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06 January 2014


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It turns out the sacrifices of myself and others were futile in the end after all. Huh.

Ken Roberts

Good analysis. Two points occur:

1) First must be brave, then can be free. Apropos 9/11 reaction. "given to panic and easy to feed falsehoods".

2) Remarkable goodwill of Indian people towards Britain, despite over 100 years of often-flawed occupation/admin. The Brits knew how to build/run an empire. Was not tidy, never is. Apropos "haven't a clue about the nature of the game".

But, concept from the insurance biz -- there can be a very long "runoff" period, surprisingly long. Not to worry!

Time to re-read Toynbee, methinks. And maybe train some folks who do have clues and can do necessary field work.


"At the bottom of this mess, the mess in Egypt, the mess in Afghanistan, the mess in Vietnam, and all the various messes I participated in, is the simple truth that the USA is not fit to run the world." PL

In Stephen Kinzer's "Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future" Kinder describes President Truman being persuaded by the tears of his former business partner to meet with Chaim Weizmann and (subsequently) to recognize the State of Israel--over the objections of Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, Secretary of State George Marshall, and Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson (id. at 153-54).

Expertise places a far second to tears.

Alba Etie

My hope is that We the People have learned hard lessons about allowing our Political Elites to take us to faraway places for unnecessary military occupations . For the moment - there appears to be broad national consensus across the width & breathed of our collective comity - , that short of direct existential threat to These United States we are done with elective military adventures. That is why we did not bomb Syria- We the People said no . That is also why too - just maybe the deal with Iran holds - and bombing the Persians gets delegated to the ash bin of bad foreign policy ideas .And most certainly we are not going back to al Anbar .


You, sir, are awesome! Thanks for this wonderful summary. One factor playing a role in our ineptitude is that there never seems to be any accountability (punishment) for government service ineptitude ... in the free market, you go broke or get fired.

How can we build accountability into our foreign policy apparatus?

Don Bacon

Also key was the Samarra mosque bombing of Feb 22, 2006, in which the US was complicit.

In February 2006 Samarra was under total US military control. The curfew in Samarra started at 8pm. On February 21st, at 8:30pm, according to a witness, joint forces of the Iraq National Guard and the American Army appeared, then left at 9, then reappeared at 11pm. At 6am on the morning of the 22nd the ING left the area, and at 6:30 the Americans left. The first explosion occurred at 6:40, the second at 6:45.am.

The bombing of the Al-Askaria Mosque and its violent aftermath ratcheted the numbers of displaced persons up to a staggering 2.7 million. In a period of about a year, five percent of Iraq's total population fled their homes and settled elsewhere in Iraq while an additional 2 million or so fled the country entirely. It is important to underscore that this displacement was not just a by-product of the conflict, but rather the result of deliberate policies of sectarian cleansing by armed militias.

Samarra was also intended to prolong the US military occupation, and it did.
SEC. GATES: “Well, what I’m saying to you is, though, you had one strategy under way until attack on the Samarra mosque. After that and the development of the sectarian violence that was being stoked by extremists — this wasn’t spontaneous — there was a shift in strategy, and instead of sending troops home, the troops that were supposed to be sent home were kept — or the troop level was kept.”

Samarra was the principle event which turned Sunni and Shia actively against each other, more than ever. Now it goes on.

Kyle Pearson

>>>One factor playing a role in our ineptitude is that there never seems to be any accountability (punishment) for government service ineptitude ...

There's no punishment for ineptitude or corruption in the "free market," either.

Exxon didn't pay for its oil spills...the banks extorted money from the public and then gave themselves big bonuses...Koch Industries is the third biggest polluter in the US and destroyed several communities (for years, if not decades) this last year, and paid nothing...Goldman-Sachs is still setting up the bubbles and knocking them down...private prisons are worse-run and far more brutal and unhealthy than government-run prisons...charter (i.e. "private") schools are more expensive, less effective at teaching, and far more poorly run than publicly administered schools...the list goes on, and on, and on.

