab world — not just the map drawn by Sykes-Picot — faces progressive erosion and ultimate collapse. States will be pulled down, to be succeeded by warlords, as is already happening in Iraq and Syria. Degenerate and perverted forms of Islam will threaten prevailing Sunni and Shi`a religious dispensations, as Daesh now does. If indeed Saudi Arabia is finally prepared to organize a regional coalition to enable it to deal directly with these issues, we should welcome this and give it our backing, while seeking to assure that it does not damage Israel’s security, impede our transit through the region, or otherwise harm our interests.

I come at last to our objectives of promoting trade and liberal values.

The need for considered judgment and restraint extends to refraining from expansive rhetoric about our values or attempting to compel others to conform to them. In practice, we have insisted on democratization only in countries we have invaded or that were otherwise falling apart, as Egypt was during the first of the two “non-coups” it suffered. When elections have yielded governments whose policies we oppose, we have not hesitated to conspire with their opponents to overthrow them. But the results of our efforts to coerce political change in the Middle East are not just failures but catastrophic failures. Our policies have nowhere produced democracy. They have instead contrived the destabilization of societies, the kindling of religious warfare, and the installation of dictatorships contemptuous of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.

Frankly, we have done a lot better at selling things, including armaments, to the region than we have at transplanting the ideals of the Atlantic Enlightenment there. The region’s autocrats cooperate with us to secure our protection, and they get it. When they are nonetheless overthrown, the result is not democracy or the rule of law but socio-political collapse and the emergence of  a Hobbesian state of nature in which religious and ethnic communities, families, and individuals are able to feel safe only when they are armed and have the drop on each other. Where we have engineered or attempted to engineer regime change, violent politics, partition, and ethno-religious cleansing have everywhere succeeded unjust but tranquil order. One result of our bungled interventions in Iraq and Syria is the rise of Daesh. This is yet another illustration that, in our efforts to do good in the Middle East, we have violated the principle that one should first do no harm.

Americans used to believe that we could best lead by example. We and those in the Middle East seeking nonviolent change would all be better off if America returned to that tradition and forswore ideologically motivated hectoring and intervention. No one willingly follows a wagging finger. Despite our unparalleled ability to use force against foreigners, the best way to inspire them to emulate us remains showing them that we have our act together. At the moment, we do not.

In the end, to cure the dysfunction in our policies toward the Middle East, it comes down to this. We must cure the dysfunction and venality of our politics. If we cannot, we have no business trying to use an 8,000-mile-long screwdriver to fix things one-third of the way around the world. That doesn’t work well under the best of circumstances. But when the country wielding the screwdriver has very little idea what it’s doing, it really screws things up.

[Charles Freeman, Jr., served in the United States Foreign Service, the State and Defense Departments in many different capacities over the course of 30 years. Most notably, he worked as the main interpreter for Richard Nixon during his 1972 China visit and served as the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992, during the Persian Gulf War. In February 2009, unnamed sources leaked that Freeman was Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair’s choice to chair the National Intelligence Council in the Obama Administration. After hostile criticism from prominent supporters of Israeli policy, he withdrew his name from consideration, charging he had been the victim of a concerted campaign by what he called “the Israel lobby”.]




8 things to know about the Iraq crisis


Author: Anna Galland

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: The current crisis in Iraq is a not too gentle reminder of the importance of separating church and state – The aim of ISIS is to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and in Syria –

U.S. bombing strikes are now well under way in Iraq in a military mission that President Obama said could go on for months.1 U.S. military planes have also been delivering vital humanitarian assistance to civilians fleeing the violence, including Yazidis who were forced onto Iraq’s Mount Sinjar by ISIS militants laying siege on the mountain.2

MoveOn members across the country have weighed in with thoughts on what’s happening in Iraq. There are varying opinions on different aspects of this crisis, but there are some common threads. Our hearts break for the people of Iraq who are living through this conflict. We know there are no simple solutions. And we’re united in our opposition to America sliding down the slippery slope to another war in Iraq.

As we all try to make sense of the events that are unfolding, here are eight things that you should know about the Iraq crisis.

