Tag Archives: Iraq

Steve parked in YY …Turkey faces blowback from allowing infiltration to Syria

By Steven R. Maher

There is a famous saying: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Like Syria earlier this decade, Turkey is finding out the hard way that the enemy of their enemy can quickly turn into their enemy.

The United States invaded Iraq in 2003. Shortly thereafter, foreign fighters began to flood the country.

“Senior Iraqi intelligence officers believe an Islamic militant group which has claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in Irbil and a spate of deadly attacks in Baghdad, Falluja and Mosul is receiving significant help from Syria and Iran,” the Guardian, a respected British newspaper, reported on February 19, 2004. The Guardian recounted that Iraqi insurgents were “given shelter by Syrian and Iranian security agencies and have been able to enter Iraq with ease” and were “suspected of training suicide bombers and deploying them against US forces in Iraq and Iraqis considered to be collaborating with the US-led authorities.”

Jihadist Highway

At the time, Syrian President Bashir al-Assad was backing the Iraqi insurgents to drive the United States out of the Middle East. When the Arab spring unfolded in 2011, the Jihadists began using Turkey as an infiltration route to unseat Assad. Their efforts were made easier by the knowledge – and the networks set up – to use Syria to infiltrate Iraq.

Turkey’s Prime Minister wanted to see Assad toppled. As the Wall Street Journal reported on September 4, 2014, Turkey allowed the setting up of a “jihadist highway” that “let foreign militants slip across its border into Syria.” ISIS terrorists were allowed to use Turkey’s territory to rest, recuperate, and launch attacks against Syrian forces.

The chickens came to roost with this week’s bloody suicide bombing on Turkey’s main airport, the same airport used by foreign Jihadists to enter Turkey on their way to fight in Syria.

Lesson learned

One lesson to be learned from this is the danger of “blowback.” This was a term America became familiar with after 9/11, when it was used to describe the U.S. supplying arms to Afghans fighting the Soviet Union, who then created Al-Qaeda to war against the U.S. The Syrians saw their country destroyed by the blowback of their government’s support of terrorists to attack U.S. forces in Syria, and Turkey is now facing a very bloody blowback from their government’s decision to set up the “Jihadist highway.”

Another lesson to be learned is that the United States cannot put boots on the ground in the Middle East and engage in direct combat with ISIS.

That will only inflame the Middle East further, unite warring Jihadist factions against the U.S., and motivate some of America’s enemies to befriend each other. The U.S. should stick to its current strategy of using Special Forces, drones and air power to degrade ISIS.

Drones: America’s weapon of choice in the war on terror

By Steven R. Maher

“Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” have become the United States’ weapon of choice in the war on terror. Better known as “Predator drones”, these 8,000 remote controlled robots have devastated Al Qaeda, disrupted its chain of command, and played a large role in allowing American troops to be withdrawn from Iraq and now Afghanistan.

“According to data compiled by the New America Foundation from reliable news reports, 337 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have killed an estimated 1,953 to 3,279 people since 2004, of which 1,526 – 2,649 were reported to be militants,” reports one Internet web site. “This means the average non-militant casualty rate over the life of the program is 18-23 percent. In 2012 it was around 10 percent, down sharply from its peak in 2006 of over 600 percent.”

“”In 2012 the USAF [United States Air Force] trained more drone pilots than ordinary jet pilots for the first time,” says Wikipedia.

What are drones made off and how do they work? What are the moral implications of “targeted killings”?
Primary aircraft

Drones were first used for high altitude surveillance in the 1990s. After 9/11, the drones were modified to include ordnance and automate the military’s “kill chain” – “find, fix, track, target, engage and assess” against high value, fleeting and time sensitive targets.

There is a large amount of Internet drone literature, including the Wikipedia entry and the U.S. Air Force web’s “fact sheets” on the nine drones in usage. Robert Valdes has published on Lafayette.edu an insightful article on drones. In an effort to convey to readers the essence of how drones operate, we boiled down the information available, summarizing data to reduce verbiage. Military acronyms are not used extensively. We concentrated on the RQ-1 predators.
“Following 2001, the RQ-1 Predator became the primary unmanned aircraft used for offensive operations by the USAF and the CIA in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas,” says Wikipedia.

