Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Queen and the Soldier

The Queen and the Soldier

By Stirling Newberry
Sunday 19 June 2005
The soldier came knocking upon the queen's door
He said, "I am not fighting for you any more"
The queen knew she'd seen his face someplace before
And slowly she let him inside.

"The Queen and the Soldier," by Suzanne Vega
To paraphrase the inimitable Suzy V: America has swallowed a secret burning thread, it cuts us inside and often we've bled. With the release of a defense memo from March of 2002 as part of the "Downing Street Memos," it is clear that the desire to remove Saddam's despotism was used as the lever to pursue an ill-conceived, ill-advised and ill-considered strategy of "regime change" that was destined to place in charge a government that was led either by a "Sunni strong man" or a representative government loaded with "Western stooges."
The memos smash the final bricks of the wall of excuses that has separated people from the truth about why Iraq was invaded. Iraq was invaded because Saddam was an irritant, and both Bush and Blair felt that they had a free hand. In pursuit of this, a PR campaign was manufactured to underline that the war was about how atrocious Saddam was, and to create out of whole cloth a WMD threat that did not exist.
That these were excuses can be seen from the memos themselves: there is not one word on how to use international law to remove Saddam. There is not one word on how to deal with the reconstruction, merely a hope for Blair to ask Bush for "answers." The entirety of the planning consisted of planning to go to war, agreeing to manufacture excuses for war, and creating a cloak needed to launch the war. While there were earnest genuflections made in the direction of improving the humanitarian situation, the "Iraq Options Memo" makes it clear that the troubles in Iraq were viewed primarily for their PR value.
It should be clear that who is to act is as important as the action. While it was possible in some hypothetical world, with some hypothetical American President, and some hypothetical British Prime Minister, with some hypothetical public, to have replaced Saddam in a way that would have led to fulfillment of the "rosy" predictions and a stronger UN Security Council - the memos make clear that that hypothetical world is not the one we live in, that that hypothetical President was not in power in March of 2002.
The contrast between that world and this one is made manifestly clear by the language and steps proposed in the Iraq Options Memo. A lawful removal of Saddam would have rested on securing a War Crimes or Crimes Against Humanity indictment, securing a Rule 61 hearing from the United Nations Security Council to make that indictment binding on member states, and a plan for nation building. The possibility of doing this was not even on the radar - it wasn't even thought of. Assassination was, but not arrest. Legality was not an option.
Those who are against all wars at any time needed no convincing, and those who looked carefully at the military and geopolitical situation knew that Iraq was a gross blunder of strategy. But a large number of people convinced themselves that because Saddam ruled over an atrocious police state, they therefore did not need to consider who was being given a blank check to rewrite the rules of diplomacy and legitimacy.
It is a failure that will hammer upon us. It is not only what, but who and how, that must be answered, even from the hardest of hard perspectives. The humanitarian argument is only a legitimate one, if humanitarianism motivates those who will carry it out. For those who believe that the military instrument can be used to produce desirable outcomes, such as removing dictatorial regimes, there is a burden of proof, namely that those ends are attainable in fact, and not merely desired in fantasy.
He said, "I've watched your palace up here on the hill
And I've wondered who's the woman for whom we all kill
But I am leaving tomorrow and you can do what you will
Only first I am asking you why."
The wide gap between the cause that people are told they will fight for, and that which they are actually fighting for, has often been very wide indeed. Iraq is an example where the stated causes and the actual causes are at such variance that it is not difficult to see why the rosy picture painted before the invasion has not occurred. The British were hoping for an Iraq that was reintegrated into the international order, without WMD. Even the memo writer of Iraq options admitted that these two goals were contradictory: a representative Iraq, caught between a hostile and WMD-armed Iran, and an inimical and WMD-armed Israel might well seek WMD. As might any other "end state" government in Iraq. The goals of representative government, international integration and WMD negative status fail in Iran, which is not fully integrated, has WMD, but does have a regime which is at least nominally representative. Why should a different outcome in Iraq have been expected? The goals of representative, WMD-negative, and integrated into the international order fail with respect to Pakistan, why should a representative Iraq have less desire to secure itself than Pakistan?
The young queen, she fixed him with an arrogant eye
She said, "You won't understand, and you may as well not try"
Instead of being forthcoming about the goals and objectives of Iraq and allowing the public to decide, they hit upon a different plan: an elaborate charade was to be concocted, one that was misleading even if one believed that Saddam's regime was "dirty." The WMD threat was merely an excuse, because the threat was no different in 2002 than it had been for some time. Treating the public like children who did not have the right to know what was being decided and why, Tony Blair's advisors focused only on how to get public acceptance for a policy already decided on for other reasons. The reality is that even the British were deceived, and their memos show it. A legitimate attempt to overthrow Saddam, prevent his using WMD in a last ditch attempt to preserve his regime, and replace him with a representative government would have required more troops, more bombing in advance, and more investment lined up for the post-war situation than the war planning contemplated. In the end, the government of Tony Blair conceded on every single caveat that even their hawks wanted. The most painful conclusion of the released Downing Street Memos is not that the war was a sham, nor that it was manufactured by excuses and distortions - the proof for these was evident - but that one must believe that the government of the UK was willing to abandon every principle of statecraft that it enunciated in its own memos. Either there was a complete and reckless willingness to follow the US regardless - with fewer troops, a smaller coalition, no nation building strategy, and no clear end state - or one must conclude that over the months of planning the Blair government found out that the regime of Saddam Hussein was less well armed than they had supposed, and therefore even further from being a threat, and closer to being toppled by other means.
In the end, it was the people who thought themselves sensible who consented to this war, and it is against the standard of being sensible that the war policy must be judged. From the sensible views of a hawkish insider, two points become clear. First, any thoughts of real Democracy or improvement in Iraq were subsidiary to the objective of getting Iraq's oil on-line again - because that is what "being a member of the international community" means in practice here. Second, the sensible requirements of policy were not implemented, even from the point of view of those absolutely committed to them. Failure was not only an option, it was, under such circumstances, an inevitability. The ways of power politics might be strange, but they are not this strange.
Let us hope that some day, future historians do not read the song as a complete parable for our own age, with the Queen being America, and the soldier being all of us. But we have already reached the point of heartache, and there are not many lines left to be written.

