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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Spring, A Time for Change

The warm weather has brought with it rumors of fresh hostilities in the Middle East. The ceasefire imposed on Israel in its punishment of Hezbullah is under pressure. Lebanon may come under by Israel attack.

There is also no shortage of friction between French forces in the south of that country and Israeli overflights. In one such flyover late last year, French peacekeepers came within seconds of firing upon Israeli jets.

Afghanistan is nearing basket-case proportions. Despite the near blackout on information coming out of the country, rumors of a resurgent Taliban are proving true and the threat far more grave than anticipated. The destabilizing influence on nuclear weapons-possessing Pakistan presents an additional threat to the War on Radical Islamic Fundamentalists (formerly the War on Terror.)

And at the crown of potential military disaster is the possibility of a US attack on Iran, which according to the Russians, come come as soon as Good Friday. I've posted extensive comments on Iran here on this blog and to summarize, I'd strongly recommend that the US reconsider military action.

Unfortunately, in a news environment dominated by propaganda, falsehood and belligerent rhetoric can quickly lead to unforeseen complications, as we are now seeing in the saga of 15 British sailors held by Iran. At this point, the back-and-forth, very public jabbering has led nowhere, although the "ratcheting up of tension" seems to be a favored description in the mainstream media. The Persian Gulf will soon see the arrival of a third American Aircraft Carrier Battle Group, described in the media as a display of American military power and high-profile source of security for our "allies in the region."

I would recommend that my readers vigorously participate in the debate over the use of military force against Iran. While the issue of Iranian involvement in terrorism has received extensive coverage, the present situation in Iraq makes any broadening of the military operation in Iraq extremely hazardous to our military forces in Iraq and would clearly run against any prospect of stabilizing the region.

Irbil Revisited

I mentioned in a previous post the seizure of Iranian diplomats in Arbil (also written as Irbil or Erbil) in January. Here's a description of the raid in The Independent:
"Early on the morning of 11 January, helicopter-born US forces launched a surprise raid on a long-established Iranian liaison office in the city of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. They captured five relatively junior Iranian officials whom the US accuses of being intelligence agents and still holds."

The article continues, indicating a much more sinsiter purpose behind the raid:
"The aim of the raid, launched without informing the Kurdish authorities, was to seize two men at the very heart of the Iranian security establishment...
...The two senior Iranian officers the US sought to capture were Mohammed Jafari, the powerful deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the chief of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to Kurdish officials.
The two men were in Kurdistan on an official visit during which they met the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, and later saw Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), at his mountain headquarters overlooking Arbil.

"They were after Jafari," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, told The Independent. He confirmed that the Iranian office had been established in Arbil for a long time and was often visited by Kurds obtaining documents to visit Iran. "The Americans thought he [Jafari] was there," said Mr Hussein.

Still more:
In a little-noticed remark, Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, told IRNA: "The objective of the Americans was to arrest Iranian security officials who had gone to Iraq to develop co-operation in the area of bilateral security."

US officials in Washington subsequently claimed that the five Iranian officials they did seize, who have not been seen since, were "suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraq and coalition forces". This explanation never made much sense. No member of the US-led coalition has been killed in Arbil and there were no Sunni-Arab insurgents or Shia militiamen there.

The US military action was launched on the premise that Iran is actually engaged in sponsoring terrorism in Iraq. At the time the Media framed the raid as a effort to stop Iranian-sponsored terrorism; the capture was billed as the apprehension of Iranian officials involved in terrorism.

The Iranian government has no reason to sponsor Sunni insurgents. The vast majority of attacks on American soldiers come from IEDs placed in Sunni regions, Al Anbar province in particular. Al Qaeda in Iraq is a far larger contributors to American casualties than are the Shia, whose ethnocentrically dominated neighborhoods tend to be under the control of militias and factions with ties to Iranian fundamentalists. (Oddly enough the notorious Muqtada al-Sadr is Shia but said to be far more reconcilatory with Iraq Sunnis, and almost friendly to Iraq nationalists.)

Despite no motive for Iranian involvement in supplying the Sunni resistance, the US propaganda machine was hard at work claiming that Iranians had exported especially lethal forms of IEDs to Iraq. This despite the military's figures that attributed a marginal amount of American casualties to the new IEDs. What's more the accusation met general disbelief that the weapons would be sold to Sunnis by Iran, although there is a possibility they came through the Iranian black market rather than covertly supplied by the mullahs.