The MQ1-B is an armed RQ-1. The change in designation came when the reconnaissance-purpose RQ-1 was armed with two Hellfire missiles in 2002, making it a multi-purpose device (hence the “M” re-designation). Not long afterwards, on November 2, 2002, a predator was first used outside the Afghan war drone, to kill in Yemen Qaed Senyan Al-Harthi, the Al-Qaeda commander of the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.
“The MQ-1’s capabilities make it uniquely qualified to conduct irregular warfare Operations in support of Combatant
Commander objectives,” says the air force.

How it’s built

Operated in clusters of four, the MQ1-B is made by General Atomics Aeronautical at a fiscal 2009 cost of $20 million for four Predators, the ground control station, and the satellite link up.

The MQ-1B is two yards high, nine yards long, and with a wingspan of roughly nineteen yards. It looks smaller than it appears in pictures. Miniaturization and nano-technology allow packing this small device with much hardware.

• The front compartment contains a “Multispectral Targeting System” that includes the Hellfire missile targeting system; an electrical optical infrared system which can see through haze, smoke or clouds; a laser designator; and a laser illuminator. There is also a GPS system and an ice detector. The equipment in this section “paints the target” by shooting a laser beam, which electronically puts a bull’s eye on the object by sending a pulse from the target to the two Hellfire missiles attached to the Predator. A computer generated “firing solution” calculates the distance, trajectory, wind speed, and other variables to hit the target with pinpoint precision.

• The second compartment contains a satellite communications antenna, a videocassette recorder, the de-icer, flight sensors, a receiver/transmitter, a “friend or foe” transponder, an avionics tray, and a communications sensor.

• The next third of the drone consists of a fuel cell, fuel cell assembly, and accessory bay.

• The fourth compartment of the plane contains the engine cooling fan; the oil cooler/radiator; secondary control module; two eight pound battery backups; a power supply; and a four cylinder, 115 horsepower engine similar to the engines used to power snowmobiles. At the rear is a two-blade propeller providing the drive and lift, and attached is a rudder, which is used to navigate the vessel.

The two fuel tanks are rubberized bladders in the fore and aft sections of the Predator, capable of holding 665 pounds (100 gallons) of 100-octane gasoline. The craft is lubricated by 7.6 liters of standard oil. The de-icer operates through microscopic “weeping holes” on the wings through which an ethylene glycol solution drips out to melt ice accumulated at the 25,000 feet altitude at which the MQ-1B flies.

The rib cage, surrounding the Predator like an elongated oval shaped skeleton, is made up of carbon/glass fiber tape and aluminum. The sensor housing and wheels are aluminum, the edges of the wings titanium. Between the rib cage and operating devices is a layer of carbon and quartz fibers with a mix of Kevlar. Further insulating the components are layers of foam and wood laminate; a sturdy fabric is sandwiched between these layers.
Empty of fuel and ammunition, the MQ-1B weighs 1,130 pounds, a very light aircraft. Fueled, armed, locked and loaded with two Hellfire missiles with a 450-pound payload, the Predator weighs 2,250 pounds, still a lightweight.

How it works

A drone can be disassembled into six parts and loaded into a single container, which can be transported to a war drone in a C130 Hercules, or larger transportation aircraft. It can be reassembled in four to eight hours. It takes 82 men or women to operate one four Predator active service unit over a twenty-four hour period. The flight begins, from a minimum 5,000 feet long surfaced runway, when an operator attaches a power cord to the Predator and turns the drone on.

The MQ-1B has a range of 700 miles and a cruising speed of 135 MPH. This means it must be launched from relatively near the war drone. It takes three to operate a drone: a pilot sitting in front of a computer screen using a flight stick to guide the aircraft, and two sensor operators. The pilot can see what the Predator sees in “real time”, i.e., instantaneously.

Once out of line of sight from its take off point, a satellite transfers control to an operator in the continental United States. “[I]f a predator is lost in battle, military personnel can simply ‘crack another one out of the box’ and have it up in the air shortly – and that’s without the trauma of casualties or prisoners normally associated with an aircraft going down,” writes Valdes. For a casualty conscious military, the predators are the perfect weapons; operators are not exposed to enemy fire.

