Tuesday, December 28, 2004

It would make just as much sense for Asian countries to form a coalition to invade the US as it did for the US to invade Iraq.

It would make just as much sense for Asian countries to form a coalition to invade the US as it did for the US to invade Iraq. Asia, claiming 20 TIMES the victims in the recent Tsunamis, could take the point of view that the US, by not signing the Kyoto Treaty, withdrawing from international environmental treaties, "created" the current disaster, which at latest count appears to have claimed 60,0000 victims. The Asians, of course, would be WRONG. But would they be more wrong than the Bush Administration, which cynically linked the 9/11 tragedy with the Iraq government despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. VP Cheney continued to make the connection without remorse or regret. So why shouldn't India, Thailand, Indonesia and other Asian powerhouses take "pre-emptive" action against the US for exporting its environmental recklessness - not to mention its economic recklessness by debasing its currency? This administration has made the world hate the US. That takes great talent. The US, through dozens of administrations and countless excursions abroad, including Iran, Iraq, South Africa, South America, and South East Asia, has ALWAYS been a beacon. To make it the most hated country in the world in the course of one election cycle takes real talent - a singular arrogance and insolance, combined with genuine stupidity and mendacity no American (like myself) thought we would see in a US government - and yet here it is, in the form of the Bush Administration, where the intelligent and dissenting voices have LEFT the administration, and the PERPETRATORS of the Iraq war promoted.

I fear there will be a second 9/11. Only this time, the world won't be disgusted. i fear this time the world will shrug its shoulders and say - "They deserved it!"

A sad, sad decent of a mighty country, from being a beacon of hope to a repository of rancid arrogance.

And the pity, the GREAT PITY, is the inability of EUROPE to mount a credible counter-example. But that point will be the subject of a later blog.

It would make just as much sense for Asian countries to form a coalition to invade the US as it did for the US to invade Iraq.

It would make just as much sense for Asian countries to form a coalition to invade the US as it did for the US to invade Iraq. Asia, claiming 20 TIMES the victims in the recent Tsunamis, could take the point of view that the US, by not signing the Kyoto Treaty, withdrawing from international environmental treaties, "created" the current disaster, which at latest count appears to have claimed 60,0000 victims. The Asians, of course, would be WRONG. But would they be more wrong than the Bush Administration, which cynically linked the 9/11 tragedy with the Iraq government despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. VP Cheney continued to make the connection without remorse or regret. So why shouldn't India, Thailand, Indonesia and other Asian powerhouses take "pre-emptive" action against the US for exporting its environmental recklessness - not to mention its economic recklessness by debasing its currency? This administration has made the world hate the US. That takes great talent. The US, through dozens of administrations and countless excursions abroad, including Iran, Iraq, South Africa, South America, and South East Asia, has ALWAYS been a beacon. To make it the most hated country in the world in the course of one election cycle takes real talent - a singular arrogance and insolance, combined with genuine stupidity and mendacity no American (like myself) thought we would see in a US government - and yet here it is, in the form of the Bush Administration, where the intelligent and dissenting voices have LEFT the administration, and the PERPETRATORS of the Iraq war promoted.

I fear there will be a second 9/11. Only this time, the world won't be disgusted. i fear this time the world will shrug its shoulders and say - "They deserved it!"

A sad, sad decent of a mighty country, from being a beacon of hope to a repository of rancid arrogance.

And the pity, the GREAT PITY, is the inability of EUROPE to mount a credible counter-example. But that point will be the subject of a later blog.

It would make just as much sense for Asian countries to form a coalition to invade the US as it did for the US to invade Iraq.

