Sorry. Iraq Was Still Better Under Saddam.

Studies show that it really is impossible to be totally objective. A recent one asks a set of people that if they lose a trial they brought, if they should still have to pay the defendant’s legal fees. 80% said no. But if the question was flipped — should you have to pay your own legal fees if you lose a case brought against you? — only 40% said yes. Given data like this, it’s not surprising that organizations typically considered bastions of journalistic propriety are full of reporters who can’t help but bare their biases.

The latest is a piece on Iraqis’ PTSD: present-traumatic stress disorder. They can’t leave their homes without worrying they won’t come back. Constant bombings and shootings — some 20 a day on average in the country — maintain civilians in a state of chronic terror. Our Margaret Griffis documents several to dozens of Iraqis killed and wounded every day in the country’s low rumble of violence — and these are just the ones that make it into the papers. The controversy for AP reporter Lara Jakes is that Iraq is indeed worse, by far, than it was under the last years of the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

In America, this has always been an inflammatory statement. Whatever you may say about the wisdom of the Iraq War, even those who opposed it say, at least Saddam is gone — so goes the conventional wisdom. Only rarely does anyone question this. Jakes may think she’s gone rogue, but even the headline — “Fear still reigns in Iraq, even after Saddam” — is wimpy. Even after Saddam? Whatever their evils, dictators are interested in calm and quiet, no upheavals to disrupt their rule. With the dictator gone, the artificial empire he created is in a state of violent unraveling. So it’s actually quite obvious — Iraq is far more violent eight whole years later, though much of this has to do with the presence of the American occupiers.

Jakes quotes several Iraqis, even those who initially supported the 2003 invasion, who now long for the life of relative ease they had when they only had one predictable enemy to avoid. After each anecdote, she inserts a sentence that amounts to “but still, Saddam was pretty bad.” And as if to illustrate her desperation to keep it a crap-on-Saddam party, she cited an “expert” from the American Enterprise Institute, the key neocon outfit home to all the most prominent jerks who pushed for the war.

AEI’s Gerard Alexander says it’s a “‘conservative estimate’ that an average 16,000 Iraqis a year were killed.”

But as I pointed out to a sloppy jingoistic pro-war “libertarian” in 2005, this is a very dishonest take. If Hussein killed even the highest estimate of one million people within a few years of his taking power, you don’t average that out over his entire rule and declare he was an insatiably murderous monster. I mean, if you want to be taken seriously. The most respected estimates hover around 300,000 Hussein victims. Over half of these were killed in the Anfal campaign against the Kurds — from which we get the “his own people” meme — and the US was still his buddy afterwards. Others were likely direct political rivals, and then those killed when Bush the elder encouraged a Shi’ite uprising, promising US backing, and then abandoned it to be crushed by Hussein. The killing and terror had ebbed by the late 1990s. The American invasion dramatically ramped up killing in Iraq, and this turmoil has not let up. That is a plain fact not open to interpretation.

As if to illustrate further the desperation to make an anti-invasion set of facts into a pro-invasion narrative, Jakes matter-of-factly credits the 2007 “surge” in Iraq for “quell[ing] much of the sectarian violence.” This is false. Sectarian murder had already succeeded in its aim of separating Iraqis by religious tradition; no further violence was “necessary.” But this reporter doesn’t ask questions to which she doesn’t want the answer.

It’s not that a reporter should be a robotic recorder — we have suffered for lack of inquisitive journalism, for a surfeit of stenographers who simply present “both sides” without actually parsing a given controversy. But when you are desperately shoehorning in statements to drag the facts back to your point of view, it’s time to give it up.

In response to the inevitable accusation of Saddamy, my response is what I said back in January in the wake of the Tunisian overthrow and in the midst of the revolutionary swells at Tahrir.

“Imagine, if the US hadn’t blown up Iraq, how Saddam would be sweating right now,” I said on the @Antiwarcom twitter account. “And a million more people would still be alive to see it.”

