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Iraqi CP Statement on Recent Murders of Several Members June 22, 2012

Posted by Garibaldy in Communism, Iraq.
2 comments

Iraq has slipped way down the media’s list of priorities, and we don’t hear a lot of what’s going on there. So posting this statement from the Iraqi Communist Party via the Iraqi Letter blog as a reminder.

“The Political Bureau of the Iraqi Communist Party strongly condemned yet another heinous crime committed by terrorists, the enemies of the Iraqi people, targeting a gathering of mourners at a funeral in the town of Shufta, east of the city of Baqouba, in Diyala province, on 18th June 2012.

The cowardly bombing killed 22 people and left more than 35 injured. The victims included several members and supporters of the Iraqi Communist Party.

A statement issued by the Political Bureau said: “We have stressed repeatedly that narrow partisan and selfish conflicts among the dominant political blocs, and the state of impasse in the political situation, that have nothing to do with the interests of the people and the country, will have a negative impact on the already fragile security situation. This situation results in significant and serious loopholes through which terrorists and militia thugs would easily penetrate, leading to the loss of more victims and innocent lives. It is as if Iraqi blood has become cheap, not only to the terrorist murderers, but also to those who are supposed to protect the lives of people and maintain their security and property.”

“We strongly condemn this barbaric criminal act. And once again we call upon the ruling forces and parties to put an end to their unprincipled conflicts, and demand that the government and its military and security organs assume their responsibilities fully and strike hard at the criminals, the enemies of life and humanity, regardless of whatever cover they have! Full protection must be provided to the Iraqi people, of all social strata, religions, sects and ethnicities.”

The Political Bureau statement expressed deepest condolences to the families of martyrs, and wished the wounded speedy recovery.

May Day in Baghdad May 2, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Communism, Iraq, Uncategorized.
5 comments

I put up the full text of the Iraqi Communist Party’s May Day message over at Garibaldy Blog, which was published in advance. Yesterday, the Iraqi CP held a May Day march and rally in Baghdad.

The Iraqi CP leader said: “Workers will remain a guiding beacon, for all the people, leading the way forward for social progress, democracy and socialism.” He also paid tribute to the sacrifices of Iraqi workers; fearless of prisons, repression and expulsion from work, in the struggle to achieve freedom, independence and a prosperous life for the Iraqi people.

There is a report of the rally here and photos here.

Brits Out April 30, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in Iraq.
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So the British Army has ended combat operations in Iraq, and will now officially leave. I feel that there’s not really a lot to say about this. We all know that the Iraq war was a bloody disaster produced by a mixture of desire for oil, revenge, ideology, and good old fashioned US imperialism, facilitated by lies told to the entire world. And that the New Labour government played a prominent role in every step along the way. The number of deaths is enormous. I have to say that it is somewhat sickening to see the British army talking about its heavy losses of 179 in Iraq, when at the very lowest estimate this is around 20 times fewer than the number of civilian deaths in Basra alone. So, not a lot to say, but worth marking. The hundreds of thousands of civilian dead must not be forgotten; nor must imperialism be forgiven for the blood shed in Iraq.

Mercenaries and Iraq. A Tale of Woe. November 17, 2008

Posted by Garibaldy in Capitalism, Iraq, The War On Terror.
16 comments

A while back, I remember reading a post I think on this site about the mercenary army that was enabling the occupation of Iraq to continue by keeping the number of US combat deaths artificially low. I can’t find it now. Anyway, I wouldn’t usually cross-post, but I think this piece I just put up on my own blog will also be of interest to readers here. And perhaps the author of the other post can add a link to it.

The Guardian has an entertaining story on its front page with British mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanisatan complaining about being undercut by cheaper eastern European labour, with backgrounds in the special forces of those countries.

