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Don’t Compound the Damage Already Done in Iraq by Doubling Down in Syria

The debate over America’s Middle East policy has reached a new level of surreality. In the wake of President Obama’s West Point commencement address last month — in which he pledged to “ramp up” U.S. support for Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad — Washington elites are exhorting the Obama administration to do much more. Former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford urges intensified training and more advanced weapons for “moderate” opposition fighters; others argue for direct U.S. military involvement. At the same time, Washington has been stunned by the success of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and several other strategic targets, and is drawing close to Baghdad.

Washington elites are effectively compartmentalizing these stories — but, in fact, they are intimately related, and policymakers need to understand the connection to avoid another disaster in the heart of the Middle East.
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Once Again Into The Breach: U.S. Shipping More Weapons and Preparing More Military Aid To Iraq

Type 69 Iraq

The United States is mulling further intervention in Iraq as the government forces flee Al Qaeda-linked insurgents and the country appears teetering on chaos. While the Administration is not ready to commit boots not the grounds, we may be moving toward a further influx of hundreds of millions or billions in military aid and even air strikes. As ISIS insurgents are seizing U.S. weaponry, the U.S. has already started to flood the country a new massive shipment of new free weapons.

Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant or ISIS is on a roll and nearing the capital. It is an al-qaeda linked terrorist group following the Wahhabi movement, the extreme religious view advanced by our ally Saudi Arabia.

So let’s take stock. We replaced a dictator based on lies in a massive invasion ordered by George W. Bush. We then spent over $2 trillion (the cost is over $4 trillion when you include Afghanistan). Both President Bush and President Obama continued to pour hundred of billions of dollars in the country despite massive corruption and billions that simply disappeared. That the same time we have been cutting back on our own educational, environmental, scientific, and social programs due to a lack of money. Consider what $4 trillion would have done.
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Ron Paul Rewind: 'Do Not Attack Iraq!' (2002)

On the eve of President Bush's war on Iraq, as the House debated the authorization for the use of force that it ultimately gave the president, then-Rep. Ron Paul stood up to oppose the coming war from every possible angle. The process was wrong; the precedent set by launching a pre-emptive war would come back to haunt us; the age-old Christian "Just War" doctrine had not been met, thus the war was immoral; the war would cost a fortune; and so on. He tried every approach to get his colleagues to listen.

With the rapid fall of Iraq to an al-Qaeda affiliated army, the ISIS, in progress this week — an al-Qaeda that did not exist in Iraq before the invasion — we can look back and wish that the rest of the Congress and the president had listened to Ron Paul's warnings and pleas...
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Ground Hog Day in the Drug War

Groundhog

A news article this week entitled “South Laredo Trafficking Group Indicted” caught my attention. That’s because Laredo is my hometown. I spent 26 years there, including 8 years practicing law, most of which was in partnership with my father.

That newspaper article is about the drug war. It reports that an indictment was returned against 24 Laredoans for violations of federal drug laws. The indictment charges the defendants with distribution of cocaine, crack, and marijuana in the Laredo area.

As I read the article, I got the distinct impression that I was living “Ground Hog Day,” because this type of article was standard fare in Laredo when I was in high school in the late 1960s and then also when I returned to Laredo to practice law in 1975.

In fact, my very first trial, right out of law school, was a federal drug case in U.S. District Court in Laredo. Since the defendant could not afford a lawyer, the federal judge appointed me to represent him. My client was claiming he was innocent and went to trial. The jury acquitted him.

When I was in high school, my father served as U.S. magistrate. The line of people brought before him on federal drug charges (including Timothy Leary) always seemed to me to be endless. Part of the reason for this, my father told me, was relayed to him by the federal judge, who suspected that federal agents at the international bridge were planting drugs on long-haired hippies returning from Mexico. It was my first exposure to the corrupting nature of the drug war.
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Critiquing America’s Brain-Dead Foreign Policy 'Debate'

Stephen Walt

Yesterday, Harvard’s Steve Walt posted an amusingly sharp piece on what’s wrong with America’s so-called foreign policy “debate.”  Steve’s piece, titled “Take 2 Ambien and Call Me When It’s Over:  I’d Rather Spoon My Own Eye Out Than Sit Through This Year’s Think-Tank-a-Palooza,” see here, appears on his blog at Foreign Policy; we also highlight key excerpts below. 

The piece includes a nice reference to us; more importantly, it aptly encapsulates the brain-dead quality of most mainstream discussion in the United States about America’s role in and engagement with the wider world and dares to suggest what a more serious discussion would look like.

Steve opens by noting the widespread and mounting dissatisfaction with U.S. foreign policy:
“Nobody seems to be happy with U.S. foreign policy these days.  It’s not hard to see why.  Relations with Russia are frosty and could get worse.  China is throwing sharp elbows and looking for opportunities to shift the status quo in Asia.  The NSA is out of control.  Afghanistan and Iraq were failures.  Libya is a mess, Syria is worse, and Secretary of State John Kerry’s quixotic effort at Middle East peacemaking was a farce.  Al Qaeda keeps spreading and morphing no matter how many leaders our drones and Special Forces kill.  With criticism mounting, U.S. President Barack Obama defended his basic approach at West Point and hardly anyone came away feeling any better.  And now we are having a pointless squabble over repatriated POW Bowe Bergdahl.

With nearly everyone—from Afghanistan War veterans to former envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to former Ambassador Robert Ford to MoveOn.org—upset about how things are going, it’s time for our premier foreign-policy institutions to step up with some outside-the-box thinking on how the United States could do better.  Surely well-informed experts can offer fresh thinking on how the United States can deal with a world that seems to spin more out of control each month.”

