Imperial Doublespeak About Iraq

August 19th, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from The Libertarian Standard.

In a series of Orwellian twists, the United States is pulling out (prematurely some say) “all” “combat” troops from Iraq but doubling down (for starters) on mercenaries.

The Obama Administration gets away with “fulfilling” Obama’s promise to end US combat operations in Iraq by removing the last (officially-labeled) combat brigade from the country, yet 50,000 troops will remain until (supposedly) 2011. These 50,000 troops make up 7 “Advise and Assist” Brigades, which are brigade combat teams like the one that just left but with special training, and 2 combat aviation brigades. “The troops are officially there to assist and advise the Iraqi government, but will carry weapons to defend themselves and will join Iraqi troops on missions if requested.”

After 2011, the “military” presence in Iraq is supposed to be “limited to several dozen to several hundred officers in an embassy office who would help the Iraqis purchase and field new American military equipment,” but military officers are saying that “5,000 to 10,000 troops might [still] be needed.”

Meanwhile, “the State Department is planning to more than double its private security guards, up to as many as 7,000.” Can we really still call security personnel ‘civilians’ or ‘private security’ anymore when they’re working for the state in foreign lands, particularly in a combat zone? They’re mercenaries, troops that are conveniently not part of the official US military. The NYT reporter couldn’t help calling them “a small army of contractors.”

The US is building military bases, fortified compounds, outposts, and the largest “embassy” in the world in Iraq. Iraqi politicians still haven’t been able to come to an agreement and form a government after the last elections, making Iraq vulnerable to a coup if the Iraqi military leadership get too frustrated by the ineffectual, in-fighting politicians. The US empire will not be completely out of there anytime soon.

But hey, “we” won…right?

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[Read the original at The Libertarian Standard (2010-08-19)...]


July 29th, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from der Blaustrumpf.

I can’t improve on what Charles Davis thinks of Matthew Yglesias’s “Priorities”:

“From a Keynesian standpoint, I believe that with the economy depressed it’s better to spend the money in Afghanistan than not to spend it.”

Matt Yglesias, Center for American Progress

The above excerpt comes from a post noting the inconsistency of self-styled deficit hawks complaining about the relative pittance spent on social programs and its contribution to the national debt even as they vote in lockstep to drop another $37 billion on a failing nation-building exercise in Afghanistan. And as far as the point goes, it’s a good one…But there’s something wrong — something sick, really — with Ygelsias’ war-as-stimulus argument that strikes me as far more offensive than the fact that some fiscal conservatives are hypocrites when it comes to the National Security State…What you shouldn’t do in a debate over war, at least if you want to maintain your status as a Non-Despicable Person, is argue that bombing and occupying a foreign nation makes good economic sense. Even if it were true as an academic point, it’s grotesquely out of place in a discussion of matters of life and death. War, if it can ever be justified — and I have my doubts — can only be so on the grounds that it is absolutely necessary to protecting human life: there is no other choice, it’s a last resort. Yet Yglesias discusses the continuation of a major, bloody armed conflict as if it were just another jobs program; perhaps not the most effective one to his mind, but hey, it’s better that the federal government spend money on a pointless war than do nothing at all (like actually save money by ending said pointless war).

false dichotomy by charles davis: Beltway liberalism in 24 words.

A pretend war, a real war, it’s all the same to Yglesias, so long as it gives some relatively safe and privileged American his 9-to-5 back.  The broken window fallacy is stupid and destructive enough, but to willingly swap it for some sort of monstrous broken lives fallacy is indeed about as sick and wrong as it comes.

Filed under: economics, War Tagged: charlesdavis, War, ygnominy

[Read the original at der Blaustrumpf (2010-07-29)...]

Where Do I Enlist?

July 22nd, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from der Blaustrumpf » Being Rational Doesn’t Make You a Misogynist.

This was good for a chuckle:

There is overwhelming agreement among economists that the Second World War was responsible for decisively ending the Great Depression. When asked why the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are failing to make the same impact today, they often claim that the current conflicts are simply too small to be economically significant.

There is, of course, much irony here. No one argues that World War II, with its genocide, tens of millions of combatant casualties, and wholesale destruction of cities and regions, was good for humanity. But the improved American economy of the late 1940s seems to illustrate the benefits of large-scale government stimulus. This conundrum may be causing some to wonder how we could capture the good without the bad.
If one believes that government spending can create economic growth, then the answer should be simple: let’s have a huge pretend war that rivals the Second World War in size. However, this time, let’s not kill anyone.

Peter Schiff:  Why Not Another World War? | Euro Pacific Capital.