Please read on and then share the list on Facebook, Twitter, or by emailing your friends. It’s vital that we engage the country in a conversation about the U.S. role in Iraq.

8 Things to Know about the Iraq Crisis

1. Right-wing war hawks are pushing for another full-blown war in Iraq.

Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, other Republicans in Congress, and right-wing figures—who blindly led America into invading and occupying Iraq—are now demanding more military action that could drag us back into full-scale war in the region.3,4,5

2. The slippery slope is real.

Mission creep can too easily occur—along with unintended consequences and new problems created by the use of U.S. military force.6,7 History shows us that many big wars start out looking small, including the Korean War and the Vietnam War.8 And we are now dealing with a prime example of unintended consequences: Bush’s war of choice and military occupation of Iraq set the stage for Iraq’s troubles today, including the rise of ISIS.9,10,11,12

3. Voters elected President Obama to end the Iraq war that George W. Bush recklessly started.

President Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war before it began and his pledge to end it—as part of the contrast between him and those who pushed for war—were key to his success in both the Democratic primary election and the general election in 2008.13 He continues to pledge that he “will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.”14,15

4. Ultimately, Iraq’s problems can be solved only by an Iraqi-led political solution.

President Obama has said that there is no military solution to the crisis in Iraq and that there can only be “an Iraqi solution.”16 As this explainer lays out:

“ISIS isn’t just a terrorist group rampaging through Iraq (though they definitely are that). It’s in many ways an expression of the Sunni Muslim minority’s anger at the Shia-dominated government. . . Some Sunni grievances get to more fundamental issues within the Iraqi state itself, beyond what even a better government could easily fix.”17

These are not problems that more U.S. bombings can solve. That’s why experts are saying that “any lasting solution has to be regional in nature and must address the political interests of all the major factions in an equitable and inclusive manner.”18

5. Members of Congress, including Democratic lawmakers, are insisting that the president come to Congress for authorization.

MoveOn members have long opposed endless war in Iraq. Earlier this summer, before the current bombing strikes began, MoveOn members made more than 15,000 calls to lawmakers, urging them to oppose U.S. military intervention in Iraq. In July, the House of Representatives listened to them and the rest of the American people to require, by a bipartisan vote of 370-40, the president to seek congressional authorization before deploying or maintaining a sustained combat role in Iraq.19 Congress should continue to assert its authority under the Constitution to authorize and oversee U.S. commitments to open-ended war overseas.

6. The Middle East is a complicated place where U.S. military intervention has a troubling track record.

The Middle East has many armed actors whose motivations often compete with each other and conflict with American values, and U.S. military intervention there has a track record of often making things worse.20,21 One tragic absurdity of this moment is that the U.S. military is now using U.S. equipment to bomb U.S. weapons wielded by enemies the U.S. didn’t intend to arm against the U.S. and U.S. allies.22 That’s a good reason to be concerned about the U.S. arming rebels in nearby Syria, which experts say wouldn’t have stopped the rise of ISIS anyway.23 Experts further warn that U.S. military force in the region only tends to create more problems, including the risk of terrorist retaliation.24

7. Military action could lead to even more innocent civilians getting caught in the crossfire and suffering.

The Iraq war that Bush started didn’t just cost America the lives of nearly 4,500 service members, plus $2 trillion according to modest estimates.25,26,27 Approximately 500,000 Iraqi civilians also died in the armed conflict—possibly more.28 In the current conflict, ISIS militants are persecuting various minority populations of Iraq, such as the Yazidis who had fled to Mount Sinjar.29 Escalating military action, including drone strikes, risks catching more civilians in the crossfire.30

8. Opposing endless war isn’t the same as being an isolationist. The Iraq crisis, including the humanitarian disaster, demands an international, diplomatic response.