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Why Should Anyone Trust a Government That Kills, Maims, Tortures, Lies, Spies, Cheats, and Treats Its Citizens Like Criminals?

Police State

Why should anyone trust a government that kills, maims, tortures, lies, spies, cheats, and treats its own citizens like criminals? For that matter, why should anyone trust a government utterly lacking in transparency, whose actions give rise to more troubling questions than satisfactory answers, and whose domestic policies are dictated more by paranoia than need?

Unfortunately, “we the people” have become so trusting, so gullible, so easily distracted, so out-of-touch, so compliant and so indoctrinated on the idea that our government will always do the right thing by us that we have ignored the warning signs all around us, or at least failed to recognize them as potential red flags.

As I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the consequences of this failure on both our parts—the citizenry’s and the government’s—to do our due diligence in asking the right questions, demanding satisfactory answers, and holding our government officials accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law has pushed us to the brink of a nearly intolerable state of affairs. Intolerable, at least, to those who remember what it was like to live in a place where freedom, due process and representative government actually meant something. (Remember that the people of Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany also failed to ask questions, demand answers, and hold their government officials accountable until it was too late, and we know how that turned out.)
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Obama’s Foreign Policy Rhetoric Does Not Match US Actions

President Obama’s recent foreign policy speech, delivered at this year’s West Point graduation ceremony, was a disappointment to anyone who hoped the president might be changing course. The failure of each US intervention thus far in the 21st century might have inspired at least a bit of reflection. 
 
However, the president made it clear that interventionism and American exceptionalism would continue to guide his administration in its final two years. The president said, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” adding the dubious claim that “because of American diplomacy and foreign assistance, as well as the sacrifices of our military -- more people live under elected governments today than at any time in human history.”
 
It’s funny he would mention elections. Last week the Syrians held their first multi-candidate presidential election in 50 years.
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The Big Snub in Paris

Obama Putin

Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin were ships passing in the night while in Paris for the G-7 meeting.

The American president reportedly refused to dine with Putin, who was being hosted by France’s president Francois Hollande as part of the D-Day commemoration.

So Hollande, who is on a diet after being called a “little fat man” by former president Nicholas Sarkozy, was forced to host two back-to-back dinners, the first for Obama and the second, delicately described in French as a “souper,” or smaller supper, for Vlad Putin, who is not anyway a big eater or drinker.

How remarkably childish and silly all this was. Obama and America’s European allies are cold-shouldering Putin for re-absorbing Crimea into Russia, to which it had belonged for 300 years, and for stirring the pot in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, US military forces are in action or based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Djibouti, the Philippines, Yemen, Somalia, Uganda, Central African Republic, Colombia,  Kenya, Europe, South Korea, Japan – in fact, around the globe. 

In Paris, the leading  European NATO members met separately with President Putin while Washington continued its big snub. The EU’s economy is too involved with Russia to indulge in political theatrics.
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Washington’s Iron Curtain in Ukraine

Fogh Nato

NATO leaders are currently acting out a deliberate charade in Europe, designed to reconstruct an Iron Curtain between Russia and the West.

With astonishing unanimity, NATO leaders feign surprise at events they planned months in advance. Events that they deliberately triggered are being misrepresented as sudden, astonishing, unjustified “Russian aggression”. The United States and the European Union undertook an aggressive provocation in Ukraine that they knew would force Russia to react defensively, one way or another.

They could not be sure exactly how Russian president Vladimir Putin would react when he saw that the United States was manipulating political conflict in Ukraine to install a pro-Western government intent on joining NATO.  This was not a mere matter of a “sphere of influence” in Russia’s “near abroad”, but a matter of life and death to the Russian Navy, as well as a grave national security threat on Russia’s border.

A trap was thereby set for Putin. He was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.  He could underreact, and betray Russia’s basic national interests, allowing NATO to advance its hostile forces to an ideal attack position.

Or he could overreact, by sending Russian forces to invade Ukraine.  The West was ready for this, prepared to scream that Putin was “the new Hitler”, poised to overrun poor, helpless Europe, which could only be saved (again) by the generous Americans.
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Washington's Only Standards Are Double Standards

Obamaporoshenko

Sometimes in dealing with the U.S. government and its compliant mainstream media, I’m left with the feeling that if it weren’t for double standards, there would be no standards at all. From President Barack Obama to the editors at the Washington Post and the New York Times, it’s obvious that what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.

An election in an embattled country is valid and even inspiring if it turns out the way Official Washington wants, as in Ukraine last month; otherwise it’s a sham and illegitimate, as in Syria this month.

Similarly, people have an inalienable right of self-determination if it’s Kosovo or South Sudan, but not if it’s Crimea or the Donbass region of Ukraine. Those referenda for separation from Ukraine must have been “rigged” though there is no evidence they were. Everything is seen through the eye of the beholder and the beholders in Official Washington are deeply biased.

When it comes to military interventions, U.S. officials such as Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power assert a “responsibility to protect” transcending national sovereignty if civilians are threatened in Libya or in Syria, but not when the civilians are being slaughtered in Gaza, Odessa, Mariupol or Donetsk. When those killings are being done by U.S. allies, the allies are praised for their “restraint.”

The hypocrisy extends to the application of international law. If some leaders in Africa engage in actions that cause civilian deaths, they must be indicted by the International Criminal Court and dragged before The Hague for prosecution by jurists representing an outraged world.
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