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Brace yourself for the “Who lost Iraq?” debate

The extraordinary developments in Iraq where the group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), considered to be too extreme even by al Qaeda, is sweeping down from the northwestern part of Iraq, capturing two major cities Mosul and Tikrit and threatening to move on Baghdad, has taken people by surprise, mainly because the US-trained Iraqi military seems to have not put up a fight. We now have the spectacle of Iran sending in troops to shore up the government that the US set up, with the possibility of the US providing aerial support, a bizarre alliance indeed.

History contains a vast number of military debacles and so it is easy to find parallels with what is happening now in Iraq to past failed attempts by big powers to invade a small country for whatever reason and leave behind its preferred government that fails to survive on its own. The US and Vietnam is one example, with the Soviet Union and Afghanistan another one. What is happening in Iraq does not portend well for what may happen in Afghanistan once US troops leave in the next couple of years.

The possibility of an ISIS takeover of Iraq has, as could have been predicted, already sparked a scramble among the warmongers in the US to wash their hands of any responsibility for the debacle and to pin the blame on others for the ‘loss’. There will be a lot of rewriting of history and convenient amnesia about what they said in the past. Of course, no one really ‘won’ in Iraq, let alone the Iraqi people. It should be constantly repeated that al Qaeda was not a presence in Iraq and it was the US invasion that gave them the foothold, just as it is the US efforts at destabilization of Syria that has created ISIS and provided it with the arms and money to grow into a viable force.

The people who actually live in the war zones are the real losers, repeatedly buffeted by the various forces and suffering immense hardships. But who cares about such insignificant people when there are glorious geopolitical chess games to be played by people safely ensconsed far away from the actual conflict.

The Daily Show commented on the recent developments.

(These clips aired on June 12, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)

Comments

  1. colnago80 says

    just as it is the US efforts at destabilization of Syria

    Excuse me, would the good professor like to point out where in the linked article an accusation is made that the US engaged in destabilization in Syria.

    Actually, the US and Israel spent 40 years tacitly supporting Assad pere and Assad fils in Syria because they kept it quiet on the Golan Highths front. In fact, the Government of Israel has studiously avoided supporting the Free Syrian Army despite the overtures from that group. The US has been reluctant to support anybody because we can’t tell the bad guys from the not so bad guys and has been heavily criticized for its reluctance by the neo-cons and the editorial page of the Washington Post.

    The question of who lost Iraq is very simple. Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki lost Iraq, if, in fact, it turns out to be lost. His policies alienated the Sunnis in Iraq and they have now come back to bite him. See attached link from someone who knows what she’s talking about.

    http://goo.gl/hZNH21

  2. throwaway says

    The question of who lost Iraq is very simple. Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki lost Iraq, if, in fact, it turns out to be lost.

    Never mind that the USA ousted all of the secularist Sunnis and created the vacuum for the Islamist Sunnis, or deposed the one man working against both Al-Qaeda and those Islamist Sunnis. Let’s just ignore all of that and then you’ll be right.

  3. says

    So, the core of American Exceptionalism means that the Law of Unintended Consequences shouldn’t apply to us? The US is like a chess player who can’t look more than one (or at best two) moves ahead, and doesn’t understand why he keeps losing.

  4. throwaway says

    Cause and effect: the invasion of Iraq is what led to this happening now. It was not the withdrawal of troops. It was not the policies of the PM. It was the simple fact that the US broke the system (as fucked up as it was) and misguidedly tried to create a democracy in an area where not everyone would play ball, instead they would resent the current state of affairs because the previous leaders and high officials, and the protections which their people held because of them, were eliminated from power. If any of those gung-ho militant Warhawks in America think that them getting involved is the right thing to do again, well then, they only have themselves to blame in 20 years, when the region has had their demarcations thoroughly scrambled yet finally somewhat reflective of the populations, and the attention turns to the country who instigated this modern era of violent bloodshed from the sidelines and in the field to protect their energy interests.

  5. colnago80 says

    Re throwaway @ #2

    Read the linked article before shooting off your keyboard. al-Maliki was warned over and over again that his insistence on a Shiite only administration would lead to disaster, which has now occurred.

    As for the situation in Syria, there have been a number of articles in the press and on the Internet about a severe drought in that country, brought on by global climate change. Here’s a link to an article on the subject, although there are a number of such articles that have appeared recently. The drought has caused food shortages in Syria which set off the initial riots that degenerated into the current disaster there. But, of course, those with US derangement syndrome, like throwaway, will undoubtedly claim that the US deliberately caused global warming for the purpose of destabilizing the Syrian Government.

    http://goo.gl/BJrROM

  6. colnago80 says

    Re throwaway @ #3

    I concur that the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which was based on lies, was as ill advised as the Vietnam War. However, the point of the article was that, even given that, had al-Mailiki followed US advice, this current situation could have been avoided. The only question is what do we do now. Obama is already under extreme pressure from the neo-cons, the Rethuglicans in congress, and the Washington Post editorial page to “do something”, about which he has shown estimable caution thus far. If McCain or Rmoney were president, I would wager that US troops would be headed back to Iraq by this time.