The MQ1-B then flies to a designated target area. There, it can “loiter”, sight unseen, for up to fourteen hours awaiting the arrival of the target. This means the MQ1-B can hover over a selected geographical site, fire at a target, levitate as it records the reaction to the initial strike, and then fire a second shot if the operator deems the people running to the site of the first blast are legitimate military targets.

The ability to “loiter” is critical to drone operation, and is another area being improved. On July 28, 2012 Popular Mechanics reported the success of an experiment to refuel a drone using lasers.
Laser Motive Company beamed via a “wireless extension cord” enough energy to a 17.5-pound drone to keep it aloft 48 hours – 46 hours longer than the drone can usually fly. “You’re plugging a system into a wall, taking that electricity, and converting it to a light and transmitting that light through open air to a receiver, which converts the light back into electricity,” said Laser Motive President Tom Nugent. After the laser beam test ended, the drone’s batteries held more energy than when the test began.

“With larger optics and more expensive lasers, the system’s range could be extended to hundreds of kilometers in a straight line, but the Earth’s atmosphere would limit how far away a drone could be from its power source when flying at lower altitudes,” observed Popular Mechanics. “A scaled up version of the laser charger could keep aircraft aloft indefinitely.”

Most military drones are not battery powered, and the battery size required to power a fully armed 2,250-pound MQ-1B might be considerable. So it might be some time before laser recharging of military drones becomes a reality. But when it does, another one of George Orwell’s predictions in his classic book “1984” will have come true. Orwell wrote that the scientists of the three major world powers would compete to build an “airplane as independent of its base as a ship.”
Borrowed Nixon’s strategy

The utility of drones was not fully exploited during the Presidency of George W. Bush. Until August 2008 the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, was notified in advance of drone strikes. Al-Qaeda sympathizers within the ISI tipped off the terrorists in advance of the strikes. Indeed, Bush appeared to place a higher premium on Pakistani goodwill than he did on killing Al-Qaeda high value targets. According to published reports, in 2005 U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld quashed a plan to capture Al-Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Rumsfeld felt that Pakistan would react too negatively.

President Barack H. Obama, as his May 1, 2011 killing of Osama Bin Laden showed, was less concerned about Pakistani goodwill. What Obama did was escalate the drone war dramatically. Obama’s overall strategy in the war against terror was borrowed from Richard M. Nixon’s Vietnam policy, something that went unnoted by mainstream historians, pundits, and columnists, who tend to be left of center.

In 1969 Nixon came to power after his predecessor got involved in a war on the Asian mainland that was draining America’s economy, bitterly dividing the country, and subjecting the United States to severe social strains – a situation comparable to the one Obama faced when he came to office forty years later, absent the financial collapse (in 1968 the U.S. did have a balanced budget).

Nixon advanced the air and naval power of the United States in Vietnam while training an indigenous force to fight the Soviet supported enemy (“Vietnamization”), simultaneous with the withdrawal of American land forces. This culminated in 1972 when Nixon blockaded North Vietnam by mining its ports, and in the controversial “Christmas bombing”, sent massive waves of B-52s to bomb the north into signing the January 1973 Paris peace accords. If Watergate had not happened and the Democratic Congress not cut off aid to South Vietnam in 1975, it is likely Vietnamization would have succeeded.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has advanced the drones, while pulling back American troops and training local forces to fight Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The list of drone kills compiled by the conservative web site New America, citing mainstream media reports, is most impressive (see accompanying story).

Obama has turned Afghanistan and Pakistan into an Orwellian nightmare for Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups. At any moment, death may rain down on them from the heavens. Targets of drone strikes don’t know there are Predators miles above them until the bombs start exploding. This has broken open deep fissures within the Jihadist movement, which turned paranoid in a hunt for informers.

“[P]redator strikes took such a toll on Al-Qaeda that militants began turning violently one another out of confusion and distrust,” says Wikipedia. “A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said: ‘They have started hunting down people who they think are responsible’ for security breaches. ‘People are showing up dead, or disappearing.’”

