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Mission Creep in Iraq
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Monday, 25 August 2014
Mission Creep in Iraq
by Sheldon Richman
 
There are several reasons not to intervene militarily in another country’s conflict, even modestly. One is the potential for mission creep.
 
We already could detect the signs of mission creep in Iraq. Now, with the stepped-up U.S. airstrikes after the Islamic State's horrific execution of American reporter Jim Foley, the signs are clearer than ever.
 
On August 7, Barack Obama said that the U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq were to protect Americans from the Islamic State’s threat to the Kurdish city of Erbil, where the U.S. government has a consulate. He also said Americans would be protected anywhere in Iraq, including Baghdad. Finally, he said airstrikes would be part of a humanitarian mission to save “thousands — perhaps tens of thousands” — of Yezidis who were trapped and desperate on Mount Sinjar.
 
But in later statements Obama intimated that he had other objectives.
 
On August 9 he said, “We will continue to provide military assistance and advice to the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces as they battle these terrorists, so that the terrorists cannot establish a permanent safe haven.” That is much broader than the mission first outlined. Will American ground troops be introduced next if airpower won’t suffice to root out the Islamic State? Obama says no, but only a fool would take that promise to the bank.
 
He added, “Wherever and whenever U.S. personnel and facilities are threatened, it’s my obligation, my responsibility as commander in chief, to make sure that they are protected.” Of course one way to protect personnel is to remove them from the war zone. But Obama will have none of that: “And we’re not moving our embassy any time soon. We’re not moving our consulate any time soon. And that means that, given the challenging security environment, we’re going to maintain vigilance and ensure that our people are safe.”
 
That, I submit, could easily transform into a justification for a far broader mission.
 
We can see this with the American airstrikes that helped Kurdish and Iraqi forces retake the Mosul Dam, although Obama spun it differently. In a letter to Congress he wrote, “The mission is consistent with the president’s directive that the U.S. military protect U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq, since the failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians and threaten U.S. personnel and facilities — including the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.”
 
Obama sent the letter apparently to comply with the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which requires a president to notify Congress within 48 hours after the U.S. military is sent into hostilities. After 60 days, Obama will need an explicit congressional authorization — except that in the past Congress never sought to enforce the resolution when a president violated it, as Obama did when he used airpower to help overthrow the government of Muammar Qadaffi in Libya in 2011. (Obama simply claimed that the American pilots flying warplanes and bombing government installations were not involved in hostilities.)
 
In another sign of mission creep, Reuters reports that “the governor of Iraq's Anbar province in the Sunni heartland said he has asked for and secured U.S. support in the battle against Islamic State militants because opponents of the group may not have the stamina for a long fight.” Anbar province was the location of some of the toughest resistance to the American occupation and the scene of two U.S. attacks on Fallujah in April and November 2004. As Reuters put it, “The United States mounted its biggest offensive of the occupation against a staggering variety of Islamist militants in the city of Fallujah in Anbar [in November 2004], with its soldiers experiencing some of the fiercest combat since the Vietnam War.” U.S. forces were reported to have used cluster bombs and white phosphorus artillery shells, while other war crimes were alleged against American troops.
 
The safe bet is that the mission in Iraq will continue to grow. Few people believe that airpower alone will defeat the justly abhorred Islamic State or that the Iraqi military can get the job done on the ground. So Obama could be tempted to up the ante in order to prevent any touted gains from being squandered.
 
Mission creep is only one reason why intervention in foreign wars is never a good idea.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
Ferguson, Missouri is a Real Place and Michael Brown was a Real Person
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Crime, Law Enforcement and the Judiciary
Written by James Landrith   
Sunday, 17 August 2014

I cannot imagine how painful it must be for the family of Michael Brown and the city of Ferguson to witness all of the political posturing by opportunists on the left and the right. Some on the right are hell-bent on characterizing an entire community as rioting thugs, while some on the left are exploiting the tragedy to take childish and ignorant potshots at people who don't share their own political compass. Neither has the moral high ground here.

 

As someone who lost a family member in a violent act, I can only imagine the fear that comes with turning on the television, reading social media or seeing a newspaper. It must extremely disheartening to see their family and their community used in such a callous, calculated and compassionless manner.

Honestly, it disgusts me. For those taking advantage, using the death of a human being, and the pain of a community for political gain and partisan posturing - fuck all ya'll.

You lack the most important of human traits - empathy and compassion. Someone is dead and a community is in mourning while you posture and peacock over bullshit political preferences. I have no use for such people and see you as 100% part of the problem.