  7. kraut says

    “The sectarian ethnic conflicts, protests, Turkey’s open hostility and a revitalised Al Qaida are all an integral part of a modified last ditch attempt spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to achieve their overarching goal of destabilising and ultimately dismantling the fledgling democracy in Iraq. Yet, alarmingly, even if this ferocious all-out assault fails to restore minority rule, which is almost certainly the case, then Saudi Arabia and Qatar are implacably determined to throw their support behind the Sunnis drive to establish a Sunni Regional Government, which is similar to the KR but under Saudi and Qatari complete control. If Saudi Arabia and Qatar cannot have all of Iraq back, they are hell-bent on taking part of it for now”
    http://www.diplomaticourier.co

    look at the date when this article was written.

  8. kraut says

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/14/america-s-allies-are-funding-isis.html

    “Donors in Kuwait, the Sunni majority Kingdom on Iraq’s border, have taken advantage of Kuwait’s weak financial rules to channel hundreds of millions of dollars to a host of Syrian rebel brigades, according to a December 2013 report by The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank that receives some funding from the Qatari government.

    “Over the last two and a half years, Kuwait has emerged as a financing and organizational hub

    for charities and individuals supporting Syria’s myriad rebel groups,” the report said. “Today, there is evidence that Kuwaiti donors have backed rebels who have committed atrocities and who are either directly linked to al-Qa’ida or cooperate with its affiliated brigades on the ground.”

    Not much to do with internal shia/sunni conflicts, a power play by SA and the wealth of the gulf states.

  9. raven says

    It is not obvious that Iraq is lost yet. I’ve been following a thread elsewhere where someone is trying to make sense of it.

    1. It’s just Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict again, a centuries old one.

    2. The Iraq army fled because they are Shiite dominated and were afraid of a popular uprising in the Sunni areas they were occupying.

    3. Once the ISIS/Sunnis hit Shiite areas, they likely aren’t going to have an easy fight. People will fight when cornered and when they are defending their own territory.

    4. Plus Iran is sending troops because they are…Shiites. It’s quite possible that the big winner of the Bush/Cheney Iraq war will be…Iran and Halliburton.

  10. Nick Gotts says

    ISIS are a legacy of Bush’s invasion of Iraq far more than of Obama’s interventions in Syria, being the direct successor of Al Qaeda in Iraq, but now estranged from Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Obama certainly has aided the Syrian rebels, and would have launched bombing raids if the UK Parliament had not unexpectedly (and more or less by accident) refused to join in, but seems belatedly to have realised that he was helping Sunni Islamist jihadis. Israel opportunistically bombed Syrian government military facilities, on the pretext they were transporting arms to Hezbollah – but of course this would aid the Syrian rebels, espacially as Hezbollah are among the most effective fighters supporting Assad. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have also sent arms to the rebels, and probably most of these have gone to or ended up with Islamist factions, but not necessarily ISIS, whose support base is in Iraq rather than Syria, and who have fallen out with the other Islamist groups, including the Al Nusra Front – currently the local Al Qaeda franchise. Since ISIS threatens Al Qaeda’s hegemony over Sunni jihadis, we could yet see a tacit alliance not just between the USA and Iran, but these two and Al Qaeda! But the uprising in Iraq is much broader than ISIS: basically the Sunni-majority areas have revolted against Al Maliki en masse, and many former members of Saddam Hussein’s army are apparently involved. I’d say Iraq is now probably fractured beyond repair, and possibly Syria too. The danger is of an all-out sectarian war between Sunnis and Shia. Some idiots are already saying: “Good – let them kill each other”, but quite apart from the scale of death and suffering this would involve, it could send oil prices soaring, and millions of refugees fleeing, destabilising further countries. Not that outside military intervention or arms supplies are likely to do anything but pour petrol on the flames. Bush sowed the wind, the people of the Middle East are reaping the whirlwind, and the rest of us may join them before long.

  11. raven says

    Well so what should the USA do? Got me, I have no good ideas. Neither does anyone else though.

    This is a lose-lose situation. No matter what we do, it will be pointless. This is a nightmare scenario.

    The choices are to watch a probable humanitarian disaster will mass slaughters of civilians or intervene in a civil war again where both sides are equally ugly and one that might end up another Vietnam, i.e. we lose anyway after 5 years and another trillion bucks. Or we win and prop up the next Iran or Syria/Assad.

    1. I’d favor with no particular enthusiasm, just letting the locals fight it out. Iraq is an example of the Fallacy of Sunk Costs aka Gambler’s fallacy.