Quick Link

Revisiting David Foster Wallace’s Boston  on Radio Open Source   is well worth the effort.

The Kurdish Connection

As Bopnews reports here according to what can be gleaned from official documents and accounts of tactics and operations in Iraq, a new chain has been forged, since the invasion, which is linking extremist groups in Pakistan engaged in Kashmiri terrorism and other attacks, with Kurdish groups in Northern Iraq, thence to Baathist elements who have joined the "Army of Mohammed". These elements based in Fallujah, have formed an alliance with Shia cleric Sadr's militia.

The web of connections now joins together a series of guerrilla and terrorist groups, that will allow Baathists to tap the money which they drained from the Iraqi banking system just prior to the invasion, and convert it into weapons and expertise. They have allied with Sadr to join his popular power and ability to organize and recruit.

Recent attempts by this new alliance to secure the main highway to Fallujah would indicate that this is the current means by which arms reach insurgents in Baghdad itself...

When rebellion broke out in Fallujah, it was clear that more than the attacks on four US mercenaries were at stake. Instead, it is becoming clear that Fallujah is a key point along a smuggling route that brings arms and expertise into the center of Iraq. The Army of Mohammed - based originally in Pakistan - has formed a wing in Iraq, composed of former Baathist security personnel. These have linked up with Kurdish Islamic extremists, to be one end of a land pipeline that moves across Iran and Afghanistan - on the other end? Kashmiri terrorist groups and front organizations which are raising money for the resistance in Iraq.The attacks on the main highway, and the resupply march yesterday, indicate that this is now a tight operational alliance, and what was, last fall, a string of small, disaffected groups, is now an organization which commands perhaps as many as 20,000 fighters, has as much as a billion dollars at its disposal - which at war rates is less than one might think, but still a great deal, and a recruiting arm capable of moving through the populace.

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Some context here. There is a vast world market for "grey" money. Money which is not entirely illegal, but which is questionable in how it is spent. Iraqi banks for years dipped into this sea of grey money - as did George W Bush Jr. to bail out Harkin. The use of this money is very broad - from dark activities such as drugs - to doctor's offices laundering additional fees charged to "bump people up in line" in the Medicare system - to access to short term credit. The beneficiaries are large in number.

However, this grey market for money allows the black market for money to flourish - and to launder profits from hard illegal activities - narco and petro terrorism, looting, illegal arms sales, violations of the Oil-Food program and mercenary activities. The grey market for money was the interface between Saddam's quest for arms, technically banned, and the money needed to maintain him in power. As has been documented, this extended into First City in Houston and other banks which collapsed in the S&L crisis.

In the present,  a new conduit has been established, through the growing "counter monetary system" which allows money to be moved into and out of centers of conflict through out the world, and particularly in the middle east.

This money is used to buy arms - such as the all important Rocket Propelled Grenades, which are the mainstay of resistance activities and attacks on helicopters and convoys - and expertise to plan and execute full scale operations.

The Fallujah counter attack by the resistance - where the US was drawn in, ambushed from the rear, and then had its supply line convoy attacked while bogged down in house to house fighting - speaks of a sophistication of planning and execution which is far above anything which the Iraqi military was able to do even during the invasion. The tactics are a mélange of Mujahadeen anti-aircraft methods, with roadside bombings familiar to students of actions in Kashmir, with the ability to mount resupply and ambush attacks which resemble those used by Pakistani and Taliban forces over the years.

The links to ISI backed Pakistani organizations are most troubling. The ISI has access to a range of sophisticated weapons - including non-conventional weapons. It also has access to what would be the nightmare scenario for US infantry - armor piercing bullets, which would put the resistance on a far more equal footing with their "battle rattle" clad American opponents.

- - -

It is clear from the need to suspend operations in Fallujah in order to attack the south, including the retaking of Kut - that the US has insufficient force management and air support to be on the offensive everywhere at once. The Total Force Management System for the US Marine Corps was contracted out to a private company, which failed to understand the unique needs of the marine corps. As a result the USMC is getting by with manual and antiquated force structure computer software, which is materially hindering its ability to deal with the unconventional demands of Iraq occupation. This is not an isolate example of the logistical infrastructure being eroded under the recent Executive Branch's drive to privatize government procurement, and has lead to examples of security risk which could, and should be avoided.

This combination - of a logistical pinch on the US military, hampering its effectiveness - and of a growing logistical supply train for a "united front" of resistance elements, is quite probably the reason that the US military is reacting harshly in Iraq, and why military operations hang by the precarious shuttling of key resources back and forth. While the coalition forces have overwhelming superiority where ever they chose to focus their air and artillery - without these, they are outnumbered to a degree that they cannot attack without causing severe civilian casualties.

This leads to the possibility of the guerillas trying to "run out the clock", and puts pressure on the US to make a large push - soon - to recover the initiative in key sectors.

In short - there was no AlQeada to Baathist link before, but there is beginning to be one now.