The National Association of Security Professionals (Nasp), an organisation for those working in the private security industry, said former British soldiers are being laid off by companies in Iraq who are turning to east Europeans instead. The number of Britons providing security in Iraq has fallen from a peak of about 5,000 in 2004-05 to nearer 2,000 this year.
Mark Shurben-Browne, a director of Nasp, said the market had reached saturation point, with companies receiving 10-20 CVs a day. But many firms were trying to reduce costs by hiring staff from eastern Europe, particularly Serbs and Croats.
“One company sacked half their British workforce and replaced them with cheaper guys with a special forces background from eastern Europe,” said Shurben-Browne.
“The companies are mixing the teams up, keeping two or three expat or British guys on in a team with the rest from eastern Europe.”

The National Association of Security Professionals. Talk about a misnomer. What this is is a gang of mercenaries, who have been getting fat and rich as an unaccountable special army that has a dreadful record of human rights abuses and killing civilians, often being spirited out of the country to avoid local courts – or any justice at all. Astoundingly, there is also an employers’ federation for these people:

Andy Bearpark, director general of the British Association of Private Security Companies (BAPSC), said: “There may be some blokes in Iraq earning £100,000 a year tax-free, but £50,000 tax-free is a much more likely figure now.”
Bearpark has heard of Fijians, Gurkhas, Ukrainians and Sierra Leoneans being employed, usually on much lower wages than British and US personnel. “There was a US firm which was not even paying Sierra Leoneans 10% of what they paid their US staff,” he said.

So mercenaries are the victims of the credit crunch as well as merchant bankers. Every cloud has a silver lining. We on the left are sympathetic to people who lose their jobs by inclination. And perhaps we could view becoming a mercenary as a rational choice by people to employ their particular type of skilled labour power. However, the fact that many are coming from Croatia and Seriba should raise questions, and a clear description of the character of many of the British people involved is provided by Bearpark:

“It’s not unusual for guys to go and buy shares in a Bangkok brothel and within three months they’ve lost it all and then they have to try to get another contract to pay off their debts. They’re not people used to handling a lot of money. The average guy is earning £40,000-£45,000 in Afghanistan, which is nothing like what people were earning in Iraq,” said Bearpark.

I think that says enough about the mercenaries. One other point – the language employed by The Guardian. What have we come to when a paper that is supposed to be the voice of progressive Britain unquestioningly adopts the language of the “private security industry”, and puts it on its front page?

The Prime Minister berates the former PM over the run-up to Iraq: It’s Australia, not the UK. June 4, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in International Politics, Iraq.
2 comments

How Gordon Brown must wish it were otherwise. How he must wish that he could be like:

Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, [who] has rounded on his predecessor John Howard, accusing him of misleading the public and abusing intelligence information to justify the invasion of Iraq.

And when they use the terms ’rounded on’ and ‘accusing’ they’re not kidding. For Rudd asked…

“Have further terrorist attacks been prevented? No, they have not been. Has any evidence of a link between WMD and the former Iraqi regime and terrorists been found? No. Have the actions of rogue states like Iraq been moderated? No. After five years has the humanitarian crisis in Iraq been removed? No, it has not.” Mr Rudd said in parliament.

All eminently sensible stuff. All of it incontrovertible.

Not that Howard, or the White House (who are implicitly targets of these accusations) are shy about responding.

Howard has denied misleading the Australian public, and Washington today rejected Rudd’s charges of abusing intelligence information, which he made as he announced the end of Australian troops’ combat role in Iraq.

The White House spokesperson said:

“We acted on the intelligence we had, and that the entire world had. No one else in the world, no other government, had different information and so we acted based on what was the threat that was presented to us. When the intelligence community presents you with their concerns, you’d better take them seriously,” she said. “Since then we, of course, learned that there was not WMD in Iraq, and then the president took action to make sure that the intelligence community would be reformed,” she said. “Intelligence is not a perfect science but they certainly do their best.”

Which is sort of missing the point, but no doubt provides a good example of ‘truthiness‘ (coined by Stephen Colbert).

It’s not that that there was a fairly broad consensus on WMDs amongst intelligence agencies, that being that Iraq possessed them, which there was. It is that a further consensus was that the threat posed by said WMDs was of a much lesser degree to that proposed either in Washington or London. Much. Much. Lesser.