It would make just as much sense for Asian countries to form a coalition to invade the US as it did for the US to invade Iraq. Asia, claiming 20 TIMES the victims in the recent Tsunamis, could take the point of view that the US, by not signing the Kyoto Treaty, withdrawing from international environmental treaties, "created" the current disaster, which at latest count appears to have claimed 60,0000 victims. The Asians, of course, would be WRONG. But would they be more wrong than the Bush Administration, which cynically linked the 9/11 tragedy with the Iraq government despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. VP Cheney continued to make the connection without remorse or regret. So why shouldn't India, Thailand, Indonesia and other Asian powerhouses take "pre-emptive" action against the US for exporting its environmental recklessness - not to mention its economic recklessness by debasing its currency? This administration has made the world hate the US. That takes great talent. The US, through dozens of administrations and countless excursions abroad, including Iran, Iraq, South Africa, South America, and South East Asia, has ALWAYS been a beacon. To make it the most hated country in the world in the course of one election cycle takes real talent - a singular arrogance and insolance, combined with genuine stupidity and mendacity no American (like myself) thought we would see in a US government - and yet here it is, in the form of the Bush Administration, where the intelligent and dissenting voices have LEFT the administration, and the PERPETRATORS of the Iraq war promoted.

I fear there will be a second 9/11. Only this time, the world won't be disgusted. i fear this time the world will shrug its shoulders and say - "They deserved it!"

A sad, sad decent of a mighty country, from being a beacon of hope to a repository of rancid arrogance.

And the pity, the GREAT PITY, is the inability of EUROPE to mount a credible counter-example. But that point will be the subject of a later blog.

It would make just as much sense for Asian countries to form a coalition to invade the US as it did for the US to invade Iraq.

It would make just as much sense for Asian countries to form a coalition to invade the US as it did for the US to invade Iraq. Asia, claiming 20 TIMES the victims in the recent Tsunamis, could take the point of view that the US, by not signing the Kyoto Treaty, withdrawing from international environmental treaties, "created" the current disaster, which at latest count appears to have claimed 60,0000 victims. The Asians, of course, would be WRONG. But would they be more wrong than the Bush Administration, which cynically linked the 9/11 tragedy with the Iraq government despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. VP Cheney continued to make the connection without remorse or regret. So why shouldn't India, Thailand, Indonesia and other Asian powerhouses take "pre-emptive" action against the US for exporting its environmental recklessness - not to mention its economic recklessness by debasing its currency? This administration has made the world hate the US. That takes great talent. The US, through dozens of administrations and countless excursions abroad, including Iran, Iraq, South Africa, South America, and South East Asia, has ALWAYS been a beacon. To make it the most hated country in the world in the course of one election cycle takes real talent - a singular arrogance and insolance, combined with genuine stupidity and mendacity no American (like myself) thought we would see in a US government - and yet here it is, in the form of the Bush Administration, where the intelligent and dissenting voices have LEFT the administration, and the PERPETRATORS of the Iraq war promoted.

I fear there will be a second 9/11. Only this time, the world won't be disgusted. i fear this time the world will shrug its shoulders and say - "They deserved it!"

A sad, sad decent of a mighty country, from being a beacon of hope to a repository of rancid arrogance.

And the pity, the GREAT PITY, is the inability of EUROPE to mount a credible counter-example. But that point will be the subject of a later blog.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Polk On Iraq

This editorial, which appeared on Juan Cole's groundbreaking weblog on Iraq, was just too good, too insightful to ignore. So with all credit to Juan Cole, whose line appears above, i'm posting the whole thing for my readers.


American Options in Iraq

Guest Editorial By

William R. Polk

Official inquiries have verified what independent observers have long said: the invasion of Iraq was not justified; a small, remote and poor country, Iraq posed no threat to the United States. As in the Tonkin Gulf issue during the Vietnam war, the Congress and public were misled. Those of us who said so from the beginning are tempted now to say "I told you so" but that indulgence doesn't lead anywhere. When I was the member of the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Council responsible for the Middle East, I had the duty not to lament past mistakes but to identify what could be done to pick up the pieces where they then lay. With the elections behind us and the Bush administration in office for the next four years, an intelligent choice among current options in Iraq becomes even more urgent. Now as a private citizen, I ask what can be done with the current reality?

