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Iraq: A Seething Boiler About to Explode

Maliki

The pressure in the boiler which Western officials affectedly call "the new democratic Iraq" is building steadily and, figuratively speaking, the needle has entered the red zone. The deepening crisis is systemic in nature, encompasses the most important areas of life and undermines the foundations of statehood. A significant part, if not most, of the responsibility for what is happening lies with the government, headed by the founder and leader of the Islamic Call Party, Nouri Kamil al-Maliki. 

In late 2011, when the last American combat troops left Iraq and the 7-year occupation ended, Baghdad many times declared its readiness to take over the administration of the country and ensure its forward development. In practice, Prime Minister al-Maliki began by quickly and energetically concentrating all power in his own hands and essentially deciding who to punish and who to pardon at his sole discretion. The head of the cabinet of ministers began purging undesirables and those who simply disagreed with the state machinery, without any particular concern for whether there was any basis for it and without scruples over his choice of means. The opposition (and others as well) had many grounds for accusing the head of the cabinet of dictatorial ambitions. 

Following the example of the representatives of the Western coalition, which declared anyone who opposed the occupation a criminal and a terrorist, al-Maliki started accusing everyone who disagreed with his actions of terrorism and collusion with al-Qaeda. The law on fighting terrorism gave intelligence and law enforcement agencies broad powers, including the right to arrest people and hold them in detention without trial solely on suspicion of "anti-government activities" or, for example, in connection with longtime membership in the now-banned Ba'ath party (although the former ruling party had members from all levels and confessions of Iraqi society). On the basis of this law the courts hand down death sentences, which are then carried out; for example, on August 19, 2013 the most recent batch of 17 "enemies of the people" were executed, including two women... 


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No War for Bernard Henri Lévy

No War for Bernard Henri LévyThe American people do not want US armed forces to get involved in the civil war in Syria. The United Nations will not back US bombing of Syria. The British Parliament does not want to get involved in bombing Syria. World public opinion is opposed to US bombing Syria. Not even NATO wants to take part in bombing Syria.  So who wants the United States to bomb Syria?

The same people who brought us the war in Iraq, that’s who.

On August 27, the Foreign Policy Initiative, a reincarnation of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) that dictated the Bush 2 administration’s disastrous foreign policy, issued its marching orders to Obama. In an open letter to the President, the FPI urged “a decisive response to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s recent large-scale use of chemical weapons”.
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Call It War, Not a Shot Across the Bow

Tomahawk Submarine UK

Advocates of military action against Syria describe the use of force wholly unrealistically, relying on such terms as narrow, proportional, and surgical. President Obama says he is considering a “limited, tailored” operation to send “a shot across the bow.” His analogy fails. A shot across the bow is deliberately designed to miss an adversary, intending to send a clear and threatening warning. In contrast, Obama and his advisers plan to hit and destroy specific military targets in Syria to punish President Assad for the use of chemical weapons against his own people.

The analogy is not merely a bad one. It misleads the public, and the world, about what the Obama administration wants to do. Presidents need to talk straight to build credibility and public trust. The truth is that Obama cannot limit the consequences of a military initiative. It will be open-ended and entirely beyond the predictive capacity of his administration to anticipate what comes after the initial attack.
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Obama Nearing Point of No Return

Obama Joker

President Vladimir Putin’s remarks on the Syrian crisis, while on a visit to Vladivostok over the weekend, were his first ones since the crisis began snowballing over the United States’ moves to launch a militarily attack against the Middle Eastern country.

What is striking from the Kremlin’s transcript is that Putin spoke far more extensively than what the media reports suggested, and, second, he spoke on virtually every aspect of the explosive situation.

The timing is very important, too, as less than a week remains for the major international event G20 summit which is scheduled to be held in St. Petersburg on Thursday, bringing together the world’s top leaders, including President Barack Obama, around a conference table.
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Congressional Danse Macabre Has Begun

Danse Macabre1

The first draft of the White House's war authorization legislation was leaked today, signaling the opening round of the danse macabre, in which the bargaining and maneuvering over what Congress and the president both want -- war on Syria -- begins its public journey from conception to law.