Still, Rudd’s attack (incidentally, small point of fact, AC/DC’s original drummer was a guy called Phil Rudd. Just thought you should know) is political dynamite because Rudd, who is hardly a tribune of socialist revolution, and is indeed a fairly wishy washy social democrat (and let’s not talk about the immigration issue) is inching towards a big charge when he:

Rudd also accused Howard of taking the country to war “without full assessment of the consequences”.

Now think about that for a second. Rudd is presumably now in possession of many, if not all, of the relevant intelligence reports on this issue. That he feels confident in making this charge is bad bad news for Howard and his government. And not just them, because after all those same intelligence reports shaped the responses of other governments, one of which happens to lie somewhat to the East of my present location. And all this on foot…

The withdrawal of Australian combat troops from Iraq, following an election promise made by the new Labor government, has reopened a bitter debate among Australian politicians on the decision to go to war.

And…

The opposition leader Dr Brendan Nelson reminded Rudd that in 2002, when the prime minister was the opposition foreign affairs spokesman, he said there had been “a significant threat of weapon of mass destruction from Iraq”.

Which is tricky. But office is all. Polling data indicates Rudd may the most popular Australian Prime Minister ever. Plenty of time for that to change. But in the meantime…

Anyhow, spare a thought for Gordon Brown who must wonder at the circumstance fate has delivered him to. Forced to carry the can for the Blair era, but unable to speak out like Rudd. For unlike Rudd he sat at the same table as Blair supporting the decisions that carried Britain to the war. He can’t deny the past, because it is his past. He can’t withdraw the troops because to do so would undermine his own credibility (further). He’s stuck.

And a last thought on the matter – for now. Doesn’t this simply prove just how thin the international support base for the US actually was in 2002 and 2003? A coalition of the willing that even Rumsfeld admitted – as regards the UK – was more or less superfluous. And while I don’t believe that had Blair, or Howard, acted differently the war would have been stopped in its tracks there is no doubt that they conferred a fraction more legitimacy to the enterprise than it might otherwise had. Only a fraction, but enough to corral others and arguably to solidify opinion within the US. Sufficient unto the day to continue the momentum of the Bush Presidency into a second term. The protagonists leave the stage one by one. First Blair, then Howard (or was it the other way around). Soon Bush. And we see just how much was smoke and mirrors – a grand illusion that has comprehensively trashed many of the underpinnings of the international order, flawed as it was, and left far too little in its place, not to mention the situation in Iraq itself. One might think Rudd is being self-serving, and perhaps he is. He has little to lose in doing so. But he does no small service in raising the veil just a little more and demonstrating once again the bankruptcy of the endeavour.

Another ‘myth’ developing around Iraq to consider… in Prospect magazine… May 20, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in International Politics, Iraq.
4 comments

Briefly, an entertaining review in Prospect magazine by Bartle Bull (foreign editor of Prospect) of Patrick Cockburn’s book “Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq”. Cockburn has written what I’d consider to be the best, and thankfully one of the most concise, account of the War in Iraq and its aftermath, “The Occupation” which was considered here before.

Bull is no fan of Cockburn’s politics, although he is lavish in his praise of his work…

…Iraq reporting is dominated by a highly editorial approach, almost all of it from the anti-American left. Cockburn is the dean of this school of thought too. It is a field of endeavour that was more or less invented by his father, the communist writer Claud Cockburn, and which has been carried on by Patrick and his two talented brothers, Alexander and Andrew. Patrick is a proud polemicist of the old-fashioned, sceptical-of-American-power strain, perhaps the leading light in a family who are the Kennedys or Bushes of the ink-stained, well-heeled intellectual left.

And he also writes:

It is a noble tradition and, in Cockburn’s hands, a charming and glamourous one, but it is also as wrong about Iraq as it was about the cold war. If our leaders had listened to it, Saddam Hussein would have been in power for another 20 years and Iraqis would not possess the possibility of liberty that is theirs today. If this tendency had any predictive power beyond the truism that Iraq tomorrow will be violent, the country’s three nationwide democratic exercises in 2005 would have been terrible failures, rather than popular successes, and the country would have fallen apart in the leaderless “civil war” of 2006 and the first half of 2007.