The story of Iranian IEDs lacked legs, and after a few weeks after the Irbil incident, claims of Iranian exports of high tech explosives to Iraq continued to be parrotted solely by the White House and a small group of chimers for the war.

Truth and reality diverge in the Administration's posturing. This is no surprise when we consider the potential motives affecting our foreign policy in the Mideast. While we claim to do one thing, we then move on when that goal fails. First it was WMD, then democracy, now stabilization--or am I missing a few of the Administration's throwaway goals? If we constantly shift our goals, it may be because we have failed or, perhaps even more tellingly, because those in power recognize the impossiblity of success, of going forward with one particular plan.

Propaganda serves political purposes, and initiating military conflict with Iran spreads the conflict, so by proxy we must assume that spreading the war to Iran serves some political goal. I've read that this broadening was Nixon's strategy in the end of Vietnam; Cambodia and Laos were target of American intervention (The movie The Killing Fields involved one scene where Sydney Schanberg learns of a grisly B-52 raid across the border into Cambodia. In his excellent monologue Swimming to Cambodia, Spalding Grey vividly reproduces the few lines he contributed in the role of a US embassy staffer in the movie.)

Spreading the conflict produces nothing positive for our military or our security, which also lends creedence to the idea motivations lie outside our strategic interests, somewhere in the geopolitical sphere.

The initial war creates a vaccuum of instability into which surrounding nations get sucked into, like some giant black hole.

Realpolitic involves the analysis of the international arena where the ambitions of political authority and military power meet, in expressions of the national resolve. Realpolitic understands the exercise of hard as opposed to soft power; the study of the raw denomination of authority rather than the more organic framework of international treaty, dialogue, and compromise, which is far less satisfactory to the ultranationalist Right.

I believe it was Grover Norquist who claimed the the purpose of the Iraq war was to destroy--or make obsolete--the foundation of international law. While the mostly unilateral action the United States took succeeded in the sense the will of the international community was ignored, the abandonment of the UN framework for resolution ended up dooming the US-led coalition. Other nations left Iraq as their political leadership faced angry consituencies back home. Even the British have announced their intention to leave, not coincidentally before the next election scheduled in that country. No politician facing election could possibly want their troops in Iraq.

Bush and Cheney sided with full militarization of the intelligence-gathering and war planning appartus before the war, siding with the Pentagon. The State Department and advocates for non-military action were entirely shut out of the planning process. Militarized, our foreign policy devalued the importance of planning and segregated opinions on predictions which differed from Rumsfeld on the size of the force needed and the White House on the risk Iraq presented.

Hard Facts

Realpolitic analysis would raise the possibility that Iraq is no longer about "victory" but is devolving into a damage control exercise with the intent to scale down our presence, yet preserve some benefit for our effort. The long term Production Sharing Agreements (P.S.A.s) birthed out of Iraq's new government agree to favorable terms for US multinationals for decades, which raises the issue of how those companies intend to safeguard their oil.

Serving a narrow constituency of Big Oil would be in keeping with the Bush Administration's cosy ties with that industry. As a matter of fact, Bush's first oil venture (Arbusto) fell through because of a low price on West Texas oil.

Since 2003 the price of oil has tripled, much to the delight of Bush's friends, the same ones who came up with a massive loan to secure Bush's proportional ownership in the Texas Rangers and their ballpark. Energy player Enron was the top contributor to Bush's 2000 Election Campaign, giving over a million dollars to Bush in various campaigns; we can't expect such massive donation not to have granted influence, which could have very easily stymied adequate regulatory enforcement.

Perhaps the most we can expect in return for our military escapade is establishing fear in whichever neighbors happen to border the target of our military conquest.

Spreading chaos far and wide will lead to a host of unforeseen consequences, and may even strengthen the strategic position of our enemies. Militarization of surrounding nations is inevitable; perhaps broadening the conflict helps create client states. Such a destructive impulse may be motivated by the arms export business, for which the British and Americans are worldwide leaders.

Whatever the underlying motives, it's clear that the Bush Administration's rhetoric is seeking a war or at least broadening of the conflict to a larger theatre. The multilateral and inherently anti-Muslim character of the War on Terror conveniently builds a threat profile around the enemies of Israel. Through AIPAC, the most powerful lobbying organ in the US, Israel has undeniably played a huge role in shaping our foreign policy in the Mideast.