NeoCons Push for Iraq-Like Sanctions in Iran

Eli Clifton at Think Progress on the neoconservative push for tighter sanctions on Iran:

The announcement that 90 U.S. senators signed a letter to President Obama urging him to sanction Iran’s central bank has been described by some American officials, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon, as the “nuclear option” or, in the eyes of some Iranian officials, an act of war. But that hasn’t stopped some of Washington’s most outspoken Iran hawks from applauding potential legislation aimed at freezing Iran out of the global financial system.

The letter, cosponsored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), calls for blacklisting Bank Markazi, Iran’s central bank, and observes that, “If our allies are willing to join, we believe this step can be even more effective.”

Clifton cites people like “the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies‘ Mark Dubowitz” as front and center in this push for “Iraq-like sanctions” on Iran. That is, they are openly advocating sanctions of the kind that directly led to the deaths of hundreds thousands of Iraqi children and up to a million Iraqis total.

What’s crazy is that they’re arguing for this mere days after admitting, as Clifton documents, that aggressive and harsh sanctions are unlikely to deter the Iranian leadership from their unsubstantiated quest for the bomb.

Despite the obvious support the prospect of attacking Iran has among many hawks in the halls of power, I honestly think most of the national security community considers it too costly and risky at the present time. I suspect these neocons recognize that resistance to some extent, and figure the next best thing is to simply strangle the Iranian economy so that the population suffers another colossal humanitarian disaster. What madness…

Crocker: Iraqi PM Maliki’s Turn Towards Dictatorship Is “In U.S. Interest”

Another new Wikileaks cable on Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki provides some insight into U.S. intentions in one of its newest client states. The diplomat writing the cables is Ryan Crocker, just recently appointed Ambassador to Afghanistan. He talks about Maliki’s turn towards authoritarianism and how his tactics and behavior have served to benefit U.S. interests there on the whole.

A key question posed by Maliki's evolving hold on
levers of political and security power is whether the PM is
becoming a non-democratic dictator bent on subordinating all
authority to his hand or whether Maliki is attempting to
rebalance political and security authority back to the center
after five-plus years of intended and unintended dispersal to
(and in some cases seizure by) actors and power structures
outside Baghdad.
[...] First seen as weak, ineffective, and ill-informed
about the political and security structures put in place
since Saddam's fall (Maliki was not a participant in the
governing bodies set up during the CPA), Prime Minister
Maliki was by the fall of 2008 being widely criticized - by
leaders of the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) and other Sunni
politicians, by the Kurdish political leadership, and by
fellow Shi'a from outside Maliki's Da'wa Party -- as
autocratic and excessively ambitious, with the long-term aim
of becoming a new strong man dictator.  The "political reform
resolution," passed by parliament in conjunction with its
approval of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement and Strategic
Framework Agreement on November 27, 2008 (reftel), amounted
to a manifesto of grievances against the Prime Minister that
had been growing among his coalition partners, and the
opposition, throughout the year. 

The document urged the Maliki Government to adhere to
the Constitution, to commit to a democratic federal system,
to share power with the legislature, to professionalize and
depoliticize the security forces, to guarantee a free
judiciary, disband "unconstitutional structures" within the
government, and release prisoners eligible for amnesty or
held without due process, among other demands.

Details are given about Maliki’s incessant corruption, nepotism, and over-reliance on security forces to get his way. And what does the U.S. think of this turn to centralized authority and strong-arm security tactics? It’s in the U.S. interest.

The critical progress on security and stability made
over the past year, while underpinned by the U.S. military
surge, owes much to Maliki's leadership and restoration of
central government authority.  It is in the interests of the
U.S. to see that process of strengthened central authority

There is a caveat thrown in there about doing this in a more “sustainable” way that reflects strong “institutions rather than personalities” and a “consensus national vision” among Iraq’s main groups. That is, so long as the main groups don’t interfere with our interests in Iraq. For example, to act as a check on Iran, to give primacy to American business, not interfering with U.S. military occupation and operations, and ignoring any part of Iraqi public opinion that contradicts U.S. imperial dictates.

Dubya was right??

From film-maker Oliver Stone’s interview with former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, we discover:

Oliver Stone: "Were there any eye-to-eye moments with President Bush that day, that night?"