This myth of the "free market" is just that: a badly distorted myth that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the actual concept as developed by Adam Smith. Smith devoted a full half of his original work explaining that the reason he was presenting these ideas is because they offered a more highly moral way of creating a *more* equal society, and showed without any shadow of a doubt that monopolies and oligarchies are economically immoral and inherently inefficient.

The current United States is dominated by corporate oligopolies and monopolies. There is no "free market" in the US, and the idea that government - which is accountable to the people in the form of voting and protest - is somehow less accountable than corporate managers and Wall St. financiers who never go to jail for *anything* is simply absurd.


At an Iraqi friend's house I was shown a video of Sadaam's doctors surgically removing his right hand and the hands of five other men. After cutting the final sinews of flesh, the doctor held them up to the camera for a close up. According to my friend, his hand was cut off because he was a money changer and was a scapegoat for the skyrocketing inflation prior to the US invasion. Don North brought this man, and four others to the US for medical attention, a prosthetic hand and yes, propoganda purposes too. My friend hates or hated Sadaam but cites more complicated reasons for the mess that Iraq is in and was in before.
A simple Shi'ia vs. Sunna conclusion doesn't seem to totally explain the return to chaos. I've never been there but my Iraqi friends (Shi'ias/Sunnas/Christians/Kurds), attribute much of the violence to sectarianism but also point the finger to incitement from Iran, Saudi Arabia and our clumsy meddling to name a few.
So I agree, it's way too complicated for anyone but Iraqis to figure out. If we are to help them in any way, it should be food, medicine and visas.


Never is the sacrifice(s) of man in behalf of his country futile but in behalf of his government well......



This is a sharia law punishment for theft. the Saudis do the same thing. pl


don bacon

The sequence of events that you cite in regard to the Samarra mosque bombing does not demonstrate causation.

As for Gates' remark it reflects the fact that the greater violence required the continuing presence of a large body of US troops.

I am curious as to what you think would have been the US motivation in wanting to keep its forces in Iraq. Surely you do not think we wanted to steal their oil? pl


Kyle, I totally agree with you; we do not have a "free market" in the USA. But creative destruction is supposed to happen here to make us stronger and better like Darwinian Evolution. The absence or suspension of accountability/creative destruction in all sectors of US society is making us weaker and weaker slowly. I am not a heartless right-winger; I am for competition with heart. Accountability with compassion.


Pesonally, I persist in thinking that there actually is some level of accounatbility built into the US politcal system. It happens periodically...usually in November...

The fact that the we citizens of the US see fit to send the perpetrators of failed and foolish policies back again and again does not mean that there cannot be some other outcome. Bush was re-elected in mid-war, handilly. While Kerry was not the ideal challenger, the outcome was not decided by the structure of the system, Americans chose to do it.

Consequences are a bitch, and like all failures, an orphan.



One of the saddest delusions treasured by the left is the idea that "the natives" are innocents who before a US or other intervention in their affairs live in a state of nature much like that depicted in "The Peaceable Kingdom" of Henri Rousseau or the scribbling of Jean Jacques Rousseau who wrote that "man is born free and is everywhere in chains." This concept of the innocence of man is simply wrong. In fact, humanity unrestrained by law or authority resolves itself into nasty, mutually hostile groups who war on each other incessantly in a perpetual search for supremacy. This Hobbesian tendency is particularly acute in the ME where resource scarcity has honed cultures based on feelings of deprivation. In Iraq the Ottoman, British, Hashemite and various republican government suppressed these tendencies more or less successfully. We Americans blundered into the midst of this and unleashed these demonic forces not through design but merely from ignorance. Contrary to the reveries of the left, the US did not teach the SAVAK or anyone else to torture. The US did not teach anyone to hate each other in Iraq or anywhere else. All these peoples in the ME are "half devil and half child." They need no instruction in cruelty and mayhem. pl


I think the promise of electoral and monetary support in the pending presidential election was far more persuasive to Truman that anyone's tears.