Iraq is in a terrible condition, its society has been torn apart, scores of thousands have been killed and even more wounded, its infrastructure has been shattered, dreadful hatreds have been generated. Today, there are no good options -- only better or worse -- alternatives. Three appear possible:

The first option has been called "staying the course." In practice that means continued fighting. France “stayed the course” in Algeria in the 1950s as America did in Vietnam in the 1960s and as the Israelis are now doing in occupied Palestine. It has never worked anywhere. In Algeria, the French employed over three times as many troops, nearly half a million, to fight roughly the same number of insurgents as America is now fighting in Iraq. They lost. America had half a million soldiers in Vietnam and gave up. After forty years of warfare against the Palestinians, the Israelis have achieved neither peace nor security.

Wars of national “self-determination,” to use President Woodrow Wilson’s evocative phrase, can last for generations or even centuries. Britain tried to beat down (or even exterminate) the Irish for nearly 900 years, from shortly after the Eleventh century Norman invasion until 1921; the French fought the Algerians from 1831 until 1962; both Imperial and Communist Russia have been fighting the Chechens since about 1731. Putin’s Russia is still at it. There was no light at the end of those “tunnels.”

At best, “staying the course” in Iraq can be only a temporary measure as eventually America will have to leave. But during the period it stays, say the next five years, my guess is that another 30 or 40 thousand Iraqis will die or be killed while the U.S. armed forces will lose perhaps 5,000 dead and 20,000 seriously wounded. The monetary cost will be hundreds of billions. Consider what the figures mean. Americans were horrified when about 3,300 people were killed in the attack by al-Qaida terrorists on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Iraq has already (at the time of this writing) lost about 100,000 during the American invasion and occupation.* In absolute terms that means that virtually every Iraqi has a parent, child, spouse, cousin, friend, colleague or neighbor – or perhaps all of these -- among the dead. More than half of the dead were women and children. In relative terms, this figure equates in the very much larger American society to a loss of over a million people.

It is not only the actual casualties that count. What wars of “national liberation” have taught us is that they brutalize the participants who survive. Inevitably such wars are vicious. Both sides commit atrocities. In their campaigns to drive away those they regard as their oppressors, terrorists/freedom fighters seek to make their opponents conclude that staying is unacceptably expensive and, since they do not have the means to fight conventional wars, they often pick targets that will produce dramatic and painful results. Irish, Jewish, Vietnamese, Tamil, Chechen, Basque and others blew up hotels, cinemas, bus stations and/or apartment houses. The more spectacular, the better for their campaigns. So, the Irgun blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946; the IRA a Brighton (England) hotel in 1984; an Iraqi group the UN headquarters in Baghdad in 2003. Chechens blew up an apartment house in Moscow in 2003 while a Palestinian group blew up an Israeli frequented hotel in Taba (in Egypt) in 2004.

Faced with such challenges, the occupying power often reacts with massive attacks aimed at terrorists but inevitably also killing many civilians. To get information from those it manages to capture, it also frequently engages in torture. Torture did not begin at the Abu Ghuraib prison; it is endemic in guerrilla warfare. Two phrases from the Franco-Algerian war of the 1950s-1960s tell it all and ring true today: “torture is to guerrilla war what the machine gun was to trench warfare in the First World War” and “torture is the cancer of democracy.” Guerrilla warfare and counter insurgency inexorably corrupt the very causes for which soldiers and insurgents fight. Almost worse, even in exhausted “defeat” for the one and heady “victory” for the other, they leave behind a chaos that spawns warlords, gangsters and thugs as is today so evident in Chechnya and Afghanistan. After half a century, Algeria has still not recovered from the trauma of its war of liberation against France. The longer the war in Iraq continues the more it will resemble the statement the Roman historian Tacitus attributed to the contemporary guerrilla leader of the Britons. The Romans, he said, “create a desolation and call it peace.”