Those are some mighty big claims. Consider that the exercises in democracy predated the ‘civil war’, and how indeed could it have been otherwise since the ‘civil war’ represented a manifestation of the jockeying for positioning between Sunni and Shia. In that context how is it possible to see that they represented anything close to ‘popular’ successes? Moreover the appeal to rhetoric about ‘liberty’ is strangely old fashioned. That seems to be low on the agenda in an Iraq being given a comprehensive makeover as a Shia dominated state with a strongly religious aspect.

But most striking is his analysis:

If we had followed the counsels of this illiberal school, a courageous and important nation of 25m souls would have been abandoned to al Qaeda, the Baathists and Iran a year ago or more.

Really? It’s hard to take this terribly seriously. Forget al Queda for a moment, who like all opportunists have merely piggy-backed their way on a different struggle. Consider the Baathists and Iran. Firstly, it is now widely recognised in US political circles [and for more a recent edition of To The Point on KCRW some weeks back dealt with this very issue – I’ll try to find a link] that the approach of disbanding the Iraqi Army, and the institutions of state, many of which were underpinned by Baath members was woefully misconceived. And so we see a slow surge of Baathists back towards the centers of power. Meanwhile Iran could hardly be in a better position than it is now. Iraq is not a client state – not quite, anyhow. But the nature of the relationship between the two states is one of profound depth and a shared animosity.

And curiously Bull takes two contradictory lines on this. In one he argues that:

The story of Iraq over the last five years is one not of US and British soldiers with all their failures, successes and tragedies. It is the story of Iraqis and the realignment of their politics after 30 years of Baathism. It is the story of Iraq becoming a Shia country.

In the other he suggests:

…from where did al-Sadr make his accommodating announcements [during recent protests in Basra]? Tehran, where he was based throughout the writing of Muqtada, and where he will be for another few years at least as he completes a hasty degree that will allow him to claim status as a mujtahid, or source of reference and emulation for Shias. Muqtada is not an Iranian pawn, or has not been to date, but his taking refuge there from his own elected government is already proving politically damaging. The al-Sadr movement is about nationalism as much as it is about populism. Tehran and Qom are good places to lose that mantle.

The point is that Iraq is making a Shia turn, and it is largely irrelevant (although telling – very telling) that al-Sadr winds up in Tehran. But this is a triumph of hope over experience, for Bull writes that: Throughout the storming of his neighbourhoods in Basra and-Sadr City, he [al-Sadr] reaffirmed his commitment to the ceasefire that he renewed in late February. His men, not Maliki’s, were ordered to withdraw from the field of battle, and Maliki’s men patrol the streets of Basra today.

Do they? Do they in any meaningful sense? The information coming out of Basra, such as it is, seems to indicate that Maliki’s hold on power in Basra uncertain.

But he tops that statement with the following:

Muqtada has recently achieved what even the Americans failed to: a brief alignment of almost all of Iraq’s main political parties. The Sunni parties, both Kurdish parties, many leading secularists and the two main old Shia parties all lined up behind the government in its standoff with al-Sadr. Bloodied by an unpopular government, hemmed in, pushed out of lucrative real estate during the battles of March and April, Muqtada is fortunate to have recourse to the ballot box in local elections this autumn and national elections in 2009. We know who he has to thank for that.

To personify the forces that al-Sadr represents in al-Sadr is to minimise the actual dynamics within Iraq, within Shia Iraq and indeed within the democratic structures. To suggest that somehow a ‘brief alignment’ represents anything is to tilt into the absurd. Iraq will, it seems, continue to confound expectations for quite some time, but perhaps most of all those which hope to see clear-cut examples of ‘liberty’ over the messy and often anarchic compromises with Iran and the Baath that a slow moving civil war on foot of invasion has left. And to somehow castigate those who suggest the best solution is the removal of the current set of external forces, because this removal might lead to a situation hardly distinguishable from the current one, is simply wrong.