As according to past practice, the first draft is considered "too broad" for some Members and Senators. Senator Patrick Leahy opened the bidding, emerging from a closed-door classified intelligence briefing (the kind where the doctored intercepts and phony satellite photos are spread out before Members to better help them make the "right" decision) stating that the first draft of the war authorization was "too open-ended," but that he is certain it will be amended in the Senate. 

Similarly, Republican Senator Pat Roberts felt the first draft was too open-ended but was given assurances that the White House would work with Congress to reach an acceptable version.

There will be fighting and sharp words along the way. Members will be coy and make impassioned speeches. It is all for show.

It is important to make this clear to readers: The fight is not between whether the House and Senate will pass or reject the president's request for authorization to attack, but rather what kind of force authorization will ultimately be brought to the Floor for passage.
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Surveillance State: We Are One Step Away from Glass Houses

I Am Being Watched

In Yevgeny Zamyatin's dystopian novel We, the people of One State live in transparent apartments with curtains required to be open nearly all the time so police and informants may view the residents' every action. Listening to George Washington University Law School Professor Jeffrey Rosen's interview last week on The Take Away, it becomes disturbingly clear that Americans are one step away from this level of government snooping on our activities.

Rosen details how police can use facial recognition software combined with abundant cameras to track and catalog our activities. As Rosen explains, the snooping is not limited to attempting to catch suspected criminals. Rather, police may use the technology to follow the daily activities of any person whose photo is contained in vast photo databases, such as anyone with a driver license.
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Will Congress Endorse Obama's War Plans? Does it Matter?

President Obama announced this weekend that he has decided to use military force against Syria and would seek authorization from Congress when it returned from its August break. Every Member ought to vote against this reckless and immoral use of the US military. But even if every single Member and Senator votes for another war, it will not make this terrible idea any better because some sort of nod is given to the Constitution along the way. 

Besides, the president made it clear that Congressional authorization is superfluous, asserting falsely that he has the authority to act on his own with or without Congress. That Congress allows itself to be treated as window dressing by the imperial president is just astonishing.
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The Real Reason for US Syria Attack

Syria Protest


Let’s face some hard facts about the vicious conflict in Syria.

If the US directly attacks Syria, the real cause will not be the recent chemical attacks. What are 300 or so dead in a 2-year old war fuelled by the western powers that has so far killed over 100,000?

Chemical weapons are horrible. So are bullets, shells, bombs, cluster bombs, fuel-air explosive, white phosphorus, and napalm. All wars are crime writ large.

We don’t yet know if the recent chemical massacre in Damascus was a real chemical attack using Sarin nerve gas, a rebel provocation, an industrial accident, or an attack by rogue Syrian army units? After Iraq, we can’t trust western intelligence and so-called evidence.

This is not even the main issue at hand though it makes an excellent pretext for outside powers to intervene.

The Syrian conflict is a proxy war being waged against Iran by the United States, conservative Arab oil producers, and three former Mideast colonial powers, Britain, France and Turkey who are seeking to restore their domination in the region. Israel, hoping to isolate Hezbollah and cement its annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights, cheers from the sidelines. Syria and Hezbollah are Iran’s only Arab friends.
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Syria and the Waning of American Hegemony

Obamasyria1

Once carried out, the Obama administration’s thoroughly telegraphed strike on Syria, ostensibly over alleged chemical weapons use there, will mark an important inflection point in the terminal decline of America’s Middle East empire.  Most importantly, it will confirm that America’s political class, including Obama himself, remains unwilling to face the political risks posed by any fundamental revision of Washington’s 20+-year, deeply self-damaging drive to dominate the region.

Obama initially ran for president pledging to end the “mindset” behind the strategic blunder of America’s 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq; in his first term, he committed to ending America’s war in Afghanistan, too, and to “rebalancing” toward Asia.  But Obama was never ready to spend the political capital required for thoroughgoing recasting of U.S. foreign policy; consequently, the dissipation of American power (hard and soft) evident under George W. Bush has accelerated under Obama.
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