All this makes it more difficult for Al-Qaeda to mount 9/11 style attacks inside the U.S. homeland. The group’s leaders are too busy trying to avoid Predators to spend the necessary time to organize such spectaculars.
Drone critics

The drone program does have its critics. Some believe that the strikes have killed too many non-combatants and others question targeted killings.

One cause of noncombatant deaths is that Al-Qaeda leaders live with their wives and children. Another is that most Predators are armed with 100-pound Hellfire missiles, ordnance capable of blowing up a tank or bunker. The military is working to reduce this problem by fitting drones with six Griffin missiles, allowing a more discriminate use of deadly force. Indeed, one of the options CIA Chief Leon Panetta gave Obama to kill Osama Bin Laden was to use a Griffin armed drone, an option rejected by Obama because he was not assured of success in hitting Bin Laden as he paced about his Abbottabad compound.

Targeted killings of opposing military leaders are as American as apple pie. Ten weeks after the Declaration of Independence, George Washington ordered a targeted killing when he sent a one-man submarine, the Turtle, to sink the HMS Eagle, the flagship of Admiral Richard Howe. The September 6, 1776 attack failed because the Turtle was unable to attach a depth charge to the Eagle. In April 1943 Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered American fighters to shoot down a plane carrying Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. This attack was successful.

The United Nations charter gives member nations the right to defend themselves. Al-Qaeda started this war. Now, the drones may end Al-Qaeda.

Partial listing of drone attacks

By Steven R. Maher

Below is a partial listing of President Barack H. Obama’s successful drone attacks targeting terrorists during his first four years in office. Most information here was cited on the web site “New America”, which cited the New York Times, Reuters, the BBC, and other mainstream media outlets as the sources of this information.
• January 1 2009 – Drone strikes killed Osama al Kini and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, who played central roles in the 1998 African embassy bombings that killed three hundred people. Al Kini was al-Qaeda’s chief of operations in Pakistan and Salim Swedan was his lieutenant.
• April 29, 2009 – Abu Sulayman al Jazairi, an Algerian Qaeda planner who American intelligence officials say they believe helped train operatives for attacks in Europe and the United States, was killed.
• August 5, 2009 – A drone strike killed Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
• September 14, 2009 – Islamic Jihad of Uzbekistan leader Nazimuddin Zalalov, a lieutenant of Osama Bin Laden, was killed by a drone strike.
• December 8, 2009 and December 17, 2012 – Drone strikes killed Saleh al-Somali, al Qaeda’s external operations chief and link between al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and al Qaeda abroad; and Zuhaib al-Zahibi, an al Qaeda North Wazairistan comander.
• According to documents found in Osama Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, on some unknown date in 2009, Saad bin Laden, Osama Bin Laden’s son, was killed in a drone strike.
• Early January, 2010 – Mahmud Mahdi Zeidan, Jordanian Taliban commander was killed in a drone strike.
• February 17, 2010 – A predator killed Sheikh Mansoor, an Egyptian-Canadian al-Qaeda leader
• March 8, 2010 – Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, an al-Qaeda planner and explosives expert with contacts in Al-Qaeda in the Arabaian Pennsiular, the Afghan Taliban, and Pakistani Taliban was killed in a strike.
• May 21, 2010 – A high visibility target, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, al-Qaeda’s no. 3, was killed by a drone.
• August 14, 2010 – Amir Moawia, Taliban commander, killed in a Predator strike.
• September 26, 2010: Sheikh al-Fateh, al-Qaeda chief in Afghanistan and Pakistan, died after a drone attack.
• December 17, 2010 – Drone strike eliminates Ali Marjan, local LeI commander.
• June 3, 2011 – Ilyas Kashmiri, senior al-Qaeda commander in Pakistan, killed by a Predator.
• August 22, 2011 – High value target Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, promoted to be Al-Qaeda’s number two after the death several months early of Osama Bin Liaden, is killed by a drone.
• September 11, 2011 – Drone strike kils Abu Hafs al-Shahri, al-Qaeda’s chief of operations in Pakistan. Nineteen days later another drone kills Aleemullah (Halimullah) a senior Taliban commander.
• September 30, 2011 – American born Al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki is killed by a CIA operated drone.
• October 13, 2011: Janbaz Zadran, the Haqqani network’s third in command, is kiled by a drone.
• October 26, 2011 – A drone strike brings down Taj Gul Mehsud, a Taliban commander.
• October 27, 2011 – Drone strikes kill four Taliban commanders: Muhammad Khan, Hazrat Omar, Miraj Wazir and Ashfaq Wazir.
• January 10, 2012 – Aslam Awan, a senior operations organizer for al-Qaeda from Abbottabad, where Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy Seals, is killed in a Predator attack.
• February 9, 2012 – Predator strike kills another high value target, Badar Mansoor, thought to be al-Qaeda’s most senior leader in Pakistan.
• March 13, 2012 – Drones kill two senior Taliban commanders, Shamsullah and Amir Hamza Toji Khel.
• June 4, 2012 – Abu Yahya al-Libi, al Qaeda’s new second-in-command and a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, is killed by drones.
• August 24, 2012 – Badruddin Haqqani, commander of military operations and third-in-command of the Haqqani Network dies after a drone strike.

