Aug 31, 2007

Seymour Hersh on Bush - Cheyney and Iran

Information Clearing House Blog

Aug 23, 2007

Fashion for The Company worn by Zora Star

PVC Trousers with side Zipperss by Richard Nicoll

Leather Cape with belt and metal hook fastener by Hermes

Rubber top by Luella

Aug 12, 2007

America’s illusory strategy in Iraq

FT Home

By David Gardner

Published: August 9 2007 19:27 | Last updated: August 9 2007 19:27

Future historians of how Iraq was lost will, of course, alight on the memoirs and the memos of those who drove the policy, measuring declaration against execution, ambition against outcome. They will savour the solipsism of a Paul Bremer, the US viceroy whose disbandment of the Iraqi army left 400,000 men destitute and bitter, but armed, trained and prey to the insurgency then taking shape – but whose memoir paints him as a MacArthur of Mesopotamia.

They will be awed by the arrogance and fecklessness of a Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary and theorist of known unknowns, who summed up the descent into anarchy and looting in the hours after Baghdad fell (when, very possibly, Iraq was lost) – “Stuff happens”.

But their research will be greatly assisted by the diligence of the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the US Congress, which keeps on unearthing the bottomless depths of incompetence behind the Bush administration’s misconceived adventure in Iraq.

This week, the GAO reported that the Pentagon cannot account for 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 80,000 pistols supposedly supplied to Iraqi security forces – adding to well-founded suspicions that insurgents are using US-supplied arms to attack American and British troops.

This discovery might be considered the mother of all known unknowns, were it not that in March this year the GAO published a drily damning report on the coalition’s failure to secure scores upon scores of arms dumps abandoned by the Iraqi army after the 2003 invasion – and that by October last year it had still failed to secure this giant toolbox that keeps the daily slaughter going in Iraq.

That carnage continues, barely moderated by the “surge” of troops that this week raised US forces to their peak level in Iraq of 162,000 – a last heave that looks destined to be the prelude to withdrawal.

As a policy it is hard to see how any surge can fix an Iraq so traumatised by tyranny and war and then broken by invasion and occupation. It takes place as an already indecipherable ethnic and sectarian patchwork is being pulled bloodily to pieces. Iraq has reached advanced societal breakdown. Ethnic cleansing proceeds regionally, through neighbourhoods, even street by street.

There has been a mass exodus of teachers and doctors, civil servants and entrepreneurs, a haemorrhage of Iraq’s future. Nearly 4m Iraqis have been uprooted by this cataclysm. Instead of bringing democracy to Iraq and the Arabs, the 2003 invasion has scattered Iraqis across the Middle East – as well as creating laboratory conditions for the urban warfare urged on jihadis by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s strategist. The time to have surged is long since past.

Politically, there are no institutions, there is no national narrative. Ministries are sectarian booty and factional bastions. The interior ministry, headquarters for several death squads, is, according to the Los Angeles Times, partitioned into factional fiefs on each of its 11 floors – with the seventh floor split between the armed wings of two US-allied groups.

Two ostensibly benign by-products of the US invading Iraq were: the empowerment of the Shia majority there, giving the sect, a dispossessed minority within Islam, rights denied for centuries; and the welcome panic of an ossified Sunni Arab order based on a toxic mix of despotism and social inequity that incubated extremism. But Iraq’s Shia politicians seem unwilling to put state above sect. Such is the Sunni, jihadi-abetted backlash, and the intra-Shia fight over the spoils, that the Shia have not so much come into their inheritance as entered a new circle of hell.

The Shia-led government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has ceased to pursue even a communalist agenda, preferring the narrower sectarian interest of his faction of the Da’wa party. With the withdrawal of 17 of 38 members of Mr Maliki’s cabinet – including all the Sunnis and two big Shia factions – government has for most practical purposes ceased.

To believe any policy might work in these circumstances – let alone a slow-motion surge – requires heroic optimism. Some of that was placed in Gen David Petraeus, US commander in Iraq. At least until this week.

It turns out those Kalashnikovs went missing on his previous watch, as trainer-in-chief of the still barely existent Iraqi army. Gen Petraeus, a student of counterinsurgency with a PhD from Princeton and a gift for PR, had been lionised for his command of the 101st Airborne division in 2003-04, and especially his “hearts and minds” campaign in the north. After his withdrawal, however, two-thirds of Mosul’s security forces defected to the insurgency and the rest went down like fairground ducks. His forces appear not to have noticed, moreover, that Saudi-inspired jihadis had established a bridgehead in Mosul before the war had even started.

But US commanders seem to have no trouble detecting the hand of Tehran everywhere. This largely evidence-free blaming of serial setbacks on Iranian forces is a bad case of denial. First, the insurgency is overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni, built around a new generation of jihadis created by the US invasion. Second, to the extent foreign fighters are involved these have come mostly from US-allied and Sunni Saudi Arabia, not Shia Iran. Third, the lethal roadside bombs with shaped charges that US officials have coated with a spurious veneer of sophistication to prove Iranian provenance are mostly made by Iraqi army-trained engineers – from high explosive looted from those unsecured arms dumps.

Shia Iran has backed a lot of horses in Iraq. If it wished to bring what remains of the country down around US ears it could. It has not done so. The plain fact is that Tehran’s main clients in Iraq are the same as Washington’s: Mr Maliki’s Da’wa and the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq led by Abdelaziz al-Hakim. Iran has bet less on the unpredictable Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army, which has, in any case, largely stood aside during the present troop surge.

