Mark Steel is a UK comedian and a committed socialist. In “What’s Going On?” he describes his world falling apart. His marriage is collapsing, and at the same time he’s coming to believe that the Socialist Worker’s Party will never be an effective political organization. (Yeah, I know.) All that, and mid-life crises too:
One of the shocking aspects of becoming forty that I hadn’t fully appreciated is that once you get to that age it doesn’t stop. You carry on getting even older than that. There follows another age, called forty-one, then forty-two and each one comes round quicker than the last. You talk to a friend about the day you all went to Southend and played cricket under the biggest pier in the country, saying, ‘Blimey, that must be five years ago now.’ Then you work it out and realize it was in 1989.
I’ve had similar experiences. With the Iraq War now finally over (again, for the time being), it was interesting to read Mark Steel’s recollection of the anti-war protests in the UK. The whole nightmare still seems vaguely surreal to me. There were anti-war protests so huge that you couldn’t see the edges of the crowd, and yet the next day you’d read in the media that everyone supported the war. Now if you look back at poll numbers, even in the US support for invading Iraq without UN approval barely rose above 50% at its peak. And that was after the majority had been confused into believing that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. Within a few months of the war starting, the majority said it had been started under false assumptions and was a mistake. And yet here we are, a trillion dollars down, having caused somewhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000 civilian deaths—we’ll probably never have an accurate figure.
Meanwhile, the super-rich trashed the world economy, and are now trying to squeeze the poor to bail themselves out. People are so angry they’re sleeping in protest camps in cities around the world. But Mark Steel takes a step back to ask the even bigger question: How did we get to the point where it seems universally accepted that profit is the only reason you can possibly having for doing anything? Could we not have proper TV news, not in order to make money (it won’t) but just because we need to have an informed population? Rather than encouraging people to take out student loans to get a college degree so that they can get a better job to pay back the student loans with, couldn’t we go back to encouraging people to go to college because education and knowledge are generally good things, even enjoyable?
Biden is (a) one of the longest-serving Democrats, (b) a devout Christian, (c) the guy who brought us the Drug Czar of the War On Drugs, and (d) one of the few Democrats to vote against FISA.
Yes, he voted for the Iraq war, but so did most of the Democrats. And in fairness, he tried to push through a motion saying that war was authorized only if all diplomatic channels failed, but it was shot down.
Of course, now the criticism has smoothly switched from "He has no experience" to "His VP choice has too much insider experience and doesn’t show a commitment to change".
You know who else started selling oil in currencies other than the US dollar? Iraq, in 2000.
Hmm, what a coincidence.
In case anyone’s missing the significance: the only thing propping up the value of the dollar is that everyone needs oil, and you need dollars to buy oil. If countries could buy all their oil in (say) Euros, they’d stop dealing in dollars, stop lending the US money to run the deficit, and make it impossible to run the US economy as it’s currently being run. Or as the Economist puts it:
A shift towards a looser peg in the GCC would undoubtedly hurt the greenback. At the very least, dollars would be purchased at a slower rate—leading to what Mr Lyons calls “passive diversification”. At worst, the policy might encourage others to follow, sparking panic sales of American assets.
i.e. a very real chance of the US economy entering another Great Depression.
As an overall picture, time has been an element in affecting negatively the forces of the occupying countries, due to the losses they sustain economically in human lives, which are increasing with time. However, here in Iraq, time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance [...]
In general and despite the current bleak situation, we think that the best suggestions in order to get out of this crisis is to entangle the American forces into another war against another country or with another of our enemy force, that is to try and inflame the situation between American and Iran or between America and the Shi’a in general.
[...] We have noticed that the best of these wars to be ignited is the one between the Americans and Iran, because it will have many benefits in favor of the Sunni and the resistance [...]
Sometimes you have to wonder whose side the US government is on.
Now that we’ve all accepted torture as a legitimate tool of the US government, the question is simply when it’s appropriate. The answer seems to be: pretty much any time the government doesn’t like what you’re doing.
Navy Veteran Donald Vance became aware of illegal arms sales in Iraq—land mines, rocket launchers, that sort of thing. He reported it to the FBI. In return, he was imprisoned as a “combatant” for 97 days and tortured.
There were times, huddled on the floor in solitary confinement with that head-banging music blaring dawn to dusk and interrogators yelling the same questions over and over, that Vance began to wish he had just kept his mouth shut.
The America-hating left-wing rumor sheet publishing this news?
“At every point, there was part of me resisting, part of me enjoying,” Lagouranis said. “Using dogs on someone, there was a tingling throughout my body. If you saw the reaction in the prisoner, it’s thrilling.”
Then a soldier’s aunt sent over several copies of Viktor E. Frankel’s Holocaust memoir, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Lagouranis found himself trying to pick up tips from the Nazis. He realized he had gone too far.
A couple of months ago, 15 UK troops were taken hostage in Iraq. They were eventually freed. Then I started seeing news stories about how everyone was furious because the troops were selling their personal stories to the highest bidder.
Maybe I’ve been in the US too long, but I didn’t understand what people were upset about. I still don’t.
Those troops went through a hideous ordeal. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to get money in return for telling people what it was like? If everyone can agree to give JK Rowling ten million quid for writing a bunch of guff about kids learning to be wizards, what’s the moral argument for not allowing troops to sell true stories for a sackful of cash? (I note that they even had explicit permission from the MOD to do so!)
Or maybe it was all faux outrage manufactured by the newspapers who lost out in the bidding war?
Then we had an Iraq Study Group. It was described by the mainstream media as “bipartisan”. Here’s what “bipartisan” actually means:
Chairman James A. Baker III—Chief of Staff, Reagan; Secretary of State, Bush I.
Co-chairman Lee H. Hamilton—allegedly a Democrat. As chair of a previous Select Committee, he chose not to investigate Reagan or Bush I for their roles in the Iran-Contra scandal. He now sits on Bush II’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.
Lawrence S. Eagleburger—Secretary of State, Bush I.
Edwin S. Meese III—US Attorney General, Reagan.
Alan K. Simpson—Republican Senate whip, Reagan and Bush I.
Sandra Day O’Connor—ex Supreme Court justice appointed by Reagan.
William J. Perry—Secretary of Defense, Clinton; hence in charge of a decade of bombing of Iraq.
Charles S. Robb—the only Democrat to vote in favor of every item in the Republican “Contract with America”.
Leon Panetta—Democrat, but ex-Republican. Chief of Staff, Clinton, worked with Perry on killing tens of thousands of Iraqi children.
The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success [...]
Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another.
Senior military staff are skeptical. There’s also the problem of where to get the actual troops, since the army is described as being at breaking point and in need of additional assistance from the National Guard and Reserves (who, remember, were supposed to be a strategic reserve to deal with crises within the USA).
But the big question I’m left wondering is: what would it take to get Bush and crew to listen? I can understand them ignoring intelligence reports, ignoring testimony from Iraqi defectors, ignoring millions of protesters marching in the streets, and so on. It’s harder to imagine how they can widen their ignorance until they’re even prepared to ignore and denounce their own people.
An authoritative US intelligence report pooling the views of 16 government agencies concludes America’s campaign in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism.
The report, Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States, points out the “centrality” of the US invasion of Iraq in fomenting terrorist cells and attacks. One section of the 30-page report, Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement, describes how the American presence in Iraq has helped spread radical Islam by providing a focal point for anti-Americanism.
While arguing that there has been success in dismantling the leadership of al-Qaida and its ability to plan major operations, the report says that radical cells have moved to more than 5,000 websites to organise and spread their message.