Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Iraq and Ukraine: A Contrast in Superpowers

The news has been good locally with COVID case numbers coming down.  Unfortunately, the news overseas has has dampened these good feelings.  Watching the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfold I cannot help but think of parallels and differences between what is happening now and what was happening 19 years ago when the U.S. invaded Iraq.  

There were protests in the streets all over the world as well as the U.S. (pictured at the above right) just as there are now all over the world and in Russia itself (pictured at the right).  The protesters in Russia place themselves at greater risk for being arrested than the U.S. antiwar protesters did.  Russian state media is heavily censored with outlets banned from them calling it a war.  In the U.S., there was more self censorship in the corporate controlled media. For example, Phil Donahue's show on MSNBC being canceled in favor of right wing shock jock Michael Savage.

The right here used the excuse of fighting Islamo-fascism for continuing the war even though there was no evidence of a connection between .  In fact, it only lead to the creation of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and it further destabilized the region.  Putin has said that he is fighting neo-Nazis in Ukraine.  It remains to be seen what impact his invasion will have on neo Nazi movements in Europe and throughout the world.

Internationally, neither the U.S. nor Russia had a U.N. security council resolution condemning their actions because both countries, as permanent members of the council, have veto power over any council resolutions.  The U.N General assembly have an emergency session to condemn Russia's actions. 

One hundred and forty one of the 193 member states voted in favor of a resolution to condemn Russia's actions. Russia, Eritrea, Belarus, Syria, and North Korea voted against the it while 35 nations including China abstained. There was no emergency General Assembly meeting to discuss US actions in Iraq.  This is indicative of Russia's lack of core status.


Democracy Now! has a good discussion of Iraq and Ukraine histories.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

George HW Bush a Paragon of Virtue?

1988 was the first year I voted.  The candidates the major parties for President that year were George HW Bush and Michael Dukakis.  I was a freshman at IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania).  It was my first lesson in how ugly politics can be. 

Bush won that year by falsely claiming that Dukakis was against reciting the pledge of allegiance in schools, by insinuating that African-American criminals would attack you with the Willie Horton ads, and by falsely claiming that he would not raise taxes.  As President he launched military excursions in three out of the four of the years that he was President in Panama, Iraq, and Somalia.  Bush may have been a nice man if you meet him in person but his bite was far worse than his bark.

People now blame Trump and Palin for promoting stupidity in politics but it began long before anyone took them seriously.  Bush appointed Dan Quayle as his Vice President who made gaffes that would foreshadow Trump and Palin.  He blamed the riots that happened in Los Angeles after the policeman who beat Rodney King were acquitted on the TV show Murphy Brown.  Qualye was picked to placate the Christian right who had doubts on Bush's past support for abortion rights.

Bush's military attacks in Iraq and Panama killed hundreds of thousands of people and sowed the seeds of resentment against the US in Central America and the Muslim world.  Some may have thought his attack on Iraq was justified because of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait but he had no interested in diplomacy working.  Osama bin Laden, who first cut his teeth as a fighter against the Soviets in the 1980's with US funding, turned on the US when US troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia.  Another future terrorist, Timothy McVeigh, fought in the Gulf War where he learned his munition skills and later bombed the Federal building in Oklahoma City five years later in response to the botched Federal assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco.  

Bush lost his bid for reelection in 1992 with 38% of the vote as the economy soured.  He made one last military excursion into Somalia which led to the deaths of 18 US soldiers and the growth of an al Qaida affiliate there.  Clinton later became chummy with Bush and mostly continued his policies.

In 2001 his son George W Bush became President in a disputed election and soon faced the 9/11 attacks and sent troops into Iraq and Afghanistan.  His son blamed his father's loss on breaking his no new taxes pledge and not finishing off Saddam Hussein and took an even more aggressive stance on those issues.  He won reelection by using the Swift Boat Veterans to sow doubt about his opponent and had blanket positive coverage from Fox News. This lead to the growth of ISIS and the Great Recession.  

Trump dropped all pretenses of niceties and the Republican base loved it.  He trounced son Jeb Bush in the primaries but now must play nice with the Bushes on the senior Bush's funeral after losing the House in the midterms.  Bush was cloak and dagger.  Trump is all dagger.  It's a sad commentary of how far our politics have sunken that Bush is now a paragon of political virtue.

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Nonviolent Movements In Western PA? If You Know of One Let them Know

Iraq Body Count of Violent Civilian Deaths In Iraq Since 2003
I have been swamped with work and consulting and haven't been able to post here.  I should have time in the next few weeks.  There have been various online researchers who collect data from the public to describe a social phenomena.  Iraq Body Count relied on crowd sourcing to track civilian deaths in Iraq since the US invaded in March 2003.  Their current estimate ranges from 180,000 to 202,000 civilians for civilians and 268,000 death including combatants.  The researchers for this site admit that this count is low but the trends in the graph above reflect the most violent periods in the war: The initial invasion, The height of the Sunni Insurgency in 2006 and 2007 and the invasion of ISIS in 2014-2017.