US military struggling to stop suicide epidemic among war veterans

From The Guardian. – R. T.

US military struggling to stop suicide epidemic among war veterans

Last year, more active-duty soldiers killed themselves than died in combat. And after a decade of deployments to war zones, the Pentagon is bracing for things to get much worse

William Busbee 

William Busbee was in many ways the archetype of the US soldier, and his mother feels he was let down by the army he loved so much. Photograph: Libby Busbee

Libby Busbee is pretty sure that her son William never sat through or read Shakespeare’s Macbeth, even though he behaved as though he had. Soon after he got back from his final tour of Afghanistan, he began rubbing his hands over and over and constantly rinsing them under the tap.

“Mom, it won’t wash off,” he said.

“What are you talking about?” she replied.

“The blood. It won’t come off.”

On 20 March last year, the soldier’s striving for self-cleanliness came to a sudden end. That night he locked himself in his car and, with his mother and two sisters screaming just a few feet away and with Swat officers encircling the vehicle, he shot himself in the head.

At the age of 23, William Busbee had joined a gruesome statistic. In 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone. To put that another way, more of America’s serving soldiers died at their own hands than in pursuit of the enemy.

Soldier suicides Credit: Guardian graphicsAcross all branches of the US military and the reserves, a similar disturbing trend was recorded. In all, 349 service members took their own lives in 2012, while a lesser number, 295, died in combat….

to read more, click on link below …


Those who say “I Support the Troops” should just stop, out of respect for the troops

Illegal Military Foreclosures

By Michael Moore, filmmaker

I don’t support the troops, America, and neither do you. I am writing this as I have just learned of the suicides of two more of our active duty reservists who live here in the Traverse City, Michigan area. That brings the total number of soldier suicides (that I know of) in the past year, in this rural area, to four.

I am tired of the ruse we are playing on these brave citizens in our armed forces. And guess what — a lot of these soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines see right through the bull**** of those words, “I support the troops!,” spoken by Americans with such false sincerity — false because our actions don’t match our words. These young men and women sign up to risk their very lives to protect us — and this is what they get in return:

1. They get sent off to wars that have NOTHING to do with defending America or saving our lives. They are used as pawns so that the military-industrial complex can make billions of dollars and the rich here can expand their empire. By “supporting the troops,” that means I’m supposed to shut up, don’t ask questions, do nothing to stop the madness, and sit by and watch thousands of them die? Well, I’ve done an awful lot to try and end this. But the only way you can honestly say you support the troops is to work night and day to get them out of these hell holes they’ve been sent to. And what have I done this week to bring the troops home? Nothing. So if I say “I support the troops,” don’t believe me — I clearly don’t support the troops because I’ve got more important things to do today, like return an iPhone that doesn’t work and take my car in for a tune up.

2. While the troops we claim to “support” are serving their country, bankers who say they too “support the troops” foreclose on the actual homes of these soldiers and evict their families while they are overseas! Have I gone and stood in front of the sheriff’s deputy as he is throwing a military family out of their home? No. And there’s your proof that I don’t “support the troops,” because if I did, I would organize mass sit-ins to block the doors of these homes. Instead, I’m having Chilean sea bass tonight.