Honestly, I see a lot of promise here.  So many Americans see the military mainly as a men’s club and pageant, or as a nifty science and gadget lab.  Feminists and gays seem oblivious to the military’s actual purpose and see it chiefly as a testing ground for social equality, while middle-class advocates for the working class consider it a job program for youths pushed out of work by the minimum wage and other economic tinkering.  We could have a lot of fun with this if you keep the waste of time, material, and productivity and take out the killing, especially since so many have already mentally subtracted the actual loss of life from the equation.

Schiff, though, is merely kidding:

If all of this seems absurd, that’s because it is. War is a great way to destroy things, but it’s a terrible way to grow an economy.
What is often overlooked is that war creates hardship, and not just for those who endure the violence. Yes, US production increased during the Second World War, but very little of that was of use to anyone but soldiers. Consumers can’t use a bomber to take a family vacation.
The goal of an economy is to raise living standards. During the War, as productive output was diverted to the front, consumer goods were rationed back home and living standards fell. While it’s easy to see the numerical results of wartime spending, it is much harder to see the civilian cutbacks that enabled it.
The truth is that we cannot spend our way out of our current crisis, no matter how great a spectacle we create. Even if we spent on infrastructure rather than war, we would still have no means to fund it, and there would still be no guarantee that the economy would grow as a result.
Ok.  I still want tassels.  And a parade.  And a fancy funeral.

Filed under: War Tagged: economy, military, spectacle, War

[Read the original at der Blaustrumpf » Being Rational Doesn’t Make You a Misogynist (2010-07-22)...]

by the rivers of Babylon

July 18th, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from lowercase liberty.

The Way of Herodotus: Travels with the Man Who Invented HistoryThis is from The Way of Herodotus: Travels with the Man Who Invented History by Justin Marozzi:

I entered Babylon with an invading army and now I leave in the last available Coalition convoy. The occupation forces are moving on. Camp Babylon is closing down and Polish and American forces are relocating south-east to the town of Diwaniyah. The desecration of Babylon, for the time being at least, is over.

I hitch a ride in one of the few unarmoured Humvees and immediately feel uncomfortably exposed. It’s too late to do anything about it. I’m lucky to get a seat. Body armour has been hung over the doors, almost as an afterthought, to provide a modicum of protection, but serves only to underline how vulnerable the vehicle is. We set off in an untidy straggle like a snake slithering away from trouble. The end-of-an-era atmosphere hangs heavily in the air. I am a short-term impostor but these men have been here for months in what will be a shameful footnote in Babylon’s history. Everyone knows the Iraqis can’t wait for the invaders to leave this place, the symbol of their country’s unrivalled history. Most of the soldiers couldn’t care less. They have just been doing their job.


‘Dudes, get this,’ says one of the sergeants in the Humvee, turning to me. I see a dusty self-portrait in his wraparound sunglasses. ‘Justin, you’ll like this, these guys are Brits. Check out our farewell-to-all-this-bullshit song.’

He pushes a button on his portable stereo and a tinny voice vibrates through the sand-smothered speakers. It is an anthem of my childhood. Boney M. 1978.

By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down
Ye-ah we wept,
When we remembered Zion …

The wind rushing through the Humvee snatches some of the music away, but I know the words. They have lodged in my memory and cannot be removed. The soldiers hoo-rah and whistle. ‘Rock ‘n’ roll, baby!’ one of them screams, kicking off another round of celebrations. Their time in Babylon has come to an end. They are a step nearer home.

The ‘Rivers of Babylon’ lyrics were directly lifted from Psalm 137, a melancholic meditation on slavery by the Jewish captives in Babylon, sitting on the banks of the Euphrates. They are enslaved in a foreign land, far from their home, where their captors mock their religion and demand they entertain them with ‘one of the songs of Zion’.

‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ they reply, utterly bereft. The Babylonians are foreigners, no part of the covenant God made with Abraham. These barbarians have laid waste to Jerusalem, and the Jews, missing their religion, longing for their temples, urge each other not to forget what happened in their homeland, to remember their tormentors’ orders to raze the holy city to the ground -’Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation!’ Now they wish only vengeance upon their captors. This is no New Testament turn-the-other-cheek response to their humiliation and captivity because we are in the fire-and-brimstone Old Testament world of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. But all this bloodlust proved too much for Boney M, otherwise so faithful to Psalm 137. The group wisely left out the final verses.

0 daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed,
Happy the one who repays you as you have served us!
Happy the one who takes and dashes
Your little ones against the rock!

[Read the original at lowercase liberty (2010-07-18)...]