The US is willing to destabilize Iran and Syria. The Clean Break strategy articulated by neocon advocate David Wurmser has been followed in US foreign policy and there's no reason to believe the strategies will not be followed, even with the consequences of military action so counterproductive, as Iraq has shown.

Probably through the exertion of influence on Bush, Vice President Cheney has used leading neocon think tanks and their plans to shape US policies. It appears the supporters of war at the Project for a New American Century, along with neocon allies scattered around the Beltway, provided not only the rationale for attacking Iraq but also often ideologically motivated plans which formed the basis for operational strategies. No matter how theoretical and inexperienced the adviser, loyalty was a far more favored qualification; important posts in Baghdad were filled with young, inexperienced former Bush campaign staffers.

The failure of the US to stabilize Iraq is in fact a product of the continued occupation. In other words the occupation justifies itself: security will be unattainable for as long as we infidels are there inciting attack.

So hard it is for so many to believe that the US could have actually failed to anticipate the aftereffects of invasion on the scale it did that conspiracy theories abound.

Nonetheless destabilization is a policy goal which fits what we have done to Iraq so far. Continued destabilization would concur with the long-term vision of a destabilized region and theoretically weaker capacity of Israel's enemies to threaten that country.

At this point, reality has trumped policy; the images that we must now confront are those of failure. The long-term result of our policies will be open-ended conflict along sectarian lines in Iraq. Domestically, politically, the price for continuing the occupation rises, which will likely incite serious summertime antiwar protests.

Perhaps a withdrawal would suffice to calm tensions; it remains to be seen if the promise of a force withdrawal would offset the war's growing unpopularity. If the Democratic leadership's moves are any indication of what's to come, popular discontent may in fact grow; the war's rich funding--conditional on performance benchmarks--will ensure that it continues.

More War Spending Bill

I'd been somewhat less critical of the bill floated before Bush by Congress in which limits on the length of deployment were offered in exchange for funding the war. The Congressional bill had also stipulated conditions that would have to be met in order to avoid a set withdrawal date of September 2008.

Apparently, the restrictions on the deployment of American troops past that date were very lax. On its website, United for Peace and Justice provides this article from Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Research which brings up some of the many exceptions to limiting the ongoing force.

If the bill really is complicit in the continued occupation, and incapable of changing our policy, this isn't the first time the Democrats have softened their antiwar stance. I, like millions of other Americans who voted Democratic in order to stop the war, harbor a special kind of anger for the Democrats retreat from ending the war. As we saw with the rejection of Rep. Murtha from the House Majority Position, so do we now see the signs of another betrayal of the promises which won the Democrats the 2006 election.

As Bennis and others have said, there is a war only with the continuation of funding for the war. Compromise may play a role in how we get out, but the American public has come down against the war--and for as long as the US has a military presence in Iraq, there will be an organized resistance and a war there.

Bush's stated intent to veto the bill may send the issue funding for the troops back to the House. At this point, stalling on the funding may force the Pentagon to reduce scheduled deployments. Bush is set up to blame Congress for not "supporting the troops" despite the fact it may be his veto that denies the troop the money. (I set out in my last post to prove that supporting the troops is really the antithesis of forcing our soldiers through forced service to occupy a nation, and risk death and permanaent injury at the mercy of people who hate them and wants us to leave their country.)

Whatever the political games played with the troops and the noxious redefinition of "supporting the troops," the US' strategy simply isn't getting results. For the war-monger and profiteers, the continuation of the war is a success; for those who don't have to risk the lives of sons and daughters, the cause is infinitely more tolerable.

Our troops only need the tremendous amount of funding because our strategy is not working. Success or progress on any level would have encouraged a reduction in US troop strength, instead we've seen our strategy shift to one of escalation! If the troops have been fully supported so far--something many of our returning veterans would dispute--, what results do we have to show for it?

The underfunding and privatization of the delivery of medical services for Iraq veterans proves that our troops haven't been adequately supported upon their return, where many of our returning soldiers carry dehabilitating injuries, in particularly those affecting the brain, as a result of explosion caused by Improvised Explosive Devices.