3. How many of you who say you “support the troops” have visited a VA hospital to bring aid and comfort to the sick and wounded? I haven’t. How many of you have any clue what it’s like to deal with the VA? I don’t. Therefore, you would be safe to say that I don’t “support the troops,” and neither do you.

4. Who amongst you big enthusiastic “supporters of the troops” can tell me the approximate number of service women who have been raped while in the military? Answer: 19,000 (mostly) female troops are raped or sexually assaulted every year by fellow American troops. What have you or I done to bring these criminals to justice? What’s that you say — out of sight, out of mind? These women have suffered, and I’ve done nothing. So don’t ever let me get away with telling you I “support the troops” because, sadly, I don’t. And neither do you.

5. Help a homeless vet today? How ’bout yesterday? Last week? Last year? Ever? But I thought you “support the troops!”? The number of homeless veterans is staggering — on any given night, at least 60,000 veterans are sleeping on the streets of the country that proudly “supports the troops.” This is disgraceful and shameful, isn’t it? And it exposes all those “troop supporters” who always vote against social programs that would help these veterans. Tonight there are at least 12,700 Iraq/Afghanistan veterans homeless and sleeping on the street. I’ve never lent a helping hand to one of the many vets I’ve seen sleeping on the street. I can’t bear to look, and I walk past them very quickly. That’s called not “supporting the troops,” which, I guess, I don’t — and neither do you.

6. And you know, the beautiful thing about all this “support” you and I have been giving the troops — they feel this love and support so much, a record number of them are killing themselves every single week. In fact, there are now more soldiers killing themselves than soldiers being killed in combat (323suicides in 2012 through November vs. about 210 combat deaths). Yes, you are more likely to die by your own hand in the United States military than by al Qaeda or the Taliban. And an estimated eighteen veterans kill themselves each day, or one in five of all U.S. suicides — though no one really knows because we don’t bother to keep track. Now, that’s what I call support! These troops are really feeling the love, people! Lemme hear you say it again: “I support the troops!” Louder! “I SUPPORT THE TROOPS!!” There, that’s better. I’m sure they heard us. Don’t forget to fly our flag, wear your flag lapel pin, and never, ever let a service member pass you by without saying, “Thank you for your service!” I’m sure that’s all they need to keep from putting a bullet in their heads. Do your best to keep your “support” up for the troops because, God knows, I certainly can’t any longer.

I don’t “support the troops” or any of those other hollow and hypocritical platitudes uttered by Republicans and frightened Democrats. Here’s what I do support: I support them coming home. I support them being treated well. I support peace, and I beg any young person reading this who’s thinking of joining the armed forces to please reconsider. Our war department has done little to show you they won’t recklessly put your young life in harm’s way for a cause that has nothing to do with what you signed up for. They will not help you once they’ve used you and spit you back into society. If you’re a woman, they will not protect you from rapists in their ranks. And because you have a conscience and you know right from wrong, you do not want yourself being used to kill civilians in other countries who never did anything to hurt us. We are currently involved in at least a half-dozen military actions around the world. Don’t become the next statistic so that General Electric can post another record profit — while paying no taxes — taxes that otherwise would be paying for the artificial leg that they’ve kept you waiting for months to receive.

I support you, and will try to do more to be there for you. And the best way you can support me — and the ideals our country says it believes in — is to get out of the military as soon as you can and never look back.

And please, next time some “supporter of the troops” says to you with that concerned look on their face, “I thank you for your service,” you have my permission to punch their lights out (figuratively speaking, of course).

(There is something I’ve done to support the troops — other than help lead the effort to stop these senseless wars. At the movie theater I run in Michigan, I became the first person in town to institute an affirmative action plan for hiring returning Iraq/Afghanistan vets. I am working to get more businesses in town to join with me in this effort to find jobs for these returning soldiers. I also let all service members in to the movies for free, every day.)


The high cost of historical ignorance

By Paul S. Ropp

Ignorance of world history should be a crime for politicians. Why? Because historical ignorance has led to some of the worst disasters in American foreign policy. In the 1960s, for example, the US sent 500,000 troops to the small country of Vietnam in order to “contain China” and to maintain the independence and “democracy” of South Vietnam.