Nestor Kirchner: "…I said that a solution to the problems right now, I told Bush, is a Marshall Plan. …He said the best way to revitalize the economy is war and that the United States has grown stronger with war."

Stone: "War. He said that?"

Kirchner: "He said that. Those were his exact words."

Stone: "Was he suggesting that South America go to war?"

Kirchner: "Well, he was talking about the United States. …All of the economic growth of the United States has been encouraged by the various wars. He said it very clearly. –Fmr. Argentine President Kirchner Dies of Heart Attack, Democracy Now!, Oct. 28, 2010

So, WAS Dubya right?

"War" [1] is indeed a key part of the U.S. economy. Some folks call this "military keynesianism."

Consider: Despite one of the most defensible geographic situations on earth — unless you fear the Canadians — the U.S. Government spends more on "defense" than almost the rest of the world combined. AND, not surprisingly, U.S.A. is the biggest arms merchant in the world.

So, Mr. Bush was exactly right.

If you’re a U.S. Citizen, approximately 43% of your income taxes go to pay for wars, past and present. And that’s before Uncle Sam is forced, kicking and screaming, into officially admitting PTSD is nearly universal in combat veterans, lasts a lifetime, and is expensive to treat. According to former IMF Chief Economist and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the two current "wars" will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers between four and six trillion dollars. That’s trillion. With a "T."

And don’t fret about the militaryindustrial budget. While Mr. Obama isn’t yet responsible for killing as many men, women and children as Mr. Bush — and hasn’t spent as much doing so, give him a chance — he’s not even two years into his presidency and he’s already sent at least 60,000 new U.S. troops into Afghanistan and has plans to escalate the U.S. presence in Pakistan, and the largely ignoredU.S. presence in Yemen too.

With these kinds of numbers — that 43% of your income tax spent for “wars” for example — maybe a bit of money invested in to stop them might be a good investment, not only for you, but for your kids, grand kids and the yet unborn. What do you say?


[1] The U.S. Government hasn’t been at war according to its Constitution since the end of World War II. That would require the U.S. House of Representatives to vote for war, which it hasn’t done. This means the so-called "wars" — the Korean "War," the Vietnam "War," The Iraq "Wars," the "War" in Afghanistan, etc. — must be something else. Or, since they insist on calling them "wars" anyway, unconstitutional. But as George W. Bush is reported to have claimed, "The constitution is just a damned piece of paper." So, who cares? return

Is THIS why they hate us?

AMY GOODMAN: A former US Marine who killed two unarmed Iraqis is running for a congressional seat in North Carolina… Ilario Pantano has said he has no regrets about fatally shooting the two at point-blank range after detaining them near Fallujah in April 2004.

JUSTIN ELLIOT: These two Iraqi men had been searched. They didn’t have any weapons. And he was — Mr. Pantano was having them search their own car when he opened fire, and shooting as many as fifty or sixty rounds at them. And that includes reloading his M-16 rifle.

AMY GOODMAN: Despite his admission, the military cleared Pantano of wrongdoing in 2005. He is now in a tight race with incumbent Democrat Rep. Mike McIntyre in North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. –From Murder to Congress?

Do you think this sort of thing might be why they hate us?


Can YOUR card do this?

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you how war fits into this. I mean, you co-wrote the book with Linda Bilmes, The Three Trillion Dollar War. How does war fit into our problems with the economy?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, war fits in because you’re creating a liability, you’re spending money. And when we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we already had a deficit. And so, these wars were the first wars in America’s history financed totally on the credit card. So, you’re creating a liability, but you’re not creating an asset. So that’s the kind of spending that does weaken the economy, because it’s one-sided. … The numbers now are much more like four to six trillion.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, across this country, as the debates for various congressional and Senate seats[go], war is almost never raised [as an issue]. –Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz: Foreclosure Moratorium, Government Stimulus Needed to Revive US Economy


PRECEDENT? According to a "Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting" two week study, during the lead-up to the Iraq war, a period of particularly intense debate (Jan. 30 to Feb 12, 2003), U.S. mainstream media, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS Evening News, conducted 393 interviews about the pending war. Only three of those interviews were with peace leaders.