The political debate can continue to blame one side or the other for underfunding, but the ongoing crisis reflects the strain that our militarized foreign policy is placing on our Armed Services. Support for our troops must be considered both on and off the battlefield, and form not just a political accusation but a viable response to a crisis engineered by the war's early proponents and perpetuated by the unwillingness to recognize failure. True support for the troops should hold the supporters of war accountable for the troops they send and their suffering both over there and back here, since after the uniform come off, pain can persist.

The failure of the Adminsitration to recognize the consequence of an open-ended occupation is yet one more hallmark of incompetence in the White House's management of our foreign policy. Wars do drain manpower and equipment--were Bush and his neocon divas completely ignorant as to the inevitable consequences of the use of military force? The inability to anticipate the war's costs does put a tremendous burden of responsibility on the war's original advocates in the White House, and demmonstrates a failure of planning which should establish a strong precedent not to continue the existing policy of open-ended occupation without coherent objectives for the military to accomplish.

I've heard goals described as dreams with a timeframe attached. Without a specific goal, our policy in Iraq can only flounder. If we really want to stabilize the country, we must evaluate the contribution of our presence to the overall security environment--whether contributing to the betterment of the situation (the rate and scale of violence suggest not only a lack of progress but a digression.)

I've also heard insanity described as doing things that same way over again and expecting different results. Our policy in Iraq has failed to achieve any stability. No amount of funding can make us victorious in Iraq. The "support the troops" straw man may serve a poltiical agenda, but it masks the failure of our government to provide adequately for the troops who do come home.

And what of Iran? If the Administration is set on a new war or, perhaps more appropriately, expanding the Iraq theatre of operations to encompass Iran, why should we expect the result to be any different? The results speak for themselves in Iraq.

Broadening the war to Iraq will force a draft as the Shia rise up in support of their Iranian brethren. The draft will force even more political pressure on the power in charge, which could well control the Presidency and Congress. For the new President to inherit the Iraq war would be bad enough, to deal with war on an even -bigger scale would be nothing short of tortuous, and perhaps even treasonous, if the President who started it could leave the consequences of his decisions for his successor to deal with and thus avoid assuming responsibility for whatever he might choose to do in his remaining days in power.

Removing impeachment from the table really startled some political observers, who had heard for months from people like John Conyers of Michigan that crimes had been committed and investigation crucial. How distant must the memories of the new leading Democrats be? I can remember it was not so long ago that Conyers had to preside over a out-of-committee meeting in some Capitol Hill cellar to address the clear complicity of the Administration in the Downing Street Memos, which proved that the White House had "fixed the intelligence around the policy," in other words been to do whatever it needed to bring war with a nation that posed no threat.

Precedent would indicate that governments lie, but perhaps the scope of damage from Iraq has made this Administration's lies particularly grievous. And the precendent is extremely damaging to our credibility and global leadership position. The willingness to fabricate intelligence indicates that the Administration is willing to compromise its ethics in order to start wars which it seeks.

Bush and Cheney want to attack Iran. They will seek a justification for war and if they can't find it, they will make it up. For this reason, Americans cannot trust the Executive. We must instead rely on Congress, and even then we must confront the hypocrisy of yet more lies spread by politicians which were apparently designed to convince the American people that the Democratic Party sincerely wanted to end the war.

My Private War Against Warming

I apologize for the irregularity of my postings here. Spring has brought its usual assortment of distractions.

In the backyard, I've planted trees for aesthetic and CO2 reduction reasons. Greening of my environment has become increasingly important. Trees consume Carbon Dioxide, a primary cause of global warming.

I'm eager to do my part to decrese carbon dioxide (CO2.)

Destruction of rainforest contributes to increase C02 as the dense tropical vegitation is cut away. The more jungle cut down, the less CO2 is consumed by plants. The more CO2 left in the atmosphere, the more heat. And we are producing more and more greenhouse gases as we continue to use more energy.

Another set of problems develops as a secondary consequence of a slight rise in temperatures. Plant life consumes CO2 under the sea, where CO2 and methane are trapped in huge quantities. In the complex interactions between sea and its salinity, plant life in the ocean and methane trapped beneath the ocean surface, one imbalance can set off a chain of unforeseen consequences.

Methane is another major contributor to heating--far worse than CO2; I believe it's trapped under the artic tundra--and sea bed.

Where there is less snow or ice, the oceans absorb more heat. The additional heat in the water accelerates the warming process, and reduces further the surface ice.
The Arctic is projected to be ice-free by the middle of this century.