In fact, South Vietnam was no democracy, and Vietnam was a proudly nationalistic country that had successfully contained China, quite by itself, for 2000 years. With neighboring Laos and Cambodia, it had fiercely resisted French and Japanese imperialism in modern times. And all three countries retained a profound sense of national pride and a profound hatred for Western or Japanese armies.

Consequently United States troops were widely seen in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as a richer version of the racist and rapacious French and Japanese. Yet American leaders, blindly ignorant of Asian history and Asian nationalism, and fearing the “soft on communism” charge in domestic politics, sent 57,000 young Americans to their early deaths, and killed between one and two million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, mostly civilians. This death and devastation was a direct result of our profound ignorance of the history and cultures of Asia.

More recently, and more disastrously for the US national interest, George W. Bush felt emboldened by the 9/11 terrorist attacks to launch an invasion of Iraq in 2003, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. With no knowledge and no curiosity about the history of the Middle East, Bush assumed that just because Saddam Hussein was a nasty dictator, American troops would be welcomed in Baghdad, and American-style democracy would be warmly embraced by all parties.

The history of western imperialism in the Middle East is as shameful, and as relevant today, as the history of western imperialism in Asia. After World War I, the British arbitrarily drew the boundaries of Iraq, deliberately combining three hostile groups—Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds—to guarantee a weak and unstable oil-rich country that could be manipulated and dominated by the West.

Because Saddam Hussein brutally imposed Sunni control over the Shi’ites and Kurds, it was clear to all historians that his overthrow would seriously weaken Iraq and unleash lethal tensions pitting revenge-seeking Shi’ites in the south and independence-seeking Kurds in the north against the former Sunni power-holders.

Ignoring the history of Iraq, Bush wildly exaggerated Saddam’s military power, quickly destroyed the country’s modern infrastructure, and then failed to provide even a semblance of law and order, or the massive reconstruction effort so desperately needed following the “shock and awe” of the American assault. The Saddam regime’s sudden collapse proved he was never a serious military threat to American interests. The looting of the Iraqi national museum and the torture photos from Abu-Ghraib Prison became symbols the world over of American ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy.

When no weapons of mass destruction could be found in Iraq, the war rationale was changed to democratization, despite the fact that nothing is less democratic or more subversive of democratic values than a foreign military invasion. The Bush war in Iraq has empowered Iran as many Middle Eastern experts predicted, and has inspired both Iran and North Korea to accelerate, not abandon, their nuclear development. The sectarian tensions and continuing violence in Iraq today are a direct result of the Bush administration’s reckless invasion in 2003.

The Bush war in Iraq has killed some 4000 Americans and over 100,000 Iraqis, and seriously wounded over 20,000 Americans and untold numbers of Iraqis. Over 2 million Iraqis, mostly middle class professionals, have fled the war-torn country, and the industrial infrastructure of Iraq has still not been restored to pre-war levels. The financial costs of health care for Iraq war veterans, the interest on the money borrowed to fight the war, and the damage to America’s moral standing in the world will be a burden on the US for generations to come.

Americans like to focus on the future, not on the past. But ignoring the past leaves us blind to the moral, political and financial costs of our past mistakes, and all too likely to repeat those mistakes in the future. Beware of American politicians who combine arrogance and ignorance of world history. They are a greater threat to our national security, prosperity and power than any external enemies.

Improve the lives of War Dogs! Please help!

From a “friend”:

As an animal lover, I was outraged when I read this:

Experts estimate that the average War Dog saves 150 soldiers lives during his tenure of service. Currently war dogs are considered equipment provided to their “human” soldier handlers but while their handlers return home to their families these dogs are classified as “Excess Equipment” and left behind like junk.

Unless a dog is adopted as a pet and the adoptive owner pays ALL the expenses to bring the dog home, it will be left behind. PLEASE contact President Obama, Dept. of War, your Congresswoman/man and ask them to change the laws/help these brave animals!


Improve Retired War Dog Adoption!

Retired Military Working Dogs have no “return to home station” benefits even though for the time of their service they are commonly considered “military members.” As it now stands, retired OCONUS (OVERSEAS) MWDs must be transported at adoptive owner’s expense as a pet!