 
"Son, bite me" is Not Actual Advocacy (or Lying Liars Like to Lie)
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Politics
Written by James Landrith   
Sunday, 17 August 2014

It is fascinating to me how often SOME progressives, like some of their counterparts on the right, will outright lie and then act like petulant children when busted in said lies.  Case in point is "The Mahablog", most recently taking part in the childish game of labeling Republicans with minor libertarian leanings as being representive of the entire libertarian movment.  In short, The Mahablog created a gigantic libertaian strawman and then whined when called out on the lie.  Further, The Mahablog is co-opting a horrible tragedy for partisan political purposes.

 

I posted this in response to her ridiculous lies:

 

There are no libertarians in Congress. Calling a few Republicans with minor libertarian leanings on a FEW issues libertarians is extremely dishonest. Doing so for the purpose of scoring political points on the backs of a community suffering a tragedy is beyond disgusting.

 

The blogger Barbara O'Brien, defending her lies and misuse of a tragedy, responds like a spoiled child with no integrity:

 

“There are no libertarians in Congress.” Yes, we know. Nobody in politics is ever pure enough to be a “real” libertarian. Sightings of real libertarians are rare and always prove to be false as soon as the sighted creature actually goes on record about anything.

 

In short, son, bite me.

 

It takes an absolute lack of intregrity, compassion failure and a miserable excuse for a human being to co-opt another's tragedy to play p9litical games for anyone else's benefit. It shows a lack of maturity to say "bite me" when called out such.

 

I have spent the better part of two decades involved in advocacy that worked alongside progressives, moderates, conservatives and non-partisan activists alike such as the ACLU, Center for National Secuity Studies, People for the American Way, Liberty Coalition, Electronic Privacy Information Center, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Amenesty International, and dozens of other organizations on a wide variety of issues such as domestic surveillance, police misconduct, prison rape, male rape survivor issues, torture, the mistreatment and illegal detention of Muslim and Arab Americans by the Bush Administration and the buildup/lies used to justify the Iraq War. One thing I've learned over the years is that there a lot of people who truly care about poeple and want to make the lives of others better, regardless of ideological compass or label.

 

The asshole behind the Mahablog is about none of these things. She appears to simply be an opportunistic liar, taking advantage of a tragedy for political purposes. That is disgusting and abhorrent to those of us who actually give a shit about the people involved and the lives that have been forever impacted. I grew up in a household affected by murder. I've seen family members afraid to watch the news for fear that the trial and our family member would be talked about yet again.  I've seen how it affects the surviving family members and forever alters our view of the world. I abhor the fact that anyone would co-opt such an experience for political purposes. O'Brien and her blog have done that and show an utter lack of maturity and compassion in the doing, even when called out on such earnestly. 

 

Last Updated ( Sunday, 17 August 2014 )
 
Out of Iraq, Etc.!
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Thursday, 14 August 2014
Out of Iraq, Etc.!
by Sheldon Richman
 
Nearly a century ago, after four bloody years of World War I, British colonialists created the state of Iraq, complete with their hand-picked monarch. Britain and France were authorized — or, more precisely, authorized themselves — to create states in the Arab world, despite the prior British promise of independence in return for the Arabs’ revolt against the Ottoman Turks, which helped the Allied powers defeat the Central powers. And so European countries drew lines in the sand without much regard for the societies they were constructing from disparate sectarian, tribal, and ethnic populations.
 
Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations declared that former colonies of the defeated powers “are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world.” These included the Arabs (and others) in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the Levant (today’s Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine/Israel). Because they were not ready for independence and self-government, the covenant stated, their “well-being and development” should be “entrusted to advanced nations who … can best undertake this responsibility.”
 
In other words, the losers’ colonies would become the winners’ colonies. British and French politicians would judge when the Arabs (and Kurds) were fit to govern themselves. Until then, they would remain under the loving care of enlightened Europeans. On the few occasions when Arabs failed to appreciate their good fortune and resisted, their benefactors had to punish them with tough love in the form of aerial bombardment and other means of modern warfare. It was for the natives’ own good, of course.
 
Or that’s had the imperialists told it. Only a cynic could believe that their economic and political interests lay behind this neocolonialist system.
 
We might keep this history in mind as we view with increasing horror what is taking place in the newly declared Islamic State (formerly ISIL or ISIS) in large parts of British- and French-created Iraq and Syria.
 
No one can say how the Middle East would have turned out if the Western powers had butted out after the Great War and let the Arabs, Kurds, and others find their own way in the modern world. But treating the indigenous populations like children cannot have advanced the cause of peaceful civilization.
 
It’s no exaggeration to say that virtually every current problem in the region stems at least in part from the imperial double cross and carve-up that took place after the war. And the immediate results of the European betrayal were then exacerbated by further acts of intervention and neocolonialism, most recently: President George H. W. Bush’s Gulf War and embargo on Iraq; President Bill Clinton’s continued embargo and bombing of Iraq; President George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq and overthrow of the secular regime of Saddam Hussein (al-Qaeda, of which the Islamic State is an offshoot, was not in Iraq before this); President Barack Obama’s support (until recently) for the corrupt, autocratic Shi’ite government in Baghdad; and Obama’s throwing in with those seeking to oust secular Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which made that country a magnet for radical Sunni jihadis, the same who are now threatening genocide against Shi’ites, Christians, and Yazidis in Iraq. (Thus Obama’s policy is at war with itself.)
 