We have options to support the people of Iraq, as well as tackle this crisis in a way that reflects America’s best interests and 21st century realities. For one, the U.S. can work through the United Nations and other multilateral organizations to support a major global diplomatic initiative.31 In the face of the current crisis, the Friends Committee on National Legislation also recommends a number of steps instead of U.S. bombings, such as working with other nations through the United Nations to organize humanitarian evacuations of stranded and trapped civilians, pressing for and upholding an arms embargo in Iraq and Syria, engaging with the UN to reinvigorate efforts for a lasting political solution for Iraq and Syria, and increasing humanitarian aid.32,33

It’s critically important that we engage the nation in conversation and debate to avoid endless war in Iraq. Can you share this “8 Things to Know about the Iraq Crisis” list with your family and friends? Use the links at the top and bottom of this page. Sources:1. “Iraq Airstrikes May Continue for Months, Obama Says,” The New York Times, August 9, 2014

2. “Despite U.S. Claims, Yazidis Say Crisis Is Not Over,” The New York Times, August 14, 2014

3. “Republicans Want More US Military Action in Iraq,”, August 8, 2014

4. “Neocons to Obama: No half-measures,” Politico, August 8, 2014

5. “Where Are The Media’s Iraq War Boosters 10 Years Later?,” Media Matters, March 19, 2013

6. “Intentions and Opposite Results in Iraq,” The New York Times, December 4, 2008

7. “The Slippery Slope of U.S. Intervention,” Foreign Policy, August 11, 2014

8. “Can Obama avoid mission creep in Iraq?,” CNN, June 19, 2014

9. “U.S. Actions in Iraq Fueled Rise of a Rebel,” The New York Times, August 10, 2014

10. “Fareed Zakaria: Who lost Iraq? The Iraqis did, with an assist from George W. Bush,” Washington Post, June 12, 2014

11. “Iraq’s crisis: Don’t forget the 2003 U.S. invasion,” Washington Post, June 16, 2014

12. “ISIS Atrocities in Iraq Represent the Catastrophic Failure of Bush Doctrine and Neoconservative Foreign Policy,” Huffington Post, August 8, 2014

13. “Five Reasons Why Obama Won the ’08 Election,” About News, accessed August 13, 2014

14. “Obama: US won’t get dragged into war,” The Hill, June 13, 2014

15. “Obama, With Reluctance, Returns to Action in Iraq,” The New York Times, August 7, 2014

16. “Obama: ‘There Is No American Military Solution To The Larger Crisis In Iraq’,” Huffington Post, August 11, 2014

17. “The chaos in Baghdad explains why Obama isn’t trying to destroy ISIS,” Vox, August 10, 2014

18. “Diplomacy Not More Arms Needed in Iraq and Syria,” Win Without War, June 19, 2014

19. “House Votes For Checks On Obama’s Iraq War Powers,” Huffington Post, July 25, 2014

20. “The Middle East Friendship Chart,” Slate, July 17, 2014

21. “Failed Interventions and What They Teach,” Speech by Former Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr., USFS (Ret.), October 21, 2010

22. “The US bombing its own guns perfectly sums up America’s total failure in Iraq,” Vox, August 8, 2014

23. “Why arming Syria’s rebels wouldn’t have stopped ISIS,” Vox, August 13, 2014

24. “Experts Warn of Terrorism Blowback From Iraq Air Strikes,” Time Magazine, August 10, 2014

25. “Casualties in Iraq,”, accessed August 13, 2014

26. “Iraq war costs U.S. more than $2 trillion: study,” Reuters, March 14, 2013

27. “The Iraq War Could Cost More Than $6 Trillion,” Business Insider, March 14, 2013

28. “Iraq Death Toll Reaches 500,000 Since Start Of U.S.-Led Invasion, New Study Says,” Huffington Post, October 15, 2013

29. “Islamic State Killed 500 Yazidis, Buried Some Victims Alive,” Huffington Post, August 10, 2014

30. “The Case Against Drone Strikes on People Who Only ‘Act’ Like Terrorists,” The Atlantic, August 19, 2013

31. “Diplomacy Not More Arms Needed in Iraq and Syria,” Win Without War, June 19, 2014

32. “Five Ways the U.S. Can Help Stop the Killing in Iraq,” Friends Committee on National Legislation, accessed August 13, 2014

33. “Responding to the Crisis in Iraq — Without Bombs,” Friends Committee on National Legislation, August 13, 2014