A horror of facing March 22, 2008

Posted by smiffy in Decent Left, Iraq.
19 comments

Hitchens_Shower

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?  – J.M. Keynes

There are times when brute stubbornness, an unwillingness to concede defeat and to plough on regardless, can be a virtue: attempting to give up smoking, completing a particularly interminable Resident Evil game or arguing with racists over on politics.ie.  On most occasions, though, it’s a character flaw, demonstrating a lack of self-confidence and an inability to look at oneself critically.  We see this ably demonstrated in Christopher Hitchens’ piece in today’s Irish Times entitled ‘Invading Iraq was a just cause, and much good has come of it’.  The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

The article is a reprint of Hitchens’ contribution to the ongoing series in Slate various pro-invasion writers reflect on the Iraq war five years on entitled ‘How did I get Iraq wrong’ (Hitchens’ response is the wonderfully blunt ‘I didn’t’).  It’s, in many ways, a rehash of many of the arguments he made in the run-up to the invasion and in the early stages of the occupation that can be found in his (in retrospect, rather unfortunately named) collection A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq.

While he goes some way to acknowledging the already well-documented incompetence, arrogance and short-sightedness that typified the occupation, he still makes the case that, on balance, the decision to invade was the correct one.  He writes:

 A much-wanted war criminal was put on public trial. The Kurdish and Shiite majority was rescued from the ever-present threat of a renewed genocide. A huge, hideous military and party apparatus, directed at internal repression and external aggression was (perhaps overhastily) dismantled. The largest wetlands in the region, habitat of the historic Marsh Arabs, have been largely recuperated. Huge fresh oilfields have been found, including in formerly oil free Sunni provinces, and some important initial investment in them made. Elections have been held, and the outline of a federal system has been proposed as the only alternative to a) a sectarian despotism and b) a sectarian partition and fragmentation. Not unimportantly, a battlefield defeat has been inflicted on al-Qaida and its surrogates, who (not without some Baathist collaboration) had hoped to constitute the successor regime in a failed state and an imploded society.

Some of these are obviously true, others are far more arguable.  More complicated though is the question he poses in asking “What would post-Saddam Iraq have looked like without a coalition presence?”, a question well worth the asking.  Where his argument is most seriously flawed is in his failure to seriously address it, or to look in any detail at the negative consequences of the occupation, other than to say:

None of these positive developments took place without a good deal of bungling and cruelty and unintended consequences of their own. I don’t know of a satisfactory way of evaluating one against the other any more than I quite know how to balance the disgrace of Abu Ghraib, say, against the digging up of Saddam’s immense network of mass graves.

One could be generous and assume that Hitchens is using the Abu Ghraib abuses as a metaphor for the wider failure of the occupation forces rather than just the scandal itself.  Even then, however, there’s no acknowledgement of the full scale of the disaster that has befallen the Iraqi people, no indication that Hitchens fully appreciates the full extent of the tragedy.  Perhaps most damningly, there’s not a single direct reference to the Iraqis who have been killed since the invasion, even leaving aside the question of whether the invasion caused those deaths.  Instead, reference is made to a more vague “chaos, misery and fragmentation”.

Fragmentation is a term that might well be used to describe the current state of the so-called ‘Cruise Missile Left’.  The pre-invasion consensus in support of the war has been shattered.  Some, like Nick Cohen and (as splintered aptly calls him) Oliver Kampf are at one with Hitchens in sticking to their guns.  Others, like Norman Geras or the Traitor Hari have, to greater or lesser extents, repudiated their previous positions.  Even those who now view their initial support for the war as misguided tend to remain convinced that their moral judgement was correct, and that their primary mistake was in misreading how badly the coalition forces would handle the occupation (a judgement which, by its very nature, can ony rendered in hindsight).  None, to the best of my knowledge, has ever seriously tackled the question of whether a pro-invasion position was the correct moral one at the time.  Certainly no one has addressed this point as Andrew Sullivan (not even a leftist) in his own piece of self-criticism from the same ‘How did I get Iraq wrong?’ Slate series.  Sullivan writes:

I recall very clearly one night before the war began. I made myself write down the reasons for and against the war and realized that if there were question marks on both sides (the one point in favor I did not put a question mark over was the existence of stockpiles of WMD!), the deciding factor for me in the end was that I could never be ashamed of removing someone as evil as Saddam from power. I became enamored of my own morality and the righteousness of this single moral act. And he was a monster, as we discovered. But what I failed to grasp is that war is also a monster, and unless one weighs all the possibly evil consequences of an abstractly moral act, one hasn’t really engaged in a truly serious moral argument. I saw war’s unknowable consequences far too glibly.