The second option is "Vietnamization." In Vietnam, America inherited from the French both a government and a large army. What was needed, the Nixon administration proclaimed, was to train the army, equip it and then turn the war over to it. True, the army did not fight well nor did the government rule well, but they existed. In Iraq, America inherited neither a government nor an army. It is trying to create both. Not surprisingly, the results are disappointing. Most Iraqis regard the government as an American puppet. And the idea that America can fashion a local militia to accomplish what its powerful army cannot do is not policy but fantasy. It is true that in the days of their Iraqi empire, the British used such a force – composed of an ethnic minority, the Assyrians. But the British wisely used them only as auxiliaries to their army and air force. The Iraqi “Interim Government” has similarly used Kurds as auxiliaries to American forces. An Iraqi army is unlikely to fight insurgents with whom soldiers sympathize and among whom they have relatives. The best America might gain from this option is a fig leaf to hide defeat; the worst, in a rapid collapse, would be humiliating evacuation, as in Vietnam.

The third option is to choose to get out rather than being forced. Time is a wasting asset; the longer the choice is put off, the harder it will be to make. The steps required to implement this policy need not be dramatic, but the process needs to be affirmed and made unambiguous. The initial steps could be merely verbal. America would have first to declare unequivocally that it will give up its lock on the Iraqi economy, will cease to spend Iraqi revenues as it chooses and will allow Iraqi oil production to be governed by market forces rather than by an American monopoly. If President Bush could be as courageous as General Charles de Gaulle was in Algeria when he admitted that the Algerian insurgency had “won” and called for a “peace of the braves,” fighting would quickly die down in Iraq as it did in Algeria and in all other guerrilla wars. Then, and only then, could elections be meaningful. In this period, Iraq would need a police force but not an army. A UN multinational peacekeeping force would be easier, cheaper and safer than creating an Iraqi army which in the past destroyed moves toward civil society and probably would do so again, probably indeed paving the way for the “ghost” of Saddam Husain.
A variety of "service" functions would then have to be organized. Given a chance, Iraq could do them mostly by itself. It would soon again become a rich country and has a talented, well-educated population. Step by step, health care, clean water, sewage, roads, bridges, pipelines, electric grids, housing, etc. could be mainly provided by the Iraqis themselves, as they were in the past. When I visited Baghdad in February 2003 on the eve of the invasion, the Iraqis with whom I talked were proud that they had rebuilt the Tigris bridge that had been destroyed in the 1991 war. They can surely do so again.

In its own best interest, the Iraq government would empower the Iraq National Iraq Oil Company (NIOC) to award concessions by bid to a variety of international companies, each of which and NIOC would sell oil on the world market. Contracts for reconstruction paid for by Iraqi money would be awarded under bidding, as they traditionally were, but to prevent excessive corruption perhaps initially supervised by the World Bank. Where other countries supplied aid, they could be given preferential treatment in the award of contracts as is common practice elsewhere. The World Bank would follow its regular procedures on its loans. Abrogating current American policies that work against the recovery of Iraqi industry and commerce would spur development since any reasonably intelligent and self-interested government would emphasize getting Iraqi enterprises back into operation and employing Iraqi workers. That process could be speeded up through international loans, commercial agreements and protective measures so that unemployment, now at socially catastrophic levels, would be diminished. Neighborhood participation in running social affairs and providing security are old traditions in Iraqi society and allowing or favoring their reinvigoration would promote the excellent side effect of grass roots political representation. As fighting dies down, reasonable security is achieved and popular institutions revive, the one million Iraqis now living abroad will be encouraged to return home. In the aggregate they are intelligent, highly trained, and well motivated and can make major contributions in all phases of Iraqi life.

In such a program, inevitably, there will be set-backs and shortfalls, but they can be partly filled by international organizations. The steps will not be easy; Iraqis will disagree over timing, personnel and rewards while giving the process a chance will require American political courage. But, and this is the crucial matter, any other course of action would be far worse for both America and Iraq. The safety and health of American society as well as Iraqi society requires that this policy be implemented intelligently, determinedly and soon.

© William R. Polk, November 5, 2004.