So, in sum. Having upturned the Sunni order in Iraq and the Arab world, and hugely enlarged the Shia Islamist power emanating from Iran, the US finds itself dependent on Tehran-aligned forces in Baghdad, yet unable to dismantle the Sunni jihadistan it has created in central and western Iraq. Ignoring its Iraqi allies it is arming Sunni insurgents to fight al-Qaeda. And, by selling them arms rather than settling Palestine it is trying to put together an Arab Sunni alliance (Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) with Israel against Iran. All clear? How can anyone keep a straight face and call this a strategy?

Aug 11, 2007

A Modest Proposal: U.S. Statehood for Israel?

by Rosa Schmidt Azadi Page 1 of 2 page(s)

I’m only half kidding.

Just think of the possibilities. Making Israel the 51st U.S. state could be a win-win-win solution for our country, for Israel, and for Middle East peace. The way I see it, Israel’s security would get a boost at a lower cost to the U.S. taxpayer, and the biggest cause of conflict in the Middle East would be resolved, reducing the threat of terrorism.Stay with me on this for a minute.

Improving security in Israel.

We’re supplying Israel with billions of dollars in weaponry and we look like their only friend at the United Nations. Right? This is supposedly to defend them from attack by their sworn enemies, who are legion. Many Americans have a deep emotional commitment to the people in Israel and so we are bending over backward to protect them from threats both real and perceived.

But if Israel were the 51st state of the USA, things would be different. I doubt anyone would seriously attack the world’s only superpower. Every state is defended by the U.S. armed forces, which we’re already funding out of our tax dollars, and the United States has plenty of missiles and spy satellites. Plenty enough to watch over the newest state as well as all 50 others.

Israel is too far from the U.S. to feel protected, you say? Well, if Japan was betting on Hawaii being too far from the “contiguous United States” when they attacked Pearl Harbor, they had another think coming.

Imagine this, too. Once Israel became a state they would officially benefit from the services of the CIA and wouldn’t need their own spy agency (Mossad) anymore. That would be a relief to Americans who were so disappointed to hear that Israeli agents had spied on the U.S. and deceptively lobbied Congress. Also, what a relief it would be to hear no more rumors about how Mossad was secretly behind an unrealistic number of dastardly deeds in an unrealistic number of locations all over the world. (These rumors are not helping the struggle against anti-semitism.)

Saving U.S. taxpayers money.

If Israel were a state, we wouldn’t need to give them billions of our hard-earned dollars in military aid every year any more than we had to send the governor of Alaska billions of dollars to defend his state from the nearby USSR during the Cold War.

As a bonus to the U.S. bottom line, individuals and businesses in Israel would pay into the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) like everyone else who receives the protection of the U.S. Defense and State Departments. And they'd also benefit from the services of all the other federal agencies.

Promoting peace in the Middle East (and reducing terrorism).

Statehood is not just about Israel’s security and U.S. taxpayers’ comfort, though. Think how Israeli statehood might benefit the peace process and Middle East peace in general. This would help reduce terrorism.

First, Israel’s borders and land disputes would have to be settled before statehood could be granted, and naturally the U.S. would be interested in getting the best possible bargain. Other countries would also weigh in with their opinions and help mediate. This might be the perfect chance to offer compensation or repatriation to dispossessed Palestinian refugees. With an ultimate prize so big, the price would be worth it, and Israel wouldn’t have to worry about paying the cost all alone.

Second, we probably wouldn’t hear many complaints from the Palestinians and Arab Israelis about discrimination or “apartheid” after Israel joins the United States. Why? Because Israel’s state legislature would have to abide by the U.S. Constitution in its guarantee of religious freedom, separation of church and state, and equal civil/legal rights to all residents. We could also expect to see a sharp drop in terrorist recruitment as conditions improve.

Third, and equally important, transforming Israel from a major military power into one of 51 states in the USA would go a long way toward stabilizing the region. Neighboring countries would understand that, just as the Texas State National Guard cannot on their own authority attack Tijuana and the New York State National Guard cannot attack Montreal, the Israel State National Guard (which would replace the Israeli Defense Force) couldn't launch preemptive strikes into towns in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, or Iran. And that would mean we U.S. taxpayers wouldn’t have to “balance” the billions in military aid we send to Israel with yet more billions in military aid to Israel’s neighbors. Nor would we have to worry about being drawn into conflagrations that we don’t want and that Congress wouldn’t approve if they knew about them in advance (e.g., bombing Iran).

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Rosa Schmidt is an American married to an Iranian, hence the second last name, Azadi. She's a long-time peace activist with a background in anthropology, education, and public health. She's also one of the people who walked away from the falling Twin Towers on 9/11 and returned to help with the recovery effort. Out of this experience of destruction, death, and horror came a deeper commitment to human life everywhere and specifically to non-violence. Retired and splitting her time between rural New York and urban Iran, Rosa Schmidt is doing all she can to promote world peace.

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Aug 6, 2007

Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman, perhaps the greatest film artist of all time, has died at his home ... AP ... Time ... Telegraph ... Guardian ... Independent ... Wash Post ... Bloomberg ... London Times ... AFP ... Reuters ... NY Times ... BBC ... Guardian various ... Salon ... Independent ... LA Times ... Chic Sun-Times ... NY Post ... Guardian ... CanWest ... SF Chron ... Chic Trib ... Seattle PI ... Slate ... Telegraph ... Boston Globe ... London Times ... LA Times ... Newsweek ... NYMag ... The Age ... Economist ... Baltimore Sun ... Time ... NY Times ... He was a giant of the stage too.
Who can forget the chess game with Death in The Seventh Seal or the dream in Wild Strawberries?