Air Force Major General Mary Kay Hertog explained that adopters must bear the brunt of transport for adopted dogs returning from overseas because, “Once that dog is adopted, it becomes a pet, and therefore loses its MWD status.” The General added, “So it would be fraud, waste and abuse for the DOD to transport that pet.”

Experts estimate that the average MWD saves 150 soldier lives during his tenure of service. This is a laudable feat which should be recognized in an official capacity

Several organizations including US War Dog Association are asking Congress to amend H.R. 5314 (Public Law 106-446, 106th Congress) to include the following three changes:

Provide for authorized DoD Transport of retiring MWDs stationed at permanent OCONUS bases who are adoption suitable or already adopted back to CONUS (continental United States) via military transport.

Grant an official reclassification of current active duty MWD from “Equipment” to “MWD Troop/Soldier”. This change is necessary in order to undergird the reclassification of a retiring MWD from the current “Excess Equipment” to “MWD Veteran” or “Military K9 Veteran.”

Mandate the creation and establishment of a DoD recognized Commendation and Medal for Meritorious MWD Service for Active Duty MWDs.

Let the President, DoD, and Congress know how you feel about this issue!

InCity Times book review

Obama’s Wars By Bob Woodward

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

If you have a relative in the armed services or a friend who is a political aficionado, “Obama’s Wars” would make a nifty gift. It’s the latest inside look at Presidential decision making by Bob Woodward, whose previous books include “Bush at War” and “Plan of Attack.”

In these books Woodward interviews the President, major political figures, generals, and other participants. He tries as much as possible to have his sources confirm each other’s accounts, so as to ensure historical accuracy. Woodward goes to lengths at being impartial. This truly is the first draft of history.

Woodward first rose to national prominence in the early 1970s as part of a two man team of investigative reporters for the Washington Post, exposing the seamy side of the Nixon presidency in the Watergate scandal. Nixon was forced to resign to avoid being impeached.

Thoughtful man

The Obama who emerges in these pages is a deeply thoughtful man who gives due consideration to the consequences of his decisions. Continue reading InCity Times book review

US foreign policy under Bush/Obama: what’s wrong with this partnership?

By Mike True

Daily cartoons in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette ridicule President Obama, making no distinction between the success of his domestic policies and the failure of his foreign policies.

Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, vote NO on any Obama initiative, even when it helps to revive the economy and improve health care. They seem unwilling to concern themselves with governance. In their lust to return to power, they seem to care less about Americans victimized by a depression.

Ironically, after voting against economic aid to unemployed citizens, Republicans then approved billions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan. Does it matter to Congress that 60% of Pakistanis regard the U.S. as their enemy and that a significant portion of that aid ends up in the hands of insurgents in Afghanistan? Why do we continue to send our young men and women to die and to kill in such circumstances?

On matters of foreign policy, however, Democrats and Republicans mostly agree. Both of them appear satisfied with Obama’s abuse of executive authority, represented by his commitment to another failed policy, this time in Afghanistan. Continue reading US foreign policy under Bush/Obama: what’s wrong with this partnership?

Illusions of security

By Richard Schmitt

President Obama has decided to escalate the war in Afghanistan. In his speech he was very clear about the purpose of that escalation: “I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by Al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11 and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.”

Many commentators have questioned whether the means chosen by the President are feasible: Will we be able, in a year and a half, to train an Afghan army and police force able to keep the Taliban in check? Will we be able to persuade the Afghani government to eschew corruption? Few people believe that these goals can be reached in less than 5 years — if ever. Continue reading Illusions of security

Lessons to learn from the failed presidency of George W. Bush

By Harvey Fenigsohn

The majority of Americans now agree that the 43rd president indeed failed, with polls revealing that George W. Bush is the most unpopular president in modern American history. Bashing the former president is all too simple, but let’s consider what we may learn from his failures, if another George, the eminent philosopher, Santayana, was right when he said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Though numerous failures mar the Bush record, no doubt his worst was the debacle of Iraq. Deceiving the American people and Congress, Bush used his claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction to justify an unprovoked invasion with no exit strategy. At a cost of billions of dollars, Bush managed to establish Iraq as a magnet for terrorists and stain America’s reputation around the world. Continue reading Lessons to learn from the failed presidency of George W. Bush