This is the kind of clear-thinking and honest assessment that one would like to be able to associate with Hitchens, who remains a far better writer than any of the others listed above.  Unfortunately, Hitchens doesn’t appear to be able – or, more likely, willing – to honestly ask himself the same kinds of questions.  It may well be that he’s just too arrogant and egotistical to do so, and refuses to admit where he’s wrong.  It’s also possible – on a more generous reading – that he feels that it’s precisely because of the disastrousness of consequences of the invasion that he feels the need to continue to justify his original position.  If Hitchens was wrong in the first place, then all the lives lost since 2003 have been completely wasted.  If, however, overthrowing Saddam remains the right thing to have done, then they can be seen to have been sacrificed in the name of a higher good.

One event, in particular, may be key to this.  The most affecting thing Hitchens’ has written on the invasion is this piece in Vanity Fair, where he describes his discovery that a young U.S. soldier killed in Iraq was heavily influenced by Hitchens’ writing to enlist and serve.  It’s the only piece by Hitchens on this subject that I’m aware of that shows a genuine humanity and something approaching an emotional honesty (although one notes, of course, that again there’s no acknowledgement of the suffering of Iraqis – the only victims of the war in this are American).  Just as Gore Vidal has stated that, in his view, the Second World War wasn’t worth the life of Jimmie Trimble, his boyhood love, could it be that Hitchens somehow has to believe that the Iraq War must be worth the life of Mark Daily?

In the introduction to his short book on George Orwell, Hitchens writes:

‘I knew,’ said Orwell in 1946 about his early youth, ‘that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts.’  Not the ability to face them, you notice, but ‘a power of facing’.  It’s oddly well put.  A commissar who realizes that his five-year plan is off-target and that the people detest him or laugh at him may be said, in a base manner, to be confronting an unpleasant fact.  So, for that matter, may a priest with ‘doubts’.  The reaction of such people to unpleasant facts is rarely self-critical; they do not have the ‘power of facing’.  Their confrontation with the fact takes the form of an evasion; the reaction to the unpleasant discovery is a redoublying of efforts to overcome the obvious.  The ‘unpleasant facts’ that Orwell faced were usually the ones that put his own position or preference to the test.

If this is the test of the great writer, it’s one that Hitchens in this case unfortunately fails.  While he undoubtedly retains his facility with words, it’s his horror of facing the unpleasant facts about his support for the invasion which continues to undermine his credibility.  One can only hope that this is something he might overcome as he completes the memoirs he is apparently working on at present.

Samantha Power and the Obama Campaign February 26, 2008

Posted by smiffy in Books, Democrats, International Politics, Iraq, United States, US Politics.
60 comments

Via Normblog, a rather disappointing Sunday Times interview with the very intriguing Samantha Power.Power’s an interesting character. She’s a strong human rights advocate who doesn’t fall into any easy ideological categories. Her opposition to the invasion of Iraq distinguishes her from both the hawkish elements within the current US administration who use the language of human rights to cloak a rather more base military adventurism and the Nick Cohen-ite ‘muscular liberals’ so comprehensively ridiculed in the always brilliant Encyclopedia of Decency. However, she’s by no means a pacifist and her support for military intervention in certain cases puts her at odds with much of what might loosely be described as the broad-left anti-war movement.

Power’s 2002 book A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide is a compelling and illuminating piece of work which analyses the evolution of the international community’s understanding of genocide as a distinct crime, and the responses of various US administrations to it throughout the 20th century. The material on the Kurds is particularly good, specifically in detailing the internal politics driving the State Department’s response to the Anfal campaign.