The Colossal Blunder That is the Iraq War


By: Charles Pierce, Esquire

“One of the more subtle benefits of the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary Of Defense is that it has required in our political discourse that we re-litigate — or, arguably, litigate honestly for the first time — the sweeping criminal fraud that was the selling of the war in Iraq by the administration of George W. Bush. Remarkably, at least in the prominent arenas of public discussion, the “left” side of this debate is primarily represented by people who supported the criminal fraud at first — like Peter Beinart and, admittedly, Hagel himself — and who then soured on the whole business either because they saw what a massive blunder it was, or because they needed to obfuscate their own hysterical support of it in order to maintain their public credibility in a country that was realizing that they’d helped play it for a sucker. And hello to you, too, Andrew Sullivan.

Let us be clear. The Avignon Presidency’s excellent adventure in Iraq was a fake from start to finish, planned long in advance of the 9/11 attacks and sold to the country on the basis of “evidence” that bordered on the risible. (Remember the Iraqi drones spraying anthrax up the Hudson?) More to the point, there were people who knew it at the time, who talked about it at the time, who yelled about it at the time, and who, at best, were ignored and, at worst, slandered and marginalized. Those voices are still on the outskirts of the conversation, as though the more right you were, the less credibility you had.

This phenomenon continues today. There were the people who were right all along. These included Al Gore, Hans Blix, the Washington bureau of the McClatchy news service, and any member of Congress who voted against the resolution. A subset of this group are the people who were right all along but didn’t do enough. These included all those CIA types who knew what was going on, but who couldn’t quite bring themselves to raise a sufficient amount of hell. These groups have been shoved aside again in favor of the people who feel really bad about their mistake, or who, like the ubiquitous Michael O’Hanlon, have chosen not to speak much of it again. They were serious people about supporting the war and serious people now that they take their regrets out for a walk on TV. Serious is as serious does, I reckon. We never are going to get right with this colossal blunder until this kind of thinking changes. With too many people spoiling for a fight with Iran, against which Hagel already has lined up, this is not a healthy bit of business.

Emphasis Mine


Did ‘we’ Lost the War(s)?

It became politically critical the way Nixon grasped at “Peace with Honor” as fig leaf modesty to cover our withdrawal from Vietnam. To be absolutely plain: Our military has been ineffective, in shocking contrast to initial war expectations. After 9/11 we worshiped our forces as Gods of War, and yet after ten years of heroic effort they could not meet even the most limited of US war goals

From HuffPost, By Michael Vlahos

Official Disclaimer: This is my take, and mine alone.

I thought at least someone would ask the question. This is after all a solemn commemorative occasion. It is perhaps our only real moment for constructive reflection, because this anniversary also effectively marks the end of the war itself.

It is almost as though we collectively decided not to say it, and focus instead on a fitting and proper emotional memorial — never the word, defeat.

But we will learn nothing and gain nothing from ten years of tragedy, waste, and ruin unless we face up to it. And facing up does not mean asking, “Did we win?” Not winning, as the coachman says in The Wizard of Oz, is a horse of a different color. It is for example the correct question to have asked at the end of the Korean War (Answer: No we did not win. But we did not lose either).

So how do we know we lost? The history of war shows us two stainless measures: One is emotional and one is objective. You have lost when you feel you have lost, no matter what you say in public. You have lost when your instruments of war fail to achieve your goals, and instead lead you to a place of strategic vulnerability and disadvantage — when you are in a worse situation coming out of war than going in.

The 9/11 War is a straight-up defeat on both counts. Our nation today is depressed and disheartened and feels itself in steep decline. The US military — the instrument we chose to achieve our goals — not only failed to achieve them: Its very enterprise has led to a world situation of severe vulnerability and disadvantage to the United States.