    Just because we spent 5,000 American lives and $2 trillion for nothing (thanks Bush) doesn’t mean we should spend more lives and money for…nothing.

    2. Alternatively, let someone else intervene. This could be the UN, Europe, or some sort of coalition of Russia, Sunni Arab states, and whatever western powers want to jump in. Maybe we can even get China in there.

    That way we could contribute without taking all or most of the responsibility. If it fails, well we did our share.

    The fallacy here is that Iraq is just the USA’s problem and only we can save them. It is a lot bigger world than that and we don’t have to play world policeman every time.

    3. Maybe we should just partition the place. It’s already de facto partitioned with the Kurds being autonomous up north. It’s what we did with former Yugoslavia and former USSR did it to themselves.

    Just set up Shiite Iraq and Sunni Iraq and guarantee the borders. That would reduce the pressure to fight a civil war that has been going on for over a decade now. The main driver is Shiite versus Sunni anyway. They clearly hate each other and that isn’t going to stop.

    Like I said, there aren’t any good solutions. Just less horrible ones.

  12. raven says

    One more for the road.

    1. This is all Bush/Cheney’s fault!!! I’m someone ticked about it because I lost two friends in Iraq and I haven’t forgotten it. And never will.

    People are trying to blame Obama for it, unjustly. He and the Dems should just throw it back at him. I’m not seeing a whole lot of support on the street for throwing more good lives and money after bad.

    2. Even if we intervene, chances are it won’t make any difference in the long run. When we leave again, in 5 or 10 years, chances are the Sunnis and Shiites will just start their centuries old conflict up again.

    3. This is a regional and world problem. If the rest of the world wants to do something, OK. We can chip in our share and let them do it. Then if it succeeds fine. If it doesn’t, it isn’t our fault.

  13. colnago80 says

    Re kraut @ #7

    Link doesn’t work.

    The sectarian ethnic conflicts, protests, Turkey’s open hostility and a revitalised Al Qaida are all an integral part of a modified last ditch attempt spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to achieve their overarching goal of destabilising and ultimately dismantling the fledgling democracy in Iraq.

    What fledgling democracy in Iraq? al Maliki has excluded Sunnis and Kurds from his government, instead of trying to unify the country. He has been aided in this endeavor by his masters in Iran, the biggest destabilizing player in neighborhood. Iran is responsible for the support of Hizbollah in Lebanon and whose support has been essential in preserving Bashar Assad’s rule in Syria.

    Re Nick gotts @ #10

    Obama’s interventions in Syria don’t amount to a hill of beans compared with Iran’s interventions there. Iran has boots on the ground supplied by their wholly owned subsidiary Hizbollah. As for Israel the muck da mucks there can’t make their minds who to support in Syria. The current thinking seems to be that a weakened Assad regime surviving is in their best interest.

  14. says

    I was looking at a bit of footage last night, of the Iraqi army’s positions outside of Baghdad. In a nutshell: the Iraqi army is prepared to run like hell.

    They have their vehicles in an extended wad in the middle of the road, no fire zones, no overwatch. A guy with an RPG could walk to within range and it would instantly be the traffic jam from hell. I don’t think much of the competence of today’s US army, but these guys look pathetic even next to that. One of the (gift of the US taxpayers) Humvees was an uparmored model with a .50 cal turret, and was occasionally firing random rounds for the camera crew, to make absolutely sure that if there were any hostiles within 10 miles, they knew where the defenders were. Because of the heat(?) vehicles were unbuttoned and people were just wandering around (basically: ready to hop in their armored cars and haul ass or form a traffic jam at a moment’s notice) A vietcong light company would utterly wipe these guys in 20 minutes.

    I’d never really spent any time looking closely at pictures of the Iraqi 2.0 army but it looks a lot like their skills are on par with the Haitian military. I.e.: they are expensive thugs who could only stand against unarmed civilians. US tax dollars at work!

  15. raven says

    It does appear that the US’ insanely expensive intelligence apparatus, once again, missed the signal.

    Good point.

    They missed it in Egypt too. When Morsi got deposed, the CIA/NSA/DHS was caught sleeping. It seems to have been a complete surprise to everyone except those with CNN on cable TV.

    This might have been because they were too busy reading my email and discovering I have a few cats and order stuff from Amazon. com.

  16. says

    the fledgling democracy in Iraq

    Are you kidding? It’s a mock-ocracy, an imperial satrapy, at best. The US never tried to help foster anything remotely like a democracy there because the US doesn’t know what a democracy looks like, itself. First hint: a democracy cannot be ‘established’ with a de-baathifying purge, after which everyone’s vote is more or less equal. The Iraqis aren’t stupid, not by a long shot, and never played along with the US ‘democracy’ game because they saw participating in it as painting a target on thier backs for the death squads. “What death squads?” They’re coming.