Her new book, Chasing the Flame, is a biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the senior UN diplomat most notable for overseeing the transition of the then East Timor to independence and for his death at the hands of jihadists in a car bomb attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003. Even prior to his death Vieira de Mello was a fascinating figure and was profiled in Paul Berman’s Power and the Idealists as one of a number of soixante-huitards (the others including Joshka Fischer and Bernard Kouchner) who came to a difficult accomodation with the defence of human rights and the need for humanitarian interventionism in the 40 years since the riots of the summer of ’68. Berman’s review of Power’s book can be found here:  ironically, his main criticism of the work

But the biggest difficulty, or so my reading of Chasing the Flame leads me to suppose, is a problem of the imagination. A philosophical issue. It’s the same problem that keeps popping up in Power’s earlier book as well: an inability to imagine why some people might set out to destroy whole populations. Vieira de Mello participated in U.N. missions that followed any of several logics—the logic of peacekeeping, or of establishing safe havens for the persecuted, or of providing humanitarian aid. But each of those logics presumes that if horrific conflicts have broken out, it is because otherwise reasonable people have fallen into misunderstandings and a neutral broker like the U.N. might usefully intercede. Yet conflicts sometimes break out because one or another popular political movement has arrived at a sincere belief in the virtue of exterminating its enemies, and horrific ideologies lie at the origin. Neutral mediations in a case like that are bound only to obscure the reality—which has happened several times over, as Power usefully demonstrates.

is precisely the aspect of Berman’s own writing which is the weakest. Particularly in Terror and Liberalism, but also elsewhere, he has a tendency to move from relatively well-considered fact-based arguments to vague theorising about ideology – in particular about the ‘irrationality’ of certain ‘death-cults’ – which isn’t really supported by convincing evidence and which one suspects is only thrown in to allow Berman to make spurious analogies between Fascism, Stalinism and (for want of a more accurate term) Jihadism.

While Chasing the Flame isn’t published (this side of the Atlantic) until next week, I hope it will examine in some detail how possible the post-invasion reconstruction of Iraq was at the time of Vieria de Mello’s death. Recent books like Imperial Life in the Emerald City and The Occupation suggest that the reconstruction efforts were always doomed to failure, due to the, at best, incompetence and, at worst, criminal and deliberate negligence of the Coalition Provisional Authority. However, what the argument that the current morass in Iraq was the inevitable and unavoidable outcome of the invasion doesn’t consider is what might have happened had the initial reconstruction effort been headed up by the United Nations rather than Paul Bremer and co. It’s something of a pointless debate, of course: we have no real way of knowing what might have happened had things been otherwise, and it certainly doesn’t assist in considering a possible solution to the present situation. However, it’s an argument worth having, to inform future questions of military intervention (however unlikely these may be in the short term).

What’s so disappointing about the Sunday Times piece, though, is that there’s so little in it. Power’s close involvement with the Obama campaign certainly cause me to pay closer attention to his campaign (although her somewhat star-struck descriptions of him in the interview do tend to grate). However, nowhere in the article is the question of what US foreign policy under an Obama administration might look like, particularly in the area of human rights and humanitarian intervention. That said, her presence is still something to keep an eye on in the course of the campaign and certainly if Obama manages to win the Democratic nomination and becomes an actual Presidential candidate.

US casualties in Iraq January 14, 2008

Posted by franklittle in Iraq, Middle East, The War On Terror, United States, US Media, US Politics.
9 comments

In December 2007 15 US troops lost their lives as a result of hostile action in Iraq according to CNN’s tracking of Coalition casualties in Iraq and Afganistan. Another eight died from non-hostile action, amounting to 23 in total. In order to find similarly low figures, it’s necessary to go back to February 2004 when 12 US troops were killed as a result of hostile action and another nine from non-hostile action amounting to total fatalities of 23. Last week six US soldiers were killed in a booby-trap bomb north of Baghdad. It was the first incident involing multiple deaths of of US soldiers since September and the bloodiest attack since May.