Emotional defeat is a quick review because it is so visible and clear:

  • We feel weak. We were in budget surplus going into war, and now we are going to top 100 percent GDP debt very soon — and a third of that will be paid to the war. Hence actual unemployment is at 1934 levels, and will hover there very much longer than it ever did after 1934.
  • We feel in decline. We feel China stole a march on us and we will never catch up. How we were startled by a report that China would surpass us by 2016, even though the message was couched in the deceptive measure of purchasing power parity. Yet we still feel like our time has passed.
  • We feel we have nothing to show for 200,000 casualties — which must include the yet uncounted wounded by TBI, PTSD, and toxic dust. They will witness and testify for this war for decades to come.
  • We feel divided as a nation. Republicans believe Democrats are socialist “defeatocrats” and thus traitors to the American idea. Democrats believe Republicans are sweatshop-loving Scrooges whose worldview is closer to medieval Taliban than modern American ideals. The only belief both share is a judgment that national political leadership has failed. Utterly.

Naturally all this is voiced, cacophonously. It is just that the wild surround sound is not connected to the very thing that caused it: The war.

Objective defeat seems like the more difficult argument because it is so hotly denied. But the very denial of objective defeat actually makes it a stronger argument, because denial is in itself powerful evidence for the prosecution.

Evidence falls into three baskets: Did the use of military force achieve our goals? How well has the military adapted to difficulties and shortcomings? What is the military’s concluding assessment?

    • Goals: The US Government has put forward many different war goals at different times and from different sources within Government. Yet the overarching goal announced in strategic initiation and six-year follow-through was twofold: The “transformation of the Middle East” into democratic polities according to US standards, and the extirpation of terrorism and its source, “violent extremism.” Specific benchmark-goals within this strategic framework were the establishment of democratic polities in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the maintenance of “stability and security in the Greater Middle East” (US official policy since 1991).None of these goals has been achieved, and as a consequence of the Arab Spring, stability and security in the Greater Middle East has also been lost. Iraq and Afghanistan are not stable, let alone democratic polities. Violent extremism, as defined by US leadership (i.e., al-Ikhwan), is an increasingly powerful and legitimate force in Muslim politics. Indeed it can be argued that military force in the short term highly encouraged and hardened Islamist “extremism.” In the longer term, because of the ways force was used to seduce occupied societies to adopt US political forms, our “kinetic” military administration encouraged wider popular revolution, even against “stable” tyrants that were America’s most valued “friends and allies in the region.”
    • Adaptation: The US military responded so slowly that its adaptation to military failure came too late to contain the dynamic surge of a changing Arab consciousness inspired by US military action. Moreover US military adaptation was operational rather than strategic — meaning the military chose to try only a different palette of techniques to bring resistance to heel. This approach is called counterinsurgency (COIN). But COIN has been an utter failure in Afghanistan (COIN in Iraq was of the storybook variety). Why? Because COIN believes that a larger community’s actively resistant consciousness can be broken by limited (even soft) techniques. Truth is that committed insurgent communities can be broken only through the slaughter or removal of military-age males and by placing the rest of the community in concentration camps. So far Americans have shown themselves incapable of wholeheartedly embracing such a strategy.Hence the US military adapted too little and too late. They also adopted the wrong approach. Honing our skills in 9-11-style COIN as advertised — the occupation and administration of entire countries — is waste. The American people will be unwilling to risk repeat defeat and debacle for the foreseeable future. But as to practical future courses of action, we can already see chaotic irregular environments awaiting us — whose scale and horror in coming decades will not permit even the thought of another Iraq or Afghanistan.
  • Assessment: I know of no military person, fraternity, or institution willing to utter the forbidden word: Defeat. Instead we are all just moving ahead and leaving a bitter past behind. This is both a terrible strategic mistake and a potential national tragedy in the making. To be absolutely plain: Our military has been ineffective, in shocking contrast to initial war expectations. After 9/11 we worshiped our forces as Gods of War, and yet after ten years of heroic effort they could not meet even the most limited of US war goals. This is not to say that our soldiers did not do their utmost. Furthermore their sacrifice in itself represents a stern civic message to the 99 percent of Americans who stayed home and “went shopping.”But their efforts achieved only marginal results. Even the shining narrative of “The Surge” was in the end just brilliant propaganda. The so-called “Sons of Iraq” came to us and wiped out AQI on their own, while it was the enemy “Mahdi Army” whose winning power-drills ethnically cleansed Baghdad — and now Iraq is his and we are out. Was our military poorly charged and led by Supreme Command (our leaders)? Yes. Were they given a task that we can admit now was unattainable? Yes. Can we see also that war has changed, and that there are conflict environments whose very nature makes submission to us unlikely? Yes. But even a shield-wall of denial cannot avoid what our senses tell us: That in not attaining, they — we — were defeated.