Spring is a time of change. As optimists, we often want to see the beauty in change. Americans in particular suffer from over-optimism, seeing for instance in Christianity the rebirth of Chirst, Easter.

I've heard some soul-searching evangelicals scold worshippers for their neglect of Christ's suffering--the hard part of his life.

Most of us Americans may succumb to the temptation of hope in a better world; let's hope it doesn't come at the expense of our compassion and awareness for the suffering of other

We as Americans do like to lead the world; it is a position from whihc we've only recently fallen. We pride ourselves on efficiency and classical fixation on big dreams and big ideas. We yearn to entertain our imaginations, and love freedon and worship it by shedding limitations and spurning tradition.

We've had a capacity for change, our nation has from seen itself as different from its peers, and inherently superior, capable of leading from the front edge of change, not dragged along screaming towards it.

So why must I ask, are we so slow to recognize the scope of the global warming problem? Is it that we don't want to see what is there before us, simply because it's not a rosy glimpse into the future?

I guess many choose to glide onward in autopilot rather than wake up to the problem before us. It's not American to persist in denial, it's a universally human characteristic. But as Americans, we owe it to our history and to our tradition of leadership to acknowledge the problems the world faces.

I think Americans would honestly agree to accept the problem of global warming. While some will perpetually remain in denial, it's not enough for business and political leaders to ignore global warming. Representatives of industry have been coming to Washington, DC, seeking leadership from the government.

Roosts of climate change denial exist in those companies which stand to lose the most from change. With so many billions in lost profits at stake, these Big Oil companies have funded misinformation campaigns that have delayed an effective response to the environmental changes.

TIme is a crucial factor in the fight on global warming; as I said above, changes can begin at even small temperature rises that increase warming. The only remaining scientific issues of contention are how much warming will occur and how soon. Yet unfortunately a plethora of unforeseen sources of contribution to global warming are emerging.

Eventually, mankind's contribution to global warming might be seen as a small but precipitating contribution to a larger atmospheric disaster brought about by what were initially small changes in winds, rainfall, and temperature.

Like dominoes, unforeseen consequences will pop up as global warming plays out. One very noticeable change seen in America is in the greater intensity and frequency of tornadoes and storm damage. Heated just slightly, climatic conditions once less conducive to the formation of storms become spawners of powerful low pressure cells called "supercells".

How are we to know what threshold sets off the creation of these mighty monsters? How much difference does a half degree, a full degree, make?

You may have heard the story of the beating of a fly's wing in Africa. The wind generated by the fly's wing contributes just enough extra energy to a passing cloud to let fall one additional raindrop. The extra water thens flow into a lake, then the ocean, where it evaporates and borne its gaseous form lift aloft where it reforms into a cloud, which being two hydrogen and one oxygen atom heavier, is enticed to form into a hurricane, which eventually crashes into the US mainland.

We do not know what makes our climate change, nor do we know how we are changing our climate in a complex and virtually unforeseeable chain of events.

Atmospheric heating has destabilized our planet's weather. Judging at least anecdotally from the extremities of weather in this country, drought and flood, reports of damage from clusters of tornadoes and extreme seem to be appearing more regularly, and the intensity of damage much higher.

Will one tree stop the problem? No, but if we Americans can work together in ways to reduce global warming, the consequences will be less dire. Rather than go on using energy in ways I have in the past, I'm trying to change and use less. The few changes I have made don't seem to have been expensive or that challenging, so we have zero excuses to continue to use as much energy as we do.

If we continue our ways, and new sources of oil are not found (Peak Oil), we will be forced to compete for dwindling supplies of petroleum, and maintain a presence in Iraq indefinitely to secure our supply. In this respect our gluttonous ways serve the peddlers of death and destruction, and encourage violence and a unshaky future based on unreliable foreign suppliers who may be funding terrorism.

Every drop of blood shed in the service of Mideastern oil represents the failure of Americans to change. The accumulation of gases produced by the combustion of fossil fuels presents a direct atmospheric threat to the stability of our planet.

The world is going to have to change. The world is gradually abandoning fossil fuels because of the damage they cause to the environment. We can follow or we can get ahead of the changes, it is our choice. It is clear to virtually all but a few that we must make serious changes to help the planet survive and begin them now.



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