Suggesting the decrease US casualties is not a blip, US fatalities have been steadily declining since May 2007, with month on month decreases. Newspaper reports have indicated a growing number of military successes for US forces since the ‘surge’ began almost a year ago. While everything coming from official sources in Iraq needs to be treated with a large dose of salt there have been numerous reports of Sunni tribes who have switched sides having been alienated by Al Qaeda tactics. Last week the US launched the largest air offensive in Iraq since 2006 dropping 40,000 pounds of explosives on almost 50 targets following which US forces claimed they were able to move into previously insurgent held areas.  Bush indicated on his visit to Kuwait in a piece in the LA Times yesterday that the proposed reduction in US troop levels of 30,000 in July remains on track.

This throws up a couple of interesting questions. Are the US actually beating the insurgents or have Iraqi militants calaculated that the better option is to hunker down, hit more vulnerable Iraqi civilian and security targets and wait for the surge to die away knowing the US doesn’t have the ability to sustain it? Is the Bush administration, and the US Republican party, trying to create an image of success in Iraq ahead of the Presidential election that will allow them to bring home 20-30,000 US combat troops weakening the ability of the Democrats to use the war as an issue to attack whomever is the Republican nominee? Or is it possible that the new strategy and new troops are having as sizeable an impact as official sources claim and the insurgency has been delivered multiple hard blows in a short space of time? Could the US military strategy in Iraq be starting to work?

Route Irish: ‘Open Source’ Documentary and one very important question about left/progresssive campaigns… December 17, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Iraq, Ireland, Irish Neutrality, Irish Politics, media, Media and Journalism.
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Eamonn Cruden has passed this press release along, and sorry to Eamonn about the delay. It looks interesting – if only as a particular view of a particular campaign (and because of a crucial question posed in bold) – and once there’s been an opportunity to look at it might well do an appraisal… I don’t know yet what it’s like. But… that question is crucial because the answer really does matter. How do mobilisations of people transfer into real-world effects. And not just in their specific impact but in their ability to shape medium to long term responses?

Press Release
Subject: ‘Route Irish’: An Irish ‘Open Source’ Feature Length Documentary To Be Released Primarily Through Bittorrent Networks
Date: 22 November 2007
Contact: Eamonn Crudden
Ph: 086 1603178
E-mail: ecrudden@gmail.com

Route Irish, a new Irish documentary, will be the first feature length documentary film from Ireland to be released and distributed primarily through the use of bittorrent networks.

These networks are more usually associated with the distribution of pirated tv and movie content. However they also offer a way for filmakers to globally distribute high quality copies of their films at no cost.

Route Irish is also an open source film being made available under a GPL copyright licence more usually associated with open source software. People interested in making their own versions of the film who contact the filmmaker will be provided with high resolution copies of the raw materials from which it was made.

It was made from a comprehensive archive of material filmed by a loose network of political activists between 2002 and 2006 and is a vérite documentation of the emergence between 2002 and 2004 of a broad popular opposition in Ireland to the US military use of Shannon Airport in the buildup to, invasion of, and occupation of Iraq. Its title refers to the name given to the road between Baghdad airport and Baghdad by the US military, and to the fact that Ireland was and remains the main transit point in Europe for US troops travelling to the war in Iraq.

The film follows a loose network of politicians, activist groups and individuals through the story of the rise, fracturing and sudden decline and disappearance of this movement and retraces the way in which their combined efforts, energies and strategies served to effectively tear away the Irish States’ veneer of neutrality and non-alignment in the post September 11th era of the ‘War on Terror’. It documents the part played in this process by a series of ploughshares style actions which took place in early 2003 at Shannon airport.

It takes the form of an essayistic reflection asking, from the perspective of one Irish individual caught up in the cycle of protests here, why the international pre-war wave of opposition to the invasion of Iraq appeared so suddenly, peaked so quickly, and failed to sustain itself despite the fact that, in historical terms, all of the predictions of that movement (and worse) were proved right in the course of the ongoing US/UK occupation.

It has also, because of the progress of political events in Ireland, become a very strange and surreal portrait of the Green Party pre their elevation to government in Ireland.

The film features noteable appearances by Willie O’Dea, Trevor Sargent, John Gormley, John O’Donoghue and Terry Leyden among a host of others.

Information on how to download the film is available at http://www.indymedia.ie/article/85188

Screenshots are available at this web address: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/84775

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