  17. says

    This might have been because they were too busy reading my email and discovering I have a few cats and order stuff from Amazon. com.

    You don’t want the terrorists to win, do you?!?

  18. colnago80 says

    Re Marcus Ranum @ #13

    al-Maliki was warned on numerous occasions that his Shiite only government was a recipe for disaster. He ignored our advice. See my posted link @ #1.

    Re raven @ #12

    We are in complete agreement. Maybe we should learn from our previous unfortunate interventions in Vietnam and Afghanistan. We cannot play policeman all over the world. By the way, as Jeffrey Goldberg as pointed out on numerous occasions, the US Government has allowed itself to become obsessed with the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. As I have said on several blogs, if Messrs Netanyahu, Haniyeh, and Abbas signed a peace treaty tomorrow morning, it would not have the slightest effect on the situations in Syria or Iraq. I must say that I fail to understand the obsession of numerous US administrations with the Israel/Palestinian problem which is small beer compared to other issues in the Middle
    East. The quaint notion that solving that problem would make all the other problems in the Middle East go away is mind boggling.

  19. Trebuchet says

    This is all Bush/Cheney’s fault!!!

    You’re forgetting Donald Rumsfeld, who massively bungled the occupation and disbanded the Iraqi army. In fact, I’d blame Cheney/Rumsfeld, since Bush wasn’t really in charge of his own administration anyhow.

  20. raven says

    They have their vehicles in an extended wad in the middle of the road, no fire zones, no overwatch. A guy with an RPG could walk to within range and it would instantly be the traffic jam from hell. I don’t think much of the competence of today’s US army, but these guys look pathetic even next to that.

    OMiCthulhu.

    You would think for $2 trillion bucks we could have trained them better. Even I, whose entire military knowledge comes from watching various wars on the TV news can tell this is drastically wrong.

    1. You are supposed to spread out. The normal human reaction in a high stress situation is to clump together because we are group living social primates.

    With clumping, a mortar, grenade, or RPG can do immense damage. Not to mention a suicide bomber, which is their favorite heavy weapon.

    2. They also need to dig in. Where are the trenches and bunkers. They do have heavy earth moving equipment and combat engineering is an old skill.

    3. Where is the air support? These days, in open country like Iraq, air support is deadly. It’s how we massacred the Iraq army twice in two wars.

    4. Where is the artillery? It’s been a key weapon system since WWI.

    5. Where are their generals? Troops do need competent leadership.

    If that is the best they can do, they are toast. It could be that they are going to fall back to Shiite areas and make a stand there.

  21. says

    al-Maliki was warned on numerous occasions that his Shiite only government was a recipe for disaster

    Yup!!! He’s an idiot, but he’s “our” idiot.

    Kinda wonder how that all went down. I figure the CIA told the admin that Maliki was “good” and that’s how he got installed. Then, they told him “totes no prob on the shiite only government, that’s easier, and we’ll be here to support you. Git ‘er done!!” Then, “Bwaaaaaahhahahahhahahahahahahahahahaahahahaaaa! G’bye!”

    I am guessing Morsi had more or less the same experience.

  22. says

    You’re forgetting Donald Rumsfeld, who massively bungled the occupation and disbanded the Iraqi army

    That was more Bremer’s idea than Rummy’s. But – same shit, different suit.

  23. says

    With clumping, a mortar, grenade, or RPG can do immense damage

    VC doctrine, perfected against the French, would be to blow up a vehicle at the head of the wad, then hit the entire mass with artillery fire and “whatever you’ve got” until it recoils in panic and lurches into the ambush set up across the road at the rear of the wad. They did this to the French over and over and over and over. Then they did it to the Americans, too, who developed the “response” of bombing the entire surrounding area flat, then throwing their wounded and dying in helicopters, and getting the fuck outta there, leaving all their gear behind.

    The mind boggles.

    If you’re interested in this kind of stuff “Street without joy” by Fall or “Best and Brightest” by Halberstam are wonderful treatments of the stupidity of the French experience(Fall) and the American(Halberstam) in Vietnam.

  24. colnago80 says

    Re Marcus Ranum @ #15

    We already know that when the ISIS showed up at Mosul, the Iraqi troops there threw away their weapons and skedaddled. As I understand it, the ISIS troops were greatly outnumbered and out armed. What a mess. It will be interesting to see how the ISIS makes out if it takes on the Kurds, at least one faction of which is trained by former IDF officers.

  25. says

    Where is the air support?

    Nobody but the US can afford US-style air support. Really.

    (Though the US did give Iraq billions of dollars worth of apache helicopters and some F-16s, those things literally suck up a measurable percentage of your GNP every second they are in the air)

  26. says

    how the ISIS makes out if it takes on the Kurds

    Surely they are not that stupid. Unless they’re getting advice from Rumsfeld or the CIA.

    I dunno how much of it is IDF training, or what, but the Kurds are a culture with a history of guerilla warfare and self-defense, and aren’t riven with the kind of sectarian stupidity that keeps the arabs from ever becoming an effective fighting force. The Kurds are the middle east’s closest kin to the vietcong and only a very very stupid person would attack them unless they thought they could do it with impunity (i.e.: from the air)

  27. raven says

    (Though the US did give Iraq billions of dollars worth of apache helicopters and some F-16s, those things literally suck up a measurable percentage of your GNP every second they are in the air)

    Plus you need people who know how to fly them. And hope that ISIS doesn’t have SAM’s. The Ukrainians just lost a plane with 49 people, probably to a simple and inexpensive surface to air missile.

    But there is an alternative these days. Drones. They aren’t that complicated but they might be too sophisticated for the Iraqi forces.

  28. kraut says

    @gotts – Thank you for your in depth analysis and your wealth of knowledge re the actual situation in Iraq, based on your impeccable local knowledge as displayed in your post. You have been of great help reconsidering my stance.

  29. Nick Gotts says

    kraut@30, 31,

    Trouble is, a hypothesis has to make specific predictions that rival hypotheses could not – and Zayd Alisa’s claim that it’s all the fault of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Al Maliki is blameless, doesn’t do that. It doesn’t account for the fact that the Iraqi army simply folded when faced with an enemy far inferior in numbers and equipment – which the rampant sectarianism, corruption and nepotism of Al Maliki’s regime does. Of course the Gulf monarchies are meddling – but it’s Al Maliki who has given them the opportunity, as almost everyone other than you and Zayd Alisa seems to recognise.

  30. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @11. raven

    Well so what should the USA do? Got me, I have no good ideas. Neither does anyone else though. This is a lose-lose situation. No matter what we do, it will be pointless. This is a nightmare scenario.

    The choices are to watch a probable humanitarian disaster will mass slaughters of civilians or intervene in a civil war again where both sides are equally ugly and one that might end up another Vietnam, i.e. we lose anyway after 5 years and another trillion bucks. Or we win and prop up the next Iran or Syria/Assad.

    1. I’d favor with no particular enthusiasm, just letting the locals fight it out. Iraq is an example of the Fallacy of Sunk Costs aka Gambler’s fallacy.

    Just because we spent 5,000 American lives and $2 trillion for nothing (thanks Bush) doesn’t mean we should spend more lives and money for…nothing.

    Well we did remove Saddam Hussein from power and stop his sons taking over. We just didn’t imagine the successors could be almost/as bad or worse.

    2. Alternatively, let someone else intervene. This could be the UN, Europe, or some sort of coalition of Russia, Sunni Arab states, and whatever western powers want to jump in. Maybe we can even get China in there. That way we could contribute without taking all or most of the responsibility. If it fails, well we did our share. The fallacy here is that Iraq is just the USA’s problem and only we can save them. It is a lot bigger world than that and we don’t have to play world policeman every time.

    Yes. A united international community where all nations agreed to stand up and fight together against Islamist terrorism and support each other in stamping it out everywhere might be a reasonable option if it could be made to work.

    3. Maybe we should just partition the place. It’s already de facto partitioned with the Kurds being autonomous up north. It’s what we did with former Yugoslavia and former USSR did it to themselves.

    Actually I think the former Yugoslavian nations did it to themselves as well. TheWest just stepped in towards the end to prevent (or try to prevent) some of the very worst of the Seban atrocities against the Bosnians and Kosovars.

    Just set up Shiite Iraq and Sunni Iraq and guarantee the borders. That would reduce the pressure to fight a civil war that has been going on for over a decade now. The main driver is Shiite versus Sunni anyway. They clearly hate each other and that isn’t going to stop.

    Yes. I think that (3) is the most likely solution to happen eventually.

    Like I said, there aren’t any good solutions. Just less horrible ones.

    Agreed – and sadly the reality on a lot of issues especially in the SW Asian region.

  31. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    It should be constantly repeated that al Qaeda was not a presence in Iraq and it was the US invasion that gave them the foothold, ..

    Thing is Saddam Hussein was supporting terrorism if not necessarily and specifically Al Quaida – Saddam certainly used to send money and support to Palestinian Homicide suicide bombers.

    …just as it is the US efforts at destabilization of Syria that has created ISIS and provided it with the arms and money to grow into a viable force.

    Wait, a second? Really? Citations needed.

    I thought it was part of the wider “Arab spring” and largely something the Syrians started themselves later getting some support from a number of places with not that much coming from the West.

    @11. raven : “.. we don’t have to play world policeman every time.”

    True. But if we don’t who will? China? Russia? Arabia? Nobody? Which of these options or any others you car to name realistically makes a better, more well-intentioned, generous and fair global cop?

    @29. Nick Gotts :

    Whenever I see the words “fledgling democracy” I know some prize bullshit is about to follow. In this case, it’s “Al Maliki is a saintly non-sectarian democrat” bullshit.

    You are again confusing “knowledge” with your own opinion. You “know” nothing of the sort; you just think so based on your own prejudices and if you think you know better than the writer there, well, youneed tomake a much more convincing case!

  32. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    PS. Nick Gotts :

    Zayd Alisa is a political analyst and commentator on Middle East Affairs. A human rights activist for twenty five years, he has actively promoted democracy and freedom of expression in Iraq and the Arab world.

    How does your bio and expertise compare to his? What have you done to make any of us think you know better than he?

    Note you and a lot of other FTB commenters really need to realise that just because somebody disagrees with you that doesn’t make them wrong or bad people.

    PPS. The word “Fledgling” comes from / also applies to young birds which are just learning to fly.. Sadly they have a high mortality rate but those who make it grow up to fully fledged successful birds. So I suspect it is with democracies – the USA and Australia and England and all democracies went through a fledgling period successfully over time.

    The Islamic ones have so far perished because to extend the metaphor their wings have been clipped and warped by Islam and the damage its done to the cultures. Ireally think you and those who are like minded need to read more Talima Nasreen, Maryam Namazie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Those are people who’ve been there and know what they are talking about.

    And they are even harder and stronger against islam than I am. (Yet for some reason they don’t get called islamophobe as much, go figure.)

    A good historical parallel here would be, I think, the way that actual critics of the Soviet empire and Stalinism (Eg. George Orwell, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov) most ferociously – and correctly – exposed and attacked its evils when the naive, foolish, ideologically blinded young left-wing communists and their (then) “trendy” fellow travellers kept on defending and sympathising with what in retrospect was indefensible and inexcusable. A lot of the political Left got it badly wrong on Communism and is repeating the error and getting it wrong again on Islam.

  33. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Typo : Taslima Nasreen is who I meant of course.

    Also left out a word or two here :

    …the USA and Australia and England and all modern (fully fledged) democracies went through a fledgling period successfully over time.

    NB. Turkey is one Islamic state which is closest to being a successful modern democracy and it is notably the most ardently secular. Thankyou Kemal Ataturk -a truly admirable man and leader. The Islamic world needs more like him and fewer Ayatollahs, Sheiks and Imams.

    It also needs, I think, to stop literally demonising the “Great and Lesser Satans” of the USA and Israel and start behaving reasonably and maturely and well – ie no more terrorism, jihads and fatwahs and more science, secularism and acceptance of reality and other cultures.

  34. colnago80 says

    Re Nick Gotts @ #33

    Bonehead Blair is claiming that it was the failure to intervene in Syria that has caused the problem in Iraq. This appears to be the tack that is going to be taken by the neo-cons in the US. I have already seen comments on a post on Jerry Coyne’s blog by someone who is obviously a shill for the neo-cons whitewashing al-Maliki and blaming the administration for not intervening in Syria. The neo-cons are like the French Bourbons, they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. I seem to recall that the US intervened in Afghanistan in the Reagan Administration, supporting folks like Osama bin Laden with arms shipments, particularly Stinger missiles that did a number on Soviet helicopters, and which eventually led to the takeover of that country by the Taliban after the Soviets left. That turned out real well on 9/11/2001. Of course, no one will ask Blair how he would go about telling the bad guys from the not so bad guys in Syria.

  35. Nick Gotts says

    StevoR,

    We just didn’t imagine the successors could be almost/as bad or worse.

    What do you mean “we”, fuckwit? Plenty of us could see perfectly well before it happened that the invasion was both criminal and stupid.

    Zayd Alisa is a political analyst and commentator on Middle East Affairs. A human rights activist for twenty five years, he has actively promoted democracy and freedom of expression in Iraq and the Arab world.

    Now, who do you suppose provided that bio, fuckwit? Could it possibly have been Zayd Alisa? I’m judging him by the drivel he writes with regard to the current Iraqi regime of Al Maliki, which practically everyone else recognises as corrupt and sectarian, but which he can’t find any fault with. As I pointed out, this view is completely refuted by the collapse of the Iraqi army. Al Maliki has been in power since 2007, huge amounts of American military aid have been pumped in, yet a good part of his army took off their uniforms, dropped their weapons and ran when faced with an enemy far weaker in numbers and weaponry.

    PPS. The word “Fledgling” comes from / also applies to young birds which are just learning to fly.

    I know that, fuckwit. The reason the term is, in my experience, invariably followed by bullshit is that it’s a thought-free cliche, trotted out by apologists for western intervention setting up “democracies” without sufficient popular support. Oddly enough, I don’t recall seeing it applied to places where the inhabitants themselves have got rid of a dictator, like much of Latin America and more recently, Tunisia.

  36. raven says

    drivel he writes with regard to the current Iraqi regime of Al Maliki, which practically everyone else recognises as corrupt and sectarian, but which he can’t find any fault with.

    Not to mention incredibly incompetent.

    Most accounts of ISIS claim they are a ragtag pickup militia of no particular skills. Except a willingness to massacre unarmed people.

    1. The Iraqi army just ran because they were afraid of a civilian uprising. They were Shiite dominated and acted more like an occupying army in the Sunni areas.

    2. It remains to be seen how well they can defend Shiite areas though. They do have tanks, artillery, and air power. It’s not obvious that they actually know how to use them though.

    3. Miscellaneous thoughts. A lot of chicken hawks are asking why we didn’t leave trainers and residual forces in Iraq. That is simple. Al Maliki didn’t want them and said no.

    Maliki seems to have run a blatantly sectarian Shiite regime and ran it badly. His chickens are coming home to roost and they are rather murderous. The big winner of Bush’s disaster is likely to be…Iran. Maliki spent 24 years in Iran and they are all Shiites.

    A lot of people think Iraq is partitioning itself. The Kurds are gone. The Shiites can’t keep the Sunnis down. What is left?

  37. says

    Not surprisingly, it turns out that the ISSI force has been growing for some time and has been fairly open about its intent. That this is being portrayed as a surprise is an embarrassment to the US” multi-gazillion-dollar intelligence community, who apparently ignore things like companies of black-clad guys with guns marching through towns.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/world/middleeast/rebels-fast-strike-in-iraq-was-years-in-the-making.html

    But, seriously, who can be expected to not be surprised by this kind of shit happening, when there are more important things, like predicting what Kim Kardashian is going to wear to the wedding?

  38. says

    Most accounts of ISIS claim they are a ragtag pickup militia of no particular skills.

    They look it:
    http://static01.nyt.com/images/2014/06/15/world/JP-ISIS-1/JP-ISIS-1-articleLarge.jpg

    Massacring civilians is the first, critical, part of an insurgency – it demonstrates the establishment’s inability to protect people and forces the civilians to detach from government control. Then, the government has to risk losses and expend energy to reclaim areas. If this is done brutally (using “clear and hold” techniques pioneered so successfully by the French in Vietnam) it further separates the civilians from the government and helps recruiting.

    The Iraqi establishment just doubled down, by having Ali Al-Sistani (Christopher Hitchens’ BFF) issue a call raising shiite militias. The US media steadfastly continues to refer to ISIS as “islamist” while ignoring the fact that the shi’a are also islamist. This is not a war between some kind of “islamist” group and a pseudo-democracy or secular society, it’s a straight up political struggle for power, cast in the framework of a long-running war within islam.

  39. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ Marcus Ranum : USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, Germany, France, etc …

  40. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    (Cont. from # 44) … Are all what I’d call modern fully fledged democracies. Reckon most folks would agree with me there. If you think otherwise , well, you need to make a case.

    @20. Trebuchet :

    “This is all Bush/Cheney’s fault!!!” – #12 raven

    You’re forgetting Donald Rumsfeld, who massively bungled the occupation and disbanded the Iraqi army. In fact, I’d blame Cheney/Rumsfeld, since Bush wasn’t really in charge of his own administration anyhow.

    Both of you are forgetting two others – Saddam Hussein who is most responsible for what happened to Iraq in the past war and ISIS who are most responsible for what’s happening now.

    Maybe its too obvious, the way you sometimes can’t see what ‘s right under your nose but it was Saddam’s decision to bluff that he had WMDs when he didn’t and reject the many offers to flee into exile instead of taking ion an international coalition army he could never beat which caused his second war. (His decision to invade Kuwait caused the first Saddam war in 1990-1.)

    It is ISIS, a Jihadist group that even Al Quaida thinks is too extreme which is behind the current conflict – their actions, their behaviour, their bruitalities and atrocities.

    Why on Earth are y’all and so many other forgetting them and the role they play in all this?

    Yes, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bremer, the neo-cons generally stuffed up and made plenty of mistakes. Yes they deserve some blame for those mistakes and yes, in hindsight when its always easy, we can say the war was a mistake and we”d have all been better if it hadn’t happened.

    Although that takes us into some alternative reality scenario and who knows what could’ve happened then? We’ll almost certainly never know.

    @ 39. Nick Gotts :

    What do you mean “we”, fuckwit? Plenty of us could see perfectly well before it happened that the invasion was both criminal and stupid.

    We here = the majority and the elected Western leadership and governments. You and those you refer to being neither.

    BTW. No need to resort to personal abuse and attacks here – that sort of debating tactic makes you the fuckwit here and only further confirms my already lower than the Dead Sea opinion of you.

    Now, who do you suppose provided that bio, fuckwit? Could it possibly have been Zayd Alisa?