Nonviolent resistance movements chronicled.
There were lots of protests against the Iraq war world wide.  The website Non Violent Resistance, created by George Lakey in 2011 at Swarthmore College, describes more than 1000 campaigns for social justice throughout history and the world.  The oldest movement mentioned is in ancient Egypt in 1170 BC when laborers went on strike for pay.  Looking at the above map it looks really crowded.  There are four movements mentioned from antiquity. 

Non Violent Movements in Pennsylvania
Looking at the map above it looks really crowded.  However when one zooms into a local area (such as my home state of Pennsylvania, where Swarthmore is located, as seen above), it looks more sparse.  If you are aware of movements for social change that are not included please let them know at

Next I will write on the Southern Poverty Law Center's new hate group map.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Sands of the Middle East are Changing once Again

The above video gives a good overview of how the sands of the Middle East have changed since the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 AD.  Conquering powers come and go as can be seen (This happens in other places in the world as well of course).  Is ISIS the latest conqueror?  It now controls Eastern Syria and Western Iraq and has been engaged in a fierce battle in the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobane.  Kobane is just two miles from the Turkish border where the Turks have hesitated to intervene.  The Turks may not care for ISIS but they are also concerned about troubles with their own Kurdish population.  

The interests of all these groups, Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Turks, Arabs, Iranians, Israelis, Yazidis, and others are complex and cannot be resolved with bombs.  Outside military intervention by the US and other countries only makes matters worse.  

ISIS would not exist without the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. al Qaeda's roots go back to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  The Islamic Republic of Iran's roots date back to the CIA overthrow of the democratically elected government there in the 1950's and the subsequent support of the Shah who brutally suppressed his people.  The people of the Middle East have been better off when they were free of outside intervention. 


A Fox News poll has come out saying that a majority of the US Public now favors sending US troops into fight ISIS.  Polls can be used as propaganda tools as well as to inform the public.  A CBS/NYT Poll from Sept. 19 shows that a 62% of Republicans support sending ground troops into Iraq where 39% of the total population do (Kevin Drum from Mother Jones added the expletive).  Are Republicans itching for a new war in the Middle East, at least if Jeb Bush is elected in 2016?

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bradley Manning and Wikileaks

This week the trial of Private First Class Bradley Manning begins for leaking information to the website Wikileaks.  I have seldom spoken of Wikileaks or it's founder Julian Assange on this blog because other topics have motivated me and because Assange being ensconced at the Ecuadorian embassy to hide from being extradited to Sweden for questioning on a rape allegation which may or may not be trumped up is not something on which I can comment.  I don't think Wikileaks is about Assange anymore than Democracy Now! is about Amy Goodman or this blog is about me.    I have no way of knowing if the allegation about Assange is true but I believe it is a distraction from the purpose that the site he founded serves.

Manning on the other hand has made the meaningful sacrifice for what he believes in just as Daniel Ellsberg (featured in the video above) did in the early 1970's when he leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press.  Ellsberg faced trial and dirty tricks by the Nixon Administration and was lucky to be acquitted.  Manning may not be so lucky.  He has already plead guilty to one of the charges where he could face 20 years in prison.  This suggests a greater sacrifice that Assange is willing to make.  It may be better in the long run for Assange to face the music.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

2012: A 2004 Election Rerun?

It's always tempting to look at past elections for signs of how this year's will go.  Republicans were hoping for a rerun of the 2008 Obama-Clinton primary cliffhanger by having proportional primaries instead of winner take all contests for delegates.  What happened instead was a sort of rerun of the 2004 democratic primary contest.  Think back to the spring of 2004, Barack Obama was an unknown State Senator from Illinois and Sarah Palin was a former sports reporter-beauty queen in her first term as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.  

John Kerry was an uncharismatic snooty Senator from Massachusetts with a lot of money (his wife the ketchup heiress' money really).  Like Mitt Romney on Healthcare, Kerry thought he had to play both sides of the fence of the Iraq war to win reelection and play down his past as an anti_Vietnam War protester.  His main challenger then was John Edwards, a young charismatic North Carolina Senator who gave up his first term to run for President who wasn't born rich but earned millions as a trial lawyer.  With a crowded but weak field, Edwards survived the other contenders by being charismatic and vague in just the right way (Kucinich was that year's Ron Paul, Wesley Clark that year's Gingrich, and Al Sharpton that year's Rick Perry/Gingrich/Bachmann). Edwards only won two primaries but finished a strong second in many others and was picked as Kerry's running mate against George W. Bush.