Yet harshest light shows nothing to so many who blithely insist that there were big “wins” coming out of 9/11, and that this is enough. They sanctimoniously aver that we defeated Al Qaeda, like a commonplace truth brooking no argument. Case closed.

This argument about Al Qaeda is reminiscent of Harry Summers telling an NVA colonel: “You know you never defeated us on the battlefield.” To which Col. Tu famously replied, “That may be so. But it is also irrelevant.” Defeating Al Qaeda was simply not the US main war goal after Tora Bora — instead it became critical only recently. It became politically critical the way Nixon grasped at “Peace with Honor” as fig leaf modesty to cover our withdrawal from Vietnam.

Defeating “Al Qaeda and Associated Movements” (AQAI) thus becomes like a Vietnam-era changeling — a strategic switcheroo. Yet pretending the dime-store trophy we now hold up is what we were all about these past ten years is also like asking us to throw away the whole decade — and in turn this becomes yet another badge of defeat.

But why bring up Vietnam again? Because right now our defeat in Vietnam should be a lodestar to the American military. Because our military transcended defeat in Vietnam. Because they faced up to an honest defeat, the US military made defeat a utility of virtue. Because of Vietnam our military transformed itself, and emerged as a force so potent it practically brought down the great Soviet Empire on its own.

America’s military services must find their utility of virtue in the 9/11 War. Our officers, our enlisted men and women need to answer questions like:

What are the limits of military effectiveness in the world today? How can the military be effective in the chaotic irregular environments of the human future? How can the military help national leaders understand changing limits and possibilities to military use? How can our military reinforce, rather than weaken, America’s world relationships and the nation itself?

Embracing defeat is an unsung virtue — but right now such virtue is necessity.”

Emphasis Mine.


It Has happened here…

In an earlier post, I referenced the Sinclair Lewis novel: “It Can’t Happen Here”,  – see wiki:

In 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004, the persons who became President had the interests of the wealthiest Americans – not the majority – as an agenda, supported by three major theories: the anti-middle class supply side economics;  the anti-welfare system illegitmacy epidemic; and the anti-public education suppossed crisis in public education – all have turned out to have been hoaxes .  (“Up From Conservatism”, by Michael Lind).  It should be emphasized that during the brief respite of the Clinton administration – in which taxes were raised slightly on the highest incomes, and 21 million new jobs were created – those positive results were not in the headlines.

1980 might be excused, as it was not then completely clear what the agenda would be, but the rest cannot .  As to the issue of the honesty of the 2000 and 2004 elections, at least 53-57% of voters should have rejected the Republican candidate, which would have made the election very difficult to steal.

The untruths propogated by the Bush 43 administration to justify the invasion of  Iraq are another example of mass deception, as was the attempt to destroy Social Security, which failed, and the near criminalization of popular issues, such as access to safe, legal abortions.

How have the wealthiest several percent succeeded in controlling the vast majority?

o By clever framing of the issues, e.g. ‘pro-life’, ‘war on terror’

o By the creation of an enemy – ‘terrorists’

o By getting out their voters with wedge issues (abortion, race)

o With the help of a supportive corporate media

How did we turn the tide in 2008?

o The neocons helped us by hurting the economy and the infrastructue, and their pursuit of the troubled adventure in Iraq

o We choose a charismatic, intelligent, empathetic candidate with wide appeal, who overcame a non-traditional background to get more votes than any other candidate in US history.

o We identified concerns of the majority, and got them out to vote

How can we avoid future disasters?

o Remain vigilant

o Reveal history

o Resolve the problems which are the most important to the greatest number of people

o Reject the false messages of biased media sources.

see also: