A Tory on Britain’s Sinking into an American-made Quagmire

Rory Stewart, Tory MP from Cumbria, made these observations on the 10th anniversary of British collusion with the Bush-Cheney catastrophe in Iraq. He describes the situation well and asks excellent questions, especially the very last one in this excerpt.

[O]ver the last eighteen months, this relationship has unraveled
First, contrary to the Vice-President’s predictions, the Iraqis have
insisted that every last US soldier depart. They have refused visas to
so many US diplomats that half the new multi-billion dollar Embassy is
empty. As the last US troops withdrew, they were attacked by a Shia
terrorist group; two months later that group was brought into the
Iraqi government. The day that the last soldier left, the Shia
Prime-Minister sent tanks to arrest the Sunni Vice-President.
President Obama personally called the Kurdish leader – who had been
one of the US’s closest allies – asking him to step aside and allow in
a more balanced government. The Kurdish leader refused. Three months
ago, Vice-President Biden begged the Iraqi Prime-Minister not to
release an Iranian terrorist commander, (who had been arrested by
British troops. The Iraqi Prime-Minister ignored the Vice-President,
and released him.

In August and September, Iraqi banks were teaming up with the Iranian
government to break sanctions. Iranians were being allowed to ship
weapons through Iraq to prop up the Syrian regime. And in December,
the Iraqi Prime-Minister, who arrested 615 Sunni Arabs in an hour, a
year ago, lined up his troops against the Kurdish militia. On one day
last year, there were simultaneous attacks in ten cities, killing
fifty and wounding two hundred.

Saddam – an extreme dictator – has gone. The media is much freer now.
Many young Iraqis, and particular Kurds, are very grateful that the
old regime has fallen, and are proud of their new culture. But the
international community has not achieved its objectives – however
often it redefines them. First, we aimed to create a ‘democratic Iraq,
at peace with itself and its neighbours’. By 2009, we talked only of a
stable, representative government, a place where terrorists could not
operate, and “an ally”. Instead, after a decade, a trillion pounds,
and more lives than anyone would want to count, we have helped to
create a place, which sometimes looks like a corrupt and fragile
democracy, and sometimes like a Shia rogue state – somewhere on a
scale between Iran and Pakistan.

The question for Britain is what aspect of our culture, our
government, and our national psychology, allowed us to get mired in
such catastrophe?

Hat tip, once again, to The Browser.

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Happy 10th Anniversary, American Catastrophe in Iraq!

iraq-war-games

Peter Van Buren, author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, shares his mordant thoughts on the anniversary of what he calls American’s worst foreign policy blunder. Read the whole article here:

The Iranian leadership watched carefully as the American imperial version of Iraq collapsed, concluded that Washington was a paper tiger, backed away from initial offers to talk over contested issues, and instead (at least for a while) doubled-down on achieving nuclear breakout capacity, aided by the past work of that same A.Q. Khan network. North Korea, another A.Q. Khan beneficiary, followed the same pivot ever farther from Washington, while it became a genuine nuclear power. Its neighbor China pursued its own path of economic dominance, while helping to “pay” for the Iraq War by becoming the number-one holder of U.S. debt among foreign governments. It now owns more than 21% of the U.S. debt held overseas.

And don’t put away the joke book just yet. Subbing as apologist-in-chief for an absent George W. Bush and the top officials of his administration on this 10th anniversary, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently reminded us that there is more on the horizon. Conceding that he had “long since given up trying to persuade people Iraq was the right decision,” Blair added that new crises are looming. “You’ve got one in Syria right now, you’ve got one in Iran to come,” he said. “We are in the middle of this struggle, it is going to take a generation, it is going to be very arduous and difficult. But I think we are making a mistake, a profound error, if we think we can stay out of that struggle.”

Think of his comment as a warning. Having somehow turned much of Islam into a foe, Washington has essentially assured itself of never-ending crises that it stands no chance whatsoever of winning. In this sense, Iraq was not an aberration, but the historic zenith and nadir for a way of thinking that is only now slowing waning. For decades to come, the U.S. will have a big enough military to ensure that our decline is slow, bloody, ugly, and reluctant, if inevitable. One day, however, even the drones will have to land.

And so, happy 10th anniversary, Iraq War! A decade after the invasion, a chaotic and unstable Middle East is the unfinished legacy of our invasion. I guess the joke is on us after all, though no one is laughing.

Scrap the Constitution?

Do you consent to being governed by these people?

Do you consent to being governed by these people?

On Huffington Post’s Live channel this afternoon, Georgetown law school professor Louis Michael Seidman took up the case he made in the New York Times last weekend that the US should (as the Times piece title had it) “give up on the Constitution.” In the Times piece, Seidman wrote:

AS the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions….

Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.

As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is. Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?

Seidman argues  that what he calls “constitutional disobedience” is not radical or new but has been applied over and over in the nation’s history. “No sooner was the Constitution in place than our leaders began ignoring it,” he wrote in the Times. He cites  several big examples, beginning with the writing of the Constitution itself, when national leaders chose expediency over fidelity to the sacred document.

On HuffPo, Seidman the non-radical was met mainly with skepticism from left and right, from defenders of civil liberties as well as from Cato Institute grandee Roger Pilon. The latter said something I actually agree with, that Seidman was getting it “exactly backwards,” suggesting a political solution when our politics is precisely what’s gone wrong. But I think Pilon’s faith in the document is misguided, as I think anyone’s faith in it is. Continue reading

Disunite the States of America?

They could have everything south of the 40th parallel between the 100th and 80th latitude. And Alaska.

Eric Alterman in his Nation column this week sighs over the stupidity rampant among high-power journalists–he names Meet the Press‘s David Gregory, for one–that makes them bend over backwards to be “balanced” in their coverage of left and right. It’s a “balance” that actually lends undue gravity to right-wing idiocy. Recently, Alterman says, Gregory equated the left’s alarm over Rick Perry’s secessionist noises with the right’s over “socialist” health care reform as examples of what Gregory implied was understandable outrage over the other side’s extremism. As Alterman puts it, “To treat the potential destruction of the United States via the secession of its second most populous state and the provision of affordable healthcare to its citizens with privately provided health insurance as somehow morally and intellectually equivalent—well, ‘stupidity’ is actually too kind a word.” I couldn’t agree more.

And yet, I was reminded while reading Alterman’s essay of an idea that began to make tremendous sense to me a few weeks ago when the president delivered his jobs speech to the joint session–or actually just after, when the pundits immediately agreed that, no matter how powerful Obama’s words were, they were almost certainly all wasted, if action and not just reelection really was what was motivating him. Continue reading