    What if was – would that make the bio false?

    I notice you avoided answering my question so i’;ll ask it again : How does your bio and expertise compare to his? What have you done to make any of us think you know better than he?

    From your non-answer I take it I’m right in thinking Zayd Alisa has much more credibility and knowledge and is much more likely to be right on this than you. Not that that’s surprising given your previous comments here and elsewhere.

    Al Maliki has been in power since 2007, huge amounts of American military aid have been pumped in, yet a good part of his army took off their uniforms, dropped their weapons and ran when faced with an enemy far weaker in numbers and weaponry.

    You seem to conclude that is all Al-Maliki’s fault. Well, maybe it is. Then again maybe it isn’t. Maybe there are other factors here such as the sectarian divide in iraq and the sheer terror this extraordinarily nasty Jihadist group induces? Maybe ISIS and the Shia population have to share some blame too. Picking Al-Maliki as your scapegoat here seems premature and not sufficiently evidentially supported to me.

    Here’s a thought, Nick “fuckwit” Gotts. Compare what happened to Japan post occupation after WW II with what happened to Iraq post-Occupation after the Second Saddam War. Japan rebuilt and copied the West and learnt and is now a relatively prosperous, secure and happy major global economic power on good terms with most nations. The Allies turned Japan over to the Japanese to remake and run their country and they did a good job of it. Their choice, their actions, their responsibility.

    Iraq was similarly also given a fair go. After a period of Coalition control Iraq was given back to its people and they had a chance to do what japan did post war – and, looks like they’ve blown it. Very badly blown it. Their choice, their actions, their responsibility.

    Why? Well, the Islamic culture and worldview and the really extreme sectarian violence that Islam has always been associated with seems a likely major aspect at work there. islam poisons everything and islamic culture make sit far more difficult for nations to develop positively. (Not impossible -Turkey showed it can be done & that islamic nations can become more reasonable and secular – but much harder.)

    Who then lost Iraq?

    The Iraquis did. They were given a great opportunity and , like many other Islamic and Arab places they messed it up an threw it away completely. Just like the Palestinians have destroyed themselves by rejecting every peace treaty ever offered to them. You’d think somewhere, somehow, the Arab -Islamic side might have learnt something but it seems Islam has fouled up their minds just too badly.

    Which is certainly NOT the fault of anyone in the West who have tried to help them despite anti-American rubbish spewed to the contrary.

    The Saddam War II (Iraq war) wasn’t about oil – its not as though we couldn’t have bought the stuff from them (& others) had we chosen.

    It wasn’t about controlling Iraq either – if it was we wouldn’t have given it back to the Iraqi people and let them hold their own free and fair elections.

    The 2003 war happened because of the actions and choices made by Saddam Hussein.

    Just as the current violence and war is happening because of the actions and choices of the Jihadist uber douchecanoes who call themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. (ISIS.)

    PPS. The word “Fledgling” comes from / also applies to young birds which are just learning to fly.” – StevoR

    I know that, fuckwit.

    Well I’;m not to know how much you know and based on your previous comments you are pretty ignorant and reality challenged so I thought I’d give you a clue.

    The reason the term is, in my experience, invariably followed by bullshit is that it’s a thought-free cliche, trotted out by apologists for western intervention setting up “democracies” without sufficient popular support.

    That’s your experience and erronoeus opinion – not mine, not “knowledge” and not really good grounds for thinking so based on your previous amply demonstrated poor judgement.

    Oddly enough, I don’t recall seeing it applied to places where the inhabitants themselves have got rid of a dictator, like much of Latin America and more recently, Tunisia.

    Maybe you didn’t look or remember? See here’s :

    https://www.google.com.au/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=Tunisia%20fledgling%20democracy

    a few examples for you.

  41. colnago80 says

    Re StevoR @ #1

    The opinion on the OPED pages in the Arab World seems to hold al-Maliki responsible for the situation in Iraq. According to Keveh, this also seems to be the view in Iran among those who oppose the regime. The sad fact is that al_Maliki was warned on numerous occasions, by, among others, the woman quoted in the link I posted @ #1, that his policy of excluding Sunnis and Kurds from his government and restricting it to Shiites was a recipe for trouble down the line. I strongly suspect that this policy was foisted on him by his backers in Tehran, so maybe it’s really the mad mullahs there who bear some of the responsibility. However, this is, as we sit here today, water over the dam. The question is, now what? There are no good options. However, IMHO, Obama should hang tough and make it clear to al-Maliki that any assistance we provide is contingent on his cleaning up his act. Absent that, it would be an exercise in futility to continue to support him.

  42. noastronomer says

    “What is happening in Iraq does not portend well for what may happen in Afghanistan once US troops leave in the next couple of years.”

    My prediction : When the US leaves Afghanistan the country will revert back to Taliban control so quickly it will make your head spin.

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