The main issues of that election were the economy, the war in Iraq, abortion, the swift boat veterans, and the surprise wedge issue, same sex marriage.  In the 2004 exit poll voters said the most important issue was 'Moral Values' as can be seen in the table below.  In 11 states (9 of which voted for Bush) ballot measures passed which banned same sex marriage.  Most of these measures occurred in the safe states for Bush and gave him higher turnouts there which in turn gave him a win in the popular vote.  Pundits saw this as a sign that voters were more concerned about this issue than the others when the term moral values is very ambiguous. War, the economy, health care, and terrorism can all be moral issues.

Taxes (5%)
43% 0%
Education (4%)
73% *
Iraq (15%)
73% 0%
Terrorism (19%)
14% 0%
Economy/Jobs (20%)
80% 0%
Moral Values (22%)
18% 1%
Health Care (8%)
77% *

This time around, Obama seems to be using support for same sex marriage as a wedge issue against the wealthy uncharismatic former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.  He was forced to pander to the tea party/Christian conservatives during the primaries because of Santorum's challenge and Obama seems to hope to keep him cornered just as he is on healthcare.  

Other issues of this campaign are the economy, the war in Afghanistan (little discussed in 2004)  the death of bin Laden (Saddam Hussein was captured and put on some kind of trial before being executed), health care (Romney did enact the beginning of Obamacare), and as always the economy.  The election looks to be close and hopefully the exit polls will provide a clue about how well the strategies work.  Romney's choice of a running mate should reflect how concerned he is about the challenges on the culture wars, especially if he picks Santorum or a clone of him.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

We've All Neglected Our Wars (Me Too)

In all of the happy talk about Chilean miners, the important discussion about health care, national debt, and the economy, and the stupid banter about witches and Nancy Pelosi there is one issue that has been neglected, foreign policy (more pressingly the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan). There is little discussion on the news outside of the Chilean miners of events outside of the US now. Are we so numbed by the gloomy news here that, as John McCain says, we just want to "build the dang fence" to keep illegal aliens out?

Both parties basically agree on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the exceptions of a few real "mavericks" in each. Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, and Ron Paul and son Rand have voiced some brave objections from both sides of the aisle to these and other foreign US escapades but are often easily marginalized as "flaky." Another well known real maverick who once teamed up with faux maverick McCain is Sen. Russ Feingold who is now trailing in his bid for reelection. This near unanimity continues even though polls indicate that these wars are at least as unpopular as the health care bill but for different reasons. has kept a running total of the US dead in Iraq (4,425) (combat operations have supposedly ended there but 50,000 troops and tensions remain as there is no functioning government) and Afghanistan (1,342). The number of Iraqi and Afghan dead are harder to ascertain. The website Iraq Body Count has kept a running total of civilian deaths there since 2003 that are documented in the public and stand between 98,000 and 107,000. This estimate could skyrocket as the website WikiLeaks is preparing to release about 300,000 previously classified documents from the Iraq war (all for weapons of mass destruction and an al Qaeda/9-11 connection that didn't exist and oil that did). WikiLeaks has already released about 70,000 documents detailing civilian deaths in Afghanistan which are harder to count because of the rural nature of the country. At least there, there was a real al Qaeda/9-11 connection but the principal offenders have not been caught and the country is in shambles.


Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon's secret history of the Vietnam War, discusses the upcoming Wikileaks disclosure of classified Iraq documents.

This is a short review of the two wars we are fighting. These are the longest the US has fought and need to end as soon as possible. What happens abroad does have an impact at home. These wars have cost us in the trillions of dollars (and will cost us for years to come as our past wars have, the final bills for World War I were just paid when the last vets passed away) and have generated far more debt that the stimulus ever could. Plus the suffering these wars have caused abroad could lead to retribution at home as nearly happened this year with the Times Square and the Christmas underwear bomber but were thwarted by alert bystanders.

For more authoritative analysis of US actions in the Middle East and South Asia than I can give, visit Juan Cole's blog at Informed Comment, Tom Engelhardt's at TomDispatch, and Robert Fisk's column's at the Independent Newspaper.


A new poll of Afghan citizens show that 27% of them see attacks on NATO troops as justified which is up from 8% from last year. It sampled 1,700 citizens from all regions of the country. Doing a representative survey there presents many challenges that would not be found here having few phones, little electricity and a population with a low literacy rate but these numbers, while still not a majority, are still troubling.

Poll: More Afghans say insurgents are justified

In the southern provinces of the country, where the Taliban is the strongest, a survey indicates that the vast majority of the population have never heard of the 9/11 attacks and don't understand why NATO is fighting there.

Study: Few Afghans know about 9/11, reason for war