The question for me would be, and once was, less was it "futile", for either the country or I, but was it counter-productive for the both of us? I have my answers.....in a manner of speaking.


I would argue it depends on how close to the event that caused the tears. The closer, the more effective. Then, factor in how close the tears flow, to an election date, combine the two...and look for number.

Don Bacon

Complicity on Samarra is obvious, causation requires more proof. It ties in with divide-and-conquer.

On US motivation to keep troops in Iraq I detect a little leg-pulling. Even now Obama is being criticized for pulling troops out. The neocon position has been that the Bush-era withdrawal agreement for Dec 2011 was always meant to be renegotiated or disregarded.

The US never withdraws occupation troops willingly, as Germany, Japan and particularly Korea attest. And now Afghanistan. Oil is also a factor of course, plus Iraq's proximity to Iran, a designated US enemy.

In Iraq under Saddam there were differences between Sunni and Shia but they lived and worked together, and even intermarried. Samarra was a primary agent of change in that, conributing to the current difficulties.

William R. Cumming


William R. Cumming

Could Iraq be subdivided for some more stable future?


Re: "the US did not teach the SAVAK or anyone else to torture"

Contrasting the ideas of Rousseau with those of and Hobbes is making an excellent point. Thank you, Mr. Lang.

Just like Europe, the Orient has its own a rich if lamentable tradition of torture.

It didn't need the US to put into the minds of foreigners the idea that beating sombody up is a way to make him talk.

Years ago, I went to a Turkish takeaway to get some adana kebab, they had the tv running. The star was a moustached giant of a cop, who went on to ask a suspect a question. Unhappy with the response, he slapped him and immediately the suspect spilled his guts. It only lasted some 30 seconds or so, but for some reason it stuck in my mind.

That brawny idea of policework appears to be very traditional and popular across cultures. Just watch Hollywood movies.

I think that the influence of advisors, just as with the French COIN advisors in South America, causes fashions for this method or another. Without that the locals likely would have been content with inflicting beastly harm on their prisoners in more traditional ways.

Iirc the French used the methods they were familiar with because the milice française, the Gestapo and SD had used them on them.

The problem is not a particular method of torture, take waterboarding, but the deliberate use of torture per se to gain inteligence or elicit confessions. That usually predates advisors.

More importantly, the waterboarding of KSM or the incidents at Abu Ghraib shows that even out own Western commitment to restrain these demons is only skin deep if the situation lends itself to it. The torture debate in the US is quite instructive in that regard.

That's a scary thought better kept in mind.

Babak Makkinejad

It is not absence of resources or their paucity; Korea was always poorer than the Middle East as one can judge by it cuisine.

Likewise, India was always richer than the Middle East and yet it also had nothing to learn from the Middle East in cruelty and mayhem.


Our November elections are more theoretical accountability than actual as some very high percentage of incumbents are re-elected. And the fact that Congress approval rating is so low and they keep getting re-elected says something; not sure what but its not good.

The Twisted Genius


Your last comment reminded me of the lesson espoused by Robert Ardrey in his book "African Genesis." This was a formative book in my youth and led me to my interest in anthropology. I vacillated between wanting to become a Maryknoll missionary and a Louis B. Leakey like digger of bones.

The money quote from "African Genisis"

"We were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted to battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen."


"Stealing their oil" is too blunt a way to put it. "Secure extremely profitable no-bid exploration, drilling, production, service, construction, re-construction, defense contracts to politically well-connected corporations" is a more nuanced and accurate way of explaining at least part of the motivation to invade/occupy Iraq. Trillions of dollars have been spent. Who received the trillions of dollars? All of the aforementioned contractors got a lot of it.

James Baker said that he had to sign a document pledging to go to war to defend secure access to Middle East oil. Certainly Iraq would have been seen as within this context.

Its hard for me to understand why you don't see $Trillions of dollars as incentive to these politicians who will be well taken care of by the benefactors of these riches.

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