History alone does not tell us what, if anything, outside powers should do now; there’s no going back in time. But we can say that without foreign interference, even a violent evolution of the region might have been far less violent than it has been during the last century. At least, the violent factions would not be seeking revenge against Americans.
 
The rise of the brutal Islamic State, with its unspeakable violence against innocents, is an appalling but unsurprising outcome of the last 100 years, including seven decades of neocolonialist American intervention. This suggests that U.S. intervention at this stage will only come to grief by boosting anti-American jihadi recruitment and even encouraging the targeting of Americans at home. Wars never go as planned. After all this time, any so-called “humanitarian” intervention will be interpreted in imperialist terms -- and should be.
 
The U.S. government must get out of Iraq (etc.). Intervention not only violates the rights of Americans; it is sure to exacerbate the violence in that pitiable region.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
The U.S. Government Still Tries to Subvert Cuba
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Wednesday, 06 August 2014
The U.S. Government Still Tries to Subvert Cuba
by Sheldon Richman
 
When I saw the headline about the U.S. government and Cuba in my newspaper the other day, I thought I’d awoken in 1961. It was aTwilight Zone moment for sure: “U.S. program aimed to stir dissent in Cuba.” I expected Rod Serling to welcome me to “another dimension.”
 
But it was 2014. The AP news report said President Barack Obama and presumably then–secretary of state Hillary Clinton had plotted to incite a popular uprising — to “gin up opposition” — against the Cuban government by sending in young Latin Americans masquerading as tourists and health workers.
 
Did Obama, Clinton, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which oversaw the operation, learn nothing from the 1960s, when the Kennedy and Johnson administrations tried repeatedly to overthrow Cuban ruler Fidel Castro and even to assassinate him?

The AP investigation disclosed that the USAID agents had “little training in the dangers of clandestine operations — or how to evade one of the world's most sophisticated counter-intelligence services.” Nevertheless, the AP continued, “their assignment was to recruit young Cubans to anti-government activism, which they did under the guise of civic programs, including an HIV prevention workshop.” The program, which lasted at least two years, began shortly after Obama’s inauguration.
 
The private firm Creative Associates International ran the operation. The undercover agents “posed as tourists, visited college campuses and used a ruse that could undermine USAID’s credibility in critical health work around the world: an HIV-prevention workshop one called the ‘perfect excuse’ to recruit political activists.”
 
This is reminiscent of the ruse used in the attempt to find Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, in which American agents posed as health personnel encouraging people to get vaccinated against hepatitis-B. In the wake of that operation, some expressed concern that future vaccination efforts in foreign countries could be met with public skepticism.
 
Covert American efforts to effect regime change, as occurred in Ukraine in February, also undermine genuine indigenous dissent against repressive governments by enabling rulers plausibly to accuse opposition groups of being foreign agents.
 
In the Cuban operation USAID agents had close calls with the government:
The AP investigation revealed an operation that often teetered on disaster. Cuban authorities questioned who was bankrolling the travelers. The young workers came dangerously close to blowing their mission to “identify potential social-change actors.” And there was no safety net for the inexperienced travelers, who were doing work that was explicitly illegal in Cuba.
The AP says that an instruction manual tried to assure the agents they were safe. “Although there is never total certainty,” the manual states, “trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you. Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them.”
 
The AP concludes, “There’s no evidence that the program advanced the mission to create a pro-democracy movement against the government of Raul Castro.”
 
That makes the U.S. government’s 53-year-long campaign for regime change in Cuba a perfect failure. Repeated efforts to spark an anti-Castro revolution or to kill the revolutionary-turned-dictator did nothing but strengthen the government’s power. The embargo that the U.S. government imposed on Cuba in 1960, and which remains in force today, has given the Castros an excuse for the chronic hardship that Cubans suffer and has brought the people no closer to freedom.
 
News of the USAID operation reminds us of some of the U.S. government’s most despicable acts during the Cold War. The government made eight attempts on Castro’s life and other attempts on the lives of other Cuban leaders. In 1961 the CIA sent 1,500 Cuban exiles to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. That operation, part of the Cuba Project (or Operation Mongoose), failed miserably and embarrassed President John F. Kennedy, who had taken office that year. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff even contemplated having terrorists acts committed on U.S. soil in order to blame Castro and whip up war fever among Americans (Operation Northwoods). Thankfully, Kennedy vetoed that plan.
 
After all that, you’d think Obama and Clinton would have learned that the best way to liberate Cuba is for the United States to normalize relations, complete with free trade and free travel.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
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