"They Play Chess, We're Playing Checkers"

The quote above was the regular refrain of Democrats I talked to during the heated election. it was largely, true. The Democrats made a difficult position, unseating a war-time President, impossible. They fielded a poster-boy for liberal patrician values and he sold himself based on courage displayed 35 years ago. While complaining the Administration "outsourced" Tora Bora, the Dems outsourced the field campaign to Moveon.org and Soros. The pundits who laughed at the Dems were right, while the Republicans were playing chess in the field, the Dems were playing checkers. How badly is now evident in the results (on which more later). If you don't frame the debate the debate frames you.

The same with Wars. In this instance, however, what's really clear is that the Bush regime is the one playing checkers. It's clear Fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, and particularly Osama Bin Laden (well known for a decade to my part of the world, Turkey) is playing chess, the Bushists are playing checkers.

Only one example for tonight. It was clear during the run-up to the election that the situation in Filuja was at a breaking point. Why? Because the Terrorists watch the same news we do, scour the same sites we do. They knew there could be no decisive US move against them before the election. That in turn meant they could Leave Filuja, just as the Coalition forces were moving into position, and maximise the casualities Outside Filluja. They could see the fight coming and they are not there. They have Redeployed, outside Filuja. They will Redeploy into Filuja after the forces are bogged down there. But they will attack elsewhere, wrecking Alawi's elections and program.

The Bush regime keeps telegraphing its punches, and then seems punch-drunk after it gets hit. Same as the Democrats in the run-up to the election.

Of course, in the world, the Real World, the stakes are much higher than in the US. And this the President refuses to acknowledge. In the Real World, in the Middle East, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (present in all Three holy Books, the Torah, Bible and Koran) - they are there NOW, trampling on the heads of the beleaguered population.

This administration is sophisticated at home, but dangerously content to play with soft bigotry, code-word wedge issues, and keep itself above a direct confrontation on the issues like the economy, civil liberties, the conduct of the war, etc. Similarly, Islamic Fundamentalists in Their Patch, are doing the same. They outfox the Bush regime at every turn.

It will turn very very bloody when the soft core of mid-ranking Islamic military and intelligence agents cross-over to the dark side decisively. We will be surprised again at how they got their hands on WMD's - and, importantly, when they are used against US, Americans, why the world, this time, won't have come to our side, but will wash their hands like Pilate, and say we did everything we could to inflame the very forces we seek to extinguish.

For the Middle East, these are the Latter Days. This Is History, for them. In the long run, the machinations of the 04 election will seem small in comparison to the implications of Bush's haplessness abroad.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Latter Days

This weblog is dedicated to the triumph of reason over tyranny, whether it comes from the sands of Arabia or the bushes of Crawford. The Bush Administration took the dying gasps of a discredited movement - Fundamentalist Islamic Terrorism - which was banished from Algeria and Egypt, where it was born, to Sudan, and finally to one of the farthest and bleakest corners of Islam, Afghanistan - and by invading Iraq turned it into the new voice of revolution. After September 11, 2001, as the French newspaper Le Monde said, "We are all Americans now." In 2002 the US had the goodwill and cooperation to not only extinguish terrorism in every corner of the world but to finish the work of earlier US administrations in searching for peace in the Middle East. Each successive administration, irrespective of its party, had brought the sides kicking and screaming closer to a sustainable solution. They left their successors something to work with, and the Clinton Administration, more than any other, was within striking distance of a comprehensive settlement. Instead, the administration humiliated moderate Arabs in the guise of hunting terrorists, gave aid and comfort to Israel's fanatical Sharon government's brutal escalation of Palestinian oppression and to its illegal annexation of their lands, and gave murdererous terrorists all around the world the cause they had been searching for a generation. In invading Iraq, Bush's tutors took the "War On Terror" squarely into the realm of Imperialism, and in the process earned the hatred of the world. To err may be human. It takes real talent to get things this wrong. It's time for regime change at home. For comments, email alexstcl@hotmail.com